Tech Trends That Need to Die in 2016
By Stephanie Mlot, PC Magazine, 31 December 2015.
By Stephanie Mlot, PC Magazine, 31 December 2015.
Have you made your New Year's resolutions yet? Perhaps you want to join a gym (and actually go), or dust off those cookbooks in order to prepare home-made meals. How about putting down your smartphone more often to enjoy the real world around you?
But what about technology trends? Surely, there are things you hope will go away in 2016. Last year, we pushed for a few annoying things to die in 2015, but only one really came to pass: more diverse emoji.
We're still working on GamerGate and distracted driving. Security breaches? Well, read on. Before the giant glittering ball drops on 2015, take a moment to reflect on the tech trends, products, and disruptions that deserve an untimely death in the New Year.
1. Shady Pre-Installed Software
There is a certain level of expectation that comes with buying a new PC: It will not be broken, it will include all required cables, and it will not be shipped with a major security flaw. In 2015, Lenovo and Dell failed that last criteria. Lenovo admitted to delivering PCs pre-installed with adware that left people open to bugs, which led to a lawsuit. Dell, meanwhile, apologized in November for a tech support feature - eDellRoot certificate - on its PCs that accidentally left those machines open to hackers.
Passwords are more hassle than they're worth: Even if you get more creative than 12345 or BuddyTheDog, they're no match for sophisticated hackers. So why do software and hardware makers insist we keep typing jumbles of numbers and letters to log into a website or personal computer? Apple, Google, and Microsoft are on the right track with things like fingerprints and facial recognition for sign-ins. Even Yahoo is killing passwords in its mail app. Unfortunately, the trend hasn't quite caught on yet, and we're still stuck trying to remember our security question when we forget our Facebook password.
3. Twitter 'Love' Heart
What the world needs now is love, sweet love. Twitter, on the other hand, needs yellow-starred "favourites." In early November, the micro-blogging service - and its looping-video subsidiary Vine - introduced new heart symbols to communicate approval. The move, which replaced the "favourite" stars, aimed to make life easier for users. After all, "You might like a lot of things, but not everything can be your favourite," product manager Akarshan Kumar said at the time. Instead, the heart conveys a range of positive emotions: congratulations, laughter, solidarity, and, of course, love. And, sure, the stars were somewhat confusing - some people favourited tweets they enjoyed, while others used the feature to bookmark a message or link. But the loving star just feels like too much commitment than most tweeters are ready for.
They explode. They embarrass people with inner-ear problems. They don't actually hover. Pretty much everything about "hoverboards" - self-balancing two-wheeled boards - is contrary. Yet somehow they've gained a level of popularity typically reserved for home beer brewing kits. Nothing like the flashy device Marty McFly sported 26 years ago in Back to the Future II, modern hoverboards are a bit of a menace. Early this month, a U.K. consumer protection agency revealed that more than 15,000 scooters (about 88 percent) were detained at the border based on issues with the plug, cabling, charger, battery, or cut-off switch. Amazon later pulled a number of hoverboards from its site over safety concerns - the e-retail giant doesn't want to be liable when the device explodes under your feet. The U.S. Postal Service took similar action, limiting domestic shipments of those motorized balance boards that contain lithium batteries. You may as well wait for the real thing.
5. Selfie Sticks
Selfie sticks' only saving grace is that they're much less likely than hoverboards to erupt into a ball of fire. In all other respects, the adjustable poles are horrible. As likely to poke your eye out as an Official Daisy Red Ryder Range Model 1938 Air Rifle BB gun, they obstruct other people's view, and, frankly, look ridiculous. The controversial accessories have even been banned from Disneyland, the Louvre, the Empire State Building, and Coachella, among other locations and events. The Bluetooth headsets of the 2010s, selfie sticks can be easily abolished with technology. Wide-angle front-facing smartphone cameras can do the trick. Or just wait until more drone makers catch on to the cheap flying camera concept.
6. Smartphone Addictions
Look around any public place and you'll find most people with their head down, eyes focused, and fingers tapping furiously on a smartphone screen. We are living in the digital age, where everyone carries a mobile device (or three), and folks spend more time on gadgets than having face-to-face conversations. Smartphone addiction is very real (according to WebMD), and not an easy habit to kick. But while seemingly harmless - I'll just play a round of Monument Valley while waiting for the bus; I should clear out my email inbox in the doctor's waiting room; I wonder what filtered photos of food my friends posted over the weekend - the habit can be damaging: think texting while driving (or walking), your eyesight, and sleep patterns. So maybe try to fight the urge to carry your tablet to the toilet, or put down the smartphone while your kids perform a puppet show.
If you absolutely must discuss your favourite TV shows and movies, be a decent human being and post a warning. Those guidelines are even more relevant in an age of social media and streaming TV. While you may have the time, energy, and will power to binge-watch an entire season of Orange Is the New Black in a weekend, your Twitter followers and Facebook friends might not be able to do the same. As the old saying goes: If you don't have anything nice to say, keep your mouth shut and stop spoiling entertainment for everyone else.
8. Android Bugs
Google's Android had a rough year in mobile security. The operating system in March was hit with the so-called Time-of-Check to Time-of-Use vulnerability, which allowed an attacker to silently modify or replace a benign Android app with malware. It reportedly affected 49.5 percent of Android users and could be executed without the user's knowledge, perhaps while you slept.
That's nothing, however, compared to Stagefright. The exploit let an attacker take control of an Android device simply by sending it a text message. But even the "world's largest" mobile update couldn't shield the 950 million exposed smartphones: Stagefright 2.0 emerged in October as a set of two vulnerabilities that manifest when processing specially crafted MP3 audio or MP4 video files.
9. Data Breaches/Leaks/Dumps
Another year, another set of major security breaches. And it's not just services like cheating site Ashley Madison: the Office of Personnel Management, U.K. ISP TalkTalk, and VTech were among 2015's biggest cyber attack targets. Sadder than the potential divorces Ashley Madison users may be facing? The fact that we seem to have learned nothing from last year's treasure trove of cyber attacks.
[Source: PC Magazine. Edited.]