The Past of Computing: Yours, Mine…Ours

As with anything, there is a past. So it is with the business of home computers, whose history is full of accidental discoveries and the personalities of those that made them.

The link below does NOT lead to a dry accounting of that history. Rather, it is a personal story of a man that lived through it, his past and how, through a series of close friendships (there is one in particular), he became involved in the periphery of that business, was drawn into it.

As such, it is a human interest story. A man who longs for that past, and the friendship he lost.

I must caution you: there are some technical details in his account. Some of you might feel as if you are going to get lost. My advice: stay above the surface of the water–don’t get pulled down by those details, the understanding of which is not necessary to appreciate the story. Skim over those, if you don’t comprehend, and focus instead on the personal tale.

http://daringfireball.net/linked/2014/11/07/ford-retro-computing

I found myself at the end sympathizing with him, understanding his longing for the past. To understand that, you have to understand a bit of my past: as recently as 1998 I was a kind of newbie to “modern” computers.

In 1981 I started my slow journey into what is now probably one of my biggest fields of interest (the other being music). I began with a Timex-Sinclair 1000, a $199 computer that was about the size of a DVD case and had a membrane keyboard (think of the ones probably found on the gas pumps near where you live). It was a start…soon I had progressed into the line of Atari computers: 800, 600XL, 800XL, etc. I stayed with that until 1987, when I moved to Arizona and its 300+ days of pure sunshine. While in Pennsylvania I had spent many cloudy/rainy/snowy days indoors working on stuff on the computer, in Tucson there were few such days, and much more time spent outdoors. The computers were packed up and mostly forgotten.

Skip ahead to mid August 1998. A brother of a close friend contacted me, told me he would be in the Phoenix area (where I now lived) for his work, he would like to catch up on our 15 year-old friendship. In the mid 80s he and I spent many hours exploring the software and capabilities of those old Atari computers. He asked me if I had a computer, and I said I had an old Data General One DOS laptop that I had purchased in May, but that was it. He had become a sort of computer whiz, and he offered to build a more modern PC (that could actually run Windows!) for me during the week he was visiting.

Thusly did my journey begin again. He taught me how to build those wonderful machines, how to find the right parts cheaply, how to configure the resulting constructions and get them up and running. One of the places I haunted was Arizona State University Surplus Warehouse, a large building that was full of long conference-room tables that, back then, were covered with mostly desktop PCs now abandoned, as a professor and/or instructor’s office was remodeled and his/her old machine was replaced with a newer one. Some of those machines were barely husks, metal cases with little hardware inside. The Number One rule of the place was: there was no opening of the metal cases to see what was inside. If you were caught doing that, you were banished from the premises. So, you had to evaluate what was there as best you could. For $20, sometimes you got a machine with a 500MB (huge!) hard drive, a Pentium processor and a modem. Most times, you got little more than the case. I bought many of those machines, and in my own Dr. Frankenstein way, built quite a few resuscitated PC “monsters”.

A few years later in 2002 I started again, this time with Apple Macintosh machines. Same basic concept–but there was renewed excitement, as Macs are much different than PCs. Many of my fondest memories from those several years are about all those activities.

Then, someone from ASU got smart. They took the machines away, built the computers themselves, and sold the results as ready-to-go PCs and Macs for hundreds of dollars. While I could certainly understand their motives, it put an end to one of my favorite activities, almost a decade of great experiences and memories.

So the author’s longings at the end of his story rang true for me. But, I can’t go back and revisit my past like he can. Sure, the building is still there and it’s the same as before, and I still visit. But now, it’s with a sad longing.

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This and That, Part 1: Still lovin’ ‘that Android of mine’; iOS 8; OS X 10.10 Yosemite

Nothing specific to talk about today…just some general thoughts on a few things. (I am working on a new somewhat controversial post…but more on that when it happens.)

First off: The Hisense Sero 7 LT Android tablet. I’m still lovin’ this little guy, but as I’ve added apps, predictably the overall speed has gone down. I’m not one to have more than a few windows open at once anyway, so this isn’t all that big of a deal as far as an adjusment…and I’m also no stranger to waiting for something to open or finish loading. (I suppose this is due to having more than a few older computers–patience, patience!) I have been seriously considering an upgrade to the Hisense Sero 7 Pro with 8GB of RAM (as opposed to the LT’s 4GB), but I’m now way past the date to return the Sero 7 LT, and the only way to obtain a Pro is through online ordering. I’d like to play around with the Pro for a bit first to be sure it’s what I want…as for returning the LT to Fry’s, the reason is simply because I don’t see a need for two of these. At some time there will probably be a “tipping point” where I will have to make a decision to live with the app lagging, or upgrade and have a redundancy of devices–but I’m not there yet.

I know what some of you are thinking: if slowness is a problem, why not just get a Samsung or bigger brand-named device? First reason is cost; then the redundancy factor…then, the bloatware. This machine (I am using the Sero 7 LT to write this post) is remarkably free of junk–usually third-party apps that you can’t remove–known as bloatware. All devices have them–there are a couple on here I could do without–but not nearly as many as some. It’s just a waste of resources.

Next: iOS 8. While I wasn’t plagued by the bugs and inconsistencies that hit this iOS’ early adopters, there’s still been some iPhone reboots (and hey, two or three really isn’t that many–but when compared to the number of reboots to fix iOS 7 issues–ZERO–it is kind of a big deal). While overall I’m pretty happy with this new version, despite its occasional slowness, I do have some concerns as to how I am going to eventually be forced to upgrade to a 64GB iPhone 6 (or 6 Plus).

I had to delete a lot of stuff–stored photos, unused or seldom-used apps–to get enough storage room to even be able to install iOS 8. Clearly, a 16GB model is just not going to cut it any more. It will, I think, become the smartphone model of the classic flip phone that phone makers still produce for those elderly or non-tech-savvy users that just need a phone, period. Like the 8 GB model gave way to the 16…so must 16 give way to the 64. Oh well.

(I just got message on my iPhone that my storage is almost full. Again. Grrrrrr.)

Finally: OS X 10.10 Yosemite. No, that’s not pronounced YO-SEH-MITE. It’s YO-SEM-IT-TEE. And, just as the pronunciation is different, so is this upgrade. The font is different on the desktop, the title bar, everywhere…for the first time that I can remember. It’s bolder and cleaner…missing to is the “shelf” in the Dock the apps used to rest on, now there’s just a long enclosing rectangular strip. Also gone are the 3D effects…like iOS 8, the app icons are flatter in appearance.

BTW, get used to those words…”like iOS 8″. Apple is bringing closer and closer together the Mac and mobile operating systems. For example: you can now make phone calls from your Yosemite-equipped Mac. As my late grandfather (whose usually quiet manner would often be broken by loud outbursts, not unlike an individual whose name was also Yosemite) might snort in derision, “AHHHHHHWWWWWWW!” (Followed by “Well, did you ever…!”)

There’s too much for me to talk about in this post (“JERUSALEM!”)…you can read more about OS X 10.10 Yosemite here and here. The first link is to the UK’s TechRadar site, who had this to say about it:

“Yosemite does make compromises in its quest to integrate further with iOS, but there’s a lot to like here, and some really neat new features.”

I just upgraded, so after I’ve spent some time with it I might have another post later on. For now, though, it would seem that Yosemite is really “THE DEAL!” (as my grandfather would say). So far, I really like it.

Alright, Pap…you can continue on with your eternal rest now…and may God bless you.

Link

Yes, readers, you read that correctly. I’m going to praise an operating system that I have historically bashed.

And yes, this is a new post. I have returned from wherever I’ve been to write something new for Brood Coffee Talk*. Actually, I’ve been wanting to do just that for quite a while now, but haven’t been able to find the time.

It’s been about a month since I took a day off from work to drive my–for all intents and purposes–wife to the airport, flying back East for her father’s funeral. Soon afterwards I found myself at a nearby Fry’s Electronics, and after taking a few minutes to peruse their newspaper ad (posted on a wall by the entrance), I headed over to the tablet area.

The actual details of how I arrived at the Android tablet I ended up with are best left for another post. Let’s just say that the store was advertising a tablet for $47, were out of that one, and after much deliberation I settled on another that I’m certain was the better choice.

