Monday, July 28, 2008

And now the other side...

Since A Fire in the Head mentioned it, I thought I would take a moment to explain what is going on with my iTouch. In the description of BarkingShaman it says among other things that I am a small business owner, a subject and perspective that I don't write from or about very often. My perspective as both a consumer and a business owner shapes my experiences with the iTouch.

I know that the last thing the interwebs need is another damn iPhone review so I'll keep the review thing short and sweet: the iTouch is a spectacular piece of technology. Not only is it both useful and entertaining, but as a multi-touch interface (if only a 2-point) it is a glimpse into where computing may be going (for a more dramatic example see this post). What complaints I may or may not have about the iTouch itself are not worth mentioning here, I'm unlikely to say anything new.

My problems, such as they are, have much less to do with the hardware or software of the iTouch itself, but rather with the institutional mindset Apple seems to have taking during its development.

Let me explain why I bought the thing in the first place. When I leave the house in the morning this is the list of things I need to remember to bring:

Cell Phone
Heckler & Koch P2000 and its holster
Pocket Knife
Pill Case
Pocket Sized Digital Camera when possible
Restoration Device (depending on what I'll be doing during the day)

(I also carry a back-up gun and back-up knife a lot of the time)

This list pushes me to the very edge of what I can plausibly carry and wear on my person. I don't carry a purse or “man-bag” because steady pressure on my neck or shoulder would be too painful to be practical. Already having to carry this many things doesn't leave me mental attention or physical space for the PDA that I need to have as well. This is why I bought the iTouch.

Since I am already carrying an iPod, I figured I could switch to an iTouch and have a combination PDA and iPod, although I'll grant that it means doing so in a larger package. I also considered getting a Blackberry and having a combination cell phone/PDA but I didn't like the interface at all. My plan would have worked perfectly but for one fact:

I am a Windows user. This is a fact that I am tired of apologizing for, whether to Mac users or Linux users. My business uses powerful CAD software that is not available for the Mac. In fact, I know of no industry standard CAD software that runs on a Mac platform. And I do not have the time or know-how to run Linux.

Since the business has to have Windows, I also have a cheap ($600) HP laptop that I use for my personal computing. This is where my iTouch problems started.

Apple doesn't really plan well for the possibility of having Windows users who buy their products. The place where this is most problematic for me is that the iTouch calendar can only sync to Outlook or iCal (the mac calendar program) and there are major problems with Outlook syncing. This is weird since it will sync to my Google contact list, just not my Google calendar. My calls to Apple support to try to find out if support for Google Calendar or Windows Calendar (the vista calendar program) would be forthcoming was met largely with the auditory equivalent of blank stares. I was also told by several support personnel (I talked to a number of them) that I should just use iCal, which is not available for Windows computers. Overall, I'd say that each support person (even the one who was able to helpfully tell me that Apple had no intention at all of adding support for anything other than Outlook) was puzzled by the fact that I didn't own an Apple computer. Non were any of them aware that new PC's shipped with Vista rather than XP.

This represents a level of institutional myopia that cannot be healthy for a business. I think that there is also an unhealthy self-confidence out of keeping with the fragile hold that anyone can hold on a market segment today. The idea that I'll eventually break down and pay $100 for a Vista version of a product so crappy that Windows replaced it for their new OS just so I can use my iTouch's calendar doesn't seem strange to Apple. They seem to think that I'd do that and more for the privilege of using their product. Or even worse, perhaps Apple believes that if they make great products which interface poorly with PC's more people will set their PC's aside and buy Apple computers.

This is stupid. Apple should be doing everything in their power to make me happy, including having their peripheral devices like the iTouch work perfectly no matter what OS I use. This way when it's time for my next computer purchase I think of them. Ditto with their tech support. If you make a product that is PC compatible you need to be up to speed on how it interacts with said PCs if you want customers to feel that you care about them and are knowledgeable, key factors in the decision to change brands.

I need a PDA combination right now. If I could wait six to nine months I'll bet someone would have something that would fill my needs as well as the iTouch does (I unfortunately thought the Samsung Instinct was a piece of shit). Somehow I doubt H&K will be releasing an combo PDA/9mm semi-auto.

The sad thing is that by itself the iTouch really is amazing. But when I connect it to my computer and try to use iTunes to do things like update my contacts I am very aware that I'm using a music player for something it was never really intended to do. I wonder it that isn't a good metaphor for where Apple's going

Friday, July 25, 2008

A Fire In The Head posted an very interesting article about how the green factor of the new iPhone 3G has been almost completely overlooked, especially by Apple itself.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Names and Styles Change, the Anger Stays the Same

Reason Magazine just posted an interesting peice on their blog about proposed legislation in Russia that would ban goth and emo style dress in public schools and government buildings. They also linked to an older piece about anti-emo "hunts" that have happened in Mexico wherein hundreds of teenagers chase down emo kids and beat the crap out of them.

It all reminded me of a conversation that Fire and I had a few weeks ago about the difference between when we were goth kids (on the outside, I'd say in many ways we still are on the inside) and what the goth/emo thing has kind of turned into. One good way to sum it up it seems is this:

Emo kids get beat up a lot, a lot of people hate them for reasons I don't understand. Even in the U.S. it seems that being an emo kid ain't the safest thing to do.

