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Photos by Salty Palette

Put a few things aside in the attic I wanted to keep. It’s like a museum piece, a memorabilia, signifying my digital awakening. Apparently, I’d set it aside amongst all those items I’d purged from the house. At the time it must have seemed important.

The name plate says Commodore 1541. It’s the wildly popular computer system that took the world by storm.  Obsolete Technology  says it was  sold first in January 1982. For purists, mine was made in Japan. It’s medium brown with rainbow bars across the head. It has a door for a large floppy, which I was so proud to own back then. The floppy was loaded with DOS, and if I remember correctly I could swap floppies, and store text or play a game. Found this thing at the old house.

My daughter brought it to me with a handful of books, and some family pictures. She had a car load of her own stuff but she hauled it eight hundred miles, and presented it to me like a long lost trophy. “I knew you’d want this.” It was packaged in a white box with the words Commodore Computer, Single Disk Drive written in large letters on the front.

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I didn’t recognize it at first until I unboxed it. Let me first say that I belong to that inexplicable set of people known as the “cult of unboxers” who like to watch home videos of nerds opening new technology gadgets. So, whether I could place this bit of nerdology or not, it was an unboxing and I was too happily busy to record it.

The box was musty and it’s second unboxing made my head swimmy. I stared at it for a long time like a stranger who after a bit of looking materialized into someone I once knew. And then it clicked, the chunk of metal stored in its original card board sleeve wrapped in Styrofoam, in good shape with the exception of a minor scuff on the top was an old friend.

Where did I get this? When did I buy it. I can remember every desktop computer system I’ve ever bought or built, and only two were bought, not counting my laptops. It took me back to when bits were so precious that spaces were counted and sentences shortened to save space on the disk. I’d thrown the large program floppy away, the one that held the operating system. The keyboard is gone, only the fourteen inch floppy drive remains.

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I remember how I felt when I saw this thing that cost a pittance, three-hundred-fifty dollars. Disbelief, joy, hustle, impatience to buy; I was breathless, not an exaggeration. It was actually a portable device, maybe five pounds, it wasn’t a main frame, it didn’t cost in the thousands of dollars. I could afford it.

I could actually own a bona fide computer. The screen might have been green with a block cursor that made a noise when the keys were banged. It didn’t seem like much of a system years later after Windows 3.1 with DOS 7, but then . . oh my!

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The system I remember didn’t have a real mouse, and oh, how I yearned for a mouse. This incredible piece of art came between my leaving and my getting a job, the custody battle, and a whole lot of history in only a few years. This little jewel gave me the first hint of knowledge that later I’d need to make a living.

Did I buy this thing before or after the divorce? That’s important. I have trouble remembering the ’80s. I was writing and fighting for my independence. I’d won a trip to a writer’s conference. Snatches, glimpses, foggy inklings come back to me. It’s a black hole, those memories for good reason.

A memory edges in, furtive, here and there, like a dog that you’ve scolded. It’s not sure whether it’s welcome but it slinks in any way. Forgive me if I don’t get this memory exactly right but there were disruptive changes happening in the computer industry and in my life.

It was 1978, and in a few months I’d get hellacious waves of morning sickness all day long with my third child, now that my two other children were both in school, now that I could take basic classes toward a degree in journalism, and explore computer languages, which were all any one could talk about, I was pregnant.

It’d wouldn’t be easy, but with help I could do it — drive two hours to the closest college to become a journalist. In a little over six-weeks the plans I’d held for ten years, crashed and burned. The brutal commute, morning sickness and a child, I could navigate – the other stuff, well.

Another memory – was it winter 1983? I was sitting with dozen other folks at the local Votech taking a night class in C++ I think it. Mr. Z., a computer programmer, Italian descent, taught a class in code. Again it’s vague. But that cruelly cold night was my introduction to computer systems. Rusty, my computer mate, was a natural at programming. I hung to his coding coattail, as he patiently explained the steps.

The class overflowed with adult students like Randy who worked at a coal mine on shifts that left him on the verge of sleep when he got there. There were maybe a dozen computers stuck so close together that our backs touched if we turned a bit. I finished the class got a certificate.

