Keep taking the Tablets

First a complaint. Surprising to hear this from a man who is so well adjusted to the rhythm of the world, and entirely tolerant of stupidity powered by marketing. But there it is – well here it is actually: The next individual who feels to suffix their smugmail(tm) with some little ditty regarding the end device shall be consuming said smart device through one of two orifices.

With the aid of a spade if necessary. I care not if your latest missive has “been sent from you iPhone” or “intentionally brief as spewed from thumb wielding Blackberry boredom”.  If email etiquette informed by the wielding of garden implements is unsuccessful, I shall be forced to launch a counter battery “Please excuse the brevity, slate is bloody expensive and my chisel needs sharpening”

On the one hand, while my snoop cocking at the triviality of shiny-new-stuff technology is becoming increasingly vocal, I cannot but lust after the bastard love child of a tablet and netbook.  You see I cannot – and will not – succumb to the crazy idea that £500 is a fine price to consume the web on a keyboard-less screen.  And that position remains firm even after being shown exactly how clever an accelerometer is.

But…but…but.. that Asus* is one smart design. It’s like version 2 of a netbook – another technology I never really understood, and there’s some cheap Dell shit sat in a drawer at home to show how easy it is to dismiss such hype right after you’ve spent real money on one  – kind of funky and useful.

Any such purchase by a trend chaser such as I is doomed to determine a future already played out by such technological titans as Betamax and the Apple Newton.  But it does have two things to recommend it: a) it’s not made by Apple who have turned smugness into a religion and therefore should be shunned by proper engineering types and b) it’s actual usable for something other than viewing web/games/norks** from funny angles.

There’s some hidden benefits as well. Firstly my dumbphone(tm) will probably commit suicide on seeing something four waves of technology downstream of its’ own digitally stunted world. This would be a good thing as, regardless of the limitless abuse I meter out to the bloody thing, it resolutely refuses to die.

Secondly my kids would think me cool for about ten seconds before realising it wasn’t an iPad. At which point it’d be chucked in the bucket of “uncool dad” which includes Mountain Bikes, ability to make “horse in distress noises” and inability to understand what the hell is going on in Dragonball Z***

It’s all a bit electronic fantasy tho as Carol will rightly “value engineer” any such purchase with a simple “What’s it for?”. And, because she is entirely immune to the power of marketing and bullshit, this leaves me little wriggle room other than “it’s my birthday soon”

Still at my age, the money would probably better spent on a CAT scan 😉

* A name sniggeringly amusing until you mate it with the fourteen word product name/version which someone takes the gloss of its’ smuttiness.

** Taken from my old mate Steve’s description of how he spent one night with a bevy of drunk nurses. It’s is a derivative of “nork snorkelling”. Fairly sure you can work out the rest.

*** “He’s dead Dad” “What the one running about and fighting? I’d be inclined to ask for a second opinion

“I hate computers”

Not me specifically, I’m more nuanced than that. I’d rather focus my attention on bloaty applications that attempt to ruin my day – spookily all developed by Microsoft.

I am however pretty familiar with the much trotted “Computers are Rubbish” line generally accompanied by a bunch of inventive lies we used to file under the rather superb PEBKAC (Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair) acronym, but I’ve never really understood it.

How can you hate computers? Do you loathe your car, your TV, your phone* or your microwave? Do you haughtily reject the lives saved by computer technology, the democratic power unleashed by the Internet**, the technical endeavour to put a man on the moon or encircle the globe single handed on a boat,  or  just stripping out repetitive drudgery and – quite important this – giving me a indoor job for all my working life.

People don’t hate computers, they hate being shackled to the  Neon Tube,  stuck in a electronic rut of a daily grind, dealing with the shit they need to do all buried under some User Interface that can’t read your mind or talk back. Frankly,they should be grateful for people like me that lived in the geeky world before computers became mainstream. We properly suffered; nothing worked very often and when it did it was almost entirely useless and mostly incomprehensible, and essentially we’d have been better off with a pad and few crayons***

But even we pioneers are now  on the wrong side Digital divide. Computer technology is embedded to everyone under 30 and they embrace it, love it and mostly don’t even notice it. I watch my kids mash chunks of disparate technology into something ace, understandingly little other than it really is child’s play to them. Which is what they still are and yet technology allows them to be adult, whereas us proper gray people cling onto desperate skills such as being able to type. Like that’s going to help. The world is seemingly increasingly divided into those who live their lives immersed in technology, comfortable in it’s embrace and not at all worried where it might lead go, and everyone else who wonders if this all started when we couldn’t programme the video recorder.

