Category: Computing

Recent Posts

“Wild times … we don’t know what’s going on”

Those were the words that signified the beginning on the “the new normal.” March 11, 2020 was the day the United States was truly introduced to the novel coronavirus, or as we came to know it, COVID-19. Diseases like this have come and gone around the planet before, but generally the United States has been geographically isolated from the worst of the recent past. With these words spoken by ESPN announcers prior to the NBA Utah Jazz-Oklahoma City Thunder game scheduled for that Wednesday evening, normal American life began to grind to a halt. And the desperate search for toilet paper was just about to get underway…

The NBA prepares to postpone the first game due to the pandemic.

When enough time passes, and we, as a society, take a look back on this event (“these interesting times,” “these uncertain times,” “these unprecedented times,” “the new normal,” “massive governmental failure,” and any other phrase you would like to add to this list…) I believe the postponing of this basketball game will be the singular event that got the nation’s attention: This situation is serious, we’ve never seen anything like it in almost a hundred years, and we don’t know what’s happening next.

To almost every extent, this uncertainty remains, over two months later. We’ve become familiar with words and concepts that are new to our modern society. Face masks. “Social distancing.” Pandemic. Wild times, indeed.

There is a lot of we still don’t know. There’s a lot to be sad about, a lot to be mad about, and a lot to be frustrated about. I’ve always tried to create posts on this site that inform, entertain or uplift. Honestly, I haven’t posted since the beginning of March because I don’t know what’s appropriate. But we still have lives to lead, and there are still things to say. And, as John Krasinski showed us for eight episodes during “these unceratin times,” there is still Some Good News…

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Computing, Technology

Back in my day…

There was a time when the computing universe was fun. Men were real men. Women were real women. And small, furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small, furry creatures from Alpha Centauri.

Just thinking about the early days of the cyber frontier… they were simpler times. Personal computers of the early 1980s were rarely connected one with another. Most likely, your computer sat lonely, by itself. Not serving any functions, except maybe exclusively running any program you’s care to run through it. A word processor, maybe. Spreadsheets? Sure! Games? Yep. Nothing multiplayer, unless your friend happened to be sitting next to you, joystick in hand.

Hacking meant trying to figure out how to get a clean “backup copy” of the latest game with Fast Hack’em. If you had a modem, you might try to dial into some local BBS, which, more often than not, was run out of someone’s home via a second telephone line.

Even video game systems were simple. Atari 2600 “joysticks” consisted of one “stick” and one button, called “fire.” No bumpers, triggers, d-pads, x, o, triangle, square, select, start, etc.

And we had patience. Yie Ar Kung-Fu would take over 20 minutes to load before presenting you with this awesome intro screen and music: (Plenty of time to get some snacks and a cool soft drink prior to a gaming session.)

Now, if YouTube video commercials are over ~10 seconds, I basically decide it’s probably not worth that wait.

Then the lawyers appeared. And whitepapers. And phrases like “life-cycle management,” “total cost of ownership,” and “best practices.” And the fun went away. It was no longer the wild west.

Toby
This is Toby. He is here to put an end to the fun.

Today, the fun continues to be sucked out of computing in slightly more disturbing ways. Modern society has dictated requirements like the EU’s GDPR legislation. Websites now require you to verify that you are not a robot (…what?…) and that you agree to accept “cookies” from almost every website. And the amount of data Facebook has on you (yes, just you) could fill encyclopedias…

To see “how far we’ve come” (for better or for worse) check out the trailer for Do You Trust This Computer below. The movie is a couple of years old, so some of the discussion around some far-fetched ideas is just that much closer to becoming reality.

So, I have some questions.

Where is the fun now?

I don’t even mean that in a snarky way. Literally. Where is the fun now? Cause I want to go there.

Was it worth it?

Should we have navigated this technological minefield for the last 40 years in order to end up having people die while texting and driving? Or even getting killed while looking at their phones and crossing the street? I’m not blaming the tech itself. More our reliance on it. When the space junk apocalypse occurs in a few years due to the thousands of satellites that are being released to circle the earth, and all GPS is lost, will we be able to get around?

Was it worth the privacy cost?

I don’t know.

Computing, Friends, Internet

Goofing around

Twitter has some pretty interesting topics that it will randomly recommend for me sometimes. I’m not one of those who believe that Facebook and Twitter eavesdrop or record your conversations. With the information we freely give them, they don’t need to do that. But it is almost scary how both services know the type of thing I might be interested in reading. It’s as if Twitter knows I’ve just binge-watched season 3 of Stranger Things and have super strong feelings of nostalgia for the 1980s right now… For example, just the other day I got this gem of a recommendation under the “For you” section:

Yes, I remember the days of being online in 1987. But I didn’t spill a goldfish bowl, carry my computer under my arm while riding on a motorcycle, or even have to deal with a guitar neck seemingly poking out of a Jeep, behind a girl who is somehow talking on a corded phone?

Instead, I wasted a lot of time goofing around with programs like Perfect Sound and Deluxe Music Construction Set for the Amiga. And once in a while, you get something that looks an awful lot like what you see below:

Some people may ask “Jason, why didn’t you just upload this video to YouTube?” Well, some people, I have an answer. This video has about half a dozen (crap quality) samples from 1980s pop songs, and I didn’t really feel like having YouTube’s “Amazing Content Verificator”™ going beep beep beep all over my upload. Anyway, enjoy this blast from the past. Sorry about the audio quality. I was trying to be quiet. 😁

A couple of highlights:

06:35 – Listen to what happens when bored kids play with answering machines

22:19 – Listen to the long lost hit “Babepulsive.” Don’t ask.

Computing, Technology

Leo and Chris take a look into the future of photography

Leo Laporte and Chris Marquardt discuss some new and interesting uses for technology that deal directly with digital image creation and manipulation. The websites mentioned, This x does not exist, and This person does not exist, provide a creepy insight as to exactly how computers can create realistic images and information using a “GAN” (Generative Adversarial Network). I’m quite interested in the painting application that Chris discusses. I would like to see that in action. The video below starts at 56m25s, at the beginning of their conversation.

Listen to a bit of the video and check out the links for more info.

Computing, Internet, Technology

Ignite in the rear-view mirror

One week after Microsoft Ignite 2017, and I think it’s a good time to take a look back. The keynote speech by Satya Nadella was inspiring. I have to admit, the discussion about quantum computing went over my head. The one question I have: If Windows 10 crashes on a quantum computer, does the universe come to an end?

I enjoyed connecting with and meeting several of the speakers and presenters. A few to point out: Brad Anderson, Corporate Vice President of the Enterprise Client & Mobility Team; Michael Niehaus, Microsoft DIrector of Product Marketing; Dona Sarkar, Head of the Windows Insider Program at Microsoft, along with the other #NinjaCats: Blair Glennon, Jason Howard, and Jen Gentleman, among others.

Listening to some of the Windows deployment speakers, such as Mike Nystrom and Johan Arwidmark was incredibly informative. These guys are well-known for their blogs relating to SCCM deployment and it was great to talk with them in person.

Also, this is cool:

Brad Anderson’s Lunch Break featured Brad riding a golf cart around the bus loop at the Orange County Convention Center. Participants could ask Brad anything… My question for Brad didn’t make it to the video, but my selfie did! The entire video can be seen here:

The most beneficial speakers and sessions I’ve linked to below:

All presentations and slide decks are available at the Microsoft Ignite website for viewing. Nerds of the world, tune in and see what you think!

Computing, Technology

Microsoft Ignite 2017

This year I am experiencing my first Microsoft Ignite conference in Orlando, Florida. I was prepared to be blown away by all the innovations, and it sure is overwhelming!

To follow along this week, just follow #MSIgnite on Twitter.

I will (probably) write up something a bit more comprehensive when this is all over. I don’t want to spend all this week in Orlando typing behind a laptop when I could be experiencing Ignite. So, more coming soon!

Microsoft Ignite 2017: Opening Video

Day One:

Tweets:

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Computing, Technology

90’s CGI memories

I’ve been undertaking a project recently to convert old VHS/VHS-C/Digital video tapes to a digital format to store on my home network Synology. It’s nice to have a backup and it’s also nice to be able to pull up any home video just within a few clicks.

Well, I happened to stumble across a video from 1990 titled “The Mind’s Eye.” It’s a collection of late 80’s CGI animation that obviously pales in comparison to the stuff in theaters today, but it certainly showed “what was possible” with technology, even in those early stages of computer animation.

Imagine my surprise (not really) when I discovered that the entire video is available on YouTube. So that’s one less video tape I have to convert…

Among the nuggets in the video is Stanley & Stella in: Breaking the Ice. It was the first computer animated short that I can remember emotionally connecting with. Give it a watch.

If you don’t want to sit through the entire Mind’s Eye video, you can find Stanley and Stella right here. Enjoy!

Computing

Windows 10 Office Preview Apps – App Can’t Open?

w10-store-apps

So, I’ve been running the Windows 10 Preview for a few weeks now, and it’s pretty stable. For some reason, the laptop I’m using it on seems to run hot all the time. The fan runs constantly even with no apps open. Maybe there’s some kind of “cooling driver” I need to install. Who knows?

Anyway, shortly after I installed Windows 10, I found the free Office App previews available from the Windows Store. I really liked being able to tie my OneDrive documents right into the apps. Things were running really smoothly.

Until…

win-10-cant-open

Suddenly the Office Preview Apps wouldn’t open anymore. This had been going on for a few weeks now, and just this morning I happened to stumble across this tweet from Gabriel Aul:

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Computing, Internet, Video Games

Relive your childhood through your browser

I’ve seen this trend toward classic computing really take off lately. My favorite is probably the Amiga Forever emulator by Cloanto. I like that one because I actually converted several Amiga disks over to *.adf format before disposing of the old Amiga machine.

But now there’s a way to enjoy some “new” classic games straight through your browser. The Internet Archive has recently added several games from the 80’s and 90’s. Just click on the large green power button, and you are on your way!

You should thank me for successfully wasting your otherwise productive day!