Category Archives: Tech

Books Are On the Way Out (But Reading is Thriving)

old books mildew.jpgPictured: Old media collecting mildew

New media is consistently vilified as contributing to the stupidity of users and is presented as a sort of Pied Piper, hypnotically leading children away from books. Currently, the target is cell phones, and in times past they went after television and video games for the same reason.

But let’s take a step back and look at things critically: books are far from ideal as a form of media. When one considers their inefficiency, it’s easy to see just how great it is that they’re on the way out. They’re cumbersome to carry about, especially in quantity. A trip to the library is inconvenient, and the library charges a fee if they don’t get books back on time. A trip to the bookstore can quickly get expensive if you buy books new, and if you go for used books, you risk purchasing a book blighted by mildew which, if it slips your attention, can damage your entire collection. In light of all this, and the existence of alternatives, books have become impractical.

Those who would disagree with me might bemoan how difficult it is to get children interested in reading, imagining the days in which children would happily take a trip to the library. Their main motivation appears to be a quaint rustic feeling that comes with doing anything unsophisticated. But the fact is, cell phones and visual media are the reality of the present time, and it’s better to prepare children for the world that is, rather than some notion of what someone would prefer it to be.

Fast fact: reading is thriving. There is more reading today than there ever has been, and this is because it’s more efficient to get reading to people than at any other point in history. And here is the device instrumental to this reading revolution:

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That is a cell phone. Say “Hi”. It’s a wunderkind when it comes to reading. How so? Assuming the average size of a Kindle book being 2631 KB (source), 256 GB of storage on one of these can hold 102,027 books. A 1 TB MicroSD card increases that amount to 510,139. This is comparable to the most generous estimates of the size of the Library of Alexandria. And you can fit it into your pocket.

What’s that? Your cell phone doesn’t have that kind of storage? That’s okay, because you still have access to a boundless ether of literature if your cell phone (like most) has a simple program called a “browser”. You can use it to browse the internet and read countless pages filled with news articles, research papers, stories, discussion threads, advice columns, encyclopedia pages, and on and on.

While those desperate to justify their fix of outdated media may turn to public schools as champions of books, that’s not going to help them very much, as schools are increasingly turning to tablets for education. And why not, considering the ubiquitous use of screened devices in the adult world? Again, the idea is to prepare children for the real world, which involves familiarizing them with devices that are actually used in workplaces, both today and in the years to come.

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The fact is, books, textbooks, and libraries are on the way out. I, for one, welcome tablets as their academic replacement, as I have memories of continually lugging heavy textbooks about at the insistence of teachers and professors, in spite of infrequently needing to actually use them, which I understand to have been a typical college experience. Having to carry a small, glowing display screen that fits in my pocket is an excellent alternative to a bunch of cumbersome, expensive books.

One might ask, “Okay then, what if your phone breaks? Where are your books, then?” The answer is, I still have them. The books on a person’s phone or tablet are associated with the account that purchased them, so if a person loses their tablet or decides to buy a new one, their previous collection is available on their new device. To most of us, this is pretty obvious, but evidently not to the person who had to ask this question, which really goes to show how poor a job that person is doing keeping up. While the rest of us have access to a boundless sea of ethereal literature in our pockets, they’ve been assuming us to be senseless just because they don’t comprehend what we’re doing.

Even when I’m playing games on my cell phone, it’s helping me to be a smarter person. I’ve been playing an RPG that challenges players to work with limited resources over a long period of time, so that getting a single character to the point of being adequate could take as long as months. While playing this game, I’ve planned out my moves months in advance using careful calculations on a spreadsheet. My planning paid off when I barely unlocked a rare character within a strict time limit. This kind of care when it comes to resource management is something that a person can learn from if they’re not that great at managing their finances. Even those farming games that we’ve been making fun of can be played well with some careful planning. It’s too bad it’s much easier to assume that someone on their phone is playing some vapid bird-flinging simulator with all the depth of a puddle of rainwater.

So, to summarize: If you want a book, you have to take a trip to the store or the library for it. After that, you have to carry the cumbersome thing around with you if you want to have it wherever you go. Also, the library will want it back, and will charge you a fee if you don’t return it within a time limit, and in a condition that’s to their liking. However…

You can store hundreds of thousands of books on cell phones, not that that’s even necessary because these same phones have a browser that grants access to boundless information, whether a person is at home, sitting on a park bench, at a supermarket, or on a lunchbreak. Also, you can look at bright, colorful pictures on them, and even set one as your background. And you can ask some of them questions (verbally) and get answers (verbally). Also, movies and games. Also, navigation. Also, photography. Also, a bunch of other features so numerous that I don’t feel like listing them all.

