The “Computer-dumb” People Are Very Smart

November 3, 2009 at 1:47 pm (Computers, Personal life) (, , )

This morning before coming to work, I was desperately trying to make some apple pies. Everything was becoming one sticky mess, and I was running out of time. I eventually gave everything up, left the unbaked crusts and half-finished pie filling behind, and ran out the door–after some hurried instructions to my mother to please do something with them ’til I got home. On the way to work, Mom I talked on the phone and she told me what I probably did wrong and that the pie crusts would be ok, but I want to throw them away!

This reminded me of my attempt only a few days ago to make the perfect chocolate chip cookies. I did everything I thought would make them special, but no. They ended up raising straight up and tasting dry and thick, instead of spreading out into large, round, chewy morsels of delight–like the ones My mom made last night! *sigh* :-( Maybe I’m not a baker after all.

While I was picking sticky pie dough off of my hands and the rolling pin and getting flour all over the floor, my mom was at the computer, trying to check her email. Now that I think back it makes me laugh. Mom was yelling from the office, asking me why the Internet isn’t working, and why the shortcut I made for her email is bringing up an error message, and I was in the kitchen yelling “what am I supposed to put in this next?!” We were both trying to do something the other was good at, and not being there to teach the other how to do what was common sense to us.

And then I realized that as many times as I want to roll my eyes that my mother can’t remember which icon to double-click, I will never remember the five (or maybe it’s six?) ingredients that go into pie crust dough! Everyone has skills, talents, and experience in different areas. So whether it’s tech supporting Internet services, or making pies and cookies, we all need each other and our smarts!

I think our society often pushes the older generations into a corner and pities them for not being able to keep up with the fast-moving technologically advancing world we  are living in today. We forget that they knew enough to raise us and give us good advice, and that they have years on us of experience on how to lead, provide, communicate, and overcome obstacles. Their stories might sound different, but their life lessons are ones that still apply today. Lets give these “technologically-backward” folks another chance!

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What Can You Live Without?

September 11, 2009 at 11:47 am (Computers, Technology)

For the last two weeks, my house has been without running water. My parents are digging out our basement. I’m sure it’ll be wonderful when it’s all done, but being without running water has been frustrating. If it wasn’t  for work and a house-sitting job I had last week, I would probably have been more affected. I was home sick the last two days, and boy, did I notice then!

My parents bring water from the neighbors every day. We have buckets, jars, barrels, and thermoses setting around with drinking, cooking, dishwashing, laundry, and toilet flushing water. I’m sure there’s worse things than being without water for two months (yeah, we’ve barely started!) So far, I haven’t gone out of my mind. I’ve got lots of friends and family who live nearby with showers! :-D

All in all, it’s really made me grateful for the simple things, like turning a knob and suddenly have clean, hot, running water in a split second! I’d like to say I’ll never take running water for granted again, but I’ll probably get used to it again as soon as it’s back full time in my life! 

This it got me thinking. How many modern convenieces have we decided we absolutely cannot live without? Imagine how different your life would be without some of these things?

  • Electricity
  • Automobiles
  • Interior Plumbing
  • Telephones

What about technology and computers? So many things can now be done online or with computerized systems. Everything from traffic lights, to billing and mailings, to tax and medical records and tracking depend on computers… just to name a few!

Here’s a challenge for you. Think about some of the Internet services you use personally and how much you “need” them to survive, then take this poll:

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Technology–Changing the Staples of Our Daily Lives

August 13, 2009 at 2:19 pm (Computers, Internet surfing, Technology) (, , )

I recently ran across a joke book that must have been written before I was born (I’m 23, in case you wondered). I know we’ve owned it more than 10 years. It was very interesting to read it–the comparison of humor now and then really surprised me. One section was called Why Don’t They Invent…. I was shocked to find a few of them had been invented: invisible braces, a robot pet dog, a car with built-in direction finder (gps), dictionary computer (spellcheck)!

Technology has never failed to surprise us. It changes our lives dramatically in a matter of a few years, sometimes without us even realizing it–until we stop and consider how it used to be. Oh yeah…… wow.

Here are a few things that we once considered a staple, something we couldn’t do without even as little as 10 years ago. How many of these things do you hardly ever use anymore?

1. Calendars and Day Planners. I can’t remember the last time I bought or wrote on a physical paper calendar. Cell phones, palm pilots, and several computer programs, like Microsoft Outlook now cover all of our appointment and scheduling needs.

2. Address Books and Phonebooks. Again, got it covered with the cell phone! The Internet provides multiple ways to access business addresses and phone numbers in the whole world, including maps to get there and pictures, etc. Facebook is another growing venue that allows a way to contact friends and aquaintences quickly, or list full contact information directly.

3. Cassette/CD players. This one may still be up for debate. Cellphones, computer media players, Ipods, mp3 players, and audio streaming from the Internet are quickly claiming the music playing audience with broader availability and better quality.

