For the past two summers, I’ve worked at a level 1 tech support job at my college. For those unfamiliar with this jargon, this means that I’m the person who sits at the help desk, and attempts to help out anyone who comes into the desk, or calls the phone, or e-mails us. Technically speaking, it’s a pretty simple job, as we do some basic troubleshooting, then bump any issues up to level 2 if we determine we need to fix something in person.
Today, I was on the phone with someone, and they inadvertently reminded me of the difference between “technical” people and “non-technical” people.
The phone call was simple: Gmail brought up a page reporting that the person’s browser was out of date because they were using Internet Explorer. I suggested that he install Chrome, as it is a faster and more secure web browser, and now our “officially supported” browser, and proceeded to walk him through the installation.
And when I say walk him through the installation, I mean walk him through every step of the installation. Every button he should click, when he should click them, etc. During this process, he explained to me why he was asking for my help at every step of the process:
I’m always worried I’m going to blow something up.
So, this is the difference between “tech” people and “non-tech” people: the non-tech people think that if they click a wrong button, their computer will either explode, or stop working permanently. The tech people have opened their computer to find that no explosives are contained within.
One of the things I enjoy doing is breaking my operating system. I use Ubuntu Linux as my main operating system, and regularly do stupid things that might be considered destructive. But that’s OK — I know that I can always get my data, and I enjoy going through the processes of figuring out what went wrong, and how to fix it.
In a word, I’m fearless when fixing computers: I know that if I click the wrong button, there’s always a way to go back or undo whatever I just did. Sometimes, this is as simple as clicking a “back” or “undo” button. Sometimes it’s a bit more involved, but that’s OK! Because it means I’m going to learn what doesn’t work, and possibly learn something more about my operating system while I attempt to fix what’s broken.
If there’s one piece of advice I can give to non-tech people, it’s this: don’t be afraid to click buttons. Seriously. Most buttons you press are not going to permanently destroy your software. If you’re worried about losing data, make a backup of whatever file you’re working, then click buttons to your hearts content!
Today, ICANN announced that they will allow companies to create their own top-level domains (TLDs), for a price, of course. It’s a hefty fee (~$185,000), but every reporter has brought up a couple excellent examples. .bank, for example. I assume that whoever creates these TLDs would also be able to control who gets domains. That would make it possible to ensure that only legitimate banks can have a .bank address. The two other examples I’ve seen repeatedly are .vegas and .canon.
This brings up an interesting opportunity for some new domain uses we’ve never seen before. Imagine, for example, that Canon bought .canon. Sure, they would probably setup store.canon and support.canon, but what if we thought outside the box a bit more? What could we do with an unlimited supply of .canon domains?
Here’s what I imagine: (serial number).canon. What if instead of stumbling though a support site to find support for your product, you could just type in the serial number, followed by .(brand), and be given support information? This is something we’ve never been able to do with traditional TLDs, buy company-oriented TLDs would make this simple.
What about tracking numbers? Google makes it simple to get tracking information from almost any shipping company (just search Google for the tracking number and you’re given a link), but custom TLDs could make this even easier. (tracking number).ups should take me right to the page to figure out where that book I ordered is.
How about finding out what’s around you? It’d be neat to see some company snatch .gps, then allow some standard coordinate format to give a map and perhaps some useful information about what’s nearby. Perhaps .gps could also allow city names.
Maybe you want to know the weather. (City name).weather should be able to take you right to useful information.
Opening up the allowed TLDs allows a world of possibilities. I’ve just listed a couple simple examples here, but I’m sure folks that are much more creative than I could come up with even wilder examples. What would you like to see done with this new world of domain names?
Perhaps some of my readers have heard of OnLive. If not, here’s a quick rundown: signup for an OnLive account, and start purchasing games through OnLive. Now, when you play those games, they don’t run on your computer. Instead, they run on one of OnLive’s servers, and the video (HD video, that is) is streamed to your computer. The idea is mind-blowing. It means that you don’t need to worry about your computer hardware being old — you can always play the latest games, because OnLive keeps their servers up-to-date.
Now, people who know a bit about the Internet and gaming might immediately claim that this is a bad idea because the lag would be HUGE. Well, I have no idea how they did it, but OnLive has created a system where lag simply isn’t an issue. Granted, it requires a good high-speed Internet connection, but as this becomes more ubiquitous, OnLive will be accessible to more consumers. Another neat thing about OnLive is that you can play a free demo of most of their games. Essentially, they give you (I think) 15 minute access to the game, so you can start to try it out, but your time will be up just as you get interested. Finally, this should theoretically allow completely cross-platform gaming. There is no Linux or Mac client currently, but as soon as one is created, you should be able to play any game in their catalog on any computer, with no extra work for the game creators.
