Posted in Rants, Technology and Software


I recently listed a few pestilences of modern life in my diary.

(1) Corporate arrogance and technology in general… lack of customizability and options; the forced pace of progression (whether real or artificial). Products becoming obsolete long before they’ve actually broken down or outlived their usefulness. I can’t afford to keep updating or subscribing to everything. Things aren’t always matching up so that everything works together at the same time… like camera, different kinds of software, the hardware, scanner, printer… there’s always something that’s not able to use something else because it’s too old. Everything and everybody is supposed to be seamlessly connected, but it’s not working out that way. I’m starting to ask myself why I bother — I’d like to dump all of this stuff and just knit, tend my plants, watch a few DVDs and read paperbacks!

(2) Apps (and subscription software). Sometimes a project is interrupted (temporarily or permanently) because the way the app works changed in an update. It’s not progress to have goal posts constantly moved or options taken away.

(3) Keeping everything in the cloud. Huge security risk. And what happens when we lose connection?

(4) An increasing number of ads. It’s reached an impossible level. It doesn’t help when a website doesn’t let you zoom in on the text… their print is too small and my eyesight is not what it was.

(5) Increasing number of photos, podcasts and embedded videos. When an online news article is packed with them, you have to scroll cautiously to get past these obstacles to the next little dollop of text without losing your place… sometimes needing to scroll slightly back because something on the page changed and pushed all the text away. Some videos I’m able to watch, but a few aren’t captioned, or are captioned poorly. It’s frustrating when everyone’s saying how great a video is, but you don’t know what it’s about.

For poorly captioned videos, I’m thinking mostly of YouTube type captions — automatic? I’d rather have them than nothing, but they are hard to follow because, for instance, ‘Brexit’ becomes ‘breaks it’ or ‘breakfast’, and UKIP becomes ‘you kept’. I can barely remember what was said by the end, whereas I have a clearer grasp of content if I read an article or transcript. I don’t know if others find the same? Possibly too much of my concentration is taken up with decoding the captions — it’s as though there’s a filter between me and the information.

Earlier tonight I found the following two articles, both of which are food for thought. They reminded me of the grumbles listed above. Life doesn’t seem richer or smoother — instead it’s becoming more frustrating and not a little frightening.

The Perils of Globalization: An Interview with Gerry Mander

The New Luddites: Why Former Digital Prophets Are Turning Against Tech

Posted in Rants, Technology and Software, Trolleys

So-Called Progress

It’s not a coincidence that Mum ordered a printer so soon after I bought mine. She was going to buy more ink for her old one, and I told her the breakdown of my old printer was a blessing in disguise.

On-line reviews showed that people who were dissatisfied with their printers weren’t even waiting for them to kick the bucket. They checked out the competition and made the switch. It saved time, money and energy in the end. Makes me think of the old adage that we should not throw good money after bad, which is what you are doing if you hate your printer but continue to buy expensive inks for it. Your continued patience probably encourages the manufacturer to assume that the model is a winner.

It took the breakdown of my printer (and subsequent reading of reviews) to challenge my old-fashioned mindset. When I buy something, I expect it to last for years. To me, a printer is no more disposable than the oven. I would want to be relying on it for as long as possible. Anything else seems a sad waste – till one day you wake up and realize the real waste lies in:

  1. the ink (due to a bad ink-changing system)
  2. the paper (when the printer makes a mess)
  3. your time and patience (when a simple printout becomes a battle of wits and takes all day)
  4. your money

I don’t believe all printers are as bad as that, but I used to – it was all I knew.

There was one other printer I was completely happy with, and was sad to lose when I upgraded my computer. It was the Apple Stylewriter. That never gave me a day’s trouble. It stood upright and claimed very little room, but its reliability was the real plus. I would rather have a huge and reliable printer than a neat and cantankerous one – a simple one that works rather than a complicated one with lots of flashing lights and doodads that keeps me guessing.

I once believed in progress – imagine that! I genuinely believed that updated products were better. I was horrified to find myself buying some real lemons all of a sudden. The items I found reliable and cheap to run fell by the wayside and weren’t available any more. I’ve had particularly bad experiences with fax machines.

I didn’t mean this to turn into a diatribe on so-called technological progress (which feels much more like provide-the-manufacturers-with-undeserved-largesse)… I only looked in to apologize for my recent silence.

