Worse than hot takes…

I was thrilled today to see much of the North Korea hot takes that filled my newsfeed over the last few days giving way to the funny animal posts and random memes that I’ve come to rely on social media to deliver.

Unfortunately, my feed was equally crammed with a third category of post that I could have really done without. Instead of making me laugh or teaching me something new, apparently the internet decided that today I needed to learn about every dog available for adoption between New Jersey and central Virginia. Believe me when I say it was 100% information I’d have been happy doing without.

On a typical day I wander through life with a generic sense of wanting all the animals. When the internet uses its communicative powers to give each of those animals form and substance, though, all rational arguments like, vet bills, food, training, and not turning into an animal hoarder flow directly out the window.

So it turns out I’m going to need a break from the internet because not because the news of the day is so upsetting, but because animals are just so damned amazing and I want to bring all of them home.

The virtue of Prime…

After getting my notice of another Amazon Prime subscription price increase, I’m realizing that I either need to start using it for more than watching 10 episodes of The Grand Tour a year or get rid of it. I signed up way back when Prime’s major benefit was two day shipping on books. Although it offers many more features now, I find I’m barely using it for any of them. With many of items I’ve bought from Amazon recently not making the 2-day shipping window and/or being damaged to some degree in packing or transit, it’s starting to feel like less of a bargain overall – especially when Amazon has opted to push it over the $100 price point.

I’m well aware that arguing over the value of $21 per year increase is patently ridiculous on its face, but there’s just something about that three-digit bill that really sets me wondering just what the hell I’m paying for and if it’s actually worth it. In all likelihood I’ll just go along letting apathy and inertia carry it along, but don’t let that in any way be confused with my willingness to bitch and complain every year when that $120 bill shows up in my list of financial transactions… because I still want my dented and damaged crap showing up in two (or three or four) days.

I supposed that’s what Amazon has been counting on all along.

New computer day…

I’ve put it off for as long as I reasonably could, but today was the day that I finally was forced to send my venerable Dell Latitude E6540 into retirement. Sure, it was five year old tech cobbled onto a platform that’s design traced back to the early 2000’s, but I legitimately liked the big brick of a machine (when it wasn’t hopelessly crippled by security patches and software updates). Over the last dozen years I’ve probably had five different variations of this model and as much as it was big and heavy and generally clunky, it was a workhorse. I toted the E-series all over the country. The only times it ever crapped out on me was when I was working at the office… Which makes it about as reliable as any other coworker, really.

OK, so I’m just trading it in for a newer series Latitude from the same manufacturer and this updated unit as a few extra bells and whistles – some of which the powers that be who run the network haven’t decided to eliminate yet – but I don’t have a bond of trust with this generic black machine idling on the corner of my desk. I don’t have the same level of trust in its quiet, differential being that I had in my obnoxiously heavy silver companion.

It’s probably a better machine on all fronts, but the real problem is every time someone has given me a new computer, something horrific happens during the transition – half a decade worth of saved email disappears, the contents of My Documents disappears, various drives stop working, or the internet becomes “unfindable.” I’m waiting to see now what the form of my destruction this time around will be. Who knows, maybe everything will go swimmingly and the transition will be seamless… although based on historical experience that really does feel like the least likely of all available options.

The virtue of ApplePay…

This morning, as usual, I picked up my building ID, two sets of keys, my pocket knife, watch, and a few other odds and ends I carry with me every day​. The morning progressed as usual right up until the point I stopped to fill up the Jeep’s fuel tank. That’s when I discovered my wallet wasn’t among the items of kit that I had stuffed into my pockets on the way out the door.

As they saying goes, you really don’t miss something (or realize how often you need it) until it’s gone. Instead of the day progressing normally, there was no fuel, no breakfast bagel, no stop for a mid-day doughnut, no pausing on the way home to pick up fresh greens for the tortoise, and no stop at the last chance liquor store for my Wednesday powerball ticket. It doesn’t quite rise to the level of infuriating, but the simple act of leaving behind a small piece of leather with a few pieces of plastic and a bit of green paper inside certainly has the the effect of being an outsized pain in the ass.

I’ve never really given much thought to the virtue of ApplePay, but it’s safe to say I have a new healthy interest in adopting a payment method that involves something I don’t leave the room, let along the house, without having on my person.

Chrome…

Google Chrome is a remarkably powerful web browser. When running on Mac OS it’s also an incredible power and memory hog. At least once a week it bloats so badly that it makes my desktop unusable. Starting today I’m going to take a trial run of living life without Chrome.

Since it’s Mac native, I’ve given Safari the honor of being the first test platform. Although today’s tests have been limited, it’s held up admirably – and more importantly hasn’t slowed the machine down to an infuriating place. As it turns out the threshold for victory in these real life tests isn’t going to be all that high. Anything that lets me get through a week without crashing the computer will likely get a pass as a better option than continuing on with Chrome.