Now, here’s what I think is wrong with OnLive: it’s DRM to the extreme. One of the main concerns of DRM is what happens when the servers go down? When the activation servers for popular games are finally taken offline, what will happen to people who own the game? They simply won’t be able to install it anymore, and, therefore, the game will be useless. Well, what happens when OnLive finally goes down (and I do believe that it will, sooner or later, die)? All those games you paid for will be gone. You’re not buying these games, you’re renting them. And when OnLive is charging more for the game than it costs to OWN the game (compare Assassin’s Creed II — http://www.onlive.com/games/featuredgames vs. http://bit.ly/gvUQnY), it doesn’t seem right that you don’t actually OWN the game.
If OnLive can come up with an agreement with the creators of the game to give you a downloadable copy of the game IN ADDITION to the OnLive version, the price premium will be warranted (and they could even charge $5-$10 more for the game). Until that time, OnLive just isn’t worth it.
What are your thoughts on OnLive?
I can’t believe I haven’t written a blog post about Net Neutrality. For those of you who know me personally, you should know that I’m a very strong supporter of Net Neutrality, and believe it’s very important that we make sure the Internet is kept neutral. However, for whatever reason, there are a LOT of misconceptions about Net Neutrality, and what exactly it entails. Since Net Neutrality in reaction to Comcast has once again come up in the news recently, I figured I should write a blog post about the subject.
First, let’s go into some background on the Comcast case. A year or so ago, Comcast decided that its network was being congested by too much P2P traffic; namely, traffic from the BitTorrent P2P protocol. So, they decided that they would clear their network of this congestion by carefully denying BitTorrent connections. They did this by looking into the traffic that BitTorrent was sending over the network, and sending back false information so that connections to peers would fail. The actual details of how this was done is outside the point of this post.
After some outrage from Comcast customers who used BitTorrent, the FCC decided it would step in and tell Comcast to stop or suffer consequences. As soon as this happened, there was some question about whether or not the FCC actually had the power to do this. But, the case went to court and a judge decided that the FCC did have the power to do this, and that Comcast had to stop denying BitTorrent connections in this way. This was a major win for users of the Internet: the court decision basically meant that your ISP can’t deny you from accessing information on the Internet. (continue reading…)
After first hearing about the movie Inception, directed by Christopher Nolan, the movie seemed… strange. It was as movie that I knew I would have to see when it came out. A movie that toyed with your mind. Exactly my kind of movie! I would group it in the same category of movies such as Memento, Donnie Darko, Primer, and Shutter Island. Confusing, but all fully explainable if you can piece everything together.
Eventually, I decided it would be fun to go see Inception at the midnight premier. The only other movies I’ve seen at their midnight premiers are Harry Potter 6, and Avatar. Both were just awesome movie-going experiences. If you’ve never seen a movie at midnight, it’s really something you should try once.
Anyway, I’m glad I went to see Inception, because it really is a great movie! The problem is… seeing it so early left me no one to discuss it with. So, I’ve been scouring the Internet for opinions and discussions. After reading quite a bit, and fueled by inspiration from an article on CinemaBlend, I’ve decided to write my own small FAQ for the movie Inception.
DISCLAIMER: This article contains major spoilers. Please, please, please do not read this until you’ve seen Inception. The film is very enjoyable if you go in with an open mind. Reading too much about it before seeing it could kill the whole experience. (continue reading…)
I was just browsing the web, when I found out that “Shit My Dad Says” has a book. I don’t follow him on twitter, but I’ve heard of it before, and read it whenever I’m linked to it. Wondering how much this book cost, I went to Amazon, and here’s what I found:
Wait… WHAT? The hardcover is actually CHEAPER than the Kindle version? I’m going to ignore shipping for argument’s sake. This means that it costs less to cut down a tree, turn that tree into paper, print words on the paper, and glue the pieces of paper together than it does to send you a bunch of ones and zeroes.
Can anyone explain this to me? I mean, really. I’m pretty sure writers type on computers in today’s world, and I’m sure Amazon has some software to automatically take whatever and turn it into a Kindle book. Of course you’re in part paying for the development of such software, but there’s a LOT more to a hardcover book than there is to a digital copy of the same thing.
Don’t get me wrong, I think the Kindle is an awesome platform, and I hope we see more and more e-readers. But, until the pricing scheme gets fixed… they’re not going to take off.
Meant to post this earlier. Just a small post to admit that I was wrong in my prediction of best picture. If you watched the Oscars, or have talked to someone who watched the Oscars, you probably know that The Hurt Locker won best picture. This is slightly surprising. At its peak, The Hurt Locker was in a mere 323 theaters. Compare that to a major picture like Avatar, which had a peak of 3,461 theaters. That’s over 10x the number of theaters. Not that this number should, or does, matter, but a film with such a small release is a surprising pick for best picture.
