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What's the Worst Technical Feature You've Used? 1008

Posted by Cliff
from the if-they-were-fruit-they'd-be-lemons dept.
kooky45 asks: "In an effort to make our lives easier and more entertaining, technology designers pack more and more features into electronic devices, but often they're more nuisance than they're worth. An earlier article on LEDs discussed some of these. Another example is my Nokia 6320i mobile phone which has a back lit screen that drains the battery life at an alarming rate. When the phone is not in use the back light is off; if the battery starts to run low, it gives me regular warnings by beeping and turning the back light on! What other examples of designer stupidity have you seen?"
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What's the Worst Technical Feature You've Used?

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  • by Daniel_Staal (609844) <DStaal@usa.net> on Thursday May 24, 2007 @04:58PM (#19259827)
    Clippy.
    • by Corpuscavernosa (996139) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @05:05PM (#19259939)
      You actually used Clippy? Man, what a friggin' dork! ;)
    • by mollog (841386) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @05:11PM (#19260055)
      Speaking of Microsoft (Clippy), back in the days of DOS 6.something (6.2 ?), when upgrading from a previous version of OS, if the Mircosoft installation program detected something besides a DOS partition, it would blithely inform you that it had detected something non-Mircosoft and it would take care of it for you!

      That was a disappointment.

      I lost a lot of work until I found the work-around.
      • by AaronW (33736) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @06:36PM (#19261481) Homepage
        I remember something like this on my father's computer. He was running NT 4.0 and had a program he wanted to run that required DOS. He had space on his hard drive and booted the DOS 6.2.x installation floppies. The floppies automatically detected his system and determined that the partition table was screwed up so it automatically repartitioned and formatted a new DOS partition... on top of the NTFS partition. Fortunately there was a tiny partition in front and I was able to rebuild the original partition table without any data loss since the DOS format only overwrote the very beginning of the partition.
    • by Jhon (241832) * on Thursday May 24, 2007 @05:29PM (#19260387) Homepage Journal
      Clippy was bad... this predates it:

      It may not be a "feature" I've intentionally used and it may not be the WORST, but it always gave me a chuckle WayBackWhen (tm) I'd turn on my PC without a keyboard plugged in:


      Error: No keyboard present

      Press F1 to continue, DEL to enter SETUP


      Wonderful advice...
      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 24, 2007 @05:50PM (#19260721)
        My high school had a batch of computers that would regularly boot to some variant of "Error: No keyboard present. Press F1 to continue." In fact, it was so regular that all the students knew to just hit F1 on the darn-tooting-it-was-present keyboard. And it worked.
      • by d34thm0nk3y (653414) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @06:44PM (#19261607)
        That is a good one. It reminds me of Logitech's web site. If for some reason you need to re-install your mouse driver because it is not working you can conveniently download it from their web site.

        After the 30 minutes it takes to navigate the site using the tab key (since your mouse is not working) you get to their friendly download link, which uses some javascript or something to make a download button that can only be clicked on by a mouse. Brilliant!
      • by edwdig (47888) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @07:17PM (#19262127)
        I once found the text strings stored in the BIOS of my 286. Not far from the standard "Keyboard error, press F1 to continue." message was "CPU not found. System halted."

        I always wondered how they intended to display that message.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Torodung (31985)
      "Clippy" is not a technical feature.

      "Clippy" is a four letter word. Microsoft couldn't even get that open standard right!

      --
      Toro
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      On that note I'm going for IE, versions 4 thru 7 (the only ones I have experience with.)

