Tag Archives: technology

Sorry. What were you saying? I was having a moment with this thing in my hand.

Hi. How’s it going? It’s been a while. How are you? How are the wife and kids, and mistresses? Good? Great. Well enough of the small talk.
When I have a busy day, I get about three twenty minute periods between the madnesses to relax. When I first started, my coworkers and I would pass the time by joking, talking, or even watching a movie. These days that doesn’t happen. The breaks are still there, but the interaction isn’t. It’s not that the people are jerks or we hate each other. It’s the iPhone, well smart phones in general.
In a room of six people who get along pretty well, not one person is looking at anything that isn’t a tiny LCD screen. Six people who I know for a fact can pay attention, listen to what others are saying, formulate a thoughtful and intelligent response, and deliver it in a meaningful way, interspersed with witty banter and cutting sarcasm. Yet we no longer converse. The art of conversation has been bludgeoned by shiny little trinkets. Technology has changed the way we interact on a fundamental level, and it’s doing it quickly.
When I was in school, texting was done with pen and paper and passed from person to person until it reached it’s target. The only phone in the room was wired and bolted to a wall. Wireless communication consisted of real time vibrations in the air leaving the teachers mouth, traveling at the speed of sound to interact in real time with our ears. Before you accuse me of being too old to grasp the new tech, I just turned 33. However, my parents can relate with me because they had the same experience. My children will not have a land line, will not pass easily intercepted paper notes, or even understand how such primitive technology put us the moon. Which is where I hope they’ll be living.
Go to any restaurant and look for a couple. Now see how much time goes by before one of them goes for the phone. I’ll bet less than five minutes. Technology has brought the world closer by separating the individuals. We have unprecedented access to information, analysis, and commentary. What’s left to talk about?
E-books (we know my thoughts on those), laptops, and smart phones allow us to bring the things we use to pass our time alone along with us. Farmville, text messages, twitter updates, they all present urgent distractions from the most basic of human pass times. Interaction with other humans. We’re social creatures, and being with other humans is one of those things we just have to do. These days though, that physical proximity has been replace by our digital selves.
Our online identities are just as important to us as our social ones. We have near unlimited access to the lives of others. We know more about them at a glance of their profile page than with five minutes of conversation, and same is true of us. We don’t talk, we browse. We check the stats updates of people across town, across the country, across the world, while the person sitting across from you (whom you’re probably online friends with) is updating their status.
So I blame smart phones. They brought all of this crap out of the house and put it in the palm of our hands. Now, I’m not anti-technology, but I do miss talking with my friends. This change in our daily interactions took less than two years to become the norm. That’s how fast our world is changing.


Linux compatability = yes please

I bought a house in January, and in it was a room that was begging to become a library. I installed my office and book collection in this room, but I wanted something different. I was tired of the standard desk and chair arrangeable of the classic office. It’s not terribly comfortable and I always feel sucked into my monitor.
Here’s what I decided on. Upgrading my 17″ LCD mentor to a 40″ LCD TV and removing me form the desk with a wireless keyboard/mouse combo. I got a great vintage looking leather chair instead of a traditional office chair. The results? Everything I wanted.
Since I’m still new to Linux, I was concerned about compatibility. I shouldn’t have been. That was the old windows part of my brain talking. However, I did some research and asked around in the Linux community. I was once again pleased to find willing and helpful people(I’m sure you all know this, but I’m new so you’ll have to sit through it again). Little Girl of the Mostly Linux blog (WP) was a huge help.
I chose the Logitech Wave cordless keyboard and mouse set. It has a keyboard with multi-media controls and a five button mouse. Mac people, that’s five more buttons than your new mouse. What gives? Any ways, it’s literally plug and play. No problems, no install disc. I have a less than common distribution, so if you’re running Ubuntu I’m sure it’ll be fine.
The 40″ LCD TV is also working smoothly. You might have to play with your display settings though, this thing is bright. Obviously the computer isn’t going to recognize it as a brand name monitor, since it’s not. However, it doesn’t seem to care. The only issue is that my seven year old video card doesn’t output in 16:9, so I get black bars on the side. The TV will stretch it out, but then people’s Facebook heads look funny,
So now I’m writing this from the comfort of a plush leather chair, sitting ten feet from my monitor. I’m no longer sucked into my desk with my back to the door. I can see what’s going on in the rest of the house. My dog has more room on the floor. My Xbox is in here as well, so the wife doesn’t have to wait for the DVR. Everybody is happy.

