Gadgets and services are flooding onto the market so quickly! It’s easy to find a “review” of a new product that recites its features from a press release. It’s much harder to get feedback from people who have actually used something and learned what works and what doesn’t work in the real world.

Let me give you four examples.

SEAGATE REPLICA    I wrote a hopeful article about the Seagate Replica backup device, which is intended to back up a WinXP/Vista computer completely automatically. I haven’t had my hands on one yet and I’m still optimistic. It’s a little depressing, though, to read some of the comments from people on Amazon who raise reasonable complaints about the software, alleging that it bogs the system down while it does backups more or less continuously, or causes the device to mount and dismount over and over and over. Apparently the software monitors system and temporary files and is constantly writing changed files, slowing down the computer. Hmmm.

EXCHANGE DEFENDER    Exchange Defender does spam filtering and mail archiving for many of my Small Business Server clients. The company suggested using its plugin for Outlook to monitor spam, rather than waiting for a daily email report, as I wrote up here.  I tried the software. All of a sudden Outlook 2007 would hang for 30-45 seconds when I started it until the plugin was loaded. The software was slow to bring up the list of spam messages, and I never remembered to check it anyway. I removed it and went back to the daily report.

MEDIA CENTER EXTENDERS    Last year I wrote a number of posts about Windows Media Center Extenders and my adventures setting up the HP MediaSmart Connect in the living room. Since then, HP has discontinued the MediaSmart Connect and most other manufacturers have discontinued their own Media Center Extenders. Microsoft gives the impression of giving up on getting a computer into the living room. The HP MediaSmart Connect will be on Craigslist soon. I just bought a Tivo.

HTCprogram-launcher CELL PHONES    When my Verizon Motorola Q started to die, I did a reasonable amount of research into Windows Mobile phones and decided on an HTC TouchPro, which had some nice looking features and screen shots. A touchscreen, a special interface to replace the standard Windows Mobile screens, complimentary reviews – what was not to like? It took two months for me to call Verizon and beg for a replacement (“No.”) and another month to be reduced to a gibbering idiot ready to pay almost anything so I could throw the HTC Touch Pro into the trash can it so richly deserved. Most of the hundreds of negative reviews on the Verizon web site were added fairly recently, so I don’t feel completely foolish. But I am shaking my head at the attention being paid to the “long-awaited” HTC TouchPro 2, which is already getting favorable reviews that sound exactly the same as the reviews of the original version. (I paid full price for the HTC Ozone, which seems quite nice – on day two of using it. I’ll keep you posted.)

Hindsight seems to be the only way for us to learn about how new technology will work for us.

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