Archive for the ‘tech’ Category

Housekeeping Note: This entry kind of got away from me a bit, and didn’t end up going where I thought it would. As I get back into the blogging habit, that’ll happen less often. Or, at least, I’ll admit it less often.


I fully appreciate that with a title like that, those who’ve encountered this blog before might be forgiven for expecting a posts from me containing two fast fictions from the long ago: one of them using the word “technology”, the other ‘inventory’. But no. For once, a post title is exactly what it appears to be.

Have no fear, or – if more appropriate – have every fear: the entirely non-random archive fast fictions will return, probably on Thursday this week, and thence every Tuesday thereafter.

I just wanted to get a couple of original entries out of the way first, so no one felt… cheated.

So, yes, a technology inventory.

This is the second blog I’ve run; the first was on Livejournal and the technology and the software I’ve used has, understandably, changed as the years have passed..

I came to blogging relatively late in life; I started on Livejournal, back when you needed an invitation to join the platform, in August 2002. I was already in my late 30s. I can’t remember why I started blogging to be honest (more than a few people have wondered that over the years, I’ll be fair) but I suspect that like most things, I did it because it seemed like a good idea at the time.

(As a slight sidebar, whenever I’m asked online to give ‘a lesson for life’, I always have two I offer.’Regret your mistakes but never brood on them’ and ‘Life is a succession of well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.‘)

Back to the Livejournal blogging. I enjoyed it, it was easy to update, and – since it was half a decade before I joined Twitter came along – I used it for what I would later use Twitter: comments on comics, opinions about something in the news, links to other stories with a pithy observation, and occasionally something original. I often posted to it several times a day. And fiction.

Long form pieces from me on Livejournal were the rarity, and more than 500 or 600 words? Almost unheard of.

That was then. This is now.

How and why I blog have inevitably changed as other outlets became available. Goingcheep became my daily brain dump. Twitter became the place for concise observations (I’ve never gone in for the 30- or 40-tweet threads.)

But certainly, the tech and the software has changed beyond almost all recognition.

Along my life having changed fairly hugely in the past 19 years, the technology I use on a daily basis has changed almost beyond recognition since then as well.

This was, don’t forget, half a decade before the iPhone, almost a decade before the iPad, when laptops were more accurately described as ‘luggables’ rather than ‘portables’.

Now, before I go any further, I’m not talking about things like better screens and more storage. Were I to do that, it’d be ridiculous not to go back further and then we’d be in a whole

‘oh, when I were a lad…’

and

‘luxury! sheer luxury! we used to chisel our blogs onto slate, and then we’d be beaten to death by actual trolls… if we were lucky!!!’

thing, and writing about the first computer I used, the first mobile phone I owned, the first desktop I used…

(For the record, in order: a DEC PDP 11/40 at school, a Nokia 5140, and a Commodore PET.)

And so to the current tech I use, in no particular order, to write [other things as well, but yes] this thing, edit it, research for it, grab pics for it, etc.

An iPhone 12 Pro

I like iPhones. I didn’t get the first one released, but I did pick up the second model, a smartphone phone so delighted with itself that it used 3G that it made 3G part of the model’s name. I’d never had a smartphone previously, and I was so I impressed that despite not previously being a Samsung loyalist before then, I’ve stuck with iPhones since. I’m not sure how many I’ve had, but O2 were nice enough to give me a very nice deal to upgrade from my XR to a 12 Pro earlier this year.

I’ve been amused by one specific thing with the 12 Pro, I’ll admit, but again, to understand why I’m so amused by it, we have to go back a few years. No, further back than that. Even further. Back to before I even had a Livejournal blog. A friend of mine had an iPod. I genuinely couldn’t see the reason why on earth I should get one.

I remember saying something like “10,000 songs? Why on earth would anyone need 10,000 songs on tap? And why on earth would I need even 1,000 songs immediately available?”

It’s rare, you know, that someone will say something that so fits a gap in my thinking that the change is instant, with immediate effect.

Because what Al said was “Don’t think of it as 1,000 songs. Think of it as 4,000 minutes of sound.”

Because he knew me well.