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Ah, now I remember. Mr. Z. introduced me to my first ever computer, the Commodore 1541 from Japan. He had a small computer supply store. It took 45 minutes to drive there — mountains you know, two lane highways that should have been one lane, they were so narrow, and coal trucks who took the road, slopping pieces of coal at your windshield, daring you to hold your side of the road, and don’t get me started on the logging trucks which didn’t have enough power or speed to travel more than 15 mph loaded. There’s a cliff on one side and a drop off that’ll land a car in the river on the other, and lots of gravel to slide through the hairpin turns.

The Sears electric machine with digital correction was showing it’s age. My Commodore 1541 supplemented my digital word processor from Sears Roebuck & Co. I didn’t have a printer but I had a computer. I could write a journal on it or write drafts for papers. I could get my thoughts down faster, rearrange my ideas, check my spelling with a paper dictionary, then type it out on the Electric. The Commodore improved upon a typewriter as far as I was concerned, but I was a bit-head from the beginning.

The next system I owned was a Windows 3.1, 386 (maybe) that needed DOS to boot. I made a six hour trip to the nearest computer business, and the owner built my first Windows computer. I was divorced, I had custody of my daughter, the last child at home. I had a job in publishing, I had a new love. He asked do I want a diamond ring or a mink coat for my birthday. I said I want a Windows 95 computer and a printer, and of course it had to have a freakn’ mouse. He shipped a never-been-used Windows computer system and printer with a bona fide mouse, and I never looked back. At the time, they were both the love of my life. Since then it’s Linux all the way. Ubuntu lately.

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This guy’s book will cost 0.1 Bitcoin or approx. 2700 ripples if you care to convert your hoard to Bitcoin, which is about $11.64 (amirite or amiwrong?) When the book debuts on Amazon June 3, 2013,  it will cost $4.99 on Whisper net. It’s available pre-order on Amazon, only.

If anyone orders this book would you please let me know how easy (difficult) it was to buy the first book w/ Bitcoin.

BIOGRAPHY

CHOOSING YOURSELF by James Altucher, James Altucher is an American hedge fund manager, entrepreneur, and author. He has founded or cofounded over 20 companies, including Reset Inc. and StockPickr. Wikipedia

Found “Choose Yourself” review in a BUSINESS INSIDER story.

ALTUCHER QUOTE

I’ve made money, I’ve lost money. I’ve lost my home/family/friends. I’ve made some of the above back. I’ve gotten really lucky. Several times. With determination I’ll make it stick, and I think you will also.

 

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Internet computer conversation has changed. I like to tinker. But, lately, it’s like standing in a room full of people chatting up something interesting like Mountain Lion 10.8 OS X when without notice you are alone. Everyone suddenly exits to see something more exciting outside the building. You wonder over to the window to see what all the babel is about. On the lawn techies are crowding around this seven-inch rectangular mirror thing that’s got everyone mesmerized. No mess of cords: simplicity.

That’s how I felt as a tinkerer before Nexus 7 Tablet arrived at my place. Alone, behind times. OS X was no longer fresh. I was on the line about abandoning Snow Leopard 10.6.8Mountain Lion 10.8 was more of the same, a buggy system that requires updates to fix the bugs that the last version didn’t fix. Shades of Windows. My 2006 Intel dual core PC is to this day a work horse, ahead of it’s time when I bought the $1500 motherboard and power supply fashionably ensconced in what is still a bad ass black X Blade case.

It became clearer everyday that if I wanted to stay current with OS X I had to buy more hardware like a sound card, video, or buy a motherboard, and Mountain Lion OS software. I adopted a used Mac desktop from a family member who couldn’t fix it. It just quit. Took it apart to find a tiny bit of solder missing on a fragile metal object that made it not fixable, at least by me.

Windows 7 shelf date came and went, OS X grew a dull patina starting with boot, too. When Google Chrome developers decided to dump OS X Chrome browser, and it acted finicky when video played, that was it. What is a middling, not serious tinkerer to do? Buy a $180 video card. Throw good money after bad? TonyMacX86, goodbye. You’ve been a great site!

