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The Sacrifices We Make for Modern Tech

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It’s 1:13AM CST and I’m sitting here staring on and off at the task manager on my main PC.  I got hit hard – HARD – with what appears to be a brand new variant of the Virut virus.  I dual boot XP, and had to reformat both of my Windows partitions because this one found its way to my backup partition as well.  It even found its way from .exes on my archive partitions &/or my external drives back onto my freshly formatted reinstalls on both the backup & main partition.  I saw the services populate with my own eyes as I reinstalled my sound card two days after a fresh double install. 

I retract the “got hit hard” portion of the above paragraph – I accept full responsibility for this infection.  I’ve prided myself as malware/virus free for quite a long time but I got what was coming to me with this one.  I knew better, thought of it, & double clicked anyway.

At first I was pissed at myself, but as I learned about this particular guy and watched what he was doing on my machine, I had a bit of a maniacal marvel for the intelligence of the software.  This isn’t a virus or a trojan & can’t just be called malware with a straight face; it’s more like a bedbug.  It avoided all modern means of removal, including straight up advanced manual tactics.  It knew where to hide itself when I went on the offensive.  It attacked my boot partition when I was snoozing.  It even stayed alive as I destroyed the data on the two partitions in which I believed it solely lived.  “Life” found a way – Polymorphic.Bedbug.W32.FkMeRunnin.

Frustrating as this is, it made me think long and hard about what some tech is really doing for us and the human ingenuity that powers it.  I’m admiring a nasty virus that’s wasting days, and I’m thinking of sacrifices – just recently – that I’ve made for the non-malicious tech that’s surrounding me. 

I spent the 1980s on an Amiga 500 (Apple? Please).  Minus school, it was on that that I started and it wasn’t until the 386 that I stopped.  In fact, I wouldn’t have upgraded against my Amiga had I not spilled a can of Coke into it whilst dedicating a night to Gauntlet II.  So I figured I’d move on to what was supposed to be greener pastures.  Something with a hard drive.  Anyone who knows Workbench on the Amiga knows where the inspiration for Windows came from, so it began as a smooth transition.  I quickly realized that my upgrade had nothing, absolutely nothing on the Amiga’s 4 hardware-mixed channels of PCM stereo.  I never played Gauntlet II again on a PC, but I’m sure the sound sucked.

For the longest, I used a hand-me-down Sansui 7070 receiver for all my audio.  We’re not talking nostalgia – we’re talking a tube driven, 50+ pound powerhouse of pure audio warmth.  I always knew it when I listened to it, but finally learned to respect it when I upgraded to a 96KHZ 7.1 flagship receiver I purchased so I could reap the benefits of digital recording out of my PC & for 5.1/7.1 surround.  I spent days trying to get the same quality of stereo out of this receiver.  Sure, digital boasts 5.1 & 7.1 surround, but as an audiophile I’d say this accounts for, at best, 20% of both viewing and listening time.  The digital multi-channel sound is only as good as its mix, and I find myself changing many a 5.1 source to stereo in a matter of minutes due to lousy post production mixes.

That was just my beginning.  Let’s be honest – we’re not even seeing the easy stuff getting fixed.  We’ll get an Outlook patch in 2009 that corrects daylight savings time calculations. 

A few years back when I was stuck with shoit cable, I purchased a DVDR/VCR Combo unit, a Panasonic, that was smart enough to put VHS to DVD flawlessly yet could not schedule a recording without changing channels mid way through the program.  I didn’t even bother to look for a firmware update for this because hell, it’s a VCR.  I didn’t have to flash my parents’ 1988 Quasar to get it to keep track of time.  What?

My girlfriend recently moved here (Chicagoland) from St. Louis about three months ago.  She had an appointment with a doctor and I figured I’d drive ahead of her so I could show her exactly where the office was.  Though I was almost certain, I doubted myself and pulled up the office on the GPS in my phone.  I don’t exaggerate:  I ended up leading her to Barnelli’s – a fast food Italian joint about four miles from where she needed to be.  We’re talking “You have arrived at your destination” screech the tires & stop.  She got to her appointment, late, but got there on her own.  I’m just the schmuck on wheels with a data plan who can’t even find his way around his own neighborhood.

