This week we look for ways to make technology work for you instead of the other way around. No really ! Have you noticed how you are constantly interrupted by notifications from your smartphone ? How you spend hours on Social media without doing anything productive ? How adds and Tv sometimes make you feel agitated ? We go on a quest for some practical tips to cyber-zen your lifestyle. So lets tame your content stream and your devices so they will work for you .. instead of the other way around.
- Getting rid of cable tv
- Taming my devices
- The power of “Ding”
- The “Ding” hierarchy
- The results
Will we need cyber archaeologists.
Looking at it, its the oddesd of things. This flimsy plastic box with two round holes in it, seems to come from another age. A brown warn little plastic tape worms itsself from one side of the container to the other. Only 20 some years old , the cassette is as obsolete as the dinosaurs. Yet a few weeks ago my dear aunt called me up in a panic, telling the tale how the evil old cassette player she had owned for so many years had 'eaten' a cassete with a recording on it of my late grandmother singing. I of course offered to go ahead and fix it. After half an hour of poking and prodding with a pair of tweezers and some sticky tape I managed to get the cassette back together. Now I just had to find a cassette player to play it on… It was at that moment i realised .. I did not have one anymore. The thought propped up to me that we store so much information these days on so many carriers, but yet all these media are futile and soon we won't be able to recover anything we stored 10 years ago because technology moves so fast. Will we need cyber archeologists in the future ?
Media are futile.
There are few media that survive the test of time. Even paper turns to dust after so many hundred years, depending on how it is stored. And so are the media we store stuff on today. The average lifespan of a cassette tape, a cd-recordable, a dat tape or even a floppy disk does not even come close to the lifespan of paper. Yet while a single peace of paper can hold out for a hundred years, a DVD rom with all the collected works of Plato won't last a hundred years at all. The loss off information that can occur when our media turn sour is only multiplied by the enormous amounts of data they can carry. To loose a single sheet of paper over the course of a thousand years might be a loss, To loose a thousand documents on a single cd-rom after 10 years is even worse. So what is there to do but to transfer information from medium to medium in order to let it stand the test of time ? Or what if we find the carrier that will last us to infinity.. What format must we use to write our data ?
Formats are fleeting
If your average DLT tape will turn brittle and break in a hundred years you might just have been lucky. Think not of the medium the information is written on , think of the format the information is stored in. Format types like .doc , .xls and so on are even more fleeting then their carriers. You can make your programs backward compatible into the extreme , supporting exotic fileformats of days long gone is a painfull task. Some, like .html, .txt .pdf and .rdf, might be supported for years to come, but what about other, exotic and propriatary standards, formats of backup programs and so on. One might hold a treasured box of data in ones hand but if the fileformat is no longer supported .. How can we ever access it ? Perhaps we will find the key to the format .. but what about the system it was written for ?
Systems are fleeting
It can be even worse. Say we have salvaged the medium and have somewhere found the original application to read it with. What if it only runs on specific hardware ? An evolution that is even faster then the formats and the media , must be the hardware ! What if the information we need only runs on some ancient system like say for example a commodore 64 ? Where to find one ? and even more importantly : where to find the parts if something breaks. Even to this day some "legacy' programs that are still being used in production, run on hardware that is no longer supported by the manufacturer. So what do we have to do ? Store both the information, the media, the original application AND the hardware it runs on in our archives ? What can be so important that we need to go through all this hassle ?
what is important
"So what .." I hear you say ? What if we loose that excell file thats 8 years old ? Who cares ? … But that is just it. We might know what information is important today, but we will never be able to tell what information is pivotal or trivial in the future. The first posting by Linus Torvalds on usenet might have been unimportant, Yett only history will tell wether this one event might be something for the historybooks. The fact is we store more and more information these days on systems, media and in formats that might not stand the test of time. Wether or not something will be important in the future is impossible to tell at this time, thus we risk turning the digital era we live in today, into tomorrows informational dark ages , from which nothing will be remembered in the future.
I see a new profession emerging. Perhaps starting out as a niche market, later to evolve in something that will turn into an exact science. People who spend their time looking through old digital archives. Who have the skills to work with old legacy hardware, know which side is up on a floppy disk , and God forbid, even speak the language of the old commodore 64. Cyber-archeologists digging through our digital past, being able to unlock and uncover the secrets of the past and bring them back in the light of whatever modern civilisation there might be. A proffesion that holds both the keys to FINDING information and being able to ACCESS it aswell. A trait of archeologists not speaking of the jurrasic but of the "basic" or the "x86" period of the past …
As evolution speeds up .. so does the regression of the past into oblivion.
