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A Mythbuster's Biggest Tech Headaches (and Solutions) 395

Posted by Zonk
from the watch-for-flying-HDD-magnets dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Mythbusters' Jamie Hyneman shares his top tech annoyances. Hyneman runs down the little things that bug him about everything from tools (exotic chargers) to cars (useless features). He also notes that there's a lot of room for improvement on PC desktops: 'In addition to being buggy ... extra features tend to bog down your system by demanding more processing power and memory. Computer-makers: Don't load up operating systems with features and then make us sweat to figure out how to get rid of the fat ... There's another solution available to consumers: Switch to a Linux-based OS such as Ubuntu. Since most Linux OSs are free, there's no business reason to bloat up the system with feature frills.'"
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A Mythbuster's Biggest Tech Headaches (and Solutions)

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  • No offence, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pwnies (1034518) * <j@jjcm.org> on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @02:40PM (#22236886) Homepage Journal
    But it seems like this is just a fairly famous person telling us what we already know. Nothing new or insightful here IMHO.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      I agree... I really couldn't care less if the Mythbusters want my phone to have a universal power adapter. Why is this news? It seems like the paragraph or two that mentioned Linux was the only reason for this article to be relevant, and I don't wanna read about another person telling me why a Windows PC is bad.
      • by samkass (174571)
        Personally, I think that's one of the iPhone's "sleeper" features that hasn't really been touted. There are by now tens of millions of iPod docking ports, docking cables, adapters, etc., around. IMHO, all phones should just pay Apple some minimal sum and standardize on the iPod port for their recharge/data cables. In the meantime, the iPhone is the only phone you can take virtually anywhere on the planet and borrow a cable from someone to recharge it. (of course, it would be nice if it could get service
        • Re:No offence, (Score:5, Insightful)

          by king-manic (409855) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @03:51PM (#22237780)

          Personally, I think that's one of the iPhone's "sleeper" features that hasn't really been touted. There are by now tens of millions of iPod docking ports, docking cables, adapters, etc., around. IMHO, all phones should just pay Apple some minimal sum and standardize on the iPod port for their recharge/data cables. In the meantime, the iPhone is the only phone you can take virtually anywhere on the planet and borrow a cable from someone to recharge it. (of course, it would be nice if it could get service anywhere on the planet for reasonable money, but that's another story.)
          I think my mini-USB on my motorola Q does that job just fine. Charging, docking, syncing etc... Why not standardize that (most smart phones use that anyway). I think it's less a sleeper feature and more "Apple going it's own way" or "monolithic megalomaniac corporation attempting to force new standards down our throats a la Sony".
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by MikeBabcock (65886)
            I'm with you -- mini and micro USB is much more standard than the iPod and there's no reason Apple couldn't have used USB instead. It would've possibly cost more, sure, so they did something proprietary like everyone else.

            Ditto on the charger for the Nintendo DS whose plug is a very slight variation from a standard mini USB jack.
            • Re:No offence, (Score:4, Informative)

              by nwf (25607) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @06:02PM (#22239396)

              I'm with you -- mini and micro USB is much more standard than the iPod and there's no reason Apple couldn't have used USB instead. It would've possibly cost more, sure, so they did something proprietary like everyone else.

              In fact, there is. Getting L+R audio and video can't be done via USB and plug it into a stereo and/or TV with minimal electronics. Plus, there are ways to remote control the iPod via the connector, although I suspect that could be done via USB pretty easily.

              I don't think they even had micro USB when the iPod came out, either.

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by snowraver1 (1052510)
                In 2006 China was looking at standardising the phone charger market.
                http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20061219/092747.shtml [techdirt.com]

                I am not sure if they were successful or not (but given the plethora of chargers still on the market i'm guessing not). Another note, it is possible to get L+R stereo from a mini USB port (the motorola razr has a dongle that does just that. It should be entirely possible to make a dongle that does video out.

                I get so tired of companies pushing thier proprietory solutions when an
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by ncc74656 (45571) *

              I'm with you -- mini and micro USB is much more standard than the iPod and there's no reason Apple couldn't have used USB instead. It would've possibly cost more, sure, so they did something proprietary like everyone else.

