Engineering High-Tech Ineptitude

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I recently bought a new laptop, so that I could do some of my work just about anywhere. Then I learned that in order to use Word, I had to be linked to the internet, because Microsoft has figured out that they can make a lot more money if they only rent their software, rather than just selling it and allowing your computer to use it independently.  There is a way around this, and I loaded the software from an installation disk of Word that I had kept from a previous purchase. Here’s the kicker: I bought a laptop so that I could go anywhere and work on my projects without needing to connect with anything, as long as the battery would work, that is the whole idea of the laptop. Enter the genius engineers at Microsoft, who have now made it so that you can’t work on Word if there is no WIFI, and most of the wilderness where I would like to go and work in peace doesn’t have WIFI. Am I the only one who sees this as incredibly stupid? They have defeated the purpose of the laptop, which was the ability to go anywhere and do your work; it was a liberating idea, but now, you can’t do your Word, or Excel, or Access, or PowerPoint unless there is WIFI. The genius of these engineers is amazing.


The new cars are great. I was reading a review of several the new cars on the market, and there were a few things that I’m not sure I like.  The cars of today are certainly not the cars of yesteryear. The cars of today handle better, ride better, are safer and get better gas mileage then the cars of yesteryear, despite what nostalgia we might feel. Today’s cars are packed with all of the high-tech stuff thanks to the millennials, who are demanding that they never lose a text message and must be tied to the internet on a second-by-second basis. The millennials are killing themselves by the dozens because they cannot master texting while driving. Telling your texting pals what you had for lunch or the latest gossip is well worth dying for, apparently. Every generation has its priorities. It’s sad, but as long as they kill themselves, it is their choice. It’s the endangering everyone else that is the concern.


One of the more depressing aspects of the new cars loaded with tech stuff is that all of those devices require electricity. When the engine of a car is not running, it is not generating electricity, and it turns out that all of the gadgets in the new cars take a considerable amount of electricity, which drains the battery. Some of the cars could not last two weeks without starting, otherwise the battery goes dead. If you drain a battery until it cannot function more than a few times, it will lose its power to be recharged and you’ll be buying a new battery, which is well-worth having things that work when you for the most part won’t be needing them.


What is frustrating is that the engineers apparently did not consider installing a switch to turn all off the gadgets so that the battery would not be drained. You see, when the battery is drained, none of the high-tech gadgets in the car will work, rendering any benefit they might have as moot, useless, unable to function. The car alarm will not work if the battery is dead, but the good thing is that they can’t start the car to steal it anyway because the car will not start with a dead battery. Kind of a lose-lose situation. How did they engineer a car that will not sit 14 days and still start? I could be wrong, but I am not impressed by people who can’t design a car that I can leave for two weeks and start up and drive away. I thought that was the whole idea of a car was that it would be ready when you need it. I’m sure that the super-educated, high-tech engineers could not figure out that if you wanted to leave the car for more than two weeks, they could put in this thing called a “switch” (sorry if I’m going too high-tech here) that would shut off all the high-tech servo motors and electronics so that the car could be left for a couple of weeks. I could explain this high-tech solution in just a few hours to the very educated high-tech engineers who design these masterpieces of stupidity.

If you leave your car for two weeks, then all of the fancy gadgets lose power and don’t work, not to mention that you can’t start your car, and if that happens too many times, it costs money to replace the worn-out battery. The engineers, of course, couldn’t design a switch that would just turn off all the gadgets and save the battery, so that you could start the engine and drive the car, the fundamental function of the car, that’s just too high tech. Some of the praise for the new high-tech enabled cars should be “great car, when it starts,” and, “lots of high-tech gadgets that are great as long as they aren’t wearing down the battery.”


