Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Cross posting from my other blog- Technology

I thought this might be of interest to people other than my coworkers, so I'm cross-posting it here...

Technology has always interested me. In the early 1980s when personal computers were just coming out, I begged my father for months and months for a computer. I did tons of research, saved my money, and pleaded for a long time. I finally got a second-hand Apple ][e+. I kept it for years until the monitor didn't survive a move, and I couldn't afford to replace it. As a teenager I was online on "BBSes", before the Internet was accessible to most people. I took computer classes at G.C.C. during the summer, and I had boyfriends who were interested in electronics and were building their own computers and video games in their basement or their father's workshop.

When I first came to UMass as a freshman in 1989 I wanted to be a COINS major- I think that's what the computer science degree has morphed into. Unfortunately, I was lousy at Calculus, and not very good at Pascal- the computer language we needed to learn for one of my classes. I realized that I was not meant to be a computer programmer, even if I could write a video game in BASIC.

Years pass, and computers and technology still interest me. Privacy issues in the cyber world can get very political, and watching how the pendulum swings between people wanting easy access to things, and yet still wanting to be free of bureaucracy is interesting. National ID cards? No thanks! Too reminiscent of Germany during WW2 etc, and yet we seem to be gravitating towards that slowly. Sure I'd like to be able to copy whatever I see into my own blog or whatever, but on the other hand, I wouldn't be very happy if a photo of myself or my daughter showed up as an ad for a Czech grocery store-- http://www.neatorama.com/2009/06/11/missouri-family-christmas-photo-turns-up-in-czech-ad/ . There are lots of things to consider here, and the issue of privacy is a broad one, and very complex.

On a less complex scale, I do get emails from Slashdot which I generally archive to read later. Lots of tech related stuff is there, and I like to skim it all over, and have a general sense of what is going on, even if some of it is over my head.

I set up iGoogle for myself a long time ago, but I don't check it very often anymore. They have changed the formatting more than once, and I got tired of having to reset my RSS feeds for the news all the time etc. At one point I had several comic strips that I liked to follow, but I just don't have time anymore. I like Google though. I don't know if their applications are "2.0" or "1.0", but I find it to be user-friendly, and I have no difficulty using Google Maps, Google Documents, and other applications.

I especially like the Internet when I am traveling or planning a vacation. Trip Advisor can be very useful for finding hotels, or finding which hotels to stay away from. There are a couple of good road trip planners out there, and of course planning a Disney itinerary would have been impossible without access to all the Disney stuff out there. It's amazing at how much is available these days. Sometimes too much!

Library catalogs of course are online, and my local town library recently joined the CW MARS thing so I can renew my daughter's library books if we forget to bring them back on time. This is very convenient. I wish all small town libraries had this feature (Wendell doesn't) since their library hours can be somewhat limited. I also like being able to search for a title and then having it held for me either at UMass or my local library. Even my dad uses this feature. I don't consider my dad to be very tech-smart, but even he has figured this one out.

What does surprise me these days is how much is still NOT available. Every once in a while I'll look for something like the hours for a local business, or a good price on furniture, and I won't be able to find it. It seems a lot of places simply have not set up decent websites or don't want to list their prices online.

I do a lot of online shopping, especially for the library. I prefer vendors that list their inventory online. That way I know they have it in stock and can provide it. When I have to send a "paper order" off to someone I am always wondering whether the vendor will be able to fill it or not. Phone calls can work too, but sometimes the person on the other end of the phone forgets to input the order. At least online or with an email I have proof of what I ordered and when.

Security and privacy are potential issues when shopping online. For work related purposes I want the vendor to keep records of what I bought and when, but for personal shopping I'd probably prefer that they didn't. Of course in either case, I don't want that information to be given or sold to other marketers.

Okay, this is far too long now, and I've covered a lot of territory. I know that's not good blog-etiquette. Technology is a very broad subject though, and there are a lot of different directions you can go with this assignment. I'm looking forward to hearing what everyone else has to say.

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