Category Archives: Technology

The Facebook Diet

A month ago, I heard about Facebook Lite. It seemed pretty awesome, given how cumbersome having Facebook on your mobile device has become.

The app most people have is huge, takes up a not insignificant amount of data and RAM, and at least for me — it interferes with the ability of my wifi-first Republic Wireless phone to make phone calls. And we haven’t even gotten to the double down monstrosity that is Facebook messenger.

God, that thing is terrible. Why can’t we just send messages from the app like we used to? ::crickets:: Oh, right — the ability to make phone calls and video calls from Facebook. Something everybody wanted. Or not.

I began my Facebook diet by deleting Messenger. The horror! I couldn’t instantly respond to my friends with text, audio, video, or stickers!

I got over it quickly.

A few days later, I had enough with the Facebook app and the silly requirement that I send messages from Messenger. So, last week, I deleted Facebook entirely from my phone.

Did I miss it? Sure, a little. But the thought of reinstalling it and Messenger made me mad, so gradually it faded into nothingness. Until I remembered my failed attempt to use a proxy to pretend I was in a third-world country to download Facebook Lite.

Surely, some evil genius had found a way to get the .apk file — they did. I downloaded it, and it is awesome. Think of it like if Facebook stopped caring about marketing and advertising — their core business — and designed an app for that senior citizen phone the “Jitterbug.”

Facebook Lite is Facebook without, as Miller beer used to kid, the GHT. It, as Zuck himself notes, is less than 1 MB in size. And it can do pretty much everything you’d want it to.

If you want to give it a try (disclosure: by downloading you are doing so at your own risk) do so here. If you’re sick of the Twitter app for your phone, I’d recommend Echofon Pro.

Too Many Ads on the Site

Sports Illustrated affiliated webpage toomanymenonthesite.com is what I would call a prime example of how to ruin user experience via advertisements.

They should change their name to toomanyadsonthesite.com.

tma

Quitting My Smartphone

Before you jump to crazy conclusions that I’ve joined a luddite cult, hear me out:

Not everyone needs a smartphone.

Perhaps, I can be one of those people. I’m determined to find out. I suspect I could live without one entirely if I wanted to, the only necessity being a local number so that I can buzz people into our home.

If you haven’t read Joseph Epstein’s excellent essay on so-called “Dumb Phones” already, please take a minute and do so. I’ll wait.

For those who won’t take my advice and read it, here are a few pertinent parts:

I already feel sufficiently enslaved by computers and digital culture. I can no longer write at more than a few paragraphs’ length except on my computer… Digital life, with its promise of keeping one up to the moment, is very jumpy.

So why, then, do I need to carry a computer around with me, for smartphones have of course become portable computers. Do I require Google in my pocket, a permanent aid to memory, so I can check something as important as who pitched the fifth game of the 1945 World Series? Do I really need apps that will give me stock-market quotations, or let me play video games, or provide Baroque string quartets while I am in the bathroom? I have no need for these artificial distractions.

I have now had my Android phone since 2011. It still works quite well, except for the whole calling people thing — but that seems to plague nearly all smartphones in this day and age. The battery loses its charge quite quickly nowadays. Knowing my two-year contract was up, I started considering other phones and other providers.

This had me considering my smartphone usage. I don’t use my smartphone all that often. Most often, I use it for calls while driving, despite Ray LaHood’s dire warnings. I used it today while out of the office to learn that something I wanted to accomplish was beyond reach. Too late matters little to the smartphone culture.

Normally, I carry my phone, a battery backup for USB devices, and my first generation Kindle Fire, which still works like a dream — and I usually use either in range of a wifi signal.

After much thought, I determined I spend most of my time sitting at a very nice computer that can do far more than either device. Most of my texting, which I do not do very much of in the first place, is done via my my computer. Same with a lot of phone calls.

While my cell provider of a decade, not the best in town, has served me well, I think it’s time to part ways. I don’t blame them because it’s more a problem of the culture of smartphones, where “phone” comes second to “smartness.” It would be be cheaper for me to have a “dumb phone,” my tablet, and pay for a mobile wifi hotspot.

Commercials on television explain that bigger phones are better and smaller tablets are better. We’re converging. Apparently, many are none the wiser to this, because people are buying bigger phones and smaller tablets when tablets are the far better deal.

What I seek, and think I’ve found, is a reasonable middle ground. And one that’ll save me money.

I’ll still keep my old Android phone. After all, I paid a pretty penny for it, considering the insurance I paid for it alone. I can still use it on-the-go for Gmail, Instagram photos, Facebook, and Twitter. I suppose I could even use it for texting through Google Voice.

What I do know is that I need a phone and one that works well. The Samsung S150G will work for me.  It has a talk time of 5 hours and can go without charge for nearly 10.5 days. I had a similar phone when I worked the 2012 political conventions, and it was great.

Busy people will complain about losing their charge on their smartphone. For this reliable “dumb phone,” keeping a charge is not a problem. It’s like the cell phones that we once knew but are eager to forget.

