My aged Italian in-laws recently changed their laptop computer. My wonderful father-in-law likes to have new stuff – smartphones, wide-screen TVs, and so on – and conserves a part of his pension each month so as to be able to afford the occasional larger purchase. The old computer was looking rather battered, I admit. He’d repaired one side of the loose screen with a folded piece of metal and a couple of what looked liked rivets, goodness knows how that didn’t destroy it.
When I’d heard the purchase of a shiny new device being discussed around the Sunday lunch table (my mother-in-law also had a new iPad and a new smartphone on her list, but those would have to wait for another month), it crossed my mind that changing computer is always a lot of work – installing the applications you need, getting rid of the stuff you don’t – and that I usually set aside half a day for it. And I’ve been changing laptops every three or four years for decades now, given that they’re my office and main tool.
What I SHOULD have done is scream at them: “NO, ABSOLUTELY DON’T DO IT! DON’T EVEN CONSIDER IT! NOT WITHOUT YOUR DAUGHTER OR ME THERE! I DON’T CARE HOW GOOD A BARGAIN IT IS. IT DOESN’T MATTER HOW NICE THE MAN IN THE SHOP IS. NOOOOO!”
But I must have been distracted by the tagliatelle/ragù I was about to serve (it was my father-in-law’s eighty-fifth birthday) and the dark clouds of foreboding were wafted from my mind by apetising smells and the general positive vibe of the occasion.
So lo, a few days later, all hell breaks loose! They’ve got the new laptop home, got it out of its box, and switched it on. But “it won’t connect to the Internet”. Well, no. What you have to do, my wife patiently explained down the phone, is to key in the password and username of your home broadband connection.
Italian broadband providers have the UTTERLY STUPID policy of making passwords about twenty-five letters long and a mix of numbers, letters, and capital letters. Italian domestic broadband connections are protected like Fort Knox. Worse, the password for your modem/router whatever it’s called these days, is printed in a miniscule, light-coloured font somewhere on the bottom of the device, along with a lot of other irrelevant numbers in the same style and colour. And your modem/router thingy, of course, sits in a dark corner of your hallway, and in any case isn’t easily turned over so as to be read, due to a mess of trailing wires.
Plus, eighty-five-year-old eyesight, plus creaky joints, plus mother-in-law, who is younger but has a degenerative eye condition. Plus, well, who on earth can manage to read out and type in twenty-five characters of different types without messing it up at least a few times? “Is that a capital B or a small b?” “No, I said P for Pete’s sake! What’s the matter with your hearing?”
DAYS, this went on. Imagine the stress. And to all concerned. OMG, why did we let them buy a new laptop?? Eventually, the weekend rolled around and my brother-in-law and his baby girl came to the rescue – him with IT support, her keeping the nonni from getting in the way while he sorted things out. The Internet connection was finally established! They can read emails again, watch crap on Swedish TV and keep up with pirated Inter matches: normal life has resumed!
There’s a lesson for people who make passwords so complicated, obviously. Ragazzi, many of your clients are old. There are sixty million Italians, and getting on for half of them are on the wrong side of fifty. If I (at fifty-three) need reading glasses even to see the texts in my course books in a dimly lit classroom, then anything in small print printed on the underside of a plastic box I barely even know how to locate counts as inaccessible.
But there are other lessons, too. And here’s a positive one – bravo to the old boy, who still hasn’t given up on new technology! Even though he’s miles away from ever learning how to use it, he’s still willing to give it a go. And that’s the key, right there! If you don’t engage with technology (or your desired foreign language, for that matter) then you have zero chance of learning how to use it.
Never had a smartphone? Then your skills with such devices will probably be sub-elementary school level. But get yourself one (start with something cheaper…) and MAKE THE EFFORT TO LEARN HOW IT WORKS, and there’s absolutely no reason (apart from small fonts and such corporate stupidity) that you shouldn’t catch up with the rest of the world fairly rapidly. No reason at all.
I recall the early days of personal computers, and people my father’s age who chose to retire early rather than learn to use them. But who, once in retirement, had nothing more useful to do than splash out on the latest model and tinker with it until, to everyone’s amazement, they became reasonably competent.
