postheadericon ECS: Upgrade Fever: Is There a Cure?

Do you feel your pulse rise and sweat in your palms every time you see an advert wanting you to upgrade your hardware or software? Are you always feeling the need to run out and buy the latest and greatest, even though last month you plunked down hard-earned rupees for just that? Then this article is for you...

First, this particular addiction is what I call upgradetosis, and can usually be cured with a 12-step program or simple medication. Seriously, a better remedy is a careful “needs analysis” of each upgrade offer we get from our gadget manufacturers. For example, will superlatives like “faster, slimmer, more powerful” actually benefit your situation enough to justify the cost of the newer device?

Let’s take laptops...if you are currently using a desktop for your home or office computing, then listen to what Sandeep (owner of Logix Computer on Putalisadak) has to say on the matter:

“In today's situation of 14-hour loadshedding, there is no point in buying a new desktop, as there is no electricity when u want to run it. So the only solution is laptops. Besides, the prices of laptops have come down so much that the cost is almost the same as an assembled desktop with similar specs.”

What Sandeep says is true, as you can now get a powerful Dell or HP laptop in his shop for as little as Rs. 49,900 - and you would be hard-pressed to spend more then Rs. 68,000 for a spanking new DELL laptop with an i5 Core, 4gb memory, and a 500gb HDD – grand enough to replace any desktop of yesterday’s vintage.

But upgrading from a desktop to a laptop is not really a challenging decision. But what about smartphones, LCD TVs, and now tablets (such as the iPad vs. iPad2)? This is where upgrade fever can get serious, and often take a turn for the worse. For example, if one were to succumb to upgrade fever in the case of Apple’s iPhone, one would have bought 4 new phones in almost as many years, at an expense of about 3 lakhs!

With LCD TVs and other home entertainment equipment, the sticker shock is far worse, but not shocking enough to prevent folks from upgrading their perfectly good 2D LCD TV to one that sports 3D, even though 3D media is near non-existent in Nepal. This type of impulse buying is cumulative, as in this case, an upgrade to a 3D TV would “necessitate” an upgrade to a Blue-Ray DVD player and perhaps a better surround sound system, and heck, while you at it you might as well get new wireless speakers to replace the perfectly good wired ones.

And so goes the fever until all of your cash is burned away.

But there are upgrades that do make sense, and that won’t make you a candidate for the bankruptcy asylum. These come in the form of “updates” (vs. upgrades), and mostly relate to software products or your hardware’s firmware.

For example, while it’s true that a virus package upgrade from say the Norton 360™ Version 5.0 to the Norton 360™ Version 5.0 Premier Edition won’t buy you much more protection, daily updating whatever virus protection that you do have is a must-do activity. The same goes for almost all other software packages, where updates are usually free and essential, whereas upgrades to new editions are not free, and may indeed not be needed at all.

Smartphone firmware updates are a bit trickier, as in the case of the iPhone in Nepal, where a firmware upgrade from Apple (say from iOS3 to iOS4) might just “brick” your phone and make it only useable as a shiny glass paperweight, instead of giving you the intended new features and functions. Here is a good rule of thumb for updating your iPhone’s firmware: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” But if updating is a must, take it to a professional - like those working at Neoteric’s F1 service center on Teku Road.

With Android smartphones, the situation is just as bad. If you want to update your Android phone’s operating system to the latest Android edition, usually called something silly like “Gingerbread”, “Honeycomb” or “Ice Cream Sandwich,” then you might just have to buy a new phone altogether, as many phone manufacturers are not giving out these updates at all!

Now some analysts in the business think that upgrade fever is actually manufactured by design, and that upgradetosis is caused by controlled leaks from corporate laboratories, all designed to get you to buy more, and on a predictable schedule. These conspiracy theorists propose that all technology is designed to be rolled out to the public in meager layers, thus maximizing a company’s return on investment. And you do your part by buying the latest and greatest according to an advertising cue.

Personally, I don’t wear a tin hat - so I think these subliminal signals enter my system within weeks of any gadget purchase, making me sweat whenever a new release of whatever I bought comes out a month later. And outside of doing a careful “needs analysis” along with a few beers, I am not sure what else to do besides locking up my credit card in an underground vault.

It could just be that there is no cure whatsoever for upgrade fever, and it’s just plain human nature to always want the latest and greatest - as fast as we can get upgrades home from the store.

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Jiggy Gaton
lives in Kathmandu and is an aging technologist - has been since the days of Woodstock - so in the words of Roland The Gunslinger "he is from a world now gone by." However, Jigs is extremely up-to-date on all things tech and is also available for hire.
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