      And before MS fans get all pissy, I'll admit up front that I'm completely and totally biased. See, I was introduced to the 'net in the Netscape 2.0 days (yeah, I'm not very l33t, sorry) and that was the context wthin which I learned what a browser, the internet, WWW and email is. In fact, if memory serves, pretty much everybody I knew in those days who had a PC and a 'net connection was running Netscape. I'm not ev
  • by Miguel de Icaza (660439) <trowel&gmail,com> on Thursday May 24, 2007 @05:01PM (#19259875) Homepage Journal
    if you're in a noisy enviroment or listening to headphones beeping and turning the back light on is a great idea. It is better to be alerted your battery is dying, than to discover you've missed hours of important calls.
  • by stoolpigeon (454276) * <bittercode@gmail> on Thursday May 24, 2007 @05:03PM (#19259907) Homepage Journal
    My honda, and I think many others - have a security feature for the entertainment system. If the power is ever out to the unit, the owner must punch in a 4 digit code to turn it back on, after power is restored. If you forget the code, and don't have it written down somewhere - you can get it. You just need to remove the unit from the dash and call a dealer with a number written on the outside of it. This is not an easy process - and dealers will do it for you but it costs around $200 last time I checked. In other words - the only person who can easily get at the information necessary to the code is someone who already has the stereo out- like say a thief.
    • by dpaton.net (199423) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @05:06PM (#19259955) Homepage Journal
      Or just call the dealer you bought the car from, give them the VIN, and they'll give you the code over the phone. I've been doing this off and on for a decade, and haven't had to give them anything else.
    • by LordEd (840443) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @05:13PM (#19260087)
      In some newer GM vehicles, the door chimes and "possibly" some other features (some rumours have floated around about airbags, although I highly doubt it) are tied into the radio unit. If you want to upgrade to an aftermarket deck (such as an MP3 unit), you either need to have the radio unit installed in parallel in the trunk with a special wiring kit, or have a module installed that takes over that functionality. That module costs an extra $150, i think.

      When I asked GM about the stupid design, they told me that they weren't sure if it was even technically possible to install an aftermarket deck, and that this is something that the majority of consumers want.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Planesdragon (210349)
        When I asked GM about the stupid design, they told me that they weren't sure if it was even technically possible to install an aftermarket deck, and that this is something that the majority of consumers want.

        No, not really. The majority of consumers buy the radio as part of the car, just like any other part of the electrical system.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by SoCalChris (573049)
        I own two newer GM vehicles, there is some truth to this.

        You can easily add an after market stereo, although you will need an adapter. You can get one for about $30, although your door chime won't work (Which isn't necessarily a bad thing). An adapter that keeps the door chime working is about $80.

        One nice thing about the newer GM radios though is that the radio stores the VIN in the radio. You can disconnect the power as many times as you want, and the radio will always work, as long as it is install
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by skintigh2 (456496)
          Yeah, my door chime stopped working one day when the little button on the door wore out. I thought it was good, too, until one morning it was really stormy so I turned on my headlights on the way to work, where they remained on all day, and I got to jump the car, in the rain, in a huge puddle after work. Then I did it 3 more times. I can jump a car in 45 seconds now.

          I turned down an offer to have the button fixed for $50 figuring I could do it myself faster and cheaper. I was wrong on both counts. I bo
  • Microwave (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Wizworm (782799) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @05:04PM (#19259915)
    I have a microwave that refuses to start cooking until it scrolls a 30 second message on a 1 line display.

    I SO want to get out my jtag programmer
    • by daeg (828071) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @05:28PM (#19260369)
      A vending machine in my building does something similar. There are no "out of product" lights, there's only a single line display. If you select something that's out, it scrolls "NO PRODUCT TO DISPENSE - PLEASE TRY ANOTHER PRODUCT OR CALL 1-800-XXX-XXXX FOR REFILLS - NO PRODUCT TO DISPENSE" one letter at a time. During which time you cannot select another product, get your change back, or do anything at all. Pressing any buttons helpfully resets it to scroll from the start.

      Oy!
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by dgatwood (11270)

      If you have the same microwave that I do, it's an easy fix. Press the start button, then open and close the door quickly, then press the start button again. It will start immediately.

      They don't call it American enginerring (sic) for nothing. :-D

  • The desktop (Score:3, Funny)

    by D+iz+a+n+k+Meister (609493) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @05:05PM (#19259941) Journal
    There's a computer on my desk. Doesn't that make a metaphorical stack-overflow?
  • LED (Score:4, Funny)

    by Fallingcow (213461) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @05:06PM (#19259969) Homepage
    I don't know about the LED thing.

