Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
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Saturday, November 04, 2021

The very first wireless phone I owned is also the only one I ever wrecked. It was inadvertent — I was horsing around on the beach, and in a mental lapse, waded out chest-high into the water before remembering that the phone was in my pocket.

I figured the handset had been drowned but good, and so didn’t really bother to try reviving it. I was probably due for a new phone by that point anyway.

But should I pull this faux-pas again, I now know that I can attempt to recover the phone by drying it out with low-level heat, or more adventurously, an alcohol dip. Apparently, there’s a 50-50 chance for successful resurrection. It seems like it’s worth a shot, especially in terms of recovering all the photos, contacts, notes, etc. on the handset’s memory. What is there to lose? The phone’s likely dead anyway, so further tinkering isn’t going to do any further harm.

Important caveat: Remove the battery! I mean, it should be obvious by now that they hardly need an excuse to go blamm-o; no sense in cooking them toward explosion.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 11/04/2021 02:06:25 PM
Category: Tech | Permalink | Feedback

The other day, someone walked in the room, disengaged from her phone conversation, and declared, “My cellphone has been ringing off the hook!”

Which struck me as a timely example of a no-longer-timely expression. Because, obviously, the now-common mobile/wireless phones, regardless of how much action they’re getting, don’t have hooks off which to ring. It’s linguistic anachronism in action!

Not that the phrase “off the hook” is bound to fade out anytime soon. Landline corded phones are still around, especially in offices, offering a live illustration of the concept. Heck, “off the hook” is even a favored cool-kids expression. Much like other antiquated telephone jargon, like “dialing a number” (no dialing occurs on touchtone keys, folks), this one will stick around long after its relevance will.

Still, I think the new phone handset technology calls for new, more appropriate slang to convey the message. Maybe something like, “My cellphone has been lighting up like crazy!” I’ll work on that…

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 11/04/2021 01:31:58 PM
Category: Pop Culture, Tech, Wordsmithing | Permalink | Feedback

Friday, November 03, 2021

At last — now you can actually see how many seconds it’ll be before that cabbie floors his gas pedal toward you! New York City is rolling out intersection pedestrian walking signals that will show the number of seconds you have to dash across the street before the light turns green.

Not everyone’s in favor:

[Mayor Michael] Bloomberg, who had taken notice of the countdown signals in a slew of cities around the globe, first proposed introducing the technology during his 2001 mayoral campaign. But city traffic engineers aggressively fought the proposal.

The engineers believe the countdown clocks can be confusing and dangerous because “people misjudge how much time it actually takes to cross the street,” according to a report released by the mayor that tracks his campaign promises.

City Transportation Commissioner Iris Weinshall acknowledged yesterday, “We have been against it for a while.”

But given the mayor’s insistence, Weinshall said the agency decided to go with a trial period.

I’m not sure how being given the precise amount of time is more prone to misjudgement than the current blind guess. Maybe the engineers think it’ll simply confuse enough crossers that they’ll wind up frozen in the middle of the street…

Oddly, St. Petersburg, my previous home burg, had a couple of these style of signals installed in its tiny downtown core. I thought they were great, and it amused me New York should come up short in this basic city-dwelling metric. Better that it’s catching up now.

The placement of these trial-run signals is at: Coney Island Ave. and Kings Highway in Brooklyn; Hylan Blvd. and New Dorp Lane on Staten Island; Hillside Ave. and 179th Place in Queens; Sixth Ave. and W. Eighth St. in Manhattan, and Southern Blvd. and E. 149th St. in the Bronx. One per borough — nice. I think the Sixth Avenue/Eighth Street one is the only one I’ll have a chance to visit.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 11/03/2021 05:56:05 PM
Category: Tech, New Yorkin' | Permalink | Feedback

Wednesday, November 01, 2021

That was odd. Just now, I fired up iTunes, and when the iTunes Store interface loaded up… I was confronted with menu links and placards written in French.