In a sense, it’s like the old choice between beef jerky and celery. Most people would go for the sweet tasty delicious beef, and enjoy every bit of the experience. It’s one of life’s easy choices. However, there are a few who would go for the celery. They’d be more bitter for the experience, and afterwards stew over how much happier the people are who went for the beef jerky. So it is with technology: the people who embrace it get to benefit from how much better it makes their lives, while those who refuse get to savor whatever vacuous platitude that prevents them from being happy.

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Books have had an important place in history, what with the invention of the printing press expediting the propagation of ideas. However, for the propagation of ideas, books and the printing press have long-since become obsolete. The obsolescence of old media may make people feel like they are being left behind, but the reality of the matter is that they are only doing it to themselves.

This post was published using Firefox for mobile.

Expensive Tech as Fashion

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Apple is attempting to market AirPods as fashionable. I get the idea that fashion is supposed to be intrinsically difficult to figure out, because I’m having a hard time comprehending how fashionable it is to look like white plastic solidified while oozing out of someone’s ears. It’s like the earwax of nightmares. Gross.

The audio industry has long been a scary place. To start with, there’s “ordinary” headphones that a person can easily find for something like $20 at places like Target, then there’s the stuff of elites which can set a person back something like $300, which supposedly offer a superior audio experience. When a person is considering dropping all that cash on a single piece of tech, they’d want to be sure they’re getting their money’s worth, so they start doing some research to find which pair of headphones are right for them.

Then they’d find out that there’s many, many different varieties of elite headphones that each cost tons of money, and they’d have to do more research than they thought. They might attempt web searches to narrow things down, and find some blogs making direct comparisons between headphones on the market. Can we trust their opinions? When we see their pages littered with Amazon affiliate links for these products, it becomes apparent that these are for-profit blogs, and their opinions may be largely informed by what brings in the greater ad revenue for them.

The audio industry is intimidating, but lately, it’s gotten worse. The Beats brand of headphones has previously been marketed using endorsements by Dr. Dre as Beats By Dre. Since then, the Beats line has dropped the Dre endorsement, and was purchased by Apple, a company that already had a reputation for producing questionably expensive luxury tech.

That’s not to say that they’re no longer into the idea of celebrity endorsements for Beats, as the Beats brand has been endorsed by a number of celebrities, with even a special edition commemorating an endorsement by Justin Bieber. What sets these headphones apart from other headphones in the Beats line? Their color. That’s pretty much it.

These headphones are pricey, so one would imagine that they are some high-quality headphones. Instead, they are panned by audiophiles everywhere. The high price of these headphones is driven by the force of the demand generated by celebrity endorsements. The audio industry has found yet another way to liberate people from piles and piles of cash: with the words of people that are rich and famous.

And now, people are wearing Beats headphones and even AirPods with the belief that doing so would make them more fashionable. With tech companies standing to profit, I wouldn’t expect them to discourage this, but I’ve been noticing an increasing trend in the audio industry of encouraging style over producing a quality product, which provides another obstacle to avoid having spent hundreds of dollars on an inferior product.

I admit that if I were to spend a lot of money on something, I’d have a desire for it to look appealing. But when someone places undue importance on fashion when purchasing headphones, they just look like a sucker that caved in to marketing.

Scientists Discover New Material that Makes People Shut Up

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A team of Boston University scientists have discovered a material that blocks nearly all sound from passing through it. This material, dubbed by scientists as “acoustic meta-material”, can block 94% of sound, making even a loudspeaker inaudible to the human ear.

Leave it to scientists to discover something awesome but still fail to give it an awesome-sounding name. I think a great name for this stuff would be “shutupium”.

The material was mathematically-designed, so yes, math is still something that’s worth learning in school, especially if you’re interested in one day being involved in the development of awesome stuff.

One cool thing about this material is that it can be 3D-printed, so if you have a 3D printer, you can produce this stuff at home. Also, air can pass through it, but not sound.

I don’t know about you, but my head is racing from the possibilities of a material that can block sound. Obviously, there will be a new way to implement noise-cancellation technology in headphones. Better yet, it can also allow the rest of us to enjoy peaceful, quiet neighborhoods in spite of the annoying snots that drive around and listen to rap with their windows down just to annoy those of us who actually pay to live where we do. It would also be great for blocking out the barking from dogs whose owners moved into the city with them, not considering that everyone else would find them annoying.

And imagine what this can do to block noise at work. Those who work in noisy industrial environments might enjoy earplugs made from these things. But what’s really got me excited is that I could work and have no problem tuning out coworkers that continually fire off their BS cannons about stuff nobody cares about.

