The 20 most annoying tech products

16. Apple Pro Mouse (2000)

In 1981, Xerox released the Star workstation, featuring a graphical interface and a two-button mouse. But Apple didn't get around to adding a second mouse button until August 2005, despite the fact that it had supported contextual menus in the Mac OS for years. This was especially infuriating when Apple released its sleek Pro Mouse in 2000: Instead of right-clicking to access contextual menus, Mac mousers had to hold down the Control key while clicking. Was this Apple's way of guaranteeing a steady stream of customers for multibutton mouse vendors like Logitech, Kensington, and Microsoft, or was it mere stubbornness? We're betting on the latter. In either case, it was annoying.

17. Plaxo (2002 to 2006)

Change the tiniest detail in your Plaxo contact profile, and everybody in your address book would receive a "Hi. I'm updating my address book. Please take a moment to update your latest contact information" e-mail -- a not-so-subtle nudge to get them to sign up for Plaxo themselves so that it would update such info without bugging anyone. Plaxo finally abandoned the practice in March 2006, saying it had accumulated enough members that spamming the world was no longer necessary. We had reached the same conclusion years earlier.

18. Microsoft Office Outlook 2003 (2003)

What do you call an e-mail client that can't handle e-mail? Outlook 2003. Microsoft's premier e-mail program stored all messages in a single, ever-growing data file. The more mail you got, the slower Outlook ran -- until it stopped running entirely. Microsoft's solution? Autoarchive your messages, making them nearly impossible to find later or prompting annoying 'Would you like to archive your old messages now?' dialog boxes. No thanks, I'll just switch to Mozilla's free Thunderbird instead.

19. Apple Power Mac G4 Cube (2000)

Sure, the Borg-like design looked pretty darned cool. But the fanless 8-inch Cube was anything but cool in a literal sense. Put a pile of papers down on its top external vents, and the Cube would overheat and shut down. Worse, some Cubes shut down, hibernated, and restarted at random -- over and over and over -- due to loose DC-to-DC converter cards and finicky power buttons. That was most definitely uncool.

20. Harmonium (1998)

You've probably never heard of Harmonium, but you've certainly heard it at work -- dozens of times a day. This software, developed by Finnish programmer Vesa-Matti "Vesku" Paananen in 1998 and distributed for free over the Net, allows cell phones to produce distinctive (one might also say cheesy) polyphonic ringtones. (Following them were master tones, which are snippets from actual songs.) The world has been a much noisier place ever since. Thanks for nothing, Vesku.

14 Surefire Ways to Annoy Users

So you're designing a new product and you want to make sure you infuriate as many customers as possible. Be sure to do at least a few of the following things:

Force us to reboot our systems any time we install or uninstall your product.

Automatically install into the Windows system tray and launch at startup.

Force us to read the manual just to figure out how to turn on the damned thing.

Pop up little reminders for things we don't want to do.

Make tech-support contact information nearly impossible to find--or, better yet, don't include any.

Install a bunch of extra software nobody asked for or wants.

Automatically sign us up for e-mail newsletters and other announcements.

Charge us $35 per call to speak to "Bob" in Bangalore when we have problems.

Force us to upgrade products to get the same functionality we already had in the old version.

Make us enter the same information (like e-mail addresses) multiple times.

Require us to retype squiggly letters that are virtually impossible for humans to decipher when signing up for new accounts. (Note to Microsoft: This means you.)

Force us to register products and/or nag us until we capitulate.

Promise to remember our log-ins and password, yet still make us enter them every time.

Insist on updating the product when all we want to do is quit it and go home.

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Dan Tynan

PC World

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