              The first iPods supported FireWire and had standard 6-pin FireWire connectors on them. On later iPods, the dock connector was a way to shoehorn FireWire, USB, audio, video, and remote-control functionality into a compact connector that wouldn't chew up much board space...an important c

          • Re:No offence, (Score:4, Interesting)

            by mal3 (59208) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @05:05PM (#22238700)
            You must have gotten that Motorola Q from someone other than Verizon. If you plug a regular USB cable into a Verizon phone(my old RAZR), you get an "Unauthorized Charger" message. They may have changed since then, but you can't be certain that just because the plug is standard the charger is too.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by SoCalChris (573049)
              My Verizon KRZR gave me that unauthorized charger message. It was on the screen just long enough for me to start cursing Verizon, then it went away and started charging. I think the phone was afraid I was going to chuck it across the room. You probably just need to make sure your phone knows who the boss is.
    • Re:No offence, (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Captain Splendid (673276) * <capsplendid@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @02:47PM (#22236972) Homepage Journal
      Not to mention the article's free of any "fixes" promised in the first paragraph. The best we get is "it should be like this!" Uh, yeah, it should, but got anything more practical?

      I love Jamie and Adam, but he needs to realize that engineering!=profits, hence all these annoyances.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Vellmont (569020)

        I love Jamie and Adam, but he needs to realize that engineering!=profits

        Since when? Nothing alone = profits. But in general, better products at lower profits = profits. (Try to remember Jamie has run quite a successful FX business for a number of years, so I'd say he knows at least something about business)

        With standard batteries, tool makers could focus on making tools, rather than another rev of a battery for toolx. Let the battery guys figure out the batteries. The reason it doesn't happen isn't pro
    • Re:No offence, (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @02:59PM (#22237108)
      Well, no, not to a geek. But the general public might find some of it enlightening.

      Also, it's kind of nice to get support for this kind of view from a celebrity. It's like "no, you're not crazy. Jamie Hyneman Agrees!!".

      I am in total agreement with his stance on Vista for example. (I find it almost hilarious that MS now includes a movie editor, MSN, media this and media that, but still doesn't provide a decent text editor.)

    • by Weaselmancer (533834) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @03:05PM (#22237172)

      ...because we're on Slashdot. We all know what Jamie is saying is true.

      But he's near-famous. He has a show that millions of people watch. And he's saying that Vista blows, and why it blows, and that Ubuntu kicks its ass.

      And he's saying it in Popular Mechanics. You see those everywhere. My barber has a rack of them by his waiting bench. So does my doctor. You see PM magazines all over a doctor's waiting area.

      It's called getting the word out.

      A lot of us here on /. complain about how Joe Sixpack has no clue about computer issues. Well - now Joe Sixpack has an opportunity to be sitting in a dentist's office, and see a PM magazine with Jamie on the cover and think "Hey cool - think I'll read that. That's the show where they blow stuff up. It'll be interesting to hear what he has to say."

      And suddenly he's exposed to the problems with Vista, and the joys of Ubuntu by a person he respects and likes. Maybe he'll call up his geeky cousin later on in the day on Jamie's recommendation and ask him what this Ubuntu thingy is.

      This is how mindshare happens. A war is a million little battles, and we just won one.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by DariaM84 (705388)
        I agree. Even for someone who's heard of Linux, sometimes the sheer number of distros out there can be overwhelming. Now this theoretical reader has a place to start.
      • by elrous0 (869638) * on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @04:47PM (#22238454)
        Personally, I decided to forgo BIOS's and OS's altogether and just work directly in Assembly.
    • by samkass (174571) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @03:37PM (#22237638) Homepage Journal
      And ironically, I had to click away a jumping JavaScript pop-in window in order to see the page talking about bloat and loading up an interface with crap.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by zobier (585066)

            Browser . hasAddOn ( 'NoScript' ) || User . handIn ( 'GeekLicence' );

  • Shame he didn't... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @02:42PM (#22236898)
    ..share it on his TV show, where it might have mattered. Posting it here is just preaching to the choir, so to speak.
  • Geekgasm (Score:2, Funny)

    by Stanistani (808333)
    Mythbusters and Linux? What a Slashdot combo!

    Jamie's the one who tries NOT to get hurt on the show, of course.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by bwcarty (660606)

      Jamie's the one who tries NOT to get hurt on the show, of course.


