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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 5, 2013
I bought a Google Nexus 4 over Christmas.

Put in the SIM card and turned it on. Signed in with my Google Gmail account.

And there it was - all my data, contacts - even recent history.

It can be done.

I held off buying a tablet most of the year to see how good Microsoft Surface would be.
As a creative myself I wanted a tablet which would run Adobe.

But I realised along the way how out of date Windows is - along the lines of your recent post on thoughts before apps.
I write a piece of text for a LinkedIn response. Suddenly it is a Word document, a Powerpoint slide, an InDesign paragraph or a webpage. Or I've created a visual for it in Photoshop or voiced it for a video with Premiere.
I don't want to have to remember which format it is and in which folder I put it.

The world has moved on. And it is for the good.

But as one of the science fiction authors said - "The Future is here - it just isn't evenly distributed."
 
 
Jan 4, 2013
@cgarret

The feature you describe is called "Wishlist" and is available on TiVo boxes. I used in the past when DirecTV still had TiVo software. I really liked it. I suspect TiVo claims a patent on the idea or you would probably have seen on all DVRs by now.
 
 
Jan 4, 2013
"CARTOONIST THINKS TECHNOLOGY IS MAGIC!"
 
 
Jan 4, 2013
I often feel like I have been transported back to prehistoric times when I use new iPhone apps. They often have very non-intuitive interfaces and little to no documentation.

I find myself wondering how, in this day and age, somebody can make things that are so difficult to use. If you are lucky and it is a popular app, you can find some third-party YouTube video that explains how to use it. Otherwise, you are often plunged into a frustrating, 30 to 90 minute learning curve.
 
 
Jan 4, 2013
"It's time to get everyone on the Internet so we can climb out of the goats-for-mead world we are in. "

We're doing just that right now here in Australia.

http://www.nbnco.com.au/about-us/index.html

Of course, we also have universal health care, progressive taxation and strict gun control, so as a rule American politicians think they have little to learn from us...
 
 
Jan 4, 2013
Using Chrome is great since my company tries to delete almost every week. I just reinstall and all my settings and extensions are there, no headache!
 
 
Jan 4, 2013
Things that feel ancient:

* People who use the phrase "in the cloud". There is no cloud. You are having a company provide an Internet-based service. "Cloud" is synonymous with "magic" in the minds of people who don't know what is actually happening.

* The same people who don't understand the complexity of what they're demanding also demanding that it seem simple to them. Here is simple: a notepad and pen. You want more magic/cloud, be prepared for most cost, complexity, and less reliability.

* People who demand that complex, automated systems be free. There is no free. You are paying for it with advertising, irritation, loss of privacy, taxes, or just buying it. I would rather buy it and not pay the other costs.

Welcome to 21st century reality. I hope you like it here!
 
 
Jan 4, 2013
Scott,

I am surprised that you are still using Windows.
As as former Apple Developer (1985 - 2000) I would recommend you consider a transition to a Apple Macbook Pro, a Windows emulator (VMware or Parallels), a copy of Windows 7 and a copy of MS Word for the Mac ( I assume that is your word processing software). The Mac software is a bit easier to use and more intuitive than Windows. Both Operating Systems have their annoyances. I fiind that that the Apple OS and supporting software is a bit easier to use.
 
 
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 4, 2013
If we're just doing wish lists...

I want to watch a particular movie that's sometimes on TV. Let's say Shawshank Redemption. I want to be able to program my DVR -- or even better, just give me an app -- to automatically search the upcoming listings for Shawshank Redemption, *even if it's not currently scheduled to be shown for the foreseeable future*, and then record it. Maybe it won't be shown for a month or two. I just want the DVR to keep checking for me until it pops up on a channel I get, record it, and then send me an email saying, "Hey, I got Shawshank for you!"

You could tie it into any of the various apps that ape IMDB's Watchlist. Just give your DVR a list of movies or TV shows that you want to record if they ever pop up on one of the stations you get through your cable system, and it will record them. I love the Odd Couple but it's never on TV anymore. I want my DVR to be ready to record it when it comes on, whenever it comes on.

I know I could get Netflix, or maybe Tivo does this already. But I don't want to pay for it. I already have the ability to a) list my favorite TV shows/movies and b) search TV listings and c) record shows. I just want a DVR smart enough to tie a), b), and c) together.
 
 
Jan 4, 2013
I generally agree with your rant, but have a few comments:

- One way to control loyalty cards is with a service at KeyRingThing.com. Combines barcodes onto one card. Doesn't help with loyalty cards though.

- Facial recognition is never going to be as fast or accurate as fingerprints since faces change with weight shifts and age, and are obscured by hair, glasses and hats. Fingerprints would solve the signature and store recognition issues and make credit cards safer.

One of my biggest complaints is that there are just too friggin many ways to communicate now. It used to be that I could walk into a grocery store and look for sale signs or check out a weekly ad. Then I had to sign up for email to get special deals not in the paper. Now they have exra-special deals that require online coupons. Really? How hard do I have to work to get 30 cents off peas? And I really like Doctor Oz and frequently watch his shows. But there was always additional content that you had to go to the website for. Then came the emails, the blog, facebook and now Pinterest. Make it stop!!! Pick one media, please!!
 
