High-tech headache

Technology's trials and tribulations can be a big pain

July 22, 2004|By Dean Takahashi | Dean Takahashi,KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

I love it when technology works well. Like when I e-mail a photo to someone and they like it. Or I record The Sopranos on my TiVo and I don't need to know how to use a VCR. But that's not the way it always happens in real life.

Here are some things that are broken in my digital life.

I recorded so many episodes of Deadwood that it took up too much space on my TiVo hard drive. So TiVo began erasing other shows that I had just recorded and pretty much every time I recorded a show, it deleted something else.

I love my TiVo and can't live without it. But every now and then the timing is off, and it will cut off the end of a show, like the season finale of one of my favorites.

Even more frustrating: My TiVo/DirecTV remote doesn't work with my old TV set. Every 10 clicks or so it changes the TV channel to a snowy picture or switches to DVD mode. We have to actually get off the couch and hit the controls on the TV to fix it.

I installed StarOffice from Sun Microsystems on my Windows PC. Now I know this wasn't a good idea, but I wanted to see what this choice thing was all about.

StarOffice is a clone of Microsoft's Office software. It's designed to be compatible with Office files. But of course, as soon as I did this, my Microsoft Word program didn't work right. Every time I started Word, it gave me an error message that went away if I clicked it six times. And I can't open any e-mail attachments using that computer at all.

I'm glad that Microsoft and Sun have buried their differences and settled their litigation. Now maybe their products will work together.

There are a few things that irritate me every time I turn on the computer. I foolishly installed three printers on the same machine in an effort to test them all. Now when I boot the computer, I get a pop-up message from all three printer companies.

The Gateway, Samsung and Hewlett-Packard all tell me that I'm out of ink. It doesn't matter that the printers and ink cartridges are brand new. They always tell me I'm out of ink and should order more.

Of course, I can't get any documents to print from this machine at the moment because I have loaded the three printers on it.

Then there is the pop-up message from IBM telling me that I have partially installed my Dragon Naturally Speaking dictation program and that I should reload it.

I would love to comply. But I put my Dragon CD into the CD-ROM drive one day and closed it before the disk was sitting flat in the tray holder - so the disc broke. I had to pry the CD-ROM drive open and remove the pieces of the shattered disc with a knife. And so now I have no Dragon CD to finish the loading. I'm doomed to seeing that pop-up for the rest of my computing days.

I also have too many cords that plug into electrical sockets. I have three computers that separately use three surge protectors, which expand the number of outlets I can use. I've also got several monitors, cell phones, handhelds, MP3 players, cameras and other gadgets that plug into the remaining sockets. I trip over the wires regularly, and spend a few minutes a day untangling them or finding the right charger for the right device.

Spending five minutes with the manual ought to fix a lot of my problems. But that's just not my idea of fun these days. Technology moves too fast to slow down and figure out how to use something. If you know how to fix any of my problems, please send me an e-mail.

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