    I sometimes plug in my USB flash drive, which has a very bright blue LED on the end, just for the light.
  • The sales person made it sound like a great feature. Never miss another call he said. Alerts you no matter how distracted you might be or how noisy the environment, he said. That may be true, but let me tell you, it is not nearly as useful and convenient as the sales people would have you believe.
  • by labalicious (844887) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @05:10PM (#19260029) Homepage
    PC Load Letter? What the fuck does that mean?
  • by oyenstikker (536040) <slashdot@sbyrn e . o rg> on Thursday May 24, 2007 @05:10PM (#19260035) Homepage Journal
    My Motorola v260 beeps loudly ever few minutes when the battery is low. I know when it starts beeping I have another 12 hours. There is no way to shut off the beeping.
  • Get this... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by joto (134244) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @05:14PM (#19260113)

    Gore-Tex in running shoes. The water will get in at the top of the shoe (as it is only 3cm high), and never get out, since Gore-Tex is watertight. Besides, when running, my feet sweat, so water will end up inside the shoe even if it isn't wet outside.

    Handsfree with short cords. I still haven't found one that allows me to have my phone in my side pocket in my pants. And I still haven't found a bluetooth handsfree with traditional lanyard design.

    DVD-covers. They are larger than CDs for no good reason.

    Flatscreen TVs with grounded powerchords. Apparently they cause fires because the antenna is grounded too, only not to the same "ground".

    I think that's it for now

    • Re:Get this... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by poot_rootbeer (188613) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @06:02PM (#19260929)
      DVD-covers. They are larger than CDs for no good reason.

      Except that they fit perfectly, 2 to a spot, in media storage gear originally designed to hold VHS tapes.

      Remember the CD longboxes of the early and mid 1980s? Same thing. More than half of the packaging was unnecessary, but it allowed record stores to keep their CD inventory in the same big wooden bins they had been using for vinyl LPs previously.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by diamondsw (685967)
        DVD-covers. They are larger than CDs for no good reason.
        Except that they fit perfectly, 2 to a spot, in media storage gear originally designed to hold VHS tapes.


        No, they don't. DVD cases are necessarily deeper, and for many VHS cabinets, won't work. Of course, they could have adopted the CD jewel case size and fit in the millions of CD storage units. Or they could have used a "slimline" design from the beginning.
    • Re:Get this... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Eccles (932) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @10:33PM (#19264297) Journal
      How many broken CD cases do you have? How many broken DVD cases? I like DVD cases a lot better, they're a lot less fragile.
  • by Keith Russell (4440) <keith.russell@noSpam.gmail.com> on Thursday May 24, 2007 @05:14PM (#19260115) Journal

    My first sub-brick-sized mobile phone was a Samsung flip phone. The "flip" section was designed to only cover the keypad, leaving the screen, menu nav keys, and send/end keys exposed at all times. It also had a key-guard that, by default, would automatically engage when the phone was closed. Clever, right? (Well, for its day, it was.)

    There was only one problem: To disengage the key-guard, you had to hold down the always-exposed menu select button! Worse, if the key-guard was disengaged while the phone was closed, it wouldn't turn on again until you opened and re-closed the phone.

    I don't know how many times I killed the key-guard as I leaned against a desk or something. Most of the time, I just ended up deep in some unexpected menu, but I recall at least two accidental phone calls initiated while the phone was in my pocket. Eventually, I got a case, and tucked some paper under the button area to make it harder to accidentally kill the key-guard.

    Samsung must have gotten the hint, because my next phone didn't have any exposed keys when the flip was closed.