If you’re going on vacation, or going to leave the car for any significant length of time, I have an engineering solution. The article suggested a trickle battery charger, or jumper cables, or having a trusted friend start the car every little while. I can offer a much simpler solution. Disconnect the positive or negative cable attached to the battery terminal. Find a wrench that fits the terminal and duct tape, or clamp, or zip tie the wrench somewhere in the inside of the engine compartment. When you plan on leaving the car without starting it for any long period of time, take the wrench and disconnect the cable attached to the battery. Or, if you’re an engineer, attach an on/off switch to the positive battery cable, so that you can turn off all the power whenever you wish, so that all of the high-tech gadgets on your expensive new car don’t drain the battery and cause your expensive new car to sit because it will not start, not to mention wearing down the battery.


You can buy a trickle charger, but the airport parking lot might not have any outlets to plug the charger into. You can have jumper cables, but there might not be anyone with a running engine nearby. Who knew that the new twenty-first century cars would require being started on a regular bi-weekly schedule, even if you aren’t planning on driving the car. Talk about high maintenance. All can be fixed, however, with a wrench and a hose clamp, or a switch, both of which seem to be too technical for the super-smart designers.  Reminds me of the cars of the sixties, when you weren’t really sure if the car would start. The more things change, the more they stay the same? A lot of these engineers need some lessons in reality, because they’re designing things that have defeated the purpose of the product, the original intention. The engineers’ slogan, “if it ain’t broke, it doesn’t have enough features.”  We’re thinking our way into stupidity.


