Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Pretty catchy title, eh? Sometimes just coming up with an idea for a title is harder than writing an article.

I don’t speak French. Oh, sure—I know a few words, but not enough to claim I understand the entire language. And sometimes I can even understand what I’m hearing based on context and tone of voice.

Which brings me back to Skype.

Apparently, rebooting Ed’s system fixed everything. At least, when he got back from walking the dog, everything seemed to be working.

This morning, we verified my theory that I had fixed Skype when a friend in France called Ed via the program, and they talked about 30 minutes. Now here’s the thing—and the whole point of this post—about language: From what I was able to understand in my limited knowledge of French, they were both railing against modern technology in general and Skype in particular.

Let me repeat: they were both railing against modern technology in general and Skype in particular—all the while sitting in front of computers, chatting between two countries thousands of mile apart, complete with live video feeds—and not seeing the irony.

And my frustrations? I drowned them in TWO large cups of whole-leaf Assam.

To paraphrase that great American philosopher, Homer Simpson, “Tea: is there anything it can’t do?” (Homer actually asked this not of tea but of jelly donuts, but hey, poetic license!)

Frustration is…

Posted: 21 January, 2018 in Frustration, Technology

…Trying to Provide Tech Support to Someone Who Doesn’t Want to Learn Anything

My landlord Ed is a pretty intelligent guy. My rent includes free Internet, so from time to time I have no issue helping him with his computer. But usually the first I’m aware that he’s having an issue is when I hear him downstairs, screaming at his computer.

The latest problem began when one of the agencies he contracts with for jobs told him the reason he was having problems logging into their billing system was that he needed to empty his cache and clear out all of his cookies. So he did, only to discover later when he tried to answer a call on Skype that deleting the cookies broke Skype. He could see and hear the caller, but the caller neither saw nor heard him.

Robyn to the Rescue!

Except Robyn has never used Skype, and so knows absolutely nothing about how it works (Coincidentally, my ex texted me a couple of days ago asking for help with Skype.)

Okay, okay. I can take a hint. I guess I’ll have to learn how to use Skype. But so far as Ed’s problems go, well, I’m running Windows 10 and he’s still on Windows 7. So I’m worried about possible compatibility issues between the two versions of Skype.

A Learning Disability?

Can the fact that someone refuses to learn anything new truly be considered a disability? Because this, more than anything, is Ed’s problem: he doesn’t want to learn anything new. He has his own ideas about how programs should run, and gets frustrated and angry when they don’t fit those preconceived notions.

I once considered recommending he get a computer where everything works the same way (Macintosh), but then I realized that would mean having to learn new things.

Peace and Quiet

Ed’s pretty quiet now. At least he’s not screaming at the computer any more. So I’m going to take the opportunity to sneak back upstairs and learn how to use Skype.

Because I don’t know if it’s truly quiet, or if this is the calm before the storm.

George Harrison Had it Right

Posted: 20 January, 2018 in Rants, Technology
Tags: ,

As a child of the ’60s, much of the soundtrack to my teenage years was provided by the Beatles. I wasn’t quite as fanatical as, say, Douglas Adams (who wrote–besides A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) also famously said,

I remember my school days. They were what was going on in the background while I was trying to listen to the Beatles.

Still, I was so into the Fab Four that even now, some 55 years later, I still remember the lyrics to most of their songs.

Do what you want to do
And go where you’re going to
Think for yourself
‘Cause I won’t be there with you.

That was one of George’s contributions, Think For Yourself.

Which brings me to today’s post.

You’re Smarter Than You Think You Are

Trust me on this. Know how I know? Because you in your great wisdom close to read my blog instead of Netflix and Chill. Instead of Facebook.Just kidding. I do both of those things when they’re appropriate.

But here’s the thing: as I was conducting my morning ritual of brewing the perfect cup of tea (which will be the subject of a future post), it dawned on me that before Google, most of my knowledge came from my own investigation and experience.

library catalog

Remember this? This was my generation’s Google. The library card catalog was where we started our search for information. It was a system which itself took practice before we could consider ourselves its masters.

This system still exists, although in many libraries it’s been computerized. It’s quicker to find what you’re looking for, although I would argue that mastering it on the computer requires its own set of special skills.