I bought a Hisense Sero 7 (refurbished) for $69. It’s a 7″ Android tablet with 4.2 Jelly Bean…it has a nice bright and sharp 1280×800 display, a mini HDMI port, it accepts a 32GB (maximum) mini-SD card, etc. You can read more about it here.

Anyway, as someone who has used Apple products fairly exclusively (I’ve also owned a BlackBerry 8300 Curve, an HP iPaq x3715, a Handspring Visor, and a Windows Mobile phone), there was a bit of a learning curve. I have friends that have Android devices, and I’ve played around a little with them…but, just in case no one has ever told you, having such a device for your very own is quite a bit different than that. For one thing, you probably won’t have them at your side every minute of every day to answer questions for you. And, believe me, I had a LOT of questions, mostly of the “how-do-you-do-THIS?” variety. Fortunately, it was pretty easy to figure out. It wasn’t long before I had added some of my favorite apps from my iPhone: Dropbox, avast! and Evernote. The tablet has a lot of useful apps already included…I also added ES File Explorer, textPlus and HP ePrint through the Google Play store.

How do I like it? I absolutely love it! While I won’t be trading in my iPhone for an Android one any time soon, I was and remain VERY impressed with the Android experience. (One reason is that there’s too much integration between iOS and OS X for such a switch, which is only going to get better with iOS 8 and OS X 10 [Yosemite]).

I paired it with a low-cost ideaUSA leather-styled clamshell case that includes a built-in mini-USB keyboard…I am using both to compose this WordPress post.

One of the reasons I thought this might be a good idea was an Andy Inhatko column I read about a year and a half ago. He’s an Apple guy, been one for many years. That’s why I was very surprised to hear–in his three-part article–that he preferred an Android phone to his iPhone. I wrote about that here, in this Brood Coffee Talk post.

Inhatko is no dummy. He knows what’s good and what’s…better. And, apparently, isn’t afraid to come right out and say it.

So, I did it. I gave the other side–“the Dark Side”–a try…and, I was very impressed. You Android owners–you’re really on to something, here.

How many of you would join me? Show some, uh, stones and go to the other side…? Hmmm? Try an Apple/iOS product?

You never know, you might actually LIKE it. I know that I did.

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*(I suppose at least some of the reason I stopped was in large part due to a certain burnout factor. Those of you that post regularly have my admiration–it’s harder than it looks.)

A New Opportunity

I have several so-called “dream” jobs I’d love to be able to call my own. Exactly what qualifies as one of these–and what they are–are subjects for another post. For now, let’s just go forward with the knowledge that I’ve qualified for one of them.

This is one of the reasons why I scaled back my posts here. The hours I’ll be doing this work are from 6 am to 2:30 pm. I used to enjoy writing my BCT posts around midnight–sometimes much later. What I was doing then allowed me to have that schedule. Now, I can’t. It seems that by the time I get home, relax a bit, take a shower, eat some dinner and spend some time with the rest of the family, it’s time to get to bed.

And, that also explains why there hasn’t been anything new in a while. I do plan on putting up some new posts–in a week or so, probably.

I first started performing the activities of this job as far back as 1981. Throughout the years I’ve steadily built on that experience, and around the turn of the Millennium I was hired by a company that would afford me the possibility to more fully develop those early skills.

Sometimes things fit very well together…sometimes–well, they don’t. This position isn’t what many would consider all that great of opportunity…but it’s one of the things I really enjoy doing.

I’ll have more to say on all this later.

Bravo! Jason Collins is first gay man to ‘come out’ as an active athlete on a US major sports team

It has finally happened, and it’s about time.

A 2011 Gallup poll conducted among US adults revealed that 25% of America’s population is thought to be gay. This estimate is hardly scientific, as there is no empirical data to correctly assess the number of gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender individuals in the general population.

Still, the argument has often been made that whatever that percentage might be, if it’s a given that at least some LGBT persons make up the general population, shouldn’t a similar number exist in the ranks of professional athletes? After all, except for superior athletic skill and prowess, these are for the most part average human beings from many different nations and all walks of life. It would seem absurd to believe that there aren’t at least some that would have a sexual preference different from the majority.

There has also been a prevalent belief that these athletes are frightened by the prospect of rejection from their teammates, fans and society in general…should they publicly admit these sexual preferences. Although it’s not the “official” reason, it could be a powerful justification for appearing straight, which at least for some must be the same as living a lie.

