Category Archives: Tech

An Ode to Stupid Jargon

blahMy extreme dislike of stupid words began around the time I noticed the first few car dealers replacing their used cars signs with ones that said pre-owned cars.  Put a new word on something, and instantly convince the masses that it’s something different.  The fact that it apparently works doesn’t help.  It just makes me mad at humanity for being as dumb and gullible as they think we are.

Since then, there has been a steady stream of invented words, designed to fool us into all manner of beliefs and action.  Web 2.0, semantic web, thought leader (by far, my most hated), etc.  In real life, when people start talking at me in this language, I belittle them by saying “I don’t understand all these made-up words you’re using.  Can you just talk regular?”  The look on the person’s face and the laughter from anyone who overhears this (some of whom, by now, know it’s coming) almost make it worth it.

It’s harder to stop this semantic madness when you’re reading stuff online or (if you enjoy day old information) in those quaint newspapers.  Over time, you become less sensitive to it, but it remains a mild irritant.  Like shirts with starch in them.  And ties.  I don’t need a neck tie, because I have buttons.  I don’t need to reach out to someone, because I can email them.

I’ve always been a Weird Al fan.  Now, I have another reason to be one.  This is my favorite of the recent Weird Al videos.

weirdal

NOTE: Some stupid deal made by somebody seems to be preventing people from embedding the video, which means we all get forced to the WSJ page to see it.  I just love the way old media tries to apply the old media rules to the web.  It doesn’t make us love you, folks.  It makes us as annoyed as some of the words in the clever music video you are holding hostage.

Regardless, the video is worth the trip.  Good stuff.

When the Web was Cool

nerdalert

The Atlantic has a great read on the good old days when coolness (or maybe not) ruled the web.  Back in the 90’s, when all of this was new, there were some mostly (and mostly thankfully) now-forgotten trends.  One of them was publicly shared bookmarks- a list of (allegedly) interesting sites to visit.  This evolved into blog rolls, which you still see once in a while.  Another was guest books, where visitors could- if they were so inclined- add their names and acknowledge their visit.  Sort of a communal “Kilroy was here” sort of thing.  Another was were script driven, rotating lists of links where you could add your page’s link to the top.  Then return later, after it had rotated off, and add it again.  I remember adding the first iteration of Newsome.Org to such a list hosted by (and I’m not even kidding) some teddy bear company.

outpost

And there were awards.  Everyone had one.  The one I bestowed on lucky web masters was called the Rancho DeNada Outpost of the Week.  Awesome, right?  The graphic above is the original award from the mid-nineties (converted to png).

Here’s a screen cap of the page with the lucky winners, also from the mid-nineties.

Click for a larger version of this vintage awesomeness!

Click for a larger version of this vintage awesomeness!

Of those, the only one I still visit is IMDB.  I can’t even remember most of them.

Of course, the mid-nineties version of Newsome.Org also won some awards.  It was hard not to.  Here’s a screen cap of the page with some of those approbations, again from the mid-nineties.

Click for a larger image of this vintage awesomeness!

Click for a larger image of this vintage awesomeness!

Those were fun days.  Looking back, a lot of these trends look like the digital equivalent of a bad haircut.  But like haircuts, what looks silly today was rocking back in the day.  Or was it?

Tech Farrago

Here are a few tech related items I came across recently.

Google Voice wants to make its transcriptions better.  That’s cool, since they haven’t gotten any better since this (which was over 4 years ago).  I like Google Voice, but the transcriptions are only useful as unintended comedy.

Speaking of Google Voice, you can also save the audio voice mails to Google Drive with this handy script.  I don’t do that, but it’s cool that I could if I wanted to.  What I want more is for Google Voice not to die a Google Reader death.

Save a web page as a PDF here.  You could probably just print to PDF via your Print menu, but where’s the fun in that.  I am still looking for an Automator, Apple Script, Hazel, etc. process to reliably and automatically convert documents in a specified folder to PDF.  Sounds simple, right?  But it must not be, because it doesn’t exist as far as I can tell.

labelmaker

I shouldn’t admit this, but I’m intrigued by the new Brother label printer.  I’m a big fan of Brother printers in general, and I too had one of those rotary label makers.