I de-tethered from my desktop. I want battery life that is as promised. Nexus 7 has 10-11 hour sustainable battery power. My HP Pavilion DV7 lasted three hours when it was new. Writing a simple column on battery only was a pain. No goofing off with housework to return to a black screen from where the battery had fully discharged, and lost text.

In two years the HP battery was dead, anyway. I either had to spend more dollars to replace it or stay hooked to an outlet. That’s for a device that is stationary, runs too hot to balance on my lap, and runs the power hogging OS, Windows 7. HP runs Ubuntu or a Linux, too, of course, and can do OS X, but like Windows those have lost luster. Drag that five pound monster to Starbucks, and all the fun is missing.

I wanted a genuinely portable tablet like the Amazon Fire, like the one I bought for my daughter. Kindle Fire is has an elegant design, limited browsing power but is a damn good first in an affordable 8 GB tablet. Ever since I booted the Kindle I’ve wanted to break it, to root it, but since it was her gift, bricking was not in the spirit of the gift. This spring Google announced Nexus 7. The reviews read like every nerd’s dream, every spec covered most of my bases, and those things that were not covered, new apps like the Nexus Media Importer and the new OTG hardware hack written about on forums, made possible the last wish on my list.

The final Lego fell into place when Larry Page (I think) dropped a tidbit about wired Ethernet as a possibility. A hack made possible by the On The Go or OTG cable. Our Internet is wired. If I were to run the wireless I had to interrupt the household Internet for fifteen minutes to get online for minimal browsing, and email. OTG, an unpublicized option, made my decision final. The Nexus 7 Tablet 16 GB was my next computer system. I didn’t have the cash to spend upgrading hopelessly clunky systems.

The OTG cable hooked into Ethernet, and a 50 ft. cable, LOL. (and Belkin USB Ethernet adapter.) A wireless tablet is nice but a wired tablet is really nice. I wanted the option to tether my phone, ditto. Bluetooth, ditto. I wanted the option to type on a keyboard for speed or thumb-type-touch for convenience. I wanted to connect at Starbucks without weight or complexity. And I wanted to try the apps tech writers raved about.

Google gave a $25.00 gift certificate to spend on Google Play with purchase. Spending someone else’s money is fun I’ve got to tell you. Google’s money was spent well. It was a win/win. Google educated me about their App Store and Google Wallet in a direct meaningful way that it would have taken me years to get to.

I bought my first apps, yes, I know this is sad, but these were the first Apps I’d needed to buy since I own an inexpensive Samsung phone. I have never owned an iPhone or iPad, nor have I wanted to own one. Those systems are too slick — to limiting — too expensive.

A big chunk went to Quick Office. And a good choice for a writer. At first it didn’t seem that way. Now, after three weeks, Quick office is a ritual. After I check my email, browse the news, I open Office to write. I get a choice in file formats.

I save doc files compatible with 1997-2003 Office — my current software version. Upload the docs to Google drive or email them to my personal email account without ever exposing my business account to Android’s ever-open email access. Download the files to my HP laptop, which is looking useful again, and print them. Or I could print them from the cloud. Or upload posts to my blogsite Technosociofile.blogspot.com. The Nexus 7 Android OS, Jelly Bean 4.1, ecosystem is consumer friendly.

Google has thought the Nexus 7 Tablet strategy through. They’ve integrated their ecosystem, which is remarkably like the one I want, to make email simple, browsing fast, an ecosystem that has open frontiers to explore. It’s not a walled-in community on the level that Amazon built.

Kindle books are a must. The reader is backlit. Kindle is awesome on Nexus 7. Sunlight. I can sit under the canopy at Starbucks to type or browse. Google needs a shipping and customer infrastructure to match their product but as a frontier-settler-nerd this works exceptionally well for me. I had one disappointment.

The Nexus 7 official case covers were sold out at $20. I ordered the swiss army knife for Nexus covers from a company named CrazyOnDigital, described as a “Rotating Stand Leather Case Cover for Google Nexus 7 Tablet (Black)[Smart Cover Function: Automatically Wakes and Puts the Nexus 7 to Sleep” from Amazon. Got it in a few days at a cost of $14.85. And it absolutely revolutionized productivity on the Nexus.

