WHAT’S THE ANTONYM FOR PROGRESS? Marilyn Armstrong

Someone commented that “working on a problem” was, for WordPress, their version of progress. So I got to thinking. What is the opposite word — the antonym as it were — of progress?

William Strunk Jr. was a professor of English at Cornell University and, together with E.B. White, author of The Elements of Style (1918).

And after considerable research I discovered there is no antonym because “progress” is a contextual word and what is means depends on the way in which you use it. If you are talking in military terms, the answer would be “retreat.” If you can’t move forward, the way to go is backward — another antonym. Also, don’t forget “reverse.”

If by progress, you mean “to go inside,” you can use “egress” which means “to leave” — but it really isn’t an antonym since progress is rarely used to mean “going into a building or room.” Generally, it means to “improve upon an existing state.” Or, to fix something that’s wrong. Or, to go forward when you haven’t been … well … progressing.

Regress is more mathematical than progress and has a lot of important applications in the coding world. But it doesn’t have much to say about making a bad situation better or worse.

I found this oddly amusing. Rarely do you find a relatively common word which has no antonym. In every case, the “antonym” was marked as “sense-specific” or as I prefer to put it, “contextual.” It means what it means in a limited, specific way.

One way or another, “progress” in this case would definitely be some kind of “forward movement” of the project, which happens to be figuring out why names suddenly don’t come up linked to the people who wrote the posts.


Ben C. (Automattic)

Apr 17, 12:50 UTC

Putting this back on hold

This issue is being worked on here: https://readersquad.wordpress.com/2018/04/10/site-not-appearing-in-reader-search/


Ben C. | Happiness Engineer
WordPress.com | learn.wordpress.com


First off, what does “putting it back on hold” actually mean? You mean — you took it off hold? Why when you never fixed it, would it have been on hold at all? It’s broken. Fix it. YOU broke it, not me.

So I wrote:


I am comforted by the fact that you are working on this major issue. Please don’t worry that my post about it has been reblogged many times in a variety of languages. I’m sure no one really minds having you make a complete mess of their contacts with the outside world. After all, we only do this so you can make more money and have no personal stake in the matter at all.

Many people will be comforted knowing you are working on fixing your broken search engine. It’s touching, really it is. After all. I’ve written 7,000+ posts for you — and been a premium customer — yet my NAME — nor any of the names of the other four writers on my site — can be brought up through your engine — even though they always showed up in the past. How special is that? What I love BEST about you guys is how hard you work at “fixing” things without apparently having any clue as to the other issues involved with the work — like what happens to databases when you disconnect the names of customers, probably by eradicating the pointers that have so effectively worked for years.

Listen, if you need people who actually understand how this stuff works? I used to be in this business and I know some really top-notch people who can fix a database to perfection. Of course, that means that EVERYBODY in your tech department also has to learn how they work so they don’t casually destroy them without even knowing  what they are doing.

Have you considered hiring PROFESSIONALS to work with rather than kids just out of school? I know you might have to pay them a better salary and that’s rarely done these days, but it’s worth considering. Because as someone who spent a lot of years of my life working with databases, you guys are clueless.

Your friendly neighborhood paying customer with a 40 year background in the problem you can’t solve (because I’m sure you have no idea how you broke it in the first place),

Marilyn Armstrong


Too snarky?

Freaking HAPPINESS ENGINEERS? Do they blush when they have to say that in public? Doesn’t it make them cringe with embarrassment? Has any WordPress “happiness engineer” made you happy? Their job is fixing the problems that they — themselves — have created. So effectively, they are “technical assistants” whose job it is to fix the messes they make.

Why do they make the messes? Because as far as I can tell, they really don’t know what they are doing. They just do stuff and when it stops working (duh!) they say oops. With luck, they attempt to fix it. Some things never get fixed because they have no idea what they did to break them. Talking to our happy band of Happiness Engineers, I am often confounded by how little they know about the stuff they are doing. How lost they are and how obviously young and clueless they seem to be. Every now and again, you get a smart one and it’s such a relief.

