Saturday Chum Stew: Water, Vegas, Revolts, and Death. A Typical Week.

userpic=observationsSaturday, and time to clear out the news links before a busy weekend. Hopefully, you’ll find something of interest in these:



What Old Technology Do You Still Use? What Will You Use?

userpic=recordWhile riding the van into work this morning, my mind was pondering the following question: What technology do you use today that you used, in the same form, 30 years ago (i.e., 1984)? How about 40 years ago (1974)? 50 years ago (1964)? Similar to that, 30 years from now, what technology from today will you still be using. Let’s exclude pens, pencils, and the like. I’m talking things connected via electric cords of some form.

Some technology has gone by the wayside. I know I don’t use cassettes any more (although I still have a player), and I haven’t hauled out my electric typewriter in years. Certainly how I connect to the network is different — in 1984, I was still on services like Agora or Rain, using basic terminal servers; in 1974, I wasn’t even on computers except for the Compucorp programmable calculators. TV has changed as well — although my TV could take analog input, there’s no more analog OTA or CCTV anymore — it is digital to the house, and then goes through a converter box. Without those modern boxes, my old TVs would be useless. CDs? I got my first CD back in the early 1990s, less than 30 years ago.

But there is some technology that hasn’t changed. I’m still listening, on analog record players with tonearms, to LPs from the 1940s and 1950s. My telephone is still POTS (plain old telephone service) using copper wires — the only change was moving from pulse (dial) to tone (DMTF) between 1974 and 1984. AM and FM Radio hasn’t changed from 50 years ago, except for stereo.

What about the future? What technology that we use today will be the same 30 years in the future? Hopefully, all that digital music we’ve purchased will still be usable, even though it might be a copy of a copy. LPs will likely still be around. Cassettes and CDs probably won’t. Radio will likely have gone digital, if only to recover the bandwidth. Telephones will probably have a VoIP backbone instead of copper pair, but will that change the instrument on the wall?

So, what about you? What do you use from 30 – 40 – 50 years ago? What will you be still using in 30 years?



Saturday Stew: Technology, Cannibal Rats, &c

Observation StewIt’s Saturday, and you know what that means: time to clear out the links list of articles that never quite formed into themes of three or more articles:

  • The iPod of Prison. An interesting article from the New Yorker on the Sony SRF-39FB, a clear plastic AM/FM radio that is the most popular radio … in prisons. The clear plastic is one factor, the sound quality and reception is another, as well as the price. It is only now starting to be replaced by MP3 players, where the prison controls what can be downloaded.
  • Risks of BYOD. The catchword today in business is BYOD – Bring Your Own Device. Businesses have become more accomodating of employee’s using their personal smartphones and other devices on corporate networks. But there’s a big downside — when you leave the company, typically they have the right to remotely wipe your device. You should read any connection agreements you need to click through carefully, and make an offline archive of any personal information before you leave.
  • Multilingual. Here’s a neat article and video: “Let It Go” (from Frozen) in 25 languages, and how Disney planned the movie for 41 languages. I love how seamless the video is — great job from the sound engineers to get the timing exactly right. I love listening to songs I know in other language, be it “Fiddler on the Roof” in Yiddish, “Hair” in Hebrew, “Les Miserables” in French, the Beatles in German. I blame my high school Spanish teacher, who constantly played “yo no encuentro satisfacción”.
  • Cannibal Rats. There evidently is a ship floating around the northern Atlantic that is filled with cannibal rats. Whether or not you think the story is real, the concept is right up there with “Snakes on a Plane”. Can’t you just see the horror movie now. Our teens on a pleasure cruise come upon an abandoned ship and decide to explore.. and they find…
  • No Ren Faires in Your Long-Term Future. Good news for history, English, and other liberal arts majors: it’s not the career death you’ve been told. Liberal arts majors may start off slower than others when it comes to the postgraduate career path, but they close much of the salary and unemployment gap over time, a new report shows. By their mid-50s, liberal arts majors with an advanced or undergraduate degree are on average making more money those who studied in professional and pre-professional fields, and are employed at similar rates…. with one exception. Salaries still lag behind engineering and math and sciences graduates, who in their late 50s make about $98,000 and $87,000, respectively.
  • A Loss for the Jewish Community. The LA Times and the Jewish Journal are reporting that Harvey Fields has died. Rabbi Fields was just taking over from Rabbi Wolf as senior Rabbi at Wilshire Blvd Temple when we got married; Rabbi Wolf had been senior rabbi for a year after the death of Rabbi Magnin. We were only at Wilshire as Fields was coming in, but he did remarkable things for the congregation during the time — he basically brought the congregation back into modern progressive Judaism, stemmed the membership decline, and completely revitalized the place. I was more involved with the camps, and during much of his time, there weren’t significant changes there (those came near the end of Fields’ tenure as Rabbi Leder was coming in). But Fields still deserves a lot of credit for what he did for Wilshire Blvd Temple and the Jewish community in Los Angeles.