      Of course, when he does get hurt, it looks more painful than Adam's frequent miscues. That shot he gave himself when cutting the line to his handheld grappling hook winch was rough...it almost ranks up there with Adam putting his lips in the vacuum motor.
    • Re:Geekgasm (Score:5, Interesting)

      by berzerke (319205) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @03:17PM (#22237360) Homepage
      Actually, I'm somewhat surprised Jamie mentioned Linux. I have noticed in some (past) shows they show a computer screen in a few camera shots and I recognized AOL. AOL is rarely the choice of the computer literate. Since Mythbusters seems to avoid product placements, I believe the fact I could spot AOL was more an accident than intentional. Haven't seen it lately though.

      Still, going from the choice of the not computer literate to talking about Linux as a desktop OS, in a non-computer tech magazine...that's a sign of progress. Is that another crack I hear forming in MS's empire?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by guruevi (827432)
        As an avid fan (I've seen all the episodes up until the last season back-to-back once upon a time) they seem to use the tool necessary for the job. Yes, I've seen Windows desktops surfing AOL (with their research staff) but I've also seen PowerBooks.

        Apparently Jamie got some time between the last season and now to test out that Ubuntu thingy and he really likes it. I'm a Linux/Mac-sysadmin, I don't necessarily like Ubuntu for myself (too dumbed down) but my parents currently run it on their desk- and laptop
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Loadmaster (720754)
        Could just be marketing between Discovery/AOL or whatever. If you're going to show some software/hardware why not get someone to pay you advertising fees for it? Could be, might not be. Someone braver than me could trek into MySpace land and post the question.
  • Bloat? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @02:42PM (#22236910)
    Since most Linux OSs are free, there's no business reason to bloat up the system with feature frills.

    But Mandriva have never let a little thing like that stand in their way.
    • Re:Bloat? (Score:5, Funny)

      by yoyhed (651244) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @03:13PM (#22237300)

      Since most Linux OSs are free, there's no business reason to bloat up the system with feature frills.
      Are you kidding me? I've always thought that the eyes that follow your mouse around were an essential feature to an OS.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I believe he's spectacularly missing the point anyway.

      There's another solution available to consumers: Switch to a Linux-based OS such as Ubuntu. Since most Linux OSs are free, there's no business reason to bloat up the system with feature frills.

      That simply isn't true. All the crap that comes installed with your average vendor's Windows PC isn't there because the customer pays for it, it's there because the computer vendor gets paid to include it.

      This a great marketing model for commercial providers of security products and the like to hook clueless people, and they are more than happy to pay a small premium to get their three month trials onto a zillion new PCs. If you as PC vendor are sup

  • Adam (Score:5, Funny)

    by cruff (171569) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @02:45PM (#22236934)
    I though for sure his top tech annoyance would have been Adam Savage. :-)
  • And another thing. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ColdWetDog (752185) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @02:47PM (#22236968) Homepage
    How about web articles that have more words than ads. Come on. This paragraph-at-a-time stuff is more annoying than even Vista.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @02:49PM (#22236998)
    ...and Adam seems to like Apple, who gets Microsoft?

    My guess is Buster.
  • by InsaneMosquito (1067380) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @02:54PM (#22237042)

    If I want to be nagged in my car, I'll bring my wife.

  • by dada21 (163177) <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @02:56PM (#22237076) Homepage Journal
    All my phones in recent years use a USB port to charge. My new iMate Ultimate 6150 does, my previous HTC Trinity did, my wife's Motorola phones do. I won't buy a phone without a USB port to charge with. We carry around a small AA charger that has a USB port on it to charge devices on the go, it works great for long flights or any sort of travel away from a USB port.

    In my car I tossed the 12V "cigarette lighter" from the dash to the truck. I also increased its power from a small 5A fuse to a 10A fuse, so I can run a reasonably sized 120V inverter (also in the trunk) to power a few devices on-the-go.

    In the place of the dash 12V adapter, I installed a nice custom panel with 3 USB ports. They're high power ports, so I can charge a phone, a GPS receiver, and a plethora of other devices that use USB to charge. In the future I'd like to connect one port to a radio so I can play music on-the-go without my iPod.

    In the past, I've had relatively complicated small PCs to run my music system, but I'm seeing more and more options for in-vehicle PCs running Linux. Eventually I think we'll see a system that works well and is cheap. Since we only buy used cars, tossing the radio is one of the first things we do, and it's at most a loss of maybe $25 worth of electronics.

