Category Archives: Technology

Cell Phones Advance Faster Than Common Sense

Roger's iPhone 3G Launch - Canada's First iPho...

We Love Our Phones! Yes We Do! (Image by Anirudh Koul via Flickr)

With technological advances come new dilemmas for mankind to consider.  Few examples of this phenomenon are as clear as the cell phone.  Once a novelty, the latest statistics suggest that 80-90% of all Americans (not just adults) use cell phones, and an increasing share of them are so-called “smartphones”, capable of accessing the Internet.  Aside from the known hazards of driving, walking, or doing just about anything else while using a cell phone, there is the fundamental question of what RIGHTS a person has to use his or her cell phone.  A Constitutional expert I am not, but most arguments in favor of unrestrained cell phone usage seem to hinge on the First Amendment right to free speech.  Difficult as it may be in a litigious society, it seems like common sense ought to solve most of these dilemmas.  Unfortunately, it has not.  Instead, our prisons are constantly on the lookout, not for drugs or weapons, but for cell phones used to orchestrate crimes from behind bars over airwaves that cannot legally be blocked.  Restaurant and theater owners who install signal blockers are found to be criminals.  Law abiding citizens using public transportation have found their cell phone service intentionally blocked.  When does the madness end?

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One for the Road, Or Not

2011 Buick Regal

Love at First Sight is Foolish Love (Image lifted from Buick.com.)

A car enthusiast I am not, but I do have an appreciation for exceptional styling and engineering.  I can usually name the make and model of any car from some distance.  Further, I am keenly aware of a car’s personality–the undeniable and unique expression a car makes about the person driving the car.  For most of us, a car is the second biggest purchase we make in life, and its ability to define us is surpassed perhaps only by clothing, which has the distinct and unfair advantage of staying on our bodies all day long.  Enough setup.  So, I have been noticing a sharp new model on the roads of late–sleek, modern, and aggressive with the bouquet and youthful energy of Beaujolais Nouveau, but the complexity, sophistication, and depth of character found in a fine Napa Cabernet.  Let’s say it has overtones of BMW and Audi, with a nod to Lexus and perhaps a wink to Bugatti.  Yes, Bugatti.  Today, I got to see one up close.  A BUICK REGAL!  Kudos for the design, but at the end of the day, it’s an inferior product of a failed company resuscitated briefly by the federal government.  A glass of two-buck Chuck or Boone’s Farm anybody?

Guilt Tripped by a Cash Register!

Forest

Is it worth $1 to you, or are you too selfish?

So there I was scanning my must-have stuff in the self-checkout lane at IKEA.  Funny how less human interaction is preferred by many, while we all stand in line talking, tweeting, or Facebooking on our cell phones.  But I digress.  I got to the end of my scanning, and I was ready to pay.  BUT WAIT!  The friendly checkout terminal first needed to ask me to donate $1 to plant a tree.  Given the number of trees that give their lives to assemble-at-home furniture sold by IKEA, I suppose this is IKEA’s way of clearing their conscience.  But all I had in the cart was a bunch of molded plastic–no wood this time.  I figured I would choose “NO”.  But that option wasn’t available, only “NO TREE”.  Somehow, choosing “NO TREE” made me feel like a real jerk.  I’ll bet they could increase donations further by rephrasing the “NO” button to one of these options:

  • NO, I AM A SICK BASTARD WITH NO CONSCIENCE.
  • NO, I VALUE $1 MORE THAN RESTORING EARTH’S ECOSYSTEM.
  • NO, BUM A BUCK OFF THE NEXT PERSON IN LINE.
  • NO, IF TREES WERE ON LIFE SUPPORT, I’D PULL THE PLUG.
  • NO, I HAVE HIT MY DEBT CEILING.

Netflix Price Increase: Much Ado About Nothing

In 1998 Reed Hastings founded Netflix, the lar...

