Technology Turns Otherwise Sane Individuals Into Homicidal Maniacs

Gadgetry is a wonderful thing, but why are the downsides of technology so infuriating? PAT PILCHER has constructed a list of the top 12 most annoying aspects of our increasingly tech-driven world.

I can’t even begin to imagine a world without gadgetry and technology. How did we ever do simple tasks such as organising an evening out without Facebook, Twitter and cellphones? What about lugging around a bag full of bulky plastic things that each held 90 minutes of music and had to be turned over because they only held a paltry 45 minutes of music on each side?

While there’s little debate that gadgetry gives us a huge amount of convenience, there’s more annoying aspects to it than I can count. Feeling the pain of many, I’ve compiled a list of my top tech hates.

 1. ‘Free’

This must be the most abused word on the internet. Let’s get one thing straight here. Free almost never means free. I can live with adverts for free apps, but hidden costs that are only discovered later after you’ve burnt through a chunk of your data allowance for your ‘free’ download are infuriating. New Zealand may have solid consumer protection laws, but the net extends beyond our borders and is only as ethical as its least opportunistic marketer (of whom most have the conscience of a dog on a croquet lawn).

2. App Stores

In theory, app stores sound fantastic. They provide a single place to find apps for your widget. In theory, apps are vetted with the primary aim being to keep rubbish apps at bay. Trouble is this so often isn’t the case. Many apps I’ve tried on my smartphone bear little to no relation to their app store descriptions. Many claim to be free but sport hidden in-app purchases (as many a parent with kids and credit cards has found to their detriment).

3. Captchas

Captchas (those word things you must decipher to prove you are a real human being) keep spammers at bay by stymying spambots. Trouble is they’re so annoyingly cryptic that they often halt humans wanting to go about legitimate tasks as well. There are some good alternatives to captcha out there; most seem to be struggling to gain any uptake. Sigh.

4. Streaming Video Adverts

This gets my goat. I’m waiting an eternity for a webpage to load yet the video advert embedded in it plays instantly and without any hiccups.

It wouldn’t be so bad if the video was amusing, relevant or dare I say it, interesting. Trouble is they’re usually pushing some lame corporate brand that I don’t give a shit about. Meanwhile, the wait continues as the page takes forever to load and the video grinds on without a glitch.

The big question in my mind is this: Why do these crapulent adverts always play perfectly yet YouTube always stutters and splutters? Grrrrr!

5. Huge Software Updates

There are no excuses for this one. So many people make do with tiny data allowances. Software updates often consume vast amounts of data, blowing small data allowances to smithereens. I recently had three updates for a new game and my gaming console that came to a whopping 2.5GB. This was for a single game title. Sure, security patches and updates are a good thing, but 2.5GB? That’s a shit-load of data.

The annoying thing isn’t just that this costs people money thanks to their blown-out data allowances, but that it is so often avoidable. If software companies were to focus more on robust testing and less on cranking out half-baked garbage we’d much smaller updates.

6. Planned Obsolescence

Chaos ensued when file formats for a certain productivity suite were changed in its latest release. Just as annoying was the move from one USB connector to another.

Overnight, a huge number of accessories were obsolete. Joe and Joanne public had to go out and spend yet another pile of cash when their previous accessories worked just fine. Meanwhile, our landfills overflow with toxic piles of obsolete electronics.

Is this just good business practice or straight out corporate greed?

7. Fan Boys

The sad irony of fan boys is this. They’re often so fanatical about a brand of gadget that they end up scaring ordinary people away from said gadget brand. This is of course the opposite of what most fan boys want to achieve.

I won’t even get into how tedious online arguments are between rival fan boy camps. Hey fanboy sad acts, we just don’t care.

8. &^%$#!! Wireless

What’s annoying about wireless? For a start there’s stubborn Bluetooth widgets that simply refuse to pair for no reason at all. Then there’s Wi-Fi that works in every part of the house, except where you most often sit. I won’t even mention wireless headphones that sound like they’re playing audio recorded in a concrete urinal. ‘Nuf said, eh?

9. The Inkjet Rort

Inkjets are amazing. Affordable colour printing has become a huge part of our day-to-day existence. Being able to knock out a brochure or print a photo was unimaginable not so long ago. But yep, there’s downsides.

Ink costs as much as some high-end perfumes or whisky and the inkjet business model revolves around dirt-cheap printers and us paying batshit crazy prices for ink.

At one large retailer I recently saw colour photo inkjet printers on sale for just $45. People were buying four or five of them at once because it was cheaper to buy printers than replacement ink cartridges. The environment simply isn’t a priority here and printer makers need to be held to account.

10. Cable Clutter

Having a cinema in one’s lounge is nothing short of brilliant. At least that is until something needs to be disconnected or reconnected. Then it’s a cable spaghetti nightmare. HDMI should have resulted in a significant reduction in cable clutter. Unfortunately, the rear of my AV rack looks like a cable factory exploded. What a shame some wireless technologies are so horrible to deal with.

11. Shovel-ware

One of the annoying consequences of downloading ‘free’ software is shovel-ware.

By shovel-ware I mean digital detritus such as toolbars and other garbage you didn’t ask for being installed on your computer as part of a ‘free’ download.

A few months and many downloads later, your browser can become so gummed up with unwanted shovel-ware you never asked for that it barely works.

While downloading free apps from unknown sites is practically asking for such dodgy shenanigans to happen, sadly big name legit sites carry out this dodgy practice too. Techy site Cnet is perhaps one of the worst offenders. I use them as a directory to find out about an app, but nowadays I download the app directly from the developer’s website to avoid unwanted shovel ware being piled onto my PC.

12. Helpdesks

When things go wrong (as they invariably do with tech), your only real option is calling the dreaded help desk.

Some are great. Most are abysmal. Hearing my phone connect to a low budget international phone on the other side of the planet is perhaps the first sign I’m dealing with the latter, not the former.

Once connected I usually end up talking to someone called Chuck, Charles, Dave or Bob who learnt a few words of English at the cinema. I can barely understand them, and they don’t have a clue what I’m talking about either.

Several decades later we’ve gone through every repetition and variation of my issues. Resorting to phonetic spelling, semaphore, morse code or even smoke signals doesn’t make any difference.

Several millennia later the call ends, and my problem is still unresolved. I’m given a case number that is never used for anything.

Perhaps we should boycott companies with offshore help desk operations located in Dirka-dirkastan. Wouldn’t it be great if they in-sourced back to New Zealand?

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