I love Fujitsu ScanSnap scanners.  Brooks Duncan (number one web site for paperless living) tells us how to disable the progress window.  I scan a lot of stuff, so this is good.

Not technically tech related, but awesome.  The New Yorker is opening up its archives.  Only for three months, though.

James Berardinelli explains exactly why I rarely go to movie theaters.  It’s the people, man.  Always the people.  I’m probably going to make a exception for the new Planet of the Apes movie this weekend.

As I noted the other day, I like the Philips Hue line of automation devices.  This light switch looks very promising.

My friend James has an idea for a new Apple device.  I don’t know.  The Windows convertible devices I used back in the day were, well, not fun.  On the other hand, I haven’t worn a watch in years, and I’m very curious about the iWatch.  Maybe Apple can recreate two previously obsolete devices.

Automatic, Not for the People

automaticsda

I’m very interested in automation and the aggregation of life data, and am a longtime user of Dropcams (excellent), WeMos (very good), SmartThings (kludgy, but OK once you get them configured, and possibly about to suffer death by acquisition), Philips Hue (good) and IFTTT (maybe the best thing on the internet).

So when I read about the Automatic Smart Driving Assistant (a reasonable $99), the under-dash device that promised to connect my car to my iPhone and then to IFTTT, giving me all kinds of helpful data, geolocating my car, and making me a better driver, I was interested.  A month or so ago, I took the plunge.  Shortly thereafter, I bought a second one for my daughter’s car (some teenage driver monitoring can be done now, via the device, but Automatic has indicated better monitoring features are coming in the future).  Here’s a summary of my experience so far.

The good?  Installation is easy.  When it works, the device and app combination clearly has potential.  The developers have an active and friendly presence in the support forums.  I want to love this device.  Hopefully, one day I will.

The bad?  Just about everything else.  The device is completely dependent on your phone for capturing and recording data.  Most annoyingly, the device only connects to my iPhone about half the time (and yes, even with the app open in the background).  Which means that I get data on about half my trips, and nothing, nada on the rest.  A taste of honey and all that.  One of the killer (potential) features of the device is that, via IFTTT, it will automatically create a spreadsheet on Google Drive that automatically logs your trips.  Awesome, right?  Except here’s a screen cap of my current log, which- like the Automatic app itself- says I haven’t driven since Monday (three days ago).

automaticlog

There’s a lot more information in the spreadsheet. It’s more awesome than the limited capture above.  When it works, that is.

That’s actually better than the one in my daughter’s car.  It says she hasn’t driven in over a week.  She just got her license and her first car, and drives all the time.

Automatic says the failure to connect issue has, at least in part, to do with limitations under iOS.  OK, but isn’t that like selling a jet pack and then saying its failure to work properly has to do with gravity?

In sum, the Automatic Smart Driving Assistant clearly has potential.  When it works, it’s pretty awesome.  But it isn’t quite ready for prime time.

 

 

Don’t You Know that I Can See

You have to click play before you can proceed.

Generally, I am a strong proponent of knocking down walls and tossing the gatekeepers out on their selective ears.  Remember how much we used to care about who linked to whom?  And sometime before that, I actually cared about the NBA and thought soccer was boring.  That was all wrong.

Like much of what one reads in the so-called press these days.  Now that the newspapers have been killed (generally good) and most content has been drug to free, anyone with a MacBook and an internet account can be a journalist.  Or at least portray one of the internet.  Sort of like I’m doing now.

That means more people competing for the same number of eyeballs, which results in more and more extreme stories, marketing and editing.  This is math, inevitable.  Which means you have some people who couldn’t write their way out of a wet paper bag hammering out half-baked and overly dramatic headlines.  Link bait is the new journalism.  Long live BuzzFeed.

foxnews

Add to the mix some extreme polarization between ideologies, and you have a constant stream of bullshit that either pisses you off or reinforces what your preferred plutocrat has told you you already believe.  It’s a hot mess.

I was off the grid for WWDC this year.  When I read some of the recaps, it seemed like a very underwhelming event.  Macworld has a great recap of the rush to fail.  I was disappointed.