It threw me for a couple of seconds. Then, I scrolled to the bottom of the page, and confirmed what I suspected: Somehow, my settings preference had been changed from the default U.S., to the iTunes France Store.

Why? I had no idea. I had fleeting thoughts that my recent purchases off iTunes, which included a couple of Eurotrashy electronic tracks, prompted Apple to exile me from America to Europe. I’d be amused by the screwy criteria: You buy a couple of non-American songs, and they figure, “This guy might be more comfortable with one of our overseas Stores”. In which case, I couldn’t wait to buy something off the just-unveiled iTunes Latino section, just to see if I’d get shunted to the Mexico Store…

But then, I found out that this is a widespread glitch in the program that has lately cropped up. It must be coming from the user-authentication data stored at Cupertino’s end, because I’ve been running the initial release of iTunes 7 (not the bug-fixed 7.0.1 version, which I’ve yet to install) for weeks now, and this is the first time this has happened.

I’d suspect that this was an intentional redirect from Apple, for some meta-marketing reason. That doesn’t make sense, though, because I don’t think you can buy anything off other countries’ iTunes Stores unless your IP address matches up. Just a run-of-the-mill computer bug, I guess.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 11/01/2021 05:12:27 PM
Category: Tech | Permalink | Feedback

Monday, October 30, 2021

The balance of power, such as it were, between the two near-omnipresent portable digital devices on my person was surprisingly reversed today. By the end of the day, I was lugging around a cellphone that was completely drained of battery power, while my iPod was juiced up at pretty much full capacity.

Odd circumstances accounted for both situations. With the iPod, it was a combination of having it connected to my computer most of yesterday, plus listening to it for only a few minutes to and from work today. Nothing major, except that it runs counter to the usual neglect I give it during most weekends.

As for the phone, that’s a bit more of a bugaboo. I’ve had this LG VX8100 since July, and have had persistent battery problems with it for most of that time. In fact, I just bought a brand-new battery, figuring that the one that came with the phone was a dud. It was fine for a little over a week. Then, today, the battery inexplicably drained by mid-morning, despite my not even touching the thing. It drained from about three-quarter charge all the way down to zero — not even enough power to boot up. This indicates a problem with the phone, although it’s possible that I’m overcharging the battery (as dumb a concept as I’ve ever encountered). I’ll test it out myself over the next few days before running to the Verizon Wireless outlet for replacements.

It was downright unsettling not having a live phone line in my pocket. Fortunately, I was able to soothe myself with some tunes.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 10/30/2006 10:39:07 PM
Category: Tech | Permalink | Feedback (1)

Thursday, October 26, 2021

i, the pod
A couple of days ago, while comment-responding on my post about the iPod’s 5th birthday, I used a unique term to describe Microsoft’s aspirations for its forthcoming Zune media player:

Past the wireless hook, MS is counting on being the “unPod”, thus appealing to people who’ll take anything that’s not Apple.

That “unPod” just came to me. I’d like to take credit for coining it, but of course, someone beat me to that.

Still, a quick Web search indicates it’s not a commonly-employed term. So I’ll gladly post it here, in an effort to have it adopted as the standard descriptor for any portable MP3/media player that doesn’t come from Cupertino. Let the meming begin…

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 10/26/2006 10:53:26 AM
Category: Tech, Wordsmithing | Permalink | Feedback

Wednesday, October 25, 2021

We already knew that Zune, Microsoft’s answer to the ubiquitous iPod, was going to face an uphill battle to capture digital-media hearts and minds.

I don’t know if the challenge gets harder or easier with word that “zune” sounds a lot like the Hebrew word for “fuck”. I could see it going either way, really: The rabbinical community will denounce the offending device, which in turn will reinforce the street cred that the name will undoubtedly gain in the kibbutz.

If the Zune does a big flop, I suppose it’ll be another footnote reference of the (misunderstood) Spanish-language Chevy Nova/”No Va” example in action.

(Via dustbury)

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 10/25/2006 05:49:58 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Tech, Wordsmithing | Permalink | Feedback

Monday, October 23, 2021

gimme five
Hard to believe today marks the fifth year since Apple’s iPod burst on the scene.