Because he knew that I’d realise that meant I could have dozens of comedy shows immediately on tap, that I could have The Goon Show, and I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again, and Round The Horne, and… and… and…

Exactly. So I got myself an iPod mini, the one with the anodised metal case. And, as I suspect was always Al’s plan, having the kit led to me rediscovering a love of music. And now, on my phone, I do have more than 1,000 songs. Heh.

But that’s not what I’m referring to when I say I’m amused by something on the 12 Pro. In the same way as I got the iPod for one thing and rediscovered my enjoyment of something else, with the 12 Pro, I wanted the phone for the increased RAM and faster operation. What I got, what I re-discovered, was an enjoyment of photography. Playing with the various camera lenses, seeing what the phone can do. I never expected that. It’s nice that still happens.

And the slab of glass and plastic and metal I use every day. Every so often I look at it, remember what my tech was like pre-smartphone, and just… flat out wonder at it.

iPad Air (2019)

And talking of wonder…

Unlike the iPhone, as above, I fell in love with the iPad from the moment it was introduced and got the first one a week or so after it was released in 2010. And I’ve replaced it with updated models and I quickly – thanks to Tony Lee’s recommendation – got an external keyboard. I genuinely can’t remember which of us said it first – ‘For 200 words, you can use the virtual keyboard; for 2,000, you need a keyboard’ – but it remains as true today as it was then.

I suspect Tony doesn’t realise how close I came to grabbing his keyboard, after he let me try it out, and just running away with it. I mean, ok, he was fitter than me, and stronger than me, and I had a bum foot even then, but it was closer than I’d like.

These days, I’m using an iPad Air 2019; it does what I want, when I want, how I want, with very few ‘this isn’t great’ elements. (For some reason, its memory management ain’t great, and flushing the RAM is regularly required but it’s a small drawback and a price well worth paying.).

I’ve an Apple Smart Keyboard I picked up earlier this year, to replace my 3rd party Bluetooth that died on me. Amazon, at the time almost gave away Apple pencils when you bought an Apple keyboard from them, so I grabbed one at a very heavily discounted price.

I’ve been using Windows laptops for a few decades in preference to desktops. But these days, it’s more for the smaller physical footprint and greater portability inside my flat than any other reason. The iPad has been my ‘laptop’ for a long time.

Again, when I consider what I can, and do, do with it, its capabilities still seem like science fiction to me half the time.

For all the “it’s 2021, where’s my fucking jet pack?” whinging I’ll happily propagate, my iPhone and iPad are gadgets and tech that I wouldn’t have thought I’d have a decade, two decades, ago. I almost typed “I wouldn’t have imagined a couple of decades ago” but the thing is… I could easily imagine them. I just never thought they’d turn from imagination to reality so quickly.

A lighter, smoother, faster, better laptop? Sure. I’ve used laptops way back to the gas plasma burn-your-hand-if-you-touch-them screens of the 1990s.

But iPads? A slate of glass, less than a cm thick that’s a video player, a word processor, a spreadsheet, a browser, an email device… that handles messages, games… a research tool… and something I can easily blog from? yeah, I didn’t see that coming in the first decade of the 21st century. Not from a decade before that, I didn’t.

Laptop

Yeah, ok, I have one of them as well, but as above, I hardly use it, and only really then if there’s a Wndows application without an iPad equivalent…

OK, somehow I’ve written far more than 1,000 words and I really wasn’t intending to.

I’m going to pause it here, and in a future instalment, I’ll write about some software. Gosh, won’t that be exciting?

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

The great science educator and pundit James Burke repeatedly makes the point – and I’ve quoted it enough that I guess it’s fair to say that I similarly repeatedly make the point – that what buggers us up as a species, time after time, isn’t tech going wrong, but two similar, but separate, issues:

1/ When tech we rely on, have come to rely on, almost as an article of faith, stops working, The assumption that it will always work, that it will never ‘break’, is what screws us over every bloody time.

And its easy to make that assumption, easy to view something that we’d have regarded as magical only a few years earlier, as something that just… is.

I never had the first Apple iPhone. A couple of friends did, but I was quite happy with my Samsung slide phone, or my Motorola Razr, or whatever I had back then… plus an Apple iPod, which again, I’d not intended to get until a friend intervened.