Until I watched the video of the keynote.  And realized that, while no new hardware was announced (it is, after all, a developer‘s conference), Apple announced some things that are not only awesome but destined to materially improve mobile computing.  In other words, it was very impressive.  Something I would never have known based on the news reports.

See for yourself.

Evening Reading: 4/22/14

NOBI14-140422

Here’s a great read on the life and abandonment of AIM.  Here’s my take on instant messaging, from the day before Google Talk was released, in 2005.

Apple (or someone) really needs to come up with a reverse-lookup phone book.  The majority of calls I get at home are from suspicious numbers.  Google used to do it with a simple phone number search, but some Chicken Littles whined about privacy so Google removed most of the functionality.  Maybe Truecaller is the answer.  Maybe.  The taking a screenshot thing seems burdensome.

The Atlantic (love it) is streaming the new Old 97’s record, which will be out at the end of this month.  Here’s the title track.

Who Originally Said “I’m Not A Doctor, But I Play One on TV“?  I watched the show back then, and still didn’t remember.

The reason people hate airlines, and especially United, is because the gate attendants simply aren’t always nice.  I was on my way to Dallas last week and got to the airport early.  I walked up to the departure gate as an earlier flight was leaving and asked if I could get on that fight.  Not one of the three ladies behind the (not at all busy) desk looked at me or acknowledged my inquiry.  I thought maybe they didn’t hear me, so in a minute or so I asked again, nicely.  Nothing.  Eventually, one of them started typing away on her computer.  A few minutes later, she finally looked at me and said she’d put me on standby.  All I needed was a glance and some sort of response (yes, no, maybe) to be satisfied.  What I got was the sense that I was bothering them.

I was relatively late to the Oxford comma.  But I generally follow that approach now.

Fortran, FTW.  Fortran was the first programming language I (sort of) learned.  I thought it was a lot of work for a small reward.  Sort of like blogging.

This is exactly why I have never acted on my recurring urge to switch to a standing desk.

Yeah, I’m thinking Facebook’s Paper app is on the Google+ trajectory of use adoption.  I tried it.  I deleted it.

Not recommended:  Three times I have tried to use an Eye-Fi card.  Three times I have tossed them in the trashcan, irritated by the user-unfriendly, non-intuitive interface.  There is no way I am going to go through that sort of hell again just to create more cloud space, when Google and Amazon( AWS) are almost giving it away.

They aren’t that hard to swat.  If you have a fly swatter.

Sounds of Tech, Episode 3: All About the iPad

SOT Logo

Here’s Episode 3 of the Sounds of Tech (SOT) podcast.  Tech talk for grownups, with some fantastic music thrown in for good measure.  Let’s see how we can use tech to improve our lives, save us money and make us more productive.

Today’s show will help you figure out what apps to put front and center on your iPad and how to arrange them for maximum efficiency.

Page 1; click for larger view

Page 1; click for larger view

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Page 2; click for larger view

Page 3; click for larger view

Page 3; click for larger view

Great songs played

One from Fever Tree’s 1968 record Another Time, Another Place.  Purchase links:  I can’t find any, if you know one, let me know and I’ll add it.

One from Fred Eaglesmith’s 1980 self-titled record.  Purchase links:  Amazon, iTunes.

More in a week.

Here’s the RSS feed.  Here’s the iTunes link.

Evening Reading: 4/10/14

aport

It seems inevitable that the world is moving away from desktop computers, through laptops to tablets.  I guess I am an iMac loving dinosaur, but I find it much harder to create anything on a tablet.  Read?  Sure.  Work?  Nah.

This would be the best thing that ever happened to every Apple TV competitor, which is why Apple won’t do it.  There are pennies in putting geeky headsets on nerds.  There are bags of gold in helping non-geeks to cut the cord and get elegant, on demand content.

Let me say it again.  No redesign on earth is going to save iTunes.  I love almost everything Apple, but I abhor iTunes.  It needs to be tossed and a new media application redesigned from the ground up.  I’m not the only Mac devotee who feels that way.

