Technology that gives us the creeps

Technology that gives us the creeps

Summary: Sure, IT matters -- and technology is cool. Except when it's just plain scary. Fom DRM to PattyMail, floating nuke plants to IT Frankensteins, here are the techno bogeymen that haunt us.


Last month, a Cisco chief technology officer called Windows Vista "scary". While our bloggers -- including Mary Jo Foley and Ed Bott and George Ou -- might argue with that assessment (see our complete Vista coverage to help you decide for yourself) the comment did get us thinking about other scary technologies -- and scary uses of technology.

In the spirit of the Halloween season, we asked our bloggers to tell us what disturbing, distasteful, dreary Why is this iPod scary?or downright dastardly technology keeps them awake at night.

Why is this iPod scary?

David Berlind, for one, is suffering from a recurring DRM nightmare, and it keeps getting worse. Depending on your point of view, DRM stands for Digital Rights Management or Digital Restrictions Management. David calls it C.R.A.P. -- and warns that we should all be very afraid.

The bogeyman that haunts Ed Bott and so many other Windows users has been Microsoft's Windows Genuine Advantage. In Vista, this anti-piracy program will only get worse, warns Ed. "Technically, it's not a kill switch, but it's arguably a near-death experience for your PC."

What other terrors has technology wrought? Ten troubling examples:

  1. Malware tricks
  2. 64-bit drivers
  3. Web 2.0 insecurity
  4. Honest consumers driven to piracy
  5. Virtualized SOA
  6. Microsoft Zune
  7. Floating nuclear plant
  8. The DMCA
  9. Electronic voting
  10. Traceable 'PattyMail'

And there's plenty more scary tech here...

Have you had a personal encounter with technology gone awry? Tell us about your own technology fear factor in TalkBack.

Topics: Hardware, Microsoft, Mobility, Operating Systems, Security, Software, Windows

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  • Yes, PlaysForSure sure doesn't.

    Or maybe it's the Windows Media Player. Anyway, WMP won't synch my duly bought and licensed WMA songs to my Rio Carbon, because it says "a problem has occurred in obtaining the device's certificate." The songs play in WMP on the PC. But I can't synch them to the Rio. Following the help link from WMP to the Microsoft site doesn't yield any help. Plenty of reading. But no help. Yeah, PlaysForSure. To h*ll with DRM. I'm done with it. And M$ of its main purveyors.
    • DRM creates personal use piracy and does nothing to stop commercial piracy!

      I had co-worker who is a audio/video geek. He has spent at least 10k on his home entertainment system. He used to buy 10 to 15 DVD's a month. A lot of them were the $5.49 Walmart specials but he also bought 2 or 3 new releases a month. His 4 year old son used one of his Star Wars DVD's to play Frisbee with his dog. So he decided to make copy's of his DVD collection about 300 in all so if it happens again he's not out a DVD. When he found out he couldn't because of the DRM he did a Google search and downloaded something like AnyDVD and CloneDVD. Then he joined blockbuster online or Netflix and now copy's his DVD's instead of buying them. He didn't even bother coping his store bought DVD's knowing he could rent them if his son decided to play Frisbee with the dog again. Simple fair use would have prevented this. I sure he is not the only person to do this because fair use restrictions.
      • BS meter pegged on high

        The fact he continues to copy DVDs that he's not entitled to, even if the old Fair Use tenets was applicable, simply says that he's a thief. If it had been EASY for him to make a copy of his existing collection to begin with, how much of a jump would've it taken for him to have realized that illegally copying a rental or borrowed DVD is just as simple, and a helluva lot cheaper than buying them to begin with.

        Considering he's doing that now, it's apparently not much of one.

        It's all about [i]personal greed[/i]. Blame the media companies and Microshaft/Apple all you want, but none of that excuses the thieving behavior of your bud.
        • What a bunch of ......

          If all the money used to created those totaly useless and illegal DRM was saved and use to LOWER the price of music/movies they will not concern for piracy at all. as the price of a DVD movie will be lower then it cost for renting today.

