Technology Marches Onward — Fruit Salad

blackberry

blackberry (Photo credit: arrayexception)

Technology marches onward.

What’s the fruit of the day? I was just listening to a news story on the new Blackberry smart phones. Can we really still call them phones?

I know some cynics really dig at the idea of so many things being in so many devices. Having cameras and music players and video players all in the telephone makes him think that there’s just mediocrity in electronics. They say if you want a camera get a camera because a camera built into a phone just won’t do a good job. I say that it’s all fine and good to have a great camera that takes great pictures, but if you don’t have that camera with you you won’t be taking that nice picture. It’s a picture taken at the spur of the moment that tends to get the awards. That is unless you’re one of these great National Geographic photographers whose job it is to take photographs. Of course they always have a huge camera bag with them wherever they go, but do you wander around with a 40 pound bag of cameras and lenses?

Comunicando 114 ¿Qué móvil prefieres? iPhone, ...

Comunicando 114 ¿Qué móvil prefieres? iPhone, BlackBerry o Android (Photo credit: jagelado)

In any case I rather like the fact there’s some competition between smart phone manufacturers. I like that Apple had the competition of all those Android phones. I mean I like the iPhone — I don’t have one, I’ve got an iPod touch, but it gives me a good idea of what the iPhone can do. From what I’m led to understand the Android phones do as well or better. Actually I have good friends who take every chance they get to take a dig at Apple and hype Android. Things seem very partisan to me. I would be very happy if Rimm and their Blackberry do well. I like the idea of more competition in the market.

I wonder how the new Blackberry would interface with my MacBook?

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Are YOU Prepared for Big Brother?

Big Brother 1984So, are you prepared for Big Brother?

I’m not referring to any conspiracy theory or any TV reality show. I am considering things I have seen in the news and in science magazines and on the web. While some of the things are speculation, or were speculation 25 or 30 years ago, many are happening now.

That sounds like the start of a conspiracy theory type article — I am sure. However, even as I write, the Province of British Columbia, Canada is in the process of swapping out  the decades old analogue electrical metres from domestic households to replace them with new electronic digital ones.

These digital metres have been very controversial. There are the factions who are against the increase in microwave background — the metres use WiFi to send and receive information to the electrical power company on power usage in the household a number of times a day. (Even a number of times an hour.) While with my education in electronic engineering, electronic communications, and Animal Biology I have concerns over the general increase in microwave radiation in our environment — I am not overly concerned over the metres from this environmental point-of-view. I’m more concerned about overuse of cell phones, personally. My concern has to do with intimate personal monitoring of the usage of electrical power.

This monitoring is in part — they say — to help do things like catch electricity theft, quickly respond to power outages and developing safety issues in the power system. Officially BC Hydro says:

Once smart meters are  fully operational they will:

  • Help get the lights back on faster during  power outages;
  • Keep rates low by helping BC Hydro operate more efficiently  and help to reduce  wasted electricity
  • Provide customers with new tools to conserve energy and money.

BC Hydro – Media Centre , “BC Hydro Smart Metering update” May 4th, 2012

Advanced Metering Infastructure meter

Advanced Metering Infastructure meter

Part of the conservation is encouraging people avoid using power during “peak hours”. Also to be aware of “power vampires” — ie items that drain power even when apparently turned off.

Being aware of your power usages does sound wise. Having the utility company too aware of every Milliwatt of electricity I use bothers me a bit. With a bit of logic they’d almost be able to tell if I were home or cooking or when I went to bed, turned my computer on or off, my TV…

Water metres are very sophisticated too. From one metre on the outside of your house they can tell which faucet or fixture is being used for how long. Combine this with other smart metres available and inherent abilities to monitor such things as telephone and cellphone usage and Internet usage or even cable/telephone/Internet TV usage… we are or will be “very” monitored soon.

surveillance-camerasWe are already visually recorded many times a day whenever we go out. Our picture is taken when we go into the bank or past any automatic bank machine — at least when we use them. While there are some shops that have fake cameras, the video surveillance is now so cheap that perhaps fake cameras are more expensive. Even without actual public surveillance cameras our images are caught by “Red Light Surveillance” cameras and where they exist Radar Cameras. We also are caught on the many “Traffic Cams”.

Recycling?Those things are not conspiracy fodder or “things to come”. Nor are cameras mounted on “garbage” trucks which record the material dumped from rubbish bins at each house to enforce recycling bylaws by recording if there is an excessive amount of recyclables going into the trash waste stream. Those cameras keep track of the address each bin’s contents come from and while they don’t audit every piece of garbage, they do take a video of all the trash going into the truck. I wonder how long that information is kept for?