Someone wrote to me after Monday’s post (promoting ebooks) to explain that she didn’t buy ebooks because her eyesight didn’t permit her to read on a screen. She needed it printed. Signora – this is for you – if you’ve read this far, either you are reading on a screen right now, or someone has printed this for you. Which is flattering, but you could buy an ebook and ask that same someone to print that for you, too. I rest my case.
Someone else was very frustrated because, after buying the ebook and receiving the download link in an email that she opened on her (cursed, bane of my life) iPad, she had clicked the link three times (so reaching the maximum download limit in a matter of seconds) without managing to work out where on her tablet the ebooks had downloaded to.
Here’s a tip for when technology trips you up: you tried to download an ebook onto your iPad and it went SOMEWHERE, but you have no idea where. Or you were asked to select which app to store it in, and not knowing what the correct answer was, chose something inappropriate, which then refused to open our file.
Try Googling your issue. I typed in “manage downloads on ipad” and got many helpful explanations. ‘Googling it’ is a technique I use often when I don’t know how to do something. Either the results provide the answer I need, or there are no useful results, which is an indicator that I’m asking the wrong question. Perhaps the problem isn’t what I think it is?
As in this case, in fact. Turns out the frustrated lady is absolutely right to be frustrated. I told her she was rude, whereas what I should have told her is that she was annoyed at the wrong person – that she should have been cursing Steve Jobs, up in heaven, or his successors:
iPads are popular, handy, and powerful computing tools. Your iPad can store all your favorite apps and files, making it easy to access important documents wherever you are in the world. But finding and managing your downloaded files can be confusing and unclear. Source: How to Find and Save iPad Downloads
Insomma, it appears that the lost ebook syndrome is neither my nor my customer’s fault, as such, but a case of ‘too long passwords printed in too small a font in too hard to reach places’, cioè of poor design.
I get this all the time with Apple product users. Besides “I don’t know where my download’s gone”, there’s also “I can’t listen to the audio and read the text at the same time”, “I can’t open the compressed folder – it just gives me an error message!”, and the classic of classics “There’s nothing in my spam folder, I’ve looked!” (your iPhone or iPad may be set not to ‘synch’ the spam you receive – so the spam folder shows nothing, whereas if you opened your email on a computer the spam folder would magically contain all the emails you have been missing…)
The complexities of life will defeat you, if you let them. And I admit, I feel defeated often. But avoiding the new, I fear, is not the solution, as that way, things just roll on without us.
My personal bugbear is TV remote controls, incompetence with which is the primary reason I never watch Italian TV (computers are much, much, easier…) My father-in-law is no cleverer with these than I am, but he’s three decades older and changes his TV every ten minutes, so can be excused under-performance, and a degree of bad language.
However, notwithstanding the fact that the telecomando isn’t doing what he wants it to do, he goes on pressing buttons, trying to work out in his own mind which one will do what he needs, not giving up.
I find that inspiring.
Don’t forget this week’s half-price eBook of the Week offer, the A2/B1-level (lower intermediate), ‘Il campo di papaveri’ (The Poppy Field). It’s the story of a struggling young artist who falls in love with his landlord’s daughter. Here at OnlineItalianClub.com HQ, we’re suckers for romance!
As mentioned on Monday, there are two VERSIONS of this tale, the ‘easy reader’ version (text, glossaries, exercises and online audio), which comes in the default .pdf (see the FREE sample chapter, here) plus .mobi (for Kindle) and .epub (other ereaders) for those who request it.
And then there’s the the ‘parallel text’ version – the Italian original, plus a line-by-line translation into English, but NO glossaries, exercises or audio (the FREE sample chapter is here). This one is only in the default .pdf format, because of the special formatting required, so there’s no Kindle-compatible file format.
Both ebooks are half price all this week, so just £3.99 instead of the usual £7.99. Once your payment clears, read all the emails the shop sends you, the ones with words like ‘order completed’ or ‘invoice’ and so on in the subject lines, which you might normally ignore… One or more of them will contain the download link you need to get your ebook. N.b. If you need help, just write and ask.
Or go choose something more suited to your current level from the Catalog!
Tuesday’s FREE bulletin of ‘easy’ Italian news is waiting for you to read/listen to it.