Barney's Rubble

Doug's Tech Pet Peeves

From Word formatting issues to Firefox problems to Windows 7 fizzling out, here's Doug's current top tech peeves.

The world of technology is complex, and with complexity come glitches and gotchas. Here are my biggest offenders.

Word Formatting: I've been using Word for nigh on 20 years, and I still feel too stupid to use it properly. My beef? Unless you had a past life as a desktop publisher, formatting is inscrutable. When building a document from multiple sources, as much as you try to reformat, Word hangs onto the old styles like grim death -- which Word sometimes makes me desire.

Windows 7 Not Sensational: Like Windows XP, Windows 7 doesn't age well. The longer you use it, the slower and flakier it gets. It hangs when the computer is sitting, freezes when it hasn't been rebooted for a few days and, sometimes, the cursor goes south for nearly a minute.

Printer Drivers: I hate the fact that older -- but not that old -- printers don't work under Windows 7. Making printers, especially lasers, artificially obsolete is just plain wrong.

BlackBerry Blues: My BlackBerry Bold is one of the latest models and it still feels old. The interface is a bit clumsy, it exhibits weird glitches every now and again, and the documentation feels sparse. The keys are way too small and the letters and symbols are nearly impossible to read -- and I don't have fat fingers or wear glasses.

Netbooks or Notbooks: I used to be excited about buying a netbook, just not giddy enough to actually pick one up. I still wanted a netbook after the iPad shipped. Then one thing happened and one thing didn't: Apple shipped the iPad 2, but netbooks didn't change at all. The prices and features are roughly the same. The only thing that changed is sales -- they went down!

Single Sign-on Significantly Stanky: I'm like most of you, with a couple-dozen logons and passwords of various complexity to get e-mail, do banking, trade stocks and socialize. Remembering all this is nearly impossible, so we blow away any semblance of security by keeping passwords in a Word doc or, even worse, on a piece of paper. While there are solutions out there for single sign-on, there isn't a single strong standard.

Firefox Fizzles: Firefox is gaining on Internet Explorer, and I switched to the open source browser long ago. But I may be about to switch back. Here's a short list of complaints: The upgrade took several attempts. Bookmarks are clunky. Trying to find an old folder and save a new page to it is way harder than it should be -- stupidly hard. And while I only have one add-on, which is from Mozilla, Firefox freezes more than an Alaskan fisherman. Let's hope 5.0 corrects my issues.

What bugs you? Beefs welcome at

About the Author

Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.

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Reader Comments:

Mon, Jul 25, 2011 Frank Miller Joplin, Mo

Single sign-on: We all have cameras why can't we have a optical sign-on. If it's my eye sign me on. As for netbooks I have two. I love them!! Light weight easy to carrie and always handy.

Thu, Jun 16, 2011 Tree Baltimore, MD

Doug - where to start??? Lets start at Cell phones. Wouldn't you think that these phone companies would want you to buy merchandise. It's like auto dealers, the real money is in service/repairs/add ons. Why do I have to wait 2yrs to upgrade my phone, otherwise it costs a small fortune??? I want the new stuff NOW. Don't rip me off for it. Lets face it, most consumers in this economy can't afford $600 for a new phone! Be happy I'm buying your crappy equipment!! :) Who cares when I buy, just let me buy when I want it at a affordable price! Now on to Netbooks.. I really wanted one. But I'm not your average user. I want it souped up w/Memory & Hard Drive space. By the time I find one (which is slim) to my liking, I might as well buy a full size laptop (which is what I didn't want). I want something fast for the couch that won't be heavy and hot. AND not pricey. Is that too much to ask? These components can't be that expensive anymore to make. iPad - love to have one - but once again, what's with the price point??? I guess you have to be part of the champagne money club. That's my peeve for the day!

Wed, Jun 15, 2011 Bill Bailey Virginia

I agree on the portion about printers. Some were never supported and some did have a generic driver you could install. About half of the printers would work after installing the generic drivers. Ridiculous.

Mon, Jun 6, 2011 Karl Compton Houston

Wow! I think it must be YOU on most of these things. I go back to Word 3 for DOS, and while I do have the occasional formatting issue from cut-n-pasted text, I'll happily forgo switching back to Wordperfect for its 'reveal codes' function. Instead, just paste to Notepad and then copy that; I promise that will lose your old formatting! My Win7 is as stable as a rock, though I expect Windows munge will eventually slow it down; the architecture pretty much guarantees that. For your older laser printers, you can often use a relatively generic PCL5 or PostScript driver; the LJ5 driver runs a huge number of printers acceptably well. I too use Firefox, typically with a dozen or more tabs open spread across multiple windows, and have a failure once a month or less. I like my Playbook for its bigger screen, but I LOVE my Blackberry for its wonderful keyboard (use your thumbs, dude, not your fingers!). I do have to agree on the severely sad single-sign-on state of affairs; it soundly sucks. Surely someday...

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