Chrome and the Wheel

Ok, this is going to be a multi-technology post, but the things i was thinking about were just too similar to segregate.  Plus, for once, I’m going to try and keep it short.

First, Google’s new browser, Chrome.  I don’t know why they call it that, or if they were thinking in line with 50’s retro or modern automaton, but the name is, at least, shiny.  I kinda like it that way.  I started looking at the associated comic, but I got bogged down with information that, while no doubt cool, is never going to apply to me using the product.  Especially as it’s hard realizing you’re dumber than a cartoon man – or at least less knowledgeable than one.  however, I like the open source stuff.  I like the thought that I have the ability to change underlying aspects of my software, even if I never do.  I like the idea of innovation, and quite a bit of what’s going on with Chrome as I understand it makes me go ‘oooohhhh, shiny!’

At the same time, I’m hesitant to embrace Chrome full-speed simply because it is different.  There’s always a learning curve on new sftware.  In this case specifically there’s quite a bit more I could learn if I chose, and I would eventually like to do that.  I’ve been a Firefox user for some time, even at work, and there are occasional issues even with that interface with certificates and such.  Firefox has always been a better browser as far as speed and reliability, but it makes me wonder about possible interface issues with Chrome, in particular issues that might spring up because of user failure once I learn enough to make myself dangerous.  But that’s just me – everyone else should go check things out for themselves.

Another look-see I’ve been wanting to do recently has been with some of the new E Ink book readers.  Of course there’s the Kindle, and I did play a bit with the Sony Reader Digital this weekend.  I must say, E Ink is awesome technology, and the way things are going, integration of everything I want to do is going to be all on one unit – phone, camera, internet, books, computer apps, games, and more.  But still there are disappointing trends for this version of the reader.  First off, as it’s Sony, I’m sure there will be issues with it being compatible with anything. Second, there’s the wheel controller.  I know it’s not really functionally a wheel on this model, but it’s almost a mimicry of the function of an iPod wheel.  I have enough problems with the iPod one – it always yanks up the volume when I want it to move to the next song, or the middle button gets hit three times in a row when i just want a bit less volume, or something.  I happen to have fingernails because I eat healthy and I’m too lazy to clip them every other day, and that makes me not have the same fingerpad directness of your usual nail-biting techno-nerd.  Sorry.  So yeah, when I’m reading, I don’t want to be scrolling with a wheel, or even moving to the next page with a wheel.  Not that I find the keyboard and forward buttons at the bottom of a Kindle better or more refined.

So, what are some other opttions?  A touch screen, a la iPhone?  That conflicts with the whole E Ink technology.  A numeric code, similar to a phone’s, for fewer buttons?  Still seem bulky and odd.  Some other sort of virtual or physical scrolling mechanism?  Seems potentially too difficult to control, but i will leave that to the scions of technology.  I remain wondering at what the future will bring, and unlikely to spend my cold hard cash on the virtual book anytime soon.

Beyond Privacy

Today I’ve been handling some of the incidentals of moving to (yet another) apartment.  Basically that translates to filling out countless forms just to change my address.  While the advent of the internet allows me to update most of my information ‘virtually’, that still means typing in the same new address over and over again.  While it does mean i now know my new zip code, still I’d rather not.  If I had my druthers (whoa, and the spell check on wordpress recognizes druthers as a word!), there would be only one form to update for all of the endless financial, governmental, and work-related groups I need to update on my new home address.

But there is no universal form, basically for reasons of privacy.  Your home address, just like your phone number and social security number, is meant to be private.  That’s why people can choose to be ‘unlisted’.  That’s why you have to update others as to your new address, rather than some widespread system (outside the post office) tracking the change.  In addition, each of these groups does not have the right to know you belong to any of the others.  So, it’s your prerogative to tell or not tell as you like.

I appreciate the privacy.  I don’t want every hobo on the street knowing where I live.  I don’t enjoy the idea of putting myself on endless lists of interest in certain products or at the mercy of various interest groups.  But I do like my convenience.  I like Amazon recommending new books or CDs to me.  I like the idea of being able to update every aspect of my life with one fell swoop.  And all of that is based on allowing others access to my private information.

How much is too much?  Where do I draw the line and say, “No, I’m not going to tell you what type of creamsicle I like best”?  When do I realize it’s too much to re-enter my music preferences each time I visit Pandora?  Is the internet really breaking down traditional barriers and ideas of privacy, or are we merely revealing information to a new community – international users and service providers, rather than those neighbors and friends in our immediate physical area?  Is any of it a good thing, and to what extent?

Breakup a la Facebook

Some of you must be aware that I recently changed my status on Facebook from “In a Relationship” to “Single”.  It may be a trite way to inform my friends of the change, but it beats the alternatives.  It’s hard enough to go through a breakup without having to tell every single person who know you as a ‘good couple’ just why this happened and how.  Especially when you are the breakee rather than the breaker, It’s hard enough to accept the loss of your relationship, even without friends you trust discussing and questioning the decision that wasn’t even your decision.  And who wants to stand around lamenting the past?

