Stupid Technology Tricks of 2008

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Stupid Technology Tricks of 2008

by eWEEK Labs

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To make iPhone 2.0s new e-mail capabilities more attractive to non-corporate users, Apple morphed its MAC service into the subscription-based MobileMe-an e-mail, calendar, photo sharing and online storage site that was supposed to work seamlessly as a Microsoft Exchange alternative. Unfortunately, Apple pushed MobileMe out the door before it was ready, and thousands of users lost access to their e-mail for a couple weeks. Likely, thousands more prospective subscribers lost interest in the service when it failed to work at all during the free trial period. — Andrew Garcia

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Lively in Name Only

While there were some nice ideas in Google Lively, the virtual world platform suffered from poor execution and a lack of things to actually do in the platform's virtual rooms. It was such a dud that Google decided to pull the plug on it, which I guess would make it not that lively at all.— Jim Rapoza

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VMware Locks Out Users

In August, VMware released an update to its ESX Server product that—among its fixes and enhancements—contained a license expiration bug that prevented many VMware customers from firing up their virtual machines. The mishap served as a reminder that technologies designed to solve existing problems can open the door to new ones.— Jason Brooks

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Jury of Peers

In late October, Sprint started disconnecting Cogent's peered connections to the network. Who did what to whom is still up in the air, although the two providers are again exchanging traffic on a temporary basis. The bottom line is that the brawl adversely affected customers more than it hurt either company. If regulators come knocking with some rules to enforce peering, company execs won't have to look too far when assigning the blame.— Cameron Sturdevant

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Cloud-y Cloud Outlook

Fledging cloud storage providers worked through some growing pains this year. However, perhaps the most painful cloud storage outage of all was that experienced by Flexiscale customers, when an engineer misstep led to a multiday outage for a large portion of the service's users.— J.B.

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We learned this year that Microsoft opted to lower the standards for its "Vista Capable" designation to protect sales of Intel's graphically challenged 915 chipset. In so doing, Microsoft failed to protect its users, its other OEM partners and the reputation of Vista.— J.B.

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Root of the G1 Problem

As an open-source platform, the Android mobile operating system offers end users significant control over what their smartphones can do, granting the flexibility to take full advantage of the fruits of a vibrant and energized application development community. However, the first device that shipped with Android—T-Mobile's G1 with Google—delivered a little more control and flexibility than was intended. It was quickly discovered that the device shipped with the root shell exposed. Although Google and T-Mobile quickly patched the flaw via an over-the-air firmware update, for a few days in November hackers had full command-line access. — A.G.

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Debian SSH Snafu

In one of the biggest tech follies of the year, a weakness was discovered in the OpenSSL random number generator that ships with Debian and Ubuntu systems. The flaw, which left affected machines vulnerable to brute-force attack, had been introduced by a Debian software packager. — J.B.

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Can Stop the Music

When companies first proposed using server-based DRM to offer protected music for sale, many users asked, "What happens if the service shuts down and the DRM servers get turned off?" The companies replied: "That will never happen." Well, the last year saw DRMed music services from MSN, Walmart and Yahoo go under, leaving customers scrambling to find a way to salvage the music they "purchased" before it became a bunch of useless bits.— J.R.

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The Cuil Factor

In late July, Cuil—a new search service that claimed the biggest Web index—was launched. I tried it, got less-than-satisfactory results and promptly returned to using Google. I recently revisited to give the service another chance. The site was quick and returned quality results (based on an ego search on myself). And yet there wasn't that 20 to 30 percent improvement from July that would entice me to switch. Judgment: Cuil still doesn't live up to its own hype.— C.S.