“The Today widget does not support auto mode.”

I received that message the other day from my heating and cooling systems app on my comfort selection option of the program page, and wondered, hmmm, what is it telling me? Furthermore, another window told me “the system is in hold until 3:09 p.m.” What happens then, I also wondered. Does the system mutate? Is 3:09 a secret code known only to heating and cooling programmers, all probably under the age of 17?

I thought, well maybe the “Home IQ” selection on the program page will help. If it has an IQ, that would be helpful, because mine is beginning to fall in the face of widgets, tweets, icons and memes coming at me daily. But, alas, “in order to generate your Home IQ page, we require some additional information about your home. In your personal web portal, under the settings tab, click on the ‘My House’ widget and complete all of the required fields in the ‘characteristics’ tab.”

And, then, right below, appeared “Note: Your Home IQ reports will populate approximately one month after you have completed this stage.” No IQ for about a month it looks like. Maybe the system will reproduce in the meantime as it populates. Clones and computers are just about to replicate human beings in their entirety, I’m told. Why not have a little fun, too?

We moved into our new home after a fire destroyed our old one back in January 2017. For those of you who have asked, we finally got into the new home — same location as the old one — in late winter 2018. We are very happy here.

Both our new irrigation system and heating and cooling systems are very up-to-date, both run by apps easily accessible on our cellular phones, tablets or other devices. Apps for you antiques out there are, of course, applications, which we used to call software, as distinguished from the hammers-and-chisels kind of things bought at “hard” ware stores.

I have yet to figure out how to set the temperature I’d like downstairs, or upstairs for that matter, with my heating and cooling app, so I just tap away on the thermostat control to see if I can trip upon a fix accidentally, or, more correctly, learn something by applying the old rule of trial and error.

I got hung up on 69 degrees for a while, unable to make the temperature icon move up or down, but then it settled on 73 degrees and I went off to do a chore. I returned in a while and the temperature was at 79 degrees and climbing rapidly. After tapping it for about 20 minutes, it settled down to a temperature that I was told in another window I could set for two hours, four hours or “indefinite,” which I assume is geek talk for what we used to call eternity. Since my garden needed some watering, I left the heating and cooling app and turned to my irrigation app, which also is very modern and will save me lots of time and money.

The home screen is neat, with multi-colored windows indicating controller status, sensors, observations and watering schedules. The controller status indicated “All Good” with a bright green checkmark, which was very comforting. All Good.

It took me about a week to find the controller on an outside wall. It was having problems connecting to my Wi-Fi and couldn’t find an “access point” to make the connection. This distressed the controller since it could not control the water irrigation system without an access point to connect to the Wi-Fi, which itself is a piece of equipment that has its good days and bad days, too.

My new apps that control my water and heating and cooling systems are, of course, computers. They were beginning to resemble human activity more faithfully -- dependable and reliable when you understood them and cultivated their friendship, but cold, inscrutable, and irrational if they were not properly handled. This sounded more and more like a normal marriage.

My wife asked very practically, “Well, if you can’t get the app or whatever you call it to work, just turn it on manually,” as if turning it on manually was an option on the app screen or the controller, which could not find an access point.

I thought of something smart to answer as I started to water my newly planted collards with my hose. Hmmphh, as if it were that simple. Just like a woman.


Larry Clayton is a retired University of Alabama history professor. Readers can email him at larryclayton7@gmail.com.