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You designed it to do WHAT? 1 July 2009

Posted by splait in Uncategorized.

I have worked in the high technology industry for over 30 years, and it never fails to amaze (and sometimes amuse) me how a technology can be created with a purpose in mind, and then something no one expects to happen happens because of that technology.

There’s been a lot written about how Twitter has affected the political climate in Iran.  It also played a pretty big role in the last Shuttle mission.  Could you have predicted this if you had created Twitter?  Maybe, but I doubt it.

The Internet changed how the music and book publishing industries work – shook them to the core, actually.  Artists and writers that would never have seen the light of day for their works are now able to self-publish, and others, many well established as at the top of their professions are sharing some of their stuff free of charge (horrors!).  Authors and artists are finding audiences for their work that they never dreamed of.  Middle-men are being cut out and the creators of the art are able to keep more of the proceeds, which, IMHO, is the way it always should have been.  People who create nothing shouldn’t get to get rich off of that nothing.

The Internet has provided a platform for us schlubs who want to share our thoughts with hundreds, thousands, and maybe millions of people who we will never meet and know.  What a great thing!

So what’s the problem, you ask me?

There are those who hate.  They have used instant communications and blogs and websites to find other disaffected individuals to spread their venom and create mayhem – even convince some to commit murder.  Read this article about the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for more information.

Support the SPLC.  We do.

There are also those who write malware that attack our computers with pornography and bugs that cause our operating systems to choke.

We have cell phones that let us surf the web and share pictures with each other, tweet, and post on FaceBook.  Unfortunately, peer pressure and and a great deal of parental non-participation in our kids’ lives have created a monster almost impossible to control.  Pandora’s newest box has been opened, and kids will no longer be the same.  Why do 7-year-old kids have web-capable phones?  For that matter, why do high schoolers?

Yeah, I know.  I’m a communist or something.


In Carl Sagan‘s last book, Billions and Billions, he wrote on the speed of new technology development and humankind’s naivete.  He was correct.  Technology develops faster than our ability to cope with it.  Are we humans mature enough (as a single race) to handle all this?  Can and do we use the technologies at hand to make the world a better place to live, or are we just making the world a smaller and more “convenient for us” place to live?

Pick one.  Both are correct.  Does that make it right?

And sometimes we ignore what science is telling us, or we chose to lay the evidence out for future generations to deal with.  And yet, aren’t the technology developers and users the ones responsible for maintaining the integrity of the planet and the lives of others?  In other words, should they be developing technologies we really can’t handle?  Who decides whether we can handle the stuff, anyway?

Are we so stupid that we are willing to continue on this path without regard for future generations, or even maybe the ones living right now?

A tough nut, truly.  We are such a curious race.  We want to know what’s out there and how it all works.

Billions and Billions was published in 1997.  Many of the essays in it were published individually before that.  Dr. Sagan calls for the countries of the world to seriously take a look at how we are damaging the planet and each other and take action before it is too late.

Silent Spring was published in 1962.  Written by Rachel Carson, it was the first time anyone had written about the damage we are doing to the environment and picked up on by the general English-speaking public.

Our politicians and major corporations (and many of the masses, too) want to lay saving the planet from greenhouse gases and other pollutants on those future generations.  That may be too late.  Hell, it may be too late right now, although scientists believe that it’s not.  However, the longer we put off getting away from fossil fuels, cutting down our forests for no reason (except money), polluting our rivers and land, and committing other general mayhem to the planet, our kids (or theirs) won’t have any place to live!

Why have we wasted 47 years?  Why are we (as a race infesting this planet) so complacent? WHAT ARE WE DOING???

In my house, we recycle paper, glass and plastic as much as we can.  Been doing that for years.  As a technology consultant to homeowners and small businesses, I insist that all electronic equipment being replaced or just retired be recycled through me.  I take them to a place that assures me that all rare earth elements, as well as any other part of the computer that can be reused is recycled, not dumped in the ground.

MBH drives a hybrid automobile, while I selected the most efficient fossil-fuel-burning small SUV as my means of transporting whatever I need for my clients.  When a good hybrid comes out in the size I need, I’ll buy it, as long as I can determine that it does less harm to the planet than the one I drive now.

There are more things MBH and I can do, and as we become aware of them, we will take the responsibility on, because we know that WE ARE, EACH AND EVERY ONE OF US, RESPONSIBLE FOR THE FUTURE OF THE PLANET.  We have taught our daughter what we know, and she also takes responsibility, as does her fiance (I’ll have to come up with some blog moniker for them).

What are YOU doing to repair the Earth?  Let me know!



