One Reason Why Computers Suck

Fate’s theory on computers: there is no consumer computing device which actually works.

Everything you see at BestBuy, the lines of laptops from HP and Apple – all of them – are broken in some fundamental way. I don’t care how awesome your home PC is, give me five or ten minutes with it, and I’ll figure out something you “should” be able to do that causes it to spit up all over itself. Funny enough, there are a good number of people out there actually paid to do that. That certain talent, is the reason why I’m involved with the computing industry, and simultaneously also, technology incompatible.
Now, in my profession, I see a lot of computer equipment, and generally deal with it on a far more detailed level than most people. Floating in my head are a great number of random facts about how various pieces of computer hardware work. What amazes me though, is that when it comes right down to it, computers don’t.
If you’re reading this blog, you’ll likely know the difference between Hardware and Software. Driver software makes the hardware tick. An outsider might expect that driver software would be developed alongside with the hardware directly – when the hardware is done, so is the driver software. Looking at the problem in detail though, it’s obvious you’ve got something of a chicken and an egg here – how do you develop software for non-existent hardware? I’ll spare the gritty details of how that works, and jump straight to the results.
And that result, is generally with either you – the consumer – or the OEM (big box PC makers like HP and Apple.) On a modern Windows PC, you’ve probably noticed “Windows Update”, asking on a regular basis if you’d like to ruin…er…. update parts of the software on your computer. Depending on your level of technical sophistication / bravery / stupidity / intelligence, you may have chosen to install / ignore / install randomly these updates. For today, we’ll focus on the Driver updates.
Now, let’s say I’m an up and coming competitor to ATI and nVidia, and have developed the new wizz-bang awesome 3d video card which has 10 spanking new features, including the ability to render photorealistic boobies realtime. Gamers the world over drool (understandably) over this new piece of computing excellence. The announcement is made, and the new Wank-O-Matic 5000 video card hits shelves. Immediately, my competitors begin discussing how their next version of video card will render even better photorealistic boobies realtime in their next generation of cards. That, however, doesn’t stop Gamers from lining up overnight to purchase the Wank-O-Matic 5000.
On buying it however, they take it home, and discover that only 8 of the ten new features work well, and the other 2 don’t work well at all. Sad and dismayed, gamers announce it’s a good video card, but the major selling point is overrated. Not to be stopped, I now promise every gamer – but wait, it’ll be fixed in an update! As time goes on, the major issues with the new creation are fixed, and at long last, the Wank-O-Matic 5000 does everything as advertised. The only thing is, noone is using it anymore, it’s now been obseleted by the Wank-O-Matic 6000, and the new up and coming Wanktastic 8G.
Which brings me to the heart of the matter – all of the computer hardware in existence today, is not fully utilized. Indeed, any computer purchased within the last year or so will have a shiney new 64 bit chip in it – being used to run a 32 bit operating system. And, this isn’t something created recently. The first 32 bit processor was introduced in 1985. It wasn’t, however, until 10 years later, that consumers could take full advantage of that.
I know it’s difficult, but, at some point, I just have to start to wonder. The personal computing industry is now over 30 years old. At what point do we stop saying “computers are new” and start expecting everything to work as advertised when we buy it? When do we begin expecting hardware vendors to not simply say “fix it later” when the product can’t even be used anymore from being so out of date?
Thinking about it, the answer is obvious to me: people are happy with mediocre. Computers crash, things occasionally just don’t work. Part of me hopes, one day that will change – people will begin to expect that this sort of technology shouldn’t crash or be difficult to use. Another part of me though, I must admit, is happy we techies can half-ass solutions. Cause really, as long as it’s good enough, it works right?

Recycling and Farmers Markets

So, I called my trash company Thursday to get both my broken trash barrel replaced (the wheels are falling off and the lid is broken) and to set up recycling. Turns out recycling is $18 for three months. I was paying 10.50 for 3 months for just the trash barrel and didn’t really want to pay an extra $18 for recycling so I canceled the trash barrel and added recycling. Next project is to get a compost heap set up. I bet we have almost no actual trash after that happens. Supposedly they are going to drop off the recycling thing and pick up the trash barrel on Tuesday. We shall see considering they were supposed to replace the trash barrel like six months ago.

We went to the Farmers Community Market at Brookside and the farmers market in Overland Park. The market in Brookside is a totally organic market, the market in Overland Park is not.

Prices at the Farmers Community Market at Brookside were on par to slightly more expensive then shopping at Whole Foods. It is a pretty small farmers market, I ment to get some pictures but I forgot, I’ll have to do that next week if I remember. We had Puddin’ Head Coffee and Fate had a breakfast burrito, I had spinach and cheese quiche. I bought some tri color beans, spring mix (thats very spicy!), some tomatoes, scallions, peppers, tomotillos and a couple other things I don’t remember. I had some of the spring mix for lunch, it was very good.

The farmers market in Overland Park is a much bigger market. There was quite a few people there when we arrived around 10 am. They have a big pavillion hall type thing set up that is a permenate structure and everyone pulls up to that and sells out on tables and in some cases out of the back of trucks. You walk down an isle of vendors and basically stop at each one and get what you want from them.

There are quite a few smallish local farmers that come as well as a couple that I recognized as being resellers. Basically people that go and buy from big vendors like Sysco or American Food Service and redistribute to the public at these kinds of things. Most of The City Market is people like this if you go durning the week. I think on the weekends the actual farmers come out. That’s a market I’ve been to during the week and the prices are extremely cheap…but the produce is mostly on line with the prices from what I saw.