    • by Chris Pimlott (16212) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @09:07PM (#19263403)
      My Motorola flip phone has a similar problem. It has two exposed buttons that can be used (while the phone is closed) to change your ring type (soft, loud, vibrate, silent). If your phone is not already set to silent, it gives a happy little chirp every time you change the type. So I'd be walking around during the day with my phone in my pocket with occasional random beeps caused by random button hits. I'd also miss calls occasionally when these hits happened to have switched my phone to silent. Very annoying, and there was no way I found to disable these keys.

      Oh, and another stupidity with these buttons: one button was normal and the other was a rocker button (i.e. up/down style button). To change your ring type, you had to hit first one of them, entering "change ring type" mode, and then use the other button to scroll through the options. In a sane world, you'd hit the normal button for the first step and then use the up/down feature of the rocker to scroll bi-directionally through the options. Nope. First you hit the rocker then you hit the plain button, meaning you could only move through the options in one direction. Missed the one you wanted? You have to go all the way through until it loops again. Argh...
    • by Solandri (704621) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @10:09PM (#19264043)
      The non-flip Sanyo phones had a keyguard (as all non-flip phones do). However, someone at Sanyo decided that it would be bad if there was an emergency and the person who picked up the phone did not know how to disable the keyguard (maybe they're a kid or non-English speaker). They wouldn't be able to dial 911 on the phone because the keyguard would prevent them from dialing. So they thoughtfully allowed you to dial 911 through the keyguard.

      Of course this meant that as the phone bounced around in your pocket or purse, it would hit random buttons. All of these would be blocked until a 9 was pressed. It would bounce around some more until a 1 was pressed. And so on for the final 1 and 'talk'. So basically the keyguard assured that pressing random keys would always result in a 911 call.

  • by dreddnott (555950) <dreddnott@yahoo.com> on Thursday May 24, 2007 @05:15PM (#19260135) Homepage
    Definitely digital controls for almost anything. I can't stand them.

    If you're in your car and working the climate control, those controls are analog for a good reason. You can see what they're set to and change before you start the car. Stereo systems are another great example (quickly turning volume up/down, not having it reset all the time). Analog dials of all kinds also give you far better real-time feedback about a given signal (delta, etc.).
    • by Vector7 (2410) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @06:13PM (#19261135) Journal
      I totally agree. My pet-button-peeves:

      Microwaves: I wish someone had the sense to build one with just a big knob to set the time, a small knob to set the power level (clicking to an off position if you just want to use the timer), and a big start/stop button. Put the timer on a logarithmic scale up to whatever the maximum sane length of time you might run a microwave for is (or use a continuous encoder with some acceleration programmed in the software), and read the value out on the display as you spin it.

      Monitors: It'd be handy on occasion to briefly adjust the brightness on my monitor, but the digital controls on all of them I've used lately are so stifling that I rarely bother. Just one little knob controlling brightness by default, or moving the cursor when in an onscreen menu, would be a hundredfold improvement. The monitors I use everyday are like minefields - sometimes the buttons aren't even labelled, and hitting the wrong one tends to make some terrible change in monitor state that takes five or ten seconds to undo, like the picture-in-picture on the bigger Dell screens, or the bizarre "highlight mode" on my old Samsung, which can't be toggled off, but instead requires digging through menus.

      Digital plus/minus buttons suck.
  • by njchick (611256) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @05:16PM (#19260157) Journal
    In Handspring Treo 180, there was a "World Clock" program that could display time in any timezone. It allowed to change my current timezone, but it would not change the time! So I move between timezones, I would need to update the timezone AND the time. Perhaps the software was not tested on real word travelers.
  • by thesupermikey (220055) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @05:20PM (#19260227) Homepage Journal
    Fuck Context Menus
    thats right, i said: "fuck context menus" /mac user
  • Photo (Score:5, Funny)

    by Viking Coder (102287) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @05:26PM (#19260317)
    My cell phone has a Camera button on the outside edge. Every now and then, I hear the fake shutter sound that lets me know my cell phone just took a picture of the inside of my pocket.