And, behold another computer system has come to my attention, the Raspberry Pi. Gotta have the $35 credit card size motherboard to make a HDMI home theater. Android Ice Cream Sandwich works for video on the Raspberry Pi. If only it played sound. Google’s AudioFlinger is missing. Debian works pretty good for now. Oh, well, another day. Another OS. Reprint from defunct blog at blogspot.com.

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BURNING THE PAGE: THE EBOOK REVOLUTION AND THE FUTURE OF READING. It shows us how magic came to be. It tells the story about a modern day sorcerer, Jason Merkoski, who spent his life working on the “front lines of the ebook revolution.”

Like FAHRENHEIT 451 the page was burnt, destroyed in the most anarchic invention in the twenty-first century, the Kindle book. To save the page it was deconstructed from atoms, and resurrected to bits.

From paper to zeros and ones. From print to Kindle, and later from bits to bits, conceived on a screen and published onscreen. James Merkoski and the Amazon team quietly changed our lives, and changed a world-wide paradigm that’s been the thread woven into our daily life for centuries – the bound book.

It’s a narrative about the Kindle-dot-com – Amazon, about “Google, Jeff Bezos, and the ghost of Gutenberg. It’s a true story of the eBook revolution—what eBooks are and what they mean for you and me, for our future, and for reading itself,” but mostly it’s the intimate memoir of an inventor entwined w/ the memoir of the Gutenberg invention, the book from beginning to present.

It’s a love letter written to the book as we’ve known it and an elegy to it’s passing. It’s an imaginative glimpse into the new technology that has revolutionized reading and writing books; it is the socialization of books.

Digital books were available before the Kindle; only the Kindle caused a revolution in reading. Before that digital texts were the province of disparate publishers of history books, technical manuals, and fiction books, mostly from established writers like Stephen King. eBook publishing was reserved for the few forward thinkers, sometimes self-publishers, the techno-savvy who, early on, published eBooks in the digital space as a PDF file, a file both awkward and serviceable. The personal Kindle reader, and app, and the flexible-format MOBI file revolutionized eBooks.

The Kindle incarnation proved it could almost displace the much-loved book bound in leather, paper, and cloth with distinct smells and feels, and an almost living presence to bibliophiles. It begrudgingly won us over.

Burning the Page carries forward this astounding history that has happened right under our noses, in writing, story, and a style that begets “pastness, presentness, and futureness, joined by association” tying all these concepts together. It’s a complex style that works as best I can describe it.

Amazon Kindle books have breached the “third digital revolution” described by Neil Gershenfeld, “in which matter and information merge”, where things are turned into bits and bits are turned into things. James Merkoski captured a Gutenberg moment in his book just as one epoch is ending and another beginning. Book lovers and Technosociofiles will not want to miss this one.

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Bit Coin fascinates me not because it is a get-rich-scheme or a convenient way to buy weed off the grid, which I don’t smoke, but don’t mind if anyone else does, or because I’m a Libertarian with gold on hand, I’m not. Bit Coins are the perfect storm heading our way, and the perfect opportunity.

Bit Coins or Bit currencies are the tip of the “Fat Tail.” Fat tails “are events that appear highly unlikely to occur but that are earth-moving when they do.” Bit coin is the Cat 5 hurricane coming to you and me in the next five to ten years. It could be your best friend or your worst enemy depending on how world wide acceptance shakes out.

Bit currency is an emergent electronic payment system similar to Pay-Pal, which is an over simplistic way towards explaining it but about the best I can do. It’s an electronic money system whereby we all could become merchants. It’s a system where a few law abiding entrepreneurs now pay for a pizza or buy a WordPress site or sell yard sale items without a credit card or without cash. It’s a money-medium that’s convenient for not-so law-abiding people to buy and sell items, or move money they don’t want traced. It’s a money system without bill collectors. It’s permanent; you can’t get your money back. All sales are final.

Speculators are drawn to it. It has a future. It’s security is okay — that is until you cash out your cyber bits in exchange for dollars. That’s a crack in the system right now. There are robbers waiting to take your money when you cash out. It helps if you’re tech savvy. And, oh yea, speculators may try to crash the currency so they can buy it back from you when the price drops like it recently did. Or you may lose your encrypted back up file or accidentally wipe it out, and your Bit coins are gone. Yet, this nascent system is the tail end of the hurricane.