And it gets worse.  This has happened to all of you, I’m sure of it.  I’ll just use the freshest, most offensive event in recent memory.

When I moved out of shoit cable, I bought a place not too far from it & my girlfriend brought a cat with her move.  I am allergic and I needed a new vacuum – something with some horsepower.  The Sherman of vacuums.  So of course, I waltzed my way into Sears (dropping names I know, why break stride?) and after seeing the skidmarks off the display rack of the vacuum I was specifically looking for I was greeted by a wimpy, black rimmed glasses laden college-kid-on-break who asked me if I needed help.  I asked him for his professional opinion on a similar model to the vacuum that was robbed before I got there.  He said “I’m not sure, but …..”

I knew what was coming, and it came as predictable as a primetime TV thriller:

“if you go to our website…”

For anyone taking their time to read this article:  MakingMoney101 – Do not direct a customer to the website of a store they’re standing in – ever.  I don’t care about what’s on the floor, I don’t care about what’s in the warehouse.  It’s ridiculous.  This story actually got much worse but I can’t relive it – I’m still staring at task manager for crying out loud.

Beyond the CGI gripes (which are many), technology has made its way into the actual substance of the films we watch.  I don’t “ohh” and “ahh” and “oh!” at a British style jittery camera suspending disbelief as it frantically films someone behind a computer in a “top secret lab” surrounded by the cookie cutter script not limited to lines such as “Sh!t I no longer have access” & “look here – we don’t have that kind of time.”  “War Games” did it correctly, once.  If you’re going to make a film about a secret operation, let’s make it a rescue mission gone survival in the jungle against an alien hunter.  Or what about a secret riverboat mission in Vietnam to assassinate a renegade general.  Maybe a criminal taking a legendary name like “Keyser Soze” to escape the police.  Computers aren’t suspense, they’re screens.  Even David Bowman was well written enough to step out of his suit and ask, “What the hell would give you that idea, HAL?” – and “2001: A Spade Odyssey” was made in 1968.

We sacrifice for technology with the people that surround us.

Have you noticed lately that a good deal of the work related email replies you’re getting only address the first sentence of your actual reply?  I call this “Google Attention Span” also interchangeable but not exact to “Twittattention span.”  Don’t get me wrong, when it comes to work I am all about getting to the point, but anything above and beyond the typical rabbiting takes more than a sentence for both understanding and documentation purposes. 

Let’s face it, Google has taught us to skim.  No, it’s true, I bolded skim to catch those skimming this article.  I’ll admit, I’m guilty as well.  It’s a combination of over-information and instant gratification.  There’s no real working for the answer to your question.  While this has its benefits, what’s it do for actual knowledge retention?  

With regards to my second anti-euphemism, I’ll just say: if you’re lucky like me, you’re able to surround yourself with friends that are a great deal like you. If you’re lucky like me, you’re able to surround yourself with friends that don’t Twitter: micro blogs that do nothing but spam search engines and give occupational time to those with too much time to occupy – constant contact, narcissistic, infantile neediness padded by a happiness to be kept at 140 characters.  Fitting to the name, birds share the same attention spans.

I write this because I realize it and I also live a bit of it.  I’m lucky enough to see the postings of considerate people on what they have to say about the vacuum I wanted to buy, and how specifically it impacted the pickup of pet hair.  I’m lucky enough to fully & faithfully emulate my Amiga 500 on my PC.  I had the convenience of learning what I could legally do when my old apartment was infested with bedbugs brought on by a shoddy neighbor, a situation which brought me halfway to insanity.  These are benefits that exist & that I’ll continue to live by.

My generation should be responsible for flying cars, but they’re not here. 

That’s ok though, they’d probably all need a firmware upgrade to get the gas gauges to read properly.

