In response to CNet’s Top Ten Terrible Tech Products, here I’m listing what I consider to be the five worst technology products of all time.
5: The Digital Blue Video Camera
These horrible, stupid, newbie-ish cameras are so hated that I can’t even find any pictures on the Internet. They’re cheap, tacky, made of blue plastic, look like a gun so you’d get shot if you used one in London, and are generally only used by schools who can’t afford a proper camera with a screen and tape.
The worst problem, however, was with the terrible, Flash-based, n00b-interfaced software. That was the only way to get the camera to talk to a PC (it has something against UNIX) and it was slow, clunky, and generally useless.
4: The Lexmark Z30 printer
I’m not even sure if I’ve got the model number right, but my goodness are they awful. In my experience they only last around 80 days before they fail to power up altogether, before which they produce horrible, smeared prints that might have come out of a medieval scribe’s quill.
3: The Apple PowerBook Duo
Now, I don’t know about you, but I thought the whole point of a portable computer was that it would be a fully functioning computer whether or not you were near a docking station.
The concept was completely pointless – unless you were near a docking station, your computer was crippled. There should already have been a proper set of I/O ports and components on board the machine.
A horrible, newbie-ish Internet provider, which gives headaches to anyone with an ounce of sense in them. It’s tiresome, anti-competitive (its browser blocks rival search engines, Email services etc) and generally rubbish.
1: Tie break: Windows Vista, Microsoft Zune
Both these products are nothing short of shams. I mean, what idiot had the idea of offering a WMA player in black and… brown? And the Zune isn’t compatible with previous purchases made in Windows Media Player, has restrictive DRM, and can’t even be used as a hard drive.
Then we come to the horror of Windows Vista – Windows, but with added safety tape, bloat and a jazzed-up Explorer. It’s still the same core, though – DLLs, closed kernels, and now with added DRM.
The thing that pees me off most though about Vista and the Zune is that Microsoft seem to have lost the ability to innovate. Most of the much-touted new features in Vista have been in UNIX-like OSes such as Linux, Mac OS X and Solaris for ages. And the Zune seems like the worst part of every MP3 player out there salvaged from the R&D department’s wheelie bin, and glued together into a Windows Live Frankenstein of awfulness.
UNIX software still has a roughly 5% market share on most home and desktop computers. And while this can be partially attributed to Microsoft’s big-buck deals with manufacturers, I think the problems lie deeper. There are three major problems that I’d like to highlight.Confusing setup and installation: true, while Windows isn’t exactly a joy to set up, most UNIX variants out there (with the exception of Ubuntu, Debian and a few others) are a nightmare to get working on your system. And just try installing a program on Ubuntu with apt that needs support files – you’ll be furtling around in Nautilus (having switched to root) until you fossilise.Lack of hardware ability and support: Just try getting a simple USB-powered WLAN card working on Linux. Either it isn’t possible, or you need to install several apps, and run several complicated (at least for relatively inexperienced computer users) terminal commands and then configure your card. It’s a nightmare.Lack of publicity: People simply don’t know what UNIX is. They’ve never heard of Linux or the Macintosh, and while both of their market shares are increasing, it’s never going to truly catch on unless there’s a proper publicity campaign, and people start telling their friends about these OSes. But, then again, most modern computer users seem to actually believe PC World’s advertisements stating that 80000000000B is a ‘massive’ hard drive.
I’m proud to use UNIX as my main OS (I’m running Mac OS X, and my second OS of choice is Ubuntu), but it’s a technical labyrinth for new computer users. And most of them haven’t even heard of it.
BBC Newsnight has just confirmed that the data on the optical disks which were lost by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs was not encrypted.
It just serves as a reminder that there’s a sucker born every minute. And, of course, this has given ammunition to certainright-wingnewspapers against the government.
But, in reality, is it really fair to blame the government? It’s like blaming the Headmaster because your child hung himself with his tie at school. The buck stops with the idiot who sent it in the post instead of simply sending it down the line to the Government. It’s certainly not an excuse for the Tories to use in Parliament.