I’ve never been a ‘must have dozens of albums, hundreds of songs, instantly available’ kind of fella.. Some music, sure, and the radio, definitely. But hundreds of songs? no.

A friend, however, sold me on the idea of the iPod nano, the anodised metal one, with the simple comment:

Don’t think of it as, say, 1,000 songs; think of it as 4,000 minutes of sound.

And that was all it took. Because, of course, what Al meant was:

You can transfer loads of comedy recordings you have: you can have loads of Yes, Minister, loads of I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again, loads of The Goon Show.

I’s genuinely not thought of it like that until that point… but as so often when it comes to tech, a single thought, a single idea, a single application of that idea, changes the world. Or at least, can change your, or my, world.

So I got one, and never looked back. So, who needed an iPhone? Not me. I had a phone, I rarely played games, I had an iPod; I even had a pretty good financial calculator, since I was an accountant back then.

And then they released the second iPhone, in 2008, the iPhone 3G.

And I got one. And instantly, it became how things should be; I’m shocked at how fast, looking back, I got used to it, how slow other devices seemed. And, when it stopped working for any reason, how furious I was to have to rely on something that months earlier I similarly regarded as the norm. The paradigm shifted. And it continued to shift. Again and again.

I now have an iPhone XR, and a 2016 iPad Pro 9.7. With each new device, I became used to the increased speed, the increased facilities, the increased functionality scarily fast… and always regarded having to use a lesser device or a workaround as an enormous inconvenience.

We do that, a lot.

The comedian Chris Addison used to do a bit about broadband at home. It’s a genuine miracle of modern life, he’d say.

With it, you have the whole world at your fingers. You can see webcams in China, have access to the best dictionaries and encyclopaedias, and an watch video of pretty much whatever you want to. Again, a genuine miracle of the modern age.

BUT…

BUT…

…if your broadband goes down, if it stops working, it takes about 30 seconds for ‘the internet’ to go from ‘a miracle of the modern age’ to ‘a basic human right’.

He’s right. I mean, he shouldn’t be; we should be better than that. But we’re not.

The other thing Burke – yeah, back to James Burke – identifies as something that we do that perhaps we shouldn’t is…

2/ the assumption that when something breaks, something we rely on almost as an article of faith, that it’ll be fixed in due course so no need to seriously worry.

The example he offers as the archetype of this is the 1965 Power outage that hit the East Coast of the United States. Not only were the effects exaggerated because people had become so used to it that there weren’t available, sensible, workarounds, but also, the possibility that it couldn’t be fixed was literally inconceivable to most people.

The closest public one I’ve probably come to it was the 7/7 terrorist attacks in 2005. One of the lesser consequences, on a macro level, was the unavailability of tube services to get to work for some weeks.

It genuinely never occurred to me, though, that the tube wouldn’t be back in action ‘soon’.

Maybe it should have. Maybe it wouldn’t do any harm for us, for me, to every so often wonder what we’d do if tech, if stuff we rely on so much that we don’t think about it… stopped.

Why yes, I have been dealing with tech that’s not working as it should, and it’s both pissing me off, and hugely inconveniencing me.

Why do you ask?

Well, maybe ‘hugely’ is pushing it a bit But it was inconveniencing me.

The problem I had was deciding whether a bit of tech that I used every day, or to be precise, every night, needs to, in fact, be replaced.

Oh it was broken. That’s not in question. After years of faithful service, a bit snapped off a few nights ago which rendered the kit entirely useless’ reduced its purpose, in fact, to precisely one: an oddly shaped paperweight.

As long bank as I can recall, as a single fella, both before and after I was married, I’ve gone to sleep listening to audio.

I’d say listening to sounds, but that’s unfair on the natural world. I now live on a main road in London, and so the sounds that would naturally accompany me to my slumber would typically be: busses stopping outside the flat, cars zooming past, and drunken students on their way home.

But, back in the days when iPhone speakers were teeny, tiny, tinny, little things, I picked up a decent little speaker/dock for my iphone, and headed off to sleep listening to an audiobook, or some music, or the radio.

