Archive for May, 2008

Instant Gratification

Friday, May 30th, 2008


Each day our world is more and more enamored with the thought of having something for nothing, and fast! The marketing that we and even more so our children grow up with is meant to convince their audience that they need a product, and even that they can’t live without it! This could affect the rising generation, if we aren’t careful, by rendering them more self centered and self serving in their actions because of the need they feel to have their every whim gratified.

All technologies are showing this need for instant gratification. Tivos allow TV to be made around our schedule, and not the other way around. Internet makes listening to that music you want possible without even so much as driving to the local music store. Email allows a letter to travel around the world in a few seconds. Facebook lets people know what others are doing without even talking to them.

Throughout the ages, this is what drove technological advancement; the desire to sell products to more people. This wasn’t really possible back in the days of artisans and craftsman. Every product was one of a kind, and only the nobles could afford such luxury. As the industrial revolution occurred, and mass production of products began to be commonplace, prices were able to drop to a point that most if not all could partake. There is nothing wrong with this, or anything wrong with wanting to buy products that make our lives easier or just for fun. But I think it is getting to a point where people let it consume them, and it becomes a lust that is ever-present in their thoughts. They want the newest car, the newest computer, the biggest house, etc. People don’t want to wait to enjoy these things, and are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to get it now, such as going into debt.

Even the food industry shows the signs of a people who don’t want to wait. Fast food has made the ritual of eating less about the experience, and more about the getting the food you want so fast that you don’t have to leave your car, and with as little human interaction as possible. I personally hate drive-throughs. I would much rather any day actually see a person face to face and talk to them.

I wish we as a society could enjoy the wait. I wish we would slow down our lives a little and enjoy each other instead of trying to one-up each other at all costs. Life is too short as it is. I don’t want to be too concerned with gratifying all of my material desires that I let life pass me by. It’s hard though. I must admit that I too have succumbed to the desire for instant gratification. I find that I often covet the newest and greatest technologies that I just can’t afford. But maybe that’s just human nature. Who knows?

Multi Touch

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008


Everyday I read something on a blog, like Engadget, about multi-touch. People are so excited about it as if it’s going to be the wave of the future. I don’t doubt that in a few years computers will all ship with a multi-touch capable displays, however, I don’t believe that it will revolutionize the way we create user input…

For myself, I’m not too keen on the idea of raising my arms at eye level in order to do simple tasks. My main computer is a desktop computer. I think that the mouse is a more effective, or at least in this case, the more efficient method of user input. I think a tablet PC is probably the more effective device for multi-touch implementation.

Another concern I have is the cleanliness factor. I spas-out when people touch my display. I don’t like smudges and fingerprints, so, why am I going to want to touch my display multiple times at a time every day? It means I’m going to have to clean my display with windex every time I use my computer. (I’m a little obsessive compulsive…) This really isn’t the biggest deal in the world, but it would bother me to some degree.

In all those demos, they have at least one example with the pictures that you can resize with 2 fingers. Every time I see that part of the demo, my enthusiasm for multi-touch goes down because that just doesn’t seem to be a productive way to organize, or even show off photos, but it rather just a fancy way of showing off the capabilities of multi-touch. As stated before, I’m OCD and want my photos nicely aligned to a grid with some sort of hierarchical organization. This isn’t a problem with multi-touch by any means, it’s just for me an ineffective way of convincing me that multi-touch will revolutionize the way I use my computer.

I do have to admit, multi-touch looks really cool, and I love seeing those demos. They make me excited and make me want to try it out. I just don’t see it becoming the main method for user input (at least on desktop computers), but more as a fun novelty. On the iPhone and iPod touch though and similar devices, I find multi-touch to be a perfectly logical and efficient way to interface. Just my thoughts.

Indiana Jones IV

Saturday, May 24th, 2008



Ok. I have to admit, I have always LOVED the Indiana Jones Movies! This movie was not exactly what I was anticipating at all. Regardless, I thought it was very entertaining, and I will of course add it to my video collection.