Finally! An engineer who knows what a pointer actually IS and can recognize a database when he sees one — and even knows how important the database and search engines are to the platforms of which they are, in theory, in charge.

Such is progress. They are making progress. Well, actually, no one has said they are making progress. That’s actually my own inference.

Are they making progress? Are they in full retreat? Are they moving backward? Are they in “slow progress” mode – which in the development world is identical to “no progress” mode?

Inquiring minds would love to know. By the way, I tried their link and it is blocked to plebes like me who don’t “get” development. You need a password, which of course I don’t have.

No problem. I’m sure, in weeks to come, they will be sending me another note letting me know that they have yet to make any progress, so they are taking this “off hold” because they are “Happiness Engineers” and they really want us to be happy.

I want to be happy too. Let’s all be happy together.

FRETTING WHEN YOUR NAME DISAPPEARS IN WORDPRESS’S SEARCH ENGINE? – Marilyn Armstrong

Fretting? Why would I be fretting? After all — the “Happiness Engineers” are still working on solving “my” problem!

It’s comforting to hear that “our team” is continuing  to “work” on this issue or are they working on it again. Or “still”? It’s hard to know since they have yet to get my name or any of our four other co-authors back into the database.  

Do they even understand the problem? That the most likely reason we are “missing” is that they eliminated the pointers that made our posts visible to the general public? Or are they still dicking around with kids just out of college who don’t actually understand that doing “A” can result in a broken “C” and “L” and “Z”? Have they bothered to hire any experts in the staff or are they working — as I suspect — with a bunch of barely trained “kids”?


If you are on your dashboard and you go to Reader (I don’t know what dashboard you are using because they keep “fixing it” and this latest fix has REALLY fixed it but good). Open Reader, go down to “Search” and type in your name. See what you get. If you are lucky, you will see most or all of your posts including recent posts.

If you are me, you will find nothing — not the name of your site or your name or any post from your site at all. Almost everyone else can find at least their older posts. In my case, I effectively do not exist in the WordPress search engine.

Why is this such a big deal? Because the search engine — otherwise known as “the database” — is how WordPress hangs together. It’s the core information about who is who and what is what on their gigantic server farms. That’s how you can look up “Serendipity” and find all the various posts on Serendipity — despite there being other posts that have included the word in their titles and a few that just plain stole it. All of this is linked to our URL, which is our “address” on the  world-wide web — the big virtual world of which we are part.

CBS Images

I have been posting pretty much daily for six-years. That’s more than 7,000 posts, almost 11,000 WordPress followers (probably half of them are Russian bots) and another 3500 (give or take) individuals from social media. I have 669,975 views including almost every country on earth. I’m missing North Korea (we all are) and a couple of central African countries, but otherwise, I’ve gone everywhere and most of you have also traveled the globe, at least virtually.

Right now, those who are already following you or me or anyone (and vice versa) will continue to get emails and notices in the Reader. No one new will find us in the Reader — or at least won’t find any of our new material. They may find you through Google, though. As long as Google keeps crawling through WordPress, we are alive. Sort of.

Search engine history

For me, it’s a complete wipe out. None of the five of us who write on Serendipity show up as existing at ALL in the search engine except as reblogs on other peoples’ sites.

By the way, I had no idea how many reblogs of our pieces were around. Thank you, all of you!

So, the regulars who follow me can (so far) continue to follow, but casual drop-by people looking for pictures or information or book reviews or whatever we write about won’t find it if they are searching for us on WordPress.

Google is alive and well, so far. I’m assuming that’s true of whatever other search engines (Bing, Yahoo, etc.) are crawling through WordPress.

This is a major issue for WordPress. A broken database is serious business.

Databases were what I worked on for most of my professional life. Technical writing — with a VERY heavy emphasis on data management. A company’s  search engine is the center — the core — of a system. It’s not a spare part.

