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Peggy Aycinena
Peggy Aycinena
Peggy Aycinena is a freelance journalist and Editor of EDA Confidential at She can be reached at peggy at aycinena dot com.

Annoying: Today’s top tedious tech

October 3rd, 2013 by Peggy Aycinena

There are a lot of things about life in the 21st century that are annoying, things related to our environment being super-saturated with technology. Electronic stuff around the house that never goes dark so you have to cover them with an old sock to get some shut-eye; wireless devices that send out vibes that tingle in your hands and wrists when they power up; kids who respond to text messages but not voice, kids who respond to voice messages but not text; and the pile of old cellphones and PDAs holed up in a dark corner of that drawer in the kitchen.

For the sake of this blog post, however, a specific bucket of annoying has been chosen for special shout out. Listed in no particular order, all of them show up with sufficient frequency to make you wonder if we’re really making progress here.

* Phones – Dumb phones vs. Smart phones. Excuse me, Feature phones vs. Smart phones. So when did we cross the line that you’re embarrassed if you carry a dumb phone? Here’s an article that says this year for the first time, more than 50 percent of Americans are carrying a smart phone, but there are still millions who do not. Of course, for those who hang out in Silicon Valley, you wouldn’t dare show up without the latest/greatest. Unless you’re willing to step out of the room to take a call that is, where nobody can see that your stone-age phone is just one evolutionary step above a brick.

* Photos – Apple devices produce upside-down photos. What the heck is that all about? You take pictures with your iPad, send them to friends, who open the photos on their Windows devices, and voilà – the pictures are upside down. Why? Let’s see, Bill Gates didn’t like Steve Jobs? Oh please, aren’t we over that by now?

* Public Bathrooms – Faucets that don’t turn on. You’re in a hurry, you get the automatic squirt of soap, lather your hands, and then … the stupid water won’t turn on. There’s some sort of motion sensor mounted under the spout, but it doesn’t see you. Oh happy day. After waving your hands around violently for a couple of seconds and muttering some expletives deleted, you step to the next sink over and … the water turns on immediately. What is that all about?

* Silos – The closed communities of Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.  Come on, really? I can talk to friends while on Facebook, but any message I get from them after logging out is forwarded to my email without the ability to respond unless I go back into Facebook-land to return the message. Facebook wants you to play your life out within their world. Twitter? It’s exactly the same. Twitter will let you know that somebody’s posted a message for you, but you need to go into Twitter-Land to continue the conversation. Of course, it’s the same in LinkedIn. Somebody posts a message for you and you’re notified it’s there, but you can’t read it without going into LinkedIn-Land. Helloooo … silos!

I get that the billions of dollars are being banked on Facebook, LinkedIn, and soon-to-be-IPO’d Twitter, based on the idea that millions and millions of people like living within their silos. But isn’t it just like the early days of the Internet when AOL had closed email – and we all know how well that worked out.

* TMI – Take a picture with your smartphone of somebody doing something clever, fail to get the settings right, forward the photo to your favorite associates, and again voilà – a 5-meg attachment arrives in their email. Thanks, but nobody really wants to be able to count the individual whiskers on the face of the subject, and the guy in the photo is probably not too pleased about it either. Really.

* Passwords – Forced password changes because your software says it’s time. This is always fun. You go into your established email and suddenly the system says pick a new password, your old one has expired. So you key in a new password, over and over and over and over again, but it doesn’t take. You call your email provider and get a recording which commands you to key in your phone number and promises you’ll get a call back in 90 minutes or less.

After waiting 100 minutes, you call again, follow the instructions to get a live person, and that operator immediately connects you back to the automatic voice who commands your phone number be entered again and announces another 90-minute call back delay. You do this 4 more times before you finally get a live somebody to pass you on to their live supervisor who finds out if you know your mother’s maiden name and if you do, finally helps you establish the new password so you can get back into your email which has been out of commission now for 7 hours. Total madness.

* Dongles – The incompatibility continues on and on and on. The one you need to recharge the laptop doesn’t match the one you need to recharge the phone or the tablet or the camera or the bluetooth. Way back in 2001, Douglas Adams of Hitchkiker’s Guide fame gave a keynote at the Embedded Systems Conference in San Francisco. He had the thousand people in his audience rolling on the floor as he regaled them with tales of the different dongles he had to carry around to get power to his various devices – and that was in 2001. Here 12 years later in 2013, nothing has changed. Yeah sure, you’re so cool if all of your devices have converged into one super-device, but for the rest of us, the dongle insanity goes on and on and on.

* Google maps – Look something up on the Google map on your iPad and it sticks a pin on the map of some laundromat or florist or car-repair shop that’s paid for that pin to be there in lieu of one that would actually indicate the location you’re trying to find. And that pin from the laundromat/florist/car-repair shop is not going away without a fight. No matter that you’re in a hurry and you just want to know how to get from Point A to Point B, the laundromat/florist/car-repair pin’s been paid for and your blood pressure is not half as important as the folks making the money off of the pin and all it represents. At least somebody’s happy in this equation.

* GPS voices – In 800 meters, take the roundabout. I know we’re all supposed to think life is SO much better with a GPS at our side, but it’s not ALWAYS better when that annoying woman with the English accent is constantly saying, “In 800 meters, takes the roundabout. Then take the third exit and continue 1000 meters to the next roundabout.” Please, could we just have a little peace and quiet on the road trip? Does she always have to be endlessly narrating everything? Would it be so difficult to just stop once in a while and read a map? In silence?

* Fast Pass – In the age of wireless communication, why should the folks on the Golden Gate Bridge want to handle cash? Even if you don’t have a FasTrak attached to your windshield, you can still drive through the toll booth headed into The City from Marin Country and then a week later, a bill for $6 arrives in the mail, complete with a photo of your license plate. Now, go online and pay the fee or mail in a check (yeah, I know, what’s a check?), and do it quickly, because if the bill goes stale, the fee jumps from $6 to $43 in a heartbeat. Wow, so much better than coughing up 6 bucks in realtime. Yeah, right.

* The Remote – This one’s the best of all. The cable company tells Granny she needs an upgrade, so they send a guy to her house who installs a new set-top box and hands her a new remote control that’s literally twice the size of the one she’s accustomed to, with twice as many buttons. He also gives her a manual that unfolds to a 4-feet by 4-feet sheet of fine print, and insists all the information’s there that she’ll need to use the new remote. Granny cannot make heads or tails of the instructions, doesn’t know how to use the new device and is stuck calling the neighbors repeatedly to try to get some help.

Meanwhile, the cable company has decided to change the set of stations that Granny will be receiving on her current plan. She has no idea why, but she’s still fumbling with the new remote control and so doesn’t have time to watch TV anyway.


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2 Responses to “Annoying: Today’s top tedious tech”

  1. Brian Fuller says:

    Peggy, first off, great piece. Second, thank you from the bottom of my heart for using the correct capitalization when referring to The City.
    Lastly, the faucet sensors! I’ve noticed because I’ve been monitoring this since I first saw them, I’ve never come across a sensored paper towel dispenser that doesn’t work. Yet a stupidly high percentage of sensored faucets are on the blink at any given time. Perhaps this suggests shorts due to water which suggests poor mechanical design. Perhaps it suggests something completely different, but that’s what I’ve observed.
    Keep up the good work!

  2. Linda Rohan says:

    Nice post! Well selected targets and delightfully documented. I’m in an ongoing battle between myself and the new automated soap dispenser in my office building’s women’s room. I’m losing the war.

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