    There are many things I wish were modernized, standardized, and more open. First, vehicle information is very proprietary. Why is it that cars can't report status information via a simple USB connection? All the information is either there, or could be generated VERY cheaply. I ran out of wiper fluid two days ago (lots of snow in Chicago lately), and I sat there thinking how lame it is that the wiper fluid reservoir doesn't have a simple sensor to detect low fluid (it's a 2001 vehicle, not THAT old). Even that could be transported across a USB chain with regular updates. Heck, a $2 sensor could even sense fluid at 3 levels. Simple enough.

    At home, we have a DC run throughout the house wherever we upgraded our power, and I'm seriously thinking of changing it to USB charging. AC in the home is useful, but so many devices use DC (and the dreaded overheating wall-warts!) that I'm shocked that more devices aren't standardizing on DC. 18V, 5A+, not a big deal -- but so many devices could use it (charging tools, video games, cell phones, even some computer monitors). Simple, without needed ANOTHER heat-generating and wasting transformer. My laptop is DC, too, yet I need the darned transformer throughout the house.

    But I still see more and more devices standardizing in many ways. Over time, manufacturers are seeing that power is a commodity, not a profit maker. I tell my friends and family to stop buying products that use proprietary charging hardware. With tools, the battery situation is frustrating, but I think we'll see some changes there. I like the idea of having a standard 6V pack, and just adding more if you need 12V or 18V. Even better would be a "serial/parallel" switch so you could go from 6V 1A to 6V 2A or 12V 1A with the flip of a switch. Ahh, to dream.
    • by wiredog (43288) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @03:13PM (#22237302) Journal
      I hope you upgraded the wiring. I have scars (well, one) from a wire that was undersized for the load. It started to melt. Across the fuel line...
    • At home, we have a DC run throughout the house wherever we upgraded our power, and I'm seriously thinking of changing it to USB charging. AC in the home is useful, but so many devices use DC (and the dreaded overheating wall-warts!) that I'm shocked that more devices aren't standardizing on DC. 18V, 5A+, not a big deal -- but so many devices could use it (charging tools, video games, cell phones, even some computer monitors). Simple, without needed ANOTHER heat-generating and wasting transformer. My laptop

    • I ran out of wiper fluid two days ago (lots of snow in Chicago lately), and I sat there thinking how lame it is that the wiper fluid reservoir doesn't have a simple sensor to detect low fluid (it's a 2001 vehicle, not THAT old).

      Sure, you may think you want it to notify you of this now, but try driving an Alero around. Anything that might be a problem, it notifies me. Every time I start the car, there is a bell and a light that doesn't turn off until the problem is corrected. Is it useful? Slightly. Does it

    • by Technician (215283) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @03:41PM (#22237680)
      In my car I tossed the 12V "cigarette lighter" from the dash to the truck. I also increased its power from a small 5A fuse to a 10A fuse, so I can run a reasonably sized 120V inverter (also in the trunk) to power a few devices on-the-go.


      Drawing twice the power than the wire was fused for is a good way to need another car soon. Unless you also upgraded the wire, I wouldn't recommend changing the fuse size.

      I have a reasonably sized inverter in my trunk also, next to the battery. 1KW will power most anything except hair dryers you care to bring along.

      At home, we have a DC run throughout the house wherever we upgraded our power,

      This is not a good idea. Volts X Amps = Watts in DC circuits. To run a 100 watt laptop cross the house on 12 volts with less than 10% voltage drop requires a huge wire. Do the math.

      http://www.otherpower.com/cgi-bin/webbbs/webbbs_config.pl?noframes;read=6346 [otherpower.com]

      Don't forget a 50 foot cord is a 100 foot DC path.

      To cut your loss in the wire by 100 as in a 10$ loss is now a 0.1% loss, go from 12 volts to 120 volts. That is the simple reason for the big inverter in the trunk. I can run a 100 foot 14 AWG extension cord and have less than 1% voltage drop in the cord to a 100 Watt laptop.

      From the page "14AWG = .00297 ohms / foot". Doing the math, a 100 foot 14 gauge extension cord is 200 feet of wire with a resistance of .00297 ohms per foot. 0.00297 X 200 = 0.594 ohms. To get 100 Watts at the far end of the wire at 12 volts, you need to deliver 8 and 1/3 amps. That amprage going on that almost .6 ohm wire will have a voltage loss of 0.594 X 8.3333 or 4.9499 volts. To get 12 volts out, you need to put in 12 + 4.9499 volts. Volts X Amps in the wire is the power lost.. Let's see, lost 4.94 volts along 200 feet while carying 8.3333 amps. That's 41 Watts. In short to drive a 100 watt load, you toss out almost 1/3rd of your power in the wire.

