10 things I don't understand about consumer technology

There are some things in this business that don't make any sense at all

We live in an age of invention and scientific discovery. But there are things about some inventions that science simply cannot explain. Here are 10 things that I simply do not understand about consumer technology:

1. Why did Apple make the iPad so slippery?

The Apple iPad is a marvel of usability, design and engineering. The hardware is sleek and elegant. The user interface is simply the best ever designed. It seems that every possible usability scenario has been carefully considered, except for one: You can't hold it.

The iPad's smooth metal back, contoured edges and all-glass front make holding the device not unlike holding a wet bar of soap. With all the innovation and usability genius invested in the iPad, why not just make a rubberized back.

Why make an expensive touch device so awkward and perilous to hold?

2. Why doesn't Twitter auto-shorten URLs?

Everybody knows that Twitter limits messages to 140 characters. Somewhere between 15% and 25% of all tweets have links in them. Because most URLs are way too long for Twitter, everybody's got to use URL shorteners, such as TinyURL, Bit.ly or Goo.gl.

These services are a pain in the neck and should be unnecessary. They require extra steps to post, which is wrong because Twitter's sole benefit is speed and ease.

Second, there's always the risk that the URL-shortening company might go out of business and break all of your links.

In order to get those URLs as short as possible, services use the country code top-level domains (ccTLD) of other countries. As we learned this week, control is subject to the governments that have power over the ccTLD. Recently, for example, Libyan dictator Moammar Qaddafi began deleting services that shorten links to adult material. The "ly" ccTLD belongs to Libya. The vb.ly site, owned by sex columnist Violet Blue, was nuked, and all the links created with the shortener are now broken.

Libya's is the same ccTLD, by the way, used by the leading shortener on Twitter: Bit.ly.

Twitter knows everyone has to scramble to shorten URLs. Why doesn't Twitter just shorten them for us? Third-party Twitter clients do it without any problems. Why can't Twitter?

3. Why do people call the iPod Touch the "iTouch"?

Apple iPods have existed for nine years. All of them are branded as iPod something: iPod Shuffle, iPod Nano, iPod Classic and iPod Touch.

So why do people remove the word "iPod" for the iPod Touch? In my own experience, I've noticed that a solid majority call it the iTouch. I've even had arguments with people who staunchly defend their belief that the name of the iPod Touch is the iTouch.

That's not a media player. It's a confession.

(And, for that matter, why do some people call all Android-based smartphones "Droids"?)

4. Why can't Google Chrome read RSS?

Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser, once the uncontested leader, has now sunk below 50% market share. Firefox had a good run but like IE is now in decline. Google's Chrome browser, while still No. 3 after IE and Firefox, is the only major browser that's growing its market share.

Everybody loves Chrome's performance. But why can't Google Chrome read RSS pages?

Sometimes, content Web pages are full of clutter, ads and other junk. It's better to bookmark and use the RSS feed version. It works great in IE and Firefox, but Chrome shows you the unreadable XML code.

Google is committed to open standards and aspires to be the world's No. 1 browser. Why can't it do something as basic as rendering XML pages?

5. Why does Windows cover the very button you need to click?

Those of us who maintain Web sites find ourselves constantly using Windows' drag-and-drop FTP feature. After editing a file, we just drag and drop it into the FTP folder that represents its location. Simple, right?

When you upload a copy of a file to replace one with the same name, Windows of course opens a "Copy and Replace?" dialog box that lets you confirm that you'd like to replace the old file with the new one. Choices include "Yes," "Yes to all," "No" and "Cancel." But here's the part that makes no sense: The moment Windows opens the dialog box, it immediately covers it with a second dialog box designed to show copy progress of the file. Of course, there is no progress because you haven't pressed the button. And you haven't pressed the button because the button is covered by the copy progress dialog.

Why would Microsoft cover a user-input dialog with another one that's waiting for that user input?

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