DO YOU REMEMBER?

WHAT TECHNOLOGY DO I MISS? I DON’T MISS TECHNOLOGY. I MISS CIVILIZATION.

Telephones on which both you and the party to whom you were speaking could hear each other.

Sound tracks on movies where dialogue was louder than background music.

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Silence when you were out and not near a phone. Being out of touch was wonderful — the whole point of vacation.

People walking on the street without things stuck in their ears, paying attention to where they were walking. Saying “hi” and smiling when they passed by.

Conversations which were not constantly interrupted by tweets, dings, beeps, and ringing.

Good manners. “Please” and “thank you” being part of normal human intercourse.

The customer always being right. I’d settle for the customer occasionally being treated with respect.

Complete sentences with words spelled correctly and including punctuation.

Full-service gas stations where they cleaned your windshield.

NO ONE READS MANUALS

It’s an odd feeling to be declared obsolete. I had been getting increasingly less relevant for a while, but after the dot coms went down, the high-tech world turned on its ear. Venture capital disappeared and so did the start-ups that had been my bread and butter.

computer gargoyle

Tech writers were replaced by automated systems that generate “documentation” from embedded engineering notes. For years, no one cared if the material these systems generated was useful or readable. As long as “something” was included with the product, it was “good enough.”

Intelligent, human-based technical support had already been exported. Now, the same thinking was applied to documentation.

Need help? Call tech support on the other side of the world. Let your customers wait on hold, get disconnected. Finally, let them talk to someone who knows nothing and will provide incorrect information. Never provide a call back number, so if the solution doesn’t work — and mostly, it won’t — make them go through the whole thing again. What could go wrong with this? Who needs a manual?

i_467_old-computer-advertisement-006A lot has gone wrong with this approach. Almost everything. Belatedly, a wide range of companies discovered that having horrible customer service and no documentation was actually affecting business.

Industry-wide rethinking came too late for my career, but it’s nice to see respect for customers coming back into style. Better late than never. It turns out that customers who buy expensive gear do want documentation and expect good service, too. Shocking. Who’d have guessed?

The whole “call tech support” got old quickly.

I never intended to be a technical writer. I was going to be a “real” writer. You know. An author. Novels. Literature.

I eventually wrote a lot of books, all of them explaining how to do something obscurely technical and computer-related. For a gal who barely scraped through basic algebra and never took a physics or chemistry course, I picked up a lot along the way.

I rode the high-tech wave until that fateful day when I was informed “no one reads manuals.”

alienware side view computer

The world keeps turning. I’m seeing “help wanted” ads for tech writers again. It was a long drought.  At last, written (not generated) documentation is making a comeback. I’ve lived long enough to see the full cycle, to watch an industry — and my profession — come 360 degrees back to where it all began.

ANIMUSIC RESONANT CHAMBER

You make a new friend. Make them a mix tape (or playlist, for the younger folks) that tells them who you are through song.

Photographers, artists, poets: show us MUSIC. And here it is. Animusic is music made visual. If music can be seen as well as heard, ANIMUSIC makes it so! Enjoy! I own several of their DVDs and they are wonderful. You can visit their website and see what’s available. The kind of music varies from classical to hard rock to “hard-to-describe,” but all of it has the same ability to let you actually see music, every note. If you don’t normally like music, you might like this because it isn’t like anything else.

See on Scoop.it – In and About the News

I published this a while back, but I thought it deserved another appearance, especially since it’s such a perfect match with today’s prompt.

I find this piece of music haunting and sometimes, I play it over and over again and can’t get it out of my mind. There’s something about it. Turn up your speakers, then watch, listen and be awestruck!

Click on the graphic (above) to see the entire production.

Animusic specializes in the 3D visualization of MIDI-based music. Founded by Wayne Lytle, it was originally called Visual Music. It became Animusic in 1995.

The company is famous for its futuristic computer animations in which the music actually drives the animation so that what you see and the music precisely correspond. This is as close to “visual music” as you can come.

