The biggest technology failures of 2020

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

I think this is not paywalled, but if it is, I’ll post a copy.

From the MIT Technology Review

Details for each item in the list are in the article.

1. Covid tests
2. Unregulated facial recognition
3. Quibi’s quick collapse
4. Mystery microwave weapon
5. #zoomdick
6. Light pollution from satellite megaconstellations
7. The vaccine that make you test positive for HIV
8. Cyberpunk 2077
9. Hydroxychloroquine, the covid drug that never worked 

https://www.technologyreview.com/2020/12/31/1015552/biggest-technology-failures-2020

35 thoughts on “The biggest technology failures of 2020

  1. Biggest technology successes?

    1. The internet adapted to work at home with barely a hiccup.

    2. A safe and highly effective vaccine was produced in record time.

    Especially in light of #2 the items listed pale into insignificance.

  2. I didn’t read the article, but I don’t think COVID tests are a failure. In the beginning they may have been, and the rollout was a failure, but it has evolved. The spit test is excellent, and a great development in easy noninvasive testing with accurate results.

  3. Fails : Unemployment systems from the dark ages that weren’t prepared for large numbers of people trying o access systems in many states.

    Also, the lack of genetic surveillance in the US for Covid. The US lags way behind other countries in performing viral genetic sequencing.

    There are a decent number of wins and I am amazed that most people are able to continue to wfh, remote school etc without a noticeable decline in speed from home networks.

  4. 2021 fails include yesterday’s SpaceX landing. It was fantastic to watch (if you like inferno explosions).

  5. You know, when I suggest these topics, they seem interesting, and then they show up and I’m like, “huh”.

    The one about the video game interested me. I don’t know anything about all these video games, but I heard so much brouhaha about Cyberpunk 2077 that I decided to look into it a bit. You know the actress and comedian Felicia Day? She’s a gamer and she has a Twitch channel. So I spent some time watching her learning to play Cyberpunk 2077. I learned that even with Felicia Day being entertaining about it, I could not possibly care less about Cyberpunk 2077 or probably any other video game. You spend so much time sitting there and getting various weapons, and then you go kill some people, and then you earn more weapons, and Jesus Christ. I practically fainted from boredom.

    As with sports, I’m sorry that I don’t like video games, because the people who love them get so much enjoyment out of them. I wish I could get that much enjoyment out of sports, or video games, or any of the other common things that people like. But I just can’t.

  6. “There are a decent number of wins and I am amazed that most people are able to continue to wfh, remote school etc without a noticeable decline in speed from home networks.”

    Yes! This week is the 10 year anniversary of a huge blizzard that shut down the city here. It was the first time my company had mass numbers of people WFH, and it was a total disaster. The VPN and other systems did not work well at all – couldn’t handle the load at all – and work came to a grinding almost-halt. It was awful (and it was month end, so it was bad for my team in particular). Now we have half the company on video calls – video calls! I couldn’t even open a simple document 10 years ago without issues.

    I am also impressed with how quickly some of the software has adjusted. There must be an update to Microsoft Teams every month – and it’s come a long way from last March when we first started using it.

    @RMS – I think it’s an interesting topic. (but I never care about diversions and hijacks either)

  7. As with sports, I’m sorry that I don’t like video games, because the people who love them get so much enjoyment out of them. I wish I could get that much enjoyment out of sports, or video games, or any of the other common things that people like. But I just can’t.

    Oh I feel the same way about so many hobbyish things.

  8. Speaking of tech, I have 2 tech complaints. One is that our Google Home mesh wifi is incredibly inconsistent and buggy. I think it started around Thanksgiving and has been back and forth since then. DH has spent probably 50 hours trying to debug it with no success. There is no apparent correlation with time of day or when all the kids are on zoom, etc., but sometimes it will just blip in and out or will slow down to dial-up levels. As a result, I have been working in the dining room instead of my office, where I have access to the actual Verizon router network, which in turn makes me paranoid that the kids will come in and disturb me when I am on a client call. Sigh.

    Second: my firm’s virtual desktop setup is SO SLOW and has been like 100x worse since we switched to a ‘new’ virtual machine with Office 365. There has to be a better way! I need to take a poll of my friends at similar firms to see who they use for their IT (we have an outside provider).

  9. L – Office365 (and Share Point / OneDrive / etc.) are SLOW if you don’t have a fast internet. We have it on our work laptops. For years, we were paying for SharePoint and couldn’t access it. We found our internet was too slow to handle it. OneDrive would work for remote backup, not as a mechanism to share documents and work on them simultaneously (think Google Docs).

    Anyway, we upgraded our internet, and magic happened overnight. We now have our personal one-drives and then a group wide sharepoint.

