polemicist: a writer who argues in opposition to others  

A BLOG about science, technology, consumerism, philosophy, higher education, media and other bothersome stuff that makes up modern life...

20080427.2341 Twitget

20080427.0103 Blogging like a Twit

I was sitting in a very long meeting recently and strangely enough it was in reading this Penny Arcade comic that actually compelled me to give Twitter a try. Yes I have an iPhone. Duh. No I don't Twitter on the bowl.

I do like to actually try things so that I have the Right to bash them when I think they're crap. So far, Twitter is a crap idea. Like most social networks it involves a huge invasion of your privacy. This one even has a 'feature' that allows you to give it your username and password for your email client so that it can absorb all of your email contacts as potential new Twitter clients. It's truly frightening. Oh they say that they don't keep that information & that it's only a one time service - but Holy Crap! Why not just take an export file from your address book or something?

Aside from this, the most obvious problem with this service is that people will know when it is the best time to rob your house - because you tell them. Combine this with the fact that it's simply the fastest method to create a completely shallow autobiographical narcissistic blog that is boring as all hell to read and you could say that so far this is a thumbs down scenario.

20080418.0939 Turning Obsolete

In case you haven't figured it out by now, I love technology. Give me a new tool and I'll find all kinds of ways to use it that the people who invented it never dreamed of. Let's face it, almost everyone loves to get New Toys. But do you remember when you were a child and your parents told you that you had too many toys and had to choose which ones to get rid of? I never had a good time with that. I agonized over the decision, usually until they started throwing stuff out randomly & then I was forced to make snap judgments and live with them. There was some kind of emotional connection that I just couldn't force myself to break.

I find that I seem to have the same problem as an adult with my computer gear. I really really don't like to throw away electronics - especially when they still work - just because they're "old & obsolete". Perhaps the Right thing would be to sell everything on something like eBay & find good homes for them - but I don't. They're mine dammit! I'm the one who invested the full purchase price into it and maybe I'll find uses for the components in the future. Power supplies for example - they don't change, and in fact the older ones were generally rated with higher capacities. This is true in a lot of ways with newer 'not-so-obsolete' gear, in that manufacturers find ways to build things more cheaply and in a gradually less-generic way so that you can't reuse parts. (Notice how ALL the cables need to be replaced every 3 years or so because they swap out connectors on newer models.)

I have always found it interesting that first we build Something Big & Indestructible as a prototype - and then break it into components to make it more generic - and then quickly specialize all of those components so that they can't me mixed & matched anymore, but only fit into a single manufacturer's model. This trend is then echoed in the marketing - where the image of the bulletproof system is sold with the image of modularity as a feature, and we buy it. Then the product inevitably gets upgraded to the benefit of the manufacturer and downgraded for the consumer - but we keep buying it anyway.

I take crap from my friends for not owning a flat-panel display - but I have four 21" tube-based monitors. At least 2 of those work at any given time & the others are spare parts. They tell me how much desk space I'll get back - which I measure as maybe all of four cubic feet - you know, for only a few $thousand. Color accuracy & refresh rate are issues that I fell back on until recently as excuses. But now it's just about the money. If they work, and will continue to work with anything that you plug into them - why do I need to replace them? Why does everyone assume that old < new = true ? If something is still doing the job, how is it obsolete?

20080415.1410 Something Bad & Something Good

I have 2 things to share today, so as tradition requires, I'll share the Bad News first.

I found myself getting later and later for work standing outside a store that was supposed to be open already - so I called the store with my iPhone and let it ring for a while to see if anyone was inside. No one ever answered, but when I hung up I was charged $0.25!

When I had a free moment later I called AT&T for an explanation. According to their records - and they would not budge on this point - I was connected for 1 minute & 20 seconds. When I asked about no one ever picking up the call it was explained to me that it does not matter. Any call that lasts more than 30 seconds will be charged. So that amounts to 5 rings for free and no more.

On a more positive note, I don't mind pointing out that the Java Posse was kind enough to answer an email that I sent them in Episode #179. I've been listening to them for a while and if you are a Java Developer then you might consider working your way through the backlog of podcasts - it's good stuff!

20080401.1646 Take Back Your iPhone

I DO pay attention when people tell me things, no matter what my wife says. (I couldn't tell you what she said - I wasn't listening.)

And one of you fine souls out there DID tell me something great. i.e. How to make Ringtones for your iPhone without paying Apple for them.