Sunday, February 01, 2009

Confession: I Am Not Technology Savvy

I'm happy with the iMac I bought a year ago. The screen is huge, I can work on two things at once without moving things around and in general it's a pleasure to work on. I get the feeling, though, that I know only about 5% of what the iMac can do. Just after the New Year, my wife and I had a friend visit from Italy for the weekend and he had his iBook or whatever the latest Apple laptops are called. He was showing me some things on his computer and zipping around and doing things I had no idea the computer could do. Cool stuff actually.

Now I'm not a total ignoramus. Something like only 48% of the nation uses the internet regularly. Even without using the latest search widgets, I can manage to find useful things, useful enough to earn some money and pay some bills now and then. But there's no real technology savvy to doing research from home.

The other day I came across an article in Wired and I have been thinking about it since; here's a bit of it:
I wanted to know more about this new frontier, so I became a geo-guinea pig. My plan: Load every cool and interesting location-aware program I could find onto my iPhone and use them as often as possible. For a few weeks, whenever I arrived at a new place, I would announce it through multiple social geoapps. When going for a run, bike ride, or drive, I would record my trajectory and publish it online. I would let digital applications help me decide where to work, play, and eat. And I would seek out new people based on nothing but their proximity to me at any given moment. I would be totally open, exposing my location to the world just to see where it took me. I even added an Eye-Fi Wi-Fi card to my PowerShot digital camera so that all my photos could be geotagged and uploaded to the Web. I would become the most location-aware person on the Internets!


I was starting to revel in the benefits of location awareness. By trusting an app (iWant) that showed me nearby dining options, I discovered an Iraqi joint in my neighborhood that I'd somehow neglected. Thanks to an app (GasBag) that displayed gas stations with current prices, I was able to find the cheapest petrol no matter where I drove. In Reno, one program (HeyWhatsThat) even gave me the names and elevation profiles of all the surrounding mountains. And another (WikiMe), which displayed Wikipedia entries about local points of interest, taught me a thing or two about the San Francisco waterfront. (Did you know the Marina District exists largely because a land speculator built a seawall in the 1890s?) These GPS tools were making me smarter.

Take a look at the article. Just those two paragraphs were enough to make me dizzy. Here's a thought: with all this technology, how does one write a decent detective story these days? "We found the body in an alley next to a dumpster. The murderer had smashed the victim's cell phone, probably with a heavy boot. Idiot. I took what was left to the crime lab and in five minutes the tech had the gps track for the last five hours. The last stop for the poor guy was the warehouse office of Eddie the Lip. Eddie's gun matched the bullet. Case closed." And it won't matter if the murderer throws away the cell phone. The gps records probably exist in several places. In this age, Sherlock Holmes would have been a rich Silicon Valley computer game programmer.

Well, I think I'll hook up the horse and buggy and mosey on down to the General Store and see if anyone knows what's going on in the world.



Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

Not too far into the Wired excerpt, one of my mother's favorite admonitions came to mind: all things in moderation.

Re: the detective story. You mean to tell me the evil deed wasn't caught on a surveillance camera?

8:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Waaalll. Remember that information ≠ knowledge.

...some friend in Italy

2:21 PM  

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