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What's wrong with a switch?

16 August 2019

Gadgets, appliances and devices are getting ever more complex, sophisticated and intelligent.

One would expect that as we cram more computing power into things as simple as a toaster or camera, the operation of those devices could be made ever-simpler.

Indeed, many cameras now have so many automatic functions that they truly have become "point and shoot". Things such as exposure, focus, shutter-speed, white-balance and a raft of other settings can be figured out by the onboard computer in the blink of an eye.

Yay for progress!

Well at least that's the theory.

Sadly, as I have discovered in recent weeks and days, sometimes things are not as they should be.

This story starts when DJI released their Osmo Action Camera.

As someone who does the occasional VLog, I was looking for a top-class "action camera" that could also be used for vlogging purposes.

Most vloggers use either an expensive DSLR or purpose-built vlogging camera such as those from Sony but I wanted something which would be dual-purpose. A camera that I could strap to a drone for getting some top-quality aerial footage but which would also allow me to get lots of nice image-stabilized hand-held "talking head" footage while I was out and about during my day.

The go-to choice for this sort of work has been the GoPro Hero 7 and that was one of the cameras on my short-list. The arrival of the DJI Osmo Action however meant that I was somewhat undecided.

Reviews of the Osmo were generally pretty good and the footage it delivers is certainly up to scratch. For vloggers it has one excellent feature that puts it slightly ahead of the GoPro -- a forward facing LCD screen for framing your "talking head" videoing.

After much research, I was all set to pull the trigger on buying one of these cameras until I watched a video posted by a friend who'd just bought one. He was the only "reviewer" to disclose that you can't just buy one of these cameras, charge it up, turn it on and use it. Oh no... life with DJI is just not that simple.

Apparently, before you can use the camera, you must "activate" it.

I also encountered this "activation" process when I began reviewing the new DJI Digital HD FPV aerial video system. Once again, using it is far from simply "flicking a switch" to turn it on. As with the Osmo camera, it will not do a damned thing (except bitch at you) until you've gone online and "activated it".

For the love of God... WHY?

In the case of the new FPV video system from DJI, this process was (in my case) far from a trivial task.

Firstly I had to install some software on my computer and, due to a cock-up on DJI's part, there are two pieces of software with the same name so naturally (Murphy's law) I installed the wrong version -- along with about a thousand drivers. This installation process was slow and tedious. Trust me, if I have to tick the "accept" box on one more screen full of terms and conditions I will go postal!

When I finally tracked down the correct piece of software I had to repeat the entire tedious install process.

Then I had to create an account.

WTF? I just want to turn this damned thing on!

Again, creating an account was not the simple process it ought to be and I had to jump through countless Captcha screens by clicking on pictures of chickens, tractors and streetlights to prove that I wasn't some rogue bot.

Then... another of those screens full of "T&C" with an "I accept" tick-box.

[sound of running feet -- bang, bang, bang -- sound of sirens]

To be totally honest... I had to go through this process to review the FPV unit but DJI has lost a sale by forcing this on me again if I was to buy one of their cameras.

No way, no way at all!

Life is too short to fight such battles just so you can actually use a product that you've paid good money for.

What do readers think?

Are some manufacturers using your new product purchase as an excuse to suck unneccessary data out of you? Would you (like myself) refuse to buy a product if online "activation" was a mandatory part of its use?

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