Let's face it. There are bits and pieces of the IT world that are simply broken, and we rarely want to come out and admit it. Well, some don't. I, on the other hand, am not in the slightest bit afraid to step forward and point the finger of shame at the creators of technology and say, "What you produce is broken!" I tend to get a lot of backlash for this (and an equal amount of praise), but I do continue on. And with that said, I want to bring to you 10 pieces of technology that are just plain broken.
If ever I have met a technology that I love and hate equally, it's QuickBooks. Here's the thing: When QuickBooks works, it's great. But when QuickBooks doesn't work, it's a nightmare. There are few pieces software out there so finicky about their network connection. The slightest hiccup can cause QuickBooks to give up the ghost; and when QuickBooks gives up the ghost, bad things can happen. When bad things happen in QuickBooks, valuable data can be lost. And we all know how bad clients are about backing up data. It's a sad, scary circle of suffering that can spiral into a hefty bill for a client. The biggest problem with QuickBooks is that when it breaks, sometimes the only resolution is to reinstall. But even in the reinstalling, things go wrong. Did you do a CLEAN uninstall?
Similar to QuickBooks, when Acronis works, it's great. When it doesn't work... it's a nightmare. And unlike QuickBooks, Acronis help is not so hot. The error codes rarely offer anything insightful. When it breaks, the logs tend to be too cryptic to help. And to make matters worse, ABR11 was a major step backward. Although Acronis tried to introduce new features, as well as roll in features from Echo into ABR10, the result had me uninstalling and going back to ABR10 on many clients.
3: Ubuntu Unity
This is a hot topic among the Linux crowd. Although the idea behind Unity was good, the execution of the idea fell flat. You can compare the release of GNOME 3 and Unity. Both were drastic changes to the desktop metaphor, but only one of those had any success: GNOME 3. The ideas were similar, but GNOME 3 enjoyed more stability and more flexibility (thanks to extensions). Ultimately, I believe Ubuntu needs to scrap Unity and either migrate fully to GNOME 3, give something else a go (such as Enlightenment),or make Kubuntu or Xubuntu the default.
Flash has always been a problem. It's been a security issue, a performance issue, a platform issue, and a headache in general. This really hit home when many of my clients began upgrading to Flash X. All of a sudden, crucial elements of their jobs no longer worked. In most instances, I had to roll those clients back to Flash 9. The issues with Flash go well beyond performance and features. For many, Flash is also an ideological nightmare. Be it performance, features, bloat, platform wars, monopolist grasp on Web content, or what have you, Flash has been, and will continue to be, a broken technology.
5: Pulse Audio
Pulse Audio is yet another broken Linux technology. Even on latest distribution releases, Pulse Audio is still problematic. On one machine I use I can either listen to music with Banshee or play Flash (see above) on the Web. Problem is, if I do one, I have to jump through hoops to get the other to work. The complaints regarding Pluse Audio are many and widespread. Do a search for "pulse audio sucks" and see what you come up with.
6: Web browsers
In general, Web browsers are horrible. One does one thing right, one does another thing right, and one is a security nightmare. But many Web developers seem to want to design for just one of these browsers! The Web browser is a critical piece of business software --- of that there can be no doubt. With so many Web-based tools, we must use browsers constantly. But when Web browsers are broken by design, it makes the simple act of working a real hassle. The problem with Web browsers today is that the developers are so busy trying to attract users with new features, they forget to fix the features that are broken. It's the same ol' song that has been playing since the 90s and it seems it will never change.
Outlook is the standard by which the majority of corporations and companies judge their email. But truth be told, it's a standard full of broken. I should actually preface this by saying, "When used with Exchange." Although there are Exchange Ninjas who can certainly set up that magical box and have it running like a champ, they are few and far between. And when Exchange is set up poorly, Outlook has serious problems. On any given day, I am met with client after client whose Outlook can't connect to their Exchange server (set up by their internal IT).
8: Predictive typing
I don't care what mobile platform you are using, predictive typing is horrible and tends to cause mistakes than it prevents. There is even a site dedicated to funny predictive typing errors. Until this smart phone feature is fixed, I'll keep it disabled. Tanks yule verily mulch.
9: Consumer-grade antivirus
Some business-class antivirus tools actually work (Symantec Endpoint Protection being one). Outside of that, it's pretty much a crap shoot. AVG? No thanks. McAfee? Are you kidding me? It seems no matter which antivirus solution you have on a machine, something is going to get through. Most consumer-grade antivirus does more harm than good. One of the few exceptions I have found to that rule is Microsoft Security Essentials. Other than that, your best bet is to either use OS X or Linux or unplug that PC from a network.
10: Desktop multi-touch form factor
Multi-touch screen technology is fairly new. It works so-so on tablets, but when you try to move that technology to the desktop, it doesn't work. Why? Because of the human body. We are accustomed to (and have the technology for) standard monitors, which use a mouse and keyboard. Although this is not ideal for the human wrist, shoulders, and back, it's far better than reaching out to a monitor to use multi-touch. What we need is a desk with a built-in multi-touch display on a horizontal surface. This position would be far more natural and ergonomic than any other and would really help make multi-touch feasible and desirable. But for now, multi-touch on the desktop is nothing more than a gimmick.
None of the above broken technologies is going to bring the world to a halt (at least we hope). But each one can cause headaches, derail productivity, and stop work altogether. Are there other current technologies you think are broken and in need of serious (or even just moderate) repair? If so, share your thoughts.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.