I feel as if I live in two different time periods. One of those periods has cool technology that works just right, such as my iPhone 5 with Google Maps, operating in satellite view mode, at 4G speeds. It feels as if I'm living in a futuristic sci-fi movie.

Other times, such as when I use my laptop with Windows, I feel as if living I'm in a time from long ago. Windows and its third-party software pals interrupt my writing flow so often with pleas for software updates that I find it almost impossible to construct a sentence. And there's no such thing as doing a little work when I find myself with an unexpected ten minutes. By the time I open my document and start to write I've been distracted by all sorts of little software side streets.

Do I really need to update my virus program every two days? How much risk am I accepting if I don't? Does my laptop manufacturer's software really need updating when I haven't noticed any problems? That requires some investigation. Should I reboot now as one of the updates insists, or can I put that off for later. How do I make that free-trial pop-up stop bothering me?

Realistically, it's not the amount of time that is the issue but the sidetracking of thought. For creative work, mental detours are killers.

And suppose I want to do something simple such as load photos from a camera. That should be easy, but somehow a different piece of software jumps in to handle the job every time. And by "handle" I mean store the uploaded photos in some sort of secret hidden folder that I can never find. I'm not sure it has ever worked the same way twice.

Windows is just one example of something that feels ancient. Recently I was filling out some paperwork that required me to sign my name over and over and over. Why do they need so many signatures for the same process? It's because someday someone might need to prove that I had to an opportunity to read some legalese that hasn't ever been read by anyone but the bastard who wrote it. I'll bet even the guy who paid the bastard to write it didn't read it.

Speaking of lawyers, do we really need a completely different and customized set of contracts for every transaction? It seems to me we could handle 90% of all contract situations with a few standard forms that allow you to fill in the blanks.

Yesterday I watched a good friend open a leather binder she carries around to keep her credit cards and various loyalty cards organized. I think there were about forty cards in that thing. She told a story of almost losing the binder at an airport and how panicked she was before finding it. The bag-o-plastic-cards system feels about as modern as dragging your goat to market to pay for some mead.

Let me tell you the system that I want. I'd like my phone hardware to be totally generic, and only the software to change as needed, up in the cloud, without asking me. If I drop my phone in the toilet, I want to grab another generic phone off the shelf, speak my name as my identifier, and have it load my phone software from the cloud. I'm up and running in minutes.

And I want my phone to be my computer too, or at least the gateway to my computer function in the cloud. If I get near a desktop with a monitor and keyboard, it should recognize my proximity and turn into my computer via software on the cloud.

I never want to identify myself in a retail establishment. Let their cameras snap a picture of my face then match it to a common database of faces and cross-check it to the unique signal from my phone that is in my pocket. That should be enough to know it's me.

And I never want to enter a password again, or spell my email address letter-by-letter over the phone, or even know my own phone number.

As much as I don't like government interference in markets, I'm happy as hell that I have HD television, and GPS, and wireless frequencies that are orderly. Now I wish the government would mandate an end to pen-based signatures, physical money, plastic cards, software pop-ups that beg for updates, and lawyers.

I'd be okay with a constitutional amendment making it a basic right to have Internet access and a smartphone by the year 2020 or so. It worked for landline telephones and the energy grid. It's time to get everyone on the Internet so we can climb out of the goats-for-mead world we are in. Long term, I think universal Internet access saves the government more money than it costs because the economy would be so much better for it.

Rant complete.

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Jan 8, 2013
The cartoonist doth protest too much?

I don't think so. In ten years, I believe the world is going to be much closer to the scenario he lays out than most people imagine.

With Disney leading the way, the rest of the world is bound to follow:


Jan 8, 2013
The cartoonist doth protest too much, methinks. If Windows is such hell to use, why do you use it? There's nothing you can do in Windows that you can't also do on a Mac. It's interesting that you contrast the iPhone with a PC, when the two are completely separate markets. (If I recall correctly, back when you were challenged to compare them, you thought WP7 was superior, in experience anyway, to the iPhone.)

And honestly, after reading the whinier parts of this post, I can only picture George Costanza exploding about how "we mustn't disturb the delicate genius!"

Personally, I can't stand Apple. It's got nothing to do with their products, which are fine (though overpriced), and everything to do with the arrogance and condescension that oozes out of Cupertino like the Great Molasses Flood of 1919. I've only used one Apple product in the last twenty years, and that was to get the iPad that my in-laws brought with them on my home network, which required me to find its MAC address, an exercise in utter frustration. It seemed to be made deliberately hard to find, buried away somewhere deep inside the OS settings, because, after all, those poor, dumb users shouldn't be worrying their pretty little heads about such things. It didn't help that it was in Chinese.

