TagTechnology

The season of perpetual hope

It doesn’t matter what phone you use. Nor do I care what operating system you run or if you even know. I don’t care what you’re into. Just like you don’t care what I’m into. We’re all into what makes us happy.

And I try to celebrate that. I am not the best at it. I still fall into the trap of dismissing things I don’t care for. But I am aware of it and I try to get better at it. I try not to be a jerk and to genuinely be helpful.

Yesterday, as I was sitting at a Thanksgiving dinner, surrounded my families visiting their mothers and fathers with dementia, one of the daughters pushed an Android tablet towards me and asked if I could get Netflix on it. She didn’t know how.

I said sure and went to work relearning how Android has changed since I used it years ago. I found the Play Store and updated the app. I didn’t enter any payment information, skipping the step to avoid unwanted charges. I located Netflix and downloaded it on to the tablet.

I then showed the daughter where the Netflix app icon was and how to get other applications in the future. I did mention some of them may require a payment and I skipped the payment step when I downloaded Netflix. I mentioned to her it would not require payment for anything free, so if she didn’t want to add a credit card to it, she wouldn’t have to immediately.

I love technology because of what it allows us to do. I haven’t lost my sense of wonder at how I can see friends in far away states, or talk to complete strangers across time zones and continents. I still marvel at the libraries of knowledge and entertainment a single click away.

Technology is my life. But it shouldn’t have to be everyone’s. I had no idea what I was doing with the Android tablet when she handed it over to me. But I figured it out and didn’t ask a thousand questions. I chose some sensible defaults and explained what I had done.

Better living through technology

As I was returning from my lunch-time walk, I saw a woman walking towards me gesturing strangely at me. I was confused at first as she was far away.

She continued gesturing as she got closer. Still confused, I continued to watch her, and as she drew near, I realized she wasn’t gesturing at me at all.

She was talking to someone on the phone in sign language using video chat.

There it was, the promise of technology, being used to actually make someone’s life better. A deaf person able to hold a conversation over the phone, in her native language.

Technology Temptation

I love computers. I often prefer their company to people. Before I got married, I had close to a dozen computers in my life. They all worked. Or mostly worked. And when the ding or a NewEgg or TigerDirect email would appear in my mailbox, I would look through it. The same for the paper catalogs. What was on sale? What did I need to complete a machine? What upgrade could I buy?

I threw a lot of money into hardware that I rarely did anything with. Hard drive. Enclosures. Cords. Adapters. I had a mountain of junk that I thought was important.

It wasn’t. I had big plans for what I bought. But I never followed through with much of it. So I bought more and more. I kept looking to see what I could buy. Because it was a deal.

Now, I don’t receive any of their mailings. I’ve long since removed their temptation from my life. I can’t remember the last time I visited either site. I no longer lust for technology.

I’ve done the same with app deals and sales. I don’t get notified. If something goes on sale, it’s usually something I already own. And if it’s not. I don’t need it.

If I did, I would have already bought it.

Big Technology Secrets

People who don’t consider themselves good with computers have been trained to believe they will never be able to learn computers. People who don’t enjoy using computers, will continue to struggle with computers because they honestly believe they will never be able to understand computers.

Computers used to be the domain of scientists, programmers and geeks. Today, there is no reason anyone, and I mean anyone can’t be good with computers. Windows has not drastically changed in well over a decade. Windows XP was released in 2001 and has not changed how it looks and works since then.

Windows 7 is a nice collection of minor changes. But it’s really the same thing as it ever was with a different coat of paint. WIndows 8 is where the craziness happens. Just like the Ribbon interface in Microsoft Office 2007 and 2010. These are both big changes. But they are both understandable with a bit of time and a little learning each day.

I am not saying everyone should become a computer expert. But there are a few secrets that can make sure experience using them far more pleasant.

Computers are big and scary and there are so many moving parts they intimidate the average user. Let me share a couple of secrets of technology which will hopefully make computers friendlier.

First Big Technology Secret

It is very hard to break anything on a computer so it can’t be repaired quickly. Let me say that again. You really have to try to break a computer to where it can’t be easily repaired. And often times, if you try, the computer will warn you that what you’re doing is not a good idea.

There is very little you can do to seriously damage your computer. You’re not going to catch a virus or delete your programs without a fair amount of work. Sure, you can do things that confuse you or make a computer act oddly. But with some help, they can be undone. No permanent harm will befall you or your computer.