It would also be nice to have the windows open to let in some fresh air without hearing people hollering down the street. Come on guys, you can afford cell phones. As few as $20 might be all it takes to start you off with a phone and a simple plan.

Great work, scientists. While we’re hard at work making people less annoying, it would be great if they could invent something that could repel the smell of perfume or cigarette smoke. Or a pair of glasses that can make anyone look like a supermodel.

Why should we tolerate printers that lie to us?

This is the International Space Station:

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Its orbit far above earth’s surface is maintained by a pre-calculated velocity parallel to the tangent along earth’s surface. This creates free-fall conditions that simulate zero gravity, and allows the researchers on board to study the effects of zero gravity in physics and biology.

This is a web server:

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It is designed to handle client requests from devices located as far away as the other side of the globe via a connection to an information infrastructure that shares data between devices used by businesses and consumers of all ages. Odds are, one played a key role in you reading this.

This is a smart phone:

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It’s one of many devices like it on the market. It’s connected wirelessly to a cellular network that enables one to talk with people all over the world. It can also be used to browse the web, download and play games, purchase, download, and listen to music in surprisingly high-quality, watch movies on a display so fine that the naked eye couldn’t discern individual pixels, has a high-end camera built in, and can be used to make purchases by storing your credit and debit information. And there’s more. Lots more.

The model pictured has an octo-core processor, holds hundreds of gigabytes of data, is airtight to the point of being waterproof, and can recharge wirelessly.

Also, you can easily fit it in your pocket.

Finally, here is a printer. The thing about printers is…

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Oh, hold on. That’s not a printer. That’s flaming garbage. My mistake.

Here’s what a printer looks like:

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It runs using one of the most expensive liquids in the world, with a set of replacement cartridges in all four colors costing about $50. They only cost pennies to manufacture. The printer itself fails to operate properly within mere months of use, and in some cases, will actively lie to its user about its own ink status in an effort to encourage the consumer to buy even more expensive ink.

Think that’s a joke? I went to print an important document that I was to mail to the state government, but the print faded out on page two. So I checked the ink levels, which were kinda low, but there was still enough to finish the job. I tried printing the same documents as before. Page one printed just fine, but page two faded out in exactly the same manner as before.

I got desperate, as the documents were very important and time sensitive. So, seeing that page one printed just fine in both cases, I decided to print out page two by itself. The page faded out in exactly the same manner as before. My printer arbitrarily decided that it was going to fail on that page, and it was not going to allow any attempt to circumvent its planned failure.

I started searching my printer and its software for an option to make composite black using the color cartridges, knowing that some printers allowed this. Not finding it, I decided to keep trying. The documents were important. But the fading still occurred on page two, in the exact same way.

In case you’re wondering, the printer in question was an Epson Expression XP-446 (pictured above). Now you know not to buy Epson products.

The first page was printed enough times that the printer could have easily printed the entire document multiple times. Eventually, when the black ink was just about exhausted, I got a notification for an option to create composite black ink from the color cartridges (even though I couldn’t find that option before). I went for it, the document finally printed out in a kinda gross-looking brownish black, and I hurried and rushed the paperwork to the state government.

Shouldn’t it be illegal for printers to lie to us to try to get us to buy more ink?

For a while after that, the same printer didn’t give me problems. Not until just yesterday, when I tried doing my federal and state taxes. That’s when my printer decided to stop printing black ink, even though there was plenty left. The printer had no problem with wasting paper and color ink as I attempted in vain to get it to produce some important print-outs.

How come a printer that has no problem printing pictures of anime women wearing bikinis suddenly runs into issues when it comes to printing up important paperwork to send to the federal government of the United States?

nami one piece bikini.pngPriorities.

If we can suspend a huge piece of metal in the sky and make it habitable for research purposes, harness the power of electromagnetic waves for instantaneous communication with people all over the world, and make multimedia supercomputers that fit in one’s pocket, why is it so hard to make a printer that works dependably?

And if such a printer exists, please let me know where I can find it.

4 Features still missing from the iPhone

The new iPhone 7 has been revealed and released, and it seems like everyone is throwing a fit over the missing headphone jack.

It seems like this thing can’t be discussed without someone bemoaning the absence of another hole into which dust can get into their device, based on technological elements that have been implemented since 1878.