Since it’s an emergent system, it’s also similar to a snowflake or a termite cathedral or DNA replication or Wolfram’s computations where a pattern begins simply but generates complex designs over replication. Like DNA something pleasing might come from it like a baby or like the termite cathedral something not altogether likable. Emergent systems like Bit Coin don’t emerge in a vacuum, they bring other systems to the forefront with them, hence complexity.

Eric Schmidt, Googleplex person, says that by 2020 the entire world will be online. If so, we will want to buy and sell from our neighbors, which will include the entire world, which will require other emergent systems as helpers. If that’s so, a fairly secure Bit currency is going to be necessary, a stronger Maker culture will most likely be put in place, and a faster transportation system might have evolved.

We’ll need a world wide communication system to propel the buying and selling, and making, and a same day world wide system for delivery of concrete goods, and a maybe an unsettling shift in government. But like termites when disturbed governments are self-organizing, and seem to fare well after turmoil, coming back stronger and we should hope, more democratized.

A fairly secure Bit currency: Fairly secure but not absolutely secure Bit currency with a fast connection, and maybe free phones, is all that’s keeping us from buying instant art from an African artist in Timbuktu or hand knit wool socks from North Korea (well maybe more). The network doesn’t need to be absolutely secure, just secure enough. If products were cheap enough that I could afford to lose money on a small percentage of my purchases or sales, then it would would work as a currency. If we accepted a small loss it could work. It might be called fuzzy accounting for Bit currency instead of bank or credit card accounting where each penny is accounted for, and an over-priced transaction fee is charged.

A healthy Maker culture: Couple Bit currency/micro payments with a home or community based, Maker printer, and an artist living in Timbuktu, Africa, could send me her sculpture plan, created in her village, or the North Korean, homemaker could send me his sock design created in his village, ready to print anywhere in the world on a Maker printer in any suitable medium, be it yarn, wood, plastic, or steel. Or if the fat tail is really fat, and imaginative, those original North Korean socks could be delivered same day by a transport fueled with a NASA UW fusion rocket recently proposed to reach Mars within 30 days. Far fetched, maybe, but … I’m still waiting for my robot.

So, why should Bit currency matter to you and me? Bit currency is an emerging technology that’s going to revolutionize commerce. It may not stay in the present form but mutate into something we haven’t anticipated yet. Whatever it is when Bit Coin was unleashed it was like going through a gate that had a one way spring, there is no going back — Bit currency is here, and it’s a reality. Oh, yea, there are going to be Bit currency billionaires made just like railroad moguls and oil barons. Wouldn’t you like to be one of them.

It’s a circus this morning. Opened up my digital wallet, BitCoinSpinner. One Bitcoin’s worth $69.11 at this moment.  It dropped like a rock from $266.00. A new sheriff is in town – Ripple backed by Silicon Valley behemoths announced they were releasing into the wild 50 billion coins in May for those who sign up. A new posse is trading up Bitcoins for Ripples this morning, raking gravy from the nerd-famous, volatile currency for drug lords, libertarians, and those who can’t help themselves. Mt. Gox sounds like a biblical place but it’s the Japan based home for a centralized, math-based, coin exchange. Looks like the Winklevoss twins have saved the day or BitCoin currency I should say. The trade slide has stopped for now, the wounds cauterized. Watching the currencies battle it out is like watching a new sport for the new decade — Bitcoin-ball.

Bitcoin has received its most high-profile endorsement yet as the Winklevoss twins, famous for their legal battle with Facebook, reveal they could be the largest holders of the controversial digital currency – just as the bubble bursts and the price plummets.

Somehow during a phone conversation I wandered into Nick Bilton’s Twitter feed. He writes Bits column for the New York Times. While I’m talking and clicking I tweeted that I’d read the first chapter of Burning the Page. Twitter message pops up goes something like your account has been revoked. Oh, well, big deal. It took me just a second after my phone conversation ended to see I had interrupted Bilton’s conversation tweeting about a book he may or may not review. Am I an unintentional spammer or just damn rude? Burning The Page: The eBook revolution and the future of reading is already on the Huffington Post this morning. Nick if you read this, sorry ’bout that.