    Since we’ve all be working from home, I notice that I’m the one with the least issues syncing to all this mess. I also have the highest broadband of my team (we upgraded last spring). So, again, check out internet issues with the team both at work and at their homes.

    We are part of a New England wide network that uses All Covered for their IT. I am not a huge fan. Their local person who comes to stay with us when we need things updated/fixed/new computers linked to the system is great. But their phone-in help sucks. I can do more on my own googling than they can. You need to keep elevating the issue to find a tech who knows what they are doing. Hopefully you can find a better group.

  10. Biggest fail of 2020 for me are the roll out of (1) distance learning and/or hybrid learning (my district was and still is a giant clusterf*ck); (2) widespread testing; (3) vaccination. I am also thoroughly mad at how this nation couldn’t get its act together in terms of unemployment help (state issue I know) or some safety net. We basically showed the world that we can’t handle ourselves at all.

    Best summary – lack of leadership at all levels.

    However, we did do a number of things right….(1) an overnight switch to WFH and remote learning without destroying that infrastructure (meaning internet)… (2) recognition that the people who are our backbone are our service workers…. (3) and the development of this vaccine (record time, but not rushed at all… we knew what we were doing from SARS and had every single resource devoted to this one task… kinda like how we got to the moon in less than a decade).

  11. Rhett – I’m pretty sure that DH has already run ethernet to all of the Google Home devices. We even upgraded the cable over Thanksgiving in case it was outdated cable that was the problem.

  12. Open Thread tomorrow, but every day is de facto open. It is mostly common courtesy to hold off on the frequent topics of money and college and cars until mid afternoon eastern/central time. I am trying to schedule no more than one finance and/or one food topic per week.

  13. “You spend so much time sitting there and getting various weapons, and then you go kill some people, and then you earn more weapons, and . .. ”

    – … tweens (mostly, boys) everywhere are entertained for hours.

    It’s just a different version of Candy Crush. (of which I grew bored at about level 100. Currently playing Fishdom and the horrible creatures – are they fish? are they racist? what exactly are they? – have kept me entertained during those times when I have a few minutes to kill or can’t sleep.)

  14. L – how annoying! We have the Google mesh wifi and ours is unbelievably awesome. I bet ours is at least 3 years old, and I think only of the puck things is even directly wired by Ethernet. Our house is 4000 sf and we had plenty of wifi issues before this. Do you think there’s any way you just got bad hardware? It’s like oxygen right now, I would think about just buying a new set (or different brand, eero, orbi, etc). We do have Google fiber for internet, so we have good service, but friends with mesh networks are universally pleased regardless of internet provider,

  15. L,

    Hummm…maybe it’s just that the marble is too thick?

    According to the google, “Avoid placing your router anywhere near your kitchen or other areas that have marble.”

  16. Success and Failure – Schooling from home. I think it depends a lot on the student and teacher. DD#1 was a the test case for doing accelerated math online in middle school (7 years ago) rather than going to her math class. We had to overcome several obstacles, not with the course itself or the online provider, but with the school – from connectivity to reflecting in her transcript because of timing of self paced courses and trying to adjust their grading system. DD#1 liked those classes and did well, but they were set up to be delivered online from the beginning. Fast forward to last Spring – yes, classes transferred to online quickly, but the quality of information transfer, testing processes, and simulation or substitution of labs that provide important hands-on experience has been hit or miss.

    Connectivity FAIL – We have people who live in smaller towns within 45 minutes of downtown that have NO internet and very poor cell reception at their homes. They want it and could afford it, but there is NO provider or it is dial up quality. These same families who have kids who cannot access school online either. This is not a handful of people, but hundreds. Then the digital divide of who can afford internet has become clear.

    This is also impacting ability to register for and get vaccine appointments, telehealth, WFH options or jobs, educating themselves and/or their children and applying for unemployment or food assistance.

  17. Hahahaha Rhett!

    Sunshine, we did get an extra device – I think we have 7 now? DH traces it back to when Google pushed out an upgrade to the pucks, after that it has been super choppy.

  18. The iExit app has probably been around for a while, but I found it during our drive to Florida and it eliminated most of the guesswork associated with planning meal and rest area stops — DH absolutely HATES having to go more than half mile from the exit ramp to figure out where the Starbucks is.
    Didn’t read the article, but though people love to hate on Amazon, it really came through for us this past year.

  19. Thanks for the iExit app. Just installed it. I didn’t know about this one. It is so annoying to see a sign, get on the exit and then realize it is 2.5 miles down the road.