    I'm surprised no one else has mention the worst feature ever: DRM.
    • Re:Photo (Score:4, Funny)

      by cerberusss (660701) on Friday May 25, 2007 @02:30AM (#19266281) Homepage Journal

      Every now and then, I hear the fake shutter sound that lets me know my cell phone just took a picture of the inside of my pocket.
      So, you're in the cinema with the date of your dreams. You move towards her for a nice wet french kiss and suddenly *flash* the phone cam its flash light illuminates the insides of your jeans, showing a big boner covered with that old Winnie-the-Pooh underpants that you should've thrown away.
  • by phalse phace (454635) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @05:27PM (#19260359)
    Cancel or Allow? feature.
  • Voicemail (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rantingkitten (938138) <.kitten. .at. .mirrorshades.org.> on Thursday May 24, 2007 @05:37PM (#19260511) Homepage
    In my day (I'm in my late 20s) we had answering machines, and you know what? They were good enough. If I left the house and came home a few hours later, I could see if there was a message, and I knew it was left sometime within the past few hours. Barring a few really specific and improbable scenarios, I don't need to know the exact damn time it was left, nor do I need the other BS like mailboxes, saved messages folders, varying greetings, and all the other claptrap.

    Today? If you're the caller, you have to listen to the person's personal greeting, then suffer through another 20 seconds of "At the tone, please record your message. When finished, hang up, or press the star key for more options. To page this person, press nine. To listen to your personal horoscope..." Just shut the hell up and let me leave the message so I can get on with it, please?

    If you're receiving voicemail it's even worse. "You have...two...new messages and one...saved message. To listen to...new messages...press one. To listen--" One. "First...message...received...at...ten...fifty eight...AM." SHUT UP. JUST PLAY THE GORRAM MESSAGE WITHOUT THE PREAMBLE. Christ. Why the hell do I need to know the exact freaking minute someone called?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by crymeph0 (682581)
      I don't know what to do about listening to your voicemails, but I know when leaving a message on most cell phone voicemails, you can just press 1 while the computer is droning on about 'leave a message at the tone or press 2 to enter a recursive menu with no hope of escape', even if it doesn't explicitly say you can press 1 to leave a message, and it will take you right to leaving a message.
    • by visionsofmcskill (556169) <(vision) (at) (getmp.com)> on Thursday May 24, 2007 @07:27PM (#19262273) Homepage Journal
      There is a reason those messages are so laborious with unnecesary pauses and bad order of menu options etc...

      The time you spend with your answering machine is money to the Tel-Co. If you have Pay-As-You-Go it DEFINTLY counts as 10c/minute. Considering that they bill you for two minutes even if you hang up at 61 seconds, its a very easy way for them to make millions.

      No joke, the more time you spend on the phone going through the various menu's the more time gets racked up, even if your on a plan your still burning minutes just trying to leave a message on someone elses phone.

      Text messaging is almost worse in its cost vs value, a singel text message is generally 10-20c (sending party and recieving party), and generally requires at least one reply ... another 10-20c... so one excahnge = 4 minutes of talk time. 4 minutes on the phone could accomplish a lot more... and uses way more bandwidth, but once again the tel-co's have it setup so that the more laborious the process, the more it costs you.
      • by vitalyb (752663) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @08:05PM (#19262693) Homepage
        Funny thing is, you start paying for the call as soon as you get the "answering machine" talking to you. So basically if you waited too long for the person to answer and you didn't hang up, you will pay without any regard to whether you leave a message or not.

        In Israel the latest Minister of Communication decided to put a stop to it and forced the telecom companies to place a voice warning you that you are about to get the "answering machine" so you have time to hang up before you pay for the call.

