Wednesday, January 6, 2010

New Tech, Open Source, Innovation, Absurdity

This is one of those days when I'm really glad I haven't succumbed to any technolust for a while. Not just because I didn't have the money, which makes me grateful, of course, not to have spent any. But because there are so many things happening. Google released its first hardware device, apparently for the purpose of parading an ideal type for competing manufacturers to surpass. They win either way, if their OS takes off. God knows my Windows phone looks and feels primitive against what's new!

Apple will be releasing some new "tablet" device which might sit somewhere between my Kindle and their iPhone. And Microsoft is working on a bi-fold multi-touch device which will probably make the rest of the pack look like they're performing kindergarten exercises; once the M$ marketing machine takes over.

Microsoft has the ecology for massive API distribution and driver development which can release the entire pent up energy of hardware designers across the planet. While Apple remains stuck on super-secret dark glasses "crazy, man" cool.

And my brand new Kindle looks primitive already up against the competition its appearance on the market has engendered. There are readers with color, and one which can be flexed. Some will let you read in bed - if you're sleep-cycle foolish enough to read in bed - without a reading light, and who knows, some might even be willing to let you buy books from someone else's store.

I doubt anyone will replace my keyboard very soon though. Like a lot of speedy typists, I've resisted learning the demonstrably better DVORAK-style input device because, well, you can't get it easily on a borrowed laptop, and if you get stuck on it there will just be a new point of friction every time you move among devices.

The real problem is the same as all real problems, you can't move until everybody moves and since everybody isn't going to move, you're stuck in the same old boat.

Kind of like how you have to own a car these days although doing so makes you way more guilty than just eating meat which burns down the rainforests thus releasing even more global warming disasters than the cars do. Breathe! It all costs oil, big Mac! I wish everyone would stop wanting cars so I could too. There really oughta be a law, you know!

But someday, and maybe someday soon, there will be a radically new input device which will enable me to type in the air, maybe by wearing a glove, and looking a little bit stoned, like walking down the street last night with earmuffs talking to my bluetoothed-in daughter. I might have been gesturing with my hands. How would I know?

I fit in among the crazies who patrol the streets near here, since there's a former YWCA rooming house once meant for young innocents in the big city prior to marriage. Young innocents don't even exist anymore, except in the big box churches. The rooming house is now turned into transitional housing for de-institutionalized crazies.

Playing air guitar in public that's not a rave, whatever a rave is, is what I'd like to do without my keyboard. I'll just bet you can play air guitar at a rave without being thought crazy, like I did once at a Dead concert. One day soon, you'll be able to keyboard discreetly, under your coat or in your pocket, and no one will think any less of you, James Joyce.

Then I won't care if the device for reading is disconnected from the device for inputting. I'll be like Scientology nutjob Tom Cruise in Minority report, flying along in touchy interaction with screens which are nearly transparent. I watched his co-faux-religionist John Travolta in Phenomenon the other night. Way cool, except for the part about psychokinesis, which is just plain nuts. But otherwise, they don't seem any crazier than the big box churchies.

Or maybe I'll just wear glasses and interact virtually, like at 3D Avatar swatting flies the other day, and people will have an even harder time distinguishing me from the crazies. Brother can you paradigm shift? I'm sorry, there are too many of you along my walk, and I'm still out of work. Happy New Year, fellow human! At least I'll give you that! The crazies all have their hands out, which is how you might distinguish them from me.

My good and very literate friend, to whose house I walked last night, will relinquish paper books that he can touch and smell only when they are pried from his cold dead fingers.

A stroke deadened one side, and he discovered, hilariously to me, but then I'm easily amused, that he couldn't stroke himself off anymore with that hand, and so he switched to the  other. It wasn't the transmitter, it was the receiver (or vice versa?), and the doctor was embarrassed when he should have been interested. This insight could replace lots of Viagra, but then again, where would the motive be?

I'm not sure I care anymore how the word gets inscribed or published or transmitted. I do care about its cost, and how much is intercepted by the carriers. Verizon now blatantly suggests that I put my 900 numbers on the friends and family list, I guess so that I don't have to worry about minutes when performing clandestine phone sex!