          Media companies are guilty of enough crimes for the owner to jailled for life several time... compare that to Ripping a rented movie...

          Remeber: The Digital Mafia (MPAA/RIAA) is a court proven criminal organisation. So why whould i want to give money to a crook?
          • It's not about them ...

            ... it's about the artists they are making money from. They are the ones being ripped off because people want somethign for nothing!
            M Wagner
    • yes but iTunes still gives you an out

      Yes, but iTunes still lets you un DRM music by burning an audio CD and reimporting as straight un DRMed MP3 and those still play just fine on the iPod. So if you are parinoid just us iTunes to purchase music and keep an audio CD of each playlist or album you buy. Its a good idea anyway to keep a backup that is not hard drive dependant.
      • This is the reason ...

        ... people accept the iTunes model. Apple has made it convenient for their customers to move their song to whatever media they want to use while making it inconvenient for the bootleggers -- which was the point in the first place!
        M Wagner
  • Call my computer "Frankenputer."

    That's because I made it from drive units and cards bought at a flea market. Even the PC itself was a flea market find for $80.

    Here's the specs on my Frankenputer:
    AMD Athlon, 700MHz
    256MB RAM
    40GB + 30GB HDD
    Pioneer DVD-ROM
    HP DVD-Writer 100i (Does only DVD+RW and not +Rs)
    Dell 1701FP monitor, connected to an ATI Rage 128 card.

    Now, time is catching up to my old Athlon, and I'm looking for something faster like the Duo-cores. I'd wait for AMD to come out with something, but at the rate my system is slowing down, I don't have much time before Frank bytes [sic] it.
    Mr. Roboto
  • I call it the Digital Rights Mafia

    I call "DRM" the "Digital Rights Mafia", because that's just what the DRM-pushers are: corrupt sleazeballs who use force to control, coerce, and rip off honest citizens while subverting our legal system in order to line their own pockets. RIAA, MPAA, and legislators who vote for abominations like the DMCA are the new Tammany Hall. Voters and consumers need to wake up and get rid of these scumbags.
    • Delirious Regimented Morons

      This is still new tech, and needs to mature before it is useful, but it is intended to protect IP, which anyone who creates for a living ought to probably respect.

      It's just been poorly implemented by people with venal motivations, so far.

      In time, someone will find a way to do this reasonably, and until then, I will continue buying my music on CD and playing it on my iPod or wherever I feel like putting the mp3 files I turn the CDs into.

      Don't hate M$. Pity them. They are doing their best, they just lack imagination.
      • "doing their best"

        Yeah, Right! To extort every penny they can from every entity on the planet earth, not to exclude any aliens they encounter.
        Ole Man
    • "Digital Rights Mafia"

      I've heard many excellent names for "DRM", but this is by far the best one i've heard yet.
      I vote we all adopt this name. Crap is good, but Mafia is more distinctive, don't you think?
      Ole Man
  • disappointed by all of you!!!!

    I am very disappointed that not one ZDNet blogger chose to write about this:

    ...before complaints about PC, iPod, and multimedia software.

    *THAT*, ladies and gentlemen, is one of the scariest technologies I have heard of that is currently being developed.
    • You KNEW it was coming

      Whether it's cameras watching your every move (as the Brits and other European governments are seemingly trying to do), or RFID chips monitoring your real-time location 24/7, government in the past half century or so has been EXTREMELY interested in the goings on of their citizenry.

      The more you know, the better you control.

      Of course, given the ineptitude of OUR government's underlings, all this sensitive data will simply end up on that out in the open laptop that just got stolen out of that dumba** bureaucrat's car while he/she was busy being self-indulgent and scarfing down a bacon cheeseburger down at Wendy's.
    • yeh, ADVISE is pretty scary

      You have a good point. ADVISE *is* pretty scary.
  • shutdown evil

    if it was not for the Digital Mafia (MPAA/RIAA) DRM will as long been declared Illegal. It is the single most anti-consumer item ever created. It degrad the quality of analog contents, it illegally raise the price of consumer device, it prevent LEGAL use of PAID FOR content and most of all IT DOES NOT WORK, it as never, is not and will never work.

