TechMan: We don't complain enough about technology irritations

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"Pecked to death by small birds."

That phrase describes what it often feels like using technology - little irritations from software that does not work correctly, features in phones that you can't figure out or don't function, or programs that crash.

Some examples from TechMan's everyday technology life:

• I have a program that I wiped off my computer months ago, yet every time I start up it asks me if I want to upgrade.

• I have a word processor where turning the wheel on the mouse won't scroll the text unless I switch to another program and back.

• I have an Internet radio that just stops receiving the Wi-Fi signal. After doing a complete reset twice, on the third try it started working again. And after I was on the phone with the support person for half an hour, my phone stopped transmitting my voice and I had to hang up.

• I have a cell phone that every once in a while doesn't recognize that the earphones have been removed and won't make any sounds through the phone's speaker. Sometimes turning it on and off fixes it, sometimes it doesn't.

• I have a laser printer that starts nagging me about running out of toner three weeks before it is empty.

I could go on an on, and you could, too. It's maddening,

And what's even more maddening is that we don't complain enough. We just mutter that using technology is a rubbing-salt-in-a-wound proposition and believe it "just is like that."

Look at the mapocalypse on the new iPhone. Apple decided to replace Google maps with its own mapping system, but apparently no one bothered to check on whether the data used to make the maps were accurate.

So you get a map system that can't correctly locate Apple's flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York City or labels a Home Depot in New Orleans as the Huey P. Long Memorial Bridge.

Apple chief Tim Cook apologized and suggested that customers download rival mapping services available in Apple's App Store while the company improves the product. And Apple suggested that customers report problems with the maps to Apple to have them fixed.

Wait a minute. Let me get this straight. You sell me a phone that costs up to $400 - even if I yoke myself to a carrier for two years - and it has a major feature that labels a Jacksonville, Fla., Publix supermarket as the Riverside Hospital, then tell me you want me to spend my time to help you fix it?

Are you serious?

Despite devices that aggravate us, we go down to the whipping post again and again. The iPhone 5 is selling at twice the rate of the old iPhone.

Partially we are responsible for this state of affairs. Having been trained by the auto industry over the years, we think that every new device must have bigger tail fins in the form of more and more features, many of which are useless or at least never used by the average person. But because they are there, they increase the complication of the device and each new feature is a new opportunity for failure.

Maybe, just maybe, if we threw up our windows, stuck our heads out and yelled, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore," things would change.

The next time you buy a device or software and it just doesn't work the way it should, let someone know. Call or email the manufacturer. Complain to the retailer who sold it to you. Tweet your unhappiness. Post your displeasure on Facebook.

Even if it doesn't get the problem fixed, you might feel a little better.

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Read TechMan's blog at post-gazette.com/techman. Watch or listen to TechTalk at multimedia.post-gazette.com.


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