Category: Technology

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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.

Technology, Television

Samsung QLED TV Epic Fail [*UPDATED*]

On November 10, 2018, my family set out on a quest. A quest to find a nice new television to place on the living room wall. Sure, it seemed like your average, everyday trip to Best Buy… Little did I know it would turn into a series of events of “Samsung Epic Fail” proportions… I know that Samsung has its hand full with another, more popular epic fail at the moment, the horribly designed Galaxy Fold “smart” phone. But the large failure that is the Q7F series of TVs has received little attention apart from the 30, 31, 32 pages of complaints on Samsung’s community forum. Read on for a deeper dive into this roller coaster ride, which is still not over.*

On the surface, the Samsung Q7F series of televsions looks like a great, albeit expensive, product line. To this day, the product still rates 4 out of 5 stars on Amazon.com:

Incidentally, it’s also an “Amazon’s Choice.” Pssshhh. Screen grab taken on 04/23/2019.

Anyway, the television was delivered in an acceptable time frame. Not the fastest, but acceptable. The picture quality was great. No complaints. It was a pretty smart TV. The story goes downhill after the break…

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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.

Event, Technology

Search On…

What a tumultuous year it’s been! Every year, Google summarizes the year in search, and this year they’ve settled on trying to find the answer to a simple, but important question: “How?”

How implies action. How implies change. “By what means can one reach an end?”

This year saw turmoil and disaster. But it also saw organization and relief. And as long as people continue asking “How?” there’s hope.

 

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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Internet, Technology

Staying anonymous on the Internet

Part One

So, thanks to our wonderful, outstanding, useful, totally not-bought-and-paid-for United States Congress® combined with our Reality-TV-star president, there is a very good possibility that your online activity soon can and will be collected and sold without your express permission.

Up until now, Internet Service Providers, who can track all of your online activity, had to get your express permission to collect and sell such information. (Of course, how many people read the entire Terms and Conditions before clicking “OK.” But it was at least nice of them to ask. So it’s likely that we’ve already voluntarily signed a lot of rights away in exchange for a service.)

But there are ways to obfuscate quite a bit of your online activity. In this video, former hacker and current author Kevin Mitnick explains some things you can do to protect yourself.

Now, some of these suggestions only help protect your information and not necessarily your browsing habits. If you visit bankofamerica.com, even with secure sockets layer enabled, your ISP will still know you’ve visited the site. They just can’t see what you’ve done there. Using TOR, as also suggested in the video, would help prevent that type of monitoring.

None of these suggestions is a guarantee of safety or anonymity. They just help.

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Technology

Leo Laporte explains the need for strong encryption

This is one of the best explanations I’ve heard for keeping our devices strongly encrypted. The video below starts at 29 minutes and 34 seconds in… He continues on the subject for several minutes, at least through 38:26.

You can’t lower your guard without lowering it for everyone.

And that’s the key.

When you reduce security, it’s not just for bad guys, and it’s not just the government that gets access to that. It’s everybody.

Well said, Leo.

Featured, News, Technology

The Day of the ‘Challenger’

The ramblings of an adult remembering the shuttle accident through the eyes of a twelve year old.

So I remember that day quite well. In north-central West Virginia, January 28, 1986 was a snow day. No school in Harrison County. Those are the words every twelve year old loves to hear in January. Back then, we still had our summers, filled with basketball and music. (I always liked to type up the Top 40 tunes each week, as announced by Casey Kasem, on a typewriter. The red ribbon would be saved for the number one song!) Also, they didn’t keep extending the school year into the middle of June, nor start in August, to make up for missed snow days, like today.

c-128-screen
A Commodore 128 BASIC screen. At the ready.

Anyway, that particular Tuesday morning, I was busy plugging away at a computer keyboard in my bedroom. I was (what do you mean, was?) one of those nerdy kids. Synchronized-watch-with-the-school-bell kinda nerdy kids. Yeah, I really did that kind of thing… That morning I was busy writing a basketball simulation program on a Commodore 128 computer. I don’t have a screenshot of that program or a copy of it anywhere, but I remember it well. It was a side-on shot of a basketball court and backboard. When you pressed the space bar a basketball would head toward the hoop and it would randomly vary a few pixels left or right, and occasionally you’d “make a basket.” Anyway, it was just the kind of thing I was likely to do on a snow day.

“Jay, come in here,” mom yelled from the living room. “The shuttle’s going up.” “Oh, yeah, that’s happening today,” I thought. So… pack it up on the C-128, and head into the living room.

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