Offerings.

So Apple had their September event, “Time Flies”. Like the WWDC Keynote earlier this year, this was a pre-taped event with very slick presentation values. I’m always genuinely impressed with the way Apple presents their new offerings, whether it’s live or Memorex.

Ironically, I’m typing this blog entry on my MacBook Pro that’s running a portable installation of Linux.

The Apple event included the latest in their Apple Watch line and the newest iPad Air, which ends up being more like an iPad Pro instead of the lighter version of a base-line iPad.

Speaking of the iPad, I fully believe that tablet computing is the wave of the future. Ideally, our smartphones would be our main computer and we would connect them to monitors and keyboards to do our work. A intermediary option could be snapping our smartphone into the back of a “tablet shell”, where the smartphone powers the tablet or the computer. But we’d always have our main computer in our pocket.

But that idea wasn’t part of Apple’s offerings this week. I don’t think it would sell enough hardware to be viable. However, I do think that the majority of average users in the world today could get by with an iPad or, if they’re uncomfortable living in Apple’s ecosystem, a Chromebook or other non-Apple tablet like device.

The biggest takeaway from the presentation for our family’s computing needs was the announcement of “Apple One”, a tiered membership plan that allows users to pay just one price for a group of Apple’s service offerings. The most expensive plan, at $29.95 US per month, includes iCloud Drive, Apple Music, Apple News+, the new Apple Fitness+ service, Apple TV+, and Apple Arcade.

This would save us about $10 a month. Not a bad deal.

The only caveat to this is that it’s obviously geared to work best when you’re using Apple hardware and software across all of your computing needs. So, while it could be done with this current MacBook Pro-Linux setup I’m using at this very moment, it wouldn’t be very practical.

Restore.

The Linux partition and the Mac partition on my trusty MacBook Pro got into a squabble today and shut the whole thing down. I rebooted my Mac and nothing would start up. It was like the hard drive knew nothin’.

I am on attempt number two at restoring Mac OS. Five minutes left as I type. Wish me luck.

Star Trek Day.

Taken in July.

On September 8, 1966, “Star Trek” debuted on NBC. Produced by Desilu Studios, the series was given the green light not once, but twice, by the head of Desilu at the time, Lucille Ball. Each year, September 8 is designated as “Star Trek Day”.

I first discovered Star Trek in reruns in the late 1970s courtesy of CKWS out of Kingston, Ontario. I used to watch it each afternoon from 5:00 PM to 6:00 PM. The antenna had to be turned, and during the ending credits I had to turn the antenna back the other direction so my Dad could watch the evening news during supper. With the right atmospheric conditions, I could vividly enjoy Star Trek from the Canadian station on the Zenith color television surrounded by a good sized wood cabinet. Turn it on early, it took a minute or two to warm up.

Of course, I have enjoyed Star Trek since discovering it in the late 1970s. Earl and I were just talking about which movies I saw on opening night, and which I waited until they were available on television or VCR tape. My first Star Trek movie on opening night was “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier”, in Acton, Mass. I remember audibly gasping when the Enterprise-A whisks by in a typical “beauty shot”, but with less-than-stellar special effects now well known to that particular movie. A guy next to me said, in his best Boston accent, “I know, right?”

The most important thing about Star Trek to me is the hope it provides for humanity. The “classic” spin of the series up through Star Trek: Voyager shows us a future where humans are most interested in exploration and scientific discovery. We’ve moved beyond money and greed and the humans of the 23rd and 24th century work more toward a common good for the entire Universe.

It’s a lovely thing to strive for.

I’ve been distracting myself from the 21st century this year by watching more Star Trek and chatting with other fans of the franchise. I am a verified member of Starfleet and I like to think that the needs of the many outweighs the needs of the few, or the one.

So happy Star Trek day! Live Long and Prosper. Enjoy this experience we call life, and all it has to offer with Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations.

Exploring.

My husband doesn’t mind when I go off the beaten path when we’re out on a ride exploring The Prairie State. Usually I stick to the county routes, but today we took a few township maintained roads. A couple of them lacked pavement; the Jeep Cherokee handles the gravel roads just fine.

We made our way through the Otter Creek Wind Farm in LaSalle County. A little bit of research online reveals that Otter Creek Wind Farm went online in March of this year. There are 42 Vesta turbines spread across 10,000 acres of land rented from 76 land owners. The 158 megawatt wind farm puts out enough electricity to power about 60,000 Illinois homes per year.