Only five years for the little device to achieve iconic status worldwide, enable the viability of the digital-download media retail business (not just music, but now also movies and television shows), and even making its imprint on the Web with podcasts. Not bad for a product that was generally panned when first released in 2001. It also figured to become just another Apple niche peripheral before Steve Jobs shrewdly pushed out Windows-compatible firmware, thus leading to the iPod’s ubiquity.

What’s next? Rumors of a “true” video iPod seem more like wishful thinking now. What about wi-fi?

Microsoft’s Zune player, due to hit the market soon, will boast wireless fidelity, or Wi-Fi, capabilities. The device will let users share songs from one player to the next. Apple CEO Steve Jobs has been dismissive of Zune. In a published interview he said, “It takes forever,” and “By the time you’ve gone through all that, the girl’s gotten up and left.”

Hmm… Sounds like Jobs has been trying to pick up chicks by flashing some tech-device bling. Interesting method of field testing…

It occurs to me that the iPod-Zune faceoff basically reverses the dynamic between Apple and Microsoft. When it comes to OSes, Apple routinely introduces innovations on the Mac that are subsequently copied by Microsoft in the following version of Windows. With the media players, it’s Apple that can sit back and lift any new features — in the early going, the wireless link-up — that the Zune will bring to market, provided it has mass appeal. Far from stealing market share with this “killer app”, Microsoft’s basically going to be an unintentional guinea pig for Apple. Further example of how much the iPod has changed the game in the computer industry.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 10/23/2006 10:00:36 PM
Category: Tech, History | Permalink | Feedback

Thursday, October 19, 2021

The Futurephone “no-catch free international calls” mystery, which I mused over last week, seemingly is solved. David Pogue wasn’t able to squeeze the lowdown out of company directly, aside from a vague hint about future audio advertising inserts into the service. But he endorses Alec Saunders’ speculation on arbitrage and other telecom fees being the basis for Futurephone’s current revenue stream:

The short answer is tax subsidies. The 712 model, as I refer to it, is really a variation on the 900 number model, but financed by taxpayers. Take a low cost call, terminate on a high cost carrier, and pocket the difference…

So how do they make money? Since we don’t know know what FuturePhone’s actual termination costs are, let’s make an estimate. We do know that Jajah provides services to the same 50 odd countries for a retail rate of 2.5 cents per minute. So, let’s assume a 50% cost, and say that FuturePhone’s cost to terminate the call is 1.25 cents. That leaves 1.75 cents per minute to split with the folks at Superior Telephone Coop. Give them half, which leaves you 0.875 cents per minute, and you’ve got a pretty attractive proposition! It’s certainly a lot more profitable than SipPhone, charging 1 cent per minute, and probably about as profitable as Skype at 2 cents per minute. It’ll definitely keep bread on the table.

Basically, Futurephone is skimming off the $86.5 million that the State of Iowa gets from the Universal Service Fund, a Federal program intended to ensure affordable phone service in rural areas. The Fund is why Futurephone and similar providers set up shop in 712 land. It’s not illegal, but it’s certainly a non-intended use of a governmentally-subsidized market. Essentially, Washington ends up paying for that “free” call to Europe.

This puts Iowa, and I’d guess other rural States and regions, in the unique position of being fertile start-up territory for these telecom niche providers. Or rather, the area codes are the desirable staging grounds.

If this is true — and to me, it certainly makes more sense than any other scenario — then the bright side is that there’s nothing nefarious about Futurephone’s free ride. You should be able to use it with no worries. And the stated intentions for this service would be accurate: Futurephone is trying to hook early adopters with the freebie, hoping they’ll bond with the brand even after advertising and other add-ons are implemented.