 
+10 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 4, 2013
Hello from the rapidly receding past. I stopped at year 2000 word processors. I still have floppy disks and ZIP media I use every day. I have a land line, my cell phone is only for emergencies while driving. Smart phones give me the creeps. And I don’t need all that entertainment or frivolous options or the high bills. I just want to talk for a few minutes and be alone with my thoughts. Digital TV is not worth it to me. I do not have cable or satellite, of course.

It is uncomfortable for me to do web-based merit reviews and web-site ordering. I hate to type in my credit number. Digital books irritate me, but bookstores in my area are closing. I am just reading my old books and magazines over and over. Sheet music stores closed up longer ago, and the rewards of ordering music books on-line had been worth the hassle. But now the push is for digital downloads to print yourself. Aaargh!

Compact disks were great, but are yielding to digital downloads, too. I still play vinyl records, as they sound better to me, and the selection is more diverse. I like obscure and esoteric items that aren not profitable to big retailers.

Newspapers are the length of newsletters, anymore, and will eventually stop printing. How will I wrap my vegetable peelings? News web-sites are infested with non-professionals and trolls. Reader comment pages allow people to attack and rate each other.

So you think you have problems?

You can have this plugged-in, cloud-based, junk information saturated world, where everything will be analyzed, digitized, and licensed. The numerists spy on everybody and mine data for corporations and PACs. Eventually a computer virus will join with an actual virus and fry brains world-wide. Or everybody will be connected and physically helpless and some jokester pulls the plug.

Before that happens, THEY will hunt down people like me to send to reservations. I will be in with the hula hoop people who watch old Jack Benny and Burns and Allen TV show reruns. Any of you care to join me?
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 4, 2013
I agree with this particular post so much that simply clicking the up thumb felt insufficient. Can I get a "Hell Yeah!"
 
 
Jan 4, 2013
In a similar vein, here's Wired's rant on the TV remote:
www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2013/01/fixing-the-tv-remote

"Here's an easy way to determine what should, and shouldn't, be on a universal remote: If a toddler can, within minutes of picking it up, change the language to French, completely screw up the color balance and program the TV to shut off every 30 minutes, the remote has too many damn buttons."


 
 
Jan 4, 2013
Verizon's customer support is bad enough with its current subscriber base. I'd hate to imagine how bad it could be if they got five times the amount of customers.
 
 
Jan 4, 2013
I want to ask a question about this part:
"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."

When you say "basic right" to internet and a smart phone, what do you mean? Do you mean that tax dollars pay for everyone to have these things? You realize that the government involvement with landline telephones and the energy grid was just to force providers to run the cables out to remote locations and provide the ability for people to purchase these services. I'm not sure there's anybody today that is restricted from the internet or a smartphone due to lack of availability, so we don't need to government to make these things a basic right, unless by "right" you mean "free". (A lot of people are using "right" to mean "free" these days, even though that's not what it used to mean, so I just wanted to check.)
 
 
Jan 4, 2013
@EMU

Hmmm...seems you and I have a different interpretation of what Scott is dealing with here. I thought it was a pop-up that keeps asking him to try some piece of software. You're thinking its for a piece of software he's currently using whose trial period has expired. Which is it Scott?
 
 
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 4, 2013
@whtllnew: "That feels more like giving in to extortion than a solution to the problem."
Why? If he uses it, he can pay for it. If he doesn't want to pay he shouldn't use it.

A free trial is for trying. The nag screen doesn't prevent that. If he uses it for more than just trying, it's his fault. Depending on the license, what he does may even be illegal.

I wonder what Scott's lawyer would say if I were to use one of his cartoons outside the scope of its license.
 
 
Jan 4, 2013
I hate software updates. I hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate them.

I think my Sony Bravia TV has more-or-less guaranteed that I will never buy a "Smart TV" ever again. It's total crap that I turn on my TV, and it whines about needing 5 minutes to download and install a software update. And then, about 1/3rd of the time, features don't work correclty, and there's an increased likelihood that the TV will crash -- software crash -- while I'm watching something, until the next update ("this will take approximately 5 minutes") comes along to mitigate the damage.

I also hate my Sony Playstation 3 with it's software updates. I don't play games very often, and when I do, there's ALWAYS a damned software update. Like every damn time I turn it on.

My wife wanted to fill out a passport request form yesterday for our kids. As usual, Adobe Acrobat Reader won't allow her to view it or print it out until I do a software update.

My work computer won't allow me to install software for security reasons, and about 90% of the time, anything Flash based won't work, because I need to install the latest version, and my company doesn't get around to it very often.

I hate, hate, hate, hate, hate the way the industry has gone this way.
 
 
-10 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 4, 2013
@EMU

["How do I make that free-trial pop-up stop bothering me?": By paying. And it takes an effort for me to leave it at that.]

That feels more like giving in to extortion than a solution to the problem.
 
 
Jan 4, 2013
Yet again we are a victim of our own human nature. I have more or less the same problems you just mentioned and I imagine 9 out of 10 folks reading this blog do too but changing any of these things is going to be a slow process. Why? Because folks don't hate them enough to demand change and the folks who created this situation have little incentive to change.

And I can't help thinking that your proposed solution would make it several times easier to steal your identity and make it harder for you to get it back.
 
 
 
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