Each week Joshua Fruhlinger contributes This is the Modem World, a column dedicated to exploring the culture of consumer technology.

DNP This is the Modem World Things we'll be returning

We're the family techies. The nerds. The ones who answer all your questions at family holiday gatherings about setting up new tablets and killing viruses. And it's sweet of you to buy us gadgets, but the chances of you getting us something that we don't already have and something that we actually want are, honestly, slim. So we take the gifts, say "How did you know?" and quietly return them for things we actually want. Don't take it personally. It's just that we kinda know what we're doing when it comes to ones and zeros.

Therefore, I present to you the things we will be returning this week. And if you're the friend or loved one of a propeller head, perhaps this will help you next year.

HDMI cables

You probably heard us complain about HDMI cables all the time -- we never have enough, they're not long enough and we blame them when the cable starts acting up. The loving listener that you are -- you went and bought us a really expensive, gold-plated HDMI cable from a major electronics store.

The problem is that those $100 HDMI cables are no better than the ones we order online for $3. In fact, we like the $3 ones because we can choose the exact color and length and are probably ordering other cables and switches and zip ties at the same time anyway. Thanks for the thought, but we'll take the $100 credit and use it for a couple video games.

Printers

When you thought you were doing the right thing by heading straight for the computer section while shopping for us, you were actually about to commit the biggest tech crime we know: buying a printer. Sure, the $149 all-in-one is very shiny and you know we don't already have a printer, but that's because we hate printers. Printers break. Printers jam. Printers are messy and cartridges are really expensive.

We foresee a paper-free world, where banks accept PDF files and email attachments are just as good as faxes. Thanks for the thought, but we don't even need to print out our boarding passes anymore; there's an app for that.

Smartphone covers

You know and love us. You pay attention to our interests and hobbies. That's why when you saw that Nightmare Before Christmas smartphone cover, you knew we would love it. You wrapped it and proudly handed it to us, declaring, "This is SO you!" We opened it, cringed inside and thanked you. You watched as we slid the cover on our phone, wide-smiled and gritted out a "Thank you!"

Here's the thing: only monogamous smartphone users have cases. A case means we're committed to that phone. But we have ephemeral relationships with our smartphones. We'll probably have a new one next month, so that case is really a waste of cash. Besides, we want everyone to see exactly what device we're using and a case just gets in the way.

World of Warcraft

You're so sweet. You walked into the game store, asked the clerk what the most popular PC game was and she answered honestly: World of Warcraft. We unwrapped it, glimpsed the cover, flashed back to years of solitude and weight gain and exclaimed, "Eeee! Warcraft! Thaaanks!"

Truth is, buying us WoW is like buying a caffeine addict his own Japanese slow drip. We all have friends who are leveling up their characters on weekends, who give up social engagements for raids and chances are we've been down that path ourselves. Our level 60 Druid is still waiting for us like a demon in the shadow. Don't do this to us. Take it back. Save us all.

USB gadgets

That little dog that humps the side of a laptop? Those bobbing flowers? That coffee warmer?

No, just no. Our USB ports are for card readers, external drives and tablets only. Don't make us bring these things to the office, either. The IT dudes will never let it go.

Please don't take any of this the wrong way. The thing is -- our tech lifestyle is the result of years of success and failure, and at the end of the day, we really do need socks.



Joshua Fruhlinger is the former Editorial Director for Engadget and current contributor to both Engadget and the Wall Street Journal. You can find him on Twitter at @fruhlinger.

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This is the Modem World: Things we'll be returning