Are you shocked? You should be. At least they're up front about the critical importance of porn to their bottom line. Sort of. They make no judgements about your habits, and that should be a good thing, except when they're intercepting your conversations on behalf of the government if you're a subversive. Huh? Are you worried? You should be.

I had to up my minutes to get the friends and family discount, which relieves some pressure from worry about overage even as they continue to game my tendency toward it. Charging exorbitant penalties in ways that used to be thought unconscionable, but giving me exquisite control so that, really, I have no reason to complain. My mistake, I passed my limit, now how much do I owe, corporate officer, to balance your bottom line? To please your shareholders. To bolster your monopoly position.

Shouldn't monopolists all be public officers? I think so, but then you'll tar me "socialist." A Christian by any other name would smell so sweet.

I would like to know why paper books went up in price so sharply, during my own lifetime as a student. I don't really believe that it was the cost of paper, especially now that you can print out your own vanity-press copy of your personal diatribe far more cheaply than you can buy pulp fiction. And it's on better quality paper, with a far more durable cover.

And why then, at the same time costs skyrocketed, did all the little bookstores go out of business. At the same time the little hardware stores did? This is not about efficiency, it's about monopoly corporatism, which has about as much to do with capitalism as locking up workers to their employers by health insurance protectionism. No capitalist on the planet would go along with that, unless he were a plantation owner.

So, oddly enough, I find myself rooting for Microsoft now. As the ones to practice actual open sourcing for implementations of their software. But Google is fighting for net neutrality and keeping the phone carriers honest. And somewhere in each of those corporate giants' warrens of dronish workers there must lurk actual hearts and minds aligned with mine against the forces of darkness. I mean, the people I talk to at Verizon are always super nice.

My literary friend indulged way more free loving during his life than I ever would have felt comfortable about. He seems to get more of a charge out of pornographic lurkings than I would require in ten thousand lifetimes. But then he wasn't brought up Protestant, nor descended from Cotton Mather. Consider the pent up energy I must represent! Oh, well, you're right, I'm no energizer playboy bunny.

And so of course, apart from wondering what lusty gene is lacking in me, it seems obvious that he isn't going to want to let go of the hard paper copy of the books he wants to read. He isn't going to let go of his pecker any time soon either. Which is inspirational in a guy past 70! No, really, Walter Mathau made this funny to talk about, so why should I be embarrassed?

But still, I want to know what's the next big thing. If you see someone walking down the street making jackoff gestures the way you do when someone is showing off - and wearing dark glasses - you really should cross the street. Out of an abundance of caution. You never do know where those feedback loops are wired.

Damn, I'm disgusting. I've crossed some line now, and this particular post is no longer PG. But, you know, I'd say that Verizon crossed the line first, and those TV ads for Viagra, and that show I watched last night falling to sleep, with all these fat people losing weight in public, which is just a tad bit unseemly, if you ask me, up against what's real in the world. I'm not talking about their weight. I'm talking about making a spectacle of it. Side shows have all become the main show, and the world is still burning.

But anyhow, I'm hoping for a pair of glasses and a glove which I can wire or bluetooth in to some device I hang on my belt about the size of my ever-crashing Windows phone. The one I look at porn on simply because I can, now and again, the way I watch TV, now and again, as long as I don't have to pay for it. Mine is free, well, except for the carrier charges. There are some things I'd rather not be aware of.

I'm hoping that pair of glasses and gloves are really cheap - like netbook cheap - and that I can flip a switch to see or not to see the world around me. And that I can do my blogging while walking around, making lunch, say, and my reading at intervals among the sports and reality extravaganzas on TV.

And I'll be praying, in among all that hoping, that humanity can survive the technology deployed against us. The written word is all that stands between us and our beastly nature. The written word should and must be free. The written word has never been so endangered as by its global dissemination and inundation in inane valuations of "information", whatever that is.

Knowledge can never measured in bytes or pixels. What's exploding is our own metaphorical capacity for earnest irony. And thinking in public is nearly banished from the square. And God knows, there's no such thing as to think in private. No matter what you're doing with your hands. All thought is dialogic, but there I go getting redundant all over again.


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