The database is how a system knows about itself and can find its various pieces. If it breaks down, that is very bad. The “old bloggers” — we who have been doing this for years — are the hardest hit and I think I’m the only one who has been obliterated completely. We aren’t completely dead as long as our links still work and Google picks up the pieces, but if the whole database (search engine) collapses, WordPress will collapse with it.

And then, there is WordPress

It’s important that you make sure WordPress knows you know what’s going on and they need to fix this. Pronto. They are working on it, but it’s possible I was the first person to get on their case and make them realize how deep this issue goes.

They have been messing with the “reader” and “search engine” for years without giving a thought to what might happen if things went terribly wrong. And with databases, thing go terribly wrong pretty fast and rather easily. Just know that a database is how your system remains A SYSTEM and not a lot of random pieces floating in cyber-space.

The longer it goes on, the more pieces of our work will disappear and possibly never be found again. Anyone who codes will understand what I’m talking about. This should not have happened and they should have been working on it from day one instead of just doing their “we’re just messing around, don’t let it bother you” thing. Eventually, mindless coding will break something serious.

They finally did it.

Most of us only use a few search engines. Amazon for its own products. WordPress. Google. Bing. But there are thousands and thousands of search engines dedicated to specific tasks — finding cheap hotel rooms or airplane tickets — or anything else you might need or want. There are local bases and international bases. Medical and scientific bases. Every subject and science has a variety of databases, some of which charge fees for their use. Some require that you have degrees in the subject or are teaching in the field.

WordPress’s database is its fundamental tool. It isn’t “just” WordPress, either. It hooks into all the other databases. It matters. Its absence matters to us more than most of you may “get.” Time for them to stop messing around and start addressing the real issues on the platform — while there still is a platform.

The final bottom line is not the “name of my site” but MY NAME. The names of the other writers all of which should be pointing at the pieces they have written and until a month ago, were doing exactly that. Now, they are not doing anything. My name is a blank and so are theirs.

How many other names are blanks where they used to be pointers and parts of an index? What did they do to make such a mess? It didn’t happen by itself and this is not a “glitch.” 

TECHNO POWER – TOM CURLEY

Because you can’t use the word “p#rn” on Google because – y’know – they are so well-regulated and careful with who publishes on their boards. Yeah. It’s the word, you see, that’s the issue. NOT the subject of the writing. Do they have any human beings up there actually reading the material or is it all computers and buzzwords?


There was an interesting article in the news concerning a porn site called xhamster.com I don’t know why it’s called that and I really don’t want to know. They’re in the news because they closed off their website to anybody living in the state of North Carolina. Why? Because of the harsh, horrible anti-LGBT law they passed. If you log onto their website from anywhere in that state, you get a blank screen.

blank screen
Blank screen for you!

The tone of all the news reports and nightly talk shows was that this was a funny but useless protest. There are thousands of other porn sites where North Carolinians can … well you know. But, as usual, the main stream media and the nightly talk shows missed the real story. I am not offering an opinion on the virtues or evils of porn. However, there is a larger truth which is widely known but rarely talked about regarding the porn industry. Porn has been a major driver, financial backer, and early adopter of technological innovation since the beginning. Since forever.

When mankind started drawing on cave walls, I guarantee you some of the first things depicted were people getting some Neanderthal Nookie.

thestar.com.my
thestar.com.my

Porn was very popular in the Middle Ages. Moreover, it utilized some of the earliest encryption technologies. I saw an exhibit in a museum once that showcased one of them. The exhibit consisted of huge tapestries painted with very strange distorted images. You couldn’t tell what they were.

What were they? Porn. The artist would draw the original naughty painting on a regular canvas. He would then look at the painting’s reflection in a cylindrical mirror. The image in the mirror would be all distorted. He would then paint that distorted image onto the tapestry. If you looked at the tapestry the painting made no sense.

anamorphic art
arthit.ru

But. If you looked at the tapestry’s reflection in the same cylindrical  mirror the artist used, the image would be reconstructed back to its original form. (“Naughty Knights 5”)

When photography was first invented in the 1800’s one of the earliest subjects was, of course, naked women. Having sex. When the telegraph was invented, telegraph operators were known to spend their off hours “telegraph sexting”.