The negative:
The thing that disenchanted me throughout the film was the believability factor. To contrast, Raiders of the Lost Ark had some unbelievable scenes dealing with the mystical powers associated with the ark of the covenant. These scenes, although not representative of the reality we experience, represents the power we grew up learning about in Sunday school, and is thus familiar in one way or another and adds a layer of believability to the film. In the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the crux of the story revolves around aliens and perhaps a parallel universe. For me, it was seemingly more far fetched than previous films, of course many could say that the thuggee rituals and powers of religious artifacts from the original trilogy are just as outlandish. It’s just a matter of opinion. There were also some scenes where I was distracted by some obvious CGI work that took me out of the story. The monkeys looked fake, the sword fight looked fake, the warehouse looked fake, and no-one could survive a landing like that in a refrigerator, let alone an atomic blast. I’m being very nit-picky here, but these were the things that made the movie not perfect for me.

The positive:
Despite what I just said about the story, I really liked it. I liked the way the aliens were portrayed, and I like the postulations of alien intelligence giving knowledge to ancient people. It wasn’t too predictable, and the story wasn’t all revealed at the beginning. As for the action, it kept me excited, and there were lots of good fight scenes. Harrison Ford pulled off his character again after all these years, which I was originally worried about.

So, when all is said and done, I thought it was a great movie, and very entertaining. The story kept me enthralled, and the characters were all interesting and well played.

Opinions

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008


Opinions have such a powerful influence upon our actions and thoughts towards any subject we can possibly conceive. What is amazing is how quickly a person can form an opinion without any real knowledge on the subject. This may not seem significant, however that quickly-formed opinion can alter the decisions of that individual which can have a long term affect. The more I’ve thought about opinions, the more I’ve wanted to resist these quickly-formed opinions, and try to have an open mind until more knowledge is gained concerning the subject.

People seem to inherently want to know “what is truth.” When events occur that we do not understand immediately, or that we did not foresee, we ask “of what is this an instance?” Such a question is harmless, and may even spark research into the events causality. However, humans generally are cognitive misers and seek the path of least resistance. We want answers, and we want them now. Increasingly we expect answers at the click of a button, or at the search of Google. If we don’t get it, we make it up on Wikipedia. When answers are not clear, it is my belief that we gravitate to something or anything that has even the prospect of explaining the event’s purpose or causality. It’s as if humans love to be right, hate to be wrong, but just absolutely cannot stand being without an opinion. It’s as if we must belong to a school of thought, regardless of what it is, to avoid the dismal abyss that is neutral-ground. This insistence to claim what is right, even if we are wrong does not exist only at the individual level. In fact, it very-well may be a socially constructed phenomenon. Regardless of its origin, opinion-setting is commonplace. An example of opinion setting is found in contemporary American politics. Candidates can be Red, or they can be Blue, but shame on you if you are Purple. A candidate (or any “true” party member for that matter) must be committed to an ideology. Never mind what that is, just make sure you are committed. Because America will NOT accept the middle-ground. It’s a classic, “you’re either with us, or against us.” This example is not perfect, because good does come from a competitive election process, and my beef with opinions is not at all in advocacy of unaffiliated ignorance. To the contrary, I believe that opinions SHOULD be made, but not the way that they most commonly are made, and not with the binding and unyielding insistence that most of us ascribe to our opinions.

Many factors determine the opinions that a person makes. Social situations such as family, religion, income level, neighborhood, and education have great impact on what or how an individual thinks. As a person is raised, the thoughts and opinions of the parents expressed in everyday life are thrown upon a child who is very impressionable. Children, being so trusting, are quick to adopt the ideals thoughts and opinions of their parents. Granted that not in every case this is true, but in many nurturing homes the apple does not fall far from the tree.

The real problem is that no opinions are right or wrong once you go outside of the scope of the person whose opinion it is. An opinion can be proven through experimentation or trial and error to become a fact, or truth. This of course depends on the type of opinion. In such cases, it might be better to classify them as hypotheses rather than opinions. In any case, at such a point, it ceases to be an opinion and become a fact.

People with their opinions are so quick to berate those with whom their opinions clash. I find that some people defend their own opinions (even those quickly-formed without any real research) to the point of ridiculing and mocking others. Why are some people prone to do that? Are they searching for self-validation in the destroying of other’s self-confidence? Perhaps they are trying to convince themselves of their surety by taking such an aggressive stance. In any case, it is rude and prevents the possible growth that can be gained by listening to other’s opinions in order to understand why they think or believe a certain way. In some cases a truly opened mind may be changed by such an action. I find myself very interested in understanding what people think and I feel that I have grown and understand people better in general. It’s very interesting and enlightening. It’s interesting to see the correlations in opinions on different subjects between people of different races or religions. It’s like a sociological experiment.