You’d think the government would look at closing up this loophole. But the way these things crawl through Congress, by the time any legislative action is taken, Futurephone and its ilk will have moved onto phase two of their business plans. So I guess we can enjoy an extended period of free talk time with our overseas buddies…

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 10/19/2006 10:17:41 PM
Category: Tech | Permalink | Feedback (1)

Sunday, October 15, 2021

I’ve always thought that the rapid spread of wireless phone service throughout the developing world, effectively leapfrogging landline infrastructures in places like Africa and south Asia, was a telling trend. How much impact would an explosion of communications access have on chronically impoverished societies?

A pair of weekend stories in the Washington Post indicate it’s a big impact, and that it’s bearing fruit right away. First, at the produce market in New Delhi:

As [Devi Datt] Joshi weighed their purchases, his young assistant packed bag after bag of produce and set them aside in the shade. They were already spoken for — in at least 25 orders Joshi had received the evening before on the cell phone that has transformed him from a worn-out, half-broke vegetable hawker to a well rested, well paid entrepreneur.

“The mobile phone has more than doubled my profits,” said Joshi, 38, sweating in the morning heat, his little Panasonic phone safety-clipped to his shirt pocket with a pink bungee cord. He said he used to earn about $3 a day — now he takes home about $8, for a much shorter and easier work day.

Eight bucks a day isn’t the foundation of an affluent class in India. But it’s a significant upshift in economic status, and represents just a starting point.

Meanwhile, across the subcontinent on the Arabian Sea, the fishmarkets are going through the same phone-fueled transformation:

[Babu] Rajan said that before he got his first cellphone a few years ago, he used to arrive at port with a load of fish and hope for the best. The wholesaler on the dock knew that Rajan’s un-iced catch wouldn’t last long in the fiery Indian sun. So, Rajan said, he was forced to take whatever price was offered — without having any idea whether dealers in the next port were offering twice as much.

Now he calls several ports while he’s still at sea to find the best prices, playing the dealers against one another to drive up the price.

Rajan said the dealers don’t necessarily like the new balance of power, but they are paying better prices to him and thousands of other fishermen who work this lush stretch of coastline. “They are forced to give us more money because there is competition,” said Rajan, who estimated that his income has at least tripled to an average of $150 a month since 2000, when cellphones began booming in India. He said he is providing for his family in ways that his fisherman father never could, including a house with electricity and a television.

“When I was a kid we never had enough money for clothes and books, so we never really went to school,” said Rajan, 50. “Now everything is different.”

The absolute monetary amounts are laughably small compared to American income levels, but the doubling and tripling of wages is major. And it’s made possible because cellphones enable it:

“This has changed the entire dynamics of communications and how they organize their lives,” said C.K. Prahalad, an India-born business professor at the University of Michigan who has written extensively about how commerce — and cellphones — are used to combat poverty.

“One element of poverty is the lack of information,” Prahalad said. “The cellphone gives poor people as much information as the middleman.”

It’s a familiar theme. Better communications has been a crucial economic jumpstarter for centuries. From Rome’s network of roads throughout the Mediterranean, to the telegraph, to the Internet — improved points of contact bring about expanded economic opportunities. We’re seeing that unfold today in India.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 10/15/2006 07:35:48 PM
Category: Tech, Business, Society | Permalink | Feedback

Thursday, October 12, 2021

What does FuturePhone.com have to gain by offering up free international phone calls, via regular phone service?

Yeah, that’s free, as in it costs nothing. True, you have to make an initial call to 712-858-8883, which is the gateway phone channel from which you then dial your international number. That 712 is an Iowa area code, so it’s a long-distance call for most of the U.S. But these days, practically everyone has some form of free long distance at least part of the time on their phone plans, so it’s pretty easy to set up a call to Europe or South America for nada.

But again: What’s the catch? According to FuturePhone, there’s none. They’re serving up this free wormhole as a hook for future service offerings. That’s good enough for David Pogue, but his readers are looking a gift horse in the mouth, suspecting some sort of phishing scam.

I don’t know what to think. It is an overly elaborate setup if the goal is to swipe phone numbers or other personal info. And it’s not inconceivable that a such a telecom pipeline could be maintained low-cost, and justified as a marketing expenditure. Then again, why chance it?