Burning The Page” is a great name for a book, especially if it’s by Jason Merkoski, book innovator who worked on the Kindle team to bring us eBooks on reading devices. So, far I’ve read the first chapter, and it’s yellow with highlights on “far off futuristic ideas.” I got sidetracked though. Merkoski added a hyperlink to Twitter for gifts like a digitally-autographed cover for his book. Ooh, proper good, and wicked keen idea his, this Reading 2.0.

Only thing is I’m antisocial, and resist Twitter. I’m a novice. Technosociofile has a slightly used account, so much so that Twitter sends me an email saying it’s good to see you, it’s been sometime since you joined in the conversation. But Merkoski’s autograph lured me to Twitter.

Bilton’s feed is the only Twitter Feed that I follow. He gets the futuristic stuff right in his column. I read his referrals. I am embarrassed to say as a Technosociofile that a social network that’s as widespread as Twitter is pointless to me. I’m such a privacy freak that I break out in hives near Facebook, and like fellow techie-paranoids, I wipe out my last web info with the Google tool that asks if I want to erase it from the beginning of time. If I had more time I’d spend it tearing down my system and rebuilding it again, not Twittering.

What Twitter does give me is long form journalism in the form of Bilton’s excellent Tweets. So, I’ll pursue the in-depth stories through my email alerts for Bilton’s Tweets where I don’t sign on, and refresh that which should not be refreshed — Tweets. In the meantime, I’m anxious to get to chapter two of “Burning The Page.”

Saltypalette coins Technosociofile in Urban Dictionary.

Saltypalette coins Technosociofile in Urban Dictionary.

Technosociofile

Subspecies of nerd primarily interested in digital technology and the social implications and applications in a wired world. (Abbreviated TSF) A technosciofile may fall on a spectrum anywhere from “techie” to “socio.” May have issues with authority.

Type of benign hacktivist. Not exactly white-hat but not exactly malicious either. Some may seek notoriety.

“Just because you steal Wifi to watch Colbert, it doesn’t make you a technosciofile.”

“You may be a technosociofile if… you’re fascinated by Anonymous and paranoid about the FBI.”

RDIO APP

TV is last century. It might hang around like radio. I cut the cord long ago. Ah, forgot about RDIO! compliments of Nick Bilton’s tweet for his Bits column, Test Run: Rdio vs. Spotify in the New York Times. Installed the PC and the Android app yesterday. It will clean the air pollution. TV pollutes the air. RDIO masks the sound, blunts it. New music.

The Writing desk

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My white cup has black tea in the bottom. I’m at my desk, I can hear them. I know her, Isabella, our cat, and I know him, and I know Sunday mornings in the in-the-routine way that peaceful households are alike. She’s wrapping herself around his legs; he’s pattering to her, something inconsequential. The artist among us is still dreaming in abstracts.

My tax stuff sits in sight. Speakers lay sideways, collapsed on the desk entwined like a set of crossed fingers. Dvendra Banhart song plays on RDIO. A twenty-two inch monitor, a purple, half-inch storage cylinder for my tooth cap that came off w/ a caramel hard candy, a clotted canister coated with lotion, a bottle of bilberry sups to forestall the loss-of-light cones in my green eyes, hard bound notebooks to scratch notes in from books I read, short story ideas, and tasks to complete, mundane everyday stuff done over and over.

DVDs in a stack, spring water in plastic at hand on my right like a flask protecting me from thirst on a prolonged journey, the bottle beading drops of dew on mom’s oak desk, her long gone DNA captured in hand-applied varnish. My feet crossed at the ankles resting beside my laptop that’s switched on less and less since owning a tablet. A black HP keyboard w/ the stuck shift key damaged when it took a tumble when I got my toe tangled in the cord.

All the clutter I collect around me claims me. I have to see this stuff. It comforts me. I don’t want matching objects. I prefer asymmetry to balance. I prefer intermittent chaos to stagnation. I prefer change. Change is lop-sided. Even change doesn’t stay that way. It gets more symmetrical as stability rolls in.