Of course, some people would take the usefulness of this feature to the extreme.  Just like middle school, it eliminates the need to directly tell someone else your intentions.  In middle school, you could always have a friend do the actual ‘breaking’ for you.  Or, my personal favorite, there’s the phone breakup in which you curse the breakee for being a ‘dog’ and other various things just to show how serious you are about breaking all ties.  Some people might even use Facebook to avoid those delicate conversations about moving from casual dating to a full-fledged relationship.  Someday, somewhere, people might actually be proposing marriage on Facebook.  Creepy.

Still, it was pretty surprising to see the results.  People I hadn’t spoken to in months called or messaged to offer support and condolences.  Three of Mike’s friends he hadn’t told about the breakup yet only found out about it through my status change (his profile still was listed as ‘in a relationship’ at that point cause he’s a bum who doesn’t update his status).  And it was an easy way to shout out to my friends, “I need immediate and serious distraction from my own thoughts,” without having to say much of anything.  But the best part of it all is that I can still laugh at the gossipy quality to this useful little tool.  It’s still a little prideful to proclaim my new single status so quickly, and a little cheesy to feel sad about the poor broken heart pieces I showed to the world through online emoticons.  But if I can still laugh, I must be doing pretty good.

A step above the Hamburgler.

If you are like me, you are a kid at heart – you love slightly cheesy plastic toys and food and getting messy and fantasy characters that say “Robble, robble”. But what if there comes a day when such flimsy joys are not enough? What happens when the “booberry” ghost joke is no longer funny? What happens when your childlike fun and wishes and desire seem childish, instead?

For myself, I turn to the comfort of adult words. There are still small joys that can be described, and therefore masked, as ‘adult’. Today I had actual work to do at my actual job. I ate at my desk. But despite that lack of time, it was a wonderful lunch for me. Corina ordered my food online through Foodler and had it delivered to our office without charging a delivery fee or other service costs. The speedy delivery meant more productivity for me (read: I’m too lazy to even order my own food) and the low price meant I can spend some a little later on something else (read: ice cream or a cheap plastic toy). And why not support an online service with a cute advertising campaign (read: They will send you stickers! FREE!!!) It’s perfect! Plus, by ordering online, I don’t have to talk on the phone. Ahh, heaven.

So while I will retain my love for the fantasy world of Ronald McDonald, now I have a more adult source of at least some foodstuffs. Go me.

The Web has lost me the ability to read.

A part of my current job is to do research for my boss. Sometimes the research is fun, and completely irrelevant, sparked by fancy or perhaps the urge to hone my research skills (such as “Stacey, please find out what kind of weaponry Genghis Khan used from the back of his little pony”). At other times, the research is actually relevant (“Stacey, please look at the Cambridge Associates website for information on securities lending – I want to find out how it works”). Most often, it involves the web rather than the library and I’m very, very good at it. I take pride in my research skills, because it’s one of the things I do that a trained monkey couldn’t do, and therefore makes me feel special. At least specialer than a trained monkey.

Unfortunately my current research project is less than fulfilling.  I’m supposed to be finding one particular line in one of two books.  The table of contents and indices of both books thus far have been less than helpful.  Scanning pages has yielded nothing as yet.  I’m pretty much stumped.  And I’ve also realized how lazy I’ve become.

When I was growing up, in high school and middle school, research meant going to the library and getting books.  The you read, or at least skimmed the books to find the material you needed.  Tables of contents and indices were  key in finding the correct material and analyzing the value of a particular resource.  And I used to be able to do all that well, and fast.  But now, I’m not so sure.  Now, I’ve gotten accustomed to online resources with ‘find’ options within the text and a wide array of summaries and abstracts readily available.  Have I lost my touch?  Or is it only natural to get frustrated with old methods of research that are less efficient?

Blogging and freedom.

It’s rare that I consider the privileges of my lifestyle.  Sure, I appreciate my boss, despite my job.  And I appreciate th epeople in my life fairly regularly.  But there are always things I don’t consider, things that may come into my awareness only with special reflection, perhaps sparked by the season of Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or Easter.  So perhaps it is appropriate that this news item about blogging elsewhere came to my attention in this season.

I rarely consider the internet as a place of freedom for myself.  Sure, it allows for some expression and some sharing of opinions. For the most part though, my sharing is very lighthearted and because of this, I tend to perceive the environment as lighthearted.  Sure, when I was in China I was much more aware of restrictions that could be made, but still it was more of a game.  I looked up different opinions about Tibet and amused myself with their monks-as-oppressors, Communism-as-the-liberator articles.  I didn’t get offended or hurt, perhaps because I knew my lack of access was only temporary.

