HOW DELL DONE ME IN – Marilyn Armstrong

How a vague idea became real when the company you loved gives you the final boot. Dell, Apple, and why Apple has finally won the endless war.


I have been buying Dell computers for more than 20 years. Not only have I always loved how Dell’s were made, but they lasted a long time.

On the other hand, their customer service which had been great, was on a rapid downhill slide for the past 15 (or more) years. Above and beyond liking Dells because there’s no bloatware on them and they are designed to do a job, was their sturdiness. They were business machines for people who took their work seriously, even if their work was a hobby. I’ve used their equipment for work only, for work and play, for whatever I’m currently doing which you can call whatever you like. Dell did the jobs.

The old 14Z in its youth …

Many Dell’s I bought 10 years ago are still working. Some needed a reinstall of the operating system and a couple needed new hard drives, but that was small stuff, all things considered. I really use my computers. I push them hard, I make them work.

Until the past two — expensive — Alienware — machines. The one Garry has lost its battery after less than 3-years. The only other Dell that ever lost a battery lost it after 7 yeas and it was a cheap machine. I replaced it and it works again, though now it seems to be losing its monitor. It’s old. It doesn’t even have Bluetooth, so it has, I think, hit the end of its road. It doesn’t owe me a thing.

When the little old Dell was beginning to display not having enough video to do what I do, I got a new Dell with the biggest NVIDIA video card I could afford and passed the two-year-old Alienware machine to Garry. After which the battery died. It’s pretty new so the price of getting a new battery is high. The battery replacement was more than most laptops.

The old one works, as long as it’s plugged in, so I suppose you could call it a laptop-shaped desktop. It weighs more than most desktops at a solid 9-pounds including its brick.

My new machine is working fine and does what I bought it to do, but I’m out of service contract. The company got in touch (and back in touch, and back in touch) asking me if I wanted a one-year contract for service on the new machine.

Older Alienware

The price? I kid you not: $850 for a single year of service. I had tried to get service from them during my first two years with the computer and they were useless. No one had a clue how a dual hard drive machine worked and all the advice they gave me was wrong. I eventually doped it out myself, but I’m still not really sure it’s backing up the way it should. There are many things about this computer I love, but also a bunch that I don’t.

One of the problems is weight. The thing feels like two cinder-blocks. I have developed significant upper body strength picking it up and moving it off my lap to a side table. Taking it with me when we travel is just this side of a nightmare.

I’m sure most of the weight are the batteries which basically last for just over two hours. Which means effectively, even WITH a working battery, the machine is still a desktop.

I hate new computers. I hate moving material from machine to machine and moving the material from a PC to a Mac doesn’t sound like fun. I’m sure there’s an app for that and I will have to find it because all my photo and writing backups are for PC and won’t run on a Mac.

I’m not a Mac fancier. The loose style that has been typically Mac/Apple since forever annoyed me. I like orderly computers. I like knowing where stuff is, where it belongs. How to find it. Ironically, the recent changes Mac is making to the operating system is going to make them much more PC-like and PCs are making their OS slightly more Mac-ish. The world comes round and round.

Reality bit. I couldn’t keep hauling the big, brawny, 10-pounds of Alienware and moreover, I didn’t want to. I’m not getting younger. Garry’s machine, now that it has to be plugged in, is developing other signs of flakiness that make me wonder if it will survive.

I knew I could not buy another Dell. I’ve used other bloatware special PCs and I won’t go there. Also, I know what I need, which is a honking big piece of video ram and equipment I can pick up which will not dislocate my shoulder from its joint.

Apple.

Then they offered me the Apple Card. Zero percent interest. 18 months.

I got a Macbook Air — as high-end a version of it as you can buy. It isn’t their top machine but it comes with sufficient USB 3 ports and other connectors, like an SC reader slot. Sometimes, the newest machine on the rack isn’t your best choice.

Meanwhile, Garry needed something. I thought long and hard about what Garry really does. After serious thought, I figured he could live his virtual life on an iPad with a keyboard. And enjoy it, too. Meanwhile, as long as the big Alienware works when plugged in, he has a full-size computer to fall back on.

My only question is why does this iPad have a mouse? You can’t use a mouse on an iPad. Even I know that. Did the photographer just happen to have a new mouse to show off?

In the end, you can’t take two heavy computer users and have only one fully functional computer in the house. It won’t work.

I need to point out to Dell that I was about as loyal a customer as you could find. It took them a decade to get me to where I couldn’t deal with their customer service department again. Ever. They did me in.


Mac/Apple did not win my custom. Dell LOST it. 

I’m pretty sure half of Apple’s new recruits are people who just gave up trying to stay with other companies and were driven screaming into the night.

I am one of them.

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.

BREAKING NEWS? HOW ABOUT A BROKEN WORDPRESS SEARCH ENGINE? – MARILYN ARMSTRONG

Not exactly luminescent. More like the exact opposite.  

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 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.

THE MYTH OF PRIVACY

Who really thinks they have any privacy remaining?

What a shock it has been, discovering Facebook misused our personal data. Who could have imagined such a thing! Not.

All those cute little games on Facebook were a way for a sleazy political group to gather personal information about us and try to twist us to their goals. Like we didn’t already know that.

I also know people on the internet with blogs who think they are anonymous. They are anonymous from me, but that’s because I’m not interested enough to search for their real data. But — anyone who wants to know can find out anything they want about me or you or pretty much anyone. That’s reality.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Do you believe you are really hiding from anyone who is actively seeking your personal information? Because I can assure you, the only person you are fooling is you.

I stopped worrying about privacy when I began using the Internet. I was working in tech and I knew that everything you ever put out there stays out there. Forever. That was the end of whatever remained of our privacy — and there wasn’t much, even then.

Yet, the myth remains that we have privacy left to lose. Some folks believe we can trust our phone company, our devices, our ISPs, our government, and our postal system to keep their noses out of our private lives. This hasn’t been true probably ever, but certainly since before I was born.

Every form we’ve filled out in the past 15 years is on a computer that can be hacked — and for all we know, already has been hacked. Or is being hacked as I write this.

Everything is out there. It can be gathered by those who make money grabbing it. Meanwhile, the FBI, CIA and postal system were invading our mail and telephone calls when Eisenhower was president.

As long as there have been governments, they’ve been spying on citizens. Their own citizens and any others they can find. These days, I’m sure everyone is spying on us. Advertisers, political hackers, our government, our ISP. Our bank. Every company that sells a product you bought or might buy someday is watching you.

Each advertisement you click, any product you buy, every time you use that “discount” card for your groceries or gasoline or whatever, your personal data goes into a file. A data mining file. Which is for sale. Anyone can buy it.

Facebook is a tiny piece of a huge pie and we are the slices.

Should we worry about being careful what we say and to whom you say it?

Maybe. Or maybe not. It may not matter what we do or say. The amount of information being gathered by everyone about all of us is monumental. Gazillions of pages and lines of data.

The good news? There’s no way on earth they can sort through all of that information. The bad news? They have all that information.

I’m sure, by the way, that nothing that happened on Facebook or anywhere on social media changed my vote or could change my vote. I  bet they didn’t change yours either. We don’t get our information from Facebook memes or Twitter tweets.

No one can fix your vote if you think for yourself.