Image via Wikipedia

All the media are abuzz with chatter, mostly ranting, about the big price increase announced by Netflix on Tuesday.  In a nutshell, if you were on their one-DVD-at-a-time plan by mail with unlimited Internet streaming, your $9.99 subscription just increased to $15.98 ($7.99 for the DVD’s, $7.99 for the streaming).  Sure, it’s a 60% increase in your monthly bill, but it’s 6 bucks more, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, and what are your alternatives?  Well, there are actually more alternatives than one can mention in an “Itty Bitty” post, mostly of the Internet streaming variety, but the $7.99 unlimited Internet streaming price is on par with Hulu, a notable online competitor of Netflix.  If you are still a DVD or Blu-Ray disk watcher, then the alternatives are fewer and much less convenient, namely places like Blockbuster Video or, dare I say, those stupid Redbox vending machines (see my earlier blog post on this preposterous business model: http://wp.me/p1pRY1-fL).  Give up Netflix convenience for that nonsense?  I think not.  Will some people defect from Netflix to take a stand over 6 bucks a month?  Sure.  But for now, Netflix still offers an excellent value for an exceptional service, and most people will buck up, or 6 buck up, in this case.

Bad News: I Just Got a Text from My Smoke Alarm!

firetext

Firetext Logo (Image by Mutimbo via Flickr)

Yes, technology has officially run out of productive things to do, and it is now running amok, doing things that only the geekiest of us find appealing or useful.  Yesterday, a gadget blog I follow on Twitter (@gadzooki) brought this ridiculous innovation to my attention, though in a more serious tone than I.  As explained by Gadzooki, this new product addresses the concern that fires often start in rooms where there are no people.  Hence, an audible alarm is not enough.  Therefore, the Firetext alarm sends out a text message to 4 people, who presumably would not believe that an S.O.S. sent from a smoke alarm is spam and would get around to doing something at some point before they finish that cup of coffee, lunch with co-workers, or workout at the gym.  While texting others is a good start, there is so much more this device could do that it does not.  For instance, it would be nice if it could “like” the Fire Department on Facebook, Tweet anybody within 3 blocks of your house, or quickly start a blog entitled “THE FRICKIN HOUSE IS ON FIRE”, but rumor has it those features will be included in the 2.0 version.

Video Phone Calls: A Technology Whose Time Should NEVER Have Come

Facetime on the new iPhone

Image by smays via Flickr

Techies have been making video phone calls via Skype for years, but now this befuddling technology has somehow migrated into more mainstream channels.  Owners of the iPhone 4 have the ability to make video phone calls, and Comcast announced just last week that it is teaming up with Skype to offer video phone calls via television sets.  I don’t get it.  Talking on the phone is what most people do while they are doing two or three other things.  Who sits around aimlessly just focused on the phone conversation?  So, now that we have the ability to be “on stage” for the caller on the other end of the line, we could have AMAZING conversations like this one:

  • Hank: Hey, Bob, what’s up?
  • Bob: As you can see, I am doing three other things right now.
  • Hank: Cool.  Hey, you look like crap today.
  • Bob: No, that is crap on the lens of my phone.  I just changed my kid’s diaper.
  • Hank: I am so glad I can see your head.  Awesome technology.
  • Bob: Whatever!  Hey, you just got flipped off by that guy in the red car.
  • Hank: Screw ’em! Can’t he see I am doing a video call?

Futuristic Passenger Jet? Take a Flying Leap!

Airbus A380

Image by peter pearson via Flickr

Last week, as I perused tweets, I stumbled upon a story that drew me in.  Having traveled far too much in my career and seen the evolution of air travel from pleasure to pain, I am always intrigued by new attempts to comfort passengers who were just subjected to invasive TSA frisking or viewed naked as they walked through high-tech body scanners.  The story (http://read.bi/iMtquL) was about a 2050 concept plane from jet maker Airbus.  Among the many features of this plane are the following:

  • Transparent plane walls for panoramic views of the sky.
  • 100% recyclable materials used in interior.
  • Self-cleaning cabin materials made from plant fibers.
  • Body-heat harvesting to generate power for cabin comforts.
  • Virtual golf course for passenger entertainment.
  • Mood lights.

In theory, this description is appealing to somebody, but to me, it is laughably off target.  I want to get where I am going safely, on time, and with some modicum of friendly customer service.  A Superman-like view of the sky, earth-friendly materials, and video games onboard are just novelties.  Mood lighting?  This is not a date!  Self-cleaning materials?  Bill of goods!  I am intrigued by the bio-fueled power.  Can they harvest all the gas passed onboard?