      Now using the same cord and laptop but now using 120 volts. Instead of needing 8.3333 amps for the 100 watts, we now need 1/10 of that or 0.8333 amps. Our voltage loss is now 1/10th what it was or 0.49499 volts at 1/10th the current. We now lose 1/100th the power in the wire we were before while still delivering 100 watts to the laptop. Now the wire has a loss of 0.41 Watts. I don't need to boost anything to make up for it.

      I'm shocked that more devices aren't standardizing on DC. 18V, 5A+, not a big deal -- but so many devices could use it (charging tools, video games, cell phones, even some computer monitors). Simple, without needed ANOTHER heat-generating and wasting transformer. My laptop is DC, too, yet I need the darned transformer throughout the house.

      Do the math and you won't be shocked at all. I would rather lose 5 watts in a laptop power supply than 40 watts in the 50 foot wire from the battery fuse box to the laptop.

      I've standardized on 120 VAC for almost everything. As a bonus, I don't have to buy special 12 volt CF bulbs at $15 each. I can use the buck a bulb ones instead. It's all about saving money. A 1 KW inverter is chaep and can be located very close to the battery to keep loss minimum in the low voltage wire.

      http://www.costco.com/Browse/Product.aspx?Prodid=11234952&search=inverter&Mo=13&cm_re=1_en-_-Top_Left_Nav-_-Top_search&lang=en-US&Nr=P_CatalogName:BC&Sp=S&N=5000043&whse=BC&Dx=mode+matchallpartial&Ntk=Text_Search&Dr=P_CatalogNam [costco.com]
    • >First, vehicle information is very proprietary. Why is it that cars can't report status information via a simple USB connection?

      Build yourself one of these [obddiag.net]. It's an OBDII-to-USB converter. It still requires *extensive* software on the computer side, but you're already talking about having that. On-board vehicle diagnostics are fairly complicated, but there are plenty of programs that handle it, many for free.

      I agree it'd be nice to have sensors to detect fluid levels... but until sensors are more rel
    • by TheThiefMaster (992038) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @04:08PM (#22238022)

      All my phones in recent years use a USB port to charge. My new iMate Ultimate 6150 does, my previous HTC Trinity did, my wife's Motorola phones do. I won't buy a phone without a USB port to charge with.
      Do you mean that the phones have a standard usb/mini-usb socket on them so you can use a standard usb cable, or that the cable has a usb plug on one end and a proprietary phone plug on the other?
  • Ubuntu no better (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Beetle B. (516615)

    Don't load up operating systems with features and then make us sweat to figure out how to get rid of the fat ... There's another solution available to consumers: Switch to a Linux-based OS such as Ubuntu. Since most Linux OSs are free, there's no business reason to bloat up the system with feature frills.'"

    I don't see Ubuntu being a "better" solution in this regard. One can also make Ubuntu highly bloated. As the article mentions, one can reduce the Windows bloat by de-selecting options. How is Ubuntu inherently better in this regard?

    • by kryten_nl (863119)
      For one thing: you don't need special software, if you don't want MSN support installed. http://slashdot.org/articles/08/01/28/1514212.shtml [slashdot.org]
    • Well, in ubuntu's defense, it's at least fairly easy to remove the excess software (through apt). But yeah, if you're looking for a bare OS to only run the apps you install, then debian would be a much better choice.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by KublaiKhan (522918)
      Because it ships as non-bloated, and you have to add the bloat yourself, mostly.

      I have to say that I've been fairly impressed with Ubuntu thus far. It seems fairly stable and reliable, and the little update widget is remarkably painless, and has only insisted on a reboot a couple of times (for things like kernel changes). Add to that the ability to get software to do just about everything I want to do with either apt-get, synaptic, or that add/remove programs thingy, and there's no more dependency hell.
    • by vertinox (846076)
      How is Ubuntu inherently better in this regard?

      As the lead guitarist of the Clash said (paraphrased) "It was easy for kids to jump from long haired glam rockers in the mid 70's to the short spikey haired punks in the late 70's over night. Had they wanted to do the reverse, they would have to wait a while for their hair to grow out."

      Except with software it reserved so its easier to add than to remove.
    • That picture has been my desktop at work for a few days now. Those who get it laugh heartily. Those who don't ... I usually just tell them that the explanation would take too long.

      lolcats just lose all funny when you have to disect them.
  • by erroneus (253617) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @03:00PM (#22237116) Homepage
    The reason is that they get paid to install crap software on your computer!