Digital etiquet

In these days of everyone throwing all of their business on the web for the whole world to see, I begin to wonder about the rules of engagement. I’m not talking about hackers or identity thieves, but about the analog version of human interaction. Real face to face conversation with living humans your reach out and touch, and how our digital lives relate to our personal interactions. I ponder this because I don’t believe the web has been totally integrated into our concepts of personal space.
I’m a web savvy suburbanite, so of course I have a facebook page and two twitter accounts. The facebook page is for my family and far flung friends. I keep the friends list small and limited to people I actually know, and post stuff I would probably tell them over the phone (which I do far too infrequently these days). Basically, I manage my online interactions in the same way I manage my personal interactions. They’re the same thing to me.
For some though, it’s harder to be as selective online. If your facebook friends have 300 friends, surely you should have 300 friends as well. Accepting friend requests from people you hardly know is just the way it’s done. It’s awkward to deny a co-workers friend request and then see them everyday. Still, is it any less awkward when that new co-worker you just meet yesterday but accepted the night before comments on that Halloween party picture in your gallery? You know the one. Yeah… that one.
Where do we draw the line? How well should you know someone before you let them into your digital domain? When is it acceptable to discuss something you saw online (but weren’t a part of) with someone in person? Maybe that co-worker just wanted to feel like they belonged. Maybe they wanted to get to know the group better. How do we prevent awkward real world moments from being caused by digital openness?
Personally, I just post stuff I wouldn’t mind my mother seeing. She is a friend of mine on facebook after all. Are there pictures of me doing dumb things out there? You bet. Do I put them up for the world to see? Absolutely not.
When I get to that awkward place where a co-worker asked me why I haven’t accepted their friend request, I tell them the truth. I view social networking as a way to keep in touch with people I care about, not keep up with work scuttlebutt when I’m at home. Then I spend the next few months frequently denying their vein attempts at friending me (some people just don’t get it).
A few of my co-workers have gone so far as to delete their pages or all of their work friends. I wasn’t hurt or angry that they didn’t want to be my online friend anymore. My real life friendships with them certainly haven’t been impacted by it. Now when I say “What’s up”, I genuinely have no clue and the resulting conversation doesn’t seem redundant.
I’ve always advocated moderation in the online environment. I believe a person should cultivate a few strong relationships rather than many acquaintances. Social networking is a great tool for keeping in touch, but instant access to a relative stranger’s personal life is a bit much. On an unrelated note, follow me on Twitter @faultcode113.

Leave the keys under the mat…

Greetings from my newly independent (and 100% open source) desk top. Linux is running fantastic, and it’s even fun. My 6 year old desk top runs like new with it’s completely open source brains. That said, I begin to wonder about the future of open source. With Google weighing in on the OS game, the idea that open source is the future is certainly appealing. There are some issues to contend with though.
Open software certainly has some things going for it. You get a basic and functional piece of software, as well the ability to customize to your own uses. There are tons of add-ons and extensions to make you OS or browser into what ever you want. The point is that you have tons of people trying to improve the basic functionality with the encouragement of software developer, to various degrees of success. However, you have to have at least a basic understanding of how the software works to even participate.
There’s a down side to openness. The small percentage of computer users who have embraced the open platforms have been playing nice. They’ve enjoyed a nearly nonexistent threat level for the same reason Mac users have. There simply aren’t enough out there to make a virus or worm worthwhile. However, as Mac found out not too long ago, the threat is still there.
Another thing I’ve discovered is that Firefox has some amazing extensions out there, and most of them are created by people in their spare time. One extension that I absolutely loved had lapsed out of date because the developer simply stopped working on it. As software evolves into newer versions, an effort needs to be made to make it easy for 3rd party developers to update their creations. Firefox does a great job of releasing beta and release candidate versions into the wild, and this tactic should work well for other open source systems. Android and Chrome haven’t been around long enough, and I’m too new to Linux, to know if they do the same.
In my field on employment Linux is quickly becoming the preferred OS. The reason being that it’s flexible, reliable, and totally adaptable. Open source evolves and changes very quickly to meet the needs of it’s users. However, in this era of IT overlords, the thought of having a constantly evolving OS to keep up with would give them night mares. They need need to know that when they finally do spend the millions of dollars to update the company’s computer infrastructure, that they won’t have to do it again for a few years. In thirteen years with my company, I’ve seen this update happen three times.
For open source to succeed as a movement it needs to be easy, rock solid reliable, constantly supported, and have today’s versions be relevant years down the road. This isn’t the kind of thing you can keep doing for free. My question is, do we want to become wide spread? I kind of like having a system that’s unique. My Window’s friends see me as an experimenter, while my Mac friends just don’t understand it at all.
It’s kind of like being a “Car Guy”, but with computers. I get to open up in it’s engine and tool around. It’s not for everybody. For that reason, there will always be Microsoft and Apple.

