March 28th, 2007

Isn’t technology wonderful? Well, sorta…

Yes indeed, it is.

Yesterday I flew from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Despite the fact that it was a very windy day, the ride was smooth, and took less than an hour in the air.

I’ve done that LA-SF car trip many times, and I know how long it can seem–even the “quick” route, the one starting with the passage through Tehachapi, abruptly canceling any thought of the glittery metropolis of Los Angeles just left as the driver overlooks the beginning of the San Joaquin Valley’s enormous flatness. The Valley is then followed for the (lengthy, monotonous, usually very hot in summer) duration of the drive.

And I’ve done it the “long” route as well, the exceptionally stunning Big Sur cliffs and mysterious mists that make you feel as though there should be New Age-y music playing in the background, and the road that makes the hair on your arms stand up with equal measures of fear and delight as you negotiate its twistings and turnings and can’t keep yourself from glancing down at the sheer drops to the ocean below.

I was on the left side of the airplane yesterday, the ocean side. All I could see were the puffiest of clouds for almost the entire trip. On the right it was completely clear, with the valley below. The airplane seemed to be passing through the line of demarcation between the two as though it were determined to negotiate the narrow cleavage that separated them.

Today is one of those clear blue San Francisco days, a bit crisp but not at all cold, at least not to this New Englander.

I spent the morning, however, wrestling with another type of technology: computers. I am sad to say that this week’s Sanity Squad podcast will not appear (and, of course, it was the best ever!), thanks to the fact that Hot Recorder and Skype have decided to take some sort of revenge on us by sneaking into the audio the sound of a dreadful whip cracking with great regularity, as though a bunch of galley slaves were being flagellated in the background. And although this might be a nice sound effect for something else (“Ben Hur” comes to mind), it didn’t make the grade for PJ.

This will be fixed, and soon; so expect next week’s podcast as usual. But the fixing will take some doing. And this morning I was also engaged in trying to get a dialup connection where I’m staying, and although everything was nicely set up to do just that, the connection wasn’t happening because my perfectly fine password was not being recognized. Even the folks at the national center in the sky for dialups could not fix this (after about an hour and a half of trying), and referred me back to the dread Gateway or (gasp!) even dreader Microsoft helpline.

Right now I’m on the PC belonging to my hosts, rather than my laptop. And I’m not calling Gateway or Microsoft, not today. Today I’m going out!

It may be time for a new laptop, I know. That’s a shame, because my old one was purchased last April, not so very long ago in human years (or even dog years) but apparently aeons in computer years.

I make no secret of the fact that I’m no technology wizard. But I do have a certain amount of intelligence, and I do know my way around a computer, if only because I have come to use them so much. Same for my cell phone–and I’m even starting to have some rudimentary knowledge of my ipod.

And I’m convinced that technology has become so wonderful and so complex that it’s driving most of us somewhat crazy. It promises so much, and delivers so often. But it’s a touchy little high maintenance beast that must be soothed and placated and stroked and palpated and understood and listened to, and even then it has a willful and obstructionist mind of its own.

How many of us have cars with warning signals that light up so often that we’ve learned to totally ignore them? Just a glitch, we say. For two years my passenger air bag warning light has come on whenever it happens to feel a trifle grumpy, and it can stay that way for months at a time. The mechanics say they cannot fix it (or, alternately, that to fix it would cost something like the price of a new car). So, why bother?

Some of you may read this and say “Get a Mac!” (or, get a new car). And I think about it, believe me, I think about it; despite the cost, it might be worth it (the Mac, that is, not the car). And the prospect has a certain metaphoric resonance (apple/Apple), as well.

Any suggestions out there from my uniformly well-informed and tech-savvy readers? Or if you like, any of you can share your tales of technological woe–or joy, if you’ve got any.

6 Responses to “Isn’t technology wonderful? Well, sorta…”

  1. Jimmy J. Says:

    Sorry, Neo, no tech tid bits from me. I’m barely computer literate. In fact, my daughter considers it a miracle that an old geeezer like me can navigate the net at all.

    I just wanted to comment on your trip from LAX to SFO. As a young Navy pilot (circa 1956) I often flew airplanes from NAS North Island in San Diego to NAS Alameda in San Francisco. They were ferry flights to the Overhaul and Repair Facility at Alameda. As such they had to be done under visual flight rules. That meant nice weather. I often flew along the coast at altitudes of 1000 feet (sometimes much lower, once flew under the Golden Gate) just cruising along and drinking in that gorgeous scenery. It is such a scenic coastline! Often had the privilege of spotting whales as they migrated along the coast. It was a much different era with greater freedom of the air. And, of course I was young and too dense to understand just how fortunate I was. It’s pretty from 30,000 feet, but my view was infinitely more detailed.

  2. Robert Schwartz Says:

    Sounds like you got windows sludge. After a year or two of heavy use a windows computer accumulates sludge in its registry and other system files. The best thing to do is to back up all of your data, reformat the hard drive, reinstall the applications, and recopy the data. It is tedious, but cheaper than buying a new machine.

  3. Matthew M Says:

    If you bought a laptop a year ago, you should be able to keep it going satisfactorily for several years to come.

    I bought a Compaq (HP) laptop with a middling Intel Celeron 1.40 Mhz processor and 256MB RAM about three years ago. I really noticed an improvement when I added a second 256MB RAM chip.

    Also, my computer works *much* better since I deleted Norton Internet Security and replaced it with both AdAware and AVG Anti-Virus. is a good place to research these and other types of software.

    If you press Ctr+Alt+Delete and click on the ‘Processes’ tab, you can see if anything is hogging the CPU. (That is how I found out Norton was sucking the life out of my computer).

    Before you reload the operating system, try the system scanning tool at Microsoft’s website It can take a couple hours to completely scan your computer but it cleans the registry of obsolete data. (I don’t know exactly what that means but supposedly it makes your computer more efficient.)

    P.S. Using my eMac is so much easier.

  4. Rod Says:

    Go for it, Neo, a Mac, that is. About three years ago I surrendered in the PC/Windows wars, realizing that by continuing to fight I was effectively reducing my lifespan while Microsoft lived on, prospering.

    One Powerbook and a Mac Mini later, I have never looked back. As I’d been told, the stuff works, not absolutely glitch free, but wioth comparative simplicity and lots of power.

  5. Teri Pittman Says:

    Well, you could install Ubuntu on the old laptop and get a few more years out of it. I like Ubuntu. Use it on an old Thinkpad T-23. Handles most of the things that you want to do. I do tech support and have used both Macs & PCs. I like Macs. However, they also have flaws. You won’t hear about the problems with the previous version of the operating system until the latest and greatest comes out. The hardware is nice but overpriced. Apple is prone to making perfectly good hardware obsolete. And just like with Windows, you will be paying for upgrades regularly. You may also find that you can’t always find a Mac program that does what you want. Some Mac programs work in just certain versions of the OS. You don’t have the backwards compatibility that you have with Windows.

  6. Compaq Laptop Says:

    Wow, this is awesome post on Isn’t technology wonderful? Well, sorta….

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.


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