Personally, I think it’s about time someone took the bold move of phasing out the ancient headphone jack in favor of something like USB, or even a wireless connection like Bluetooth (which has been a thing for a while). Sure, this means that your old headphones might not be compatible with the new iPhone, but don’t act surprised. The cost of the forward movement of technology means that what came before tends toward obsolescence. Remember VHS tapes? We’ve since moved on to DVD. And speaking of, DVD is being phased out in favor of Blu-Ray digital downloads. What’s outdated eventually becomes a casualty of the war of progress.

Apple saw all the whining coming, so they went ahead and made a headphone adapter so you can continue to use your outdated headphones, and they even included it with the phone. As it turns out, the whiners are quite adaptive, because they’ve made their complaints about the theoretical few who like to listen to their music on their phone while their phone is charging. Here’s an idea: if you’re tethering your phone to your PC, why not just listen to music from your PC instead, considering that it’s right there? Or use the aforementioned Bluetooth.

It seems like people have forgotten that the iPhone is famous for missing features, so I’ve made a list of missing iPhone features to jog your memory.

1. Removable battery
Of the cell phones that I own, the iPhone is the only one that doesn’t have a removable battery. As anyone who has owned any cell phone would know, if you can’t swap out a depleted battery for a fresh one, the battery life of your phone becomes a serious issue. A phone can get away with having a pretty bad battery life if you can swap the battery out with replacements that you keep around.

2. SD card compatibility
We’re up to the 7th iteration of iPhone, not counting all the reissues of the same version, and the iPhone still lacks any capacity for storage expansion. Going back to comparing it to my other phones, the iPhone is the only cell phone of the ones I own that lacks a slot for Micro SD cards. Why is that? It’s an industry standard. Even my Nintendo 3DS came with an SD card.

So, what excuse does Apple have for not allowing expansion of storage using SD cards? From what I can tell, Apple would prefer to milk us by encouraging us to spend a lot of money for higher storage iPhones.

3. Smudge-resistant screen
It might be that I have a mild case of OCD, but I really hate the sight of fingerprints on my glossy tech. Especially on the display screens, because that can be really distracting. It’s nice that there are iPhone models that have a matte finish, but what does that do for the screen? What makes this an especially big deal for the iPhone is that the screen is the primary interface, and speaking of…

4. A slide-out keyboard
I’d like to know when it was decided that tactile feedback is obsolete. Here’s a hint: it isn’t. No one likes using a keyboard that doesn’t give a satisfying click with each keystroke, and the same goes for the iPhone’s virtual keyboard.

Those would be the main features that I can think of that would be great on iPhone, some of which are on most other phones. There might be others, but those would be the main ones that could really improve it. Personally, I doubt that Apple would actually implement these features, but if they’re a big enough deal for you, you could just get a different phone, instead.

#Fightfor15 backfires: McDonald’s considers replacing workforce with robots

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I remember my first job. It was working for McDonald’s, I kid you not.

However, it’s looking like times are changing. We might be saying “good-bye” to the day when high school seniors flipped burgers so they can buy Pokemon cards. The recent push for a massive jump in minimum wage has caused McDonald’s to seriously consider employing robots to replace their crew members. And considering the logistics behind it, it might actually be a pretty good move for McDonald’s.

I don’t know how expensive some of the robots they’re considering may be, but here’s some numbers to crunch:

Minimum wage may increase to $15 per hour.
A full-time work week is 40 hours.
There are about 52 weeks in a year.
Therefore, a full-time worker at the proposed minimum wage would make $31,200.00 per year.

If just one robot set McDonald’s back $60,000, it would end up paying for itself in less than two years. That would be a serious bargain. But there’s more. Employing robots can result in the following benefits:

  • Robots won’t complain about working overtime, nor would they demand more pay for it.
  • The only benefits that they’d require is routine maintenance.
  • They won’t goof off to go on Twitter to complain about their job or accuse their boss of being in some “old boy’s club”.
  • They won’t complain about special orders.
  • No showing up late. Showing up late is for humans.
  • They’re not going to have a bad day or decide to hate their jobs, so they’re always going to be polite to the customers.

And there’s more. If they can find some robots cheap enough that can accomplish the same tasks as humans, something which is becoming easier to do, McDonald’s stands to benefit from employing robots.

I know that some McDonald’s crew might mind losing their jobs to some robots. Me, I have my own reasons for thinking that a minimum wage increase is a terrible idea. I’ve worked minimum wage and close to it long enough to understand the kind of damage that minimum wage increases do to the value of money. The government might force employers to pay their staff a higher wage. But nothing is preventing renters, retailers, and utility providers from charging more for their products and services. When there is a minimum wage increase, the cost of stuff starts shooting up.