        Now listen and be amazed. When you listen to automatic message for free, the companies don't joke around, it goes something like "youwillbetransferedtomessagingservicenow". The whole message is said in about 2 seconds top, I am 23 years old and I doubt I am always able to hang up on time. I really doubt older people can hang it up on time to be "excused" of payment.
    • by Paradise Pete (33184) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @08:07PM (#19262725) Journal
      I had a friend who was remarkably good at mimicking the voice on my machine. She called and left a message that repeated the menu commands, and I was sitting there trying to figure out what was wrong with the damn thing.
  • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @05:51PM (#19260733)

    You know the single molecular layer stuff with infinite strength that is used to encapsulate CDs, or the thicker and even stronger stuff that small electronic devices like CF drives come in. I once broke a pair of scissors trying to cut one of those open. I am surprised some smart lawyer doesn't do a class action lawsuit against the manufacturers of that sort of packaging - there must be lost of people who have injured themselves trying open these packages.

  • Acrobat (Score:4, Interesting)

    by supabeast! (84658) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @06:29PM (#19261397)
    The entire user interface for Adobe Acrobat (the full version, not the free reader) is a nightmare. I have used thousands of GUI programs and never found anything that comes close to sucking so much. How a company that has produced so many other great interfaces managed to push that turd out confounds me every time I have to use that awful program.
  • by ChePibe (882378) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @06:30PM (#19261403)
    I don't think anyone else has mentioned this so I will - why on earth put a print button on the camera? While this may make sense for some cameras and some users (cheap point and shooters especially), they're now popping up on more advanced DSLRs like the Canon 30D. Who buys a $1,000 DSLR and prints directly from the camera with no post processing and not even a look at the images? Worst of all, the button can't be remapped - you're stuck with a useless button. Why, why, why?
  • by Torodung (31985) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @06:39PM (#19261529) Journal
    Says it all.

    But if you're a DVD exec, I want the buttons on my DVD player ('fast forward,' 'top menu') to work as they *should* without playing "Mother-may-I?" with the embedded OS. The menu should NEVER be restricted. That doesn't even make sense! What harm could my having instant access to your product's menu do to your bottom line?

    Also, on my DVD player I can't even turn the darned thing off reliably. Is it too much to ask that a power switch be an actual -power switch- and not a "send power down signal to the OS" switch? It's not like there's a hard drive in these things. There's no need for the absurd length of time it takes for most DVD players to go from a power off *command* to a power off *state*.

    Same goes for the tray eject button. Kill the motor and eject the disc already! I don't need "pretty" or "graceful," I need my disc back in less than five seconds.

    Worst "feature"... Ever.

    --
    Toro
  • by Rob the Bold (788862) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @06:39PM (#19261533)
    Yes. My windshield washer tank. It's a minor quibble, true, but a source of irritation nevertheless.

    It's a pretty big tank. One US gallon. Seems like a good idea, since I'm in the US, and windshield washer fluid is sold by the gallon. Just buy a gallon, fill the tank, done.

    Except that's not how it works. I've got a "washer fluid low" sensor and light on the dash. It comes on when there's about 1/10th of a gallon left. Plenty of time to put more in before running out.

    So I go to the store, buy a gallon, pour in (by now) 15/16ths of the bottle, and now the tank is full. And I'm left with a 1 gallon jug with 1 cup of fluid in it. So the almost empty jug has to sit in the garage or the trunk until I use a little fluid.

    Sure would have been nice to have a 1.1 gallon tank.

  • by athloi (1075845) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @06:42PM (#19261587) Homepage Journal

    In the world of user design foolishness, the worst by far are programs that interrupt you while typing with error windows, pop-ups or windows suddenly gaining focus. Internet Explorer, I am talking to you here, as well as every other program that pops up a brain-dead window demanding me to hit cancel or OK while I'm busy with more important things. It's like stopping the State of the Union address to change a lightbulb.

    In addition, any web page that doesn't follow sensible usability guidelines becomes a real pain in the neck. I read Jakob Nielsen [useit.com] to avoid most of these pitfalls when I code or design.

  • VMWare (Score:3, Informative)

    by 26199 (577806) * on Thursday May 24, 2007 @06:49PM (#19261705) Homepage

    I few 'doh' moments using VMWare.

    Why does it let Ctrl-Alt-Del through to the hosted machine? It pops up a box telling you that you probably didn't want to do that, since both the server and the host see the keypress; but it sends it anyway. Result: lock your windows PC and reboot your virtual Linux box. Well, fine, I can get around that. (Just stop Ctrl-Alt-Del from rebooting the Linux box).

