Tech that's overstayed it's welcome

By Mike on 6:00 pm

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For better or worse, some things just seem to stick around. A lot like that annoying uncle who overstays their welcome. Here are my top ten tech things that need to die, now.

PS/2 Ports
Find the most expensive motherboard you can. It will probably still have at least one PS/2 port. These things date back to 1987 and are used for keyboards and mice. Problem is USB replaced them long ago. Apple tossed their similar connector 12 years ago for USB and never looked back. Some people still use them but mostly on older systems. Not for new builds. There's nothing wrong with them exactly. It's just that they tend to break easily and can't be hot swapped. They also don't support wireless devices and have limited features. There's no point in keeping these on modern computers.

Fax Machines
We have one of these at work. Heck, I have one sitting on my desk right now. Both get used as either a printer or photocopier. 99% of the stuff that comes through the fax at work is advertising. My favourites are the ones that try to sell you cheap ink and toner. You know, after they've just wasted yours for their ad. Cheeky. There are rare occasions where you might need to fax a document but it doesn't happen often. It's been about a year since I've used one for that. We don't really need dedicated machines for that anymore. Give us a scanner and we'll send it by email.

Wall Wart AC Adaptors
Electronics run off direct current (DC) power. Your household outlet is alternating current (AC). The two aren't compatible, so you need an adaptor. Some devices have them built in, some use power bricks attached to a long cord. Then there's the wall wart. Those ugly black boxes that hang from the wall and hog outlets on power strips. They're not as common as they used to be but they're still around. Even the iPad comes with a wall wart. Honestly, how much more would it cost to throw a standard two prong cord on the end. Save us some space please. With all our DC powered tech, maybe it's time to start looking into whole-home DC outlets instead.

Internet Explorer 6
Walk into any corporation, big or small, and they're probably still running Internet Explorer 6 on their computers. IE6 was infamous for its security and stability problems. It was the browser that introduced us all to spyware, pop-ups, crashes, and hijacking. Despite the flaws, it's estimated 17% of computers still run it. Mostly in the business world, where IT departments are too lazy to upgrade to more secure versions. No wonder big corporations get hacked all the time.

Hybrid Cars
It's Frankenstein's monster of the automotive world. Hybrids combine the range of a gasoline car with the clean energy of an electric car. It produces much higher fuel efficiency... in theory. The system doesn't always work as advertised. The electric motors only run at low speeds and battery range is limited. The car ends up running the gas engine most of the time. When the Prius first came out, it was advertised at 60mpg. In reality, it got closer to 40mpg. That's still good but not much better than most gasoline-only compact cars. The complex system is prone to mechanical problems, as Toyota's brake recall proved. The batteries are also expensive to replace. GM has the right idea with the Volt, using the gas engine as a generator instead of for traction. How well will it work in the real world? Let's say I'm not getting my hopes up.

Expensive Long Distance & Text Charges
Today, I can view a website from halfway around the world at no extra charge. Yet I have to pay a hefty fee to phone my grandma two towns over. What if I want to text my best friend in the US. On AIM it's free, on my cell it's 30 cents a message. With today's advanced IP-based telephony, expensive long distance and text rates amount to little more than gouging. We all know it costs nowhere near that for the phone company to make the call. With North American infrastructure so intertwined, calls made to anywhere in Canada and the US should all be considered local.

Cable Boxes
It dawned on my how much electricity my satellite box consumes. It runs like a space heater. It's also yet another component hogging space on my AV shelf. Then I thought, why can't this technology be downsized. Why does it have to be the size of a DVD player. Heck, the DVR units are almost the size of home theatre receivers. Yet, I can get an HDTV tuner for my laptop that's the size of USB memory stick. Better idea, why can't the tech be standardized like cell phones, be built into TVs, and be used with a SIM card. Don't cut the cables, cut the box.

Proprietary Formats
Sony is one company that has always insisted on developing its own proprietary formats. Sometimes it goes well for them, sometimes not. Memory Stick is a good example of a bad idea. This flash storage card is often double the price of comparable SD cards and only works with Sony devices. Cables are another culprit. Look how many different power adaptors there are for cell phones. We kind of expect that everything should just work with everything. In most cases it does. I can take any SATA or USB hard drive and it will work in my Mac, PC, and PS3. Yet some companies keep insisting in tying us down to their brand.

DRM Locked Videos
Music went the copy-protection-free route a couple of years ago and never looked back. iTunes is still raking in millions of sales. Yet videos are still locked down. Media servers are the iPod for your DVD collection. Yet you technically still have to break the law to get DVDs you've bought on them. It's hardly fair to consumers. Maybe it's time commercial DVDs and downloadable videos be stripped of their copy protection to reflect the new technological reality. It may even boost sales if people know they can watch their collections on demand anywhere in the house on any screen. Imagine that!

Adobe Flash and Adobe Reader
Today's Internet is built on Flash and Acrobat. They're the two Adobe programs that everyone uses. Problem is they're also terrible. Sure, I've complained that the iPad lack of Flash is a big problem. That's because the vast majority of video sites use it. Acrobat and Flash both have the same problems. They're bloated resource hogs that are plagued with security issues, and they don't run very well on non-Windows platforms. Even on Windows, there's nothing spectacular to look at. Acrobat's slow performance can be remedied with Foxit or Apple's Preview. Flash is here to stay because there are no viable alternatives. HTML5 is being pushed by Apple but its still in its infancy. Looks like we'll be dealing with the big, bloated red 'f' for a long time to come.

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