Modern Times Stew

Observation StewNow for the rest of the Saturday News Chum Stew. All of these times deal with the changes wrought by modern times…



I’ve Got a Little List: Obsolete Technology, Left-Handed Problems, LA Drivers

userpic=fountain-penThe unifying theme for today’s lunchtime news chum is enumeration: these are all lists of things. Further, they are all lists of things with which I have some disagreement:

  • 12 Obsolete Technologies Americans Still Use. Andrew Ducker brought this list to my attention. I disagree with many of these items — both with the “obsolete” aspect, and the implication that there is no rationale for their use. For almost all of these, I’ll argue that there are still narrow use cases that justify their use. #2 Pagers, for example, have the advantage of being one-way, which make them ideally suited for environments where one is worried about information exfiltration. #3, Dot Matrix Printers, are needed in cases where multiple copies are required and printing multiple originals is burdensome (or when a real signature is required). #5, Pay Phones, are vital for emergencies and cases where people either cannot use or cannot afford cell service. #7, landline phones, are a vital backup communication medium when the power goes out (they have independent power, whereas VoIP depends on main power), and still have superior sound quality to cell lines. #9, film, has inherent artistic qualities that cannot be duplicated with digital (which is the same argument for #12, vinyl). #11, fax machines, can provide security advantages as it is not stored. Which do I use? #7, #8, #11 (some places still require it), #12.
  • 18 Worst Things for Left Handed People. Being left handed, I agree with many items on this list, although some I disagree with. For example, #5 — really now? Pushing the ball? If so, then how can I write with a fountain pen. Similarly, with #6, that’s only a problem if you are using ink that doesn’t dry fast enough. #7 is only a problem if you don’t take care where you sit (it’s now automatic for me to sit in the correct corner), and I’ve never had a problem with #10 or #15. Some of these still annoy me, such as #1, #2, and #12, and my personal pet peeve is #16 — those signature capture machines are never designed for left handers.
  • 30 Things Only Drivers in Los Angeles Will Understand. This, perhaps, is the list I have the greatest disagreement with, for much of these are things that native Los Angeles people have no problems with. For example, regarding #1 — I never scream on the freeway — I just turn on a podcast and go with the flow (or get off and get some tea and wait for the mess to subside). As for #4, Sigalert is so yesterday — real people use Quickmap from Caltrans. As for #3 — that sign isn’t even from Los Angeles, although the parking signs can be confusing (which I’ve written about before).  As for #11, real Angelenos know to visit the Auto Club for most DMV services. #17 is really only a excuse for those that live in the LA Basin — those in the valley will drive anywhere. However, #13 is most definitely true!



The Digital Disenfranchised

userpic=verizonA number of articles I’ve read in the last week have highlighted an increasing digital divide in our society. This subject and these articles have been running around my head all week, so while I eat lunch I’d like to share them with you and get your thoughts.

What triggered the subject was Harry Shearer’s Le Show. Its host station, KCRW 89.9 FM in Santa Monica, abruptly yanked the show off the airwaves and moved it to be Internet-only. KCRW believes that growth is going to be on the Internet side, and those that listen to the show will find it there. Now a number of broadcasters have done this in the past — think Adam Corolla or Tom Leykis –but arguably the audiences for those shows is very different than the NPR/Public Radio audience. I think Shearer captured my concern very well:

People are sawing the legs out from under the idea of radio as we speak. Television, when it came to prominence, was supposed to kill radio outright, and it didn’t. The question is: Will online audio kill radio broadcasting? I listen to about 80 percent of my audio content online, and I look at a lot of my video content online, so I’m not a Luddite in any sense of the word. But that doesn’t mean I don’t believe in radio broadcasting.

A lot of people driving in their cars don’t have the facility or haven’t mastered yet getting online audio into their car’s audio system. A lot of poorer people don’t have the wherewithal for broadband everywhere that they might want to hear something, and older people don’t want to mess with that stuff. Radio better be around, because in any kind of emergency, my experience has been the first thing that goes down is the electric grid, and the second thing that goes down is the telephone grid. And if you don’t have a portable battery-powered radio, you are seriously out of luck. People who are trying to dismantle this system are way in front of themselves, and may not be doing the public a service.

I, too, have seen a growing number of articles predicting the demise of terrestrial radio. NetFlix is predicting the death of the TV channel. The problem is that the movement to Internet  based approaches for TV and Radio are not available to all — due to either the financial or intellectual cost of the new technology. Do we have the right to disenfranchise these people?

But the problem is not just radio. Look at music in general. iTunes is turning 10, and there are numerous articles on the changes iTunes has brought. One article notes the following:

The iTunes store dominated by downloads “is on its last gasp,” says Bob Lefsetz, a former music industry lawyer and blogger at the Lefsetz Letter. “YouTube is where most young people listen to music now.” (More than 1 billion people visit the site each month.)

“When iTunes turns 15 years old, we won’t be talking about downloads, because Apple won’t be selling them,” he says.