Although other musical animation productions exists, there are differences. The models for Animusic are created first, then are programmed to do what the music “tells them.” Instruments appear to be playing themselves …  instruments that could never exist yet somehow seem entirely plausible. Many people, on first seeing an Animusic production ask if the instrument or instruments really exist. I thought it was real … strange and remarkable, but real. They are startlingly realistic. Sometimes very funny, too.

See also on www.youtube.com

A NOSTALGIC (NOT) LOOK AT WINDOWS 8

I don’t usually blow my horn quite this loudly, but I wrote this two years ago, almost to the day. Three weeks from now, Microsoft is bringing in Windows 10, replacing the deservedly hated and wildly unsuccessful Windows 8. People said I was just being stubborn, refusing to “get with the program.”

Windows 10, from all reports, is a lot like Windows 7, which is what I still use on all my computers. Given the way things have turned out for Windows and Microsoft, they should have listened to me and the other few million users who said “hell no, I won’t go” to their poorly conceived operating system. Microsoft converted more computer users to Apple systems than Apple could ever have managed to do without their help.

Here’s what I wrote, two years ago. When you’re right, you’re right.


I’ve given this thought. I reviewed the video from Microsoft. I read the FAQ. I’ve read the articles in ZDNet and anything else that seems to have detailed information. I watched the video a second time. I read the email you sent me and looked at the poll results. I still can’t find any advantage for me in using — or even testing — Windows 8.1.

I  don’t have a machine appropriate for testing anyhow. If I install it on a little notebook, the inadequacy of the machine would so limit what I could test I’m not sure I would learn anything meaningful. I couldn’t use such a little machine to run any important applications. I don’t even know if Chrome will run on 8.1. The information in the FAQ was vague.

My office by window light

Installing and testing would steal time from other projects to which I’m already committed. Others things take priority. If I could install it on one of my real working computers and use it for regular stuff I do … no, I don’t think so. I’ve heard rumors. Ugly rumors. I’m not willing to risk my computers … or waste my time. In the end, I’m merely curious about the system. And that isn’t enough motivation.

Windows 8 does not appear to be a work-oriented operating system. I’m a work-oriented user. The Dell XPS tablet I gave my son runs RT and that’s fine. RT was designed for a tablet and it does well in that environment.

But what’s in it for me? A bunch of apps I don’t need and won’t use? I have no interest in or need for basic photo editing apps. I don’t need simplified anything. I’m way past grade school versions of real tools I’ve been using for years.

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Who does Windows 8.1 target? Not me. You? Anyone out there?

I understand what Microsoft is selling. The problem? I don’t want or need it. It’s not a business environment. My wish list for a new operating system is for more and better business tools. Easily organized, searchable databases for graphics, photos, and documents. Tools to help me quickly locate files on huge hard drives. A better media player for audio.

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WHAT I WANT

I want an improved email client and a versatile calendar I can share on a network. I don’t want to lease or even buy it. It should come with the computer and automatically update as needed.

I want dependable, simple access to the Internet. In particular, my blog.

I don’t like Internet Explorer. I hate being prevented from going where I want because my browser is a wimp. I’m not 12 and I don’t need to be protected from myself.

Microsoft urgently needs folks like me to test drive their operating systems. They need core users — like me — to work with it, accept it, and enthusiastically endorse it. To talk it up on the Internet. To vouch for it to friends and co-workers.

Instead, we are the people most reluctant to try it and unless something dramatically changes are least likely to adopt it in the foreseeable future.

XPS 10 Tablet Details — Dell Windows 8 Tablet - Dell

Does Windows 8.1 work? Probably with a lot of bugs. Eventually Microsoft may fix it … or give up and create a system people will want. Not nearly fast enough.

Two basic questions remain unanswered:

  1. Why should I switch to a new operating system that’s anti-intuitive, ill-suited to my needs, and requires I relearn basic computer tasks?
  2. What advantages does Windows 8.1 offer that might motivate me to use it?

The answers are “no reason” and “none.”

Two words: Why bother?

I have read every article, watched all the videos, played with my son’s RT tablet and I cannot see anything tempting — for my purposes.