Even though it shouldn’t factor in too much, I have to say that the rather shoddy presentation on their website — lots of typos, a vaguely auto-generated content vibe — is giving me pause. I guess my pressing calls to Greece and Christmas Island are going to have to wait.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 10/12/2021 11:16:22 PM
Category: Tech | Permalink | Feedback (3)

Tuesday, October 10, 2021

the dime
I hadn’t planned on posting one of these sure-fire post-fillers today. But it has been a while, and anyway, the back-to-back juxtaposition of Eric Clapton-Curtis Mayfield calls for it.

So, here’s the most recent random ten song sequence off my iPod, with my new addition of lyric excerpts from each song (which may or may not be pertinent). Roll ‘er out!

1. “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”, Michael Jackson - Just love me ’til you don’t know how.

2. “Cocaine”, Eric Clapton - You’ve got to take her out.

3. “Pusherman”, Curtis Mayfield - How long can a good thing last?

4. “Jive Talking”, Bee Gees - You’re telling me lies.

5. “Accidents Will Happen”, Elvis Costello - Your mind is made up, but your mouth is undone.

6. “Mixtress (Future Funk Squad Remix)”, DJ Baby Anne - Mixtress. (limited selection — that’s the only spoken word in said song)

7. “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos”, Public Enemy - If I come out alive, then they won’t come clean.

8. “The Storm”, The Procussions - You gonna stand fast, or just keep running?

9. “The Tide is High”, Blondie - I’m gonna be your number one.

10. “How Much More”, The Go-Go’s - Girl tonight, girl tonight.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 10/10/2021 09:58:29 PM
Category: Pop Culture, Tech | Permalink | Feedback (2)

Thursday, October 05, 2021

There’s nothing more aura-shattering than the shrill chirp of a cellphone during a concert performance. The inevitability of the disturbance makes it even more of a buzzkill.

In response, the Chicago Sinfonietta takes the can’t-beat-them-so-join-them principle to the orchestral extreme. “Concertino for Cellular Phones and Symphony Orchestra” not only uses four musician-controlled amplified cellphones, it also incorporates audience participation to complete the performance.

Paul Freeman, the group’s music director, told the audience beforehand, “This is a great moment in history, when we can say to you, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, turn on your cellphones.’ ”

A device similar to a traffic light signaled the audience members to activate their rings — red for the balcony, green for the orchestra seats — at various points in the piece. An assistant conductor, Terrance Gray, followed the score and activated the lights…

During the performance, some in the audience held up their phones and waved them back and forth, as if to make themselves heard. Little squares of light from the phone screens studded the hall at Dominican University, one of the homes of the Sinfonietta. But the audience cellphonists seemed to lose steam toward the end of the piece, and the orchestra occasionally drowned out their rings. Organizers hoped that the sound would be better the next night, at Orchestra Hall in Chicago.

I love the term “cellphonist”, by the way.

Very inventive. I guess such a piece relies upon the widespread default rings that most people carry on their phones. As such, I’m not sure that me and my MP3 ringtone version of Chic’s “Le Freak” would be welcomed to this show…

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 10/05/2021 10:44:23 PM
Category: Tech, Creative | Permalink | Feedback

Tuesday, October 03, 2021

covered with art
I already mentioned that I loaded up iTunes 7. It’s not like I was waiting fervently for a new full version of the software; if it wasn’t a required upgrade for me to load up Pac-Man on my iPod, I probably wouldn’t have bothered with it.

But since I upgraded, I’ve been toying with the various new cosmetic features. One of those is Get Album Art, a utility that syncs your own music library with Apple’s servers to insert the now-common jpg cover art from a song’s (presumably) original label release. For someone whose digital music library includes a ton of MP3s ripped years ago, before tags were fully thought-out, it’s a great way to flesh out song files. It’s especially useful for playback on the iPod, as there’s now something colorful to look at (however briefly) while the song blares into your ears.