We stayed on township maintained roads and stayed off the private driveways that go up to the turbines. They’re quite similar to the ones we used to pass by in the North Country of Upstate New York. Underground lines from each turbine carry power to a centrally located substation. The substation is tied into power lines that have crossed this area for decades. This is a natural tie-in to the local grid.

I have always been fascinated by electricity and I’m encouraged by the renewable energy efforts in Illinois. Wind farms are especially prevalent, but we also have solar farms scattered across the prairie. I know some folks don’t like the turbines dotting the landscape, but they’re nearly silent and they harness a renewable resource to keep our ever growing list of electric-dependent devices working.

There are some encouraging aspects to the 21st century!

Privacy.

From John Gruber at Daring Fireball.

>This new ad from Apple touting iPhone privacy protection is good, and genuinely funny. But what makes it funny — the premise is a series of people loudly sharing in the real world the sort of information that gets unknowingly tracked online — is actually the perfect analogy to help explain how the tracking industry — what ought to be considered the privacy theft industry — has grown into existence.

Consider the new ad-tracking privacy protection feature in iOS 14. The tracking industry, led by Facebook, is up in arms about it — apparently such that Apple might delay enforcing it for a few more months, according to this report today by Alex Heath for The Information (paywalled, alas — here’s MacRumors’s summary). Heath’s report closes thus:

Branch CEO Alex Austin, whose company specializes in measuring the effectiveness of ads in mobile apps, called Apple’s proposed change to IDFA “unworkable for the app ecosystem.”

“Apple’s move has gone too far, disproportionately disrupting a vibrant app ecosystem by throwing the baby out with the bathwater,” he told The Information.

The entitlement of these fuckers is just off the charts. They have zero right, none, to the tracking they’ve been getting away with. We, as a society, have implicitly accepted it because we never really noticed it. You, the user, have no way of seeing it happen. Our brains are naturally attuned to detect and viscerally reject, with outrage and alarm, real-world intrusions into our privacy. Real-world marketers could never get away with tracking us like online marketers do.

Imagine if you were out shopping, went into a drug store, examined a few bottles of sunscreen, but left the store without purchasing anything. And then immediately a stranger approaches you with an offer for sunscreen. Such an encounter would trigger a fight or flight reaction — the needle on your innate creepometer would shoot right into the red. (Not to mention that if real-world tracking were like online tracking, you’d get the same creepy offer to buy sunscreen even if you just bought some. Tracking-based offers are both creepy, and, at times, annoyingly stupid.)

Or imagine if you found out that public billboards were taking photos of people who glance at them, logging those photos to a database, and using facial recognition to match them with photos taken at point-of-sale terminals in retail stores. That way, if, say, you were photographed looking at an ad for a soft drink, and later — hours, days, weeks — purchased that same soft drink, the billboard advertisement you glanced at hours, days, or weeks before could get “credit” for your purchase.

We wouldn’t tolerate it. But that’s basically how online ad tracking works.

The tracking industry is correct that iOS 14 users are going to overwhelmingly deny permission to track them. That’s not because Apple’s permission dialog is unnecessary scaring them — it’s because Apple’s permission dialog is accurately explaining what is going on in plain language, and it is repulsive. Apple’s dialog describes something no sane person would agree to because it is something no sane person would agree to.

Just because there is now a multi-billion dollar industry based on the abject betrayal of our privacy doesn’t mean the sociopaths who built it have any right whatsoever to continue getting away with it. They talk in circles but their argument boils down to entitlement: they think our privacy is theirs for the taking because they’ve been getting away with taking it without our knowledge, and it is valuable. No action Apple can take against the tracking industry is too strong.

Randomly.

I installed the latest beta version of iOS 14. I’m liking the improvements. It has some nice improvements. I’ve reported a few bugs. That’s the purpose of beta.

Iteration.

25 years ago this week, Microsoft released Windows 95. I remember immediately upgrading from Microsoft Windows 3.11 to Windows 95; it required 13 floppy disks and a whole bunch of hoping and praying. I owned a 386SX/16 with 8MB of RAM at the time.

Still, Windows 95 was a good step in the evolution of personal computers.

People lined up in the streets to buy their copy of Windows 95. The Rolling Stones were paid millions of dollars from Microsoft so their song “Start Me Up” could be used to highlight the Windows 95 start button. Point and click. Plug and play. Exciting times. Technology was evolving and evolving at a very rapid pace.

