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Don’t go Web crazy — fix the problems

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More things that drive me absolutely crazy (and maybe how to fix them).

Real Player. This application, which plays audio and video files over the Web, could be the most arrogant program in the history of computing. First, this "free" application is nearly impossible to find on the company's Web site www.real.com because you keep getting harassed to buy the $29 "Plus" version. Once you find it, it installs all manner of intrusive junk on your hard drive and takes over file associations you set up to other applications. Then you get a tray icon you don't want and a "download manager" you didn't ask for.

If you try to remove the "Start Center" icon from the system tray (right-click, hit Preferences, then START CENTER), a pop-up box implores you to keep it. And I am blitzed with upgrade offers, channels and all manner of stuff because I once gave them an e-mail address of mine.

Apple Quicktime. This one is not nearly as bad, but every time I launch it I get an advertisement to buy the upgrade version of this free player. If you are going to make something free, don't annoy me about it.

The winner in this category, as much as I hate to say it, is Windows Media Player, which seems to do most everything right.

Windows XP. I have said it before, but this thing is a disaster waiting to happen. I think it will be a nice operating system if it arrives in the fall as advertised, but Microsoft's answer to piracy (tying the operating system to specific hardware in your PC) is moronic. If you decide to upgrade your hard drive, video card and RAM, you need Microsoft's permission to continue to use your $400 operating system? I think not.

Let's hope the boys in Redmond rethink this idea before launch.

Does anybody else's Disk Defragmenter take days to complete? Mine, whether I use Norton's SpeedDisk or the one built into Windows, will take several days to defragment my 20 gig hard drive. The system's clock slows down, and the whole thing drags on and on. It's frustrating and silly. (Starting in Windows' SAFE MODE seems to make things defragment faster, but I should not have to give up my PC for days to get this maintenance thing accomplished.)

Why is home networking so complicated? The company that figures out the combination of wireless networking that not only works but is simple to configure likely will make a mint. The PC world could learn a lot from Apple's AirPort system.

Speaking of Apple, why are most PCs still ugly? It's 2001, let's see some pizzazz and flair out there. Would a little color kill Dell or Gateway?

Ram prices are at all-time lows . . . buy 256 megs for 50 bucks!

WEEKLY WEB WONDER: Even if you can't listen to her show, Kim Komando has lots of great tips on her Web site. Check it out at www.komando.com.

James Derk is new media editor for The Evansville Courier & Press. His e-mail address is jderk@evansville.net.