4. Newspapers. Again, not obsolete, but access to Internet services has opened a large, not to mention free, door for readers who at one time depended solely on their morning folded up paper on the front porch to stay informed.

5. Dictionaries and Encyclopedias. I remember the heavy volumes of World Book Encyclopedia and finding my topic after some time–either because I wasn’t sure where to look or I kept getting distracted by the pictures from other entries! Technology has added so much vocabulary, like “googled” and “add-ons” that it is difficult for the printed volumes to keep up! Websites like Wikipedia.com and Dictionary.com have transformed our research habits.

6. Calculators, Adding Machines, and Conversion Charts. Software programs have replaced these items for home, school, and office uses. Search engines and search boxes in browsers can now query conversions and calcuations instantly.

7. Microsoft Clip Art. Remember when you used clip art for posters and cards? Image searches on the Internet have by far replaced the role of the primitive collection of a person sitting at a desk and a piece of cake.

8. Film Cameras. Who wants to run to Walmart and wait several hours when you can load and print your pictures in five minutes at home? Digital cameras now offer the quality of a 35mm, but with zoom, black and white, timed shots, and, my favorite, the preview! You know right then and there if dad’s eyes were closed!

9. Wooden Pencils (and pencil sharpeners). Remember how loud the “roy, roy, roy” of the pencil sharpener at the front of the classroom was in the middle of a test? Wooden pencils  are still useful to artists, but the rise of mechanical pencils have made them less popular for schoolwork. Now students can submit homework electronically and type up their papers on computers. 

10. Watches. This one could be up for debate because of their use as a fashion accessory. However, many would agree that much fewer people use a watch as a necessity, as cell phones and computers nearly always display the correct time.

Count up your total! How many of these items are still a part of your daily life?

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Bits and Bytes: What’s the Difference?

July 3, 2009 at 2:08 pm (Computers, Dial up, DSL) (, , , , , , , , , )

In order to understand your Internet services connection speed and how your computer stores information, you should start with the most basic measurements of data: bits and bytes. Before you read further, don’t forget that a “b” (small case b) is a bit, and “B” (upper case B) is a byte, e.g., kb is kilobit and kB is kilobyte.

A bit (b) is the smallest measurement of data that can be stored or transferred on computers and Internet services. Bits store information based on a binary system of 1’s and 0’s (“bi” means 2, i.e., 2 numbers, 1 and 0). Bits are arranged and stored in sequences that are translated into words, pictures, etc., when you see them on your computer screen.

When you hear the term “bits”, it is usually used to when measure transfer rate, as in downloading from the Internet or an Internet connection speed. For example, “bps” is bits per second, or, the amount of bits that can be downloaded or transferred in a second. When measuring transfer rate for Internet connections, 1 kilobit (kb) = 1000 bits, 1 megabit (mb) = 1000 kilobits. Therefore, if your dial up connection successfully connected at 34.4 kbps, 34.4 kilobits or 34400 bits can be downloaded per second to your computer. If you have a 6000 kbps (or 6 mbps) DSL connection, you can download 6000 kilobits, or 6,000,000 bits per second.

A bit rate is the rate at which a certain number of bits (or kb or mb) can be streamed or downloaded per second. You will usually hear about “bit rates”in relation to audio and video streaming from the Internet. A higher bit rate means that the quality of the streaming will be higher, but it also requires a faster Internet connection to stream in real time. For example, to watch a video that has a bit rate of 240kbps, You would want to have a connection that is at least slightly faster to watch the video without interruptions.

A byte (B) is 8 bits. As you read earlier, bits store information based on a binary system and are arranged and stored in sequences, or bytes. Strings of bytes make up documents, images, commands for your computer, etc. Most sizes of files, programs, and capacities of drives, etc, are measured in bytes, kilobytes, megabytes (megs), and gigabytes (gigs).

When describing capacity, like file size or storage, bytes are measured by the binary system that bits use to store information. Therefore, “kilo” = 1,024 (or, 2^10). A kilobyte (kB) is 1,024 bytes, and a megabyte (mB) is 1,024 kilobytes. A gigabyte (gB) is 1,024 megabytes, etc.

Here are some examples of those numbers in relation to your computer. A typical Microsoft Word document is about 30 kB in size. An image is typically about 100 kB, depending on the size and format. When you save that document or image to your computer, it takes up 30 kB or 100 kB of your computers storage space. A CD typically has about 700 mB (or 716,800 kB) of storage space. Most hard drives on personal computers are now sold with a capacity of 500 gig (or 524,288,000 kB).

To review, 1 byte is 8 bits. An Internet connection (transfer rate, download/upload speed) is measured in bits, and 1 kilobit is 1,000 bits. Storage capacity (drive/disk space and file sizes), it is measured in bytes, and 1 kilobyte is 1,024 bytes. 

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