Anyway let’s hope they are right because otherwise that’s our pensions screwed. Actually my division should fade to grey, because my technology savvy is pretty much akin to riding a bike. I know enough to be dangerous and occasionally credible, but I certainly don’t hate everything which defies my 42 year old understanding. Those who wish to be digital hermits really have got it wrong. And worse than that it’s hypocrisy crossed with nostalgia for a better, simpler world that never really existed. They are the poster children of Luddites-  smashing the machinery of the industrial revolution while wearing the very stuff ratcheting cheaply off a million power looms.

And even that misses the point. There is this odd perception that humankind is getting more intelligent with every generation and yet this is clearly not the case. More enlightened possibly? I’m not sure about that either. But technology is getting very clever and – here’s the thing – cleverer than us. To hate computers is as pointless as hating rain, we’re powerless to stop the march of technology – we may as well chuck a snowball into an avalanche.

If you are going to the trouble of hating something, make it a worthwhile cause, the BNP, poachers killing the last tigers, world leaders cravenly burning the environment on the altar of developing nations. Humans – yeah we deserve it, but computers are pretty bloody blameless.

* During the 80s pre-pc bunfight, we had a Betamax moment where a great bit of hardware going by the name of the Acorn Atom failed to take the market by storm through a depressing combination of shit logistics, crap marketing and some ginger fuck selling ZX Spectrum’s. There is a direct line from that chipset to the stuff that runs virtually every mobile phone. Not many people know that. Understandable really, as it’s not very interesting

** And not forgetting the no.1 app on that. People used to think there was no money in Porn. How the world has changed.

*** I concede this many be analogous to the “Vista Experience”

Second Life

I’ve said before that anyone playing Second Life was quite obviously lacking a first one. And so surprised I wasn’t to read that the Internet generation has vigorously waved a virtual “V” at Lindon Labs’ cyber-asylum.  With the attention span of the Internet generation being similar to that of an attention deficit goldfish, it’s hardly an real-earth(tm) shattering news story that they’ve moved on.

Because that’s what they do, from Texting to Twitter, from email to MSN to Facebook. From deskbound personal computers, to funky laptops, to netbooks to iPhones and then hopefully miniaturising themselves up their own arse. The cool cats* twit and book between free application spaces distributing random content and demanding immediacy. They don’t need a second world to inhabit because they’re already trying to exist in too many of their own lives. Once it stopped being about forging long term cyber relationships through the bloody hard work of being something your not, and switched to broadcast channels where people you’ve never met are apparently interested that you’ve shit blue poo, Second Life was looking like a life support case.

But what is BRILLIANT is the way the not-so-cool-cats hang on to stridently tell those who’ve already left what they are missing. Allow me to quote a couple:

have a reason to go there – like real life, Second Life is not Facebook, which is simply about keeping in touch with people in your network. I was lost at first, but quickly found new friends and new things to do. I help run a travelling vaudeville theatre group and write & perform comedy acts – something I’d never have thought of doing in real life.

Oh do fuck off, please.  You don’t help run a theatre group you deluded idiot. Nor do you “perform” unless that includes a toe suckingly cringy electronically generated parp broadcasted to a bunch of saddos eating pizza off their underwear. Here’s another:

I do not consider myself to be a weirdo and I am certainly not looking for cheap thrills or an extra-marital affair”

Two things here: A) you’re a weirdo, ask anyone but yourself and b) you wrote that in case your wife read that. Or maybe you are one and only person whose not looking for CyberWank+. A good thing because if you ever meet the honed sword throwing latex clad godess in real life, she’s a 19 stone trucker from Northampton with a broadband connection, and a hard spot for pretty boys.

There’s even a bloke quoting the Gartner Hype Life Cycle which has sadly intersected with my working life a few times. I never really got the Slope of Englightenment as it always faces upwards, and any cyclists knows this to be a bad thing. Anyway he’s missing the point by a few million miles, because once the mainstream and the corporates have moved on, only the weirdos remain. And they may have many attributes including stapling cats to their ears, but hard cash is not one of them.

So while Second Life may now be yesterdays’ news, still millions flock to on line cyberworlds, notably if they involve stupid quests and edged weapons. “Sorry dear, I can’t come and talk to the kids, as IT’S REALLY IMPORTANT that right now nine of us are storming fuck-buckles castle, and I’m lead Orc in the fight against WhaleJaw the Mighty and his army of terrifying stoats“. You need to play that back. Probably at the divorce court.

