LOVING AND HATING THE PHONE WHILE WISHING IT WORKED BETTER – Marilyn Armstrong

Since everyone’s into talking about hating phones, I figured I’d throw my oar in the water too.

I loved the phone right through my teenage years. I and my girlfriends would chat the night away, even though we lived two houses apart. The phone was more intimate. No one else was around. Just us, hidden under the bedclothes.

From the 1910 and 20s (reproduction, original had a dial) …

From then on, it became gradually more of a nuisance. When I was a kid, a telephone call meant someone you knew was calling to say hello. You could talk and laugh. There were occasional wrong numbers, but that was all. Later, it might mean I’d gotten a job I’d applied for or a story had been accepted.

Technology changed everything. At first, subtly, but eventually, it changed the telephone from a communications device to a sales tool. The concept of “cold calling,” trying to drum up business meant fewer than half our incoming calls coming were people you knew, though they might and include calls you wanted. Reminders from the doctor of an upcoming appointment or another pending appointment were useful and usually brief.

Telephones look like this for at least 30 — maybe more — years

By the time I was in my 40s and had recently returned from Israel, most calls were solicitations or surveys and occasionally, a person you knew and actually wanted to talk to. At least those earlier calls were live human beings, but over the years, they became recorded messages. It’s extremely rare to get a human being on any business call.

Thirty-two years later, no live person ever calls except a couple of friends and a few local businesses. All the rest of our calls are medical, hackers, surveys, insurance companies trying to get your business, and my personal favorite, silence.

Making calls inevitably involves waiting and I think I can hum the background music to at least three companies “waiting” mode.

Our local hospital, where most of our medical appointments take place (other than our personal physician) has the longest recorded voice mail call I’ve ever heard. It’s a full five minutes waiting for that final moment when you are allowed to press “1” meaning “Yes, we’re coming.” Instead of giving you the most useful information at the top, they give you the hours of service, a reminder to bring your medical card, and money (can’t forget that now can we!), the address of the building (but never directions to get there), followed by a rambling buildup until, at the very end, you can push “1” (“I’ll be there”) or “2” to rebook — or worse, a different phone number which is read so fast I have to have them repeat the entire recording to get the number written down.

Our own wall phone. It doesn’t work properly anymore, but it lives on that wall anyway.

As a technical writer, I know that no one wants messages like that. The “are you coming?” should be on top followed by “make a new appointment” with a list of options including directions, speak to a human being, talk to a doctor or lab for test results, and finally, “Thank you for calling” so you know you’re done and can hang up. A lot of these calls just leave you wondering if you completed the call or not.

If, for example, you are a long-time patient, you should be able to just press “1” and hang up after that, but they won’t let you. You have to listen to the entire recording. I sometimes fall asleep while they drone on. They first call you a week before your upcoming visit, after which they call every day until you are ready to dive through the phone and beat someone with a handset.

Then there are customer support departments. Clearly, when you finally connect (and hopefully have been disconnected multiple times), one person with a headset in a huge room full of other customer service people are all talking at the same time. The background noise makes it impossible to hear anything. Maybe they can hear you, but all you hear is jabber. All of this following an endless stream of music that becomes an earworm you can’t dispel.

None of this makes calling people fun, especially because when I finally do call a friend, they are never home anyway and I get their answering machines. At least they usually call me back — or email me or something.

Modern phones … for a “landline” and a cell

It’s not hard to learn to hate telephones. It’s much harder to like them. If indeed they ever eliminate solicitations, hackers, and poorly designed recorded messages removed from phone lines, someone might try making a phone call in the hopes of having a conversation.

Of course, it would help if the phone stayed connected long enough to have a conversation, which is entirely another subject! Since getting a real landline is absurdly expensive, everything — even our supposed “landline” is part of your WiFi service with its tendency to glitch or fade in the middle of a call. It’s turn-of-the-century telephoning on the most up-to-date technology.

U.K. phone booth, but where’s Dr. Who?

Often, I realize the issue is not how far we’ve come, but how far we haven’t come. I think we’ve really circled back to about 1917. Now, we can’t hear anything on mobile phones. But hey, you can text, right?

NCIS AND MY PACEMAKER – Marilyn Armstrong

EPISODE: Need to Know (2012)

Alan Katzenbach, a lawyer, waits for Gibbs with his client, a chief petty officer named Leland Wiley. Wiley was busted for drugs and wants to trade his info — which he says is about national security.

It concerns Agah Bayar, the arms dealer. Gibbs is interested. Wiley comes over to talk, but grabs his heart and drops to the ground.

ncis-need-to-know

Gibbs comes for the update from Ducky. Turns out, Wiley had top security clearance and his workstation is locked down. They haven’t been able to connect him to Bayar yet.

Abby calls Gibbs to the lab. She tells him Wiley’s pacemaker was linked into a computer to monitor it. Someone hacked in and jacked his heart rate up to 400 beats per minute.