So, bravo to Jason Collins of the NBA’s Boston Celtics to be the first to openly admit that he is gay.

Sixty-six years ago Jackie Robinson became a hero to many when he became the first player of African-American descent to play on a professional American baseball team in the modern era. He is remembered fondly as the man who broke the “color line,” opening the door to allow players of any color or nationality to play baseball…and, later, all sports.

Now, it would seem that Collins should be remembered in much the same way.

There is an excellent piece by Dan Levy on the site BleacherReport.com about a recent Sports Illustrated article concerning Collins and his decision to “come out.” Here’s a Collins quote from the SI story:

No one wants to live in fear. I’ve always been scared of saying the wrong thing. I don’t sleep well. I never have. But each time I tell another person, I feel stronger and sleep a little more soundly. It takes an enormous amount of energy to guard such a big secret. I’ve endured years of misery and gone to enormous lengths to live a lie. I was certain that my world would fall apart if anyone knew. And yet when I acknowledged my sexuality I felt whole for the first time. I still had the same sense of humor, I still had the same mannerisms and my friends still had my back.

Levy makes this point, one of many thought-provoking ones in his story:

Being a minority isn’t easy in this country, but most minorities don’t have the choice to hide who they really are.

We can’t hide the color of our skin or the texture of our hair or the shape of our nose. We can’t choose our skin color or our nose or our hair or any other characteristic that defines who we are physically.

We can’t choose our thoughts and our feelings, either, but they are so much easier to hide, making something like homosexuality very confusing for society and very difficult for those within that community to admit and fully understand.

If you knew you felt a way that would bring ridicule and shame upon you within your community, but you had the ability to hide it from everyone, wouldn’t you do that?

That’s what gay athletes have been doing for years, and until more brave people like Collins and former U.S. National team soccer player Robbie Rogers come out and proudly admit who they are, there may still be the stigma that being a gay man in American sports is something to hide.

It is not.

Being gay should make no difference in judging an athlete’s performance than if he or she is white, Catholic, vegetarian, left-handed–or, all or none of those things.

I’m not a fan of the NBA…but I just became a fan of Jason Collins.

My Favorite Music Videos, Part Twenty-Two: David Lee Roth’s ‘Just a Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody’

A video that’s probably best known for poking fun at other videos makes up today’s “Favorite Music Videos” offering.

David Lee Roth gained prominence as Van Halen‘s lead singer in the mid to late 1970s. His crazy stage and video antics–as well as his great talent for not taking anything too seriously, including himself–provided a great comic persona that music video really needed in its early days. Many video artists took themselves quite seriously…it was a pleasure to watch a clown who could also sing and had a certain sex appeal.

Unfortunately, Roth’s ego and personality evidently did not sit well with the rest of the band, and he left in 1985, eventually replaced by Sammy Hagar. While many liked the new lineup, most of the band’s fans still longed for Roth’s return.

From Roth’s Wikipedia entry:

In early 1985, while still a member of Van Halen, Roth released “Crazy From the Heat”, a popular solo EPof off-beat standards. Singles for “California Girls” and “Just a Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody” succeeded largely due to their innovative music videos (produced by Jerry Kramer and co-produced by Glenn Goodwin and Bobby Diebold), which featured ridiculous characters created by Roth and his Creative Chief Director, Pete Angelus, who’d previously directed Van Halen’s Roth-era videos.

On April 1, 1985, Roth and Van Halen parted ways. In his 1998 autobiography, Crazy From the Heat, Roth characterized Van Halen’s music just before his 1985 departure as “morose”. Roth wished to record an album quickly, tour, and then shoot a movie, (for which he hoped Van Halen would record the soundtrack. The film, entitled Crazy From The Heat, was budgeted at $20 million by CBS Studios; however, the project folded after the consolidation of CBS Studios.

Some of the musical artists lampooned in this video include Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, Billy Idol, Willie Nelson, and Boy George of the 1980s band Culture Club. It’s well thought out and conceived, and is amongst the funniest I’ve ever seen. Roth is particularly gifted in that he knows how to play to his audience for laughs and isn’t above using slapstick, much like the comedic performances of greats like Lucille Ball and Dick Van Dyke.