10 Most Unnecessary Movie Sequels Of All Time.  I’ve never seen any of them.  But I eagerly await Sharknado 2.  No, I’m not kidding.

This is good advice.  I do OK on humble and kind, as long as I trust the intention of those who would seek kindness (e.g., don’t knock on my door at 10:00 at night in some sketchy outfit and offer to sell me magazines).  I struggle sometimes with the calm part.

College costs are out of control.  I make way more than my parents and I’m not even considering my alma mater (Wake Forest) for my kids because it’s too expensive.  Yeah, it’s a great school, but not great enough to warrant the price.

Speaking of too expensive, Feedly, which I love and happily pay for, is really hawking Zapier.  I’d never heard of Zapier before, and there is no way I’m paying this much to use it.  Word of advice kids.  If IFTTT can be free (and I’d happily pay for it)….

OK, about this Heartbleed business.  Here’s the source you should trust.  If you use LastPass (and you should), they have made it very easy for you.  Click the LastPass icon then Tools>Security Check.

I don’t have much of a spam problem in my Facebook news feed.  What I do have is a lot of humblebrag.  I’m starting to dump folks who use Facebook primarily to humblebrag.  It’s tiresome.

Evening Reading: 4/8/14

NOBI13-140407

So, the Weather Channel fought DirecTV and DirecTV won.

Here are some interesting tidbits about the upcoming iOS 8 ands OSX 10.10.

I bought an Amazon Fire TV, and my initial impressions are positive.  Shows seem to load faster, which is a plus at the farm, where our broadband is not all that broad.  Consumerist has a good write-up.  Google TV was one of- and maybe the- worst designed train-wrecks I’ve ever experienced.  I threw mine away (I didn’t want to donate it and ruin someone else’s day).  So my expectations for Android TV are low.

Here’s a good read on parenting, routines and Michael Phelps.  All I can say is I didn’t do any of that stuff, and it shows at my house.

While we’re thinking about things to do differently, Confront These 10 Inconvenient Truths Today for a Better Life.

I don’t know how I missed this, but I did.  Amazing work.  Much, much better than typical “fan fiction.”

This does not surprise me at all.  And, of course, our broadband connection went out last night.  So we get to dive into customer service hell with the winner.

Adobe Lightroom comes to the iPad.  Photoshop is the only software application I rent, and only because I need it more than I need to prove how much I hate renting software.  Everyone loves Lightroom, so I need to check it out.  Cult of Mac loves it.

RIP, Archie.  I’ve never been a big comic book reader, but I read a few of these back in the day.

I meant to share this on 4/6/14, but I forgot.  Here‘s a site that shows your first tweet.  Here’s mine.  Follow me on Twitter for daily pointers to interesting stories that don’t make it into Evening Reading.

firsttweet

Looks like I need to rethink my correspondence valediction.  Or maybe not.

 

Sounds of Tech, Episode 2

SOT Logo

Here’s Episode 2 of the Sounds of Tech (SOT) podcast.  Tech talk for grownups, with some fantastic music thrown in for good measure.  Let’s see how we can use tech to improve our lives, save us money and make us more productive.

This episode covers how to easily dip your toe into the wonderful pool of home automation products.  In less than a half hour you’ll be well on your way to an automated, more secure- and cooler- home.

Tech topics covered

Dropcam, the easiest and most useful entry point into home automation.  Purchase at Amazon.

[Update: For some reason, when I insert videos in the show notes, the iTunes feed thinks this is a video podcast and only shows one of them.  I removed the sample Dropcam videos, but trust me, they were high quality.]

WeMo, easy remote control for lamps, lights and other appliances.  Purchase at Amazon.

App of the week: the best choice for cheap, automated computer backup.

Great songs played

One from Mercury Dime’s 1997 record Baffled Ghosts.  Purchase links:  Amazon.

One from Country Coalition’s self-titled 1970 record.  I can’t find any purchase links.  If you know one, send it to me and I’ll add it.

One from Quinaimes Band’s self-titled 1971 record.  Purchase links:  Amazon, iTunes.

More in a week.

Here’s the RSS feed.  Here’s the iTunes link.