“Somebody murdered Wiley by remote control,” she says.


What does this have to do with me?

Well, glad you asked. This episode so intrigued the heart surgery team at Beth Israel Deaconess in Boston (where I had all that heart surgery in March 2014), that they decided to find out if it really could be done. One of the people that performed the experiment was my surgeon.

They did it. My surgeon did point out as far as they could tell, to actually hack a pacemaker you had to be no more than a couple of feet from it. Nonetheless, they made the manufacturer change the programming.

In theory, nobody can hack my pacemaker.

I find this comforting. Garry finds it disturbing and I suppose I can see where he’s coming from. He doesn’t like thinking about the mechanical and electronic stuff that keeps me alive. It would creep me out too, but I’m a bit of a geek.

RBB-pacemaker

I find the technology sufficiently interesting to overcome its inherent creepiness. It is creepy. However, it doesn’t matter. No matter how I feel about it, I’ve got this thing in my chest. It keeps my heart beating. If my heart would beat on its own, I wouldn’t need a pacemaker.

In the beginning, they used to stop my heart will beat without it. My heart stops beating. Talk about creepy. It is a very unpleasant — and indescribable — sensation.

The blue tooth remote functions still work. They are (in theory) more secure than they were a couple of years ago before the NCIS episode aired and the guys got curious about it. Remote functionality is important. After all, I might need a tune-up. Blue tooth lets my doctor access my pacemaker from … how far? I don’t actually know. A considerable distance, whatever that is.

Garry — again — doesn’t want to know about it. I pointed out if someone murders me, this is potentially important evidence. He would still rather not think about it.

So there we are. Too creepy?

I can feel my pacemaker. It sits on my left shoulder. The outline is visible. I can feel the wires, the connections through my skin. I find it impossible to ignore. I might as well find it interesting. It’s part of me, after all.

And no matter what, I will always have that Pacemaker because, after all those tests, my heart absolutely will not beat without it.

CENSORSHIP AND THE LIFE WE LIVE – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #42

It’s a good question for everyone to ponder these days.

There has always been censorship of some kind in every country as long as humans have been “civilized.” Its definition — or at last one of its many possible definitions is, “Censorship is the suppression of speech, public communication, or other information, on the basis that such material is considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or “inconvenient.”

Censorship can be conducted by a government, private institution, and corporations. Or by your local sheriff or lynch mob.

The question is:

There is some kind of censorship in every nation, every government and in nearly every business. Even if the big secret is “what ingredients are in the Coca Cola recipe,” it’s still censorship.

There is censorship to keep technology private. Censorship which aims to keep military movements undercover. In some places, religions force secrecy. No society is completely open. There’s always something — militarily, governmental, corporate, technological, religious, or personal that are forbidden to say aloud. Sometimes censorship is unwritten, but everyone knows about it. Sometimes it’s part of your professional contract.

Sometimes you just know what you should simply not talk about because if you do, something bad will happen to you or those you care about.

Issues like this don’t affect everyone. The business you are in, how well-known you are, what kind of profession you follow are part of the process. If you are a general in an army, most of your life is censored. If you are in the Mossad, or a television reporter, what you can say is by definition censored. In the United States today you can get away with anything if you are personally unimportant but can get away with very little if you share a spotlight on the big screen of life.

Does it affect me? Personally? Mostly not because I am not regarded as knowing anything worth censoring. I don’t belong to a corporate entity that is creating new technology or know anything about the government other than what I read in the news.

Garry has a lot of secrets and most of them — nearly ALL of them — he has never told me. I have pointed out that many of the people about whom he “knows stuff” are gone from this world.

“They have families,” he says and that is the end of the conversation. Reporters always have secrets.

So do I personally feel threatened as an individual citizen by censorship? Not at the moment. When I worked for Grumman I had a “top secret” legal rating and there were things I could not say to anyone lest I be imprisoned and fined. I worked in a “black building” and I hated it. I hated everything except those great bridge games at lunch. They were fun!

If I live long enough, this could change, but I think for most non-political, not military, and no, not a spy either? No one cares what we say because we don’t know anything and when you are low enough on the totem pole, nobody much cares what you say.

But if our world changes dramatically and for the worse, this could alter. I hope I’m not alive if it does.

TIME AND TRAVEL – Marilyn Armstrong

First of all, no one can travel to the future unless they are returning from the past. Everyone who’s anybody knows that. It hasn’t happened yet, so you can’t go there. You can’t go sometime if it never occurred.

nasa time machine

One-way time travel sounds ominous to me regardless of direction.

You mean I can’t come home? Ever? I have to go forward or backward and it’s a final decision? Without any hope of returning to my time, my friends, family? My world? In which case, no thank you. That’s too high a price to satisfy a bit of curiosity.

With all the issues of the present, this is my time. It is where I belong, for good or ill.

NOT A PENNY FROM ME OR MINE – Marilyn Armstrong

I am a Liberal Democrat.

