The Most Annoying Tech Products, Numbers 2 to 5
Windows Me (2000)
Obviously, you agreed with our take last year when we called Windows Me the "worst version of Windows ever released." It was a mess.
Shortly after its release a tidal wave of bug reports smashed into Redmond. Installation was difficult, hardware driver support was sketchy, and system crashes were routine.
As one PC World columnist said: "If you upgraded to Me from an older version of Windows, you might feel that the term Millennium refers to the length of time it will take to fix the glitches."
wildbill2u says: I was having a problem with Windows 98. I went through five Microsoft tech reps including supervisors, all of whom directed me to different fixes. After hours and days on the phone, one of them came up with a wonderful "thank you for your patience" gift. A free copy of Windows Me.
What a bummer. I'd rather she had given me herpes. At least I would have enjoyed something of the experience. I suspect a free vial of anthrax or Ebola was the next step up the chain of techs. So now I go to Annoyances.com or the Techguy.com for help.
Apple iTunes, Microsoft Windows Media Player, Microsoft Zune, Napster (2003 to present)
The media players themselves are mostly fine, but their incompatible digital rights management (DRM) schemes drive us nuts. Despite Apple's recent decision to sell some DRM-free songs, most iTunes tunes still play only on iPods, a couple of Motorola phones, or a computer with iTunes software on it. (And the DRM-free songs cost 30 cents more.)
Windows Media files are worse--now, two different, totally incompatible DRM file formats use the .wma file extension. So if you buy a WMA file from a service that uses Microsoft's PlaysForSure DRM (most notably Napster), it won't work with the Zune (which uses Microsoft's Zune DRM). Can't we all just get along?
Microsoft has said it will "soon" sell DRM-free music for the Zune. We'll see.
McAfee Internet Security, Symantec Norton Internet Security (1998 to present)
Security suites are supposed to be like personal bodyguards for your PC, quietly enforcing the rules and keeping you safe without drawing attention to themselves. Not these two.
Norton and McAfee are constantly prompting us to check our security settings, update our subscriptions, and/or buy more products. Given that most new PCs ship with one of these two packages preinstalled--and their subscriptions typically expire after 90 days--it's almost certain they'll nag you too. We have enough problems with our machines' security without also having to worry about our security software.
techdragn says: You forgot to mention the fun times had by all when, for unknown reasons, a Norton product will fail to work and require a reinstallation--but will also require that it be uninstalled, and won't. Then you get to track down the special Norton uninstall program, which, after 5 minutes of running, will eventually remove the offending program but comes up with a warning that you must reinstall Norton immediately. (Like I was ever going to do that, after that pain.) A side note for HP software doing the same thing.
Real Networks (Progressive Networks) RealPlayer (1996 to 2004)
The most annoying product on our list is also #2 on our list of the all-time worst products. Why did it leapfrog AOL to become the annoyances champ? Mostly because it had a relentless pushiness about everything it did.
For example, in 1996 Progressive Networks (now called Real Networks) began offering RealPlayer in a $30 Plus version and a free version, but finding the download link for the free one was like playing "Where's Waldo" on the Real.com site. Once you tracked down and installed the free player, it declared itself your default media player for all file formats and began nagging you to pony up $30 for Plus.
Later versions installed themselves into your Windows system tray and popped up pointless (and annoying) "special offers" from Real advertisers. And, of course, Real's notorious attempts to assign unique ID numbers and track consumer media usage--anonymously or otherwise--did nothing to endear itself to us. Pay $30 for this pioneer of pushiness? Get real.