The official blog of Susan Landis-Steward, writer of whatever she likes, and co-founder of Puddletown Publishing Group

Archive for the ‘Alien Computing and Gadgets’ Category

Tuesday's Technological Moment

In the past few weeks we’ve acquired several pieces of new technology. Some of it is amazing. Some of it is fun. Some of it is both. Anyway, I’m going to share. (Stop me if you must….there’s that back button up there in your browser.)

Since early December I have made some big technological advances. First off, I got a nook color. That’s Barnes & Noble’s e-reader. Now don’t think I’ve become a turncoat to the world of books. I still love books as much or more than you do. I just can’t read them anymore. Presbyopia is not for the young. After a couple of years of removing my glasses, sqwinching my eyes, covering the left one, and holding the book under my nose just to read a couple of pages before my right eye wore out, I made the case to Jenny that an e-reader was not a toy, it was an adaptive technology. Suddenly I’m reading again. All the time. In 12 to 14 pt font, with cream letters on a mocha background.  She, of course, had to have one also. But hers is a toy.

On the same logic, we stepped up to a 42″ television. Last year Jenny insisted on watching the Rose Bowl because the Ducks were in it. I am a Duck, having graduated from U of O in 1973, but I care nothing about football. Still, I tried to watch it with her. At some point she was talking about the score as if she knew what it was. That’s when I discovered the little box at the bottom of the screen that tells you things like that. Well, I didn’t actually discover it. I just was informed that it was there. About 20 years ago, we replaced our 13″ television with a 27″ because I could no longer see the small screen. This year, we moved up to the big screen. This is good because I’m also starting to experience some trouble with my hearing and need visual cues to decipher some of the dialogue on the television.

For no other reason than that we wanted to, we bought an xbox 360 with kinect. It’s fun, it’s exercise, and it allows us to get rid of cable. Because it’s also a computer and modem, we can now stream Netflix and television, without commercials. We kept just enough cable (the basic plan) so that we can watch the news while it’s happening because I happen to be a news junkie. However, by doing this, we will realize a net savings of about $50 with the money-grubbing monopolistic Beavercreek Telephone Company.  Although the people there are great, I still want to put the screws to them all the time. Talk about expensive. For just cable (without HBO and that stuff) and Internet, I’ve been paying $150 a month. That’s without a phone. We joined the cell phone only generation after moving out here because Beavercreek Telephone is long distance to every place EXCEPT Beavercreek and we know like four people who actually live in Beavercreek. You know who you are.

I had a 22″ monitor in my office, but my work requires me to have two documents open side by side and the smaller screen wasn’t cutting it.  (Just to give you an idea, when I write in Word, I use 12 pt Verdana and blow it up to 200 percent. I wanted a 30″ monitor but they are prohibitively expensive (over $1000) so I decided to settle on a 27″ for about $300. We walked into Best Buy and almost tripped over a 32″ flat screen television for $270. It had all the right innies and outies for my computer so I got my 30+ inch monitor and am loving being able to see again on all fronts.

One last thing, perhaps the most amazing of all. Our cell phone contracts were up on Dec 28th. This was good because I had “bricked” mine. The battery wouldn’t hold a charge, the camera was broken, and the dang thing hung up on people all the time. I spent a lot of time saying “Are you there?” to nobody. So we toddled into the T-Mobile store and found a BOGO on smart phones. For those of you not in the know, a BOGO is buy one, get one free. We now have new MyTouch 4Gs. I swear this is the most sophisticated thing I own, and I’m a technology geek. The thing will even turn into its own wifi hotspot and allow me to access the Internet with my Nook or my laptop from anywhere I can get a cell phone signal. The camera in it is 5 mpx, better than my digital camera, and has flash. I can record videos or just voice. I can tell it to call people and it will. I can talk to it and it puts my speech into emails or texts. I’m going to try using it to blog as soon as I figure out how.  It’s an mp3 player, you can watch movies and television on it, it comes with Word and Excel. It’s better than my laptop or my netbook (except for being hard to see).