Sour apples…

Dear Cult of Mac,

Thank you for reading. You seem to have read only one sentence though in the previous offering. There are many fine sentences on this blog, some of them joining forces to make a paragraph. I encourage you to enjoy them all. I realize that my inflammatory remarks about your clicking option was insensitive. In the wake of this scandalous choice of words, I will endeavor to be more tolerant and understanding of your hardware. Macs really are very pretty, and they come in lots of fun colors. No doubt this feature alone has afforded you many hours of enjoyment. I hope we can still be friends. I shall now consider this matter closed. The penguin will show you to the door.

Very sincerely yours,

Shutting the window and grabbing my hat…

As you may already know, I’ve been at war with a few computers. They all have one common trait, they run a Windows OS. Well, for my desk top I chose the nuclear option. I wiped it’s brains out and installed a Linux OS. I should have done this a long time ago. What a difference.
First, some background though. I’ve been an avid Windows user for my whole life. To say I can work my way around the OS is a bit of an understatement. I’ve defended it against rabid Mac fans (and I do mean Fans, not users), and their smug sense of superiority. I held in there through the NT and 2000 years. I watched XP became a dependable and solid OS. I was rewarded with Vista and a lack of support for XP. I’m one of the few people who have bought copies of Windows.
My biggest problems with Windows was the swiss cheese security, the bloat , and the inability to change much of anything. I didn’t want messenger, or powerpoint, or media player. The onboard fire wall was a joke. The sheer amount of resources Windows consumed was staggering. Basically, it tried to be everything to everyone all at once. I don’t want that.
After the latest viral outbreak on my desktop, I was faced with re-installing for the third time in as many years. Here were my options: buy a Mac (never!), buy Vista (my copy of XP is long gone), or try Linux. Being the cheapest option, I went with Linux. For $60 I got the 3″ thick Linux Bible (2009 edition), 18 flavors of Linux, and 2 recovery/repair programs. The book walks you through the actually very easy process of switching from Windows to Linux.
I just copied all my important stuff over to an external HD, installed (at random) the Mandriva version of Linux, and reloaded my important stuff to desktop. Firefox and open office came with it, so I didn’t even have to go through the process of downloading and installing them. These programs are not bundled and are easily uninstalled. With in twenty minutes, I was updating twitter and browsing facebook. The included software installer connects to the Mandriva home and can find you the Linux version of whatever software you want, or it’s Linux equivalent. I’ve found everything I looked for and haven’t had to try a different program yet. Also, it uses less than half the resources that Windows does.
There is still a learning curve. Installing software is a bit different, as are the customization options. However, after 24 hours I’ve learned quite a bit. My desk top is now entirely open source. This post is the first by a free man.
Am I totally Windows free? No, my laptop is still running Vista (too new and too under warranty to change), and work of course runs Windows. Is Linux perfect? No, the complete freedom to change settings and choose your software can be daunting at times. Particularly if you’re not computer savvy. Why not Mac? Right click, enough said. I’ll be adding Linux related links in the near future. They have live CD’s for free, so you can try out Linux without wiping your computer. Give it a try.