Google and World Domination

Now consider Google. You can think of it as a huge library card catalog containing the contents not only of your library, but every library in the entire world. In a sense, it is the 21st century’s Alexandria Library: a repository of all the knowledge in the world.

And therein lies the problem. Imagine going to your local library and asking the librarian for a book about the silk industry. She (or he: after all, we must be politically correct) returns with a cart overflowing with books about the history of the industry, ancient Chinese and Japanese history, the silkworm, the care and feeding of silkworms…you get the picture.

Information overload. A concept more common in the Age of Google than any other time in world history. I can’t give you an exact dictionary definition, but to me, it means too much information than I can possibly absorb.

And that’s the problem. It’s like asking for a glass of water and getting the Pacific Ocean.

If we came from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?—Anonymous creationist

If we have Google, why are there still stupid people?—Me

So What’s The Point?

Think for yourself, ‘cause I won’t be there with you.

Although your mind’s opaque,
Try thinking more if just for your own sake.
The future still looks good,
And you’ve got time to rectify all the things that you should.

Especially since this week was when the days officially started getting longer. But when I said they’re getting brighter, I meant it in a figurative and not a literal sense. You DO know what “literal” means, yes? It’s one of those words that far too many people sprinkle their speech with, never realizing that they’re using it incorrectly. It also gets confused with “virtual,” which is the word they should use.

ANYWAY, after nearly 10 days without my iPhone, I was finally able to get a ride to the Verizon store, where I was informed that there was nothing they could do, and that I needed to take it to the Apple Store.

When I explained this to my driver (my landlord), he asked where the Apple Store was. “Eastview Mall,” I answered.

This will tell you what kind of a guy my landlord, Ed, is: Eastview Mall is about 15 miles from our house. Ed’s reaction? “Well, we might as well go there now.”

At the Apple Store, since I didn’t have an appointment, they told me there would be about a 10 minute wait—which turned out to be about 3 minutes. I explained my problem, and that I was unable to resolve it on my own, since none of the troubleshooting steps list on the Apple web site worked.

Dave (the technician) was able to resolve my problem in about 10 minutes. I was a Happy Camper!

Of course, once I got home, it took about 30 minutes to restore my files.

What I Learned

1. Always, always, always BACK UP YOUR PHONE! Of course, since I was already obeying Robyn’s First Rule of Computing it was no big deal. What’s that? Oh, right: Robyn’s First Rule of Computing states BE PARANOID AND COMPULSIVE when it comes to backing up your data.

2. When attempting to recover from iPhone problems, it’s always best to do so via iTunes on a Macintosh computer. I have a PC and iTunes, but that combination just didn’t work.

3. You can save yourself a lot of heartache and stress if you get it fixed immediately!

And thus endeth the lesson for today.

Yes, it’s fancy. And yes, it’s beautiful. And yes, I love my iPhone 6S Plus.

But I’m going to give the X (which Apple says to pronounce “10”) a miss. There are a couple of reasons.

First, there’s the iPhone 8 Plus. In every way that’s relevant to me, it’s the same technology as the X…for a few hundred dollars less.

Second—and crucially—the iPhone X uses facial recognition to unlock the device. There is no alternative. The iPhone 8, on the other hand, still gives you the option of logging in with your fingerprint, a password, or a PIN.

Why is this important?

Courts have held that passwords and PINs are intellectual property. That means that you own them. Law enforcement officers (LEOs) cannot make you divulge them without a warrant, nor can they make you use them to log in without a warrant.

Fingerprints and faces, however, are not your property, plus they fall under the “plain sight” exception to any warrant requirement. In other words, if a LEO asks you to log on to your phone by looking at it or just touching it, you have no legal right to refuse.

And that, my friends, is something that may not have occurred to Apple.

Also, Samsung’s facial recognition on their new flagship smartphone has been shown to be fooled by a photograph of the owner’s face!

So yes, as soon as I pay off some bills and save some money, I definitely will upgrade to the iPhone 8 Plus. My only remaining decision will be 64 Gb or 256 Gb. My iPhone 6S Plus has 16 Gb. I wanted to save money, but it was a mistake. I should have gone with 32 Gb.

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