WARP DRIVES AND TACHYON WAVES

Garry and I binge watched the entire “Star Trek: Next Generation.” On Netflix. We had missed the show’s initial run. 1987 through 1994 were busy years full of work, moving houses, digging into careers. Getting married. Moving again. Watching TV wasn’t a priority back then.

BBC America showed the series last year, but not in order. When Netflix gave us the opportunity to catch up, we did, viewing two, three, four episodes each night.

star trek next gen cast

There’s a lot of tech talk on the Enterprise. No problem. Pass the warp drive. I’ll have a side of tachyon particles. I understand their science as well as I understand anything. Which is to say, not at all. I understand the engines on the Enterprise as well as I understand my toaster oven.

Tachyon energy is crucial to all kinds of weaponry and fuel. They are part of what powers the warp engines on the Enterprise. The warp engines are what lets the Enterprise be the Enterprise, travel at speeds faster than light … fast enough to explore the universe. Slither through wormholes. Travel through time.

For your information, a tachyon particle moves faster than light. The complementary particle types are luxon (particles which move at the speed of light) and bradyon (particles which move slower than light). If you live in the Star Trek universe, tachyon particles are as common as dirt. Or electricity.

enterprise next gen

Effectively, life and everything in it is a giant mystery to me, yet I feel as if I understand it. When they talk about it, I nod because I get it. I’ve been listening to this mumbo jumbo for so many years, it has achieved a pseudo-reality. Because when I look closely, there’s nothing there. I understand the technology of the 24th century exactly as well (and as much) as I understand the technology of the 21st.

How many of you know how the stuff you use works? Some of you do, but most of us know how to use our devices and gadgets, but have no idea why or how it works. I know how software is designed, how code is written and compiled. I used to know a little coding. In the end, though, I have no idea why code does anything. Why, when you compile a program, does it work? It’s just text. Why does it do what it does?

Why does anything work? Tachyon particles, warp drives, internal combustion engines, electricity, cell phones, WiFi. It’s all the same.

Magic.

And now, back to the Enterprise, already in progress.

ELECTRONIC MEMORIES

THE OLD DAYS


After contemplating operating systems at length, I started rethinking the whole thing and I began to wonder if operating systems will be relevant a couple of years from now. Because everything is changing.

Change is hardly new to the world of computers and technology. Change is what drives the industry. Change is how come you need to buy new software, new hardware, new 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 special languages — COBOL and FORTRAN. Even decades later, personal computers were one step removed from a doorstop. Floppy disks were 5-1/2 inches across and 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 like you were going blind after an hour or two.

Then … everything changed.

APPLE, WINDOWS, ANDROID AND SO MUCH MORE


First there was Apple and then Windows. Windows didn’t work very well at first, but soon enough, it got better. And then better again.

There were different players and more operating systems in the beginning. 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 that spit out paper.

This was the Amstrad!

Then, everything changed again. Computers started to really do stuff. It was magic!

I worked on this machine in Israel using the first word processing tool, WordStar.

For a while, it seemed like everything changed every day. One day, there was a thing called the Internet. I had to buy and install Netscape to access it. Once connected, there wasn’t much going on, but it was cool to just roam around and see what there was to see.

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.

My first personal computer.

To get on the Internet , you turned on the computer and the modem. Went to the kitchen. Prepared dinner. Cooked dinner. Served dinner. Ate dinner. Cleaned up. By the time you got back, you might have managed to connect. Or not.

My first PC. I think everyone had one of these at some point!

Then suddenly AOL popped up and I got a really fast modem, 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 and the Internet has always been the world’s biggest shopping mall.

My old 486 ran for 10 years. It wasn’t fast, but it was durable.

At age three, she could run basic applications. Computers are to her as electricity is to me. It isn’t something you think about. It has always been there. I’m sure she can’t imagine a world without it — or WiFi, cable, and electronic cameras. Even for me, it’s not easy to remember. My brain gets stuck in the early 1980s when I realized that computers were definitely going to be my thing. I would never go back.

Memories of days of yore … but not halcyon I fear,

During the 1990s, the rate of change slowed for a while. We drew a collective breath and didn’t have to buy new computers for a few years. High speed connections arrived, though most home users didn’t have it immediately.  Nonetheless, everything kept getting faster. Soon, no one could remember getting on the Internet using an old, copper telephone line. If you did remember it, it made your brain hurt.

Commodore 64 – the most popular computer ever produced.  More than 30 million of them sold.  I had one of these, too. Everybody had one, if they were “into” computers.

AND NOW


Every couple of years, there is a new generation of processors. Bigger, faster hard drives. Amazing super high-definition monitors and speaker systems to knock your socks off. Just when you think your socks have been knocked as far off as socks can go, there’s another “fix” and your super fast computer is a slow-poke compared to the latest and greatest. I should know. I’m using one of them.

Meanwhile, the highway of information devolved into a chat room with ranting … and a universal shopping mall. The Internet is a world.