I suppose that my point in writing this is to show the value that I find in trying to understand people rather than to convince everyone that I am right about everything. Of course, that’s just my opinion…

Blame

Tuesday, May 20th, 2008


It seems to me that humans don’t like to take responsibility for their actions. The main reason that I can see for this is that people don’t want to suffer any negative repercussions or punishments from not successfully accomplishing a task given to them. We are so afraid of looking bad to our peers and superiors, or even subordinates, that we tend to look for others to place the blame on, whether rightfully or not.

When a person is able to admit that he has made a mistake, I have to respect him because that shows that honesty and integrity have been made more important than one’s selfish inner desire to find a scape goat. The ability to accept one’s consequences rather than scurry to find a way out of a mistake should be more admired in our society. It is something I find more and more rare. Every day it seems that some corporate big-shot is trying to cover a paper-trail so he doesn’t get indicted…

I recently read an article about the impact of doctors saying, “I’m sorry” to patients. By being upfront with the patients, and admitting guilt as it were by apologizing patients were less likely to prosecute, less malpractice suits were filed, and more money was saved rather than spent in legal battles. I was thinking about it, and thought back to my previous thoughts on taking responsibility for one’s actions and/or mistakes.

I was discussing this topic with my friend Joe Johnson who pointed out that Adam, when asked what he had done blamed the woman who had given it to him. Eve, when asked what she had done, blamed the wily serpent. When it came to the serpent, he said, in effect, that everyone else was doing it, so therefore it was ok. The inability to accept responsibility seems to be universal, and to have existed since the dawn of time.

In any event, I think the most admired people in our society haven’t been the ones pointing fingers, but the ones who have accepted responsibility for their actions, and who have endeavored to learn from their mistakes and become better people.

KOHL’S Customer Service

Monday, May 19th, 2008


I must say, a tip of the hat to Kohl’s customer service is deserved. Last september I purchased 2 pairs of jeans from Kohl’s. Both were Lee jeans of similar style, but differing color. 8 months later, I was dismayed to find that one pair had grown a large hole whilst the other appeared to look new. I don’t do a lot of strenuous labor, and was therefore surprised to find such wear on a product. I decided to take it to Kohl’s and see if there was anything they could do. I was quite pleasantly surprised to find that both representatives I talked to were more than happy to allow me to exchange the pants out with new ones at no charge. I must say that I was not expecting such service.Although I was really expecting to shell out more money for a new pair of pants, this is the type of service we should expect. They have succeeded in acquiring a repeat customer. Thanks!

The Dark Side

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

Throughout my life I have heard some speculate that indeed the Dark Side is the lesser evil in the battle between good and evil. The reasons they suppose this are because of the ultimate goal that the Dark Side has. These are made evident during Darth Vader’s dialogue when he tries to convince Luke to join him. He says,

“…With our combined strength, we can end this destructive conflict and bring order to the galaxy… Join me, and we can rule the galaxy as father and son. Come with me. It’s the only way.”

Darth Vader reveals that the reason they want to rule is to bring peace and order to the galaxy. From the opposite end of the spectrum, people also show that the rebels are “needlessly destructive.” For example, when they destroyed the second Death Star, how many people did they kill who were not part of the Empire, but who were just innocent workers doing a job? Mind you that the Death Star was under construction at the time.

These points look kind of valid at first, however it is still my opinion that the Dark Side is the evil choice when it comes to philosophy. Although their end goal seems respectable, I do not believe that the ends justify the means. They wish to in effect force people to be peaceful. Frankly, I don’t think any dictatorship where people lose the right to make choices and forced to have peace is justified. We as humans have our unalienable right to choose. I have to say that this path of least resistance to peace is not noble nor in any way a good thing. Peace can only really come from within a society due to a certain respect of other people, not from the top down because we have guns to our heads. However, are the rebels justified in their destruction of so many lives in order to keep freedom a possibility throughout the galaxy? I think so. Had they not done anything, the Empire would have won. Had they waited till the second Death Star was completed, it would have been too powerful to stage an attack. So, I do think they did the right thing.

Then again, it is just a movie… Thanks for listening.

Mac vs. Windows…

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008

My university recently had an entire newspaper dedicated to the “battle” between Macs and PCs. I must say that I had some qualms with a few of their points, as-well with the overall message that the newspaper delivered. I was going to write a letter to the editor and explain how I felt, however, the time has passed, therefore I shall write about it here.

