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Tech journalist Seth Porges on NES awe, Captcha rage and cherry picking Kickstarter

Tech journalist Seth Porges on NES awe, Captcha rage and cherry picking Kickstarter
Billy Steele
Billy Steele|September 27, 2013 1:00 PM

Every week, a new and interesting human being tackles our decidedly geeky take on the Proustian Q&A. This is the Engadget Questionnaire.

In this week's installment of our regular smattering of questions, tech writer Seth Porges chats up the strut-inducing Walkman and how Kickstarter is ripe for industry idea-picking. As always, the full gamut of answers lies just past the break.

Tech journalist Seth Porges on NES awe, Captcha rage and cherry picking KickstarterWhat gadget do you depend on most?
Everybody probably says smartphone - and with good reason. I'll take that as granted, and add in my projector. It's the one gadget that I can use, and actually feel like I'm tuning out or disconnecting. It turns my white wall into a peaceful respite from whatever chaos is around me.

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Which do you look back upon most fondly?
My old Archos Jukebox MP3 player, which served me well way back in the early 2000s. It was one of the first hard drive-based MP3 players and it was built like a tank. I dropped, stepped on and absolutely abused that guy for years. Years! And it never once flopped out on me. It probably lasted me longer than any other single piece of electronics in the past 15 years. How often does any gadget last anybody a year, much less years, these days?

Which company does the most to push the industry?
At the moment, if I'm going to say "Which company has the most specific technologies on the horizon that I am legitimately excited about?" the answer is undoubtedly Google. Works-in-progress such as the company's self-driving cars, Google Now and Google Glass are all very big deals.

Of course, it's easy to pick the Goliath, so let's point out a few Davids that keep me smiling: Roku single-boxedly transformed Netflix's streaming service from something that was largely relegated to computer monitors into a living room staple, and I'm genuinely impressed by the Roku 3's ability to use its remote control to transform any off-the-rack headphone into a wireless audio device. And it's absolutely impossible to overstate the importance of Kickstarter in the gadget industry these days. If it feels like big companies are scouring the site for ideas that they can push to market before the little guys can get their funding and production together... well, that's because they probably are.

What is your operating system of choice?
OS X. Though I dabble in Windows from time to time.

What are your favorite gadget names?
I still think there's something so perfect about the word "Walkman." It sort of makes me want to strut.

What are your least favorite?
Anything along the lines of "TKJF9000fs." If you don't give your product an easy-to-remember name, you're basically giving Best Buy reps carte blanche to steer customers towards whichever product they like (and have the highest margins).

Which app do you depend on most?
Waiting is an unintended and often unavoidable consequence of the modern world. The one-two punch of Plants Vs. Zombies 2 and Civilization Revolution makes it that much easier.

What traits do you most deplore in a smartphone?
Oh boy, I could go on, but it all comes down to misinterpreting our actions. At best, smartphones are mind-readers, capable of realizing exactly what letter we are trying to tap on a virtual keyboard (even if we miss it by a millimeter), or what swipe or action we really meant to make.

The best phones serve as friction-free conduits between our brain's intentions and on-screen actions. The worst don't realize that "Im" should be "I'm," and accidentally call 911 while sitting in my pocket (it's happened).

"I still think there's something so perfect about the word 'Walkman.' It sort of makes me want to strut."

And a lot of Android phones have a lot of work to do in terms of making their native virtual keyboards usable.

Which do you most admire?
Let's just take a second to marvel at the very existence of apps. Remember when you had to wait for phone companies to give you new features? Yeah.

What is your idea of the perfect device?
Something that makes you happy far more often than it makes you angry.
And something that doesn't make you swear it's all part of a plot to force you to upgrade very year.

What is your earliest gadget memory?
I remember opening up my first NES, and getting blown away when somebody showed me how to get to the warp pipes in level 1-2. I can also vaguely remember popping Pitfall into an Atari. The alligators always got me.

What technological advancement do you most admire?
He (or she) who can create a better battery, wins. Mobile technology is a trade-off between horsepower and battery power. If we can create new chemistries that can suck up juice faster, hold it longer and discharge it with greater force... well, that'll transform everything from smartphones to electric cars.

Which do you most despise?

What fault are you most tolerant of in a gadget?
Delivering half-baked features, as long as they don't interfere with the product's core functionality. There's nothing wrong with letting normal users serve as beta testers... as long as they are open about the fact, and can push updates as quickly as possible.

Which are you most intolerant of?
Delivering half-baked features that do interfere with a product's core functionality. Also: Unnecessary OS skins baked into cellphones. Basically bloatware.

When has your smartphone been of the most help?
Strange city, tourist district, decent food. Normally, you're allowed to pick two of these three. Smartphones let me pull a hat trick.

What device do you covet most?
If I had unlimited funds and lived in a city where owning a car made sense, I'd hop on a Tesla Model S waiting list ASAP. Those things look incredible.

If you could change one thing about your phone what would it be?
Unlimited battery life.

What does being connected mean to you?
It means finding great whiskies, staying in touch with friends and earning an audience for work you spend a lot of time on. Just make sure you unplug any chargers with LEDs in your bedroom before crashing. Those things'll mess with your sleep.

When are you least likely to reply to an email?
If I read one on my phone while I'm out, it gets marked as read, and it then gets buried under a deluge of other incoming messages before I can get back to it on my computer.

When did you last disconnect?
I was on a trans-Atlantic flight this week. Airplane mode works.

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Tech journalist Seth Porges on NES awe, Captcha rage and cherry picking Kickstarter