Service of Upgrades

February 28th, 2013

Categories: Restaurant, Technology, Upgrades, Words


There’s little doubt what people mean when they refer to downgrades. I have trouble with the word and concept of upgrade which like “green,” “natural” and “organic” is subject to interpretation.

Cooking with nitrogenI love upgrades to business class, but some remind me of haut food. Kevin McKenzie describes fads in “Hiring a Chef for a High End Restaurant” in AllBusiness: “cooking with nitrogen, deconstructing dishes into foams and jellies, and dehydrating foods and sauces in order to create powders, infused salts, and oils.” Change for change’s sake isn’t always practical or welcome.

Chefs infusing food with the latest–and maybe not so greatest–are looking for publicity, much like artists who create outrageous pieces to gain public attention. Similarly most of the upgrades–that really aren’t–are made to do the same and to sell stuff.

I missed the Windows Vista bullet in 2007 for example. Those who fell for it suffered for years.


Walt Mossberg

Walt Mossberg

In his weekly Thursday Wall Street Journal column “All Things D,” Walt Mossberg wrote: “If you’re thinking of upgrading your PC to the new Windows 8, be prepared for hassles and disappointment, especially if the computer is more than a year or two old — even if it technically meets the basic requirements to run the new version.

“I know this, because I’ve spent big chunks of the past week trying to upgrade to Windows 8 two big-name, well-regarded PCs — a 2008 Lenovo laptop and a 2009 Hewlett-Packard touchscreen desktop. The process was painful, and it resulted in lost capabilities, even though both PCs ran Windows 7 quite well and met the minimum requirements for running Windows 8.”

Mossberg, who has been writing a personal technology column for 22 years, goes on to explain that he should have checked the instruction booklets for his two PCs before installing Windows 8 and that he’d counted on Microsoft to warn him of incompatibilities as it had in the past.

He concludes: “The industry really wants you to get Windows 8 via an all-new PC, and most people who adopt it will go that route. But, if you don’t, or can’t, and have even a three-year-old PC, you may want to just stick with the Windows you’ve got.”

SpellcheckOn a far simpler scale, I question some recent so-called upgrades I’ve made. In the stodgy “Outlook Express” I used for years to access my emails the spell-check icon was right there next to bold, underscore and font, one-step, easy to find and use. To access spell-check in Microsoft Outlook considered an upgrade, first click on “Review,” and tucked inside is “spelling and grammar,” along with some other things.

Excessive scrolling, once avoided, seems to be the new style. After four+ years, I had to upgrade the program I use to publish my blog. My IT guru and other behind-the-scenes tech genius collaborators made it happen.

When I moderated a comment from my mobile phone the “approve” icon was the first thing I saw on my small screen. It’s now at the bottom of the comment text, hard to find in micro-mini type and annoying. Further, when I finish working behind the scenes, formatting and illustrating a post on my computer, I can no longer return to the blog itself by clicking an obvious arrow that’s clearly visible. I must exit the program and in mouse type, underneath the sign-in to the work area, is a link to the blog reachable only by scrolling down. In addition, while I’d insert an image in two clicks before, now it takes four. The format revision gave someone a job–the only benefit.

Different? Yes. Improvements? No.

Do you have examples of fabulous or ridiculous upgrades?


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9 Responses to “Service of Upgrades”

  1. Martha Takayama Said:

    My experience with most technical “upgrades” unfortunately has been confusing, or worse. I have lost information that I believe I cannot retrieve, even if I could locate and hire the technical experts available to the NYPD on “Law and Order Special Victims Unit.”

    With many retail products, first and foremost, updates generally result in elimination of a product you are content with to generate the need to purchase a new one that may not serve the same purpose or function better. In some cases, such as our new oven, dramatic updates due to the age of the product replaced do represent progress and a higher level of performance.

    The intervals of time involved in the launching of “updates” should be reviewed with a certain element of cynicism. The term is too often used to mask what we’re taught in junior high is simply “planned obsolescence.”