    Remember when the promise of cable TV was that you wouldn't have to watch commercials because you were already paying for TV? That didn't last long... the promise was broken and now you pay for TV service *AND* you have to watch commercials.

    You pay for magazines and news papers and with the exception of consumer reports (at least that was the case in the past) you get commercial ads in there too!

    It seems no business can resist the temptation to sell their customer's eyes to advertisers and other parties. It's a very bad business practice and one that eats at the trust that customers have with their vendors and service providers. But it's so common place these days that to do otherwise would be an exception rather than the rule. It's not an excuse for bad behavior, it's just a fact.

    Dell does a lot less of that than others and you can certainly request that anything be loaded or not loaded as well. But the average consumer doesn't know this and so they are victimized by having their computers compromised right out of the box.

    But there is a business reason for the extra crap-ware to be installed... they get money when they do it.
  • Since most Linux OSs are free, there's no business reason to bloat up the system with feature frills.

    Since most proprietary OS vendors try to make a profit, there is no business reason to spend development time and money bloating up the system with feature frills.

  • by artdwpmt (1222908) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @03:02PM (#22237144)
    Not specifically a tech issue, but affects numerous tech products as well.

    What really drives me nuts is non standard screws intended to prevent you from opening your device.
    (Unless of course you have the special magic screw driver.)

    I really hate these. I love opening things, to fix them or just for the fun of seeing how they're made.
    I bought it, it belongs to me, don't prevent me from trying to have a look inside if I want to.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by businessnerd (1009815)
      Amen to that!

      Just recently I came home to find a cockroach in the LCD panel of my microwave. A true "That's disgusting, but how the hell did he get in there!??!!" moment. Well of course my first thought is to grab can of raid, a screwdriver and open the microwave up. As I get to screw number 3, I realize that this is not your typical screw. In fact, there is no way for my multi-headed screw driver to unscrew it! So now I have no way of being able to look inside my microwave and see if it's just one
  • The short product development cycles mean that there's a huge pressure to ship as soon as (or sometimes before) a product is functionally complete and relatively bug-free. That means there's no time in the schedule for optimising performance and reducing bloat.

    With very few exceptions, these aren't factors that make it onto the feature list.

    So far, this hasn't mattered too much as the performance of new PCs rises rapidly - what was a slow program on last year's box is fine on this year's. Great if you're

  • Why do websites have to paginate stories? The scroll bar is there for a reason, why not let it do its thing? It is really annoying when I can read the sentence or paragraph you put on each page faster than it can load.

    I think a story or article should only be split into different pages when it is big enough to have different chapters. Since almost all news articles are way to short to have chapters, why try to split them up in an annoying way?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Why do websites have to paginate stories?
      for the same reason that people bloat up OSs. Money. More pages = more ads.
  • Car locks (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Intron (870560) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @03:07PM (#22237208)
    Not only do you get locked in automatically, but the other weird thing that they did was the "only unlock the driver door" feature. Now I always have to hit the button 3 times to make sure I have unlocked the tailgate. Once should open all of the doors by default. If I want the new, magic driver-door-only feature it should be a configuration option someplace.
    • by vux984 (928602)
      but the other weird thing that they did was the "only unlock the driver door" feature. Now I always have to hit the button 3 times to make sure I have unlocked the tailgate.

      The idea is that its more secure this way.

      Picture the scenario... "woman gets into car in dark parking lot... car automatically unlocks... stalker/weirdo/freak hinding behind the car climbs in on the passenger side when she unlocks the door..."

      And countless variations on the theme. Rapists. Carjackings. Whatever.

      How much validity you giv
      • The idea is that its more secure this way.

        DING DING DING!!!! You are correct. My mom was talking about this very subject last week. Her Honda has door locks which you can unlock from the inside. You can unlock the driver or passenger door individually by hand or the driver can use the switch to unlock all the doors at once.

        She mentioned that she is no longer able to lock/unlock just her driver door by using the lock. When it gets taken in for its yearly checkup, she wants the place to look at

  • Tool Batteries (Score:3, Interesting)

    by QuantumRiff (120817) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @03:08PM (#22237216)
    I liked his Idea of tools using 6V battery packs. I got several tools out in the shop, a few 18V, a few 12V, one or two 7.2v, etc. Even the 3 18V tools have different battery packs, with different chargers. A huge portion of the back of my workbench (near the wall) is nothing but chargers. I would love to have a standardized version of the battery packs.

