Subscription Services for Everything

I read the June 2017 Nuts & Volts editorial where Bryan Bergeron explains in the Developing Perspectives column why he has avoided upgrading his computer for 8 years. I surely agree with his observations and have accumulated even more evidence of what he predicts will happen. BTW, Bryan, you’re doing a great job with the spirit and look of Jack, Larry, and Robin’s magazine. May it continue for many years!

Subscription software is just the beginning. I painfully added a Win10 computer to my stable in the spring of 2017 because TurboTax no longer ran on WinXP. For 2015, they ~said~ XP was unusable, but it was. For 2016, Turbotax made their threats real. Never mind the big push from TT to use their on-line software which is perpetually upgraded. They don’t even want to sell you a CD to bring home but they continue to do so because by its very nature (tax law changes each year) even a CD is a defacto subscription service.

I have used Irfanview and TotalCommander for about 20 years now. I like what I have and don’t want to be forced to use something else. It’s not the retail cost as you spoke about (both of these are shareware). It’s the pain of installing and learning new software and integrating new capability into my workflow paths. I have a USB/serial dongle that Win10 keeps trying to upgrade drivers for and it breaks my old Palm Pilot software and my new Software Defined Radio software. I have a scanner that works great, but if I upgrade my hardware or my OS, it won’t be supported. I just want to be left alone!

As you highlight, this is not just about computers. Even cars are getting software upgrades now. I’m sure dealers will offer subscription upgrades. Very soon, when you sell your car, you’ll be advertising not just the year and mileage, but also the software revision. If you don’t believe this, talk to a recent diesel VW jetta owner. In that case, having an old software revision will make it worth less and possibly not even legal in strict emission states like California.

Or, if you do amateur radio, consider the new DMR radios. It’s not just you and the other party in a conversation. DMR radios require cooperation, features, and capability dovetailed to the repeater infrastructure. If your radios are out of date, you’re out of luck.

Consider telephones. I finally purchased an Obi 202 so that I can use SIP (audio phone over internet) based on a capital investment model. I paid my $50, installed the device and can reduce my carrier cost down to the $0-$10/mo range. That is *instead* of paying a $30 phone fee to any of the many carriers who want you to be a subscriber because, as you point out, all the monthly fees add up to much more.

How about home alarm systems? After mine was destroyed by a lightning strike, rather than $40 per month, I researched on Google, learned out to configure and program them, purchased my own upgraded model and cut out the expensive service fees to install and monitor. There are a plethora of low-cost monitoring services that greatly reduce my monthly outflow.

When my HW-101 radio transciever breaks, I can trace it to a specific part. When the fancy spectral scanning display LED screen on my new HF transciever breaks, I have no clue which bit is failing and I have no way to fix it.

We haven’t even begun to talk about security. When software is constantly changing, it creates constantly new vulnerabilities. When you have no software (at the extreme), it’s very hard to hack it.

On and on I could go. The only solution for computers is to carefully control my upgrade paths, or just run to something like Linux, running older favorite programs in a virtual machine. The capital cost is more. The subscription cost is zero. Even so, I’m starting to loose access to web pages. Our bank just upgraded their web page to be more secure. I need a new browser. To do that, I need a new OS. To do that I need a new computer. Uggh…

About Brian

Engineer. Aviator. Educator. Scientist.
This entry was posted in Computers, Engineer, Spirit & Heart. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply