An End to Computer Annoyances

An End to Computer Annoyances

By Gabriel Goldberg, APCUG Advisor; Columnist, AARP Computer & Technology Website,

Many of us have mixed relationships with computers and technology. They enrich our lives but can be maddening at times. Books and magazines often tell us how great they are, but an O'Reilly book series addresses the dark side of the story by describing their annoyances and offers "help for newbies and powerusers alike."

The format of the books is similar to Q&A dialogues or lists of FAQs (frequently asked questions). They're not meant to be read from cover to cover but explored based on a particular need or curiosity. This search is assisted by good tables of contents and full indexes. The books are written in conversational English, pairing annoyances with their fixes, and include an abundant amount of clear and helpful screen shots.

While flipping through these books, the handy tips boxes lead to many "aha" moments and I was able to identify many solutions to current and future problems. Some of the content overlaps between books, such as Internet topics being addressed in its own book, Internet Annoyances, also being mentioned in both PC Annoyances and Home Networking Annoyances. You may want to read a general book along with those specific titles that address your main interests. Some books are in their second edition, making it worthwhile to check print dates and edition numbers before purchasing them.

Steve Bass, author of PC Annoyances, provides a good introduction, stating that "Many people are now realizing that they've been putting up with programs that have downright annoying features and yes, bugs. It's high time they learned they aren't alone, it's not their fault, and, most important, there are solutions and workarounds."

Bass' book isn't overly technical. It addresses topics such as e-mail, Windows, the Internet, Microsoft Office, Windows Explorer, music, video, CDs, and hardware. Many all-too-common problems are identified and solved, but it's not all-inclusive. For example, it doesn't mention Thunderbird e-mail or Firefox browser, both of which I like a lot, but they can be annoying too! Coverage of Windows XP SP2 is localized and not mentioned places where it would be appropriate. Varied software is recommended, free and purchased, downloaded and store-bought, and advice is provided on configuring Windows and applications. And non-annoyance bonus material, such as "IM Netiquette rules," which was both entertaining and valuable. I was happy to learn how adding a work menu to MS Word gives instant access to frequently-used documents.

Another book in this series, PC Hardware Annoyances, covers diverse topics including computer setup, keyboard, mouse, startup, BIOS/CMOS, memory, processor, maintenance, and battery. Some annoyances are offered up as questions, such as "Do I need specialized PC cleaning supplies?" The helpful and short answer is "no", since common materials, used appropriately, work just fine. Because everyone has unique interests and concerns, even the book's specialized items are useful and thought provoking.

Other Annoyances titles address computer privacy, home networking, the Internet, the Mac, Windows XP for geeks, and some Microsoft applications (Access, Excel, and Word), all of which are listed on the O'Reilly Annoyances Central Web site. This site also offers additional resources to combat computer-related annoyances with it's Experts' Blogs (a good way to get your unique questions answered before they appear in a book), the Daily Fix (a stream of individual items from the books), and Robert's Rant (the slow-paced blog of Robert Luhn, the Annoyances series Executive Editor, who addresses topics such as whether Wikis can be trusted and the origin of his book series).

Title: PC Annoyances
Author: Steve Bass
Paperback: 252 pages
Publisher: O'Reilly Media
ISBN: 0596008821
Price: $19.95


Title: PC Hardware Annoyances
Author: Stephen J. Bigelow
Paperback: 266 pages
Publisher: O'Reilly Media
ISBN: 0596007159
Price: $24.95

This article originated on AARP's Computers and Technology Web site,, and is copyrighted by AARP. All rights are reserved; it may be reproduced, downloaded, disseminated, or transferred, for single use, or by nonprofit organizations for educational purposes, with attribution to AARP.


Author: Gabriel Goldberg, APCUG Advisor; 
Columnist, AARP Computer & Technology Website,
Date: 03 /  2006