I didn’t believe it either.

blog.kaspersky.com
blog.kaspersky.com

OPERATOR ONE: Who you talking to?

OPERATOR TWO: I don’t know, but she sure can dit my dot!

The VCR became popular because porn producers started switching to videotape, abandoning film. Finally, you didn’t have to go to a movie theater for porn. You could “bring it home.” VHS beat out Betamax because the porn industry chose VHS. Really. No kidding. That’s the way it happened.

alf.image.com
alf.image.com

Porn money propelled other technologies, too. Online payments, DVDs, streaming video, and two-way internet chat rooms. Virtual Reality headsets were only been available for a few months before there was Virtual Reality Porn.

truvisionvr.com
truvisionvr.com

(I wouldn’t know this personally, but I read a lot).

So here’s the real story that everybody has missed.  One porn site blocked off an entire state. It has been viewed as a symbolic, but mostly useless protest.

What if they all did it?  What if all the porn sites got together and said to North Carolina: “NO PORN FOR YOU!”

no porn for you

I’ll bet you that anti-LGBT law would be overturned in about an hour and a half! Maybe less. Then, the porn industry would realize it’s true power! Imagine, Lysistrata on a national, even a global, scale!

dykiegirl.wordpress.com
dykiegirl.wordpress.com

“You won’t do what we want? NO PORN FOR YOU!” All the porn industry needs to do is come together. Organize.

Organize into a cartel.
A conglomerate
 A Ring.
lotr.wiki.com
lotr.wiki.com

“One ring to rule them all. One ring to find them.

One ring to rule them all and in the darkness bind them.”

Pray they use their power for good.

ANYONE LOOKING TO REHOME A LAPTOP?

I discovered today that the reason Garry’s computer won’t work  properly is the battery is dead. It’s an expensive computer and just 4 years old, but batteries apparently have a lifespan — about three to six-years — and this one went rather early.

At home with the computer

The problem is because it’s such a high-end computer, you can only get the battery from Alienware — and the price of the battery is likely to exceed the value of the computer itself. The good news? The computer can work indefinitely as long as it’s plugged in, so I guess it’s going to stay plugged in. Garry likes the computer and he usually plugs it in anyhow. I just hate when things are sort of broken, even if you can make them work, more or less.

This is the one Garry has now

Meanwhile, my backup computer — a little lightweight machine I use for email and fixing typos on my blog — seems to have a dying monitor. Except it worked PERFECTLY for the repair guy. He said: “I see this a lot.”

It really is like going to the dentist and having your toothache vanish.
I can fix that one because it wasn’t expensive and it’s old — despite which, it runs like a perfectly ticking clock. Go figure.

I’m feeling under-computerized. I’ve given away all my spares. Ironically, the ones I gave away are working fine. The one my granddaughter is using has to be at least 10 or 11 years old and it’s fine. The one my son has is maybe 5 or 6 years old — and it is fine too. My newer, expensive computers are the problem.

Kindle and iPad

I thought maybe I’d get an iPad for me except my last two iPad experiences weren’t great. I’m not a lover of the Mac operating system. I like a more structured system and the iPad is very limited, at least for the amount of money it costs.

I’ve found some really good deals on the newest 9.7″ iPad … and I just can’t seem to buy it. Am I being silly?

A newer alien

Maybe I’m not in a buying mood. I did manage to get organized enough to order new dog biscuits because (horrors) … we were due to run out! I know. I get shaky just thinking about how hideous life could become were we to seriously not have dog biscuits available.

Anyone have a spare functional laptop looking for a good home?

A BROKEN MOUSE

EDITORIAL NOTE: Mice to me means multiple tiny furry creatures who slip into my house and eat anything they can find. Mouses, on the other hand, are computer accessories. I call them mouses in the plural. Please try and cope with it, even if it sounds odd to you.


My mouse stopped working. It was fine, then suddenly, it wasn’t fine. It seemed to be multi-clicking everything. It seemed to hang the computer on most menus and was particularly persnickety working on graphics.