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(If the video won’t load or play click here.)

Some things you might not have known about David Lee Roth (again, from Roth’s Wikipedia entry):

In April 1993, Roth was arrested in New York City’s Washington Square Park for buying what he described as “$10 worth of Jamaican bunk reefer” from an undercover police officer. The arrest made headlines and became a late-night television punch-line. When asked by Howard Stern whether the bust was a publicity stunt, Roth said, “Howard, in New York City this small of a bust is a $35 traffic citation. It literally says ‘Buick, Chevy, Other’. Your dog poops on the sidewalk, it’s $50. If I was looking for publicity, I would have pooped on the sidewalk.”

In March 1994, Roth released Your Filthy Little Mouth, a musically-eclectic album produced by Nile Rodgers. The album failed to achieve positive critical or commercial success, proving to be Roth’s first solo effort not to achieve RIAA Gold or Platinum status shortly after its release. The support tour found Roth playing smaller venues in the U.S., and larger venues in Europe. Your Filthy Little Mouthsaw a remastered re-release in 2007.

In 1995, Roth returned with an adult lounge act, performing largely in Las Vegas casinos, with a brass band that featured Nile Rodgers, Edgar Winter, and members of the Miami Sound Machine. It also featured several exotic dancers, who in Roth’s words were “so sweet, I bet they shit sugar!”

In the late 1990s, Roth trained as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) in New York City, and worked as one for some time. He occasionally told stories about his experiences as an EMT on his 2005 radio show, which replaced Howard Stern’s legendary radio show, after the latter moved to satellite radio.

In 1997, Roth wrote a well-received, New York Times best-selling memoir, entitled Crazy From the Heat. The 359-page book was whittled down from over 1,200 pages of monologues, which were recorded and transcribed by a Princeton University graduate who followed Roth around for almost a year. The book received mostly positive critical and reader reaction, and helped to reinvent Roth’s image as a popular wit and adventurer, with a bon vivant personality.

in 2012 Roth rejoined Van Halen. The reformed band released A Different Kind of Truth, their first full-length studio album with Roth on board since 1984 and a huge commercial success.

By way of explanation: to my readers

I thought it might be a good idea to explain what’s going on with Brood Coffee Talk these days.

First, allow me to offer an apology. I know from comments I have received that many of you read this weblog to get an idea what’s going on in the world of technology…specifically, smartphones, tablets and computers.

For the moment, I have temporarily suspended coverage of that topic.

While the obvious question is why, the answer might not be so obvious. Frankly, I got tired of all the back-and-forth sniping and negativity.

I’m not so much talking about any of that from the users of those devices…but rather, from the tech press. For example: each day I’ve been looking, trying to find something good to say about Windows 8. Instead, for the most part, all I saw was the usual “Windows 8 is awful! Microsoft is doomed!” stuff. So, I wrote about that.

I was taught that if you are going to criticize something, you better have a solution–or at least a suggestion for improvement. Whenever I could, I tried to include that.

Windows 8 is not awful–trust me on this. What’s disappointing is how much better it could have been…but it’s not unusable. Heck, even Vista worked for a lot of users.

And I haven’t forgotten about Samsung vs. Apple…or Apple vs. Samsung, or what the freak ever. Both companies are doing quite well, thank you very much. Both make great products and neither is going away any time soon.

All the same is true for Android vs. Apple. In fact, the very cause of my recent intolerance could be due to this argument.

Recently I included an excerpt and link to an Andy Inhatko three-part article about how he switched from iPhone to Android, and his reasoning behind it. This is quite notable in itself, in that he’s been a staunch Apple supporter for many years. I’ve been following him since around 2002, and have a certain respect for his opinion–not because he’s an Apple fan, but because what he says makes sense. So, when he provides good and compelling reasons for making the switch to a competitor, I can find little fault with it.

For the immediate future I’ll be limiting what tech news I feature here. This is not a permanent action, and if anything major happens I’ll still be reporting on it.

In the meantime, please check out my past tech posts, and if you have anything in particular you’d like to see discussed please leave me a comment. And, as always, thanks for reading Brood Coffee Talk.

Live on.

–anasazi4st