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Posts Tagged ‘Mac’

I’m usually quite an optimistic writer when it comes to the Internet, blogging, and information technologies. I’ve written over 180 articles on these subjects and it’s a rare occasion that I ever focus on the negative side of things. I guess I need to be an optimist; I really have faith that these new forms of human communication and collaboration are going to help our species evolve its collective social consciousness to a level where we are much more in tune with each other and the world around us. However, I guess because of the nature of the Universe, it being composed of equal parts positive and negative forces (as represented in the Chinese symbol ‘Yin Yang’), there had to be a time where my perspective shifted towards the other end of the spectrum. That time is now. I still love what I do and all that humanity has achieved, but lately I can’t help but focus on the many ways in which we have failed to reach a functioning level in terms of simplicity of design with these new technologies. Technology is meant to be simple and easy so that the masses can partake in its wonder and utilise its power. Somewhere along the way we seem to have lost our bearings. Let me tell you about my day today.

My last post was entitled, ‘I can’t find the kinds of blogs that I’d like to read. Help me!’ and it typifies how my interaction with computers and the Internet has been lately. In that post I talk about the terrible experience I had when I decided to search for blogs written about Kung Fu. That is only the beginning of the tale. This TED Talk by David Pogue that I just listened to about the simplicity (or lack thereof) of design in modern technology exemplifies my current mental state. He particularly likes to focus on the stupidity of many Microsoft creations like Windows and Word, but I’m going to take a much broader approach with my criticisms. For me, things don’t really relate to only one company or technology, although admittedly I do use a Mac (which if you have one, you will know that it can be hard to be a Mac user in a world full of Microsoft and Linux users) so it seems I unwittingly chose a hard road for myself. My issues stretch in all directions and are not prejudiced against anyone in particular. What I am feeling is a deep questioning in terms of the integrity and fallibility of human designers who are behind a lot of what has been produced for our society. There’s no doubt about it. We’ve got the brains – but are we using them?

Yesterday I went to my girlfriend’s university to use the Internet, as my office at home was extremely hot and I needed some cool air conditioning to get my brain functioning. The students in the computer labs wouldn’t shut up, but that’s another story completely. My thumb drive that I store much of my work on no longer works on nearly all of the computers in the library – only one row of very old ones, in an area that is quite noisy. My thumb drive does work in the computer labs however … Why is it so?

I just got a new RSS Reader for my Mac; I downloaded it free online. See my previous post ‘RSS Readers: Why don’t you have one? Are you crazy?’ Well, for some reason I keep trying to add blogs to this ‘Shrook’ Reader and it just won’t take them. The blog sites say that they have RSS feeds available and yet they either simply don’t work, or I get a message saying that it can’t read the XML.

A friend of mine sent me a link to a program called Workrave that tells you automatically when you should take a break from your computer so that you don’t get Repetitive Strain Injury in your wrists. He owns an Optometry Clinic with his wife (she’s the optometrist) and uses this program, but in the context of relieving strain on the eyes. Of course it won’t work on a Mac, only Windows and Linux. I tried getting a few Mac equivalents like ‘Type-Break-Mode’, but couldn’t easily find where I could download it. You know when you hit on a Google link with your desired key words and you get a page of html computer code? That happened repeatedly. Repeatedly …

My brother gave me a program called Irip, which is supposed to let you download your songs off of your Ipod onto your Itunes program in your computer (when Apple made the Ipod they only wanted songs to be able to travel one way, computer to MP3 player). It’s supposed to be easy. I must be an idiot because I can’t get it to work! Are you getting my drift here?

Then there’s the issue of content on the Internet. I found a list of blogs about blogging that supposedly originated from Technorati CEO David Sifry at a blog called ‘I’m Blogging This’. Most of these blogs only touch on blogging, and some of them have nothing to do with it at all. I looked up literary blogs (I like reading books and want to get a list of other bloggers with similar interests) to see if I’d have any more luck than with my Kung Fu blog search debacle. I found this really cool web page that lists heaps of literary blogs: ‘The Complete Review’s Links to Literary Weblogs‘. The funny thing is that my search engine didn’t provide this list. No way. The only reason that a comprehensive list like this one even exists is because some individual human beings put the effort in to compile it themselves. The search engine spiders don’t have one up on simple human endeavours. Prove me wrong people!