    Half the time, I don't even need the power of the 18V drill, I just need a bit of Juice to turn a bunch of screws. Wouldn't it be slick to pop in 3 6v Batteries, and be able to toggle a switch to choose between connecting them in serial or parallel? IE, more power, or longer lasting battery?
    • by prockcore (543967)
      Simplest solution: corded tools. I have no need for a cordless tool that's going to have a dead battery in a year.
  • Deliberate (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sloppy (14984) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @03:08PM (#22237220) Homepage Journal

    Most of these annoyances are very deliberate. HDMI is intended to be non-interoperable and failure-prone. OEM Windows preloads contain extra bloatware because bloatware makers paid to have their crap installed. Tools use nonstandard battery packs, in order to sell proprietary replacement packs.

    These aren't engineering failures. They are just examples of products that are made to serve interests other than the user's.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      He wasn't describing them as "engineering failures." He was describing them as annoying or troublesome when used for his purposes. There is a big difference.
  • Cars are a PITA to maintain these days because, to increase efficiency and meet emissions regulations, they have to be lighter and have tightly controlled combustion. The lighter bit means smaller, meaning smaller engine compartments, meaning more difficult to access and repair engines. The tightly controlled combustion means computer controlled fuel injection, and sensors everywhere for feedback.

    I don't care much about fixing engines - they are so complex these days you're SOL if you don't have an ODBCII k
  • by drsmithy (35869) <drsmithy@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @03:26PM (#22237486)

    Since most Linux OSs are free, there's no business reason to bloat up the system with feature frills.'"

    Since most Linux OSes are free, there's no business reason for them to deliver features people want (and hence are prepared to pay for).

  • by Kuukai (865890)
    To show their gratitude to Jamie for all the free publicity, Ubuntu has announced that their next version will be "Mythical Mongoose!"
  • After all, you don't buy a Chevy battery to start a Chevrolet.

    No, but wheels are almost unique to each model — replacing Geo Prizm with a Honda Fit, for example, forced us to replace our set of winter wheels/tires recently... While we have some decent standards already — the AC current, the bed-sizes, for example, too many things remain non-standardized. DC power is the most obvious example. Although Research-in-Motion and Nokia should be praised for trying to cut down on the number of differe

  • This will be a lot of barfing about similar subjects, you have been warned!

    And I see that Mr Hyneman has a point here. Jamie and Adam seems to be two guys that just happened to get well-known. They didn't really plan on being world famous and I doubt that they make a lot of dough off their persons (with exception for the occasional exploding dough-can).

    What we all know, but is pointed out by the article is that it's often not the engineers that does the stupid things it's the economy bean-counters that

  • by Emetophobe (878584) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @03:59PM (#22237906)
    His first four points are all about a lack of standards:

    1. Cordless tools and equipment--all with different kinds of battery packs and chargers.
    2. Flashlights and other small electrical devices that run on exotic batteries.
    3. Cellphones that all come with different chargers and power-supply units.
    4. AV equipment that has different types of hookups and remote-control protocols.

    And his other three points are all about bloat and poor design choices:

    5. Computer operating systems loaded with stuff I don't want and will never use.
    6. Automobiles with obnoxious electronics.
    7. Cars designed to make it tough to do maintenance.

    Overall he makes some pretty good points.

    In response to his first three complaints, I don't think companies will ever give up their non-standard battery packs... they make too much money on replacement batteries.

    As for complaint #4, I thought AV equipment was pretty well standardized already. All of my TV and AV equipment accept the same types of audio cables. I'd agree with his point about remotes though. I've never owned a "universal remote" that "just worked".

    In complaint #5, Jamie is mainly complaining about the bloat in Windows (more specifically Vista). I think the problem is that Operating Systems like Windows have to be designed with a wide user base in mind, so they have to have features that only 10% of the users would use. It would be nice if Microsoft actually made a modular OS where I could uninstall everything that I don't use (Outlook and IE for example). I have to give Jamie props for advocating Linux in the article.

    Here's a quote from complaint #5 which I totally agree with:

    And high-tech companies--stop messing with us on your treadmill of upgrades while making the old stuff obsolete. It may be that any software company that didn't routinely upgrade its product would go out of business. But what if the rest of the world worked this way? Oh, I lost a sock. I need to get a whole new wardrobe because the replacement sock is version 2.0.1, and the stores now only sell version 2.0.3.

