Off my game and cranky

I’ve soooooooo been off my game lately. Not that I’m complaining per say, but it’s starting to get a little ridiculous at this point. For the last several weeks I’ve consistently been thinking about technology and how it’s literally invaded the lives of everyone around me. I realized just how pervasive technology has been during the weekend teaching my daughter how to dial a phone number on a spare mobile phone we just activated for her to use when we’re not home or out on errands. I went back to my childhood and realized that I’d known how to use a telephone (ones attached to wires, hanging on the wall…..i’m old) around 7 or 8. Those were the days when you called someone and if they didn’t answer, no one was home. Getting in touch with someone was a crapshoot because the phones were stationary for the most part.

Back to my daughter, teaching her how to dial a phone number. She grabbed the phone out of my hand saying “I know how to make a phone call” then stared at the screen after going into the phone app. Well, she didn’t know and smartbutt had to give the phone back to me. I showed her where to dial in the number, how to select someone from the contacts list and how to add someone to the contacts list. There is a parental control app that monitors who gets added so I or my wife can approve/block/delete before she sees it if we feel it’s not appropriate. I showed her that only numbers in the contact list are allowed to ring through, all others are blocked. Really a slick app that I have installed in Parent mode on my own mobile phone. She complained until I told her she won’t have control of her own phone until she pays for her own phone, so the complaining was brief. A locked down phone is better than no phone I guess. Where is the drive to want to learn how things work?

I know how to use computers, technology in general, because I want to learn how they work and how to use them. Technology was a new thing for my generation and for those that took to it, bleeding edge stuff, its been a life filled with learning. Technology being pervasive and having invaded our lives completely, the drive to learn how things work and how to use them has diminished greatly. My daughter doesn’t want to know how the laptop works as long as the power button turns the thing on and takes her to her apps/games. She also doesn’t care how the Xbox works as long as it powers on and connects her to YouTube so she can watch stupid videos of other people recording themselves playing Minecraft. She has asked no less than 10 times for me to create a profile for her friend on our Xbox that I’ve refused to do with the statement “Figure it out on your own, you’ll thank me later.” She hasn’t even tried.

All this brings me to my off gameness. For the last two decades I’ve lived, eaten and breathed technology in all aspects. How quickly it has changed just in the last year or so makes me question whether it’s actually made my life better or not. I don’t talk with my wife while she’s on her phone, I refuse to compete with a glowing screen. I don’t ask my daughter to do anything while there is a screen, any screen, lit up in her line of sight. I also deleted Facebook, as you all know already, because there is nothing social about connecting with people through an application or website virtually. Many people my age, as I’ve read and talked to, are getting to the same point with the technology in their lives. I’ve even curtailed the amount of television I stream because, honestly, the content is getting contrived and commercialized. Watch Bill Nye Saves the World on Netflix and you’ll understand what I’m talking about. I was a huge fan of Bill Nye The Science Guy back in the day by the way. I was disappointed with his new show.

Technology and me will be having a heart to heart very soon in the near future I think. I don’t think technology has good odds. Time will be the ultimate judge.

Tech only a President could love

I bet with a new Monday/Thursday schedule, and the touted “inauguration to end all inaugurations” now over, the first Monday post I make would be about that.  Well, I’m a geek, and an introvert, so I need time to process the circus from this past weekend.

Given that all the attention has been on the inauguration, I was extremely happy to see an article published on the Presidents use of his smartphone late last week.  Trump currently uses a commercially available Android device that became a massive national security threat once he became President.  Any device the President uses that is connected to the Internet and not behind the government’s network firewalls is an opportunity for information to leak into the world and undermine his and most likely our countries security.

The question of what phone a president carries — and what he or she does with it — is a serious matter of national security.

Take a president who likes to make policy announcements on Twitter at three in the morning and the matter becomes even more urgent.

After all, when Donald Trump tweets, the stock market shifts. If someone were to read what he was preparing to tweet by breaking into his smartphone and using keylogging software, even with just a 30-second head start, it could make some people very rich and potentially cause serious damage to the national economy.

SOURCE:  For the sake of national security, Donald Trump needs to trade in his cellphone

Considering that my current phone is encrypted, requires a pin to even boot the phone before the system is unencrypted AND requires both a pin and fingerprint to unlock, I consider my device to be relatively secure.  If this same phone were in the hands of Trump right now, and a state sponsored attacker knew what it was, they could most likely crack through all that security relatively quickly.  There is hardware in the phone that I don’t have control over and therefore, is vulnerable to an attack that I’d never knew happened until it was too late.

Despite having access to some of the best technology out there, President Barack Obama still uses a Blackberry.

According to the New York Times, Obama “carries a specially modified, highly secure” Blackberry, despite the fact that many White House aides now use iPhones.