Logitech Mouse

I figured it must have been the last Windows “upgrade.” I probably attribute everything to one or another Windows upgrades. Why didn’t it occur to me that the mouse wasn’t working properly? Because I’ve been using some version of this same Logitech mouse forever. More than 20 years at least and I have never had one stop working.

I’ve had Microsoft mouses go bad and a couple of Dell’s too. Some of them never worked properly in the first place, but the Logitech mouses have proved as close to indestructible as anything in my electronic world. I have replaced them when they wore out. Sometimes the feet wear out and occasionally I eat one too many pieces of toast and jelly and wind up with a sticky wheel. I’m pretty sure jam is not good for mouses.

The feet can come unglued or the buttons stops spinning properly. Fair is fair. I work my mouses hard and everything will wear out.

But. None of them ever stopped working.

I had finally concluded that there was something wrong with the mouse having tried every other thing that ought to have fixed it. That’s when I read that there was a thing called the “dreaded double-click effect” that apparently has been known to occur in Logitech mouses. Never to one of mine, but apparently well enough known as a glitch that it was worth mentioning.

I ordered two more mouses — one exactly like this one (which is from the other computer that I use only occasionally). It is smaller, almost a “travel-size” mouse … and a bigger one. I will let my hand decide which one it likes better.

But the thing that’s funny is that it took me almost a full week to dope out the mouse was broken. I am so used to these mouses always being just fine, it never crossed my mind that something — other than a dead battery — could go wrong.

I think you could call that a strong recommendation for the product. Even though this particular mouse up and died.

THE ULTIMATE INEFFICIENT LEARNING OF A GRAPHICS APP

INEFFICIENCY AT IT’S BEST – LEARNING ACDsee WHEN WORDS MEAN NOTHING


I have been using a very old version of Photoshop for a long time. It’s CSS5 and I know I got it when I left my last job — and that was 2008? Maybe a year earlier. It could have been 2007. That it actually works at all is amazing and works quite well is more amazing.

But the clock is ticking. Sooner or later, Windows 10 will upgrade and  Photoshop CSS5 will stop working. I refuse to subscribe to Adobe. We are on a fixed income. Today, Adobe wants $10 a month. In ten years, what will they want? $25? $50?

Our income is not going up. Ever. That’s what they mean when they say “fixed” income. It never goes up . What may be a reasonable income when you retire can easily be half of what you need 20 years later. Many of us live longer than we used to and since I’m not planning to quit taking pictures until they pull the camera from my cold, dead hands, I need to make arrangements that work for me.

I needed a new graphics program.

I finally settled down to two possibilities: ACDsee and Corel. I had used Corel for years until I lucked into Photoshop, but back then it was highly destructive to the original photograph. Rumor had it that Corel has come a long way. I downloaded the trial versions of both applications.

I required a few things:

1 – The application had to work with my Topaz and NIK filter

2 – It must be non-destructive.

3 – I need to be able to figure out how it works without a masters in that application.

I’ve been using Photoshop for years and I’ve learned maybe 10% of its potential. Possibly less. I’ve learned what I need to know and nothing more. Photoshop is difficult. Although photography is my hobby, it is not my profession. I love taking pictures, but I’ve served my time in the high-tech world. I’m just not willing to work that hard these days. Lazy? Absolutely. I’m retired.

No one makes a better graphics processor than Adobe, but no one has created any application as non-intuitive. Functions are put wherever a developer felt like putting it — without regard for logic or reason. Why is the “level” option located under the color dropper? What does one have to do with the other? Answer: Nothing. They had a slot, so that’s where they put it.

I wanted something I could figure out without a spirit guide on my shoulder whispering in my ear.

Corel was clearly the winner in the “ease of use” department. I could almost immediately understand what the little symbols meant and pretty quickly deduce how to use them. But the application would not install properly. It first refused to install on my C drive. I have two drives. Drive C is a 256 GB solid state drive. It’s where I put applications and where Windows lives. I eventually tricked it into installing on Drive C, but it was determined to live and die as a document.

