Three failures — Kindle, MacBook, Google Docs

Yesterday was a brutal technology day. First, I wedged my Kindle between my rear and a chair and heard a nasty “crack”. My Kindle display has a nice shattery image on it permanently now. Sad. I had to open a paper book last night. New Kindle arrived today (thanks to Amazon Fresh trucks), and because the content is all stored at Amazon, I had my full library back working in less than a day. It sucks that e-readers are fragile (well I do weigh >200 lbs so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at the Kindle’s failure, it is not sold as a stadium chair), but back and running fast.

Second, the battery failed on one of our Macbooks which is about 3 years old. But of course Apple replaced for free at the Genius bar. Because they replaced the motherboard a year ago under some dubious warranty claim after we dropped the machine, again for no charge. Really, why would a regular human buy a machine anywhere else?

Third — every week, I update a task list document on Google Docs for a mission-critical subcontractor we use, print/save as PDF, and email to the sub. It is not a complex doc but it does need to be right. Last night Google Docs kept failing during the PDF save process (which is also how to print from Google Docs, so this is a pretty important function). After many tries it worked and I forwarded the downloaded PDF to my sub without examining it. Disaster — the PDF was for the version of the task list from January 24! The sub got all the wrong materials and did the wrong things totally, I had to scramble today to patch things back up.

I use the intrinsic functions in google docs to datestamp my doc, and the delivered PDF had the january 24 datestamp in it, and the content in the pdf is completely different than what is in my current doc on google docs, and i assume is a faithful representation of the state of the doc on january 24. how did google deliver me this pdf? My best guess is that some part of the PDF rendering process failed badly in the Google server farm, and they restored from some earlier version, and the restore picked up old queued files. I really have no idea how they could have delivered a two month old PDF rendering of my doc.

Corruption of data and inability to faithfully print documents are pretty damning problems for an office suite. I really can’t imagine continue to using Google docs with this class of problem. I haven’t bothered to file a bug with google yet because, well, delivering a product with this level of data corruption for basic scenarios is pretty much a deal breaker for me.

Commendations to Apple and Amazon for creating systems and businesses that are incredibly customer-focused, even when products fail. The Google Docs failure may be an isolated incident, but I do wonder if Google has this same level of customer focus.

2 Replies to “Three failures — Kindle, MacBook, Google Docs”

  1. Google is very bad about fixing bugs. I use some of their WAP services (mail and search) and they will leave bugs unfixed for weeks or months or more. Even bugs that make the product totally unusable take days to fix.

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