What does it mean that a blogger – not even someone with the authority of print – would be arrested and held for the opinions that he posts?   What does it mean to consider your blog – this light, hopeful and happy thing that often contains subtle prods – as something of complete and ultimate seriousness?  How does it affect your writing?  How does it affect your life, to know that what you post on a simple blog – something most like a public forum for the world – could change your life forever?  Could get you killed?  Could put your family in danger?

My new favorite WordPress feature.

So this past weekend WordPress announced its latest feature, which has to do with blog stats.  I personally love blog stats – its like spying on people you don’t know, possibly people you’ve never seen.  It’s great!

It also allows me to compare various clicks and searches.  Have more people found my website by searching google for ‘sedgehammer‘, ‘american gladiator‘, or ‘bad water‘?  (Any guesses?  Commentators?) How many people have linked up to Bob’s House of Flan from my blog? (Guess!  I dare you!) How many times have people found true romance because of things I’ve posted?  Ok, well, none, but I’m still hoping.

It just goes to show you that awesomeness can be found in the most random of places.  By awesome, I mean your puppy, and by random, I mean my blog.

When will repairs be repaired?

The breaking news this weekend is that yet another internet cable connection the Middle East has been severed.  What?  Is this some kind of weird and unusual anti-terrorism campaign?  Does somebody really not like the Internet?  Is it the end of the world?

More importantly,  does it mean the end of CNN’s ability to spot-edit on the fly.  I note the third paragraph of this article which states that”it was uncertain when repairs on it [the cable] would be repaired.”  This is not a direct quote – it’s a paraphrase.  Which means that someone picked up this shining gem and thought it sounded gud together.

Now, I’m aware we’re all under a lot of pressure and under a time crunch here.  I myself have lots of cleaning to do today even after I finish blogging here.  But still – if you need help CNN, TEAL (Typo Eradication and Advancement League) is here for you!

What People Should Pay Me For

Through another blog I came across this published study about college-bound senors and how the internet (in particular social networking sites) affects the application and recruiting process.  This particular study focused on Myspace, which really should be replaced by the up-and-coming Facebook now, but its salient points remain valid.  Students and young people generally are going to a variety of informational and informal sites across the web to get a better feel for schools and possible job opportunities as well.

I think this should be my new position.  Someone pays me to sit online all day and write reviews and other sorts of information for the school in order to help with recruitment.  Or I could do the same thing for my job here, just recruiting college seniors for employment instead.  It really is a good idea, and most companies and organizations are trying to be more flexible about including this kind of nontraditional information and approach.  MIT actually does a really good job with thier website being an accurate reflection of what’s going on with and at the school.

The problem that comes with most admissions attempts to include these new features is the isolation of these offices from the rest of the campus.  Current students often provide a good bridge between the actual campus and prospective students, but there needs to be a lot more done by individual departments and professors, especially at large schools.  Academia itself should be excited about the prospect of opening their fields to a larger audience.  I would like to see blogs or other informal updates going up on school websites across the country about what is going on every day research- and publication- and education-wise at schools.  Let’s really get the content out there, rather than waiting for a potential feature article in my alumni magazine.  It’s something that I really think MIT is trying to expand through Open Course Ware.  While this is not possible for all schools, at least short updates about what’s going on direct from the professor or researcher could be implemented anywhere.  I love learning.  Why not have more?

Out of India

A co-worker sent me this article on the recent loss of interwebbing in those countries that need it most.  Early (and therefore, questionable) reports indicate that entire continent’s internet links may have been severed by a boat anchor killing an undersea cable that could take 2 weeks to repair.  I ask you, a boat anchor?  Is technology really so frail?

Also, this may be something I just don’t get about the interweb and its high-tech structure, but how much impact should one cable between Egypt and Italy really have?  Should that really cut India’s bandwidth in half?  I get the whole idea of communications with certain areas or between certain areas being drastically reduced, but I would think they would have a few more backups or alternatives in place.   I mean, the UAE is worried about the whole thing crippling its ability to do business.  India as well, especially with all the customer service and other backups to businesses here that they provide.  It dosn’t really work without internet, and it could majorly affect international stocks in an interesting way the next few weeks. Not that anyone will be able to take advantage (unless they happen to be in these countries and can like walk to the trading floor).

We recently implemented a backup email system here at work, but what happens when the whole interweb fries up and blows away?  Do they shut down the stock market?  Sorry guys, no trades today!  Really, those Fight Clubbers should’ve just gone out and dredged the ocean floor rather than blowing things up.

My heart goes out to those lonely souls teaching and doing other service work abroad in those countries.  I remember well those days in China, when the interweb beckoned like the vision of some sort of Holy Grail.  Alas, it’s almost as bad as a power outage.  Good luck Judith!  Glad I’m not in Qatar or environs today.

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