SOURCE:  Obama Still Uses a Blackberry

I’m sorry, but there is something wrong with the most powerful person in the United States still using a Blackberry.  It’s irrelevant that it’s a specially modified version that is highly secure.  Don’t take my displeasure as negative though, I loved my Blackberry and if they were still a relevant company, I’d still be carrying one.  The technology being used at the White House should be the best in the world in my opinion and there is no excuse for it not to be.

Trump, 70, rarely uses a computer and sifts through stacks of newspapers, magazines and printed articles to read the news. He panned candidates’ reliance on data and technology in presidential campaigns, preferring to make decisions in part based on the reaction from audiences at his rallies. While Trump’s tweetstorms are already legendary, he utters some of his messages out loud and leaves the actual typing to aides.

SOURCE:  Obama boosted White House technology; Trump sees risks

No offense to the older generation out there reading this, because you’re reading this from a computer and already light years ahead of Trump in the use of technology.  I actually respect that you do a lot more than I can ever put into words.  I don’t see how Trump, not using a computer, will be able to continue his tweetstorms when his smart phone is locked down like Obama’s was.  Trump doesn’t have a choice here as, by law, he has to accept the technology and protection given to him by Secret Service, White House Communications, and Dept of Homeland Security.  To continue using Twitter, it will have to be with a laptop/desktop until a suitable compromise can potentially be made.  As much as I like to see his ranting at 3am being done from the gold toilet he no doubt brought with him to the White House, as President, there is a certain level of individual composure expected from the world stage.

Sean Spicer, named the White House Press Secretary on Dec 22nd and White House Communications Director on Dec 24th, has his hands full with President Trump.  Who knows, with an unorthodox President, there may be some radical changes to how the Office is handled going forward.  Trump’s lean towards anti-technology in favor of human couriers doesn’t give this geek a warm fuzzy feeling on the inside.  I’ve discovered that the loudest and strongest supporters of technology (and the Internet) are usually the ones that have never used and therefore don’t understand.  I see that as sort of screaming about climate change and having a coal fired furnace in your house, a bit of an oxymoronic hypocrite.

We’re only in the third day of the next four years.  What happens is literally in the head of Trump, cooking, ready to be served to the American people.  Should we close our eyes while going over the first drop on the roller coaster or throw our hands up in the air and scream?

Self-imposed technology limits

I know I’m spending too much time writing and reading.  Having been here before in the past, I know that things like work, life and relationships start suffering in favor of writing and spending time reading articles.  With that said, I’ve decided to put some restrictions on myself to help alleviate any problems before they’re actually problems.

Post Limits

Starting this Thursday, I’m going to publish a post every Monday and Thursday.  Thursday’s post will be the regular Three Things Thursday and Monday’s post will be something related to whatever fired me up or I found interesting from the week before.  I can take a few hours on the weekend to concentrate the post instead of having 3-5 posts only partially done at any given time.

Reading Hours

Feeling that reading blogs has started to take more and more of my free time, I’m scheduling 1-hour blocks on various days through the week to read and comment on blogs.  It will be a fundamental shift in what I’ve been doing the last several months and comments will be made only when I have something substantive to add; otherwise a simple “Like” will be made after reading something.

Daily/Weekly Digests

Most of the blogs I follow email me as posts are published.  It was fine when I only followed 10-20 blogs, but now I’m following almost 100 of them and it takes a large amount of time to work through 200 emails in my inbox sometimes.  Starting this weekend, I’m going to be switching to daily/weekly digest emails so that all posts from an author are consolidated in one email per day or week depending on frequencies.  What this means is that “Likes” and comments will come in groups rather than trickle in as they have been.

Twitter

Since deleting my Facebook account, my Twitter use has increased steadily over the last several weeks.  I still have not decided how I’m going to limit my use of Twitter as I’ve been using it more and more as a news aggregator and following publications rather than people.  I may decide that it doesn’t require limits, just simply turning off the notification on my phone/desktop app may be all that is required.  More thought on this is needed.

Suggestions

I’m open to suggestions that might help and open to hearing what has worked or not worked for you.  I know I’m not the only one that has had this issue and been forced to make some changes to their technology consumption.  Thankfully I’ve caught it in time as it hasn’t affected anything too serious yet.

Reluctantly got a new smartphone

I finally had enough of paying for a smart phone that slowly became obsolete as app development shifted from Windows Phone 8.1 to Windows 10 Mobile.  I wrote several times about HTC and Microsoft if you’re interested in hitting the archives.  I had made all the payments required to qualify for a “turn-in upgrade,” essentially meaning I gave them the phone back.  My original intent was to fight with AT&T and get out of my finance agreement so that I didn’t have to continue paying $133 additional and go a few months without a finance payment.

They actually pulled up the contract I signed (and didn’t read at the time) that clearly indicated that my choice was to turn in the phone and get a new phone (with new agreement) or pay to the end of the contract (another $133).  I relented, pushed harder for anything to be done that relinquished this HTC phone without me having to sign into another finance contract, but it was clear to me their hands were as tied as mine were.  I made a few comments about the fact that being a customer since 1999 has no merit, getting the ditch by HTC was a crappy move and the whole idea of a mobile phone has forced us to worship the glowing screen of complacency.