Patrick Daniels

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Discussion
  1. It always leaks thru, and requires manual resolution. We get to formatting the thread starting post in the forums on an eventual basis. ;) This is due to the way in which the vbridge plugin connects Wordpress and Vbulletin, as well as the fact that HTML in articles is not permitted in vbulletin.
    Anyways, thanks for the article Patrick - as I mentioned when I gave it an initial readthrough, the tone is reminiscent of Stroligo and I enjoyed the read. :)
    If you wrote concisely people wouldn't feel the need to skim through the text.
    I did read the whole article and it read like a child-like rant.
    YOU got the virus because YOU made a mistake.
    YOU got your girlfriend late to her appointment because YOU decided to rely on a GPS.
    YOU got left in the cold at the store because YOU didn't do your research first or check stock levels.
    YOU are to blame.
    Time to grow up and take some responsibility.
    Oh, and surrounding yourself with like minded people only galvanises your opinions rather than broadening them.
    He took full responsibility for the virus infection in the second paragraph. He also called himself a smuck for the GPS faux pas.
    In the same way, I've also seen the same issues - I moved to linux for internet access because I don't want to take part in the Windows malware cycle - update, scan, clean, wash, rinse, repeat. More importantly than that, I grew tired of "freeware/shareware" applications which nest all sorts of malware right in their installs - I'm looking at you Digsby, that weather channel thing, that wallpaper application, et cetera, et cetera. Free on windows and free on linux are 2 very different things - on Linux, the applications actually come across as though they are centered around the user, not the people who are trying to shove things you don't want down your throat.
    I've gotten jerked around in a similar way by my Garmin before also - it's sent me east 4 miles on a highway, just to turn around and go west 6 miles on the same highway (I480 south of Cleveland, coming off the Jennings Freeway). While I could have looked ahead to make sure the route was legit, it's a convenience device by design - often times I take it for granted and rely on it being accurate without giving it much thought. Often times it works out fine. These are common issues we've all experienced at some time, and while maybe the way he phrased it didn't resound well with you - I find it pretty relevant and not so distant in tone to what Stroligo wrote on the site. Granted, he wasn't averse to a good rant either when it was warranted.
    As for the store thing, there once was a time when people in stores made an effort at adding value to your visit. This being the walmart era of superstores, there aren't many places which offer much more than a superficial sales pitch anymore (I'm ignoring Home Depot and its ilk).
    To each his own of course, and your always welcome to write your own perspectives - Overclockers.com has always been about free speech in publishing community submitted content. Send me your email, and I'll create your account. :thup:
    GPS isn't fool proof. It once told me to get off the freeway exit, then back on the freeway. thread
    It was in the news article that a family got lost when they used a new GPS that sent them on a rather long scenic trip. They were out of cell phone range and had no paper map and they were (thankfully) rescued 24 hours later.
    threeme2189
    couldn't they have asked somebody for directions?

    Sure they could, but I think the point was that sometimes our dependence on technology bites us in the butt. Personally, I have started driving only to realize I left my GPS at home. I called a friend for directions, but he didn't know how to get there, just said "Use your GPS!" I think society's reliance on technology instead of human intelligence, logic or skills is somewhat alarming.
    I guess it's really just something to think about, not to be taken too literally. I think the author did a pretty good job at sparking discussion and thoughts from the readers.
    :)
    Matt
    I thought it was quite funny, if a bit disjointed (it didn't flow well with the massive situation changes). I enjoyed reading it, quite a bit.
    My GPS and especially Google Maps Mobile has failed me several times. GM especially when instead of sending you to a house address, it sends you to the street. Now...this can be annoying if the street ends in one area and continues in another.
    Speaking of phones, my blackberry has not always synced with my exchange server. Last week I thought I was free in the office during the 9 o clock hour. My wife had just dropped off the baby for me to look after while she takes the other 2 to the dentist. Then one of the other IT guys pops in and says "So where's this 9 o clock meeting at?" Sure enough...it was in my Outlook, but it was not on my phone...which I would have probably seen first.
    I felt like such an ass. Thankfully one of my co-workers gladly offered to play grandma and look after my son. Despite my supervisor's guilt trip if I were to not go, it didn't benefit anyone for me to there. Waste.