Improbably, adding the artwork to those old MP3 files somehow makes those song, which I’ve heard a few thousand times, seem new again. I realize they’re the same old tunes, and that the addition of an image does nothing to enhance them. Yet on some mental comprehensive level, it does.

That leads to a bigger consideration: Will this iTunes function lead to a new appreciation for the album cover as a part of the musical experience? Starting with the rise of cassettes as a new-release format, and following through to the compact disc era, traditionalists lamented the shrinking of the visuals on album covers. Where there was once a 12-by-12 inch square of slick-stock canvas to fill with photos, paintings, drawings, etc., the miniaturization of music media left less room for this visual component. When digital files came to the fore, it seemed that the final nail in the coffin for album art had arrived.

Now, the widespread use of iTunes as a media player could reverse that trend. Cover art, attainable more or less automatically (yes, the syncing with Apple’s service is far from perfect), could bring back the focus on the visual wrapper.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 10/03/2021 06:24:12 PM
Category: Pop Culture, Tech | Permalink | Feedback

Monday, October 02, 2021

When ESPN announced it was going into the mobile phone service business two years ago, I predicted rapid expansion among sports freaks everywhere. There’s no more captive audience than ESPN Nation, so it would have been daft to bet against their appetite for all things branded with those four little letters.

So it’s fairly shocking to see Disney pull the plug on the venture now, citing tepid subscriber growth in a fiercely competitive sector.

The spin is that ESPN will benefit more from being a pure content distributor to multiple wireless networks. That’s true, but it masks the reality: This is a rarely-seen setback for the sports programming behemoth, which seemingly couldn’t screw up if it tried. The small screen — at least control over it — has proven to be a brick wall for Bristol.

To me, this seems like a quick hook. It must have been bleeding plenty of money (reportedly $30 million), even with the carriage partnerships. It’s really uncharacteristic.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 10/02/2021 11:01:42 PM
Category: Tech, SportsBiz | Permalink | Feedback

This may have occurred to me before, but the recent release and review of “iWoz: From Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It” by Steve Wozniak opened my eyes to a strange parallel:

Both Apple and Microsoft were founded by pairs of partners: Steve Jobs and Wozniak for Apple, Bill Gates and Paul Allen for MS. Coincidental, but not necessarily noteworthy.

But for all the comparisons and contrasts made between Jobs and Gates, consider the similarities between their respective co-founders. Both Wozniak and Allen started out as tech renegades, providing inventive energy for their respective partnerships. Both helped launch their companies, then left the companies they helped build only a handful of years later. Both opted to “do their own thing”, although that represents widely divergent pursuits (for Wozniak, it was business/inventive/educational tinkering; for Allen, it was mostly making even more money). Over the long term, both men have been overshadowed by their former partner, although by the same token neither faded away into obscurity.

The Woz and Paul Allen: Separated at birth? Not so much, but at least kindred spirits.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 10/02/2021 10:24:57 PM
Category: Tech, Business, History | Permalink | Feedback

Saturday, September 30, 2021

not actual size
I downloaded iTunes 7 a couple of weeks ago. It’s got a look-and-feel revamp, with little extras like the vaunted cover flow feature and gapless playback (finally!).

But that’s not what compelled me to upgrade. No, what hooked me was a little button on the iTunes Store (note, no longer “iTunes Music Store”, since Apple’s branched out to other media) that proclaimed, “iTunes Games”. And one of those games was Pac-Man.

Enough said. I upgraded to 7 because that was the only way to buy any of the games (a masterful stroke by Apple to make the new promos and sections visible in iTunes 6, but not accessible unless you got the new version). Once I installed it, I paid the five bucks without thinking twice, and synced the game over to my iPod. Incidentally, the iTunes upgrade included an update for the iPod’s firmware, to 2.1; it seems to fix some performance-lag bugs, and also brings a much-needed brightness control function to the device. Plus, you can’ t play any of the iTunes Games without it, so…

How does it play on the tiny screen? It’s not quite as microscopic as the action on the world’s tiniest website. That’s not saying much, though. And trying to manipulate Mr. Pac through the maze via scrollwheel is tough stuff — doubly so on a moving train, which is where I usually play it. It’s superb as a timekiller, but I’m not expecting to break any scoring records with it. I’ve yet to get past the Orange stage.