And I’ve done so pretty much every night since.

(Why yes, I am single, why do you ask?)

And the connector on my speaker/dock snapped off the other night. And the item is so old that, to be honest, you can’t even get a like-for-like replacement these days. (Or so I thought.)

Most of the replacements are wireless chargers and/or bluetooth speakers. And I want neither of them, even if they weren’t horrendously expensive; expensive for me, anyway.

And let’s face it, the iPhone now has pretty decent speakers, certainly, they should be enough for my purposes.

So I tried the last few nights without it… and it’s… ok, I guess. But it hasn’t the… ‘warmth’ of the sound that came through the surprisingly decent speaker on the kit, and I can’t just look up, tap and see the time on my vertical phone, what with the phone being horizontal.

I can’t complain; the kit lasted me for years, probably half a dozen or so.

Ah, the little things we rely on that completely, entirely out of proportion, bug the hell out of us when they just stop working.

All of which leads up to the inevitable, I suppose. I found a replacement, the exact same piece of kit, in fact, on Computer Exchange’s website.

I have no idea what I paid for the kit originally. £15, I’d guess. Maybe £19.99.

I picked a replacement speaker/dock up for £6.00

It arrived yesterday; and last night, for the first time in a week, I went to bed with the warm sounds of, funnily enough, James Burke’s Connections audiobook in my ears.

Hope you all slept equally well.

And since you’ve been so good at reading all of the above, here’s James Burke with possibly the best single setup and resolution ever broadcast on television, from the tv version of Connections:

Something else tomorrow…

A thing did the rounds on Twitter earlier this month asking about the first social media platforms people used. I was, I’ll admit, kind of surprised when people started including their preferred early blogging platforms because I’ve never really considered blogging as social media.

I mean, I’m probably wrong. I’m certainly wrong if the responses on Twitter are anything to go by. And it certainly qualifies on some counts; I’ve just always thought what distinguished it from what I thought of as social media far outweighed its similarities. For a start, I guess, I’ve always considered social media – outside the narrow sphere of companies and global celebrities who solely use it to promote themselves and their brands – as… disposable, quick, short, small nuggets of information, slices of life, whether it be via the media of photo, video, an image, a short piece of text. And usually, if not always, has the potential, the strong potential, for interaction between content creator and those reading or viewing it.

I’ve certainly never considered it the same beast as a platform containing blog entries of a couple of thousand words, So, no, blogging has never been – for me – social media.

But apparently not, at least not for most people.

But then, things… change. Before YouTube, who would have considered video an almost every present – and easy to promote – part of social media?

In 2008, a few weeks before that year’s United States’ Presidential election, my then boss went to an event put on by The Foreign Press Association. My boss – a rangy Pennsylvanian with a brain roughly the size of one of the larger planets – enjoyed my fascination with US politics, and explaining the bits I didn’t fully ‘get’.

One thing I remember learning at the event: that YouTube hadn’t existed at the time of the previous Presidential election; it was created in 2005. And in three years, it had become ubiquitous enough that political campaigns were using it, and using it well sometimes, as rebuttal to accusations, that supporters not officially part of the campaigns, were using it as well: to produce quick, dirty and and occasionally clever attack ads.

But yeah, it was a) created in 2005, and b) fourteen years ago.

The graphic below only goes as far as 2009, so it misses out instagram, Pinterest, Quora, Snapchat, Twitch, Tinder, Vine (ah, alas poor Vine), Periscope… but it suffices for this entry.

I first got online in 1995, three months before my lad was born. My first modem was a present from my wife (we’d been married about a year by then) and I’d been studying for my accountancy qualifications throughout our engagement and marriage.

As a gift for qualifying as an accountant, she bought me a modem. Sounds harmless if you say that fast enough, doesn’t it?

Well, she says that was the reason. There’s every possibility that she married me and thereafter only saw the back of my head… as the front of it was lowered, studying, every night.

And then, after I qualified, and she saw my face… she figured she’d better find something to ensure she only saw the back of my head again… hence, the modem, the internet, and CompuServe. It’s possible, be honest. OK, more than possible.