We’ve just been too complacent to deal with the terrible battery lives of “smartphones.” Not to mention, as Epstein highlights, how they interfere with what was once our social lives.

You may think this is crazy, but for reading this far, I’ll share a special steal for Android users:

The S150G comes with a (1) portable car charger,  (1) wall charger, and  (1) headset. All for micro-USB phones. The whole package at Walmart is sold for less than $10. The wall charger included in the package is sold for $20 by Samsung by itself.

Even if you don’t need the phone, just recycle it, and enjoy the glorious savings these can bring you on the road.

bsig

 

 

A Very Reddit Engagement

Tonight, I helped my fellow redditor John by photographing his very thoughtful surprise engagement here in Washington.

In addition to sending him the raw photo files, I added some text and edited a few for him. I left him an Easter egg in two of them. (I sent two of each, one without the Easter egg because I’m a nice guy.)

Here’s one of them. See if you can find it:

John and Nirmita

Congratulations to John and Nirmita!

Hooray internets! John — who lived in D.C. for a short while — was able to secure a photographer (me) and a cellist via the internets.

Bomblecast #16 — NIMBYism, Cleveland, and McDonald’s

Friends, no guest this week — but I did add some great production value for you all.

So grab your blankets, your egg nogg, and pull up a chair for episode #16 of the Bomblecast.

Blogger Doesn’t Understand “Monopoly”

Yesterday, at ExtremeTech, a writer wondered: “Android now powers 75% of all smartphones sold. Are we heading towards a Google monopoly?”

Well, I can easily answer this question for him:

No.

A monopoly, generally defined, is “the exclusive possession or control of the supply or trade in a commodity or service.”

Yeah, so no. That will never happen. Android will never have a monopoly.

Sebastian Anthony, cursed with two first names, ponders:

What will happen when Google has a monopoly of the smartphone market?

Well, Sebastian, since a monopoly means one seller, we won’t have to worry about that. Probably ever. We should, however, be more worried about oligopolies or cartels.

Can’t we get Sebastian an economics textbook, stat? Or maybe a monopoly game?

Should D.C. Taxis All Be the Same Color?

That’s the question being asked by D.C. regulators. Well, it’s not a question they’re asking, it’s what they’ve proposed (and enacted).

I say no.

Despite not being a fan of the D.C. cab cabal, I like the varied colors and funny cab names. Especially the ones that are spelled wrong. There’s even a “Swift Cab” in D.C.!

D.C. is trying to be like its political big sister, New York, and achieve branding with all cabs the same color.

According to the Examiner:

The requirement for a citywide uniform cab color was approved by the D.C. Council earlier this year as part of its taxi modernization plan. The plan also requires cabs to install credit card machines and GPS navigation systems.

The change won’t be easy for cab drivers. Waters estimated that painting a cab in the new color scheme will cost between $1,000 and $5,000, and some cab drives are already unhappy about having to change at all, let alone having to pay for the paint job.

“People tell their kids to pick the orange and black cab. That’s our brand name. That’s our marketing. And we’re going to lose it because they want to go to one color. Does one color improve service?” said Roy Spooner of the Yellow Cab Co.

Does one color improve service? Not one bit.

In fact, if you get shafted by a D.C. cabbie who refuses to play by the absurd rules they usually support being imposed, you can refuse to hail cabs from that company in the future. That’s what I did. (Now, whenever I rarely require such service, I use Uber.)

But not under this new regime. In the future, all cabs will look the same and bad actors will look no different than good ones.

Some “reform.”

New at the 7/11 Near Me

It’s the new Amazon Locker!

If We Could Turn Back Time

Dear Editor,

In your September 26 paper, you published a letter to the editor from Marylin Egede.

She, as an unemployed former supervisor who conducted many in person interviews, is dismayed by technological improvements that improve efficiency, save time and save money. Namely, she expressed skepticism about internet job applications, and an automated phone interview that recorded answers to her questions as an interviewee.

Her conclusion was: “Let’s bring back humans, and then we could help lower the unemployment rate.”

We could lower the unemployment rate, too, if we “brought back humans” by banning things like EZ Pass, Caterpillar tractors, E-Readers, and the internet. But we wouldn’t be better off.

While I wish Ms. Egede luck in her job search, such proposals appeal to the Luddite mentality that plagues Ohio (and one of its two Senators) to its detriment.

French economist Frédéric Bastiat, through a bit of satire in the 1840s, identified a similar mentality. He satirized candlemakers, supposing they would appeal to the government to protect them from unfair competition — the sun.

Famed philosopher Cheryl Sarkisian once theorized what would be possible “If we could turn back time.” That doesn’t mean it’s prudent economic policy to do so.

Jim Swift
Alexandria, VA by way of Shaker Heights.

UPDATE: Parents inform the letter was published this morning (10/3). Click the image for the P-D’s website.

Brilliant Ad making fun of iFreaks

Even Snoop loves it.