Acquiescing in Today’s “Connected” World

An image from the Slippery Brick blog. Click on the image to go to the article.Look. I don’t believe I am the only one who thinks that all this new communications technology, particularly cell phones, are necessarily a good thing. I embrace technology, and I think mankind should embrace it generally. However, I think humans ought to be able to choose what they embrace. One man’s convenient communications tool is another man’s anchor and millstone. Cell phones are the latter to me.

Let’s see. I ride to work and it is unsafe to drive and use a cell phone. I am at my teaching job where cell phones are considered a rude intrusion to one’s learning experience and disruptive to everyone else, especially when I am giving a lesson. I don’t need it at home, since there are land lines there anyway; why bother? If I am out at a nice restaurant with my wife, I hate the intrusion, and people can leave a message on my answering machine at home. I don’t see a problem, and I don’t see why I ought to waste money on a technology that seems to be a nest of contracts that differ with every provider. I have owned cell phones that are also useless while being recharged.

There was a time when owning two cell phones for my wife and I, plus a land line set us back about $200 per month or more. Am I the only one who considers this an obscene money grab on the part of the telecoms? I am not saying they’re corrupt. What I am saying is that perhaps their marketing worked too well, and they were allowed to do too much by the CRTC. I noticed for example that concomitant with the cell phones’ emergence was that outdoor payphones occurred less and less in actual phone booths, and more and more often on these outdoor posts, open to both the elements and eavesdroppers. They even disappeared altogether in some places. It definitely makes using payphones unattractive, and in comparison cell phones seem more attractive. I once read one of those “You know it’s the modern age when –” articles, which had, among its many signs:

  • you have a list of 15 phone numbers to reach your family of three
    • Sad but true for many families, although realistically it might not be that high. But it’s still sad. When I was young, we had one telephone number, and nobody died, nobody got neglected, nobody how old do you have to be to buy viagra joined a gang or got kidnapped. I know that’s hard to believe, but a normal, comfortable life was possible with one phone number. If your kid was in a friend’s house, you called his friend! Problem is nowadays, I looked at my phone bill recently and little did I know that my land line now has three phone numbers on it. I didn’t ask for the other two, and when I asked them, Bell Canada said: enjoy it! It’s on us!
  • you pull up in your own driveway and use your cell phone to see if anyone is home to help you carry in the groceries
    • There once was a secret us older folks had to get around this limitation with only one phone number and no cell phone. It was known as “walking inside the house to see if anyone was inside to help out with the groceries.” It darn near killed us. Oh, the hardships we faced! But we must have been a clever bunch, since people don’t think of that these days.
  • leaving home without your cell phone is now a cause for panic
    • You need to think positive. What you call a time for panic, I call a time for freedom! Panic is the wrong thing to feel. But it’s a symptom of having too much riding on your cell phone number. Unless the company you work for is paying for your cell phone, I would resist the urge to use my cell phone number for work-related reasons. After all, they’re not paying for your airtime. Once you start on the slippery slope of using your own private cell phone for work, I can see why people stress themselves out.

What annoys me the most about these quotations is that they are all premised on the idea that cell phones are some kind of necessity. Their importance is way overblown. Most of us will just get back to the caller sooner or later. The immediacy of most calls is almost never a life-and-death matter, and an immediate response is usually never necessary. Personally, I much prefer talking to people face-to-face.

Oh, yeah. I guess you may be wondering about the image I used for the phone. It is a Nokia prototype back in 2008. Doesn’t look like Nokia will be around much anymore, so why not spread the humor? Click on the image to get to the originating blog.

A reluctant technophile disses cell phones

I like the latest technologies as much as anyone. As I type this, I am using a Bravia hooked up to a quad-core PC using an HDMI cable, and have it hooked up to the ‘net with a wi-fi connection. And I know that most of my equipment can’t be bought new anymore. I have always realised that it is hopeless to keep up with the latest developments, or even to keep up with the news of it.

I like to choose my technologies carefully, for things that really make my life easier, saving work, time, and money. For me, devices have to do more than just look flashy.  I never lock into long-term contracts with cell phones, and like the idea of “unlocked” how to buy viagra without seeing a doctor cell phones. I think control over a device that you paid for is a human right, and it is the only decent thing to do with a device that a user purportedly owns. A cell phone shouldn’t own you. Or “pwn” you, to be more precise. Most of these cell phones are made of delicate plastic, with large glass touch screens that could not survive a drop of 3 feet. You might drop your phone at least once in that time, meaning for part of the life of your 3-year contract, you’re stuck paying for a phone that is no longer useable, while you have to go pay for another one. If that isn’t financial enslavement for inferior-quality devices, nothing is.