But I didn’t start blogging until 2002. Back then, you needed an invite to join LiveJournal, and a friend supplied one; I’ve never been quite sure since whether that means he gets the credit or the blame.

Either way, I started blogging, on LiveJournal. I took a quick look at the other platforms, but I liked LiveJournal as it then was. It was incredibly easy to use, equally as easy to customise your blog, and there was a…. community… that I’d never found on other blogging platforms I’d looked at.

And it was friendly. That was what I most liked about it. Sure there were idiots and trolls and nasty people on occasion, but the worst they could do was leave nasty comments… and one quick ‘delete and block the sender’ and you”d never hear from them again. And the spam was rare.

I like WordPress, I do. For many of the same reasons as. I liked Livejournal: easy to use, easy to customise, and there are several decent ‘clients’.

But I sorely miss the community element of LiveJournal. I miss the fun of element of a community of bloggers, of actually enjoying us all being on teh same blogging platform.

I miss – though as I said the other day, it’s probably objectively a good thing – the days of blogs being repositories of everything from long form pieces to do thoughts and silliness. That last has now been taken over by Tumblr, Twitter and Instagram.

And I miss the lack of spam. Oh hell do I miss that. (It’s rare, when I check the comments on here, that there aren’t a dozen or more messages awaiting approval, all from spammers)

No real point today. No big lesson. Just something that occurred to me that I wanted to write about.

I miss doing that more often as well.
 

 

It’s Tuesday tomorrow. If you’ve been following the blog, you know what’s moving tomorrow. if not, then all I’ll say is the usual… something else tomorrow.

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-fifth birthday on 17th August 2019. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

I’ve never been stalked in real life; And I’m not for a moment suggesting in the entry that follows that being stalked online comes even close to the horror and fear that accmpanies someone being stalked ‘in real life’, in person, in other words.

But I’ve been stalked online, and received what I considered to be genuine, credible, threats, and it’s not pleasant, to put it mildly.

It’s happened a couple of times – two where I’ve gotten the authorities involved – and in retrospect, what strikes me isn’t how surprising it was that anyone gave a shit about me – which should still be utterly shocking, lets’ face it – but how… genuinely vulnerable it makes you feel.

The following is about one of them, in the early days of my time online.

Back in the day, I helped run a couple of CompuServe’s Forums. One was the UK Current Affairs Forum, prevously the UK Politics Forum. Another was CompuServe’s Jewish Forum. I was a member of half a dozen Forums, but they were the only two where I actively helped run them.

On the whole, my experience in Forums were great ones: I learned a lot, made some good friends, and they were great introductions to the pleasures and pitfalls of putting opinions out there. Some of the friends I made as a result of my presence in CompuServe Forums are friends to this day.

(I recently joined Instagram, which is a flat out weird one for me, and when I went though my contacts, as to who to follow, some of them were people I first met back on CompuServe, some over twenty years ago…)

So, yes, most of my time on CompuServe was fun, and objectively beneficial.

But then there were the less pleasant aspects; take the time we booted someone from the Jewish Forum for persistent breaches of Forum Rules.

Every Forum had its set of rules. Some were simple: don’t abuse, don’t post sexual images, and… that’s about it. Some had long sets of rules, dozens of them, covering everything from “use your REAL name here” to the maximum size of images posted in messages.

The Jewish Forum, for example, didn’t have that many rules. But one of the biggies was no proselytising, no “you’re all wrong and should accept Jesus into your hearts!“. (For the reasons why a Jewish Forum would have that rule, see here and here.)

Now every Forum, every message board, had their idiots, their abusers, their ‘I have my rights!‘ crowd.

The trick was to control the harmless idiots and expel the harmful ones. Most times, I think we got it about right, most of the time. And when you don’t, when you over react, or under react, the lesson you then learn is possibly the most valuable of all.

And to be fair, when you did sling someone out, most of them just licked their wounds and either apologised… or moved on.

With some, who were thrown out of forum after forum, who joined merely to abuse and insult, you soon realised that their etire purpose was to abuse and insult in the hope they’d piss off people enough that they’d get thrown out. It was a wish I was more than willing to grant.