I played bridge in real-time with a partner who lived on an island off the Pacific coast. Computers aren’t only computers, either. We have them everywhere. They are part of our cameras, our bed, our toaster oven. Our television. The car. Smartphones. GPS units. Kindles and tablets. The little computers probably make “things” run better, but when they stop working? They are exorbitantly expensive to fix.

Sometimes, you can’t get in or out of your car because everything is locked tight. That little computer blew again.

ABOUT THE CLOUD


Same old Internet, but “cloud” is the “new” word for stuff 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. 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 instant. You don’t have to maintain and upgrade expensive applications and volumes of data. You don’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?

SO — YOU HAVE FAITH IN 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.

WHAT CAN GO WRONG, STILL GOES WRONG


Maybe it’s my age showing, but I would prefer to have data on hard drives that I control. That I own.

The idea of entrusting everything —  from my photographs to the manuscript of my book — to an unknown server somewhere in the world scares me. What if the building in which the server storing my stuff burns down? Gets hit by a terrorist attack? Taken down by hackers? You have no way of knowing what country your data is in, how stable its government is, or how good an infrastructure it maintains. You financial data could be in Pakistan, Indonesia, or Kuala Lampur. Or next door.

Is there a compromise possible? Because when I think about entrusting everything to a cloud, I twitch. How many times have you been unable to access a web page because servers are out? What if you need a critical piece of data from a server when it’s offline?

My bank was hacked. BOA had to send me a new bank card. Land’s End and Adobe have been hacked. More than once. I’ve had to redo several accounts because they’d been compromised. Lots of other places over the years, places that were supposedly “unhackable” have gone down.

I know I am hackable. Luckily, I don’t have anything worth hacking.

If your ISP is down, you’re 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? If that doesn’t give you the cold sweats, nothing will. If you put too many eggs in the basket and the basket falls — and it will — eggs break. In which case you don’t have an omelet, just a sloppy mess of busted eggs and slimy shells.

You can’t totally avoid the cloud these days. I keep my audiobooks and eBooks on Amazon, and my email on Gmail because there’s no way on earth I could store all of that, even on this big computer. But my personal stuff? Pictures, documents, and other important material? It lives here, at home. On personal, external hard drives.

I learned the hard way to perform regular backups. I don’t do them as often as I should, but I do them regularly. If you don’t, think about it. It’s a little late when you’ve already lost all your stuff.

WHEN YOU COULD LOOK IT UP IN A BOOK

Last night, someone I actually know and who should know better, complained the camera company from whom he bought his camera should fire the tech writer. Because there was no manual.

I felt obliged to point out the reason there is no manual is they never hired a tech writer in the first place. If they had technical writers, there would be a manual. You wouldn’t spend a thousand dollars on a camera and get a three-page leaflet. You’d get a book with an index and a table of contents. Screen shots. Explanations not only of where to find a function, but what the function means, so when you get there, you know what to choose.

Once upon a time, that was my world. I thought it was important, at least to the people who bought products about which I wrote.

Years went by during which the work I did was my life. I got up, got dressed, scraped the ice off the car, went to work (stopping for coffee along the way) and went through my day. Between having done the same kind of work for a long time and perpetually racing against a deadline, life was busy. I knew, no matter what the ad said when I took a job, my work wasn’t permanent. I would work until the book was finished, then I’d move on. It was the way it was.

The industry in which I worked ultimately decided the work I did was no longer necessary. Who needs a manual to tell them how to use equipment that costs a gazillion dollars and controls the operation of a steel mill? Or a missile tracking system? Or a satellite grabber for use out in space? They can always call the help desk — especially in space where you can easily find a signal for your phone.

I was the one who organized the chaotic information into a book with a table of contents, index, chapters, and diagrams so you would not always have to call someone. Considering the state of tech support these days, you can see where this failure to supply reasonable documentation has landed us. That’s why the phones are always busy and why the quality of support is so awful.

The help desk people don’t have a book, either.

Regardless, I was obsolete. You need developers and a boss because someone has to say why you are all gathered here this morning. Also, the boss makes sure there’s coffee. But a writer? They only hired me when they were at the end of a production cycle, realized the contract required they deliver documentation with the product. Sometimes, I got as little as three weeks to learn a product and produce a book that looked professional. At that point, no one cared what was in the book or whether the information would be of any use to anyone. It just had to be big, thick, nicely designed, and weigh enough to use as a doorstop.

My days were numbered. Eventually, I was gone.

To substitute for professional writers, they produce “automatic documentation.” Which is raw data generated by a program using “comments” left by developers, many of whom speak English as a second or third language and in any case, do not understand how regular people work and the kind of information they need to navigate a complex product. It turns out, people were still willing to spend oodles of money for an undocumented product. So I guess they were right. No one cares until they get an expensive product that includes nothing. The good news? You can find entire books — the kind I used to write — on Amazon. Buy them and find out how the product works. It’s just like the books people like me wrote. Cool, huh?

For all of you who believe that crappy documentation is because tech writers are lazy? No, we aren’t lazy. What we are is fired.

PORN POWER – TOM CURLEY

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 have only been available for a few months and there’s already 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.