    But why have Ctrl-R reboot the hosted machine? Ctrl-R which is used all the time when interacting with a shell. It's not exactly difficult to accidentally press Ctrl-R when the VM window has focus but the hosted machine itself does not. Gah.

    Sigh.

  • Six things (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ISurfTooMuch (1010305) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @06:53PM (#19261771)
    1. Universal remotes. Great idea in theory, but they're often hard as hell to program, especially after you lose the programming guide. Even when they're programmed correctly, they still can't perform some important function that the original remote can, so you end up having to keep both of them around, which defeats the purpose of the universal remote.

    2. The meaningless icons on many electronic devices. Yeah, I know, they use them so they don't have to label the buttons in different languages for each country they sell the products in, but all these things seem to do is equally confuse everyone around the world as to what they mean.

    3. Convoluted shower controls. I swear, every time I take a shower in a hotel, I have to spend several minutes figuring out how the damn controls work. How about faucet manufacturers stop trying to be cute and just give me one knob for cold, one knob for hot, and a control to switch from bath to shower. I can take it from there.

    4. Wall warts. I know they serve a purpose, but do they really need to be on the end of the cord, where they take up three spots on the power strip? How about placing them in the middle of the cord, so I can use more than three plugs on my six-outlet strip.

    5. Windows XP's habit of constantly reminding you that the computer needs to be restarted after an update. Memo to XP: I told you five minutes ago that I didn't want to restart, and I haven't changed my mind. How about you shut the fuck up, and when I'm ready to restart, I'll get back to you.

    6. So-called water-saving toilets. Sure, they use less water, but they don't work worth a shit (pun intended). So, do you really save any water when you have to flush them twice because the first time wasn't entirely successful?
  • SysRq (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ISurfTooMuch (1010305) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @07:07PM (#19261967)
    I know that SysRq originally had a reason for existence, but its functionality was never used, and that was many years ago. If it hasn't been used by now, it won't be, so how about reassigning that key to do something useful. Just pick a use, since just about anything is better than its current use, which is absolutely nothing.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Detritus (11846)
      It does get used by IBM terminal emulators, which are still being used in many places.
    • Re:SysRq (Score:4, Informative)

      by knorthern knight (513660) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @11:38PM (#19264883)
      In linux, read the file /usr/linux/src/Documentation/sysrq.txt and select the following kernel option while running "make menuconfig"

      Kernel hacking --->
      [*] Magic SysRq key

      If your system is locked up, you can at least hit {ALT-SysRq-s} to force a sync to save data before hitting the power button. This can avoid filesystem corruption. There are various commands that can be executed. Read the documentation file I mentioned above for more details.
  • Blackberry 8700c (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mehtajr (718558) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @08:17PM (#19262871)

    The Blackberry OS has a lovely feature that tells you when the battery is too low to attempt to make a phone call-- but yet, it can power the backlight, let me read email I've already received, etc. for hours beyond that point.

    I discovered this "feature" at 3 AM, on the side of I-55 in the middle of nowhere in Mississippi, sitting in a rental car with a flat tire.

    Hey guys, when I buy a phone, I want it to be to expend its last bit of battery power WHILE MAKING A PHONE CALL.

  • by hoppo (254995) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @08:36PM (#19263103)
    It is absolutely pointless to be able to eject a DVD from across the room. You still have to get up and walk over to the device. Unless you are strong with the Force. Then you wouldn't need the remote for anything.
    • by palndrumm (416336) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @09:46PM (#19263819) Homepage
      Actually I really like having the eject button on the remote, especially since most DVD players these days seem to take forever to spit the disc out anyway. With the button only on the player, you're left standing there in front it staring blankly at the 'ejecting' screen on the TV for what seems like 10 minutes waiting for the disc to finally find its way out. If the button's on the remote you can press it and the player can do all its dicking around while you untangle yourself from the couch/girlfriend/cat/etc, find the DVD case, and then walk across the room to grab the disc as it pops out.
  • by element-o.p. (939033) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @08:45PM (#19263195) Homepage
    My boss has a Mercedes SUV that will not start the engine if the engine computer detects that any of the three brake light bulbs have burned out. Now, there's a good idea -- when you burn out a brake light, you can't even drive to the store to buy a replacement.
  • Fuse (Score:4, Funny)