We got a cantelope, corn, onions, peaches, an eggplant, and I believe a few othere things at the farmers market in Overland Park. We’ll be eating very fresh this week!

–Fin

Reduce, reuse……recycle?

We are a disposable society.

Seems like kind of a trite statement, now doesn’t it? Political commentary best left to the media…..except I see it every single day on my job.

I’m a janitor. Yeah, I’m one of those people that most people ignore. That’s what I do, not who I am. But I digress.

One of the jobs that I do on a regular basis is empty trash at a very large office building. Its interesting to me what people throw away. I have more then one blog post I plan on writing that has been spawned just simply by the act of dumping peoples trash.

For today’s post I plan on focusing on soda pop cans. You know the ones….you put in your quarter (or fifty sense, or dollar…depending on where you are) and get out your Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, or whatever your poison of choice is (and I really do mean poison….have you ever looked at the ingredients in that stuff???)and drink it down. Now….what do you do with the can?

Its been my experience lately that people fall into one of just a couple categories on this:

1) throw it in their trash can
2) take it to the break room and throw it in the trash can
3) take it to the break room and throw it in the recycling bin
4) save it for the janitor as they come by and give it to them to put in the recycling bin

Weird, huh?

Not weird to you? Well, the way I see it….why just throw the can away? Why *not* recycle? Why in the world would someone put their empty aluminum can in the trash can when a recycling bin sits right next to the trash can? Why would someone put the cans in their trash can at their desk when the janitor is more then willing to take their can to the recycling bin for them if they were to just save them?

The only thing I can come up with is people just truly don’t pay attention. Otherwise…why would they pick the trash can instead of the recycling bin when they are right next to another? Also…why would they throw their regular trash into the recycling bin?

In a broader sense, why do more people not recycle? Overseas its the norm, and expected. Trash service usually only allows *one* bag of actual trash to be put out weekly. All the rest of the trash that is produced is recycling. A bin is provided, recycling is placed in it and hauled away. (The process for separating it is facinating, by the way) Its easy and simple.

So why don’t more people do it?

I have to confess that I don’t….yet. I plan on calling my trash company tomorrow and getting a recycling bin so I can start actually doing it.

Oh….I’m Fin by the way 🙂 I’m not as verbose as Fate….but I do have more opinions!

–Fin

How fast do you eat?

Lunch to me is a big deal. My lunch is 1 hour. Not 30 minutes. Not 15 minutes. 1 hour. So, when I eat lunch with the guys, it’s moderately annoying to me that it usually seems more like 5 minutes than 60.

Why?

Well, lunch goes like this – obtain food, eat food, talk about work. Only problem is, the eat food step is completed in about five minutes. And that makes me think, just how much can you enjoy your food in five minutes of eating?

Now, I can understand if you’re bringing the same horrific salami on white bread with soggy pickle everyday. Generally though, I have a really good lunch, one that is worth more than swallowing hole – plastic sack and all.

Sadly, I never realized that I too had fallen to the sickness of the overly quick lunch until recently. For some time now, my lunch had been subject to the vacuum cleaner effect. It came to me mid-way through the usual collection of lunch fruit: wow, I’m not getting to taste any of this. And so, I mad a conscious effort to finish my lunch eating at a normal pace.

You probably wouldn’t believe me, but just slowing down how fast I ate lunch made the entire world around me move slower too. Seriously. Simply taking 1 bite more per piece of fruit managed to break the laws of space-time. Any physicist out there can try and repeat the experiment by eating their salami on white bread by using more than 2 bites.

As a bonus, your digestive track will thank you for it. Eating too fast can lead to a great many health issues (obesity, acid reflux). Occasionally it pays to take some time, and well, taste the food.

If you find yourself having trouble slowing down, check out this associated content article.

Welcome to the Jungle!

Over the past several weeks, I’ve been dealing with a growing annoyance. It started with something simple enough: apple sauce. It was a simple craving for a random food. So, at the grocery store, I attempted to find my mark. Unfortunately, this happened after I started reading labels.

Every apple sauce jar at the store had the same flaw: High Fructose Corn Syrup. Now, in general, I’m not an anti-HFCS Nazi. After all, several of my favorite foods contain HFCS. But what annoyed me most here is that I prefer my apple sauce, unsweetened. You wouldn’t expect unsweetened apple sauce, just apple’s with preservative, to be hard to find.

You’d be wrong.

I mentioned this at the office, and the general reply I got was, well unsweetened applesauce sucks. When it comes right down to it, adding corn syrup to applesauce is the cheapest way to sweeten it so the most number of people enjoy it.

When it comes down to it though, the annoyance for me was the lack of choice. A lack of choice created by the faster-better-cheaper mentality. We look at our modern world as something purely progressing, and don’t stop to think if choices we eliminate have value. It’s a curious thing to me, how few people stop to look at what’s been done, what can be done, and the possibilities of the world around them.

And in general, I’m convinced, this forstagnation is being subtly encouraged by things we view as beyond question – public education, religion, technological advances, capitalism. All hold intrinsic value, but so often ideas and systems tied to concepts we hold dear are not challenged out of fear for challenging the concept itself.

This blog will be about an ongoing attempt to adopt a lifestyle which values choice, personal freedom, honesty, and individuality. And, it’s not just me here writing about this point of view, my partner in crime, Fin, will be updating too.