Maybe in the future Microsoft will do something to change my mind. But far as I can tell, they don’t know I exist. Or don’t care. One way or the other, they’ve chosen to ignore me and everyone like me, effectively disenfranchising the whole class of business users. That’s a crazy choice for a corporation which depends on business clients. Mind blowing and well … dumb.

Does this mean that there’s no merit in this operating system? I’m sure it has value to someone, but it doesn’t have any to me. At least none I can find. And I’ve looked. I want to want it. I want to like it.

Sorry, Microsoft. Not happening for me.

WHEN FEASTING ON CROW INCLUDE THE FEATHERS

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Hola! Daily Prompt! We did jealousy last week. Really. Exactly one week ago, on May 8th, 2015. It was a good one too and I invite all of you to read “DON’T COVET YOUR NEIGHBOR’S ASS.” And if that’s not enough, you can also read my original response from August 2013, “MONEY CAN’T BUY IT.” 

Instead of something more on this worn out subject (not a favorite from the beginning) because I have nothing more to say about jealousy, here’s a favorite anecdote. It’s funny, and a cautionary tale for assholes everywhere.

MOTTO: Make sure, when you set out to humiliate someone, that the shoe does not wind up in your mouth. And that is all the metaphor mixing I can handle for today.

NOTE: The photographs are irrelevant to the story, but I like them, so I’ve used them.


In the mid 1980s in Israel, I worked at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot with the team developing DB1, the first relational database. Those familiar with databases and their history should go “Ooh, aah.” Feel free to be awed. These are my bona fides certifying my “original geekhood.”

I was never a developer, just a computer-savvy writer, but I worked extensively on Quix, the first real-English query language and documented DB-1. I was eventually put in charge of creating promotional materials to sell the project to IBM. They bought it and from it, DB2 and all other relational databases emerged. Cool beans, right?

Technical writing was new. In 1983, it didn’t have a name. I was a pioneer. I didn’t chop down forests or slaughter aboriginal inhabitants, but I went where no one had gone before. Breaking new ground was exciting and risky.

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The president of the group was named Micah. He was the “money guy.” Micah knew less about computers than me, but wielded serious clout. His money was paying our salaries, rent, and keeping the lights on. The definition of clout.

As the day approached when the team from IBM was due, it was time for me to present the materials I had created with Ruth, a graphic artist who had been my art director at the failed newspaper I’d managed the previous year. (This was well before computers could generate graphics properly.) Ruth was amazing with an airbrush. I’ve never seen better work.

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The presentation materials were as perfect as Ruth and I could make them. I had labored over that text and she had done a brilliant job creating graphics that illustrated the product, its unique capabilities and benefits. And so it came time for the pre-IBM all-hands-on-deck meeting.

Micah didn’t like me. His dislike wasn’t based on anything I did or even my disputable personality. He didn’t like women in the workplace. I was undeniably female. As was Ruth. Strike one, strike two. At the meeting, he looked at our materials and announced “We need better material. I’ve heard there’s a real hot-shot in Jerusalem. I’ve seen his work. It’s fantastic. We should hire him.” And he stared at me and sneered.

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Onto the table he tossed booklets as well as other promotional and presentation materials for a product being developed in Haifa at the Technion. I looked at the stuff.

“That’s my work, ” I said.

“No it isn’t,” he said firmly. “I’ve heard it was created by the best technical writer in the country.”

“Yes,” I agreed. “Me.”

He was not done with humiliating himself. He insisted a phone be brought to the table and he called his friend Moshe in Jerusalem. I’d worked for Moshe, quitting because although I liked the man, he couldn’t keep his hands to himself. I had a bad-tempered, jealous husband — something I didn’t feel obliged to reveal.

Moshe gave Micah the name of The Hot Shot. It was me.

“Oh,” said Micah. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t have to. The deadpan faces around the table were elegant examples of people trying desperately to not laugh. Micah wasn’t a guy you laughed at, not if you wanted to keep your job.

Hyannis show window

It was a moment of triumph so sweet — so rare — nothing else in my working life came close. I won one for The Team, for professional women everywhere. Eat it, Micah.

WHAT? – GARRY ARMSTRONG

This is a lengthy comment to a blog posted by the imminent eminent wordsmith known as Evil Squirrel.  Squirrel’s blog For whom the Beltones ... was a humorous look at the history of aids for the hearing-impaired and the advertising of the 1980s.