A lot of poeple hated goth kids too, but it seems like people didn't want to fuck with you if you were a hardcore goth. Part of the goth "thing" was that you seemed unpredictable i.e. "if she'll shove a safety pin in her own ear and wear it like that, what'll she do to me?" This isn't to say that a lot of goths didn't get the shit beat out of them somewhat regularly, but that is often part of how they became goths.

The Russians aren't the only ones to try to legislate goths away. Here in America they did it years ago, just not at a national level. I believe that in some ways that is what birthed emo culture as distinct from goth culture.

Fire put it this way: Emo is goth, except that you can only be angry at yourself not the rest of the world.

Part of the point of goth was that other people found it weird and a bit scary. That's how we stopped getting the shit beaten out of us. The problem is that when Columbine and the following shootings happened, people focused on the fact that goths were the ones with the guns instead of asking "what fucked these kids up?" The general public simply decided that being goth is what made them go nuts and shoot people. I've got news for you: the fucked up kids don't become the popular and successful ones in high school. So yeah, often they became goths. The people who committed those crimes were fucked in the head long before they put on black clothes and white makeup.

This however is a reasonable point, and one thing about our culture and society is that when there's blood on the walls, reason goes out the window.

During my adolescence and college years my mother was the vice principal at a suburban high school. I remember that not to long after the Columbine shooting I was home from college and stopped in to see her at work. It was pouring outside so I was wearing the black London Fog trench coat she had bought me a few weeks earlier. Here's another newsflash, London Fog raincoats pretty much come in black and beige, and if you spend a lot of time in the woods or a metal shop, and in college I did both, wearing beige is a really bad idea.

My mother was outraged. She couldn't believe that I'd wear a black trench-coat (did I mention it was a present from her?) in her school. My protestations that it was pouring cats and dogs fell on deaf ears. In the wake of the school shootings it had been decided that goth clothing was a tool of fear and terror and was outlawed in many schools.

They had rational sounding explanations, but under examination these explanations were often revealed as, well dumb. For example, my mother pointed out that you can hide a lot of weapons in a trench-coat. Absolutely irrefutable, and maybe a good point from a school security point of view. However, her school only banned black trench-coats. To point out how stupid this was, Fire carried on an entire conversation with my mother while concealing a nearly four-foot broadsword under the cute pale-red LL Bean trench-coat she had gotten from her grandmother. At the end of the conversation she drew the sword that my mother didn't know was there, proving that the black part was irrelevant. Not that it mattered.

I'm not trying to say that there aren't differences between emo and goth, to be honest, I know a lot less about the emo movement than I could. Nor am I saying that goth is dead.

Nor do I understand why it is ok to hate and assault goth or emo or in some places queer or foreign kids in school. The fact is that I think there are always going to be kids who teachers and adults will look the other way rather than protect. And whether it's legislation in Russia or goth kids being afraid to express themselves for fear of being looked on as potential dangers, what's really going on is society making it easier to look the other way.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

When I've thought about how I want to interface with my computer technology this is what I've always imagined.

For a newer and more beautiful video but without the explanations go to Mr. Han's website.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Once More From the Top

It has been a long time since I posted here at BarkingShaman and a great deal has happened. For instance, while I rarely bark anymore, I now have a strong British accent which, like the barking is actually a manifestation of my Tourette Syndrome. Apparently it is realistic enough that native Brits have been surprised to learn that I’ve never been to their country. I’ll be writing more on that soon.

For now let’s talk a bit about the past, and a bit about the future.

First, the future: The next few weeks will see BarkingShaman essays talk about things that have happened while I was not posting, like the appearance of my accent. After that, I’ll be regularly posting essays about the usual BarkingShaman topics, life as a poly/pagan/spirit worker/business owner/who barks like a dog and talks like a Brit. Additionally, the Articles of Interest tab will be removed, and instead I’ll be directly posting links to articles on the web that I think are relevant to the theme of this blog.

And now the past: If I had it my way I’d be closing BarkingShaman not resuming writing. While my previous absences were generally caused by health problems, this long gap was not. Around the time of my last post, I had a first person run-in with how toxic this livejournal/blog/myspace thing can be. It didn’t involve BarkingShaman but rather something that happened in the real world, found its way onto the internet, and then back into the real world. The consequences were deeply hurtful and soured me towards this mode of communication in a bad way. With few exceptions, I stopped reading all blogs save professional political ones. And I decided that I did not want to participate in this mode of communication anymore.

And yes, I know that was childish. It wasn’t fun anymore so I didn’t want to play. But hell, with everything on my plate personally and professionally (both professions) I thought I had the right to be a bit childish about something. Turns out I was wrong.

The Boss Lady encouraged me (in a “Do this now” sort of way) to start Notes From a Barking Shaman in the first place, and now She says it’s time to get back to work. In this, as in all things, I do what She says. And in fairness, I enjoyed writing BarkingShaman the first time around and I know I can this time too.

I ask you to be patient with me as I get back into harness so-to-speak. Strange as it sounds, it takes practice to do this well (especially the writing quality), but as of today Notes From a Barking Shaman is back.

Stick around; I’ll be here.

-Wintersong Tashlin