Drawbacks aside, the graphics are wonderously beautiful. The option to turn off the game’s sound effects is nice, as it allows you to listen to the iPod’s playlist. I also appreciate that the game designers included the time of day in the upper-left corner of the tiny screen; you know how the minutes can slip away while your popping power pills! The need for the game to load up is odd, and distinct from the iPod’s built-in firmware games; but it seems like that saves on battery power somehow.

I almost think someone’s going to come out with a little snap-on stub joystick for the iPod in response to this. Not sure I’d buy it, but I’d love to see it.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 09/30/2006 05:00:31 PM
Category: Tech, Videogames | Permalink | Feedback (1)

Friday, September 29, 2021

A rare delving into some of my personal drama, such as it is, through the instant messenger filter.

I usually veer quite clear of this sort of thing when blogging, not so much for my own sense of privacy as for the other party’s. But since I’m still chuckling over it a day later, and it represents a closed chapter, why not:

She: hey, u there
Me: What’s up?
She: call me so I can find my phone
Me: What do you mean?
She: I lost my phone and I need u to call it so when it rings I’ll know where it is
Me: That’s a weird way to locate your phone
Me: How do you know it’s in your house
She: why are u being a jerk?
Me: I’m not
She: just call me why is that a big deal
Me: It’s not, I’m just saying
She: you’re just being a jerk!!!!!
Me: Fine, I’m a jerk
Me: I’m calling you now
She: i don’t hear it
Me: Well, it’s ringing
She: are you really calling
Me: Yes, really, and now it’s going into voicemail
Me: You don’t believe that I’m calling do you?
She: well why should i since you’re being a jerk right now
Me: I’m a jerk because you lost your phone?
She: whatever i can’t hear it
Me: You’ll see I called from the caller ID
She: no message tho right
Me: Why, you know who it is because we’re talking now
She: forget it
Me: You sure it’s turned on?
She: it’s on but maybe to vibrate
Me: Am I still a jerk?
She: [silence]

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 09/29/2006 05:24:14 PM
Category: Tech, Comedy, Women | Permalink | Feedback (2)

Wednesday, September 27, 2021

Let that Tim guy take you on a haphazard Web surfing safari as he uses Firefox’s tabbed browsing feature as an opportunity to nurture his Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. From Harlan Ellison to leatherworking to progressive rock to The Beatles, and all it took was two computers and a lot of wasted time.

The virtues of Mozilla’s browser often center on the tabs; it’s probably the second-most cited advantage over Internet Explorer (after security). As Tim points out, the tabbed interface is something that you either get or don’t get. I prefer it, and it’s the chief reason I use FF myself (and why the first thing I do when using a Mac is to turn on the tabs option in Safari). But for most users (i.e., non-geeks), who don’t consider that a browsing option other than IE even exists, it’s initially a hard concept to grasp. It even comes off as an unnecessary additional interface layer, given that opening new windows and having them reside in the computer’s taskbar is not such a big deal. And as I point out on Tim’s blog, Windows XP defaults to a quasi-tab organization for all program windows that display in the taskbar, which seemingly supplants the need for browser tabs (and if that doesn’t, the forthcoming IE 7 will include tabs as well).

What works and doesn’t work in graphical user interface designs has always been fascinating to me. Paramount in this area is what’s configured as the default behavior when the computer or program comes right out of the box — a fact that most hardcore users never quite grok. Casual everyday users are not going to dive into menus and submenus to tweak — they simply won’t. It’s a daunting exercise, fraught with the danger of somehow screwing things up. So those default settings determine what 90 percent (probably more) of users take in as the commonly-recognized parameters for an operating environment.