And just in case anyone tries a counterpoint to my derision by pointing out that writing this blog is an escapist broadcast channel, then let me tell you this:  I am sane enough to know exactly what it is. “Broadcast Channel?” I think not – load of old shit I enjoy writing way more than I expect you enjoy reading. And I don’t want to have sex with any of you either.  I’m sure the feeling is mutual 😉

* That is definitely not me. It’s probably not you either.

Got a Wii?

You’ll be needing some of these then. Possibly. Before I share the web site with you – which is somewhat coy regarding the exact use of these rather suggestive items – it’s worth first explaining how I intend to use them.

We have a number of in-laws visiting very soon to celebrate the fact that most of their adult life, they’ve been married. Not sure that’s much to celebrate, and certainly at least one of them gives the impression of being more than adequately cheesed off about the whole thing. So to spice it up, I was thinking “Right then, who fancies a game on the WII, there you go Mr. W that’s one’s yours, Yes you can hold it like that if you’re feeling frisky and Mrs. W? Grab a load of that puppy

Then “KIDS, OUT, NOW” and “Okay I’m loading the game now, on your marks, set….”

I think it’ll go well. Although possibly not end well. If I’ve spiked your interest, check them out here, and thanks to Samuri for finding them. The man’s a porn-hound 🙂

Ask a silly question…

Remember the first time you tried something new? The mental vertigo experienced while teetering over the scary chasm of much unknowing. The gap between what you know now and what you need to know is both exciting, frustrating and occasionally terrifying. This holds for many activities explored in our younger years – learning to drive, going to work and the sweaty, fumbling of sexual experiences*

At almost pensionable age of 42, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to think those days – like so much other stuff – are far behind me. But that’s just not the case, the pie chart of all-knowing still has at big old cake slice marked “How the fuck do I do that?“. A second, and larger, section coloured in a deep angry red reads “Why the fuck am I doing that?“.  Another reason for this yawing gap between what I need to know and what I don’t can be simply summarised by this conversation with the small random child.

Daddy, what was it like when you were 30? Was it much different” to which my considered answer was “I can’t even remember what was occurring when I was 40, only ghostly mists of largely concealed hinterland are visible before then“. Probably a bit much for an eight year old, and last time I looked she was googling for exactly where in the world “Hinterland may be located”

But the point – and yes there is one in case you were concerned I’d descended into incomprehensible dribbilisaion** – is a combination of fading memory, inability to learn new skills and an enlarged impatience gland do not offer the succour of a sanguine middle age. Yesterday extensive experience of crashing brought forth some structural changes to a much loved model glider. Some would celebrate its’ new easy-to-carry design with a detachable tailplane, and a few hundred balsa shards that can be simply transported in a spare pocket.

Others – myself included – may shake an impotent fist at the unseen meterological forces that makes landing four pounds of wood go something like “missed the ground, missed the ground, missed the ground, shit where’s it gone,  HIT the ground, crraasshhhh“. My inability to close the knowledge gap takes many forms, one of them being a God given ability to ignore the advice of those who clear do know what they are talking about: “Don’t go that far behind the slope, you’ll crash” they said. “No I won’t” I said “Need a bag to carry the remains?” they then said.

Anyway it wasn’t my new glider and I can probably repair it with such skill it might even fly again. Assuming it’s carried off by a passing bird of prey with poor eyesight. But one facet of this repair splash landed in the custard of doubt***, and I inadvisedly “leveraged the power of the virtual expert” by posting a very simple question on an Internet forum. What I didn’t get was a simple answer.

The first ten replies told me not to start from here. I gently pointed out that decision had been somewhat taken away from me about the time that soft wood hit hard dirt. The next slew of responses marked out the tribal boundaries of the Flat Earthers and the New World Men. From there, an increasingly embittered argument descended into name calling and cyber-cage-fighting. When I last looked, the moderator had stepped in and a tense calm had broken out.

I don’t expect this state of affairs to last. They may need to call in ACAS or possibly the UN.

At no point, did anyone answer my question. This proves to me the Internet is rubbish, and my original approach to wield fast revving power tools in a whirling circle of woody death was clearly the right one.  I may still be misinformed, cerebrally undercooked and darkenly unenlightened. And I’m sure to bugger up the repair with my normal klutzy incompetence. But – and this is huge ladies and gents – I am not sat eating my keyboard and offering to slice someone open with a balsa saw because they had the temerity to question my all-knowing craft skills.

I’m thinking we should go back to chisels, slates and shouting.

* Certainly was for me. Those sheep were FAST.