Mircea Negres Added Oct 27, 2017 - 6:23am
Good one, Jeff. I'm inn the same boat, having received a laptop recently and discovered it was data-hungry, the MS-Office tools had to be purchased even though the computer came with Windows 10 pre-installed. The laptop had to be registered online as well and most of the apps required constant internet access to function. TIA- This Is Africa. Worse, this is South Africa, one of the most expensive countries in the world for data (especially prepaid) AND I am unemployed, so there's no data contractor free wi-fi where I stay and I was basically f....ed until I went to a friend to use his uncapped data connection, which is where I am now because my 1 gig of prepaid data that cost R149 ($10) did not even last a week. The laptop also has built-in wi-fi capability along with camera and microphone. They can be turned off by enabling Airplane Mode, but are subject to hacking. The dumb engineers at Dell did NOT think to add a physical off-switch to these function even though we live in increasingly dangerous times of pervasive hacking by state and non-state actors. I discovered how to switch off the auto-update function and taped over the camera and microphone, for whatever that's worth.
To get around the MS-Office rent-an-app bullshit, I downloaded Apache Open Office, a free program which seems to do almost everything MS-Office does. As for the cars, with their built-in obsolescence and increasing addition of gizmos, the problems you've described are yet another indictment of the screwed up, shallow-thinking society we live in, and perhaps you should find a smart electrician to install off-switches on those systems for you. 
Jeff Jackson Added Oct 27, 2017 - 7:16am
Thanks for your comments Mircea. The powers that control the information want more and more information from all of us, something that I believe people will regret when the bad things that giving away information occur. It never ceases to amaze me the people who get paid huge amounts of money and couldn't run a lemonade stand in real life, but it looks good on paper. Thanks again.
Leroy Added Oct 27, 2017 - 7:59am
You still have the option of buying the Microsoft software outright if you want to be completely independent.  I have the rentable software on my laptop.  I have to be connected to update, but I can otherwise use it offline.  If you buy it outright, at least you know it won't change too much.  I accepted the OneNote rentable update.  Big mistake.  It is now one of the crappiest software around. 
Skype now requires Internet Explorer to work.  Not only that, it has to be configured how Microsoft wants it configured.  I avoid Explorer and, on my desktop, I tried to disable it as much as I could.  Skype no longer works on my desktop.  I completely uninstalled and reinstalled Explorer.  How many customers just say, "Screw it" and use something else?  It's no longer the only game in town now. 
Quicken is another one that now requires online access.  It's no longer owned by Intuit.  I spent a couple of days trying to make it work and finally gave up and contacted Quicken.  I wasn't doing anything wrong.  They just needed to send me the link to completely reinstall a new version that will allow me to update in the future.  My desktop won't install the latest upgrade.  Seems like the same problem with Skype.  It forces you to upgrade before you can use it, which, of course, requires online access.  There's a way around it, but it is a pain. Every time I go to use the damn software, I have to go through some gyrations before I can do anything.    They seem to be shooting themselves in the foot.
The rentable software is nothing new.  To have licensed software for every engineer became too expensive.  All licenses are now online.  You can borrow a license when you go offsite; however, if there are no licenses left to borrow or you forget, then you are stuck.  It frequently happens because there are always the privileged few who permanently borrow licenses.
Thomas Sutrina Added Oct 27, 2017 - 8:12am
You guys have said everything that I was thinking as I look and my Apache Open Office, Free CAD, SciLab, GIMP, Mozilla, 7-Zip, Ghostscript, and PDF Rider and creator Icons on my lap top.  No particular order.
Leroy Added Oct 27, 2017 - 8:25am
My car appears to shut off everything.  The USB chargers won't operate unless the ignition is turned on.  I did go a few weeks without driving.  But, I defeated all that.  I installed a dashcam.  I figured that with all the idiot drivers out there, it would be a good idea.  Besides, I enjoy videos of the wild and crazy Russian drivers and figured I could make a few of my own.  Well, the dashcam doesn't work once the ignition is turned off, so I tapped into the fuse box.  It will drain the battery in a couple of days, so I had to install another device to turn it off after a period of time or if the battery drops below a certain voltage.  The battery is now always on the edge of starting the car.
With the older cars, as long as the engine would turn over one more time, at least you had hope.  Not today.  It won't even try to turn over if the voltage is below a certain level.  I found out the hard way.  Whenever I approach the car, it unlocks.  It also turns on the lights if I have them set to turn on automatically.  You would think that it would be smart enough to turn the lights off when trying to start the car.  My wife made a videocast from the car one day.  Her iPhone battery was running low, so she plugged into the USB port with the ignition in accessory mode.  I figured it wouldn't be a problem for a short while.  Apparently, the lights stayed on or maybe it was the dashcam or a combination.  In any case, the car wouldn't start after that.  As I tried to start the car, the lights were on nice and bright.  But, it wouldn't do anything.  Well, technology is there to solve this problem.  You just need a portable car starter.  Of course, my wife learned her lesson, so now she uses the portable car starter to charge her battery.  Of course, when you need it, it doesn't have the power.  Guess I need to install solar panels.
Jeff Jackson Added Oct 27, 2017 - 8:35am
Yes, Thomas, we knew exactly what you were thinking, heh, heh. Please fill out the new profile so that we can make sure that we know exactly what you will be thinking in the future. Don't worry Thomas, none of this will hurt you, heh, heh. Please leave your computer on overnight, as we have some "upgrades" (don't worry, we're just scanning all of your emails) so we can serve you "better." Thanks for the comments Thomas.
Jeff Jackson Added Oct 27, 2017 - 8:44am
Thanks Leroy. I have already bought Word 1,3,5,7,10, as well as PageMaker 2.0,  4.0  7.0 and others, all for over $500.00 each time, and now PageMaker is InDesign and I can't load the old software on any of my new computers. I understand that GoogleDocs is free and many people like it better than Word. There is something called Prezzi or something like that to use for presentations. The whole "online for everything" idea is making people mighty dim, and it might be those dim-wits that are engineering these pieces of crap. Thanks again for comments.
Thomas Sutrina Added Oct 27, 2017 - 9:12am
Jeff J.  all those Icons are for public licensed free  cost $0.00  and are loaded on my computer.
Ian Thorpe Added Oct 27, 2017 - 9:29am
Jeff, Mircea, (et al) OK guys, first you need Open Office which is an absolutely free download (no catches) and is compatible will Microsoft Office formats. You can read your Word or Excel docs and save to .doc or. xls etc. and it is backed by the Oracle organisation. It is not entirely bug free but neither is MS Office.
The "Software As A Service" scam has been in in the wings a long time, Microsoft knew the public would wise up to their trick of making computers obsolete every five years or so, and we have, meaning slower and slower take up of new Windows versions, (I believe around 20% of Windows users are still on XP which is now 16 years old,) so they had to find a way of maintaining a revenue stream. And if people pay per day to use software, in the long term they are going to end up paying more than they would by buying outright.
Oracle made no secret of it when they launched Open Office, it was a bid to crack the near monopoly MS Office had been handed on desktop software. There are versions for Windows, Linux and Unix and output files are compatible across platforms. AND ITS FREE.