  20. Our big fail (other than the ones in the article) has to be the school getting the ransomware attack and then refusing to pay the ransom. Because it wasn’t challenging enough to, you know, roll out full-time remote schooling to the entire county in and of itself; they had to add “prevent all access to student data” to the list.

    But other than that, I have had to give them credit. They were already embarking on a plan to get all kids devices over the next couple of years, and they expedited that so they were all done by the time school started again. DS’s teachers have also transitioned to online pretty seamlessly, and the tech has worked with no more than the expected glitches. Really, for such a large, immobile organization that takes so much flak*, they did a great job overall under some really difficult circumstances.

    My firm has also managed a major pivot AND home office move in a ridiculously short period of time. I seriously hope all of our IT folks got major bonuses this year, because they killed it.

    I am a little annoyed at everyone glomming on to my bandwidth, though. We had *just* upgraded our internet to the fastest option offered, and then a month later everyone else needed it too, so I am now paying more for the same (and sometimes worse) performance than before. We also have some issue with our main desktop where the internet connection just sort of churns and hangs during the afternoon. I thought it was the backup running, but it continues even after I stop the backup. Then I thought it was DS hogging all the bandwidth when he jumps online after school, but my laptop works just fine. So who knows? But, you know, if that’s the worst thing I have to complain about. . . .

    *One of my ongoing frustrations with our local Fox news station is that the school system can do no right, and everything is a “crisis.” If it’s not (i) a murder or riot, (ii) school/city government malfeasance, (iii) a sports score, or (iv) a local Covid update, it doesn’t make it on their show. I mean, something like a month after the shutdown, they were interviewing one parent who was upset that his kid still didn’t have a device, even though the schools had totally ramped up the distribution to a ton of kids much faster than ever envisioned. I used to watch because they are the only local 10 PM news, but I just got so tired of the drumbeat of redundancy — to the exclusion of other things that were happening in the area that I actually wanted to know about — that I finally gave it up.

  21. Saw my cousin’s wedding on live stream. My mother now knows how to use Zoom. Home country folks are going about their business. It’s almost normal there.

  22. Not sure if this will work, but I can’t believe 3MBS is even an option in a major city, much less the best option. How do you even work?

  23. Becky,

    The google says Frontier Cable is in 99% of North Hollywood and offers 940mbps. Since the gentlemen is in his 80s and putting an ad in the paper maybe he’s using some legacy AT&T product that they won’t upgrade? Hum…it also says AT&T Fiber is available in North Hollywood at 1gbps.

  24. DH is constantly checking the upload and download speeds, messing around with the wifi mesh, calling around for better options. For a long time we had DSL. A few years ago we discovered that although CenturyLink was advertising some super fast speeds, we could not get it no matter what we did in our house and how many times we called. Turns out we were on some “legacy” system, and they needed to update something at some box somewhere in the neighborhood. It was beyond frustrating. We had to switch to Comcast in March in order to get faster speeds. Years ago Comcast installed Fiber Optic in our neighborhood, sadly it still has not made it to our street, but we are doing okay with what we have.

  25. As an ATT internet customer, the newer part of our neighborhood has fiber, we do not. And, the ATT technician who has been out several times to repair our service said we never will. The cost to lay the fiber (really retrofit) is too costly the way the utilities are laid. On the happy side, we don’t have big utility boxes in our front yard – like this.
    https://www.hometalk.com/30558265/q-i-have-an-ugly-green-transformer-box-on-my-front-lawn-looking-for-way

  26. We moved 2 blocks. At our old address AT&T had gig speed available – we had a lower plan (50MPS IIRC), and we had fantastic service – no issues and outages were rare. At our new address, AT&T tops out at 10MBS and those who have it complain it is much slower than that. We switched to Xfinity when we moved. AT&T didn’t even try to keep us for internet.

  27. Also – we “upgraded” to 100MBPS when we moved, and I notice zero difference. None. Do people really need gig speed? We have three people on video conferences, plus multiple streaming devices, and gaming. It’s totally fine.

  28. DH ran a new ethernet cable all the way under the basement last night and put in a new router right underneath my office. So now I can go in my office and have fast internet again – yay! Hopefully this will make the kids’ network less glitchy too.

  29. Back in the fall my company sent out an email about understanding your home network. One of the tidbits I got out of it was that the advertised speed is almost always download speed. So 100MBPS will be all about how fast it comes into your house. The main issue people have is the upload speed – so if you are on video calls and presenting and getting glitchy, you need to look into the “promised” upload speed. It really is a racket.

    We had those boxes growing up, but always in the backyards. As kids we spent lots of time playing on and around them, jumping off, doing cartwheels off them. My dad had landscaped around the one in the corner of our yard and it was my “secret” garden.

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