1. Thomas Siefert - 2 July 2009

The last week have been a bit of an eye-opener for me.
I upgraded my iPod touch from firmware 2.2.1 to 3.0, mainly in the hope that by enabling the Bluetooth that I would be able to use tethering to connect to my mobile phone for internet access when we are travelling. Well, it didn’t work and I haven’t been able to find anything that explains exactly what the bluetooth can and can not do on the iPod touch.
I could live with that, because I’m only in UK for a short while longer and the plan was to buy an iPhone once we return to Australia. There’s actually a choice of operators there, so I could use my iPhone with my company SIM card.

Then the other night I hooked up my pod to the TV to catch up on a program I missed via BBCs iPlayer. On the pod screen this message popped up: “This accessory is not made to work with this iPod. Would you like to turn on Airplane Mode?”. At first I thought that the plug was not inserted properly, nope all was fine same message again. Hmmm, I did start to suspect the cheap third party cable I had bought, so I decided to check if other people had similar problems. They did, but the problem was not the cable as such. iPods now checks video cables for an identity chip to see if the cable is manufactured by Apple or an authorised affiliate.
I think in the coming weeks a lot more people will upgrade and find their video accessories rendered useless.

Why did I buy a third party cable in the first place? Because Apple only sell their cable in a kit with an USB power adapter and we already got three of those in our household. The cable and adapter kit is £36 and the adapter by itself is £19, which means that the cable would be £17. Even if it was possible to buy the cable separately, that is still way too expensive for what it is.
It does make a mockery out of their policies stated here: http://www.apple.com/hotnews/agreenerapple/
and here:

How many people will have to buy USB power adapters they don’t need and how many accessories will have to be scrapped because they can no longer be used with the iPod?

I did have a chat with a support person on the Apple support website, but all she said was that she was sorry.
I have also sent a complaint through their feedback email, but I doubt I will ever hear from them.

On eBay I found a company that sell the original Apple cable (and adapter) at a reduced price because the boxes are damaged, that will tie me over for now. But this will be my last Apple product, I refuse to lock my self into Apple and their acolytes’ product lines, sorry.

splait - 3 July 2009

Thomas –

I am aware of Apple’s policy, and I am not happy with what you have related here. I sometimes buy third-party products for Apple stuff because Apple’s prices for some things are a bit higher than I am willing to pay.

Just offhand, what did you expect the Apple support person to say or do for you other than apologize? I’m sure she had no control over solving your issue. You probably will not hear from Apple. However, your email may spur some change. That does happen.

While I’m unhappy about this particular situation, I am aware, as are you, that Apple chooses to make their own cables and other product accessories because they sell quality, not just products. For what their customers pay for what Apple has to sell, they are not willing to sacrifice the quality, even if the customer is willing to do so.

I agree that Apple should unbundle the cable from the rest of the package, and I agree that eBay is a great way to find reduced prices on some things you don’t want to pay full price for.

2. Thomas Siefert - 3 July 2009

At the time of my chat with the support person I was not quite convinced that the ID-chip was for real, I take things I find on the web with a grain of salt.

A video cable is a passive accessory that does interact with any hard- or software on the iPod, to lock things like that out does not make any sense to me.
In fact it was my second video cable, I bought one for my 80GB iPod quite a while ago. That cable (Belkin, an Apple partner) did not work with the iPod touch because they had removed the video signal from the head phone jack.

In my bits & bobs drawer I also got an iTrip for my first 40GB iPod that does not work with any of the following iPods, including my wife’s iPod mini and later her iPod nano.
Besides that I have an iPod FireWire power adapter that only work with my old 40GB iPod.

3. IVAN3MAN - 14 July 2009

Sid Plait:

Why do 7-year-old kids have web-capable phones? For that matter, why do high schoolers?

Yeah, the bloody spoiled brats! When I was a kid, back in the ’60s and ’70s, all we had for a portable ‘phone’ was two empty cans of baked beans and a piece of taut string!

4. Thomas Siefert - 14 July 2009

Now the kids pretend they can play music on a game console by pushing four coloured buttons, while we had to struggle to learn to play “Duelling Banjos” on a cigar box with rubber bands around it.

5. IVAN3MAN - 14 July 2009

Back in the early ’70s, I had my Stylophone confiscated by my schoolmarm for playing the Chuck Berry song “My Ding-a-Ling”.

splait - 15 July 2009

I LOVE that comment! Thanks for checking in with me every once in a while, Ivan!

IVAN3MAN - 15 July 2009

You’re welcome, Sid! It’s a pleasure to read your thoughts on your blog(s) — especially now that I know you’re a Dire Straits fan, as I am!

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