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    You are spot-on about planned obsolescence. Technical products and smartphone apps get publicity for something new so the manufacturers are forced to come out with new versions or they won’t get coverage by the essential tech trade blogs. This coverage, when positive, generates sales.

    Most unnerving is what upgrades that don’t work well do to your ego even when 9 times out of ten they, not you, are at fault. They are also tremendous time-gobblers.

  3. ASK Said:

    Not all so-called upgrades relate to tech-y products. For years, I’ve been using Clinique’s Dramatically Different moisturizer, a much-loved yellow-hued lotion. Several years ago, Clinique decided to put it in a pump bottle, fine until you get to the bottom half-inch or so. Then you have to unscrew the pump, turn the bottle upside down and pound on it to get the lotion out. Why do I need the pump? With the plain old screw top, when the bottle was down to its last, I just turned it upside down–voila, lotion without pounding. Can’t do that with the pump, although it did allow Clinique to charge $1 more for the product. But I did keep all the screw tops…even when they changed the size by a silly millimeter or so. Am I cheap? No! Am I nuts? Maybe, but one of their Bloomingdale’s sales reps told me I wasn’t the only one to express displeasure with the pump…

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Envision the scene at the lab that came up with the Clinique pump:

    Employee to boss: “Here’s the best pump I could find–I like the look, the way it works and the price. Trouble is, no matter what I do, I can’t get it to pump out the last half inch of cream.” Boss: “PERFECT! They’ll toss out the last half inch–many of our customers are the impatient types–they’ll be back for more sooner than before AND we’ll charge more for the pump. I’ll get a bonus! How soon can we implement the plan?”

    I am very impressed that you got the pump to work. My sister gives us wonderful French liquid soaps. As simple as it must be to get the pump to work, I couldn’t on one of the bottles so I poured the precious liquid into other bottles-with-pumps that, well, were pumping. The same thing happened with a bottle I bought for myself–a guest figured out how to get that one to function.

  5. Lucrezia Said:

    The so called upgrade is a marketing tool to coax more money from a buyers purse. “Benefits” promised are usually minimal in relation to added cost. Unless the enticement is something highly desireable and/or profitable to the customer, it is best left ignored. Marketers often rely on inattention, and tend to back off at the sign of ability to observe. Haggling now becomes fun, and truth in advertising may result.

  6. Anonymous Said:

    You certainly touched a nerve with me. All the time and money and effort to keep everything current, and then you’re so disappointed with the result about 70% of the time. It’s just NUTS!

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:


    And the cost is as much in time as in draining a pocketbook.

    Mr. Mossberg took a chunk of a week to determine that Windows 8 wasn’t for his two computers. At least he got paid to write about the experience–most of us are not paid back for downtime to figure these things out!

  8. Scott Ossian Said:

    Before the Revolution of 1960, two things happened at the same time during the 1950s:

    The United States Army put me, a hot–shot, brand new Ivy League college graduate, on active duty with the exalted rank of buck private. As such, I found out something that the Army knew, and I didn’t. “One picture is worth a thousand words,” or all those Ivy League text books wrapped into one.

    The second thing that happened was that Alexander Korda made a film, starring Alec Guinness, called “The Man in a White Suit.”

    Your Blog has remarkable timing. Turner Classic Movies broadcast the film this morning, and I saw it again for the first time in fifty years. If ever there was an advertisement for Nature’s law of upgrades (for every upgrade, there must be a downgrade.), this is it!

    In it, Alec invents a wonder fiber that never gets dirty, or wears out, or needs to be replaced. Mankind is freed from the need to buy cloth. The key moment comes when his very poor landlady who takes in washing to make ends meet, realizes that there isn’t going to be any more washing to take in. Alex’s cloth doesn’t need to be washed. I won’t spoil the ending by telling what happens, but for once, labor and management in then class-conscious England, both realize that there will be losers if Alex is allowed to “upgrade” cloth.

    It’s a “message” picture if there ever was one.

  9. Jean P. Said:


    I never saw–nor heard about–that movie. Good story.

    It wouldn’t get funding today–the wrong message in a make-money-at-all-costs world.

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