Other free software for Windows: Photo editing - Photoscape
Audio / Music editing - Audacity (Windows, Mac, Linux)
Video editing - I don't have a free video editor because a package I bought ten years ago still does a good job for me especially on the blue screen stuff which a lot of freebies are poor on. Windows Movie Maker is a decent basic tool. Here's a listing of some available products, the top one HitFilm 4 express looks reasonable.

Other people may know of equally good, or even better free options, please add them for everybody's benefit.

OK gang, let's stick it to Mr. Gates and his monopolistic business methods.
Ian Thorpe Added Oct 27, 2017 - 9:38am
Leroy, the plan it we will not own our cars, we will not own our computers or software, we still own our TV sets but are increasingly pushed towards subscription and pay to view services as what is available on free-to-air channels becomes crappier.
Soon we will not be able to fix our own cars, or go to and independent mechanic, swapping parts or adjusting settings will breach "copyright" in some way.
Fortunately I see signs that people are catching on to the direction this is moving us in..
Ian Thorpe Added Oct 27, 2017 - 9:44am
Jeff, back to your point about not being able to work where there is no Wi Fi, this is another development that has been in the pipeline a long time. If you are logged on to a Wi Fi network or connected to the internet in any way you are being surveilled. If your computer will not work unless you are connected, you can do nothing that is not tracked.
Jeff Jackson Added Oct 27, 2017 - 9:49am
Thanks for the valuable information Ian. Yeah, the brilliant Mr. Gates said that the internet was a fad, mobile phones were unprofitable, and social media would not make it more than a year. Mr. Gates was good at one thing, and his market is fading fast as everyone takes away more and more of his market. By the way, if you have a startup Microsoft wants to talk to you. Having missed the opportunities of social media, the internet, and cell phones, Microsoft is desperately parting with millions of dollars trying to capture the next new market, now that it has missed almost all of the innovations that made others billionaires. Poor Mr. Gates. Thanks again Ian.
Jeff Jackson Added Oct 27, 2017 - 10:33am
Ian, the "emerging market" is internet privacy, which I think will grow in demand as more people realize what they are giving up by allowing all of these websites to come into their lives.
Leroy Added Oct 27, 2017 - 11:07am
"Leroy, the plan it we will not own our cars, we will not own our computers or software, we still own our TV sets but are increasingly pushed towards subscription and pay to view services as what is available on free-to-air channels becomes crappier."
Yes, Ian, I imagine the day when we all have headless cars for hire.  We just order from our phone, get in the car, and go.  Automatic billing will be the means to pay for it.  It will be climate friendly.  The government will control the choice of technology.  No more oil changes, wiper blade replacements, or tire rotations to worry about.  For that convenience, for which we will have no choice, we will pay a high price.
The tradition TV services such as cable are having a tough time at it now as customers are discovering they are being ripped off.  Many people are turning to the internet for content.  I cut the cord about a year ago.
Dino Manalis Added Oct 27, 2017 - 11:15am
The 21st Century will be all about technology, including medical technology!
Jeff Jackson Added Oct 27, 2017 - 11:19am
Yes, Leroy, Blockbuster is pretty much gone, as more and more people use Netflix and other internet sources. The cable companies are in a desperate struggle to survive as more and more people cut the cable. The technology is shortening the lives of companies that cannot adapt to the new technologies.
Bill Kamps Added Oct 27, 2017 - 11:28am
Jeff, it is also annoying that virtually every application wants to store my files on the cloud.  Like you, Im not always connected to the network, and want my files on my computer so I can work without the network.  Also, there are some terms and conditions that apply that give the  cloud owner the right to  your files.  Facebook does this, and Im not sure who else does, since yahoo and google are other popular default cloud locations.
Plus if any of that fancy electronic stuff fails in your car, its possible the car wont start, and will be very expensive to fix, because the modules are all connected together.  One breaks they pretty much all break.
Bill H. Added Oct 27, 2017 - 11:32am