Getting more out of my camera

I have a Nikon Coolpix L3 that I have had for a number of years. In its day, it sold for close to 200 bucks and had a 5-megapixel resolution. These days, that level of resolution would only be acceptable for a cell phone, but I have learned to be rather happy with my purchase anyway. The color and detail are both great, and while the camera enjoys occasional but steady use, I use it seldom enough that I would forget some of its features.

I discovered this when taking photos of white paper with black print on them, under lighting I would have imagined to be more than adequate (two 300 W incandescent bulbs shining not more than 1 metre from the paper, and shining directly on the paper). What I kept getting was brownish-yellow digital photographs of these paper when they were displayed under GIMP. If I took several photographs, it took time to correct the white balance, and to remove any other extraneous color. After all, the color of the paper is supposed to be white. For about 30 or so photographs, it took over an hour to correct them all. I was even thinking to myself that I would have to get a camera that would be smarter about the lighting conditions.

And as I was pricing them out, I found that cameras half the price of my camera had over 12 megapixel resolution, and can focus optically to at least 4x (mine does 3x). In my frugal mind, that still meant an expenditure had to be made, and I needed to look more closely at some of these cameras. One helpful salesman told me that I needed a way for the camera to do the white balance internally, so I can eliminate the need for using GIMP, or Photoshop, or most other post-processing software. He showed me some cameras that can do this, and can update the image as you are adjusting it.

I left, still not making a purchase, because my instincts were telling me to check my own camera. Indeed, my old clunker L3 does indeed do white balance adjustment, and that takes care of most of the problems I had been having. I found that I could not directly control the ISO settings, which internally control light levels internally, so after correcting for white balance, my photos still came out looking dark, especially considering the strong lighting conditions I was using. I read that the L3 controls the ISO settings internally, and it is likely that it is over-compensating for the strong light, still resulting in my having to do some post-processing under GIMP. For the moment, it will be a bug in the camera’s design that I’m willing to live with for the time being. Maybe what is being indicated here is that I need not take any pains with anything other than ambient lighting (seeing that daylight pictures come out so well).

Getting rid of the cell phone

Cell phone contracts are easy to get. Companies these days make cell phones very affordable. They are eager to sell you value-added services that you never needed to use prior to the purchase, and you are hit with a bill that can go upwards of $45 per month.

But what if you are like me? You have the cell phone, and now you realise that it is a ball and chain. I don’t just mean the contract; there is also the fact that you can be anywhere and people can get in touch with you. Well, what happened to concepts like privacy? Are there still places left on this planet where people won’t be texting me or phoning me, or emailing me? I need space; I need quiet time. I need a little freedom. I need to get rid of the damn cell phone.

Getting rid of the cell phone takes real mental discipline and concentration. The first time I tried this, I had to get past Emily, the automated Bell Telephone Fairy. The fairy could grant me three wishes, but cutting my cell phone wasn’t one of them. It didn’t understand me when I gave her a voice command to “BUG OFF!” so she sent me to a human.

From then on, I had to endure an onslaught of sales pitches as to how I can improve my cell phone experience by changing my package selections. But they didn’t see the main point: I have a land line, which in effect means that Bell dings me twice each month. I pay them $100 a month just in phone bills. They could not see that this was entirely unacceptable. They also didn’t see that this was my sense of rational decision-making and rational budgeting at work. That wasn’t allowed to enter the conversation either, no matter how rational I tried to sound. Then, they asked me for my password to get into my private account (all this was over the phone after all). I vaguely remembered making this password 6 months or more previous, but I had no idea what it was, and told them.

So, I was told that the only way I could cancel my account was to show up at a Bell shop, and show them some ID. So, weeks passed until I thought once again to go through with it, and when I did, I had to endure yet another sales pitch similar to the telephone ordeal, and finally we got down to business, and I showed them my ID. I brought my cell phone with me, but they weren’t interested in looking at it. They told me that I had to complete the billing cycle, and in 6 weeks, I would be free.

Of course, this 6 weeks did not go by quietly. I got brochures telling me to come back, we’re sorry, we didn’t mean to piss you off; I got a “courtesy” call asking me to reconsider, and after fighting them off bravely, I reached my summit, the top of the hill: NO MORE CELL PHONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!