So there you have it. All new technology, most of it adaptive in some way. My mom used to carry magnifying glasses with her so she could read or see things. All I have to do is turn on my nook. I’m not sure, but I think my phone will even read to me. But I’m still trying to figure it all out. The major problem I have with this phone is that when someone calls, a big red button appears. Now, to me, a big red button screams “Push me.” Which I do. Forgive me if I hang up on you. I promise to call you right back.

Photo of the Day or, She's Learned a New Trick

Good Dog Gwyneth

Good Dog Gwyneth

You probably think I’m talking about the illustrious Gwyneth and that photo does make it appear that she’s learned a new trick. Namely, “COME.” But, alas, she is no better at that one than she is at most others. Well, there is “BEG,” but she does that whether we ask her to or not.

Nope, the “she” in the title is me. I’ve got a new camera, I’m learning how to use it, and I just figured out how to put a photo on my blog. So, today’s photo of the day is over there to the left. Cool, huh?

Update on the Wrist

I’ve been doing a lot of reading about scaphoid fractures. The bad news is this is a tricky little bastard of a break. There’s not much blood flowing to the bone and if you break it in the wrong place you can kill the bone. I already have one dead bone in my body, the tip of my right thumb. I broke it off one morning getting out of bed, felt it snap, and went to the doctor where  an x-ray revealed the tip of my thumb floating in flesh. it’s not hurting anything, although it’s weird to think about it being there. I’m sure it’s dead by now. It’s been years.

Back to the wrist. Next Monday I find out how bad the break is. If I broke it the “right way,” I may be in a cast for six weeks maybe eight. If I broke up the “wrong way,” I could be in a cast up to six months. And it may require surgery. All this because I put my foot down and there was nothing there. Aging is a bitch.

So, if you are the praying type, or the healing energy type, or any kind of superstitious type, or even some sort of atheist type, send good thoughts my way. I’ve been in this cast for less than a week and seriously have considered bashing it against a rock. What I wouldn’t give for a good shower without a plastic bag involved!

Right now it feels like my arm is swelling, and I can see that my fingers are turning purple. Jenny assures me that this is normal. But she’s never broken her wrist so I question her knowledge of normal. I’ve never broken a wrist either, but it seems to me that all the swelling should be gone by now. The fingers turning purple is probably okay, I know that bruises grow, and I know they grow more when you get older. While there’s a part of me that hates to admit I’m getting older, these bruises on my fingers prove otherwise. I just hope the bruising goes away quickly, because it looks like my hands are dirty but in a purple sort of way. Besides it hurts. Amazing that breaking my wrist did not hurt, but having all the blood drain into my fingers does.

Well it’s almost 3 AM and I think I’ve proved that MacSpeech Dictate works just fine. So off to bed I go so I can get up tomorrow, put a bag on my arm, take an impossible shower, and spend the day talking to my computer. If you ever break your arm, buy a Mac, and get this program. It is truly AMAZING!

By the way, the microphone that comes with the software is so good, even the cheap one, that I have a fan blowing on one side of me, and the TV on the other side, and all the mic picks up is my voice. I should be an an advertiser!


Apple Goes Microsoft

I’m quite familiar with Microsoft’s rush-to-market philosophy. I had long suspected that they threw software, especially operating systems, at the public. After we plunked down the dollars, we got to do their beta testing on our nickel. After Windows XP brought down everything in the house, I vowed never to buy another Windows machine. When we were Peru a couple years ago, this was confirmed by a Microsoft engineer sitting across from me on the train to Machu Pichu.

I went back to the dark side and bought another Apple. My MacBook worked just fine. It came with whatever came before Leopard (Panther? Tiger? Pussycat? Some feline thing anyway.) But, I finally outgrew it. Or rather my business did. Besides, laptops are meant to roam free and mine did not like being stuck in a hole in my desk, running a large screen monitor (can you say presbyopia?) and a Microsoft keyboard/mouse setup. Have to admit, I don’t like Apple keyboards and mice.