Don't let your car battery go dead in today's "high tech" cars. In many cases, it will take out your radio presets, navigation settings, driving style economy settings (that have been learned over time based on how you drive), Bluetooth device info, and OBD (On Board Diagnostics) data. Loss of accumulated OBD data can cause all kinds of issues if you are close to getting a smog test, or selling the vehicle.
If I am not going to use my vehicle for 5 days or more, I use a dashboard solar charger if I am parked outside, or a small smart trickle charger if in the garage.
In the computer world, I believe we are getting setup for the same "software obsolescence" scenario that has been successfully tested and implemented  with millennials and their "smart" phones. The marketing strategy here is to convince the users that they need to upgrade their phone every 6 months in order to retain their "coolness". This is done by either introducing a new OS that only works on newer phones or causes some of the "Apps" to stop working. Of course, in order to get the App to work again, it requires a new version of the App that will only work on the new OS, which now requires a new phone.
I'm sure most of you have noticed how Microsoft and others are trying to trick everyone into using cloud servers to store their information so that it can be mined for advertising and marketing purposes (read your user agreements, yes all 75 pages of it). Don't fall for the "OneDrive" trap, as many people are actually not aware that this is cloud storage (hello?). Gou out and purchase a stand-alone 2 or 4 TB hard drive and use it as your own personal "cloud". I advise unplugging it during times that you are not performing backups to keep the bad guys from possibly encrypting it and holding your data hostage.
Jeff Jackson Added Oct 27, 2017 - 12:00pm
Yes and absolutely, Bill. I have never stored anything voluntarily in "the cloud" and never have any intention to do so. I do not want any of my software coming from the cloud, or any of my files stored in the cloud, or, in general, anything to do with the cloud. I will never forget my astonished millennial classmates who could not believe that Facebook was mining the data they gave them, even the stuff marked "private." They believed that Facebook would keep it private; what a bunch of naive Facebook fans. I am amazed at the people who believe that other websites on the internet will keep their info private. I am certain that they've never been plagiarized. Everything you release on the internet is public, whether you like it nor not. Even classified info is fair game it they want it bad enough. 
Katharine Otto Added Oct 27, 2017 - 12:37pm
They want their hooks in you.  That's why the phone is free but the service costs monthly.  That's the basis of planned obsolescence.  That's why otherwise good equipment must be trashed.  "We can't get the parts."  How many times have you heard that?
I plan to keep my 2003 Honda hybrid until it rusts out from under me.  I recommend others keep their old stuff as long as possible.  I hope someone wises up soon and starts making replacement parts for old cars, film cameras, and tape players, because these newfangled gadgets are more expensive and more trouble than they are worth.
Jeff Jackson Added Oct 27, 2017 - 12:47pm
From the sound of it Bill, you've had a battery go dead and you lost all that stuff you had in your high-tech car. Could there not be battery backups for these critical systems? Or at least some way to reset the defaults so they they become your private settings? I'm no engineer, but it would seem possible.
George N Romey Added Oct 27, 2017 - 12:56pm
So much of today's hard core programming and hardware is being created and designed by outsourced and insourced employees (read, no business acumen and since they are cheap not much commitment) . As far as Microsoft, Office is a clumsy way of organizing data but no one seems to take them on.  In the meanwhile every company out there operates with Word, Excel and Powerpoint. Its a virtual monopoly.
Jeff Jackson Added Oct 27, 2017 - 3:50pm
Yup, George, old Bill Gates has definitely taken a stranglehold on the business world. At least Google and Apple and Facebook grabbed stuff that he couldn't get his hands on. Bill was sitting on his laurels and unaware of the innovations that would take vast amounts of money from totally new products. By the way, Jeff Besos of Amazon was just crowned as one of the richest people in the world surpassing old Bill Gates, but I don't really feel very sorry for Bill, I think he has enough money to last a few more years.
Bill H. Added Oct 27, 2017 - 5:25pm