** Long term Hedgies will understand the nuance, newer readers may struggle to notice the difference

*** In the Pie Chart. Try and keep up.

My First Smartphone

That’s what is written in bright, bold graphics on the box here. It suggests that once a precocious youngster has outgrown their first book, first games console and first teeth, they progress onto a device that places one in the middle of an informational tornado, while mysteriously beeping, flashing and generally showing off. But in a nice, trendy, friendly manner.

So what must a grizzled IT veteran of twenty plus years think of such a marketing ploy? A man who once single handedly disconnected the entire Hungarian International Phone System*, threatened the then boss of Direct Line with the sharp end of his screwdriver, and delivered an email solution to a country who’d previously communicated by the use of a racing goat**?

Before answering that, let’s examine what it replaces. A brick of technology that attained the dubious honour of having me crave the return of the first dumbphone. It too arrived in snazzy packaging declaring that it would solve every communication problem I’d ever had, and some I didn’t even understand. A proud boast instantly debunked when the mute button conspicuously failed to silence my children.

I could forgive it that since they’re resolutely impervious to any communication method not involving chocolate, club penguin or a ritual beating***. What I cannot condone however is its’ utter uselessness at everything else. The central plank of rubbishness is a richly engaging interface powered by scone crumbs. Let me furnish you with an example, the phone rings – well first it sort of shudders, random lights flash before a cheery chirp announces an incoming call – I press the “answer” button (not as easy as you may think with  the oh-so-designed black on black symbols).

Does this simple action connect the call? Does it fuck. Nothing happens, nothing, the phone continues to trill, I start to tap desperately on the “tactile touch management input environment” which triggers an cessation of all noises, a vibrate-y death rattle and a dark, unresponsive phone. The call has long gone, but entertainment of sorts can be had watching this triumph of miniaturisation finally respond to my hundred key presses.

The best ever was adding a contact “Mr gsgjas;igdshah;shg;gs” with a voice tag of “OH FOR FUCKS SAKE“. Worse still is the iPod Wannabee graphics which apparently allow one to “move, spin and shuffle content.” But all I want to do is answer the sodding call. Anyway, SconeCrum(tm) technology is always about ten minutes behind whatever your last key-press was, so it’s instructive to take a piece of fresh paper, point the phone camera at it, then cut it into random pieces and shift them about with your hand to try and show it what you were hoping for.

Talking of the camera, that has a delay so comically long that your picture of a happy child standing outside a sweet shop will finally render into a picture of a world long since depopulated by humans. I could go on, no really I’ve not started on the STUPID half touch/half stylus/all insane control system that pre-assumes you have three hands, four hundred fingers and the dexterity of a concert pianist. Or the fact the random screen dimming that creates an impossible puzzle of how to unlock the phone in any type of sunlight.

Let me summarise instead. It’s tat, expensive shit for the technologically vain, violence inducingly slow and breathtakingly useless at absolutely everything. The GPS still thinks it’s in Southampton when you’re on the moon, the web browser is so ball-achingly turgid you yearn for the communications goat, and the switch between horizontal and vertical modes is measured in the kind of dying epochs that has you lying sideways on the floor rather that switch horizons on the screen.

When I returned it at the end of a similar rant to a young innocent who had hitherto been happily squeezing his spots and pretending to be some kind of mobility expert, he remarked it was ringing and did I want to answer it. I *may* have been slightly sarcastic in my reply stating “oh that’s from about three weeks ago, they’ve probably died by now

So how do I like “my first smartphone” with it’s cheap plastics, absence of any type of “hybrid input ergonomics“, small screen and massively restricted functionality. Well I wasn’t so sure, until it allowed me to answer a call without any histrionics whatsoever. My caller was surprised to the point of apology “oh sorry, I was going to leave you a message, I didn’t think your phone worked“.

It didn’t work. As a phone, an email device, a lawn dart or anything remotely useful whatsoever. I’m regressing back to stupid technology, boycotting the new, steering well clear of marketing attempts to merge toasters and televisions. I’ve no face to book, not tweet to twat and no network that needs socialising. I don’t need the bastard love child of a laptop and a phone to make my life miserable, I have the building works for that.

And the weather forecast for the CLIC. There’s another thing, at least stone tablets would work underwater.

* 7 lines in total, if I remember correctly. It was quite a long time ago

** They’ve still never really forgiven me. Whether it’s for the curse of email, or what happened to the goat, I cannot be sure.

*** Okay that’s not true. Well not often, anyway.

Breaking technology news…

… Microsoft have a secret agreement with Logitech. It’s beyond cunning this one as those spotty little coders in Seattle have made the latest version of Excel so insanely non intuitive, there is only a single cause of action left open to the vein throbbing user.