There was a time I’d want to go out and try all the obscure browsers hoping to turn up something with wow factor to spare. These days, I’m mostly about simplicity in use rather than wow. I don’t care so much how the machine runs just so long as it does. I’m not going to spend a lot of time wanting to tinker around under the hood until it behaves “just so.”

I’d love to place all the blame squarely on Google here, but if I’m fair, I’m currently running a slightly more than 4 year old machine that was a touch under powered when it came out of the box. The ever increasing demand for raw processing power in a computer hasn’t been kind to my Mini. Truth is, switching browsers is probably the last ditch effort to coax a bit more life out of the machine before bringing a replacement online. If I were smart, I’d go ahead and make that purchase now instead of when something finally fails on me… but then needing to buy a computer right-the-hell-now after the old one has crapped out is pretty much one of my oldest continuously observed traditions.

Ditching Chrome won’t solve all that ails computing here, but it could well alleviate the most obnoxious symptom of aging equipment. For today, that would be more than good enough.

Neutrality…

​With our political and media celebrities having trouble keeping their dicks in their pants, the possible end of Net Neutrality is something that’s not getting as much coverage as it probably should.

There’s a big part of me that generally favors deregulation. Having worked under and been responsible for writing government regulations, I can attest that they often have a certain stifling effect on whatever they touch. I also recognize that “the internet” isn’t some ubiquitous “thing” that sprung into existence in nature. It’s a network that exists because companies went out and designed, built, installed, and maintain the infrastructure that has come to deliver us the connectivity we know and love. The “net” in net neutrality, then, is underpinned by a whole lot of businesses that spent a whole lot of money based on the assumption that they’d make massive amounts of profit by doing it. You didn’t think they developed the net out of the kindness of their hearts so we could exchange funny animal memes did you?

​On the other hand, I’ve learned to despises Comcast with the burning fire of a thousand suns don’t want to give them any more control over the internet or give them and the other cable/intent providers the chance to bleed me for even more money every month than they’re already getting. It’s a painfully interesting case of self interest versus governing philosophy.

​Google, Apple, and the rest of Big Tech are arrayed against Comcast and the companies who own the “pipes” the internet flows through. It’s not like they aren’t profiteering off our data left and right themselves, though.​ Unlike the cable companies who take their cut month by both, the tech giants skim theirs in the more subtle way of data mining and selling the personal information that we’ve all chosen to give them. Most of us choose not to notice that bit.

My bottom line is that the internet is going to be controlled by someone – some big business pursuing their own self interest in collaboration with big government who wants to keep an eye on all of us.​ Whether it’s the cable companies and monthly fees or its big tech mining our personal information, probably doesn’t make much difference in the end.​

So which side do I fall down on? I don’t know yet. It feels a lot like picking the lesser of So What or Who Cares when it’s really just picking which set of companies will run the show for the foreseeable future.

Almost a fiasco…

Saturday morning I discovered that my local Apple Store had in stock availability of their new flagship, iPhone X. I wouldn’t usually venture anywhere near a mall two days after Thanksgiving, but the desire for new and shiny tech got the better of me. Stunningly, I arrived five minutes after the mall opened and parked within 20 yards of the door. It seems that their “holiday hours” are poorly advertised and almost no one realized they were opening an hour early. Fine by me.

I was an AT&T cellular customer since back in the mists of time when they were known as Cingular. I was generally a satisfied customer, too – until I moved to Fortress Jeff, which is located in a black hole of their coverage map. I could make and receive calls over wifi, but when wifi was down, my cell was pretty much an expensive paperweight. Unacceptable. With this change of phone, I wanted to make the jump to Verizon, who neighbors promised had at least a bar or two of coverage even the local power and cable is out. It happens more often than you’d imagine out here at the end of the transmission line.

Without going into details, I’ll just say that AT&T, Verizon, and Apple corporate policies all threw up roadblocks to converting from the Apple Upgrade Program under AT&T to the same program under Verizon. The guy I was working with, though, was an absolute bulldog and took the problems first to the floor manager, who was as confounded as we were. The floor manager then elevated the issues through two layers of management “in the back.” Finally they decided there was actually no way to get from Point A to Point B using existing policy and procedures. That’s they point where one of them decided “we’re going to break the rules” to make the sale.

I can’t say for sure if any rules were broken, but if the number of Apple employees standing around looking concerned while they fiddled with various entries on their tablet is any sign, they were certainly doing something unusual. In the end it took six people and almost an hour to make the sale.

It wasn’t quick and it wasn’t seamless, but in the end I walked away with exactly what I wanted. I appreciate that level of tenacity when the easy answer was “we can’t.” I appreciate it even more when I’ve got two bars of service when the wifi’s off. Well done, Apple. It’s a wonderful lesson for other business out there that customer services really, truly doesn’t have to suck.