Another interesting fact about The Hurt Locker is that it is the lowest grossing movie to ever win the title. The current estimated gross is about $16 million. Although, the low gross of the movie could be, in part, due to the limited release of the film. Again, this isn’t something that should, or does, matter, it’s just an interesting tidbit.
One final note on The Hurt Locker. The director of The Hurt Locker is Kathryn Bigelow, one of James Cameron’s ex-wives. Apparently, Kathryn Bigelow was debating on whether or not she should actually direct the film. So, she called her good friend James Cameron, and he convinced her to do the movie. It’s quite possible that if The Hurt Locker had not been in the running for best picture, Avatar might have one (although, history isn’t on Avatar‘s side, read my previous post). James Cameron, however, has said that he really liked The Hurt Locker, and even voted for it to win best picture, instead of Avatar.
So, there’s a blog post that’s about a week overdue. Now, on to write a more technical blog post!
Well, it’s that time of year again! That’s right, it’s Oscar season. Since all the nominees were announced a little while ago, and we have 15 short days left until the Oscars, about now is the time when everyone makes their predictions and tries to tell us who is going to win each award. Of course, we can’t know for certain who will actually win until the winners are announced, but… if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!
So, while I don’t think of myself as much of a movie critic, and I haven’t even seen all 10 best picture nominees myself, I’m still going to attempt to throw my prediction for who will win best picture at the Oscars this year. Last year, I went to AMC’s “Best Picture Showcase”, and was able to see all five best picture nominees. This year, while AMC is running the event again, I won’t be able to attend. So, I’m not sure I’ll ever get the chance to see all ten nominees, but I’m going to attempt to have an opinion about all the movies anyway.
Before I start, I should note that I am disappointed at the Oscars this year. Having ten movies get nominated instead of the normal five does not “open the field”. Instead, it just removes from the title of “best picture nominee”. Even if a movie doesn’t win the award, it usually still gets bragging rights that it was one of the five best pictures of the year. However, being in the top ten, while still impressive, is less of a title. By attempting to give films more credit, they have actually removed the credit from the films that actually deserve it.
Anyway, the list of the ten nominations is as follows:
A while ago, I was super excited to finally get a Google Wave invite. Today, I barely ever used the service. I just open it every now and then to see if anything’s happened. Generally, it hasn’t. But… Google Wave had so much potential! It was touted as a killer web application! What happened? Wave had so much momentum, but it seems to have crashed, and gone into one of those experiments that Google toyed around with, but no one really cares about anymore.
First off, let me say that whether Wave succeeds or not makes little difference for Google. Google is a company with enough resources to work on a major product, even if that product is a failure. Google wanted Wave to replace e-mail. This is where the whole “Federated Wave Servers” idea came from. In order for Wave to be the new standard, companies had to be able to run their own Wave servers — Google couldn’t control it. Besides that, Google already controls a good chunk of the e-mail market with GMail, so this was mostly a fun experiment for them.
But, still, it seems like something that should have succeed… or, at least, lasted a good amount of time. But, Wave has quickly lost momentum and died in everyone’s mind. The problem is that Google stopped innovating, and the Wave server never became very popular. I don’t believe there have been any feature additions to Wave since it launched, and I’m not sure there’s any good source other than Google Wave to get a Wave account.
Wave died because Google seems to have abandoned it. They released a product, and they appeared to have stopped working on it. Wave is something Google needed to not only push to corporations, but also continue innovating, and releasing new features, and this never happened. Google was unable to explain to potential customers why they need Wave, and this is where it failed. I think this is slightly unfortunate, but I’m not very surprised. While e-mail is antiquated, it still works, and it’s going to take a lot of push in order to move away from it. Google didn’t seem to have any major corporations backing Wave, which also contributed to the failure.
Who knows… maybe we’ll see Google attempt to revive Wave with some new features. Maybe it will come back for a couple months… But Google will have to work really hard to get the momentum and excitement about Wave going again.
I do, by the way, have 12 Wave invites. I suppose you can comment here or contact me if you want one. That’s a dangerous statement to say on the Internet. Although Wave has died, I have a feeling there are people who never got in on the game, and are still looking for invites, only to find a product that no one uses.
My University recently hosted Owl City for a concert here. Tickets were $3, so I bought one and planned on going with a bunch of my friends. At the concert, a bunch of people had cameras because they wanted to take pictures. I’m honestly not very surprised at this. Digital cameras have made it quite easy for anyone to document every mundane detail of their life.
I, obviously, am just bitter because I did NOT bring a camera.
Anyway, I was quite disappointed in how people used their digital cameras, and I now feel that it is my duty to educate the public on how to take pictures at a concert, or any other event that involves a stage and stage lighting. I saw many people take a picture, then look at the result, disappointed. Others will simply get home and realize that none of their pictures turned out very well. Without going into much technical detail, I present to you… how to take pictures at a concert! (continue reading…)