I currently get about 20 emails a day asking me to contribute to a campaign or to the party coffers for some good  Democratic cause or other. I support almost all of these causes, but I’ll never give them another dollar. I will unsubscribe to all 20 of today’s emails today or tomorrow. As soon as I have time.

Why? Am I a fervent advocate of reforming campaign corruption? Do I harbor a passionate, idealistic need to change the system and alter how politics is funded?

It turns out, I am a fervent advocate of campaign corruption reform and I do harbor a passionate need to reform political funding, but that’s not the reason. I’m also poor, but even that isn’t the reason.

72-Lost-Dutchman-newer-GAR-Superstition-011316_186

In 2008, I donated three dollars to Barack Obama. I was pleased when he got elected. I donated a few more dollar in 2012. As a thank you, I got spammed.

Every Democrat running for any office in any American state, as well as every liberal group with a cause, sent me thousands of emails several times each week and sometimes, per day. It might have been even more, but somewhere along the way, I lost track. So we’ll just call it a mountain of mail.

All of them told me in some wildly hysterical way that some candidate I’d like to see elected was missing a mere $320 for the month and a few dollars from me might make the difference. They started out by asking me to sign a petition, after which, they wanted money. A little money but I could send more and I could set it up to come out of my account automatically every month. And that was just the beginning.

Every other minute, there was a new cause as well as a few hundred more emails. It reached an insane crescendo and I spent entire days deleting everything without even trying to see what it was. One day, I spent an entire day, morning to evening, unsubscribing. The incoming mail dropped to a bearable level. For a day. And then it began to rebuild.

Every time I considered signing a petition or read an online post, I was automatically — without being notified or offering my permission — was subscribed to the site and mailing lists. I was a piece of data. Being mined.

I don’t care how good the cause is. That’s wrong. And it’s spam. They succeeded in making me unwilling to ever give them any money ever. I do not answer surveys. Nor do I fill out petitions, no matter how much I sympathize with its cause.

Uncle sam political cartoon 1899

The Democratic Party — all political parties, their candidates and causes (I actually found myself on the Conservative Republican mailing list because I read an article somewhere and they also signed me up) — are on my “not one red cent” list. Because a $3 dollar donation got me spammed. I was buried under electronic propaganda.

Know that if you are naive enough to provide your phone number on a petition or survey, expect never-ending intrusive phone calls. I think if they want my opinion, they can pay for it.

The political funding system needs reformation. Equally in need of reform is the way all political groups feel free to use your personal information for their own purposes.

They will subscribe you to their mailing and calling lists because you tried to read their literature. Which, in theory, is what they want you to do. Participating in politics — trying to be a good citizen — will get you bombarded with propaganda until you declare a plague on all their houses.

By: politicalavenue-com

It’s not okay. Really, it’s not. It’s intrusive and sneaky. It is a massive abuse of my right to privacy. I did not agree to let everyone in the world use my personal data for their own goals.

Visiting a web site does not imply permission to invade my privacy. I do not know how other people handle this sort of thing, but it means that I will never donate a penny to anyone running for office — or in support of any of their causes. Ever.

Vermin Supreme poster

They — both parties, all parties, all the pols — have done it to themselves.  Before pointing fingers at “the system,” they need to admit that they are the system. They are the abusers. While they are busy investigating Google, Facebook, and Twitter, they might take a look in the mirror and consider how they are doing the same thing. That it might be for a better cause — in my opinion — is neither here nor there.

I am not a piece of data and I do not want to be mined. Don’t put my name or my phone number or my personal preferences on your database. Don’t bury me in emails or phone calls.

Instead of getting me to sign on, you got me to sign off. Was that what you wanted? If not, reconsider your methods.

THE ULTIMATE POWER OF THE WEENIE – By Tom Curley

You can’t use the word “p#rn” on Google because as everyone knows, Google is so carefully-regulated and selective about who publishes on their site, one need never worry about what one might see there. It’s the word, NOT the subject of the writing that is at issue. Do they have any human beings who know how to think in their administration? Or is it all accountants, computers, and software hunting for buzzwords? I am not the only one wondering about this!

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 mainstream 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 really 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.

KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES – Marilyn Armstrong

Xfinity has an advertisement. They assure viewers that their wi-fi is so fast, you will definitely be able to keep up with the Joneses.

I didn’t know it was a race. I didn’t know I was supposed to be keeping up with anyone.

If you use Xfinity, you will be able to keep up with the Joneses, whoever they may be.

“Garry,” I asked. “Are we keeping up with the Joneses?”

“The who?”

“Joneses.”

“I don’t think so. We don’t know anyone named Jones. I actually can’t remember ever knowing anyone named Jones. Lots of Smiths and many of them named Mike. No Joneses. Of any name. So probably we aren’t keeping up with them.”