Here’s another quote from the same article:

Ten years ago, Apple’s most popular iPod was the largest-capacity model with 80 gigabytes of storage. Now the top seller is the 32 GB iPod Touch starting at $299. The entry-level iPhone comes with 16 GB of storage.

“If downloads were still important, we’d all need more storage,” Lefsetz says. “Apple knows which direction this is going.”

Yet again we are creating a community of digital disenfranchised.  Not everyone wants to stream media — they may not know how to do it; they may not be in a location that permits it; they may not have the signal to do it; they may not be able to afford the cost of doing it. Yet the assumption seems to be that it is something the public wants. What this is really doing is hurting the public: no longer can you own a personal copy of your music you can listen to at any time in any place. You become tethered to the (for profit) streaming service, who can dictate if you can listen to your music and where and when. Is this the right direction for society?

We all know technology is everywhere, and in increasing cases, it is not serving to help but to hurt. What used to be broadcast is now exclusively on the web, eliminating as a potential audience those lacking the financial or technological wherewithal to find it. Others are starting to embrace a return to old media.   We need to make sure that in our rush to embrace the latest and greatest technology, we don’t cut off those not quite as nimble.

Disclaimer: Even though I know how to listen to podcasts, I still like the radio sometimes. I like to physically own my music (in fact, I’m looking to buy some LP storage crates and a media center), even as I have over 31,000 songs on my iPod (160GB). Further, I do not have a smartphone. I feel cut-off everytime I see a QR scan-this discount code.

Music: Destry Rides Again (1959 Original Broadway Cast): “Overture” [recorded from LP to MP3 using Roxio Easy Media Creator, loaded into iTunes, currently playing on my iPod]


Interesting Uses of Technology

userpic=cyborgAs indicated in my previous post, staring at the collected links while eating my lunch identified two distinct themes. One was entertainment. The other (which is the subject of this post)  has to do with some interesting uses of technology:

  • Rack Em Stack Em. Parking your car can be a pain. If you are in a structure, you need to hunt for a space or pay an outrageous fee to a valet. Further, there is lots of wasted space in a parking structure to handle all those ramps. What if you could do away with that? Enter AutoParkit executive Christopher Alan. He has a plan for a fully automated valet parking structure: You pull into a garage. There, a television screen shows you pulling in and directs you into a loading bay. Once you are in the proper position it instructs you to shut off and exit your car. You then walk over to a HID (Human Interface Device) card reader where you “check in” electronically and answer questions like “did you leave a pet in the car?” or “did you close your doors?” Then you’re done. The system will go ahead and scan the loading bay to make sure you did not leave anyone in the car or leave any doors open. It will also turn you car 180 degrees so that when you retrieve your car you never have to reverse. The loading bar will park your car in a stall that no one has access to. When you are ready to leave, there is a little HID reader outside your complex or on your iPhone, so while you are waiting for the elevator it is retrieving your car. By the time you get down from the elevator your car is either there or almost there with no more than a 10 second wait. Cool.
  • Automated Tech Support. When you hear about automated tech support, you think endless phone menus that drive you crazy. Facebook has taken automated tech support for their employees in a different direction. Facebook has implemented a series of custom-made vending machines that dispense computer accessories instead of snacks and sodas. If a Facebook engineer spills coffee on their keyboard (a common mishap) they head to a nearby vending machine instead of hitting up their IT guy or just grabbing a replacement from a nearby cabinet. They swipe their badge, key in their selection and voila—a brand new keyboard drops down for them to take. This new system reduced the cost of managing replacement accessories by about 35%. While products found in the vending machines are free, items are clearly marked with price tags so employees can see the retail value of each accessory they take. The new vending machines also require all employees to swipe their badge before making a selection. That means each and every power cord, keyboard and screen wipe they take can be traced back to their name, ensuring that the system won’t be abused (at least not as much as the previous cabinet system was).
  • Starting Your Car. According to AAA, the car key will soon disappear… as will the electronic car fob… to be replaced by the smartphone. The auto club said Chevrolet and Nissan already have special mobile apps that can be used to monitor and control car functions. They anticipate more manufacturers will be moving to this model. I see many problems with this, but they potentially could be overcome. Of course, the biggest issue is — how do you handle valet parking?

One last tangentially related technological problem… Death. The question here is not how one uses technology to prevent death, but what do you do with social media accounts after someone dies. In Nevada, there’s a debate going on regarding the very subject. Legislators in Carson City have introduced a bill to give next of kin access to the deceased social media accounts, allowing the accounts to be shut down or remain functioning based on what the family wants. This way, people needn’t be reminded of dead friend’s birthdays, have them suggested for friending, or other equally creepy things. It also allows access to photo albums — increasingly important in this digital photo age.

Music: Sammy Davis Jr. Greatest Hits Volume 2 (Sammy Davis Jr.): “Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone”


Impacts of Technology: Movies, Radio, Lectures, and Powerstrips

userpic=frebergEarlier this week, I wrote about the negative impacts of the Internet on society. Today’s news chum deals with a similar subject: the impacts of the Internet and technologies on industry and academia: