Tag Archives: technology

Intentional Obstacles

No path is straight. There are jigs. There are jags. There are obstacles.

Good stories have the main character experience these and yet still prevail. Those are the stories we like. No one reads about the character born with a silver spoon in his mouth who just has a run of success and happiness. The end. No, we like it when the character has made mistakes. Been beaten up. Lost his fortune. Was wronged. Did wrong. And then persevered and prevailed. That’s the story we want.

I wrote recently that I am not giving Amazon my new debit card number. Yes, this inconveniences me. That is the point. I now have to jump through hoops to get something from Amazon. Thus far, I have not gone through the trouble. Even now, I have a couple items in a cart. But I haven’t purchased them because it is uncomfortable to do so.

I am actively working on getting rid of my cellphone. It may or may not happen. We shall see. I took off some apps the other day. My current thinking is that by the end of the year, I have rendered the cellphone useless to me. At that point, I will cancel my phone plan then I will give it one of my children.

I have a Google Voice number. I can speak on the telephone via that from home. No, I won’t be able to do so from the car. It’ll be like the old days when one had to be home to receive/make a phone call.

To get to this point I have to address using Maps and the camera. I’ve already removed Google Maps from the phone and only use Apple Maps. For whatever reason, this phone often cuts off the voice directions Apple Maps gives. It is most annoying. Yesterday, the route Apple Maps provided to get home from Asbury Park were ludicrous! If it keeps doing that, getting rid of Maps will be easy.

It’s the camera that will be the big issue. But even so, I vowed to take fewer photographs this year. Getting rid of the phone would certainly accomplish that. ūüôā I have cut back severely already. But I like to document what I’ve done. That, however, comes with another drawback. I am posting a little to Facebook. All it is is virtue signaling. Oh, look at me and the kewl things I do with my children. I can certainly do away with that.

I don’t need to take as many photographs in the classroom. Lord knows that is no fun dealing with tagging all those things. But I will want a camera of some sorts. I used to like the point-and-shoots I used to carry. I could get one of those.

My plan is not to bring the cellphone with me to work. Just yesterday I was reminded when we left the arcade that Apple knows all. I was offered to get directions to where I parked the vehicle. While that could be a grand service, I never told the phone where I parked. And it knows where I park at work too. It all scares me.

No, I don’t expect that anyone will come and hunt me. But the intrusion is such that someone somewhere will find a use that I can’t think of for the information. Even if that doesn’t happen, how dare these companies do this! Sure, if you don’t want them to do so, don’t use their products. That’s where I am going with this.

The end result is that making phone calls will be troublesome. I don’t make many phone calls.

Texting and e-mailing will only happen on my end from home. I am doing that presently.

Traveling would be hampered without a mapping program. Traveling with the children will not present a problem as their phones can be paired with the vehicle for directions. I seem to have decided not to travel like I did for the past two years. That is irrespective of this issue.

Going to concerts and flying will necessitate paper tickets.

If mask wearing returns, Docket will not be available.

Note taking will not be as efficient. I love Google Keep. That I can write a grocery list n the laptop, pick up the phone, and hit the market is great. If I am at work, I could add to that list. Keep is houses passwords and account numbers. Most of that is not needed outside the home save the bank account. I could learn the number. I could keep a card in the wallet or the glove compartment. There are solutions. Paper can host a grocery list.

Perhaps reducing the number of notes I take is a good thing. I am crafting this post (and the last few) because I put down some notes during the day today and now want to clear them. Meanwhile, the laundry hasn’t moved and I did not read.

I suppose I should put down why I want to get rid of the phone. I loathe that I carry a device that spies on me. It’s one thing that businesses and government put up cameras all over the place and I recorded wherever I go. That information isn’t actively culled, organized, and distributed to manipulate me. The cellphone does. And I pay for that.

I talk to myself aloud. Call me weird all you want. It’s what I do. Google, Apple, et al. listen to that and then push advertisements to me based on that. If I want to mutter to myself, I want to do it in private and not be prompted for self help when I tune into YouTube. If write a note about something, I don’t want Facebook giving me advertisements for products related to that. This bothers me to no end.

I am already an outcast. I march to my own drumbeat. I am thought odd and silly by the few people who even know I am around. I don’t need to worry that I am removing something that virtually everyone else has and uses from my life. I perceive that I will be better off without the cellphone regardless of what others think. Will it create some difficulty? Yes. Is it insurmountable? Absolutely not.

Regardless, intentional obstacles are helpful to me in some situations. Bring on the discomfort!

Cellphone Change

At the beginning of the year I purchased an iPhone. I paid far too much for this thing. I can afford it, it’s just not worth it.

What’s bothering me is not Apple-specific. I don’t like being tracked. I don’t liked being listened in on. I don’t like being manipulated.

Much like televisions should not be the center of my living room, cellphones should not be dominant in my life.

I have a goal: live without a cellphone.

To that end, today I removed G-mail, my contacts, and the texting app from the phone. My plan is to do all e-mail (very little of it in my life) and texting (very little of that too, but that is a bit more time-specific) from home on the laptop. I use Google voice for texting; I don’t need a phone to do so.

Presently, the phone serves as a camera and a mechanism for backing up the photographs I take to Flickr. I need to resolve that.

I also use the cellphone for maps, my COVID documentation, as a boarding pass for flights, a timer, a notepad, tickets for concerts. I need to work through handling those items sans cellphone before I am comfortable getting rid of it. I am thinking that perhaps by the end of the year. If I am successful, I suspect my son will be pleased to get the phone.

Thinking Outside the Box, Perhaps

A little while back I wrote myself a note:

How can I structure my life in the next three years so that when I retire and move, I won’t need a television or a cellphone?

It seemed to me this would be a noble pursuit here the last few years before I leave the area and begin anew.

Since then, I have been rethinking this approach.

My television is really only a screen. It is not connected to cable. I don’t watch shows. Hardly any movies either. I watch YouTube. Occasionally, I’ll stream the news. That’s it. I think more than anything I want to structure my next home not to have a living room where the furniture faces that screen.

The cellphone has never been a thing for me. Yes, currently I have the latest and greatest. I’ve been in this position before. But I don’t use the cellphone in a manner that is problematic.

As I consider things, there is interest in dropping Comcast (an evil company). All I use it for is to connect the television and laptop to the Internet. Comcast charges me $60 monthly for that. I pay the same for my cell service. I can easily stream anything I want from the phone to the television. I can tether the laptop to my cellphone so I can enjoy typicng on a keyboard. And I save money. I don’t need to save money, but why not if I can?

That is what I am considering now instead of removing the cellphone from my life, it may become a dominant device in order to eliminate an entire bill.

And that is how I go about simplfying my life. Considering my options. Looking at what matters. Seeing where I can still become more efficient.

Dot . . . Dot . . . Dot . . .

Everything I say and do seems to be contested . . . I think we can officially declare global warming dead . . . Children are a lesson of patience . . . Earrings are an odd construction. We punch holes in our body to hang metal from us. Weird . . . Where does Robert Plant get off charging $575 for a pit seat to an outdoor show? Sure, move back to general seating? $375. Wtf? . . . Spoke about earthquakes to my students, now I get Google news about earthquakes . . . Trump went on tour with Bill O’Reilly? Really? That’s a low-rent event . . . The new 8 o’clock guy has gone so looney I don’t watch any longer . . . As I go through old photographs, I recognize a change I made when I take photographs in the classroom. I take few wide shots any longer. Since I tag every person in the photograph, wide shots have so many people, it takes forever to tag them all. I don’t know when the change happened, but it happened. I scold myself when I have such a photograph . . . I read a post as I re-build this site from a long time ago. There was a comment in it that was just absolutely rude. It bothers me. How could I have been so callous? It was a private post, but it is still telling. I need to do better . . . It’s been five months without biting my nails. Yeah, trivial, but important . . .

Computer Help

When I moved back to New Jersey in 1991 I was thrust into the computing world. My mother was eager to dump the maintenance of my bootleg music list into my lap. Yup, my first modern day computing was using Ventura! Daily I would get my desktop publishing lessons.

Each evening, Dad would arrive home with a van load of computer parts. He and I would build computers.

Thus, all day, every day I learned software and hardware.

By the time I began teaching in 1994, I was the computer guy. Because I was single and knowledgeable, I spent every weekend at other people’s homes troubleshooting their coI had no personal time as I mputer ills. I was paid and treated to food.

Eventually, I learned to say, “No.” I had no personal time as I was always doing work for others.

Eventually, I left the classroom for a few years and became the technology coordinator for a school. Nine to four daily I troubleshooted computer problems.

And at home, I did the same.

Gert wanted slide shows for Back-to-School Nights and end-of-the-year celebrations. Annually, I would teach her how to do so. Each year I ended up doing the work for she refused to learn.

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime

This turned into:

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Have someone else fish for you, you never need to do anything.

And so it went year after year.

I was reminded recently of another technology problem at that house.

I purchased the family a laser printer one year for Christmas. The children were getting to the point of needing to print things for school, Gert needed some stuff printed at times, and I thought this would be a helpful tool.

I purchased a wireless printer. It runs off an app. It worked beautifully. But Gert seldom was ever able to print. I suspect it is because she would change settings on her cellphone, but I truly do not know. Every time she wanted to print, I had to get involved.

Later, we purchased a color printer as well with a scanner on it. When I moved out, I took the color printer as I saw a use for the scanner in my life. I left the perfectly functioning laser printer.

Gert couldn’t get it to work. She said it was broken.

Time after time she would send the children’s work to me to print for school.

This summer Beetle was frustrated she could not print. I showed her a video that walked one through how to set up the printer. In no time all was in good shape. Yup, the child got the printer to work that the parent never could.

When one wants something, it happens.

Re-thinking Google

Google used to ascribe to the motto:

Don’t be evil.

It removed that value a few years back.

I used to look at the platform as the Coke-Pepsi, Ford-Chevy, Garmin-Magellan, Nikon-Canon decisions. Pick an ecosystem and go with it. I selected Google because I love the cohesiveness of how its products work together.

I have owned a few different Google phones beginning with a Nexus phone way back when.

When I moved to the apartment, I purchased an Android television. I no longer log into my account on the television. I tired of saying something to my students in the classroom and having that topic fed to me on my television at home.

Not that I am a Facebook fan, but my visits there are even fewer as Google passes data to Facebook immediately and Facebook is even more in-my-face about hawking wares and topics that have been discussed.

And far too frequently, things not even discussed or searched for, nay things that were only thought about, are finding their way in suggestions from Google.

This is indeed evil. I want no part of it.

I am now in the planning stages of how to proceed. I will conquer this.

My phone is four years old. It will be replaced at some point. It will not be with a Google product. Nor Apple. Probably not Android either. But what are my options?

I am trying to work through the process to disentangle myself from the Google ecosystem. Presently, I am weaning myself off Google News. I don’t anticipate much issue with that.

I am not on social media in much of any capacity.

Areas I need to address:

  • Google Maps
  • Personal Assistant
  • Keep
  • Gmail
  • YouTube
  • Photos
  • Drive
  • search
  • Voice
  • need for a smartphone

Google Maps I do not have a solution or plan of attack for. Substituting Apple Maps or some other service does not negate the tracking. It does seem, however, that Maps is less intrusive. Just using it for navigation has not, as far as I remember, presented cause for alarm. Nevertheless, this is not the first thing for me to tackle.

Personal Assistant is nice. The first day of school each year, after I read my students The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man, I ask Google what my name is. The Assistant responds, “Your name is Awesome Man.” The students howl at that!

I’ve blocked Google Assistant . . . I think. Some of these commands are so embedded, hard to find, have unforeseen consequences, and don’t work, that I truly don’t know if I have done all that I can. Using the remote on my television to ask for channels does not work. Some things when I am driving don’t work with voice commands, but it seems others do. I need to get more up-to-date on how to control all this to truly know what’s going on.

I use Keep. I’ve streamlined it to now just two files, but I use those two files daily. Surely, the information in those files could be kept in another way. As is Google’s strength, they learned how to integrate things like this to make it seamless. And I like that. I can find an alternative, however.

Gmail has been a staple of my life for a long time. I keep my inbox at zero. I have worked diligently to reduce my e-mail. I receive very little e-mail. I have not worked on replacing Gmail, but I do have an option as I have my own e-mail server available to me with unlimited accounts I can make. I will look into transferring over some e-mail to that system. It will only be family and close friends. I suspect any business will still get the Gmail account that will be used less and less frequently. That’s how I envision it playing out, at least.

YouTube is my visual entertainment. I do not subscribe to cable. But the advertisements that YouTube pumps through the television are intrusive. Listening to a lot of concerts, I’ve had three commercials during one song before. More and more I turn off YouTube (the television altogether). Not logging in helps to some extent. The advertisements are still nagging, but it does not pump me topics it gathers from my logged in account. Rather, it mimics the things I am watching on the unlogged in device. I can handle that okay.

Also, YouTube is the repository of thousands of videos of mine. I use those videos as content for this blog. I do not see changing that. I do have unlimited data for this account, so theoretically, I could serve all video (and photographs) from my own server. It is unlikely I will go that route as YouTube is superior to serving that content. That means I will not shutter my current Google account as I would lose all that content. The goal is to keep the account, but to only use it to serve the content, not be served by Google.

I don’t use Photos, but it is so entwined in the ecosystem, I actually have to deal with it now that Google has changed how it handles image files. All the photographs I take on the Pixel are automatically backed up to Photos by Google. I have to see if I can disable that feature. I take enough photographs that the 15GB limit on my account comes into account. If I have a big weekend of geocaching, I can fill my account easily. So, I delete the files. It takes time.

But I also need space on my account for Drive. No, I don’t keep much in my Drive storage. A couple files, but they take up no room. What I use Drive for is to transfer my photographs to my back-up server. It automatically copies my Drive files to the 32TB back-up system. To do that, I need to transfer the files from the phone to Drive. If I have not cleared out Photos, this becomes problematic as I run out of space. I also like having these back-ups until I confirm my back-up system indeed has the data. Sometimes Google doesn’t flow quite right, so I verify the data is backed up before I delete it from the Google services.

I do use Google’s search feature. That is easily enough changed. I actually looked into DuckDuckGo, but I want to read up on some more before I commit to it.

Voice has become a useful tool for me. No one, not even my mother, has my actual phone number. Hell, I don’t even know what it is. With Voice I can shut down a number if I want to.

But the way I have used the cellphone from the time I got one is to limit who has the number. It used to be only family. It has expanded beyond that, but not much. Without a landline number to anchor other outlets that need the number, I have loosened up a bit.

Some services don’t like the Voice number. I guess it can be determined that it is such a number. I signed up for Uber. They won’t let me use the Voice number to book a car. I deleted Uber. If I can function with everyone else I desire to on this planet in this manner, Uber can make it work. And since it won’t, it doesn’t get my business.

And I love that I can text from my laptop. Yes, I am old. I find typing much better than using a screen to communicate.

But what do I do if I am get rid of Google? I suppose I can just be miserable with blocking any number I don’t recognize. And hey, I might be able to use Uber too. Will have to work through this.

Finally, I need to determine how I will address the smartphone when it is time to replace it. I don’t do social media, so none of that is a concern. I like not being beholden to Google just to use the phone. But what about boarding tickets for flying? Won’t I need an app for that? Then which ecosystem? I guess I can look at it that I fly infrequently, so could print them.

What about COVID vaccine records? Already I need to show them to gain entry to events. I suspect that will increase as time progresses. I am working with the Docket app now. Also have photographs of needed documentation. Does that tie me to an ecosystem?

I do use Google Maps. Even if it is another business offering up the data, there will be an app.

Not having a phone does not seem much an option as I have no landline. I do think the ability to call and to be called are what I want. An old dumb phone and don’t rely on Maps is an option. In some ways it feels as though I have an answer for much of this save Maps. It seems silly to provide Google so much just for driving directions.

There are things to consider, and I will. I am about to get up and go out for errand. I want to be able to do so without knowing that Google will track that entire trip. The only way to prevent that right now is not to bring the cellphone with me. Yup, I purchased a device that is a spy against me. That is telling on how all this works. It’s like standing online at a business to pay. Nonsensical!

Let’s resolve this!

Privacy Does Not Exist

Recently I disabled Google from listening in on me. I thought that would help in protecting my privacy. I watch a lot of YouTube on my television. I do so without logging into my account.

I have not geocached much since July. But I did go out today. Facebook is now recommending all sorts of geocaching groups and posts I might be interested in. Damn! I haven’t even logged the cache I found today!

This does not please me in the least. I don’t want this much known about me. I suspect my “upgrade” will be a downgrade. It doesn’t seem to matter what settings I employ, websites know what I am doing. Maybe a dumb phone is needed here.

Proud of Beetle

Beetle called me this evening frustrated. She asked me to fix her printer. Sigh . . .

Printers are interesting things. I’ve always marveled at the technology. An idea could come into my head. I could type it out or draw it on screen and with a click of an icon a physical representation of that idea can manifest itself. Love it!

Even so, I am not much for printing and never have been. Nevertheless, several years ago I purchased a laser printer for the family. The children were at the age when things were needed for school. Truth be told, every once in a while the adults needed to print something too.

I purchased a wireless printer. I really like the technology. At the house, things worked well . . . for me. My ex-wife struggled printing. Initially, installing the print driver on her work computer was a hassle. There’s an app for the printer, but she didn’t install it or would remove it from her phone. Whenever she wanted to print, she couldn’t and it fell to me. I think it was more of a “I want you to do this” thing than a problem of her actually printing. Many times I walked her through the process.

The printer worked until 17 July 2020, the day I moved out.

My understanding is that no one has printed on the printer since. I have had to print things for my children here at the apartment because no one could figure out how to print at the house. More than once I was told it was broken. I even tried to explain to my ex-wife how to get the printer working, but in 14 months, that never happened.

So, when my daughter called frustrated tonight, I guided her by providing the YouTube video I used each time I had to reset the connectivity because we changed the router password.

Just as I suspected, my daughter had the printer up and running in no time. Bravo!

When one has a reason to learn something, he does.

I’m Scared

The other day I wrote a poem. I have not published it. I assembled it in Google Keep. I worked through the edits Got it to where I want to be. I created a post on this blog. It is scheduled to post in two days.

I have not read the poem aloud.

In the poem I mentioned a band, Simply Red. This is not a band I listen to. I assure you I have not sung their songs. I have not watched their videos.

But on my screen right now, You Tube suggests that I watch the Simply Red Live in Concert at Sydney Opera House.

This is frightening.

Tracking

June Map

During my school years, one of the dominant themes of the books we read was the dystopian feeling of Big Brother. 1984, We, Kafka, and others drilled that the future had government spying on its citizens. This bedrock really helped engrain the idea of liberty/individual rights.

Advance forward a few decades. We’re here. And yes, government is spying. But frankly, what is more scary to me presently is how business knows what I am doing. The above map was sent to me by Google. It wants me to know where I was last month.

That Google shares my browsing with Facebook, so as soon as I log onto FB I see adds for things I just searched for, means this is all over the Internet.

Russians and Chinese hack credit cards and medical data. It isn’t a big stretch to think that a lot is known about me.

I know I have thought things that have then shown up as ads to me.

These devices listen inside my home. This is all without me really using all the services available to me. I know folks who have Amazon devices everyehere constantly listening for directions. That is even more intrusive.

So, all these data about us are compiled then the government uses our tax dollars to purchase the data. How have we let this happen?

It’s already too late. We are unwilling to restrict these companies as we like our social media, Google Maps, browsing, etc.

And then there is the attitude of folks like me, a bit older with nothing to hide. I prefer the service and there’s nothing ill for me to hide, so I acquiese. But out the window goes liberty. A hundred years from now things will be horrible if this continues.