Ten or more years ago people were proposing that smokers be charged more for health insurance than others. That sounded almost fair until a friend pointed out that if that was fair, then it should also mean that people who skied should pay more and people who did anything to excess should  be charged more as well. Along those lines, there is a movement that parents of obese children should have them removed on the theory that they are unfit parents.

Where does Big Brother come into this? A “smart toilet” might be able to tell many things to do about your health. That smart toilet combined with monitoring a person or family’s purchases might give health officials a very intimate view on a person’s lifestyle. Are you getting enough fibre? Too much fat?

When I recently was asking the pharmacist at the local area pharmacy (it just happens to be in a major grocery chain, but it is “my” local pharmacy) about the wisdom of a particular product on the shelves and if it would interact with my prescription medications — after checking my records and the medications I was on he gave me my answer. The answer included a tidbit of information I didn’t know. The pharmacist also knew what over-the-counter medications I purchased! Granted, in this case I am pleasantly surprised. The pharmacy record of my medications is available to emergency service providers and hospitals. Whether I am coherent or not when I reach an ER they will know what medications I am on.

But it is in part what got me thinking about this whole “Big Brother” issue.

I do watch what I eat. I’m diabetic an have a few other issues. I a lucky… a fluke of genetics perhaps …and have low cholesterol and low-normal blood pressure. I even have had a carotid Doppler and among other things they discovered that I have little or no plaque in my arteries and veins. That doesn’t mean I am in perfect health. Though I have never smoked and rarely drink, I was quite heavy and though I have lost 50 Kg or more I could stand to lose more.

But, I do sometimes like to have “Hint of Lime” Taco Chips with low fat sour cream. I also like to sometimes have a square or two of unsweetened semi-sweet baking chocolate. (The sort you buy in the baking section.) I also keep some regular Pop on hand for when I feel down. What of a time when there might be “smart fridges” or “smart cupboards” that will record what comes and goes through their doors based on the bar-codes?

I know a few people who live lives that are nearly that structured already. Their lives are measured and weighed. Every “movement” every morsel… unless they go out …is recorded and every time they go out of course is recorded. Even when they go out, “it all comes out in the end.” They have few choices in their lives. I know that most people would like more choice, but have to punch a time-clock — literal or not.

But when the time-clock becomes automatic and as non-invasive as it is invasive, will life ever be the same. Non-invasive, as in we won’t have to write anything down or punch anything; but invasive as in, it will pervade every intimate detail of our life.

Some people argue that if you have nothing to hide, you should have nothing to worry about. But do you want to worry about how everything looks? What if the author of that book you picked up on the shelf is unsavoury? Perhaps you didn’t recognize the author or what they stood for — but the person looking over your video feed might. Is your garbage pristine? Do you want someone knowing if you “do it” with the lights on? If you are unmarried and are “doing it” or if it is with someone of the same sex? Perhaps it might provide an alibi when you tell the judge were at home alone.

Big Brother 1984Perhaps we should stop saying “Big Brother” and start saying “Santa Claus”?

He knows when you are sleeping,
He knows when you’re awake!
He knows when you’ve been naughty!
So be Good!
For Goodness Sake!

But I like Santa. :-(

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An Artistic Crunch! Big Bang?

Indika Ball PenI think we are coming to an “Artistic Crunch” or perhaps “Big Bang”?

When you consider the options open to budding authors and writers, singers and song writers, animators and film producers, and even software developers — there are so many venues that a person really has to either shine like a super-nova or be incredibly lucky to be successful in this new age.

When i entered my teen years, I could look at the school library — which was fairly decent — and reasonably decide to read every science-fiction book in the library. There simply were not that many science-fiction authors around — including classical ones. I was a bit in the dark regarding the genre of fantasy or horror. Now, not only are there whole sections in bookstores and even whole bookstores which cater the fantasy, science-fiction, and other speculative fiction, but so many new books and authors come out that I know I don’t recognize many.

With the Internet, there are very many more options for creative endeavours and these are not just fiction and art. There are whole periodical news sites and reference sites and quite professionally done. In fact it can be difficult sometimes to tell the fake from the real — the well researched from the off the cuff flights of fancy. Musicians and film makers have so many ways they can express themselves they can easily get lost and even gems can get lost with oly one or two viewers or people as an audience.

Even while major publishers and retailers are having problems adapting to this electronic age, they also have a glut of material to select from. There are also very many talented people desperate to be read or heard that they are nearly giving their material away for pennies.

The time where the Internet may have made it easy for an artist to come out into the open — I think — are gone. Now it is a new struggle to be noted. At least there is plenty of space to practice practice practice.

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