Squirrel, this is truly evil. Maybe even blatantly racist if I can find an angle. I love it! You’re yelling to the choir with this one.

garry and tom walpole TV

As you may know, I have needed hearing aids since I was a kid, back to the days when they were the small portable radios with a wire and earpiece. It was damned humiliating for a young guy.

As time went by, technology upgraded me to tiny, all in the ear aids. They were invisible on TV so it was great for me since I wore my aids all the time at work — except when I did live shots. Then, I had to replace one of my hearing aids with the IFB thingy which allowed everyone to talk directly into my head. Everyone could — and did — talk at the same time.

Sometimes there were two or three dozen people talking and shouting into my IFB as I calmly did my live reports. And smiled.

Often (simultaneously), the other hearing aid would pick up frequencies from nearby radio towers. I had a myriad TV people shouting into my IFB while Air Traffic Controllers yelled into my hearing aid. I calmly delivered the live reports. Then I went out for a few drinks.

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Marilyn actually saw and heard a tape of one of these live shots, The station had accidentally recorded the stuff coming in through the IFB instead of the sound track for the story. She was awed. How could I function during all the clamor? Looking back, I’m awed too. I’m an awesome guy. That’s why they paid me the big bucks (not).

I interviewed Eddie Albert when he was filming “Yes, Giorgio” in Boston. Eddie was sunbathing along the Charles River. He smiled when he caught a glimpse of my tiny hearing aids. Pulled his out for comparison. A lot of “WHAT?” went down that day.

Fast forward to the present, I have the current behind the ears model hearing aids. My hearing is getting worse.

Huh? Can you hear me now??”

Garry with Terriers - Dogs

Postscript:

I didn’t always wear my hearing aids on a regular basis. Back then, it was worse (much) than being called “four eyes”. One night changed my whole attitude.

My date had reached that critical point where you wonder if “it” will happen. The lady answered my query. I misheard her answer.

End of evening.

NINETY DEGREES

Eleven months ago, I bought a Waring Pro Digital Convection Oven. Basically, it’s a high-end toaster oven with an added convection baking function. I picked it because it has the features I wanted, it got good reviews … and it would fit in the space I had available.

These days, I cook pretty much entirely for Garry and I. We rarely have company, much less dinner guests. I figured I could bring our electric consumption down considerably by not using the huge oven in my electric, glass-top range.

waring mini oven

Since I bought it last June, I’ve used my full-size oven only once. I love this little oven … except that the design of the rack can make it very difficult to get the baking sheet out.

art waring oven multi lens

It gets stuck under the claws of the oven, which I believe it is designed to do. It has been the source of significant frustration for me, especially since I use it nearly every day for everything from baking chicken to frozen pizza.

Our electric bill dropped by 50% between last year and now, so I figured it was worth the hassle.

Today, I solved the puzzle. I figured out how to prevent the baking tray from getting stuck on the rack. What was the solution? I changed its orientation from east-west to north-south. In other words, I rotated it 90 degrees on the rack and the problem vanished.

waring mini oven trayFor eleven months, I struggled with the oven pan, trying to get it out of the oven without burning my hand. I have hundreds of little burns on my hands because the pan got caught every time I used it. Which, I remind you, has been almost every day.

In all these months, it never occurred to me I could turn it.

What point is there in having a high IQ if it takes 11 months of getting burned on an oven rack before you consider turning the pan in the other direction?

Garry said he was glad it was me, not him.

I guess I will never be too old to be really stupid.

TURNING ON THE OLYMPUS SUPER CONTROL PANEL

Olympus E-PM2 Super Control Panel (SCP) The Olympus Super Control Panel is a special hidden control system. As you can see above, it makes viewing and changing settings on your camera really easy. …

Source: blog.atmtxphoto.com

If you have Olympus PEN cameras, from the PL-1 to the latest OM-D, this is information that you can use to turn on a “one menu does everything” for your camera. Indispensable, but hard to find information!

See on Scoop.itForty Two: Life and Other Important Things