It always amazes me when I hear a cellular phone ring the same ring it came out of the box with. Even today, with the custom ring tone business going gangbusters, many people don't change their ring from the default Nokia tune or the T-Mobile jingle. And whenever two or more of these people are in the same room and one of their phones rings, it's massive beepilepsy as everybody grabs for their pockets and purses.
Unchanged ring tones are the most prevalent symptom of what I call defaultitis, the disease in which technology users don't change dopey default settings. I don't get it--all this personal technology is supposed to adapt to you, after all. Changing defaults should come as naturally as adjusting the seat and the mirror when you get in a car. Make it fit you; otherwise, you're in for an uncomfortable and awkward ride.
Here are some of the early indications of defaultitis:
I've already mentioned this one, but let me elaborate. You don't have to pay the buck or so for a silly Ashlee Simpson ring tone to customize your cell; all cell phones come with a decent library of twiddles and bleeps that will set your phone apart. Furthermore, if you work in a cubicle, I strongly recommend changing your desk phone's ring, too. There's an option in most office phones to change it, although you might have to dig a little. The investment will be worth it, though, when you avoid spraining your ankle on a mad dash to pick your desk phone every time your cube neighbor's mom calls.
What are you, a sheep? No? Then why haven't you changed the default Windows desktop image of a hill of fresh green grass? Sure, it's peaceful, but you can easily put your spouse, pet, or '67 Camaro on the desktop. Or do what I do to improve performance on a notebook PC: go with no image at all, just a plain black screen. Who needs the distractions?
If you have a mouse with extra side buttons, a little remapping will go a long way. For example, Microsoft mice with two side buttons have them set, by default, to page back and page forward. The page-back button is very useful for Web browsing, but how often do you use page forward? I change my forward button to go to the next window instead (like pressing Alt+Tab on the keyboard). There's less wrist strain this way.
Menu items and keyboard shortcuts
Nobody uses their computer the same way everybody else does, so it doesn't make sense that most menus and keyboard shortcuts are identical. For example, I generally have to write or edit text to a certain length, and Word has a handy word-count feature. But it's buried in the menus. The first thing I do when I get a new machine is assign the word-count feature to Ctrl+W. I'm sure that whatever you do, there's some similar feature that could stand a front-and-center keystroke.
Wireless router settings
When it comes to your Wi-Fi connection, not changing defaults can actually be dangerous. Many wireless routers come with security settings turned off by default, and they also broadcast their presence (and their owner's laziness) by showing up to any Wi-Fi device with their default ID, such as "default," or "Linksys." If you leave one of these unmodified devices on your home or small-business network, a hacker could easily get access to your PCs, shared files, printers, and servers. To improve security, first turn on whatever security options are available to your router and the machines that will be connecting to it. Some routers also have the option to turn off the broadcasting of the ID.
I know that I'm not the only fiddler out there; plenty of you like to tweak your tech to fit your mood. Still, it surprises me how many people take boring and even dangerous defaults lying down. I've said it before: You're in charge of your technology. Don't let it push you around.
Are you a defaulter or a customizer? Discuss it in our TalkBack!