    His main complaint in #6 is that he doesn't like cars that beep at him to buckle his seatbelt and he doesn't like cars that auto-lock the doors. Personally, I don't mind these features, but I can understand why someone might find them annoying. As for all the other electronics going in cars nowadays, I don't mind them. If you've ever driven in a BMW, you'd probably fall in love with all of the electronics. Whenever I drive in my toyota, I'm constantly adjusting the temperature as it's always fluctuating between too hot or too cold (I can never seem to find that comfort zone). But in a Beamer, I can set the temperature to 22C and forget about it. Some electronics I can live without, like those onboard navigation screens, but others I tend to enjoy.

    And finally, complaint #7 is all about poor design choices (in cars). Here's his example of a bad design: "One late-model sedan I worked on required the removal of a front wheel, plus a bunch of other stuff, just to replace the battery". I'm not a mechanic, and I have little to no experience under the hood, but are a lot of cars really designed this poorly? I can't think of any car where I actually had to remove a tire just to change the battery (Does anyone know what car Jamie was talking about?).

    • by smellsofbikes (890263) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @05:52PM (#22239294) Journal
      >I think the problem is that Operating Systems like Windows have to be designed with a wide user base in mind, so they have to have features that only 10% of the users would use.

      Sort of.
      It's more that Windows is designed with a wider base of user *experience* in mind -- they hand you everything and you use it. A la carte, the *nix way, is great if the user knows enough to go decide what's needed. My linux system can load drivers for stuff Windows has never heard of: Amiga file system management, USB-to-serial IC's. But 90% of the people who use computers will never need any of that, so the Windows system of one-package-to-rule-them-all, one-package-to-bind-them works great. But just try to get support or drivers working on Windows for any hardware that's not sold at Best Buy. (I bought a Philips webcam a while back. It works with Windows98. There is no other version of Windows that can work with it. But a tiny bit of tweaking and my linux systems, one from 9 years ago and one brand-new, could both handle it.)

      >I'm not a mechanic, and I have little to no experience under the hood, but are a lot of cars really designed this poorly?

      Other people have already talked about the specific case of the battery behind the wheel. Things I've seen on cars I've worked on: having to remove the wheel to change the oil filter, on a Saturn; having to remove part of the power steering booster to change the rearmost spark plug, on an Oldsmobile; and having to wrap the CV boots with plastic bags before removing the oil filter so it doesn't drip on them and dissolve the rubber seals, on a Subaru. I've been told that on some rear-engine Porsches you had to remove the engine to change the spark plugs, and on some '85-90 Corvettes you had to remove part of the intake manifold to change the spark plugs. On my dad's '64 Ford, there were no hydraulic lifters, so every 3000 miles or thereabouts, I had to relash the valves -- manually adjust for the wear in the valve train. I had to do that on my '84 Nissan, actually, but then all the clearances were quoted cold, so that wasn't too bad. On my '71 Datsun, they were quoted hot, so you'd run the engine, then quickly pull off the valve cover and start measuring clearances between really hot pieces of metal, trying to adjust them accurately. But the '64 Ford was the king of annoyance, because the adjustment was specified WHILE THE ENGINE WAS RUNNING. You want a bad time: try adjusting a nice hot threaded bolt with a locknut, while it's jerking through about 15 degrees of movement 400 times a minute, while hot oil is spraying out of the valve train lubrication lines, and you have to feed a feeler gauge between the bottom of the bolt and the top of the pushrod during the brief moment they're not in contact. Oh, and the cam was sufficiently aggressive that at idle the car was continuously backfiring through the carburetor so there were occasional blasts of flame from right in front of you.
      Compared to that, what's a little hassle like removing a wheel to replace the battery? I was so glad to see that car go, even if it did have the hottest engine Detroit ever made.
  • by BeeBeard (999187) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @05:24PM (#22238934)
    His chief complaints are:

    1. Electric mustache trimmers far more newfangled than the reliable steam-powered models.

    2. Local beret dealer insists on selling them in outlandish, inefficient colors such as "blue" and "red" instead of the more streamlined "black" model.

    3. Technological advances in promulgating human rights laws make it no longer possible to keep hyperactive co-host safely chained to a radiator in the basement between tapings.

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