    by dino213b (949816) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @08:45PM (#19263199)
    Fuse: a $3 part protecting a $0.01 piece of electronics.
  • by adrianmonk (890071) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @09:48PM (#19263853)

    A while back, I went to work at a new place, and they gave me a Samsung cell phone. I carried it around in my pocket. One day it rang. I answered, and the person on the other end wanted to know if everything was OK. I was confused and asked them who they were. Turns out they were the 911 (emergency services) operator, and they claimed I'd called them and hung up. I told them I certainly didn't do it on purpose, that I was OK, and that I was sorry for disturbing them.

    Then the same thing happened a few more times, and there were other occasions on which I took the phone out of my pocket and saw a display asking me to confirm whether I wanted to dial 911.

    After several calls to the carrier, I talked to someone who tracked down the problem. Seems that Samsung had put in a feature where if you hold down the "9" button for several seconds, it dials 911. And in their infinite wisdom, they were concerned about what might happen if you had an emergency while key lock was on. So they made it so holding down "9" dials 911 even while key lock is on.

    Thanks, Samsung. I love "features" that might get me fined or imprisoned when someone concludes I'm making repeated prank calls to 911.

  • BMW Security (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Evets (629327) on Friday May 25, 2007 @06:06AM (#19267413) Homepage Journal
    So a few years ago, I bought a BMW 530. My wife took it to the mall for the first time with my daughter who was about 6 months old. Upon returning to the car, she put my daughter in her car seat, and in doing so tossed the keys into the driver seat. She closed the door, walked around, and lo and behold, the BMW had locked itself up before she got to the drivers door.

    The AAA locksmith shows up some time later, my daughter stuck inside a VERY hot automobile. They have no idea how to get in. So they used one of those airbag things to split open the driver door to stick a coat hanger or something inside the car to get it unlocked.

    I have to call the dealership and ask where the unlock button is.

    After I find out where it is and relay that to my now very panicked wife who fills in the locksmith, we come to find out that the car has detected a break-in and disabled the unlock button.

    All the while we are yelling at them to just take a hammer to the window to break in. Apparently the damn car has some sort of unbreakable glass.

    I finally get through to BMW's version of on-star and guess what - they can't unlock the car via satelite. As it turns out, the only thing BMW on-star is good for is asking for driving directions (there's a GPS in the car) and reserving movie tickets.

    In the end, after consulting with the dealer again, I have to tell the now on-scene fire department that they CAN break the glass on the short split section of the passenger side rear window - apparently a feature designed just for these situations. Of course, that's exactly where my daughter is sitting, but thank goodness we had window shades that were drawn up.

    So my wife brings my 1 day old car home that I haven't driven yet and it takes 6 weeks to get a new window. Of course, when the 6 weeks comes up and I discover they haven't ordered the window yet, they are all of a sudden in abundance and it only takes 24 hours.

    So... pointless/counter-productive/bizarre features?
    1) auto-locking doors
    2) overly extravagent security
    3) satellite communications link for directions in a car with a GPS
    4) a window designed to be broken

    Of course I haven't even mentioned
    5) voice command (more distracting than buttons)
    6) GPS Volume button is the radio button. You have to adjust the volume WHILE the GPS lady is giving you directions.
    7) A radio that mysteriously reboots.
    8) An integrated car management system that disables radio, air conditioning, and navigation when it doesn't boot properly.
    9) A flat tire sensor that has presented at least a dozen false alarms and has never actually detected a flat tire.

There's got to be more to life than compile-and-go.

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