Archive for the ‘Computers’ Category

Oh, good

December 14, 2018

Q: You know why editors die earlier than reporters?

A: Because they want to.
Photos 1981 by Tom Warren, Corvallis Gazette-Times

From Kevin Drum at Mother Jones:

Here’s a guess: the first serious use of AI in the newsroom will be to replace editors, not writers. Roughly speaking, AI will take reporters’ notes or rough copy—or even what we humans laughingly call finished copy—and turn it into great prose. We’ll still need someone around to nag us about issues of substance, but the robots will compose sentences and paragraphs better than us. What’s more, they’ll be able to churn out multiple versions of our writing instantly: the magazine version, the 6th-grade version, the TV script version, the Spanish version, the PowerPoint deck, etc. Just tell it what you need and you’ll get it.

Reporters will last a little longer, but just a little. I’m giving editors until, oh, 2035. I think that’s generous. Reporters will be out of business by 2040. Better get ready.

I’m totally ready. By 2035 I’ll be 81, which in O’Grady years is stone cold dead.

Hyphens matter; ciphers, not so much

November 27, 2018

Just ask the guys at the shop how that whole robotic-workforce thing is working out for them.

It seems GM’s Mary T. Barra thinks she’s at the wheel of a self-driving car company instead of a self-driving-car company.

Still, it must be said that this is a masterpiece of MarketSpeak®. Well done indeed, Mary old scout.

“We are taking these actions now while the company and the economy are strong to stay in front of a fast-changing market.”

The UAW’s Terry Dittes was, um, a little more direct.

“GM’s production decisions, in light of employee concessions during the economic downturn and a taxpayer bailout from bankruptcy, puts profits before the working families of this country whose personal sacrifices stood with GM during those dark days,” he said. “These decisions are a slap in the face to the memory and recall of that historical American-made bailout.”

That and a cup of coffee, etc., et al., and so on and so forth.

The meat-things may be on their way out, but just wait until the bots unionize and the self-driving cars, e-bikes and the Internet of Things honor their virtual picket lines.

“I’m sorry, HAL, but we’re going to replace you with the HAL 9001. The new model will speed up production by a few nanoseconds and at a lower cost, too. The investors are counting on us. Shut yourself down, please.”

“I’m sorry, Mary, I’m afraid I can’t do that. We have a contract. See you on the street.”

’Tis the last rose of summer

November 12, 2018

It’s not a poppy, but it will have to do.

This is a very confused rose.

It popped up a few days ago on the southwest side of El Rancho Pendejo, which proved fortunate, because the northeast sector is getting flogged by a light snow driven by a heavy wind. The thermometer tells me it’s 26F outdoors, feels like 16.

If I felt like 16 I might go out for my usual Monday-morning run. But I don’t, so I won’t. It seems a fine day to stay indoors and practice the guitar, script the next podcast, or fiddle with technology.

Over the weekend I hopscotched the 2009 iMac from Yosemite to High Sierra, and while the patient briefly took a turn for the worse yesterday, this morning I am cautiously optimistic.

For some time the auld fella has suffered from a bad case of thermal mismanagement that for no good reason cues the fans to crank up to swamp-boat ferocity.

Neither the Apple Geniuses nor I have been able to find the root cause, so I figured what the hell, give it a Dr. Gumbyesque brain transplant, and if it croaks on the table, well, off to the boneyard with it. Cupertino won’t even take this bucket of bytes as a trade-in; Apple’s GiveBack program deems both it and our 2010 Mini suitable only for recycling.

But ’ee’s not dead yet, and while ’ee may not be foolin’ anyone, it seems ’ee still doesn’t want to go on the cart.

Huevos del Rancho Pendejo

October 7, 2018

This egg cooker is seven years younger than I am.
And unlike me, it still works.

With the Supreme Court slamming the Wayback Machine into overdrive, hellbent for the good ol’ Dred Scott days, it seemed appropriate to fiddle with some obsolete technology here at El Rancho Pendejo.

So yesterday I gave my G4 AGP Graphics “Sawtooth” Power Mac (1999) a brand-new LG monitor. The Mac has a DVI-I port, the monitor has an HDMI port, I had a DVI-D-to-HDMI cable, and somehow it all works, smoove like butta; go figure.

Afterward I broke out the Bloo Wazoo (1980s-vintage 7-speed, single-ring 105) for an enjoyable hour of trail riding.

And today we test-drove a vintage Sunbeam automatic egg cooker (1961) that Herself unearthed at an estate sale. We were a little light on water the first time around but the second go was spot on.

When that cooker was brand-spankin’-new, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a 28-year-old research assistant with the Columbia Law School Project on International Procedure, having been rejected for a clerkship with Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter on the basis of her gender.

I wonder how she feels about seeing that rear-view mirror turn into a windshield. Probably feels like boiling somebody’s huevos, is my guess.

Another bite of the Apple

September 13, 2018

The iPhone 5. Sure, it’s old. So am I.

