Friday, September 14, 2012

Samsung 10 Tablet - Is There an Ice Cream Sandwich for Me?

I have written about my trials with the Samsung tablet elsewhere.  I was kind of ok with letting bygones be bygones after my last encounter with Samsung.  The tablet behaves wonderfully and I haven't had any issues worth mentioning.

My T-Mobile rep told me that Ice Cream Sandwich would be available for the tablet in short order, so I waited for the day.  When the fateful day arrived, I hit the UPDATE button, but alas, there was no update.  Two more weeks of the same led me to write to my rep and ask where the promised update was.  The response was that I had to use Kies.

Stupid me.  I figured hitting UPDATE would update the tablet, like it has in the past and like every other device I have.

Not this time, buddy.

I had heard rumblings about this Kies thing but tried to ignore them, as I was having no issues at all.  The first thing I found out was that Kies only works on Windows and Macs: my two least-favorite operating systems.  Not a linux version to be found.  Not that we haven't tried; the Samsung site is chock full of people politely requesting a linux version of the software.

I figured maybe we linux folks don't need Kies, especially after reading the blurbs.  I really don't want to remotely manage my device, thank you very much.  I can do everything I need from the tablet itself.  Unfortunately one cannot update to Ice Cream Sandwich without it.  No one seems to know why.

Holding back disgust, I downloaded it on my work Windows 7 machine.   Have you read the license notice?  It's positively draconian.  Samsung basically owns all of your data, your preferences, and title to your home.  If I wanted a device that phones home, I would have bought an iDevice.

Firing up the software, I plugged in the tablet and noticed that Windows failed to load the driver.  Beautiful.... what a way to start the upgrade!  I tried again and failed again.  The third time was the charm.  Kies then indicated it was making the connection.  And continued to indicate it was connecting.  There was a round orange animated graphic that kept spinning, indicating that it was either working or simply that the graphic designer could make things spin.  And so it went, never actually connecting.

After putzing about with it for a few more minutes (it's tough when you have the attention span of a gnat) I gave up.   Later I went home, booted my laptop into Windows and tried there.  With precisely the same result.

If nothing else, Kies is consistent.

Again the tablet went away for a few days, as I was too busy to bother fighting with it.   Today I got brave and decided to try again.  I uninstalled Kies, reinstalled Kies, uninstalled the drivers, reinstalled the drivers, prayed to various and sundry deities and even brought up the page of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (see links).  Of course it failed miserably.

About to give up hope, I decided to work through the pain and fear and call Samsung.  It was a tossup as to whether to call Samsung or T-Mobile.  Usually the first five or six calls establish who you're supposed to be calling in the first place.  For some strange reason, I got it right - Samsung it was.

When one calls Samsung, one is presented with the typical Press Number Forty Seven phone matrix to talk to a human (or press one for Swahili).  I pressed the number for tablets and was connected in short order to a woman who seemed surprised I was calling about a tablet.  I squelched the desire to tell her that was the number I pressed and tried to behave.  It's not her fault Samsung can't get its phone menu together.

The nice lady was quite obviously reading from a script, as every question I had seemed to completely stump her.  While waiting for Windows to reboot, I asked her if she had ever tried linux.  She responded that Kies was only available for Windows and Mac.

Ok then.

I forgot to mention that the phone rep was a citizen of the US.  Or just outside of it, in Texas.  She finished up her script and very politely informed me she had to send me up to the next level of tech support.

No, really?

While on hold, I was treated to the whole Samsung really appreciates you as a customer bit, along with constant reminders that I could get tech support through the web.  Almost immediately, as in twenty minutes, the next Helpful Samsung Rep got on the line.

I'm sure you notice that whenever you get transferred from one helpful person to another, they always start by asking you for information that the previous rep already asked.

"Can I have your phone number?"

Why?  Do you suppose it changed between the last service rep and you?

Helpful Samsung Rep #2 began by asking how he could help.  Never one to miss an opportunity, I told him I wanted to get my tablet updated to Ice Cream Sandwich without benefit of that lovely Kies software, which doesn't work anyway.

He was immediately not impressed and mentioned that we needed to use Kies.  I countered by asking him for the executable and I'd get it to the tablet myself (clever fool that I am).  He simply insisted on Kies.

Realizing that I wasn't going to get anywhere by asking outside of the box, I let him drive.  We did the whole thing about uninstalling and reinstalling Kies, making sure the version was the latest; uninstalling and reinstalling the Windows drivers and of course, rebooting Windows.

I hate Windows.  No, really.  Every time I use it, I hate it more and for a different and better reason.  Windows turns out to be a very welcoming operating system, and I say this because when Windows boots up, the Welcome screen stays up for quite a while.  I feel very welcome whenever I reboot (which is way too frequently).

So we went through the entire Level Two Script for no apparent reason other than as an exercise.  Finally the genuinely helpful fellow said he had seen this before and I had two choices: try resetting the tablet or ship it to Samsung and they'd update it.

I wanted to make sure I understood what the rep was offering in the way of assistance.  I listed out and expanded upon his suggestions.

  1. Reset the device: meaning I would delete all of the information and customizations I have on it.  With no actual guarantee that the device would upgrade.
  2. Ship it to Samsung (again): meaning they would delete all of the information and customizations I have on it.  But they'd guarantee Ice Cream Sandwich would be there.
As it turned out, I correctly understood his offer.    I told him that neither of the suggestions was acceptable, at which point his typing increased speed and volume in the background.  He informed me that this was pretty much it.

Yay, Samsung!

I tried valiantly to understand the process.  The reason for Kies seemed to be that the update file was too large to get to the tablet via 4g.  I suggested that if he could tell me where to get the update, I would be happy to transfer it to the tablet myself.  He insisted that there was no update file.

If there is no update file, what does Kies download from the internet and transfer to the tablet?

The tablet indicates it is connected via MTP, media transfer protocol regardless of what Kies says.  I can get MTP working under linux so it shouldn't be a big deal to transfer the file (not to mention FTP and several other transfer protocols).

Either Kies does something with which I am not familiar or no one thus far understands what's happening.

I'm guessing the latter.

Friends don't let friends use iDevices.  Don't be an iHole.

I hate Apple.  I hate Apple products.  Even more than I hate Windows.  I have nothing against anyone else using iDevices: I just won't use them.

I have used android devices since the first Droid phone: I am a huge android supporter.  But I have to say that these kinds of experiences are precisely the kind of experiences that drive people to The Dark Side.  I don't want to go to The Dark Side.  I can't become an iHole.  I am the lone android tablet holdout at work for precisely this reason.  Everyone else has an iPad: even people with android phones.


I have gone to some forums for help as well as sending my T-Mobile rep a little love note.  I suppose I could root the tablet and install ICS that way but I really wanted to perform the update the normal way first (for once).

Stay tuned.  Hopefully something will emerge in the way of assistance.

Heaven knows it's not going to come from Samsung.


I finally gave up, backed up, and reset the device.  It attached immediately to the pc and Kies and told me I had an update.  It was all over but the shouting.  The shouting actually took place while trying to locate my Samsung information.  I tried the bloody website but every time I told it to email me my password, it told me the email address (which I typed twice to confirm) was incorrect.

Samsung is developmentally delayed.

I have an Ice Cream Sandwich device now.  The first thing I did was to disable the apps that annoy me (most of them).  Then I discovered the backup I made with RER Backup refused to restore.

It's been a long and painful experience.  Nothing has gone smoothly.

I will report on ICS as I mess with it.

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