On the other hand, I don’t think I’ve ever worried about keeping up with anything that didn’t have a dollar sign attached. I certainly don’t worry whether or not I’ve got faster wi-fi than my neighbors, especially not in Uxbridge. This just isn’t a “keeping up with the Joneses” kind of town. We all use Charter. We don’t have any choice. That’s what the town decided for us.

We have enough trouble keeping up with the mortgage, bills, and taxes.

IT’S THE LITTLE STUFF THAT GETS ME – Marilyn Armstrong

EVEN WORDPRESS CAN’T BE THAT BAD, CAN THEY?
Even my computer is part of the plot against us! It's Alienware!

Even my computer is part of the plot against us! It’s Alienware!

I definitely have a few bones to pick and I’m going to start picking right now. You see, I have these questions. Important questions. And there are, as far as I can tell, no answers to them.

1. Why does WordPress allow us to approve or disapprove comments, but anyone can follow us? Doesn’t that seem wrong to you? I leafed through my thousands of “followers” the other day and exactly as expected, most of the recent ones are spambots. Short of using Captcha, which I consider cruel and unusual punishment, there doesn’t seem to be any way to prevent the spammers from following. I can get rid of their comments, but I can’t get rid of them.

2. No matter what you do, every pingback has to be personally moderated … yet if you allow reblogs — and most of us do — these do NOT need to be moderated, not even for those who have never commented and are essentially anonymous. Thus my posts have been reblogged on all kinds of horrible sites where I would never go, much less see my work posted. Forgive me if the logic of this eludes me.

3. Object linking has become the function that powers our internet experience. For those of you who don’t know much about programming and computer development, a “link” is really an embedded address. Thus a pingback is actually an object “pointer.” It takes the address of a website or some other thing on the internet (it could also be an email address or a picture … or a part number in a database), embeds it in a graphic or text so that when someone clicks on it, it takes them to that place. Like the transporter on the Enterprise.

Bonnie guarding my computer

It’s the computer equivalent of “Scottie, beam me up.” The other day, all my links went wacko. If I clicked on a notification from a follower, I got sent to the Reader … but not to that blogger or that post. Just the top of the Reader. Sometimes, I got the message that the address didn’t exist.

I panicked, contacted WordPress. Who said they would check it out. Yet, before they even had a chance to look at it, it fixed itself and the problem disappeared. That was when I got a notice that other people had begun to have the same problem.

Is our technology beginning to fail because chaos reigns and magic is loose in the world?

4. When my links went berserk, my knee jerk reaction was to get mad. After all the goofy “upgrades” WordPress has been making to their user interface (in my world, it is known as the GUI, pronounced Gooey, or graphical user interface), anything is possible.

I assumed this was another bizarre piece of programming they were foisting on me. Eventually, I realized even WordPress could not possibly consider this acceptable. Not unless they were all taking some heavy hallucinogenic drugs up in the office.

So there you have it, my contentious bone picking of the day.


Watch your links. Keep watching your links.
Aliens are invading the servers.

 

REMEMBER WHEN YOU WERE HAPPY TO GET A PHONE CALL? – Marilyn Armstrong

“Holy shit,” I said to no one at all. “That really HURTS.”

I was referring to my back and left hip (aka “the good one”). It was early. Although morning often is accompanied by stiffness and pain, I don’t normally wake up with quite such a jolt.

Rolling slowly out of bed, I tried to remember what I’d been dreaming about. Something about cats made of smoke and a clothesline that was part of a computer game. And a shrink who offered to scratch my back, but couldn’t find the right spot.

I took a couple of Tylenol and a muscle relaxant. I rearranged the bed and tucked myself in for a few more hours of sleep.

The phone rang. Of course.

I looked at the caller ID. It showed a local number. It was not a local call. Scamming technology shows local numbers on my Caller ID including my own number. I’m pretty sure I’m not calling myself.

I answered the phone in what has become my typical surly morning greeting: “Who are you and what do you want?” There was no response. A bit of crackle on the line, but no voice. Not even a recording. I hung up. More accurately, pressed the OFF key.

It has been a long time since I expected a ringing telephone to herald a call from a friend. I don’t even expect it to be a return call from someone with whom I do business. I expect all calls to be scams, surveys, or sales pitches.

All the calls I get are recorded messages. I can’t even insult the caller or his company. That used to be the only positive side to these endless calls from anonymous people. Even that small pleasure is gone.

I have utterly abandoned good telephone manners. Telephones are not a way to communicate unless I’m making the call. Otherwise, it’s annoying and intrusive — another attempt to steal personal data so someone can hack our accounts, steal our identity, or scam us in some other way.

I can’t make them stop calling because they never call from the same number twice and the number that shows on the Caller ID is fake. There’s nothing to report. NOMOROBO dot com has considerably limited the volume of calls, but nothing eliminates them. Somehow, they get your number. When I ask how they got it — assuming there’s someone to ask — they tell me they got my telephone number from a form I filled out “online.”

Except, I never do that. I do not fill in forms online and anything which requires I include a phone number. I tell everyone I don’t have a mobile phone.
I actually do have a smartphone. I just don’t use it.

As part of the day’s epiphanies, I realized how technology steals pieces of our lives. There’s nothing wrong with the technology. It is neither good nor bad; it is what it is. It’s what people do with it that’s can be life-stealing. Those People have ruined telephones for me, probably forever.

Unwanted telephone calls may seem a minor detail in view of the many awful things going on in our world these days, but I can remember waiting with pleasant anticipation for the phone to ring. It wasn’t that long ago.

Or was it?

HACKING, OPERATING SYSTEMS, AND THE END OF THE WORLD – TOM CURLEY

I watch a lot of television. Probably too much. I’m fond of action shows. I’m really fond of all the various comic book shows.

The single thing these shows have in common is they all have at least one computer genius. A girl or guy geek who’s the best hacker in the business. They always have at least a half-dozen computer monitors in front of them. Each one has 10 or more windows open with lines of data scrolling by at about a hundred miles an hour. They can do anything and everything. Instantly.

falcontradingsystems.com

falcontradingsystems.com

BOSS: I know this is illegal, but I need you to hack into the CIA, NSA and FBI servers. They have the most secure and impenetrable firewalls ever designed. Can you do it?

COMPUTER GENIUS: I was into all three 15 seconds ago, sir.

The ones that work for the FBI can find anything in 10 seconds or less.

FBI BOSS: Our serial killer is male, early thirties, white, and probably living in a two square mile region south of Albany, Georgia. He’s left-handed and likes string cheese. We need to narrow our search …

FBI COMPUTER GENIUS: Found him! His photo, home address and a copy of his permanent High School record have already been sent to your phone.

Not the real bad guy

Not the real bad guy

But this got me to thinking. What would these shows look like if they were happening in the real world?

BOSS OF SUPER SECRET GOVERNMENT ORGANIZATION TASKED WITH SAVING THE WORLD FROM SUPER BAD EVIL DOERS:  OK, listen up. You two are the world’s best black hat and white hat hackers. We’ve brought you here because a Super Bad Evil Doer has stolen software that will allow him to access all the world powers’ nuclear codes. He is demanding 1 trillion dollars in ransom or he will launch all the missiles at once and destroy the Earth. You each have a whole bunch of computer screens in front of you with dozens of boxes open scrolling lines and lines of stuff. You have less than 10 minutes to somehow find our Evil Doer and figure out a way to block him from launching those missiles. Can you do it?

HACKER #1: Yes, but we will need to write some specialized software, at least 10 to 20 thousand lines of code.

BOSS: My God!  Can you do it in time???

HACKER #2: Already done sir. Now, all we have to do is upload it to the Evil Doer’s computer. Ready to send in 3, 2 ….

HACKER #1: NO! NO! NO!

HACKER #2: What’s wrong? OH GOD NO! NO! NO!

BOSS: What’s happening?!

HACKER #1: My computer is shutting down!!

HACKER #2: MINE TOO!

BOSS: Are you being hacked? Have your computers been infiltrated by some kind of malicious software? Does the Evil Doer have a genius hacker of his own???

HACKER #1: WORSE! Windows just installed updates! It’s rebooting so the updates can take effect!

windows shut down

BOSS: Can you stop it!??

HACKER #2: It’s too late! Look! It’s already started rebooting and configuring the updates!

windowsupdateinstalling_40853_l

BOSS: There’s nothing you can do???!

HACKER #2: No sir. Look at the screen. It says “Please do not power off or unplug your machine while updates are in progress”!

windows updates 1

BOSS: How long will it take to reboot?

HACKER #1: God only knows! Look! It’s still installing update six of ten! This could take an hour! Even more.

BOSS: We have less than ten minutes before nuclear Armageddon! What are we going to?

HACKER #1: Wait! I’ve got it! I can use my smartphone!

HACKER #2: Yes! We will have to adapt about 15 thousand lines of code but …

HACKER #1: It’s done! OK now, all I have to do is input and send the kill command. “NEUTRALIZE ALL NUCLEAR LAUNCH CODES.” And … done!

BOSS: Thank God!

HACKER #2: Oh NO! You entered “NEUTRALIZE ALL NUCLEAR LUNCH CODES”!!

HACKER #1: What?! Damn you AUTOCORRECT!

autocorrect

BOSS: What do we do now!!

HACKER #2: You know what? Pay the ransom. I’ve had it with Windows. I mean look, it’s still on update 6 of 10! We’re going to be here all day!

HACKER #1: I agree. Pay the money. This is just too much trouble. I’m telling you, ever since my phone updated to iOS 9.0.1, nothing works right.

HACKER #2: Tell me about it.

ios-9-overnight-update

As the two hackers walk off into the sunset discussing whether or not upgrading to Windows 10 would make the situation better or worse, small mushroom clouds appear in the distance.

doodleordie.com

doodleordie.com

Yeah, that’s pretty much how it would happen.

ORDERING A NEW PHONE – REALLY! – Marilyn Armstrong

I gave in. The flip phone was not working for me. I needed a phone with something resembling a keypad. Using the multiple hits required on the flip phone keys plus my inability to find text markers in case I might WANT to text meant it wasn’t working. I also couldn’t find any way to save phone numbers although I’m pretty sure there IS a way to do it.

This is what I have. It was free. And worth every penny!

On the other hand, I don’t need the internet — just the ability to phone someone in case of an emergency (like — the phone is down at home or we are on the road and typically lost), so I had to carry a notepad with friends’ numbers and the phone number for the electric company who do not seem to “get” that when the electricity is “out,” so is your wi-fi as well as the TV and telephone cable, heat, and the well pump. And pretty much everything else, come to think of it.

In the mail! I even bought a case for it. Wow, eh?

I also wanted a phone that would link to my wi-fi at home because it makes life simpler. Right now, I have — for $14.50 — unlimited text and phone. That price won’t change, either. So it was $80 for an LG3 LTE phone – plus $2 shipping.  This time, they are supposedly sending a manual.

I’ll believe it when I see it.

I almost never use our cell phone. It’s the emergency phone for when we are on the road or the power at home is out … or Charter has gone down and taken the phone with it.

For someone who is pretty savvy around cameras and computers, I am a total dummy around telephones and printers. Not just cell phones. Regular phones, too. I have some kind of mental disconnect. I can’t change ink in my printer, haven’t figured out how to make copies or use the scanner. So for me to actually get a phone that might work is a giant step.

They have pretty good prices on “fancy” phones, too, but what do I need fancy for? I always have a camera with me and usually have a Kindle in case I have some dire need for the internet while away from home. If I’m on vacation, I have my Mac with me AND the Kindle. And I’m not 100% sure, but I think there’s a wi-fi link in my cameras, too. I have no idea how to use it, but it’s there.

I do not use a telephone for anything financial. I’ve been hacked once and that was enough. I canceled a credit card because it got hacked once and then someone tried to hack it a second time. I figured those people (Walmart) need a better security service before I’ll use their card. I don’t need it anyway.

So sometime this week, I’ll have to take a very deep breath and try to figure out how to use the phone. I’m already scared and I don’t even have the phone.

WORLD WITHOUT WI-FI? – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Wi-Fi

Although we have managed to remove cable television from our lives, you just can’t do without wi-fi. As a result, Charter/Spectrum’s wi-fi now cost more than their entire cable package used to cost. $76 for a $10 telephone and the rest, wi-fi.

For the moment. I’m sure it will cost more soon enough.

Considering that wi-fi is no longer a luxury for most people, maybe it’s time to set some controls on how much it costs? It used to cost $30, then $40, $50 and now, $65. Next year, the sky is probably the limit. I bet before we hit 2020, I’ll be paying more for JUST the wi-fi than I was paying for the whole cable package. And we only have ONE source here. We can pick Spectrum (Charter) or nothing. When you live in a small town, you don’t get lots of choices.

There are at least some regulations on electricity and other basic utilities. How about some kind of regulation for wi-fi?

Photo: Garry Armstrong

I’m going to be (again) at UMass today. Transthoracic Echocardiogram. I hope I’m in and out quickly, but you never know. It depends on what they see. I would much prefer they see everything ticking along like the proverbial clock.

It’s all “ultrasonic transducer.” At least something works without wi-fi! If they let me look at the pictures, I’ll be happy. I like it when I can see what they are seeing.

AND THEN, THERE’S AT&T – Marilyn Armstrong

I swear that I’m at that point with AT&T where I’d rather chip half an inch of ice off the car than talk to anyone at AT&T.

Yesterday, they delivered the telephone that goes with the plan. Whatever plan that turned out to be. I actually had no idea what the plan was. Each time I talked to someone, they had no idea what I was talking about. I kept getting computer-generated emails telling me I had to pay $80 or $90 next month and $50 or $60 thereafter. I signed up for their 300-minute plan that comes with a free flip phone.

Yes, they still make flip phones. They are just like the old ones. In fact, I these really might be the same flip phones we used 20 years ago. They sure look the same, although they have a calendar and a camera. I’m not expecting much of a camera and for reasons that are obscure to me, it didn’t import my Google contact, but apparently, it will accept the information if I can figure out how to enter my email address and password into the flip phone.

Right now, I can’t actually turn it on and off successfully. It’s one button that turns it on and turns it off, but you hold it longer to turn it off. If you hold it too long, it starts up again. Meanwhile, the on/off button on the side doesn’t do anything as far as I can tell. I wonder if this thing will ever work. I despair as I try to read what they humorously call “the user guide.”

I went to the site where they are supposed to tell me how to set up the phone and they never heard of it, but the setup site never heard of the phone. I was forced to (gods of olden days please protect me) call AT&T.

I couldn’t even figure out how to turn the phone on or move the cursor. She did turn the SIM on, but it didn’t have any information on it. But, it turns out, there IS a manual for the telephone. Not a good manual, but a “better than nothing” manual. I’m sure you know what I mean. Written by a software program, no humans involved.

“Why,” I asked, “Didn’t they include the manual with the phone? Is there some law against giving basic instructions to users?”

“This is the packaging for this phone, and it doesn’t include the manual,” she explained.

“Lady, I used to write manuals. You ALWAYS include the manual with the device. That’s the point of having the manual. When you get the device, you can make it work and you don’t have to spend three days on the telephone with AT&T.”

She said she was sorry, but she could give me a link to the manual online. I said “FINE. Let’s do that.”

But it wouldn’t come up so we had to clear my browser data and NOT sign me into AT&T and then figure out what phone it was because the only thing it said was AT&T. My home phones are also AT&T, but they don’t actually make them. I think they might be Unidyne ripoffs, but I’m not sure. They work and that’s all that matters.

In this case, she had no idea who made the phone, so I pried open the back and said: “The battery is an Alcatel, so I’m betting that’s who actually made the phone.”

And sure enough, Alcatel made the phone. Got the manual. Downloaded it. Saved it in two places — desktop and on Google — and then she asked me if I need any more help. I said: “No, I’ve had enough of AT&T to last me the rest of my life. I’m going to eat dinner, watch some television and try to never think about AT&T again as long as I live.”

Long pause.

“Thank you for your patience in letting me assist you.”

“If you’d included the manual, you wouldn’t have had to assist me.”

“Well, thank you for being a loyal customer.”

“You’re welcome. Now I’m going to eat my dinner.” And I hung up before she could say anything more. I couldn’t cope with another thank you for being a loyal customer because being a loyal AT&T customer doesn’t feel like a great thing at the moment.

Oh, and by the way, after a lot of conversation yesterday on the phone — I’ve had three days of dealing with AT&T, not to mention half a dozen computer-generated NOT the real bill — I am paying $29.99 a month plus local taxes. The phone cost $3.78 for shipping. That’s it. I am saving about $20 a month … and I nearly lost my mind in the process.

The phone still doesn’t really work, but I can turn it on, turn it off, and enter a phone number and probably, it will call the number. Pretty sure.

I did eventually get it to accept my wi-fi, so it wasn’t a complete waste of time, right?

EVEN TERRORISTS NEED TECH SUPPORT AND OTHER THINGS – BY TOM CURLEY

Whenever I get a goofy idea for a post, I try to write it down as quick as I can because if I don’t, I forget it. After about, oh, 10 or 15 seconds. As usual most of my ideas fall under roughly three categories.

1 – What was I thinking?
2 – Good God, what was I thinking?
 3  – Wow, I was really stoned.

With that in mind, I took a look at some of my recent “Notes.”

Here’s one.

“The ISIS IT tech support hotline.”

My first thought was “What the hell is that about?” Then Ellin reminded me we saw a news report about how ISIS has a very extensive and modern computer network. I realized if that’s true, they must have an IT department. If they have an IT department, they must have a tech support hotline.


What must an average day be like for the guy who manages
t
he ISIS tech support hotline?

ISIS TECH SUPPORT: Hello, you have reached the ISIS tech support line. How can I help you?

ISIS GUY: Hello, I’m having trouble with my suicide vest. It won’t explode.

ISIS TECH SUPPORT: OK, I am opening up a ticket. Have you tried taking it off and putting it back on?

ISIS GUY: No, let me try that. Hang on. (pause)


BOOM!!!


ISIS TECH SUPPORT: Hello? Hello? OK, I am closing this ticket. This is the ISIS Tech support line. How can I help you?

ANOTHER ISIS GUY: My suicide vest isn’t working.

ISIS TECH SUPPORT: Hold on, I am opening a ticket. Have you tried taking it off and putting it back on?

ANOTHER ISIS GUY: Yes. It still doesn’t work.

ISIS TECH SUPPORT: Hmmm, that usually works. Have you tried jiggling it?

ANOTHER ISIS GUY: No, hang on, let me take it off. OK, I’m jiggling it.


BOOM!!!!!


I think that’s pretty much how his average day goes.

Here’s another note. This one was an interesting question.

“How do you go on vacation when you’re retired?”

Good question. It reminded me of an old joke by George Carlin. He asked, “What does a dog do on his day off? He can’t just lay around on the couch. That’s his job.”

That got me thinking.

Do I get days off? Well, yes. All my days are off. Not doing anything is my job. I’m always on vacation. So, being on vacation is my full-time job. That sort of depressed me because I’m always working!

I can never take time off!

So, to take my mind off this existential Catch-22, I spent a week doing nothing but play a video game. Red Dead Redemption 2.