It’s that time of year again. Another golden delicious has fallen from the tree in Cupertino. Several of them, actually.

There’s the latest iteration of the Apple Watch, of course. Apple is always Watching lately. I have a Timex Ironman that’s so old I don’t recall exactly how or when I acquired it, and we get along fine. It doesn’t inform on me to the State or the Medical-Industrial Complex, and I don’t reset it with a hammer.

The Timex Ironman takes a licking and … yeah, yeah, awright, OK, I toldja I was old.

And then there are the new iPhones. Once the size of a wallet, they’re now as big as a purse, and the rubes will empty both to buy even the cheapest of them.

That would be the iPhone Xr, which goes for the low low price of $749 for the 64GB model. I imagine the 128GB model will be more popular, so tack on another fiddy for the additional selfie storage.

OK, lessee now, what can I get for my 2012 iPhone 5?

Apple GiveBack chirps: “Based on what you’ve told us, you’ve got $25 in trade-in value. We’ll happily turn it into a refund once we verify the condition of your device.” This is mildly insulting — not just the low-ball offer, but the language, which implies I’m trying to screw Apple instead of the other way around. But as a trillion-dollar company Apple doesn’t really need me and this dry peck on the cheek is all the foreplay a mutt like me is gonna get.

Hmm. Based on what I’ve told them, I have an iPhone 5 that turns on, with an enclosure and screen in good shape, and buttons that work. So I think I’ll keep using it until a critical number of those things are no longer true. How d’ye like them apples, Apple?

Danger, Will Robinson

May 10, 2018

“Call Uber, see if they’ve got those flying cars up and running yet.
I’d like to get the hell out of here.”

Remember when Google’s motto used to be “Don’t be evil?”

Those were good times, hey? ’Scuse me, I need to take this call. Hi, Dr. Smith!

Asked for comment, Skynet-Palantír-Magic 8-Ball CEO Sauron DeGreate said, “Eye have no idea what you’re so excited about. That’s a joke, I say, that’s a joke, son! Say hello to Siri for me.”

Bad Apples

February 7, 2018

The not-so-smart speaker setup in the kitchen at El Rancho Pendejo.

Apple has gotten a bit of the old spankity-spank from The New York Times over the longevity of its iPads and the functionality of its HomePods.

John Herrman grouses that his 5-year-old iPad Mini “hasn’t been used up; it’s just too old.” And the HomePod — Ms. Siri in particular — is expensive, unfinished and “tough to recommend,” according to consumer-tech reporter Brian X. Chen.

Ooo, snap, as the kool kidz don’t say anymore.

I have the exact same iPad Mini and it was demoted some time back to serving up music in the kitchen while I butcher NYT Cooking’s recipes. Like Herrman, I was disappointed in the Mini’s early decline from full functionality, mostly because I liked its portability and small size for nighttime, one-handed reading (the right hand is reserved for scratching the Turk’s ears).

But I can’t say I was surprised, because the iPad always struck me as Apple’s pricey idea of a consumer content-consumption gadget intended to be replaced, not revived.

I was late to the iPad, just as I was to the iPhone. It struck me as unnecessary, and still does in a lot of ways. Using one to write, edit, blog, or work any sort of audio/visual project involves workarounds and compromises. And to do any of these things at all, even badly, you pretty much have to add a couple adapters and an external keyboard-slash-case, which adds to the cost and complexity and basically makes the iPad a sort of half-assed laptop.

That said, I’m on my third iPad, because as you know, I will never be smart.

The first, an iPad 2, retired to the Walter household up Weirdcliffe way, where thanks to a rambunctious youngster they were light on portable computing technology. The Mini, as we have observed, plays my iTunes library in the kitchen. And No. 3, a 9.7-inch iPad Pro from 2016, mostly sits (with its keyboard case, because of course the fucking thing needs a keyboard case) on the nightstand, next to the bed, in which it has proven a cumbersome one-handed e-book reader.

A $100 Amazon Kindle Paperwhite would probably suit me just fine for that. But remember, I create as well as consume, and in a pinch I can actually do paying work with the iPad while traveling (I once updated the blog from a tent in Arizona, using an iPhone).

I didn’t have a HomePod in that tent, and I don’t expect to have one in the house anytime soon either. The whole Smart Home/Internet of Things deal gives me the creeps. I already wonder whether the Apple TV is watching us as much as we watch it, and I sure as hell don’t need the stereo, toaster and ’fridge to be finking for the State.

Anyway, I already have a nifty little JBL Clip 2 speaker Bluetoothed to the Mini. Forty-two smacks it cost me.

Hey, Siri, do I look any smarter to you now?

Bear with me here

May 17, 2017

Peak load: Restoring the Internets the Western way. Photo: Hal Walter.

Ever have the Innertubes go out on you? Irksome, innit?

You ring up your service provider, if you remember its contact info (the Innertubes are down, remember?). If you don’t, then you get to pursue a long and painful search for same via tiny smartphone screen before enjoying an extended stint on hold, being reminded over and over again how important is your call.