One recent “study” that PC users are all too eager to talk about is that of a personality profiling of Mac users the shows that they are “more liberal, less modest, and more assured of their own superiority than the population at large.” In addition, the “survey” indicates that Apple users have high indexes for “low modesty,” “high perfectionism,” and “high superiority,” and low indexes for things like “humility,” and “self esteem.” What they forget to mention is where this sample of 7,500 individuals was collected. All of these individuals were tested at the Macworld San Francisco Expo. May I remind people that the tickets to that event can run about as much as $1600.00 (or more), more than my MacBook costs. So, what does that tell us about the people in attendance? I think we can safely say that not all Mac users can be put into the same category as those who were profiled! I certainly couldn’t fit in. I can’t afford to go!

Another aspect of these articles presented in my school’s newspaper that didn’t agree with me was that of their choice of selection of interviewees for the Macintosh platform. Back in the MacOS 7 days the Macintosh community had a smaller market share and there were fewer Mac Users. This created a feeling of unity and brotherhood amongst those few who owned and loved their Macs. Whenever one Mac user would meet another, an instant friendship became. With the ever-growing popularity of the Macintosh platform, this feeling of brotherhood has slowly disintegrated. Having a Mac now-a-days is practically a fad or trendy. Many of the users aren’t hard-core but rather buy them because “they’re pretty,” or “my daddy bought it for me…” These types of people were interviewed and asked why they preferred Macs. No intelligible answers were made. Surprise.

For myself, there are several reasons that the Macintosh platform appeals to me. For starters is the lifetime of the products. I have several computer that are quite old that continue to work. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t upgraded in order to have a newer machine, however my first G4, which was purchased in 2001 (used) is still capable of running the most current OS, Leopard. It’s quite snappy too. Apple is known for supporting products for a minimum of 5 years, which is more than the average person would use a computer without upgrading.

Apple continues support for legacy products for a long time, creating smooth transitions. When Apple was about to make the jump from Mac OS 9 to Mac OS X, the thought of losing all of my current applications made me uneasy, however Apple kindly created a method of keeping legacy applications running through a layer of emulation called “Classic.” This classic support lasted for 7 years through OS X Tiger. Apple also recently made the transition from Motorola based CPUs to Intel. This change in architecture required the recompiling of applications and also numerous tweaks for existing applications to work. Once again Apple provided a layer of emulation called “Rosetta” which enabled applications compiled for Motorola processors to continue to work. This seamless integration allowed for smooth transitions. I never had any hiccups along the way.

Another reason I like to use Apple’s systems is that the hardware and software is designed by the same company. The hardware never has driver issues. All the drivers are built into the system and maintained by Apple, and updated whenever needed. There is just one DVD to install the system. Nothing beyond that initial installation is required to gain full access to the computers capabilities. Many printer drivers are already supplied. Both of my HP printers plugged in and printed without installation of any kind. It’s this integration that appeals so much to me.

Another reason I like the Mac OS is the organization of files (especially system files). Apple has a very clean way of placing files in places that make sense. Nothing hidden or tricky. It’s just all there. Applications are contained in files called packages which are just containers with all the unsightly extra files inside like support files etc. Nothing bugs me more than installing a program and having 20 files that they don’t want me to touch along side with my application that I want. I think this organization has made for a better looking more straightforward interface.

Lastly, I very much like the way Apple allows for multi-tasking. I like that windows don’t automatically take up the whole screen, that it is easy to switch between applications with features like exposé and spaces, and that items in the dock give a graphical preview, (which is live I might add), of the programs running. Obviously Vista now has many of these features, but I like and am used to Apples implementation, which I have been enjoying for many years.

My last point I’d like to touch on is rather the question, “why must these operating systems be put to battle?” I mean honestly, is one better than the other? The answer cannot be made clean cut and dry. It all boils down to one’s opinion. As for myself, I prefer the Macintosh philosophy in organization and presentation as I have previously discussed. It better suites me, and the things for which I like to use a computer. I like running Adobe software, and doing those creative things that Macs are known for. I don’t however look down on or hate people who find PCs to be the more productive machines for what they like to do. I don’t know why people always pit their opinions against each other. It just seems so childish to me. I do like to joke with friends about getting Macs or what-not, but in all reality they know, or at least I hope the know, that their personal choice for computing platform doesn’t change my opinion or friendship with them.