I love technology. It needs to be simple to use. The people who make it are thinking too much. It’s all too complex, varied, random, and disassociated from meaning. KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid.

Jesse S. Somer is not the brightest kid on the block. He needs the processes of ‘future’ technologies to be created with simpletons like him in mind.

Copyright MiContent.com.au

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I’ve just hooked myself up with a new RSS Reader. If you don’t know what an RSS Reader is, you can read this article I wrote a long time ago that might give you some basic insight into what a ‘Rich site summary’ or ‘really simple syndication’ is: ‘RSS is a Life Raft, Saving Us from a Sea of Useless Information’.

I don’t think anyone really knows which of these definitions the ‘right’ one is, but they both seem to fit well. To put it ‘really simply’, RSS is having a desktop program that (once your sites are chosen) automatically brings you the latest writings from bloggers, News sites etc. via feeds … What’s a feed? It’s a stream of information coming from a chosen site that will hopefully ‘feed’ your mind and make you more knowledgeable, and a wise human being. Hmmm. Well, that’s debatable – as one can subscribe to feeds from just about any blog or website. For example, if I want to get the new Garfield comic delivered straight to my ‘mailbox’ (They are a lot like an email system, and some are even integrated/configured together with your normal personal email), every time one is published – Bang! It’s there. The question is whether or not Garfield will feed my hunger for wisdom … I think the greater probability lies in that he will feed his fat gut with lasagne, while my mind stagnates and rots in its own slimy green ooze.

In my previous city of residence I used to work at an Internet company who was working on an RSS Reader. Subsequently I got to use the beta version and got my head around how these virtual ‘machines’ work. It’s been awhile since I’ve had one, and as I use a Mac I thought I’d have a look online for a free, easily downloadable RSS that was Mac compatible. I can’t say I found many that fit these requirements and so when I finally came across Shrook I grabbed it. Shrook’s nothing special, but it does the job. I can read new blog entries and News articles from all of my favourite sites that have feeds enabled (it seems not everyone out there does – why?!). I can also see photos and even watch videos (although that function hasn’t seemed to work very well as of yet). The only issue for me is the format. It’s non-adjustable, and the amount of space devoted to the actual written text is only about a third of the screen. Has anyone else had this problem? How are you supposed to read long articles and look at big photos when your total reading area is the size of an infant’s shoebox?

It looks like RSS Readers bring in their feeds in two different ways. One type is where you can see the whole text of each article, while the other is where you are only shown a small sample of a couple lines giving – you a taste of things to come if you click to go further. This type seems more practical to me because if you’re subscribing to multiple sites, and each is publishing multiple pages of new stories or articles on a regular basis, it gives you a chance to sort through them quickly, deleting any topics or stories that don’t pique your interest. We’ve only got so much time to devote to the pursuit of information gathering now don’t we?

So I’m wondering, ‘what kind of RSS Readers do you other people use?’ Are you happy with how they work? Can you imagine a better way to get to all the interesting subject matter that you desire? If you’re a blogger and you don’t have RSS feeds available for your readers, why? Are you crazy? I can’t believe some of my favourite blogs like Gaping Void: ‘Cartoons drawn on the backs of business cards’ don’t have RSS subscriptions; unless they do and it’s just not obvious enough for those whose brains aren’t able to utilise extra-sensory deduction.

If you’ve never used an RSS Reader and you like surfing the Internet for blogs and articles that relate to your interests or take you closer to reaching enlightenment, go and try one out. I think most of the popular ones would be downloadable from the Internet. I know some people who use Mozilla Thunderbird. How does it work? Please get back to me and tell me how your experience goes and whether or not it has made your life better, or conversely, turned your brain into even more of a puddle of oozing green slime.

Once again I’m out on the surface of the river of knowledge, using my staff to judge the depths of wisdom, and keeping my eyes open for sharp rocky obstacles.

Jesse S. Somer is back on the RSS life raft, searching for islands of interesting people and topics of conversation.

Copyright MiContent.com.au

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