eWEEK Labs Picks the Stupid Tech Tricks of 2009

1 of 11

eWEEK Labs Picks the Stupid Tech Tricks of 2009

eWEEK Labs Picks the Stupid Tech Tricks of 2009

2 of 11

Big Brother Amazon

In July, e-tailing giant Amazon provided its Kindle customers—and everyone else—with a stark illustration of potential pitfalls that accompany the conveniences of electronically distributed goods. After learning that it had sold copies of George Orwell's "1984" and "Animal Farm" without proper authorization, Amazon used its wireless access to users' Kindle e-book readers to zap those titles from the devices of customers who had purchased them. For a company that relies on building user trust in cloud-based services, this Big Brother move definitely merits our Stupid Tech Trick designation.—Jason Brooks

3 of 11

Watered-Down UAC

In the eyes of most Vista users, User Account Control was an unmitigated failure. So Microsoft watered down the security implementation in Windows 7 and provided simple controls so the user could further water it down or disable it entirely. Unfortunately, Microsoft made things a little too easy, as proof-of-concept malware was able to disable UAC without explicit permission in early Win 7 betas, provided the user could be socially engineered to run the offending code. Microsoft protested for awhile that this behavior was by design, but the company eventually caved to logic and forced a UAC prompt when changing UAC settings in the RC and RTM versions of Windows 7.—Andrew Garcia

4 of 11


Many people havent yet heard about the Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, or ACTA. Theres a good reason for that, as ACTA is being negotiated in secret by many of the worlds major countries. But, based on leaked information, ACTA looks to be essentially a wish list for the copyright lobbies that want to protect their businesses even if it means severely limiting the Internet and fair-use rights. This isnt an anti-terrorism treaty—let the people see what is being negotiated so they can let their governments know whether they support these treaties.—Jim Rapoza

5 of 11

Apple iTunes Updates

I've stopped updating iTunes on my Windows XP-based system at home. Even before Apple and Palm executives decided to play the childish game of "Yes I can," "No you can't" that resulted in at least one iTunes update that seemed to focus on breaking sync for Palm Pre users, iTunes updates were an unpleasant experience. iTunes on a my Windows system has never run great. It often consumes all of the CPU, which is why it's now caged and freed only when I really need to synchronize my iPhone for backup purposes. It is one of my chief hopes that iTunes gets a performance and optimization boost, and not a renewed focus on wasting my bandwidth with hacks to keep competitive devices from working.—Cameron Sturdevant

6 of 11

ATT's Flailing 3G and Cell Network

Between common data failings and AT&Ts inability to complete a phone call when its most needed in major metropolitan areas, its obvious that AT&T has oversubscribed its flimsy 3G network. Any marketing attacks leveled at its pathetic coverage are completely and totally warranted, no matter what AT&T begs the courts to rule on the matter.—Andrew Garcia

7 of 11

Facebooks TOS Changes

In February, Facebook riled up users by changing its terms of service. Facebook deleted a provision saying that users could remove their content at any time and added language indicating that Facebook owned users' content, even after an account was terminated. The changes enraged Facebook's users. Two weeks later, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted on his blog that "we have decided to return to our previous terms of use while we resolve the issues that people have raised." The Facebook TOS brouhaha was not the first social network faux pas, and it won't be the last. As Facebook and the like look for new ways to monetize their services, the social network envelope will get pushed further and further. These sites need to remember that their user base is their business, and work to protect users' privacy and maintain their trust.—Deb Donston

8 of 11

Tech Grounds Thousands

On Nov. 19, the Federal Aviation Administration's flight plan filing system went down, causing delays in airports across the country. What caused the system to go down? As reported by eWEEK's Chris Preimesberger, the outage was the result of a faulty part inside a telecom router link in Salt Lake City—and perhaps an FAA contractor. The incident is under investigation, but it shines a spotlight on the power of technology—both to make life easier when it's working and to bring life to a grinding halt when it fails.—Deb Donston

9 of 11

Confounded by Conficker

Early this year, the Conficker worm garnered mainstream attention due to a supposed April 1 trigger. Microsoft released a patch for Conficker outside of its Patch Tuesday schedule, and members of the security community prepared a set of freely available tools to aid in Conficker detection and removal for infected systems. Whether it was because of these tools or because Conficker had been highly overestimated, April Fool's Day 2009 came and went, and the nation's computing systems (for the most part) remained unscathed. With that said, Conficker called attention to the problems inherent in deploying client systems that offer up network-facing services to anonymous nodes, and it highlighted the importance of watching more closely the privileges granted to the system-level applications that run on mainstream operating systems.—Jason Brooks

10 of 11

Gmail Fails

Is Gmail down for you? That was a question asked too many times this year, as the Google e-mail system suffered a number of outages—two in September alone. Many of us have come to depend on Gmail and other Google apps. Heck—Google has marketed the apps as a productivity solution for businesses large and small. But, if we can't depend on Google, who can we depend on? Sure, companies experience e-mail failures every day, but a self-hosted solution means, theoretically, self-hosted help. Who ya gonna call when Gmail goes down? More and more vendors are urging us to put our mission-critical apps in their hands online, and there's certainly a lot to like about cloud computing. But, at this point in time, there's also a lot to be wary about.—Deb Donston

11 of 11

No Title

Top White Papers and Webcasts