Nothing would make it install as a graphics application. I installed it, uninstalled it. Reinstalled it. Got in touch with technical support and they were fuzzy about exactly how to add the Topaz filters and whether or not the trial version would even support them — regardless of whether or not the full version would allow them. Or, for that matter, how to convince it to not be a document.

Meanwhile, ACDsee installed exactly as it should. The Topaz and NIK filters installed perfectly and worked fine. While Corel was diddling around, trying to find a time to figure out how to make their application install, I had ACDsee working, with filters. Work was slow, but it was working. Which was more than I could say for Corel.

So I bought ACDsee.

And this is where words began to matter.

In ACDsee, every item you need to use is worded differently than it is in Photoshop — or for that matter, Corel.When I was a working technical writer, I wanted to set up a cross industry group to try and create a dictionary of words we commonly use in building applications for the high-tech industry. They said “Good idea” and moved one. Every other industry has a basic, standard vocabulary.

Electronics has a dictionary. Regardless of what kind of electronic item you work on, any electrician can read the schematic and know what each item is. They don’t have to relearn their entire vocabulary to use a new device.

But in applications and particularly in graphics applications, each company called each function whatever someone felt like calling it. And put it wherever someone felt like hanging it. You think a word like “file” will mean a file, but it may be an image or a document or a schematic. Or some other word that may make no sense to anyone but the developer.

The thing is, there’s absolutely nothing in any of these applications I haven’t seen and used before. What’s different are the words describing them. Every item is listed in a category unlike other similar applications — and each of them not merely confusing. It’s downright abstruse.

I’m no longer in the tech business, but what I predicted happened. Without a standard dictionary, every application requires an exceptionally high degree of relearning.  Users are left working twice as hard to do something that ought to be transparent.

Words matter. Even though there’s nothing I can do about it, I resent having to waste the time simply figuring out what “geometry” means and why filters don’t contain my filters, but merely their filters. Meanwhile, my filters are actually located under “Tools” and subbed as “Photoshop plugins.” Even though they aren’t part of Photoshop and not made by Adobe. Apparently ACDsee’s developers decided anything that can work with Photoshop is a Photoshop plugin. Regardless of who makes the filter. I’m sure Topaz will be happy to hear that.

I bought ACDsee because I know it works, but I’m not using it. I’m using my old version of Photoshop because I know how. I realized finally that I will not use the new application until the old one breaks down and I can’t make it work.

And why not? Because the amount of learning I need to do to figure out where the simple things I need are located. No simple leveling tool — I have to use the perspective or distortion correction device. No easy way to save the photograph and exit. Two hundred questions about whether you want to save it and every other version of anything you did to it before you exit. I did actually complete fixing one photograph and it looked okay, but it was so slow and painstaking … It’s going to take a real poke in the ribs to get me to really use it. If they had named everything in some normal way, that might have helped.

Words really DO matter.

BEFORE THE “CLOUD”

ARE YOU OLD ENOUGH TO REMEMBER?
OH SURE YOU ARE.

I wonder if operating systems will be relevant a few years from now. Change has been a synonym for technology for the past 30 years or more. Change has driven the computer industry. Change is why we need to buy new software, hardware and operating systems.

Change can make things work better, but it’s not unusual to discover that your “upgrade” is a downgrade because what used to work no longer does. You pays your money, you takes your chances.

I grew to adulthood in a pre-computer society. I started working before cable TV, when encyclopedias were huge heavy sets of books and a computer was gigantic and needed a whole building for itself. It ran on punch cards and used machine languages — COBOL and FORTRAN.

Decades later, personal computers were still just one step removed from a doorstop, floppy disks were 5-1/2 inches across and really flopped.

Those early machines (personal units, not mainframes) — I hesitate to call them computers — didn’t do much. They didn’t have hard drives. There was no software and no user-friendly interface. I don’t think the concept existed. No WYSIWYG. What you saw was a black screen with lurid green letters that made you feel as if you were going blind after an hour or two.