Many of the newer cars have implemented non-volatile memory in areas that could lobotomize due to a battery failure. Earlier vehicles could retain critical memory down to a battery voltage of 2 volts in many cases, but operating the starter or headlights with a "dead" battery would bring the voltage lower than this. Digital odometers have always had non-volatile memory, as it has been required by law.
I did loose my OBD data once on a vehicle that I was going to sell, which required a smog test before selling. In order to recoup the OBD data to pass the smog test, I had to drive over 100 miles total of both freeway and city driving before retesting. It also did erase my radio stations. I heard that the Bluetooth issues from dead batteries were common with some makes of vehicles.
Jeff Michka Added Oct 27, 2017 - 6:33pm
Jeff Jackson notes: Telling your texting pals what you had for lunch or the latest gossip is well worth dying for, apparently.-For many Millennials, it is worth it to them, worse is they don't mind killing or injuring someone else to get text and pics out.  That way, they'll be saved by their airbags and ability to bounce right back to Facebook or Twitter before the bodies of those they killed are cold.  Why else, they ask, do we have insurance?
Bill H. Added Oct 27, 2017 - 8:31pm
Automakers are now producing cars that actually promote texting while driving. With auto-braking and lane exit warning systems, why even look at the road?
Mark Hunter Added Oct 28, 2017 - 1:34am
I now have my first car with a computer screen, and when I turned it on the other day discovered it was doing updates. It's just a matter of time before the whole thing freezes up while I'm going down the road.
Meanwhile, I love to take my laptop out to private spots to work on my writing, especially the state park where my wife works. So far not being able to go online hasn't been an issue, but we'll see what happens when the time comes to replace it.
Jeff Jackson Added Oct 28, 2017 - 10:17am
Thanks for the comments Jeff. I think we can put the texting while driving under the heading "misplaced priorities." The information generation regards information higher than life itself.
Jeff Jackson Added Oct 28, 2017 - 10:19am
Bill, I think the government actually wants cars that drive themselves so that they can legislate that and take over that part of our lives as well.  They are already limiting gas consumption with fines and taxes. Pretty soon, you won't be able to hurry somewhere, and most likely they won't bother with speed limit signs, because the self-driving cars will not exceed the speed limit. As I have read, prototypes of Ford's self-driving car don't even have a steering wheel.
Jeff Jackson Added Oct 28, 2017 - 10:21am
Thanks Mark. You can always get a copy of Word and load it into your computer and just use that copy, or the files that Ian has suggested. They keep forcing us deeper and deeper into the cloud.
John Minehan Added Oct 28, 2017 - 10:32am
"Jeff, it is also annoying that virtually every application wants to store my files on the cloud."
Yeah, that worked so well for Jennifer Lawrence in the Summer of '14 . . . .  
Bill H. Added Oct 28, 2017 - 11:52am
If self driving cars catch on, I suspect that on the way to our destinations we will be routed by selected businesses or locations that "match our online preferences". If you are single and using an online dating service, you may even be routed to another single that "matches your online profile". If you go shopping for a new appliance, you will be routed to the retailer that paid the most money to Google.
Windows 10 was created for two main reasons:
1. To get customers to pay for more Microsoft servers by forcing Windows 10 users to become "mini-servers" that distribute updates to other computers. This is called "Windows Update Delivery Optimization" or WUDO for short. This is not only a privacy issue, but in many cases causes people to exceed their data caps from providers that charge for this.
2. To optimize invasion of privacy. The almost "forced" and disguised usage of cloud storage is just one example. It is VERY important to recheck your privacy settings in Windows 10 at least once a week, as I have heard many reports of settings returning to the default (no privacy) settings, which is apparently a product of updates. Windows 10 has deep cloud hooks that send all types of information back to Microsoft. 
John Minehan Added Oct 28, 2017 - 1:20pm
"If you are single and using an online dating service, you may even be routed to another single that 'matches your online profile.'" or seated next to such a one on a plane or train . . . a friend of mine met his future wife on a bus trip from college back to his home town. a nice artifact in a relationship, I'd guess.  So, why not engineer it?