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Things That Feel Ancient

Things That Feel Ancient

    I feel as if I live in two different time periods. One of those periods has cool technology that works just right, such as my iPhone 5 with Google Maps, operating in satellite view mode, at 4G speeds. It feels as if I’m living in a futuristic sci-fi movie.

    Other times, such as when I use my laptop with Windows, I feel as if living I’m in a time from long ago. Windows and its third-party software pals interrupt my writing flow so often with pleas for software updates that I find it almost impossible to construct a sentence. And there’s no such thing as doing a little work when I find myself with an unexpected ten minutes. By the time I open my document and start to write I’ve been distracted by all sorts of little software side streets.

    Do I really need to update my virus program every two days? How much risk am I accepting if I don’t? Does my laptop manufacturer’s software really need updating when I haven’t noticed any problems? That requires some investigation. Should I reboot now as one of the updates insists, or can I put that off for later. How do I make that free-trial pop-up stop bothering me?

    Realistically, it’s not the amount of time that is the issue but the sidetracking of thought. For creative work, mental detours are killers.

    And suppose I want to do something simple such as load photos from a camera. That should be easy, but somehow a different piece of software jumps in to handle the job every time. And by “handle” I mean store the uploaded photos in some sort of secret hidden folder that I can never find. I’m not sure it has ever worked the same way twice.

    Windows is just one example of something that feels ancient. Recently I was filling out some paperwork that required me to sign my name over and over and over. Why do they need so many signatures for the same process? It’s because someday someone might need to prove that I had to an opportunity to read some legalese that hasn’t ever been read by anyone but the bastard who wrote it. I’ll bet even the guy who paid the bastard to write it didn’t read it.

    Speaking of lawyers, do we really need a completely different and customized set of contracts for every transaction? It seems to me we could handle 90% of all contract situations with a few standard forms that allow you to fill in the blanks.

    Yesterday I watched a good friend open a leather binder she carries around to keep her credit cards and various loyalty cards organized. I think there were about forty cards in that thing. She told a story of almost losing the binder at an airport and how panicked she was before finding it. The bag-o-plastic-cards system feels about as modern as dragging your goat to market to pay for some mead.

    Let me tell you the system that I want. I’d like my phone hardware to be totally generic, and only the software to change as needed, up in the cloud, without asking me. If I drop my phone in the toilet, I want to grab another generic phone off the shelf, speak my name as my identifier, and have it load my phone software from the cloud. I’m up and running in minutes.

    And I want my phone to be my computer too, or at least the gateway to my computer function in the cloud. If I get near a desktop with a monitor and keyboard, it should recognize my proximity and turn into my computer via software on the cloud.

    I never want to identify myself in a retail establishment. Let their cameras snap a picture of my face then match it to a common database of faces and cross-check it to the unique signal from my phone that is in my pocket. That should be enough to know it’s me.

    And I never want to enter a password again, or spell my email address letter-by-letter over the phone, or even know my own phone number.

    As much as I don’t like government interference in markets, I’m happy as hell that I have HD television, and GPS, and wireless frequencies that are orderly. Now I wish the government would mandate an end to pen-based signatures, physical money, plastic cards, software pop-ups that beg for updates, and lawyers.

    I’d be okay with a constitutional amendment making it a basic right to have Internet access and a smartphone by the year 2020 or so. It worked for landline telephones and the energy grid. It’s time to get everyone on the Internet so we can climb out of the goats-for-mead world we are in. Long term, I think universal Internet access saves the government more money than it costs because the economy would be so much better for it.

    Rant complete.

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