My laptop is set to automatic updates. The virus filter etc. does indeed update all the time (the Windows Update history shows ten downloads since the start of the year) but I never see it happen, so I don't care. Much less frequently -- the last one was more than a month ago at this point -- a Windows download happens that requires that I reboot the machine. By far the most annoying program in this regard is Adobe Acrobat, which not only constantly updates itself but has no option for doing so silently. It's hard to see how that is the fault of Windows.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 8, 2013
People are becoming stupid at a much faster rate than phones are becoming smarter.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 7, 2013
A couple of comments:
1. Passwords. Passwords do suck, but there really hasn't been a good replacement for the "what you know" part of security. The scenario mentioned, includes "what you have" (phone) and biometric/what-you-look-like (facial recognition) may be good enough for your frequent shopper credit at the supermarket, but sure don't want that at my bank.
2. Windows: don't blame the OS, blame the users (for buying/using software with too many updates) or the developers. Windows has always given users FREEDOM to hang themselves so to speak, on bad software. iOS (iPhone) is more stable, but you're giving away that freedom to apple. For example, try installing a better on screen keyboard. Can't. There are no bugs, or updates for software you can't install.
Jan 7, 2013
This is how the world ends. As humans enter the final phase of smart-phone mating they become sensitized to inconvenience. Soon the slightest disturbance will send them into a tizzy of gentle phone stroking. Have you ever seen a tizzy of gentle phone stroking? Because ITS YOUR FUTURE!!!
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 7, 2013
I was sidetracked there by my affinity for goats and honey.

Anyway, I'd like to see Internet access function like a utility. Right now, I'm very happy with my high-speed FIOs line - which cost me $60/month. I work from home, participate in video conferencing and often need to share large files. I could not do what I do without good Internet access.

Still - the rules seem a bit bizarre. I just dropped my phone service from the FIO's bundle. For some reason the the highest speed access is only available for bundled services.... I dropped the phone because I wanted to port my number to a service that gives me more options for blocking spam calls. I'd have stayed with Frontier and paid more than necessary for phone service if they would just stop pretending to be an analog provider. They want to charge me for each number blocked!

I have a low-income, housebound relative who is perfectly capable of working from home - but he lives in a remote area with limited internet access. Right now he is a net drain on the economy. Affordable broadband could turn that around.

Also - the potential for transforming access to education is dizzying. If we could inspire kids in lousy school districts to "play" online educational games -and then slowly move them into more sophisticated online education options - we capture a lot more human potential for productive work -and improve lives. There would have to be some clever thinking around incentives, etc. but I believe it could be done - as long as the government does not take the lead on the program itself. I'd rather see the government ensure access to the technology - and then others come up with the education programs.

+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 7, 2013
Go ahead and stick your SIM card in your head and the cloud will upload your thoughts directly into your brain and you won't have to worry about anything ever again.
Jan 7, 2013
Apple computers assume that you are too stupid to work anything out for yourself. That is why you should get one, and preferably before OS X becomes victim to as many viruses as windows has.
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 6, 2013
I see :-)
Wish it were possible too...
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 5, 2013

I compartmentalize well. I'm all for encouraging a lively trade in both goats and mead while clinging to my MacBook and iPhone with every last ounce of strength in my body. Definitely good with modern dentistry!
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 5, 2013
How old?
Before or after cavity-ridden teeth were pulled by the travelling barber? :-)

Sorry, couldn't resist...
+7 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 5, 2013
Speaking as someone who raises both goats and honey bees, I vote for a return to the old days.
Jan 5, 2013
While this is a nice ideal I have to say it's rather foolish. For two main reasons:
The first, petek66 covered well enough, so I won't go into that.

The second which I find to be of vastly greater concern is the fact that no grid is perfect. Allow me to explain that. While you live in a well to do area where blazing fast wireless internet is apparently a reality, quite a few of us struggle to watch youtube at low res.

However, on a note more relevant to you, the idea you propose is a disaster multiplier. Sandy comes to mind, on a system such as the one you propose, parts of New York would have almost literally trading goats for mead. The power grid can and does fail, for a multitude of reasons, let's not even go into the data networks. While it's true we are already very entrenched in a need for those grids, when they shut down we currently have alternatives while they are repaired. Our finances are not completely frozen, and our files, data, and records are have not evaporated. Now imagine just one week with absolutely no access to currency or even your own files. Not unlikely under this scenario.
+13 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 5, 2013
My concern about the Cloud is that the corporations can shut off access on a whim. Example- when I got Netflix streaming I thought I could get rid of some of my DVDs. But then I realized that every few weeks some licensing deal ends and *poof*, movies in my queue disappear. Once physical media and drives go away we'll be at the mercy of the studios. Same will happen with software, music, books, etc.
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 5, 2013
My iPhone pesters me for app updates far more than Windows.
Jan 5, 2013
Oh, and one more thing - I keep forgetting how young most of you are. You hate software updates? I love them, unless they don't work.

Gather 'round, children, and sit at ol' granpaw Phantom's feet. Let me tell you how it used to be.