Tabbed browsing falls into that category. It’s not a default setting on Windows or Mac (note how even usually ahead-of-the-curve Apple doesn’t make it truly native on Safari; having it as an optional turn-on is nice, but ensures that it won’t be widespread), and so it’s going to be a minority experience. The new IE might change this, unless (as I suspect) Microsoft follows Apple’s lead and doesn’t make it a default setting in the new browser.

Actually, given Tim’s time-sucking experience with having so many pages loaded into the background (an experience many, including me, have shared), I think there’s even more disincentive for going tabbed. Who needs more reason to stay glued to the computer monitor?

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 09/27/2006 09:26:19 AM
Category: Internet, Tech | Permalink | Feedback (2)

Sunday, September 24, 2021

Geez, I’m a dunce.

Those persistent pings from Bryant Park’s wi-fi network, that compelled me to issue a call-out? Guess where they were coming from. Not the park at all, but from that very same aforementioned post.

How? Without getting too technical, when I hyperlinked to my traffic stats, in my haste I wrongly used a location-generated query-string link. Thus, every time that post and/or this site’s index page logged a visit, a phantom hit seemingly coming from the park also registered. In essence, the site was pinging itself.

It wouldn’t have been a big deal, but the activity fairly spooked me. I figured it was some malicious hacker who’d somehow used the public wi-fi network to sniff out my blog’s backend, or was trying to. I was pretty sure my computer wasn’t compromised, but I wound up running system scans and changing passwords anyway. I also tried to block the park’s IP address, in vain (now I know why that fairly simple procedure refused to work). A lot of anxiety, waiting for a possible site hijacking that in reality was baseless.

The really funny thing: This site gets dozens of hijack attempts everyday, just like most other websites. That’s part of the landscape online. But I never see much explicit evidence of it, unless I dig deep into the backend. I know it’s going on, but there’s little sense in fretting over it; I implement as many security measures as are reasonable, and leave it at that. But when it makes itself apparent, via visible traffic stats, I get antsy. By rights, I should be nervous non-stop, but because I can’t see it happening, it doesn’t faze me. Classic out of sight, out of mind phenomenon.

Oh well. If nothing else, this was an unintentional wakeup call to use some layer of encryption before my next visit to Bryant Park. Even though this was a false alarm, the threat of hacking via public wi-fi is real enough. But I’d hate to give up my semi-regular Web surfing stopovers in the park, especially while the weather’s so ideal for it.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 09/24/2006 02:04:23 PM
Category: Internet, Wi-Fi, New Yorkin' | Permalink | Feedback

Friday, September 22, 2021

It’s come to this, America: For the first time ever, the average household contains more TV sets (2.73) than people (2.55).

What’s most telling is that this stat pertains to the hardware — i.e., the actual TV set — rather than the software — television programming. In other words, just because there are more viewing screens in everyone’s cribs doesn’t necessarily mean everyone is watching more of the usual shows.

Not to overstate that perspective. I’d bet the vast majority of those multiple monitors are hooked up to the house satellite/cable feed, meaning that the dream of flitting from one room to the other while constantly tethered to the boob tube is finally realized. But I’m sure a few of those sets are dedicated to almost-exclusive purposes, like watching DVDs or playing the Xbox. In the latter scenario, having a videogaming screen near the TV-viewing one is probably a more common setup than most would think (I did that myself in the past, and likely will again).

This finding comes at a fluid time in the evolution of television/video media. Delivery of video content is fanning out to the Web, mobile phones, iPods and other devices. Again, this reinforces the question of just what all those extra sets are showing on their screens. Far from indicating the resilience of business-as-usual in the broadcast television biz, this should be considered a further example of the splintering of the viewer’s attention.

Related to that, I wonder how much this affects the credibility of traditional Nielsen ratings measurements — how can a program claim to have “captured” X percent of households, when it’s likely just one flickering image among many showing in those households at any given moment?

This news happens to come on the eve of my own purchase of an extra set — a nice LCD flatscreen — which will bring the total number in my household to… Two. Below average, but closer!

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 09/22/2006 03:09:36 PM
Category: TV, Tech, Society | Permalink | Feedback (1)

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