We are now well into the 21st century but technology couldn’t be anymore boring. Windows 10 still behaves like Windows 95. Heck, it still has Windows 95 dialog boxes in some parts of the interface. What does Apple’s iOS 14 bring us? Widgets? Stop the presses and don’t look the other way; no, Android hasn’t been doing that since for a decade.

Technology has ceased evolving and become merely iterative.

Yes, we have moving buttons and widgets and gadgets and transparent menu bars. Who cares. What’s the next big thing? Is there a next big thing? Where’s the next big thing? Where’s the big advancement that doesn’t take us into the 20th century version 2.1?

Technology is frightfully boring.

I’m typing this blog entry on a 2015 MacBook Pro running Ubuntu Linux. One of the reasons I’m running Linux is because it can be something different. I can make my virtual desktop look and act like I’m on the Starship Enterprise, an old computer running OS/2 Warp, or I can run a desktop environment that is completely different from the Windows or Mac paradigms. People contributing to Linux are actually someone trying something new when writing code to power our computers. Apple just trounces out iteration after iteration of the same thing they introduced 13 years ago. Microsoft Windows is Microsoft Windows. “But you can’t take a photo of someone you don’t know from 15 feet away with the new lens only available on our ‘pro’ device!”. Who the hell cares. My father took pictures of people we didn’t know in 1979 with his Canon AE-1 and our lives aren’t any the richer for it.

The Fortune 500 tech companies have become boring, mundane, and pedestrian. Lean in? Let me take a nap.

As kludgy as it was, and it was wicked kludgy, Windows 95 moved us forward in the world of tech. When do we “Start Me Up” in the 21st century?

Not Ready.

There’s a two-part story in my favorite Star Trek series, “Voyager”, where the crew goes back in time to Earth in 1996. I’m often reminded of a bit of dialog in the script; a tech company CEO has gotten his hands on future technology and is introducing it to the 20th century United States, and the Voyager crew comments that society isn’t ready for this technology yet and that social norms haven’t caught up to the technology they have. This is creating problems for the populace.

It makes me think of today’s approach to Social Media.

When Facebook and Twitter first came around, a year or two before the mass introduction of the ‘smart phone’, it was a nifty playground for those that were technologically savvy. Even though we had moved onto “Web 2.0” earlier in the decade, there was still a bit of the tech street cred present for the earlier era, where the idea was the Internet would provide valuable, coherent information. Yes, we were babbling on blogs (just like this one!) but people weren’t purposely throwing out ridiculous conspiracy theories for the entire world to consume in 140 character bites.

Then Twitter and Facebook became a major part of the national conversation, the technology became readily available to everyone, and bad actors purposely started skewing and distorting facts into fiction and suddenly everyone had an opinion.

I know. I’ve been sharing my opinion on things via this blog since 2001. But I’ve always tried to stick to the facts and despite how it may seem from time to time, I do filter my emotions a bit here. I don’t want to be known as an Internet troll. I don’t want to damage society through social media or other Internet based information channels.

The issue is that technology has cleared outpaced society’s ability for everyone to handle the capabilities responsibly. Now, I know this may make me sound a bit elitist, but I don’t think EVERYONE needs to have the entire Internet at their disposal. Not only does it invite bad people to anonymously write damaging things for the entire world to consume, but it puts many people in danger. How many folks do you know that have been scammed out of maybe thousands and thousands of dollars through an email or a ransomware attack or even a dire sounding text message sent through one of the many messaging services?

If we’re going to use the Internet it’s important that we do so intelligently and that we know what we’re doing and where we’re doing it. We can’t let technology outpace us, not in our national dialog, not in our homes, and not with our bank accounts. (You should see how many “smart doorbells” I’ve had the opportunity to hack as I walk through the neighborhood. Did I hack them? No. But not everyone wears a white hat like I do).

I don’t have the solution for fixing this problem. License computer users? It’ll never happen. Slow down the digital economy? Never happen. The best we can do is educate, share concerns, and try to steer people in the right direction.

Social media is never going away. If anything, it’s just going to get worse. Any effort to try to keep it in some sort of credible space is all we have.

God help us all.

No.

We shouldn’t disparage Rita Repulsa in this manner. Anyone that buys the crap being spewed at the Republican National Convention is a lost cause. Move on. Watch Power Rangers.