Welcome to 'Common Sense Tech'

CNET has a new column: "Common Sense Tech." Danny Sullivan offers an introduction on what to expect, from practical tips to asking "why doesn't this work better?"

I'm excited to be penning a new column for CNET--"Common Sense Tech." For my first piece, I wanted to introduce myself to readers and explain what you can expect here. In short, some practical tips, some "why doesn't this work better" pieces, and the occasional rant, when deemed necessary.

Most of my tech writing has revolved around search engines. I've been covering how they work, both for marketers and for consumers, for nearly 16 years now. When I started, we had no Google. Instead, we walked through the snow for six miles to submit our searches to AltaVista.

Search hasn't been the only thing that I've covered, however. Like many, I love technology. A new gadget, a new Web service, a great app--any of these things can make me happy. As a writer, what makes me even happier is sharing my experiences with new tech.

Most of my non-search tech writing to date as been on my personal blog, Daggle. I've written about everything there from experiences with my GPS units, to having a "smart" watch (which MSN eventually killed), to making my old iPhones work on a pre-paid basis for my kids.

It's also served as a place where I've shared my unhappy experiences with tech. Sadly, there have been plenty of them. I want my gadgets and services to "just work," in the way the Apple slogan once promised. Too often, they don't, whether they are products from Apple or others.

What I've found especially important is that many of these problems aren't readily apparent in initial reviews, which often focus too much on product specs and benchmark performances rather than how well the products work in real life.

I have a cutting edge Asus Transformer Prime tablet. It's Android 4.0, complete with with a cool-looking removable keyboard. But the biggest problem I've had with it recently wasn't covered by any of the reviews I read about last week, when I was trying to fix my issue. The tablet uses a proprietary charger.

Want to charge the thing? Not only do you need the proprietary cable, you also need the charger, because a standard USB charger doesn't have the output voltage needed to charge the tablet. I only found that out after taking it on a trip and assuming any USB charger should be fine. Bad on me, but it's also an important "spec" that shouldn't be overlooked.

I've got a cutting edge Galaxy Nexus phone, with a 5-megapixel camera. That's 3 megapixels less than my iPhone 4S offers, but that particular spec doesn't reflect the real problem I have with taking pictures using the Nexus. It's a far more basic one. About once per day, the Galaxy Nexus gives me a "can't connect to camera" error.

I'm also packing an iPad 2, which is a beautiful device. Beautiful, that is, until I want one of my kids to use it. There's no way for them to "log in" and see their own collection of apps that may have been purchased through their own accounts. That's a tech problem and one that you never see addressed in a "specs" list.

Later in this column, I'll be doing a rundown on various Amazon Kindle models and how I've found them to work. But the specs between the different flavors of Kindle don't address a far bigger issue. If everyone in my family wants to read the same book, we either all have to share the same Kindle account or buy it four times. That's another tech problem.

My Roku player is awesome, allowing me to watch HBO GO on my TV. Oops, it doesn't! For whatever reason, you can't use HBO GO on the Roku if you buy HBO through DirecTV. However, I can watch HBO GO if I use the app built into the TV itself, a Samsung. Ultimately, I'm getting that content on the "big screen" of my TV, so what's the disconnect that leaves the Roku player out?

These are some of the "common sense" failures I've seen in tech, issues that I'll be addressing more in forthcoming columns. Sometimes I'll go long on an issue. Sometimes I might be brief. The column itself will appear anywhere from once to three times per week, Mondays through Fridays.

Overall, I've always hoped my writing would help others who are encountering problems for which I've had to find solutions. Better, I've hoped that the makers of tech products would solve these problems themselves. I'm excited to be doing that writing through CNET, where I hope it'll reach even more consumers and product makers.

 

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