Barney's Rubble

Stop Bugging Me

From wastefulness to tangled cords, here are just a few PC-related things that bug Doug.

I love computers. I hate computers. No -- I don't hate them -- it's more like I'm annoyed with them. I'm annoyed because somehow they manage to handle the most awesome, complex feats with aplomb, yet they utterly choke when doing the easiest and most important stuff -- like printing a Web page or document, handling files in today's mobile environment and backing up data.

Here's how PCs bug me:

PCs are bad for the earth. While lots of greenies carp about the use of electricity and how computers are melting million-year-old glaciers, I'm concerned about trees. PCs waste an awful lot of paper. First, we seem compelled to print every document, Web page or photo we find, no matter how lame. That's just human nature, not really the PC's fault.

I'm more bothered by how bad software design wastes paper (and, more expensively, ink).

Think about the last Web page you printed. Did it come out right the first time? Of course not! If you used IE, it probably failed to print the right side of the page. Ever try reading an article that's missing two or three words every line? This even happens with Microsoft Web pages, and it's the No. 1 reason I use Firefox.

Then there are the times you print a page and all that comes out is one ad. Or it prints fine, but there are two or three pages of garbage (er ... links) from the bottom of the page your LaserJet is compelled to spit out.

And then there are Excel and Word tables. If I ever get one of these to fit on a page I'll kiss a frog. Now, if the left side prints fine, then there are 30 wasted pages that include a row or two.

Here's a quick list of other things that test my patience:

iBook power cords -- my two sons have iBooks and their power cords last exactly one day more than the warranty. The replacement is $80 and you have to order it online or drive an hour to get one. A year later, the new one flakes out.

Word -- it always manages to impose the formatting of stuff you pasted into your existing doc. And getting rid of this formatting requires a computer science degree from Carnegie Mellon.

Multiple PCs -- Firefox has a neat tool to synchronize bookmarks between multiple machines. I wish there was something built into Windows that works as well for e-mail folders and documents. I don't like Briefcase, don't trust or want to pay for an online service, and none of my USB drives are big enough. I know that Software as a Service will eventually solve this, but I need help now!

Web site registration -- like you, I always forget my user name or password for a new site. Of course, it would be easy if it took the user name I asked for, but it's always taken so I have to add a bunch of numbers to the end to get it to stick. And why is a complex name and password required for every lame site? How about a single identity, even Passport, for all this garbage?

And don't even get me started on DSL, which breaks down more than my old Yugo! What bugs you? Let me know at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

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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