Yo! Smart people - FIX IT!!!!

The technology that surrounds us is, on the whole, pretty cool. But there are areas of tech that still suck, and suck badly, suck like it's the mid-1990s.

The technology that surrounds us is, on the whole, pretty cool. But there are areas of tech that still suck, and suck badly, suck like it's the mid-1990s.

Yo! Smart people - FIX IT!!!!

What am I talking about? Well, here's just a small selection from things that I've handled over the past few days.

Voice control

Ahh, voice control is such a promising lure. The idea of being able to talk to your tech and have it respond to your needs is, I think it's fair to say, every geek's dream.

Plenty of things incorporate some level of voice control, my iPhone does, my old Nokia E71 does, and even my PC has that feature. Problem is, it sucks. And sucks hard.

The problem with voice control is several fold. Take trying to voice controlling a PC. First, it's not natural. You have to learn a few basic, rigid commands, and remember that command when you want to carry out that task. Secondly, the whole thing becomes frustrating very quickly, and just like when on holiday in a foreign country, you start shouting at the bit of kit that you're trying to have a conversation with. Not only is this ineffective, it makes you madder and madder until you either Hulk out and destroy your once most treasured possession, or give up on trying to use the voice control feature.

Basically, it doesn't work.

Voice dialing

I'm putting this in a different category to voice control because it takes the frustration of voice control to whole new levels.

The idea behind voice dialing is that it allows you to make calls when on the move without having to look at your handset. In theory, a good idea. In practice, I'm pretty sure that handset makers include this feature on their phones as some sort of sick joke.

Here's what happens, without fail, every time I try my hand at voice dialing. For the first three attempts, nothing happens. It's as though the handset is a mute. I press and hold the relevant button on my headset, but the handset just ignores it. Then, for fun, the handset starts to get with the program and seems to be listening to me. But this is just part of its sick little game. It listens, but then just ignores me. Then, if I'm persistent, it'll listen to me and then dials out. Problem is, it's dialing the wrong contact. I'll ask it (politely) to dial "Home" but then the handset takes my clear pronunciation of the word "Home" and decides that I'd much rather have a pizza, or make a doctor's appointment, or call my mechanic, or lawyer.

Then it's a frantic struggle to get the handset to hang up before the call is made (especially if it tries to dial my lawyer ... those guys are expensive!).

Note: I've only ever had one handset that I could reliably use for voice dialing (that was a Motorola RAZR, which allowed you to record a voice tag for each contact).

Charger bricks

A pet hate of mine.

While I accept that one charger brick cannot rule them all, there are a few things that would make the road warrior's life easier:

  • Why oh why aren't they labeled? A good 90% of the charger bricks I own have no markings on them to indicate what device they power.
  • Why not standardize on USB power? Many devices do, but there are still plenty that don't. My guess this has to do with sales of accessories and their buoyant effect on the bottom line.

Screen protectors

Not only are these thin, dare I say it, flimsy sheets of plastic overpriced, but they are also almost impossible to apply without trapping air, a hair, or dust underneath it, rendering the sheet dead.

Many seem to come with "applicator sprays" (which seem to be nothing more than water in most cases) and a little tool made of cardboard that is meant to aid you in the application of the plastic sheet.

Printers

Yep, printers ARE from hell.

On the face of it, a simple device that does one thing, and should, after all these years, be able to do it well.

Problem is, they don't.

Printer FAIL starts the moment you take the thing out of the box, and lives with you until you either blow it up, pass it on to someone you hate, or junk it. The fact that we're moving more and more towards a paperless existence actually makes things worse, because while your printer is sitting there, being seemingly patient, it's actually developing a whole raft of faults for you to troubleshoot as soon as you do need to print something.

Notebooks

Most people want to use them on their laps. Accept this and design accordingly. Quit trying to persuade us to carry little tables and coolers with us.

Notebook power sockets

While we're on the subject of notebooks, how about designing a power socket where the connector supplying the juice will stay in place. I understand not all connectors can be as good as Apple's MagSafe, but come on, at least try ...

64-bit Flash Player for Windows

Do I need to say more? You, and you alone, are holding me back from having a 64-bit browser.

Seriously, it's clear why Steve Jobs doesn't want this nonsense on the iPhone and iPad.

Earphones

Meant to stay in the ear. Think that would be simple enough ... I think I must have non-standard ears or something.

Hit me with your tech annoyances!

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