In the old days, software updates would come out around once every six months. When they came out, they had two things in them, basically: bug fixes and new features.

Installing them was not only a pain in the butt, but you would have to determine if the time and expense of doing the upgrade was worth the benefit. If you decided to install the upgrade, it was a giant pain to have to test, retrain, install, switch over. . . ARGHHHH!!!!!

Nowadays, all you have to do is say "yes" to the "Install now?" question. The upgrades are small, and done incrementally. If one of them causes your system to take a poo, you can simply and easily back the darned thing out.


Phew. Ol' gramps Phantom feels better now. Time to go take my rheumatiz medicine and try to make it up the stairs.
Jan 5, 2013
There you go again. You start off great: describing problems that arise from incompatible systems. Then you once again spiral out of control by recommending that government step in to "solve" things. They've done such a great job with the DMV, why not let them take over software development, too! Great idea, Scott!

This statement in particular has me stymied: "I'd be okay with a constitutional amendment making it a basic right to have Internet access and a smartphone by the year 2020 or so. It worked for landline telephones and the energy grid."

I'm not an expert on the Constitution, but I have at least a layman's understanding of it. Yet I am at a loss to find the amendment that made it a basic right to have a landline telephone or electrical energy. I'd be very interested in knowing which amendment has made phones and electricity a "basic right."

As a slight digression, the word "right," in this context, gets thrown around much too often, and just as often incorrectly. Rights do not get bestowed by government, they only get restricted by government. Government can't give you any rights; all they can do is either take them away or guarantee in some way that they won't. That's what the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution, were all about. They were government's absolute, firm-clad guarantee that the rights therein elucidated would never be abridged - and we all see how well THAT'S worked out.

Back to your point: you have obviously never been a member of any kind of software standardization group. Simply said, it doesn't work. People become zealots for their particular little point of development. In some cases, it's because they have proprietary systems that they want to become standard. In others, it's because they worship their particular way of doing things.

When token-ring networking was working to be standardized, there was a huge fight over the data-checking algorithms. One method, which was more precise, would only allow 80 MB/sec speeds, while the other, while slightly less perfect, allowed 100 MB/sec speeds. While the standards committee was taking years to slug this one out, the Ethernet folks just chuckled and kept improving their technology and going for market share. The result? Well, when was the last time you saw a token-ring network?

There was a big push toward standardization through object-oriented systems about ten years ago. The idea was to develop this huge piece of software called an Object Request Broker, and then make every other piece of software in the world work with it. The ORB would exist in what we now consider to be the cloud, and it would interconnect requests for services that would also be distributed over the web. Say your software needed a sort routine - it would just make a request to the ORB; the ORB would then find what you needed, and allow your software to access it. Perfect compatibility. Everything working with everything else. Simple. Pure. Nirvana.

There were standards committees up the wazoo trying to work out those pesky little details. It foundered in a sea of angry fights over every little piece of the ORB (which was called CORBA, for Common Object Request Broker Architecture, by the way). There was another problem as well - standardization kills innovation. Standardization is cement; innovation is water. You can't make cement flow, and you can't make a building out of water.

So far, it seems that the best compromise we have is competition and the free market. The good ideas will rise to the top, while the bad ones will die out. What the market place will support, will grow; just as true is the opposite.

Scott, if you really think that a group of bureaucrat lawyers in Washington can dictate how software should work, then you should try letting them take control of your health care. Oh, wait. . .

If government had controlled the software industry, we'd all be using command line interfaces. Government doesn't make things better. It doesn't improve situations. It just regulates them, taxes them, and then pats itself on the back for !$%*!$%* everything up.

If that's really what you want, then I suggest you go to one of the wonderful government-run countries like North Korea or Venezuela. I'm sure your ideas would be embraced with open arms there.
Jan 5, 2013
Scott -

Nice post. But I still like Windows.

Please write about your vacation. It was fun reading about your vacation last year.
Jan 5, 2013
Windows has an option to just turn off all automatic updates. Most software programs also do. If you do not want to turn automatic updates off then windows has an option to update without asking for your approval. Choose that option if you want but I would not recommend it as downloading large updates automatically will hog your computer resources. Just do as I do. Turn automatic updates off. I have automatic updates turned off since as far back as I can remember and it has never posed a problem for me. In fact, trying to update programs has given me headaches occasionally, but never leaving one as it is. Only my virus definitions update automatically once a day. Every other update can wait until I go looking for it.

If you start depending on the cloud, you are depending on a Wally
Jan 5, 2013
The upcoming Ubuntu Mobile OS aims to provide the mobile/desktop integration you're after for Android and Ubuntu: http://lifehacker.com/5972559/the-ubuntu-mobile-os-introduced-today-coming-to-phones-in-2014

And as others have mentioned, Android/Google already go a long way towards not caring about which bit of hardware you're using. Just tap in your Google login and you're up and running with everything in seconds.
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