Jolly Update

Jolly the Trolley is still going strong. The other day Mum gave me a lift, and she took Jolly out to the car while I locked my door. I hurried out, flung open the passenger door, and found Jolly sitting in my seat, firmly strapped in.

Well, if he can remember to buckle up, so can everybody else.

Posted in Rants, Technology and Software

Pointing Back Down the Trail

Mood: Cooler, under a Great Grey Cloud
Listening to: Some breathy noise (?)

This is a wee bit of a rant, but it’s been building up for a long while.

Luck at last! I obtained a second hand iMac G4 with System X. It was a big leap forward from my old Mac. It looks better, holds more, takes up less room, runs more quietly… and I can finally use the Firefox and Safari browsers.

I can’t describe the relief, as the old system was crumbling about my ears. When you’re on System 9, you can’t visit all the sites because of the unsupported browsers, and the ones you can visit load slowly and look terrible. You keep coming across people saying if you want to view their site properly you should switch to Firefox, Opera or Safari. Some say it more pleasantly than others – I don’t mind if it’s said kindly, but it makes my hair stand on end when someone says this in a waspish tone to the world at large. Perhaps they don’t realize you can only use Firefox, Opera and Safari if you have System X, and you can really only have System X if your computer is up to it – and not everybody can afford to upgrade.

Surfing around on my creaky old browsers in search of a compatible solution, I found some even worse attitudes – those who claimed (in accents of withering scorn) that anyone still using System 9 on the Mac should have their heads examined.

Well, I’ll try and be patient – perhaps they were only 13 and thought they knew everything.

If you’re still using System 9 on a slow old Mac that crashes when you have more than three windows open, takes ages to download a simple news page, has a really serious blackout when it tries to load a Sky ad, and there’s no chance of getting System X any time soon… well, iCab could be the way forward.

I had an iCab beta browser and it was very neat, very quick to download, installed beautifully, showed some sites correctly when I.E.5 didn’t, and visited those sites (may they crash and burn) which, if you tried to visit them with I.E.5, simply fobbed you off with a notice along the lines: “your browser is too old to handle our wonderful, sophisticated site. Go away and bother somebody else, you lowly earthworm.”

A friend from a computing lab tells me he refuses to visit sites like that on principle. Quite right too. But if you still need to visit such a site and I.E.5 doesn’t get you there, iCab might.

The main problem with my iCab beta browser (the version I had) was a JavaScript issue… probably something I could have fixed if I’d looked into it. Every so often it would freeze, and then deliver the following error message: ‘JavaScript execution is too slow or the script is stuck in an endless loop. Would you like to run the script another 15 seconds or would you like to abort this script or all scripts of the document?’

Needless to say I always opted for ‘abort’ – which usually meant bloggers in Blogger didn’t get my comments unless I went back to I.E.5 to deliver them. Well, as I said, maybe there was a way around that problem I didn’t find.

Meanwhile, Internet Explorer for the Mac has been withdrawn – there will be no further development and it’s no longer available for download. A potted history of this browser is in Wikipedia.

My sister didn’t seem to mind – she waved her fingers happily at the screen. “Bye bye!” she cried, beaming. I was just thinking I should check new websites in I.E., but I can’t… hmm. I shouldn’t get rid of my old Mac just yet, perhaps, as I still have I.E.5 on it. Maybe one day they’ll put it in the museum.

It’s fantastic not to have these problems any more, and to be able to see people’s sites the way they want me to see them. Yet I haven’t forgotten that, not so long ago, I was straggling behind – and it wasn’t out of sloth, cantankerousness or any other undesirable personal trait…

Edit Feb 2008: Comments to this post when it was hosted on Blogigo:

mistwarrier wrote at Jul 29, 2006 at 09:12:
fantastic about the new computer and am so happy for you

Pacian wrote at Jul 30, 2006 at 17:08:
Ooh, yes. You’ve touched on a pet peeve of mine here – computer snobs. It never seems to occur to them that people might not be able to *afford* an upgrade, or that they might want to spend their money on something other than computers.

Diddums wrote at Jul 30, 2006 at 20:08:
Sometimes I wonder if they know where to get things cheap, and assume it’s the same for everybody.