The video quality of the game is breathtaking. It’s the most realistic game on the market. In it, you are a cowboy. Sort of a bad guy who is running with a gang. You get various missions. Most entail going somewhere and shooting somebody. Or shooting a lot of some-bodies.

But along with that, you have to do other things. Like, find food, cook food. Eat food.

Feed your horse. Brush your horse. Go fishing. Clean the fish. Go hunting. Bring what you catch back home and skin it. (Sorry, I drew the line on that one). (Note to self: Does that mean I’d starve?)

And to get anywhere you have to ride your horse. And all the towns are a long way from each other. After a week of this, it hit me.

This isn’t a game. This is work!

A lot of work. I didn’t do this much work when I was working! So, I’m giving up on this game. Well, after I collect the money the O’Driscoll gang owes me, and I finish cooking the stew.

After that, I need some time off.

NEW DRIVER? YES/NO/LET ME THINK ABOUT IT – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Driver

I just got a new download for Windows 10 — which was a followup to the new download I got for my Mac laptop and the one I got for my Kindle and whatever happened to make my mini iPod completely unusable. I didn’t use it anyhow, but having paid for it, it irks me that they’ve downloaded a “new version” of whatever was supposed to make it useful and now, NOTHING works. Among other things, they wiped out my password.

The iPad mini 4

I am too incurious to ask someone how to fix it, even though it’s insured and I could probably just get a new one … which will also sit unused. I must remind myself that unless I actually have a valid use for a gadget, DON’T BUY IT. Even if it is on sale.

Now, about drivers.

There are, unlike you and me behind the wheel of a vehicle, programs that tell other things how to do whatever they do. They link an application to the operating system and if it doesn’t work, nothing works. A driver is often linked to more than one thing on your computer. Many drivers are part of your operating system. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Apple, PC, or Android. Everything needs a driver.

I have a lot of high-end stuff on this monster and every time I see the question “Would you like to download the new driver for … (fill in the blank) …?” I go into a panic. The most panic-producing issue is the driver that links my graphics super NVIDIA stuff which handles both what I see and what I hear to everything else on the unit. NVIDIA is not part of Microsoft, but Microsoft — and every other computer company — use their products. They constantly introduce new drivers, many of which are designed for whatever the latest video game is. Because this is a gaming computer, even though I don’t game. I would, but I don’t have time.

Douglas Adams inspired “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” AND he shares my birthday, so I feel bonded

I have this machine so I can process pictures. Still photographs. Also, it has — if you can figure out how to tune it properly — a really good set of speakers in it. But it has two full sets of graphics in the machine. A generic set from that another company (a Microsoft product?) plus the NVIDIA set up.

I feel like the robot in Douglas Adams’ “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

“DON’T TALK TO ME ABOUT DRIVERS.”

I managed to get through the last collections of updates apparently undamaged. So far. I haven’t, I admit, gone in to check the setting, so the next time I try to listen to an audiobook, I’m sure it’ll sound all weird and I’ll have to reconfigure the entire thing. Again.

Drivers. Don’t talk to ME about drivers!

HOW PUBLIC? – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Public

Having been hacked and fortunately gotten off relatively lightly, I’m wary about information being given away online. You can’t protect yourself entirely, especially as a blogger. No matter what you do, anyone with the will and interest can find out whatever they want about it … but within the limits of our abilities, I try to make sure I don’t leave the barn door open.

The lock might not be the best in town, but considering that the U.S. Government has been hacked and my bank has been hacked twice, as well as Adobe, Lands’ End, Equifax, Facebook … and who knows how many more have been taken down by hackers, I’m pretty sure I don’t have anything in my arsenal that would stop a determined hacker.

The requirements of writing mean that you are going to get at least a little bit personal. The question always remains, “HOW personal?” At what point does “personal” mean too much?

It doesn’t help that the stores, banks, and agencies we work with online appear to be easily hacked. In my case, material that got hacked on Facebook was sold or given (I suspect sold) to Cambridge Analytica who then sold my personal material to any hacker with the money to pay for their list. Of course, there was the recent international round of router hackers. I got a new router, but who knows if the new one has any more stopping power than the original? As far as protecting ourselves from people who hack people and steal their money for a living, we are relatively helpless.

All of this hacking stuff is some version of identity theft and short of not using any online stuff, which these days is nigh unto impossible, there’s no way we can prevent identity theft.

You do your best, but compared to the pros in the field, we don’t have a lot of power to protect ourselves. As soon as they invent a new “protection,” hackers figure out a way to tear it down.

So how public do we dare be? Most of us are already public, there’s not much to hide.

Whether you are a blogger or merely connect to accomplish normal business with banks and other organizations — like, say, the Motor Vehicles Department — we will always be a few steps behind the people who do it because that’s how they make a living.

I always wonder if the damage they do bothers them … or are they simply without any kind of conscience? I’m betting the latter.

In a more perfect world, we would have made sure everyone was well protected before we offered online service, but this is far from a perfect world. And apparently, getting less perfect minute-by-minute.