Second Big Tech Secret

Once you learn the basics, the rest is just details.

I’m serious. Don’t think about all the things you can’t do. Focus on what you can. You can surely turn the computer on and login. Now, you can find and open programs and files you need. Need to print? You know where that is! Need to save? You’re a pro already!

Now that you know the basics, the rest is just details. Make an effort to learn one new thing everyday. It will speed up your work and make you more productive.

For instance, you copy and paste often don’t you? Did you know you can hold the Ctrl key down and press C to copy and then hold Ctrl and press V to paste.

Isn’t this faster than moving your mouse up to the Edit menu, locating Copy, clicking it. Moving your mouse to where you’d like to paste. Going up to the Edit menu again, locating and selecting Paste.

Ctrl + C and Ctrl + V is much faster. And Ctrl + X is Cut. Now you can Cut, Copy and Paste like a pro. All without moving your hands from the keyboard. Now you are ready to type and keep working. It’s not a huge thing, but it will save you a couple of seconds every time you do that. Even 5 seconds multiplied by every single time you need to copy and paste turns into hours at the end of a month or a year.

Let me share another tip with you. I live by a mantra, Save Early. Save Often. Whenever I am working on anything, I make sure I am always saving it. When I have made a little progress I press Ctrl + S. This will open the Save dialog. I create a file name and save it. Now I can keep working without fear. Many programs such as Microsoft Word will automatically save your work. But you need to have saved it at least once first.

Even as I am typing this, I am pressing Ctrl + S every couple of sentences. This makes sure if something were to happen to my document, it’s being saved early and often. The worst feeling in the world is completing your work, and when you go to print or save it for the first time and there is an error, or your computer crashes. All that work you’ve just done is gone. It’s like you never did it! Save Early. Save Often. It will keep you from having to redo your work. And who likes redoing work?

If you are feeling adventurous, open the control panel. Look at what’s there. Everything is very clearly marked. Printers. Networking. Display. All of these things are self-explanatory. Do you need to add a printer? Click Add Printer. Are things too big or too small? Click on Displays grab that slider. Make it bigger or smaller and the screen will change. But don’t worry if you’ve made a mistake, in 15 seconds it will revert to where you were.

Third Big Technology Secret

You don’t need to know everything.

You only need to learn what you’ll actually use. There are a huge amount of settings and options. Most people only use a tiny number of them. Computer techs familiarize themselves with every menu and option so we can act as guides.

We dig into the nooks and crannies of an application to learn them so we can help our customers. Most people have absolutely no need to do this and can safely ignore most of the options. Just learn what you need and leave the rest. It’s not worth filling your head with knowledge you’ll never use.

Fourth Big Technology Secret

Computer techs don’t know what everything is either.

It may seem like your IT guy knows every inch of the computer you have. They know exactly what that weird error means and what this program is. The truth is we know a lot from seeing it over and over. And we search. If I don’t know what a program is, I’ll search its name and usually the first couple results will have what I need.

In most technology matters, my knowledge is a mile wide and an inch deep. I know a bit about a lot of things. But I only know a lot about a very few things. The rest I search when I need to. The knowledge is out there, you just have to know how to look.

IT Guys and Gals are not lords of their domain. We just do this day in and day out so we learn by repetition. Most of the customers I serve do jobs which are completely foreign to me and I’d be terrible at them.

Everyone has something they love and are extremely knowledgeable about. Everyone has something they know more about than anyone else they know. It may be computers, science, literature or music. Everyone has their niche. I hope this has made working with computers a little less scary. We’re all in this together.

Techo Chamber

Round and round we go.
There are Apple rumors. There’s a new version of Windows on the horizon. There’s plenty of product announcements being debated and compared to products which don’t yet exist.
There’s Microsoft, Google, Apple and Android camps all clamping at each other. Linux is sitting on the sidelines slowly snaking its way into our phones and cars. Biding its time like a Trojan Horse.

Everyone has an opinion and is an expert on everything.

There are scholars on how to make software and what the business model should be. There is debate over the importance of a business model. There are those out there doing the work and keeping their mouths shut.

They are often overlooked and out shouted by the technology echo chamber. There is signal and there is noise. There is so much noise it is often hard to find the signal.