Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Losing Face(book)

March 20, 2018

“No sir, I don’t like it.”

Mr. Horse was nobody’s fool. I bet he never signed up for a Facebook account. You may argue that this is because he’s a cartoon character, but then so is Il Douche, and he’s all over Twitter. There, I’ve run rings around you logically.

A status update from Mike Keefe at the Colorado Independent.

Over at Wired, Brian Barrett argues that Facebook “has been a poor steward of your data, asking more and more of you without giving you more in return — and often not even bothering to ask. It has repeatedly failed to keep up its side of the deal, and expressed precious little interest in making good.”

And at CNET, Sharon Profis goes a step further, recommending that users cash out of Mark Zuckerberg’s casino, and showing them how to do it.

I croaked my Facebook account some time back after not using it in a good long while, and I haven’t used Twitter since the new year began. Snapchat, Instagram and LinkedIn are likewise safely in the DogMobile’s rear-view mirror.

Some critics will sniff and observe that I’m simply antisocial, and what keen observers they are, too. But as Profis notes, there are plenty of other ways to stay in touch with friends (texting, email, chatting over a cup of coffee).

Why, you might even start a blog with all the free time you’ll suddenly be enjoying. Be sure to send us a link. No, not on Facebook.

• Late update: Want to erase yourself from the Internet? It ain’t easy, says Abby Ohlheiser.

• Even later update: At The Guardian, Arwa Mahdawi recommends deleting Facebook at the very least. “The recent revelations about Cambridge Analytica are an important wakeup call that we are all living with the sociopolitical consequences of surveillance capitalism. We are, I think, at a critical moment where the degree of corporate surveillance to which we are all subjected can either get much better, or much worse. So, I would urge you to extricate yourself from social media as much as you can.”

The Return of the Cone of Silence

March 12, 2018

Get Smart. No, really, I mean it.

And about time, too. I’m tired of listening to the technologically besotted as they totter hither and yon, chattering boisteriously with their invisible friends. Send them to Coventry.

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?

Technology Tuesday

January 16, 2018

When I was a copy boy in the mid-’70s this was one of my babies.
Ding! Ding! Ding! Photo liberated from UPI

I’ve embraced antisocial media in 2018.

Facebook? Don’t care how it rejiggers itself, my account stays croaked. Ditto for Instagram and Snapchat, the latter of which I never did figure out, because apparently as a senile old goat I’m not supposed to.

And a couple weeks into the new year I can’t say I miss Twitter, either. That account remains open, but unused as of Jan. 1.

I enjoyed the service once. At 140 characters it reminded me of headline writing, which was always one of my favorite parts about deskwork.

Even at twice that its immediacy reminded me of the wire services. Man, you’d hear those bells ring in the teletype room — Ding ding ding ding ding! — and you knew instantly that some shit was hitting the fan somewhere.

But there were those long stretches of not much going on, too, just the machinery mindlessly punching out dreck from drones that nobody was ever going to read, not even the copy boy, and that’s what Twitter has become for me. More characters and fewer characters, all at the same time.

Now if I crave to inspect the latest outrage from Sir Orange of Golf, I have to go looking for it, which mostly I don’t.

And yes, the reverse QWERTY dent in my forehead is healing nicely. Thanks for asking.

Old dog, no tricks

December 18, 2017

Forward, into the past: Riding 26-inch wheels with a suspension fork.

Yesterday I had occasion to remind myself what an utterly incompetent mountain biker I am.

A neighbor mentioned that he’d been riding his mountain bike during the recent cool spell and asked if I’d be interested in joining him, so out of an abundance of caution I lubed up the 1995 DBR Axis TT and took it out for a short trial spin on the singletrack around the Embudo dam.

Hitting the trails on a Sunday afternoon is almost always a bad idea, but my neighbor wanted to ride today, and I hadn’t experienced the old dust-buster with its 26-inch wheels, eight-speed XT/Sachs/SRAM drivetrain, and RockShox Judy SL fork in quite a spell.

After a few klicks I was reminded of why. The wheels are too small, the top tube is too long, and I find suspension confusing, like Australopithecus confronting an ATM.

In short, I was blundering along like a Republican under an FBI grilling, and it didn’t help that the trails were filled to overflowing with hikers, bikers, dog-walkers and dog-runners on bikes. I want to be funny for reasons of my own choosing, especially if there is an audience.

So if the neighbor and I make it out today I’ll probably ride my Voodoo Nakisi MonsterCrosser®, which shares a comforting rigidity with its owner-operator.

Speaking of me, I ain’t going anywhere. It seems a few of you took yesterday’s post to mean I was surrendering the blog. Nope. It was the “Mad Dog Unleashed” column in Bicycle Retailer and Industry News that got put down, not this old hound, which remains very much at large. Thus you may expect me to continue barking to no particular purpose in this space for the foreseeable future.