I for one do think we will have them in the future. Experts in finding what was stored but yet was lost. Keepers of keys that can unlock the files from our past and bring them back. With the amount of information we produce, the digital legacy we leave behind… its unthinkable that these things would be lost forever in a period of only a few decenia. Prove me wrong .. Digg into your past and find the first digital document you ever made ? Perhaps you"ll need a cyber-archaeologists to complete the task.
It was the most funny thing yesterday morning. I was (as usual) listening to my daily dose of podcasts on my way to work, podcasts about technology and the latest news on the edge of real and cyberspace and beyond. At about seven AM I turned my Ipod off for a minute to tune into the regular news on the radio ( yep , i'm THAT kind of information junkie ). Since we had regional elections last sunday my interest was a little tickled just to know what some of these lame ass parties had come up with in order to work together , run the local towns and not loose face. Then suddenly I heard something very odd. It even made me check the play button on my Ipod, just to be sure I was not tuned into another podcast. But no : Clear as day, at seven AM in the (mainstream) headline news they announced Google had just bought You-tube.
Now rumors where flying around all over the cyber-place about the business model of Youtube, the Future of Youtube and about the lame sod who was going to BUY Youtube someday. Even in the latest edition of the Global Geek Podcast , talk was cheap and speculation was high about this very issue. But I never thought an event in Cyberspace would hit the mainstream news like that. A small smile of surprise crept along my face as I heard the crunching boot of cyberspace advance yet another pace in the world of the average off-line John.
Untill a few years ago (i'm talking "95, "96) the internet was this obscure thing for geeks. These days everybody has an email address, every product features his or their website on the package and most people have an internet connection. Although it is still the case that those with their finger on the cyberpulse are a minute few in contrast to the big dumb mass, one cannot help but revel at the phenomenon how the digital world is slowly but surely seeping into the dry desert of the real world.
Just to let the boys at Google know what they bought and what it's for .. I want to give you this little video.
This wonderfull little flick was part of a cabaret show Here is the original scene and shows the true power of You-tube. Take some good content , let loose the creative geeks of the globe to make something completely different out of it and then give them a medium to post it on.
Early adopter syndrome.
If there is one thing that can really get under my skin, then its an end-user or cyber – illiterate waltzing up to me and lecturing me about a peace of technology that I have already filed under obsolete months ago. “ Hey dude “ he mumbles “ have you heard about this thing called ‘podcasting’ Its like the next big thing man. When I heard it, I thought of you right away .. You gotta try this out.” I sigh and roll my eyes as he tries to (inaccurately) explain the “new gig” he found out. When he is finally done I gently try do deflate his ego-balloon by pointing out that A : this new technology has been in existence for about five months, and B : I’ve been using it for a prolonged period of time in a more advanced way then his little brain can fathom and C : The next generation of this gadget is already out and i’ve been testing it for 2 weeks.
Whatever the next step is , its all a no-win scenario. Either you brake their little techno-spearheading soul (you can hear its little kernel crash right then and there) OR they insist on clinging to their ignorance and actually stick to their malformed arguments and delusions of knowledge.
Thank you captain obvious.
Its the curse of early adoptor syndrome. First you crawl the night night and day, beta test software untill you see as blue-screen in the face. Next you twist and turn to tune the tech into your way of life. Then, when you finally have it down and its becoming more of yesterdays news then a force of habit… te rest of the world catches up. Sigh… It just makes me want to scream ‘ I KNOW all this already ‘ and biting back “ And my information is a little more correct” .. And finally you have to sit through the weeks that everybody is clumsily adopting this new technology and is so exited about it you think your at the special olympics.
The new cosmopolitan.
For example, today : Skype + cellphone + Skype forwarding + conference call = Telling your girlfriend who is 20 km’s away , that you’ll be a tad later using your Australian friend as a relay. And afterwards , while driving the call calling in to a VOIP phone conference with you (on the cellphone), your girlfriend (behind her pc) and your thunder down under dude (on his pc). If you tell this to a “normal” person , they are about ready to put you in a mental institution. As my aunt thinks i’ve betrayed my roots just for moving 20 km’s away, she must think i’m the Omen for talking about friends in Chicago, Sacremento, Leeds, Australia and so forth like its the most normal think in the world. They always say : The internet is the death to distance, and the then the early adopter has surely become the cosmopolitan. So when the rest of the world finally catches up .. and starts calling us on skype too.. We are soooo gonna have a bad case of “early adopter syndrome”.