But even among this group, most were sensible enough to know that it was more sensible to try their luck in another venue, rather than try again in one they’d already polluted.

But there were some who would be so offended by our showing that there were consequences to abusing others… that they’d become determined to hit back. They’d be so upset, that their ‘freedom of speech’ to abuse and insult was infringed, that their determination to abuse and insult would be redoubled.

And one chose to make it his business to trash me and attempt to trash my reputation.

Among the more charming messages written to (or about) me on at least six other Forums, using one or more of his 18 separate IDs (!) were:

Alas we meet again.I’M glad YOUR brothers DEAD.Just remember I hate you,brit.

 

We know where you work.where you live.we hired a pi.the games are just starting.its all in good fun.i hope you continue to play along.i will win.you will lose.i’m going to help you lose your job.lets make a bet on it.

 

I hear your mother was a whore and you are really a nazi.i think its time for you to lose your job.lets make a bet that you will be un-employed in one years time. So many people hate that you don’t where or who or what is against you. Your mother is a coward and so are you. We made printouts of your photo and sent them to all kinda intresting places bitch.

 

Can i fuck your wife in the ass ?.your son can watch.

 
And the latest? Oh, this one will cheer all of you out there that read comics…

Why are you into comics ?The word around the office is that you use comic books as bait for meeting minors.

And remember, this was merely beause we threw him out of The Jewish Forum for abusing others, breaking the rules, and, not for nothing, proseltising.

I’ll admit to being slightly amused when he turned up on yet another Forum, with an ID of “GOPSenate” suggesting that I was a danger to American National Security.

As another member, commenting that he didn’t know how much of a danger to National Security I was: “After all,” he continued, “if you can’t trust a guy who shows up out of nowhere with a bagful of incoherent abuse and return address of ‘GOPSenate’, who’s left?”

His final messages before I’d finally had enough suggested that I was a paid up member of a pedophilia advocacy organisation, that I installed spyware on every forum member’s computer, and that the police were investigating taking my son away from me.

I was lucky, I’ll acknowledge. I had the resources, the anger, and the experience to do something about it.

So I did. I downloaded all the archive messages, and did a search for messages he’d posted in other forums…

It didn’t take me long to find the state in which he lived. It took me a bit longer to find, and confirm, the city in which he lived. It took me a lot longer, back then, to narrow it down to the suburb. I already had an idea of his real name. Even back then, once I had his location, it was relatively easy to confirm it.

And that, together with a small payment to their white pages, gave me his work and home addresses.

After that effort, it then took me only about five minutes to find the contact details for the local police department.

Given that the call came out of the blue, and the police detective they put me through was obviously – back then – less than familiar with ‘the internet’, he was great. He listened calmly, took notes, and asked me to fax through the ‘message… board… posts?’

I did, the following day, and that evening got a call back from a more senior detective. I still remember thinking that his voice didn’t so much express anger or upset through words but as an low, very low, but persistent growl. He was not happy. He was very, very not happy.

Not with me, he hastened to assure me, but that a resident of His Town (the capitals were implied) was

1) that abusive
2) that insulting
3) ‘that damned stupid’

The insulting he accepted was unpleasant, but… the nastiness was unpleasant but…

However, the going into the Jewish Forum and proselytising “well, now, that’s just not… that’s… no. Just, no.” And the stuff about children. “Well, now, that needs to… Stop.”

He explained I had two options:

I. I could make a formal complaint, it would go through the usual processes, and if charges followed — he was sure there was some law being broken — I’d likely have to come over to testify if it went any further.

II. I could ‘leave it with’ him, and he personally guaranteed I’d hear no more from the, he hesitated before saying the word, “…the man.”

I chose the latter.

I have no idea what happened next. I have no idea if – or whether – the senior police detective went to visit the resident of his town… no idea whether he put the fear of god into him, no idea whether he threatened him…

But after a year of constantly abusing, constantly insulting, constantly re-appearing and insulting and abusing, he… disappeared. He just stopped.

So, I’ve no idea what happened.

Well, that’s not quite true.

I’ve an idea or two.

See you tomorrow, with something else.

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-fifth birthday on 17th August 2019. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.