Ready, AIM, fired

October 6, 2017

AIM, the groundbreaking instant-messenger service from AOL, will be buried on Dec. 15, 2017.

I relied heavily on AOL when I went freelance back in 1991, and used its instant messenger religiously once it became a thing. It was lots cheaper than long-distance calls on our landline — remember those? — and thus the far-flung crew that assembled the Boulder-based journal of competitive cycling whose name eludes me relied upon it to stay in touch from their various corners of the globe.

Today, the only person I still “chat” with via AIM is Charles “Live Update Guy” Pelkey, a PC geek. Most of my chat pals these days are Mac users, and we stay in touch via Apple’s Messages app or simple texts.

And when it comes to assembling the fake news, your modern rumormonger uses an entirely different toolbox, as John Branch of The New York Times explains.

Any number of alternatives to AIM sprang up over the years, but I expect the main suspect in this murder most foul is Facebook. Just one more reason to steer clear of that outfit.

A eulogy for AIM from Robinson Meyer at The Atlantic.

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.


First Amendment follies

February 18, 2017
Asked if he would serve as national security adviser, Field Marshal Turkish von Turkenstein (commander, 1st Feline Home Defense Regiment) replied: "Let me sleep on it. OK, nope."

Asked if he would serve as national security adviser, Field Marshal Turkish von Turkenstein (commander, 1st Feline Home Defense Regiment) replied: “Let me sleep on it. OK, nope.”

I didn’t get my Enemies of the People email newsletter this morning, which means I don’t know what we treacherous media types are supposed to be lying about today, so I’m just gonna have to wing it.

Word is that King Donald the Short-fingered will be holding court today in Florida. You’d think that at some point he might stop applying for the job and start doing it, but that’s what you get for thinking. Not a fan of thinking, the Orange House. Not a fan. Sad! Weak! Man of action! Get that thinking out of here!

Speaking of thinking, the techies at Wired magazine suggest that the paranoids among us — Who? Where? — consider using locked-down Chromebooks and cheapo burner phones that can be wiped and destroyed whenever the secret police decide they need to run their sticky little fingers through your data.

There are $30 Android smartphones out there? Seriously? Who knew? Not me, comrades. Herself just scored a new iPhone 7 and I think she had to pay a $30 cover charge just to get in the door.

Me, I muddle along with a 5-year-old iPhone 5, which I use mostly to receive communiques, dispatches and orders from Herself, take the occasional photo on bike rides, and transmit my activities and location to the State in case its minions wish to discuss pressing matters of national security with me in a windowless basement room at some undisclosed location.

Hmmmmm. Thirty-buck prepaid smartphone, y’say? Bought anonymously, with cash? Something else to think about. …

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.”

Greatest Hits of 2016, Part 3: A wrenching feeling

December 29, 2016

• Editor’s note: As the year winds down, I’m taking a page from the mainstream-media playbook and reprinting a handful of this year’s “Mad Dog Unleashed” columns from Bicycle Retailer and Industry News. This one was published in the June 15 edition.

A mechanic: The nut behind the wrench that cannot be replaced.

A mechanic: The nut behind the wrench that cannot be replaced.

That wrenching feeling,
when the customer tries
doing his own assembly

“Men, you’ve been there. You build something like that and you’re done and you got a real little bag of important-looking shit left over.” — Tim Allen, “Men Are Pigs”

By Patrick O’Grady

The times they are a-changing, according to Bob Dylan, who should know. He turned 75 in May.

So how many roads must a man walk down? Well, for starters, there’s this one: The German consumer-direct outfit Canyon plans to bring its some-assembly-required bikes to America. Specifically, to Americans. The ones who don’t work in bike shops.

Some companies — Trek, Giant, Raleigh — have been loitering along the shoulders of this high-speed thoroughfare, allowing their customers to buy online and then pick up their bikes, fully assembled, at their local shops.

But not Canyon. They’re going Furthur, hoping to fill a big ol’ bus with customers that some companies’ lawyers don’t trust to operate the humble quick-release skewer, much less assemble a complete bicycle.

A colleague and I were joking about this the other day, as journalists are prone to do, because the only thing funnier than human suffering is profiting from it.

“Imagine all the late-night drunk internet shopping,” says my colleague. “Then a box of bike parts shows up at the door a week later. ‘Honey, did you order a hang glider?’”

Says I: “Yeah, right about the time the wife scores some goodies from IKEA. Before you know it you’re turning up at the Sunday club ride on something that’s half bicycle, half bookshelf.”

I quoted Tim Allen to him, the bit about assembling a gas grill, a small bag of important-looking items left over, and a wife with her hair on fire. Says he: “You could build a new Great Barrier Reef with all the extra parts and Allen wrenches in every kitchen junk drawer in America.”

But not a new wife. Not yet, anyway, though I’m sure somebody’s working on it.

>> Click here to read the entire column.