Then everything changed. First there was Apple and then Windows. Windows didn’t work very well at first, but it got better.

In the beginning, there were different players in the marketplace and many more choices of operating system. Wang and DEC plus a crazy quilt of dedicated word processors and computers made by Commodore, Atari and many others. For a while, I had an Amstrad, a European machine that was almost a computer, kind an intelligent typewriter with a screen. It spit out paper.

Soon everything changed again. Computers started to really do stuff. Magic!

The speed of change accelerated. Technology was in hyperdrive. Then came a thing called the Internet. I had to buy and install Netscape to use it. After I got connected, there wasn’t much going on, but it was cool to just roam around. Mostly, you bumped into other people looking for something interesting. And then came AOL.

You could send electronic mail — email — if you had a friends with computers. You sent them messages over old copper telephone wires and everything happened in slow motion.

Just getting on to the Internet could take … well, let me put it this way. Turn on the computer. Turn on the modem. Go to the kitchen. Prepare dinner. Cook dinner. Serve dinner. Eat dinner. Clean up everything. By the time you got back to your computer, you might have actually managed to connect to something. Or not.

Then suddenly there were ISPs popping up all over the place. I got a super fast modem that ran at a whopping 2400 BPS! Imagine that. I worked in California from my home office in Boston. Cool! Telecommuting was the cat’s pajamas.

By the time my granddaughter was born in 1996, everybody had a computer or two. In her world, computers have always been fast, the Internet has always been the world’s shopping mall.

At age three, she could run basic applications. For her, it’s like electricity was to us: something you use that is always there. Always was. I’m sure she can’t imagine a world without it. It’s hard for me to remember that world — and I certainly would not want to go back there.

stone tools

For a brief interval, the rate of change slowed. We drew a collective breath and didn’t have to buy new computers for a couple of years. High speed connections arrived, though most home users didn’t have it right away. Everything kept getting faster and soon, with cable modems, no one could even remember what it was like to try to get onto the Internet using an old telephone line.

Every time you looked around, there was a  new generation of processors, bigger and faster hard drives, amazing super high-definition monitors and speaker systems to knock your socks off.

The Internet became a world-sized shopping mall and overnight, catalogue shopping became website cruising. The Internet was a world unto itself; I played bridge in real-time with a partner who lived on an island off the Pacific coast.

We have computers all over the house and what isn’t a computer is run by a computer or contains a mini computer … microwave ovens, smartphones, digital cameras and GPS units.  Three computers are in daily use plus two Kindles — and only 2 people live here. We should get computers for the dogs. For all I know, when we are out, they go on-line and order stuff.

A brief interruption of cable service leaves us wandering around like wraiths, without form or function.  Now, we live in “the cloud.” It’s the same old Internet, but cloud is the “new” word for data stored on external servers. We’re going back to where we began, to using stripped down computers with no hard drives. Instead, everything is stored on someone else’s computer — out there. In the cloud. Our data might be anywhere. We have no way of knowing where it lives. Most people don’t care … until they discover it has been hacked.

Am I the only one who finds this unnerving?

I can see advantages. When you eliminate memory sucking operating systems and cumbersome installed applications, your computer will run faster. Start-up is instantaneous because your computer doesn’t have to load services and applications. You don’t have to maintain and upgrade big expensive applications and volumes of data. You won’t need ever bigger hard drives, more memory and video RAM. You wind up with faster computers that are less expensive and easier to maintain. It’s a win-win, right?

Or is it? How much do you trust your Internet service provider?

If your cable company has a bad day or the servers on which you store your critical data go down — even for a short while — you have nothing. As long as everything works like it’s supposed to, it’s hunky dory, but Murphy hasn’t left the building yet.

Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong at the worst possible time.

Maybe it’s my age showing, but I would prefer to have data on hard drives that I own. Mine. Just in case. Because I’ve used a lot of different clouds over the years and at least half of them have folded their servers and disappeared. The only places where my data lives permanently are Amazon for books, Audible for audiobooks … and places I shop. And, of course, the bank. Because some things, you just have to count on surviving.

