Small Victories

As more and more of us are confined to our homes, the Internet has become more vital as a means of communication and socializing. Since I work from home all the time, this is nothing new for me, but its importance has become intensified. In such a situation, small annoyances are often magnified. For example, our Internet connection has always been a bit dodgy, but now, given the added pressure of millions of people working from home, the Internet seems really stressed, and my connection drops much more frequently. Needless to say, this is frustrating if I’m trying to send an email and disastrous if I’m logged into a Microsoft Teams meeting.

But even as small annoyances loom larger, small victories can be even more satisfying. Aside from routine grocery shopping, the only time I get out of the house is for a daily walk of about two miles around our neighborhood and small town. Since August 2012, these walks have been made wearing a GPS watch, the Garmin Forerunner 405CX. I’m actually on my second watch of this model because the first one died in 2018 and was replaced. In common with many Garmin models, this watch uses ANT+™ technology to communicate wirelessly with an ANT stick™ that plugs into a USB port. When this works correctly, it is transparent to the user and is rather like magic. It requires Garmin Express software installed on the computer, but usually it isn’t necessary to open this application to upload the watch data; just place the watch near the ANT stick, and eventually the watch displays “Transferring Data.” When it shows “Transfer Complete,” there will be a popout Windows notification that the user can click on to go to Garmin Connect, the website where the recent activity is displayed.

The page shows various statistics uploaded from the watch, along with locally sourced weather data, and has descriptive fields that allow the user to name the activity, describe its type and purpose, comment on it, etc. It also displays the route on a map and indicates elevation changes. The Garmin Connect “dashboard” displays cumulative data for all activities, including the number of miles on the selected pair of shoes.

Needless to say, all of this is interesting and useful. On March 26, however, it all stopped working. It may have been just coincidence that Garmin Express had just downloaded and installed an update, but my watch refused to sync. Garmin Express would make a valiant effort but repeatedly reported failure to sync to Garmin Connect. This was not unprecedented; sometimes in the past, it had balked for a day or two and then eventually sent the data. Sometimes I would have to select Force Send to resend all the data in the watch history, which was tedious but ultimately successful. But this time nothing worked. Day after day, nothing worked. I googled for solutions and tried everything recommended, including deleting old activities from the watch. Finally, in desperation, after recording the watch data and manually adding it to Garmin Connect (which produced pages with no map or weather data but at least added the mileage to the shoe count), I deleted all the activities in the watch. Still nothing. Needless to say, I was very frustrated.

Then on Saturday, April 4, my husband, who earned a fully paid-for doctorate in 1975, received a communication from the U.S. Department of Education purporting to be “Information about your federal student loan.” I assumed this was junk mail—we frequently get spam calls about student loans—but when my husband opened it, he realized it was in reference to student loans our son had taken out (which I had previously been unaware of). So he called our son, described the issue, and promised to send him the paperwork (which informed him that “we’re postponing your student loan payments due to a natural disaster or pandemic”—undoubtedly news he was glad to hear!). My husband had assumed he would mail the papers but, realizing we were out of stamps, said to me: “You can scan documents to email, right?” Indeed, with my trusty Fujitsu ScanSnap ix500, I have scanned many a document to email. I opened the paper feeder on the ScanSnap and waited for the Taskbar icon to show that it was connected. But somehow the connection had been lost. Seriously?

The rest of the day and even in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep, I tried everything. To its credit, Fujitsu has very detailed and specific online support documents about this problem, but I followed all instructions without success. (The only one I balked at was disconnecting all other USB devices—which include two printers, another scanner, and of course my keyboard and mouse!) At this point I was seriously discouraged. It seemed like my technology was really conspiring against me.

Clearly a Bigger Hammer was required. I really, really hate installing software. It seems there are so many things that can go wrong. And if uninstalling/reinstalling doesn’t solve the problem and possibly makes it worse, then I’ve wasted a lot of time for nothing. By Monday (after a trip to the post office to buy stamps so I could mail the document), I had decided to bite the bullet. On Tuesday I uninstalled Garmin Express, then redownloaded it and reinstalled it, allowed it to install updates, etc., then held my breath while I reintroduced my watch to the ANT stick. Success! It immediately uploaded the four days’ activity recorded in the watch since I’d cleared the history, and I was able to delete those activities from the ones I’d uploaded manually. I’m almost afraid to say so, but the watch has behaved flawlessly every day since.

I didn’t want to tempt fate by doing too much in one day, so I waited till Wednesday to uninstall and reinstall ScanSnap Manager. That was much more involved, especially all the updates, but the bottom line is that the scanner is now connected again as well. Small victories indeed, but it is amazing what a difference they have made in my outlook on life!

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