And why wouldn’t it? Businesses have a harder time making ends meet when they’re forced to pay their staff more, and increasing the costs of products and services is a natural way of trying to offset an increase in the cost of running a business. People would have more money anyway, so if they were able to pay for it before, they’d be able to pay for it at the adjusted rate.

So, in summary, we’d be payed more, but…

  • …We’d be charged more for everything, too.
  • …The value of the money itself would plummet, which would be tough nuggets if you’ve been trying to save the stuff.
  • …There’s no guarantee that there’d be a rate increase for skilled workers, so if you went to school to do what you do, it might become harder for you to get by.
  • …And you might end up losing your source of income to a robot, in which case, you’d actually end up making less.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve lived as a poor person for quite some time, so I know how these things go. The idea that poor people would benefit from a minimum wage increase is a myth. However, it’s getting to the point that even fast food workers are having to compete with robots. That humans have been less expensive to hire has long been a selling point, but it looks like that’s changing.

Are liberals secretly inept at tech?

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The first batch of Hillary Clinton emails since the Benghazi testimony have been released, and one of the things they tell us about Hillary is her choice of cell phones. It seems Hillary is a Blackberry user.

I admit that my cell phone of choice was a Blackberry at one point. It was a Blackberry Torch, which I liked because it provided a combination of touchscreen and keyboard interfaces. It was an okay phone. However, the Blackberry brand is well past it’s prime. Perhaps the most significant reason that the Blackberry brand has as many users as it does is because it’s historically been favored in the business world. It was a pioneer at one point, and may have even been favored for some reasons. Today, the Blackberry brand doesn’t have the same kind of relevance that it used to.

It’s tempting to pick on Hillary because of her favoritism toward the Blackberry brand, but Blackberry phones are sometimes standard issue among large corporations (I suspect that they’re a means of keeping the staff on a leash; if the company gives the employee a phone, it can enable the company to contact the employee at any time). What I found interesting is that after spending time with a newer Blackberry, Hillary went back to an older Blackberry for it’s familiarity. It’s interesting enough that, instead of adapting to something new, she went back to an older phone for it’s familiarity. But on top of that, after going back to her old phone, she found herself missing the emoticons from the newer phone.

Hillary Clinton is one of the most serious-looking women I’ve ever seen, so it’s hard to imagine that she’d have a strong attachment to emoticons. She even asked whether there was a way to add them to her older phone.

What we’re seeing so far is actually far different from the image of the privileged coastal technocrat that liberals largely picture themselves as (some also view themselves as an oppressed minority that is part of an underground movement, and they see very little problem with being both). What we’re seeing is someone who, instead of adapting to something cutting-edge, instead went back to something older for comfort. And what’s more, she likes smilies. If she were to later come out saying that she plays Candy Crush Saga, that would lend to the idea that information like this was being fed to the public to make Hillary seem more relatable.

She also asked “How does this work” about a request to “connect” on the website LinkedIn.

Say what?

LinkedIn has over 300 million users. Each of these users likely figured out how to create an account without asking for someone else’s help. If she was really asking for help on how to connect on LinkedIn, perhaps she didn’t make her Facebook and Twitter accounts by herself.

To put this into perspective, the guy behind Time Cube was able to make his own website.

What’s more, Hillary asked one of her aides what her New York Times password is.

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I get the idea that Hillary Clinton isn’t that good with tech. It seems like ineptitude with tech has increasingly become a liability for those of liberal persuasion. One example would be Lois Lerner, who played a part in a conspiracy to target conservative groups because that’s one way that a fascist can abuse power. When she was subpoenaed for her emails, it conveniently turned out that they were deleted. It’s pretty obvious that she or her cronies deleted her emails because there were things in them that could have gotten her in trouble. However, the emails were recoverable. It turns out that a supposedly-sophisticated organization like the IRS didn’t do a good job at covering its tracks.

Then there’s the scandal involving Anthony Weiner, who attempted to send a woman a picture of his genitals, but posted it to Twitter instead. I can picture a person mistakenly sending the wrong person a text message, but how does a person try to send a private message but accidentally make it public instead?!

Considering cases like these, I get the idea that liberals actually aren’t as tech savvy as they would like you to believe. Of course, the bigger problem for liberalism would be its ideology, and that they provide just the right environment for fringe groups such as radical vegetarians and feminists (the latter of which has been becoming increasingly fanatical).

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Liberalism is like a high-IQ club that’s free to join with no IQ test required, and everyone involved high-fives one another for having the same opinion. Of course, if they don’t come to the right conclusions, they haven’t actually been using their heads right, and that wouldn’t change just because they know how to use smartphones (which have been made so that they’d be simple to use for just about anyone).