So, Her Majesty’s delightful Revenue and Customs have now got into a bit of a pickle – they’ve lost 25 million people’s confidential information.
And, it appears that HM Revenue and Customs won’t tell us whether or not the data was encrypted, for ’security reasons’. Well, that generally means, ‘they aren’t’.
[read the review on 7 Brilliant Things You Can Do With Your Smartphone]
So, put simply, a huge cock-up.
However, it would have been made a lot better if the data had been encrypted – in other words, scrambled to make it impossible to read without a ‘key’.
So, if they weren’t encrypted, why not? And, what’s more, why the hell were they sent through the insecure postal system, and not either a) delivered by hand or b) delivered over at least two encryption methods by running a cable between the HQ of HMR&C and the Audit Office?
Nevertheless, most people reading this (well, if they have children) will be concerned about whether or not to worry about it. Well, chances are you don’t.
However, there are some common-sense rules concerning passwords etc – basic stuff, which is really important.If you’re using a blank password, for goodness’s sake CHANGE IT!If you’re using an easily-guessed password, such as password, open, security etc., change it.If it contains you or your children’s date/s of birth, change it.If it contains you or your children’s names, change it.If it’s the same as your username, change it.If it’s shorter than 12 characters, change it.If it only contains letters or only contains numbers, change it.If you haven’t changed the password for more than three months, change it.If you’ve given it to someone, then you’re a twit. Change it.If you see any unusual transactions on your statement, tell the bank and change it.
Common sense tells you most of these things, and you might think ‘it won’t happen to me!’. Tough luck, mate. The Bad Guys are out there to get you, and while we can’t stop government staff being so stupid, we can put in some common sense protection to avoid being affected.
Well, I hope not, but it seems he owns almost everything known to man. He owns, among other things:Dow Jones Indices, therefore the Wall Street JournalMySpaceQuite a lot of political influence until recently – most of Tony Blair’s policies were Labo
ur policies with the bits he didn’t like crossed outStar TVNews Corporation, therefore FOXAn awful lot of right-wing newspapers
Now, I don’t have any objection to him making a bit of money. Good luck to him. But it’s interesting to realise that he probably owns (or has an influence on) a lot of the television programmes we watch, newspapers and magazines we read, adverts we see, et cetera. Quite frightening to realise that it’s all owned by one man.
Most broadcasters in the UK are making a huge fuss about the digital television switchover, which will see the old analogue TV signal switched off for good across the country by 2012 and replaced by digital multiplex broadcasts (MUXes).
OFCOM, the media industry regulator (famous for allowing ITV to ruin itself and numerous other mistakes) has also laid out proposals to switch Britain from analogue radio to digital radio.
No, no, no. Bad idea.
It’s pretty easy to switch your house over to digital TV: your main set can be hooked up to digital cable or satellite. You buy a subscription and a box off them, plug it into your TV and you’re away. Generally, though, this will only work on one set, because otherwise it would require separate boxes and access points for every set in the house.
Alternatively, you can opt to receive digital terrestrial transmissions without subscription by buying a Freeview decoder, and when switchover comes (BBC2 will be the first channel to be switched off on analogue), you run a line between the box and your TV, and between the box and your aerial. Simple as.
This is possible because a TV is essentially a monitor with an input where your aerial goes in. Other things can be plugged in where the aerial would go, such as a video recorder, or, when the switchover comes, a digital box.
This is not so with a radio. It can only take input from an aerial at the back, and not any other devices. The only way to receive digital radio is to buy a brand new radio – and this will be difficult, because the vast majority of radios in operation in the UK are analogue systems.
In particular, it would mean ancient radios, such as that Robert’s transistor radio in the shed which is older than you, will be useless (unless you want to hear the ‘bip-bib-bip-eek’ of the digital transmissions of the frequency’s new owner).