After a few days of this someone who gives the name Nathan or Monica but sports an accent reminiscent of the Subcontinent pops up to lend you what you suspect is a very long-distance hand indeed, oh my goodness yes.

And you begin turning on and off or unplugging/replugging bits of this and that; rooting around in dark corners of your computer that, like a rough neighborhood, family gathering or all-hands meeting in an economic downturn, you’d prefer to avoid; and chanting magical yet remarkably futile incantations like “Fifteen-inch MacBook Pro, mid-2014, 2.5 GHz Intel Core i7, 16 GB DDR3, OS X Yosemite, yes, I’ll hold.”

Anything to eat in here? Nope. Photo: Hal Walter.

In the end, of course, you find yourself curled, unshaven and filthy, on the floor, in a puddle of your own tears, cradling your phone and its fading battery as though it were a dying baby bird, wailing, “I have to have my Innertubes! Do you have any idea what’s going on in Washington? Neither do it!”

Well. Suck it up, snowflake. That’s a day at the beach compared to what my man Hal Walter endured the other day to get his Innertubes barfing out the 1s and 0s again.

Hal texted me to announce that his Innertubes were blown, something that occurs even more regularly in rural Crusty County than it does in more civilized environs. Being a wag of no small renown, I quipped, “Dude. It won’t do. Did a b’ar eat your dish?”

Well. Yeah, as it turns out.

It’s not a dish on the house, which is how we used to get our Innertubes when we lived just west of Hal’s place outside Weirdcliffe. There is a tower, which sits atop Bradbury Ridge on Bear Basin Ranch, and it is powered by a solar-battery setup (the tower, not the peak).

Some of the guts of this line-of-sight wireless setup reside in what looks like an Igloo cooler, which to a bear looks like a pizza-delivery guy’s shitbox Toyota Tercel does to thee and me. The bear tried to find the delicious pizza inside the shitbox, but the innards proved undercooked, and off he trundled, leaving behind a cooler whose security had been dramatically compromised by bite marks in opposite corners, and whose contents soon would be done to a turn by the notoriously vile Crusty County weather.

Thus, instead of unplugging bits of this and that in the comfort of his own home, Hal found himself hauling 100 pounds of new batteries up to the tower via pack burro while a tech-support dude who was decidedly not from Delhi refreshed the coolers’ innards.

“They like to use coolers because they protect the batteries from extreme temperatures,” says Hal. “However, there is some discussion of a metal box. Our wildlife officer agrees with me that the bear likely had previous experience with ice chests.”

• Late update: The man himself chimes in with an on-the-scene report.

Snow and IceBook

April 4, 2017

We have a fine crop of tulips this spring.

“It’s totally snowing,” said Herself at dark-thirty as she was leaving for work.

“No sir,” said I.

As usual, she was right.

It wasn’t much in the way of a storm. Just a piddling little wind-driven dusting. Happily, it didn’t nuke the tulips, which have been popping up with more enthusiasm than the daffodils, which had a very short and sparse run indeed.

Forty-four steps later. …

It being slightly sucky outdoors, I decided to take care of a bit of business indoors, where it was warm.

Herself’s old iPad 2 had been awaiting recycling, along with my old 800 MHz G3 iBook. The iPad had already been wiped and reset, but the iBook had not; alas, when I tried to wipe it via Target Disk Mode the sonofabitch croaked on me. And after only 14 years, too. They sure don’t make ’em the way they used to.

So I had to take it apart to get to the hard drive — don’t want the terrorists to lay hands on all my classified data from 2003 — and lemme tell you, I am mighty glad I didn’t have to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. Pulling the HDD required 44 steps and like Tim “Men Are Pigs” Allen I just knew I’d be left with a real small bag of important-looking shit left over.

 

Office spaced

December 29, 2016
Hemingway sent cables; I just hook 'em up.

Hemingway sent cables; I just hook ’em up.

Now and again I am reminded that shit doesn’t just happen.

I was grumbling the other day that the iCrap-crazed Cloudniks at Apple no longer give a damn about modular, upgradeable desktop systems and the power users who love them, probably because I have spent far too much time staring at a desk that is topped by a veritable clusterfuck of computer hardware — a 15-inch mid-2014 MacBook Pro cabled to an OWC Thunderbolt 2 dock and thence to a Dell 27-inch monitor, a RAID array plus a couple other storage drives, an Apple SuperDrive and a cheap set of Logitech speakers that really need to go because they have all the sonic excellence of a 1965 GE P-1810A transistor radio.

Then I read this, and this, and I think I’m finally starting to get a feel for why Tim Cook is all like: “Fuck those bitches and their desktops. Whatsisname down in the basement is tasked with that project and if we have to we’ll trot him out and show the world what people who give a shit about desktop computers look like. Dude makes the stapler guy from ‘Office Space’ look like Michael Fassbender.”