Last week, after a scary moment when my laptop announced it would no longer charge, I took the plunge and bought another Mac. This time, a Mac mini because I didn’t need any peripherals. (BTW, my laptop problem was solved by a late night trip to Cold Stone. I don’t think Apple support will mention that, though),

So I hooked it up, got my laptop sharing files with it, went back to work. All was good. Except, did I mention I got a free iPod touch with it? Having ties to education gets you cool deals this time of year. Being an iPod junkie (teenager in a middle-aged body, need I say more) I hooked it up. Worked fine for a few days, then iTunes started crashing. Shortly thereafter, the Touch started freezing and showing the Apple screen, Apple’s equivalent of Microsoft’s blue-screen-of-death.

Then, to make matters worse, my WORK files disappeared. No problem. I’ve had good luck with Apple support up there in Seattle. But I got India. Now that’s a whole other story, my feelings about outsourcing and living wages for Americans, and all that. I won’t go there. Right now, anyway. So, I’m talking to India, to someone who keeps giving me the “please hold for two minutes while I check on something” routine which is a large East Indian word for “I have no idea what you are talking about. Let me call Seattle.” Her troubleshooting skills were next to nil and I know because I used to do troubleshooting. I gave her all the information she would have needed to solve the problem but SHE KNOWS NOTHING. But she does make a living wage by India standards although she is paid crap by our standards.

Eventually she makes me an appointment with the Genius Bar at a local mall. I say local only in the sense that it’s on the same side of the continent. We live in BFE. (If you have to ask, you don’t want to know.) The nearest mall is an hour away. Thank God/dess. That’s part of the reason we live in BFE, to get away from things like malls.

So I jump in the van, being the only freaking car available although I’m reasonably sure the Prius is parked at the carpool pickup site but that’s at ANOTHER mall that does not have an Apple store and is in the other direction. I waste most of velocaraptor driving to the mall, can’t find parking, and then have to walk about a mile to the store which is in the very bowels of Washington Square, my least favorite mall on earth and I hate ALL malls.

The Genius takes one look at my Mac mini and solves the problem immediately. So far so good. Then I drag out the iPod Touch. He takes one look at it and says, “Well, the software 2.0 is for the iPhone and this is an iTouch. It doesn’t really work well with the iTouch. But there will be a new release soon.”  So I start with the questions: Why did you release software for the iTouch that doesn’t work with the iTouch? Why, if I bought my iTouch last week, did I have to pay $10 for the software, which doesn’t work, and was released before I bought the iTouch? Why does iTunes keep crashing? Are you guys being taken over by Microsoft?

The guy gave me bogus answers along the lines of well, it would work if you had the new release (which I loaded on last night, BEFORE I went to Apple). And, well, let me make it work for you. He got it to work, it took an hour to restore and sync, and was frozen again by the time I left the store.

The only good news is that my work files are safe, and I’ll get the book done on schedule. However, I bought a new external hard drive to use with Apple’s Time Machine feature, and it is currently spending several hours backing up. Since I REALLY don’t want to mess with anything that might remotely lose those dang files (which hopefully are now on both computers AND the external drive AND iDisk (which is another whole story in the Apple Goes Microsoft saga), I am not going to play with those files until Time Machine finishes its job in, oh, about 3 more hours.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Apple products. For the most part, they are stable, they are stable, they are stable and they NEVER give you the blue-screen-of-death. But I think the whole iPhone thing has their greedy little fingers twitching and they rushed to market without making the software compatible with the iTouch (although their website says it is). In fact, the iTouch is supposed to be just the iPhone lite (as in no phone but everything else). (Don’t get me started on why they made an exclusive deal with the WORST cell phone company on earth. Wait, I take that back. Nextel/Sprint is worse.) I will not get an iPhone until T-mobile gets them.

Oh, and support? Worst dang online support ever. Apple doesn’t want to admit to REAL problems. So if you look up, oh say, “ipod touch freezes at apple screen” you get a bunch of crap about how to fix other problems but no mention that it EVER freezes at the apple screen. And just try to find how to reboot or restore your ipod. No documents come with them. In fact, no documents come with Apple products at all, and finding things in the help files is ridiculous. Thank God/dess for Google and all the Mac and iPod forums out there.

Rant off.

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