In the end, I got an S7.  Yes, I could have gone with something cheaper in the mid-range market.  I could have even have gone with a no-name high-end device and still probably have paid less.  My fear was that anything other than a device that has sold millions of units ran the risk of pulling an HTC and ending support without warning.  My monthly payments are only a few cents different so I’m using that $133 on something that is fully functional and fully supported.  I’ve decided to run lean on applications and work to remove this device from the focal point of my daily activities.  No NFC payments, no fingerprint single-sign-on, no social apps that demand attention at every ding.  I do know for sure that it will at least get Android 7.0 and be more than functional for at least the next 2 years, possibly three.  By then, I hope to have finances where I can purchase a new mobile device outright and never need the stupid financing option again.

Still couldn’t do Apple, although I did contemplate it for approximately 0.25 seconds.

The Internet is ours

I literally just finished watching a documentary on Netflix called “Killswitch.”  The basic coverage was on Aaron Swartz and Edward Snowden and how they took on the some of the most powerful interests in different areas.  Aaron was involved with copyright and Edward, well, we all know what he did.  I’m left thinking that I’ve not done enough despite talking about this for several years.  This past year was a global eye-opener for all of us on how the government has been corrupted and driven by greed from both elected officials and the lobbies that fund them to do their bidding.

Who remembers the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) that the government attempted to pass in 2012?  I’d be willing to bet that there are quite a few people who don’t remember what it was about, why it made so many Americans angry and ultimately why it fell apart ahead of the voting in both the House and Senate.  I won’t go into detail on SOPA, you can read all about it here if you’re interested in the history lesson.  A quote though, that reveals the true power of the people when awakened.

On January 18, 2012, the English Wikipedia, Google, and an estimated 7,000 other smaller websites coordinated a service blackout, in protest against the bill. Wikipedia said more than 162 million people viewed its banner.  Other protests against SOPA and PIPA included petition drives, with Google stating it collected over seven million signatures, boycotts of companies and organizations that support the legislation, and an opposition rally held in New York City.

In response to the protest actions, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) stated, “It’s a dangerous and troubling development when the platforms that serve as gateways to information intentionally skew the facts to incite their users and arm them with misinformation”, and “it’s very difficult to counter the misinformation when the disseminators also own the platform.”

SOURCE:  Stop Online Privacy Act (Wikipedia)

It was the American people, deciding SOPA was a threat to the open Internet, that rallied in unprecedented numbers to protest against the vote on SOPA using the very medium the Act was to control.  Chris Dodd, the head of the Motion Picture Association of America, spearheaded the bill in both the House and Senate as a lobbyist despite saying that he would not become a lobbyist after retiring from government service.  He is quoted as blatantly threatening to not provide campaign funds to any government official that voted “No” on the bill.  The fact that so many people in the country opposed the bill, it would have meant any House or Senate member changing their vote as a result of the threat by Chris Dodd as being controlled by money rather than the will of their constituents.  It was a major win by the American people, making any future attempts at a similar bill that much harder to push through.

I was compelled to pull out the laptop and write this while the frustration and anger was still fresh in my mind.  I am as much a part of the Internet as the next person.  We are all members of the global experiment (except China and North Korea, they’re a different story) that is the Internet and it’s our duty, no, responsibility to protect it.  We have enjoyed a decentralized, almost chaotic, version of the Internet since 1993 that is currently being threatened by the likes of the NSA, CIA, the FBI and 13 other intelligence agencies.  The sheer amount of data they collected through PRISM (Edward Snowden leaked this to Glenn Greenwald) and are still currently collecting make it difficult to see patterns even with the most sophisticated big data mining techniques.  They’re too concerned with controlling all the data on Americans that they’re missing the warning signs that end up turning into the Boston marathon bombing.  It’s easy, after the fact, so say that you had enough data to possibly prevent it from happening; that’s the bitch of hindsight being 20/20.

We are the Internet.  The human race on this planet contributing to the global content that has surpassed any libraries of information combined throughout our entire history.  We are a changed people because it had allowed us to be connected, in near real-time, in a way that has never existed.  The people, not the governments, are the owners and protectors of this vast network of computers and information and we need to fight like we’ve never fought before to make sure that it exists for future generations.  People like Aaron Swartz, who died too young because of our government, need to step up and lead the revolutions I know are coming.  The documentary described large people driven revolutions about every 50-60 years that tell governments and people in power that they don’t own the field and are forever on defense.  We’re on the verge of such another revolution where people like Glenn Greenwald, Lawrence Lessig, Tim Wu and Michael Tracey are leading the charge.  It’s our Internet, we should protect it every way we can.