    I hope that one day the clearly illegal cartel that is the MPAA/RIAA will be expose and that the corrupted american justic system will stop working for the most despicable organisation to have ever existed: The MPAA/RIAA. Who let criminal Macrovision corrupt VHS tape in the 1st place in the 80's? (macrovision owns billions of $ in damage/compansation to every one who ever buy a macrovion's riged device.)

    i make a point of never paying for any content that is rig with any kind of copy protection. But that does not prevent me from waching the same content, once it as been found in it's non corrupted form.
  • Berlind is full of C.R.A.P.

    The only reason this idiot "can't" play iTunes music on his
    "$20,000" stereo is that he's too cheap to buy a $30 cradle for
    his iPod. Or if he wants to keep fooling himself that he thinks
    he can hear the difference between digital from the iPod and
    through his amplifier, he can spend about $1,000 and get a top-
    of-the-line Harman Kardon Receiver (and still bypass their likely
    superior amplifier) and get the iPod bridge and then use the
    remote control to operate his player.

    The only thing scary about this is the pinheads that get crowned
    • Be Brave!

      Seems it's always the bravest smarta$$es that are the last and MOST SURPRISED when they wake up to the fact that they have been scammed.
      So, be brave. Spout your superior technological knowledge and abilities. Enjoy it while you can.
      An ostrich isn't the only animal that buries his head in the sand. (or is it in a much more stinky place in your case?)
      Ole Man
  • Frankenfood

    I can't believe that didn't make the list. Yeah, sure, people can go on and on about how Frankenfood (Genetically Modified Food) will end starvation. But the short and simple answer to world hunger is to stop eating meat. The grain used to feed cattle can feed 8 billion people. Stop eating meat and no one has to starve.

    Frankenfood on the other hand, looks good until you consider the possibility of a mistake. With dead things, like glass, metal and uranium, we can stop the damage with production. But with Frankfoods? The mistake multiplies.

    Oops. We just wiped out a large part of the food chain. Guess we're next. Take the New Leaf Potato for instance. This plant has a gene transplanted from a bacterium. The protein expressed by the gene is toxic to the beetle that eats the leaves of the potato plant. The protein jams up the digestive system of the beetle so that no matter how much it eats, it starves. Hmmm. Maybe that would be the weight loss program America needs.

    What happens when the beetles are gone?
    How will this potato affect humans?
    How will we stop it when we realize it's a mistake?

    Happy Halloween.

    Scott Dunn
  • The solution to DRM is ...

    to make it economically unfeasible. Stop buying music and DVDs altogether. I have. Frankly I haven't missed a thing. The local rental store and rent-by-mail schemes serve my every need quite well for that two or three times a month I find myself with nothing better to do. And frankly, if you are watching movies more than once a week, you need to get a life!

    Tell the distributers you want tapes / discs without any copy protection schemes or you won't buy them ... and then stick to it. Surely the boob toob isn't little Johnny's only entertainment. If it is then you have more problems than you know and no excuse when little Johnny turns out to be a mal-adjusted threat to society.

    DRM is just an excuse invented by Hollywood to charge $20 for a $2 disc ... and M$ bought in because it is yet another way for them to control your life (the ultimate goal of this monopoly).

    I don't believe DRM has a thing to do with solving any theft problem. I have outlined the solution to students stealing music and videos many times (filters that debit the student's account when they access copyrighted material). And there is no solution to keeping our European and Asian friends from copying discs so why stick us, the legitimate PAYING Customers, with the bill? Because they can. They even paid enough money to get laws passed to make it legal. If they were really serious about finding and prosecuting real thieves, they would watermark the original discs and track all purchases (that technology already exists and is in use BTW) so they would know who to go after.

    Well that is enough for now.