And that’s to smash a fist into the keyboard while screaming “ALL I WANT TO DO IS CHANGE THAT TITLE” “THAT ONE THERE” “ON THE GRAPH” “IF I’D WANTED TO ROTATE THE WHOLE FUCKING CABOODLE 90 DEGREES AND INSERT A PIVOT TABLE, I’M SURE I WOULD HAVE MENTIONED IT

Smug little buggers as they are, marketing droids at Microsoft proclaim Office 2007 is a simple, and almost flat, learning curve from the entirely useful 2003. No it bloody isn’t, it’s like pushing peas up a cliff face with your nose while some kind of bipolar lunatic offers helpful little snippets such as “Would you like to embolden that title?” and “If you’re still stuck*, you can contact our help forums”

No, I’d rather smash up my keyboard if it’s all the same to you.  I liked the old version of Excel. It just worked. It didn’t suddenly offer up a whole range of hieroglyphics every time you moved the cursor. You put numbers in and it added them up. Why did they try and improve it? We’ve all been bloody hoodwinked haven’t we?

I’m going back to an abacus, some rocks and the barter system

* You loser

I used to think..

… I could just about ride a mountain bike. This fantastically filmed bonkers headcam follow shows me I’m only slightly above ‘recently removed stabilisers’ in the cycling food chain.

Great camera as well. Most of the headcam stuff is horribly pixelated and further ruined by changes in light blowing away the contrast. And that’s before the generally shit riding destroys what quality is left.

I had a fantastic night ride yesterday. All two wheel grassy drifts and opposite lock tractionaless descents. By the end of it, I really felt quite good about my standard of basic bike control.

Having watched that, I’m off to get a shopping basket and a Sam Browne belt to properly position my cycling prowess. You watch these guys basically taking the piss, and sometimes you feel inspired, sometimes humbled but always assuming something alien is going on.

This time I just felt scared 😉

Revolving doors

Last week, a vicious and unprovoked attack was visited upon my innocent person. What was surprising – since I was in London so fully anticipated being killed and eaten – was that the assault wasn’t some scally with an eye for quick mugging, no it was powerfully executed by a door.

Well a set of doors to be accurate. They guard the portal of our client building, and sport an interesting differentiator in being programmed to commit corporate manslaughter.

These doors and I have previous. They perambulate gently until an innocent attempts the fiendishly complex procedure of entering or exiting the building. As the victim triggers the doors orbital sensors, rotation increases to gently smooth their way into the building.

And right there is a failure to translate design intent into implementable reality. The now terrified occupant of the whirling glass box of death spins at every increasing speeds until reaching escape velocity. There are only two possible outcomes; either he or she is fired out onto the main road – generally into the path of a passing taxi – or launched at the phalanx of security guards who form a protective huddle to the front of the expensive reception furniture.

Now I don’t know much about “valuing our clients” but such door based behavior seems to test the rule “you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression

To date, I’ve applied Yorkshire Logic to the problem, eying up my doory nemesis with a manly stare before exiting via a firm shove – ignoring the whooshy nonsense of acceleration. And that has worked just fine until the day the building droids re-calibrated the sensors.

Striding confidently towards a decent cup of coffee, I matched my speed with the accelerating door, and made a beeline for a closing gap betwixt door and frame. At which point, the rotational motor was hotwired with a 10,000 foot electrical jolt up the japs eye. That can be the only explanation for the “smoking axle of spin” which turned a simple door into a human blender.

i wouldn’t have been ejected into the road, more likely I would have been transported to a far galaxy had I been bulleted out of that rifling barrel. Fortunately my desperate lunge failed to gain access, and instead I was skewered between door panel and frame. Rucksack to the back, snozzle to the front and arms waving pointlessly in between.

The only thing saving me from major veterbre trauma was the works laptop acting as a rucksack based buffer to the increasing strains of the killer electic motors. But I really didn’t want to break that after what happened last time. However, right now my concern was more the queue of increasing bystanders quietly pissing themselves.

Security came to my aid by pointing out my predicament to anyone within earshot. Eventually after frantic flapping and undignified waving of trapped limbs, the pressure eased and I was ejected outside in the manner of a hand slapping “and don’t bother coming back, we don’t want your sort in here

The door leered at me. I’m sure it did. Still I’m pretty sure I pulled off my painful exit without the loss of any dignity. Hardly anyone pointed to their friends and said “it’s him, no honestly he was stuck in the door, got it on my phone, I’ll stick it on YouTube later

Somedays I feel I am pushing at a door marked pull.This experience merely confirms it.