All my photographs are on external hard drives as is all my writing. Including the posts from this blog. Because it makes me feel better.

I can’t live with the idea of entrusting everything —  from photographs to manuscripts — to an unknown server somewhere in the world. It scares the hell out of me. What if the building in which the server storing my stuff burns down? Gets hit by a terrorist attack? Taken down by hackers? Is hit by an earthquake?

You have no way of knowing what country your data is in or how stable its government is. Or how good an infrastructure it has — or how frequently it has been hacked. Your financial data could be in Pakistan, Indonesia, or Kuala Lampur. Or next door.

My bank got hacked too. I think almost every place I have data stored has been hacked at least once. On the other hand, my personal, external hard drives have not been hacked because they aren’t hackable.

How many times have you been unable to access a web page because servers are busy or crashed? The times when their — or your — servers are inaccessible because of maintenance, repair or upgrade. Or those ubiquitous hackers. What if you need a critical piece of data from a server while its offline? It does happen.

If your ISP is down, you are out of business. If you think your cable company has you by the throat now, how much worse will it be if everything you need to run your life and business is dependent on their services? Come to think of it, we may already be there because when our WiFi is down, we feel … crippled. Like we are missing our hands.

Those of you who are old enough to remember the great Northeast power blackout in the mid 1960s know what I mean when I say that overloaded systems can go down like dominoes. I am all in favor working together with my fellow human beings throughout the world, but if you put the world’s eggs in one basket and the basket falls, that’s a hell of a lot of broken eggs.

That’s way beyond an omelet. It’s just a complete mess.

I worked for more than 35 years in development. That was my world and although I’m not an engineer or developer, I know what’s behind a user interface. For example, modern word processors embed commands in text, but behind the interface, it’s entering the same commands I entered directly on the huge IBM mainframe by hand. It’s faster and prettier now. You get to see how your document will look when it’s printed, but it’s nothing but an elegant wrapping on an old familiar box.

My concern is not the graphical user interface (GUI) that overlays our computer (regardless of operating system), but that these new operating systems are designed to work with “The Cloud” … a meaningless term that represents servers located anywhere and everywhere. We don’t have to know where they are; they’re in the Cloud … kind of like Angels and God. We are being herded toward using external storage and we aren’t supposed to be alarmed that we have no control over it.

We use services consisting of server farms located somewhere on earth for our bank records, calendars, contacts, blog posts, Facebook, Twitter … and everything we’ve ever bought on line. Everything. We assume the people from whom this server space is leased are dependable. We assume they are not criminals looking to steal identities and data … and their infrastructure is secure and won’t collapse from a power outage or hacker attack. And finally, we trust our ISPs to deliver the goods, keep us online so we can access the stuff we need.

Charter Communications is my cable company and controls my high-speed internet access, as well as my TV and telephone. I have difficulty controlling the wave of rage I feel when I think about them. How do you feel about your cable company, eh?

An old PC. I think I had one like this for 20 years …

Even if the servers that store your stuff are safe, you can’t get there without a high-speed connection and that, my friends, means your local ISP … cable, telephone, satellite, whatever you use. They already have you by the short hairs. You are not independent; you rely on their services.

Anybody anywhere can build a server farm. It’s a great business that requires a bunch of servers, a climate controlled place to put them, and a few IT people to tend the equipment.

Where are these places? A lot of it is located in places that have government which are — by any standards — unstable. How good is the infrastructure? Are they in the middle of a war? Are their electrical generating facilities dependable or sufficient? What protection against hackers do they provide? Are they trustworthy? They could easily be a bunch of criminals and the data they collect is the mother lode.

Remember when Equifax got hacked? How appalled we were, but how they sort of shrugged it off? That won’t be the last time.

Meanwhile, the Russians are coming, the Russians are coming.

Call me cynical. Paranoid. I think the “cloud” is snake oil. Use the “Cloud” when you must, but have dependable external drives too.

Trust in God, but tie your camel.