A “SNIPPET” – BY TOM CURLEY

This post will be very brief. Rather than writing something I want to show you something. My wife Ellin and I belong to an audio theater group called VoiceScapes Audio Theater.

4x6-landscape-2

We do … well … audio theater. We are introducing a new feature we are going to post online called “Snippets”. What’s a Snippet Good question.

combiboilersleeds.com

combiboilersleeds.com

Basically Snippets are very short audio comic strips. I’m debuting our first Snippet here because it actually began as a post on this blog.  If TV Shows Were Real. And it is actually a variation of the format of Serendipity. Writing told with both words and pictures. I thought it be would appropriate to try it out first here. I’m also doing it because I really want your opinion. If you like it, great.

flickr.com

flickr.com

If it is horrible, tell me.

wineberserkers.com

wineberserkers.com

Really. No kidding. We’re experimenting here. So check it out. It’s only a couple of minutes long and I think it’s funny.  But I think farts are hilarious.

AND FINALLY, THE COMPUTER IS FIXED. ENTIRELY. FIXED.

I installed the new operating system, taking everything down to zero. Rebuilt both drives. Added software for documents and photography. Added the plug-ins that I use more than the software. Added back all my photographs, then deleted half of them because what’s the point in having things on back-up drives if you put everything on your hard drives anyhow?

Then, I added the printer, sent a test page, and it printed. It’s 9:40 pm. I’ve been at this since ten this morning. I am one weary cookie.

300-virtual-sunday-home-290117_01

This doesn’t sound like much until you realize that merely downloading and installing the operating system is a two-hour job — on this computer. On a different computer, it would have been a much longer job. This computer is fast.

What really took a long time was downloading the photographs and the OpenOffice desktop application. The photographs, originally just over 68,000 of them, took about an hour and a half. Then it took me another hour to delete about a third of them. They all exist either in my site, or on both of the hard drives. They are not gone, merely … in hiding.

OpenOffice is a huge application and it’s free. I usually send them a little money anyway because they do such a great  job at creating a full-service application, but their servers are slow. It was nearly two hours downloading the files. Setting them up took a few minutes.

72-alientwo-10212016_06

My favorite was in Devices/Printers. I wanted to install my printer. When I added the printer, I got a mini-app which requested some kind of installation or other (?) number.

What?

I had no idea what they wanted, but I went dutifully to my printer. I found a serial code, wrote it on a piece of paper. Came back. Typed it into the file. Hit ENTER.


“Sorry, that didn’t work out. Please check further for the correct number.”

I sighed. It had been a long day. This was the absolutely last thing I had to do. The very last thing. I wanted to be finished, done, ended. So, on a whim, I clicked ‘Install New Printer’ again. Clicked the printer … and without asking for anything, it installed all the files and was up and running in a cat’s meow.

What? What about that serial or whatever number? No? Don’t need it after all? Okay, then.

300-alien-200217_002

I know doing a full computer installation can take a really long time, but I needed this to be finished. I was beginning to lose it. I have shockingly little patience with watching things load, download, upload, and in a pinch, side load.

As of this writing, I feel totally loaded.

But you know what’s really super hilariously funny?

I didn’t need to do this. They had given me incorrect information about the recovery function. All it needed was one click. I didn’t need this whole big deal. I didn’t need to spend almost 10 hours installing and loading. I suppose the good news is that everything is working brilliantly, but … I just needed someone to give me the right directions on how to use the recovery function.

I believe I have a headache. Then again, who wouldn’t?

NO HESITATION. I’M DOING IT. UGH.

I’m going to be offline for the day. Maybe two days. I have to reinstall Windows 10 and then, all the software that I just reinstalled. There is something wrong with it. It’s not a big thing, but it’s a thing and either I deal with it now, or I hesitate … because I don’t want to lose all the stuff I’ve got … and eventually, I’ll still have to do it.

I really didn’t want to do this, but I’ve been messing with a bad download for almost three weeks and we have run out of all other possible options. I either put in a new version of Windows 10 Pro, or I live with it very slightly broken. The rest of the machine runs like a bandit, but a bad download is a bad download and there’s nothing else you can do but fix it.

300-alien-200217_007

This isn’t even a windows thing. It’s a computer thing. It just happens. One small piece of code that corrupts and suddenly, something doesn’t work. In this case, it took me a couple of weeks to figure out what was actually wrong. It isn’t something obvious I would notice immediately but short of replacing the computer — which I really don’t want to do — it’s replace the operating system.

Damn.

If I’m not here, I’ll be back as soon as I finish installing all the stuff that needs installing. It may only take me a couple of hours … or it might take a couple of days, depending on my mood and how exhausted I get.

I pretty much knew this was happening. I simply didn’t want to do it. Talk about hesitating! It’s not as bad as it was years ago since so many things are on other people’s servers nowadays. Still, there’s more than enough. I am not going to be happy until I’m done.

I will see you all on the other side. Except — maybe I’ll use a different computer to drop by and say “HI all!” Just because I miss you all.

HESITATE | THE DAILY POST