Posts Tagged ‘Internet’

Being Disconnected in a Connected World

Monday, July 25th, 2011

To a large percentage of the world’s population, the Internet couldn’t be more irrelevant or any lower on the totem pole of life’s necessities. However, I happen to live in the group that relies heavily on the Internet to conduct business, perform research, communicate with friends, family and of course, waste time.

If you are like me, you are plastered with Internet access 24/7 in your day-to-day life, especially at work or at home. While I’m out and about, I’ve always got my trusty iPhone which can do 90% of the things that I need to get done with relative ease. If my iPhone lets me down, I can use my iPad to tackle the other 9% percent. The last 1% are probably things I could do without anyway, so they can wait.

I’ve been traveling internationally the past couple weeks so I have experienced a fairly consistent lack of Internet connectivity and as a result, have had to travel a short distance (less than a mile) to a local café with free WiFi or maybe I got lucky and bummed free WiFi off someone with an unsecured network.

When I’m thoroughly disconnected and have no Internet resources whatsoever, something strange happens to me. I tend to notice things that are around me more because I’m not bumping into them while checking the weather on my iPhone. I also find myself engaging in conversation with more people because I’m not busy deleting spam out my inbox or replying to a text message. Does any of this sound familiar?

Yes I need the Internet and no I don’t need the Internet. What I mean is.. if I had to choose between never having access to the Internet again for the rest of my life or.. well, I can’t think of anything that would be applicable for a trade. You can’t say television because the Internet provides that. You can’t say music or radio because the Internet provides both of those. We pretty much can’t say anything that you can’t physically put your hands on because the Internet provides all of those too. But you can say anything that you can touch, feel, taste, and smell. I left “see” out because as we already know you can see everything on the Internet. Especially the stuff you have no interesting seeing.

What I’m trying to say is that I/we forget too often that the Internet is just a tool to help us do things and it’s not really very good at much else. Have you ever tried to have a conversation with the internet? How about asking the internet on the date? Maybe go to dinner with the internet or make friends with the internet? Sure you can see the great pyramids on the internet but let’s be real, that’s no substitute for standing in front of them, smelling the air, feeling the sun reflect off of them or touching the stones.

So I suppose it’s okay to be disconnected and in some cases, even therapeutic. It’s sad to say but I know people who would have a complete meltdown if they lost their Internet connection for a week or two. If you’re reading this blog post it’s very likely that I don’t know you, but it’s also very likely that he might be one of those people.

Not that you asked for it, but my recommendation would be to pick one day on the weekend to not use the Internet. That means disconnect the data portion on your phone as well because that would be cheating. You’ll survive an entire day without Google maps and even though your “real friends” on Facebook might be scratching their heads at your sudden absence, they too will survive. Just do it as a test and then think about that day as it progresses. You might surprised at what you experience.

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Things That Can’t Be Done Online That Should

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

I recently received my US Census paperwork in the mail and I was frustrated that I had to fill it out with a pen and then mail it back. I realize that the census is done on a per home basis, and that its execution goes a long way back, but what a waste! I think it would be quicker and more efficient if the form could be filled out online. I know, there are several problems with that, but snail mail bothers me.

It occurred to me that there are many things I can’t do online that I should be able to. My first on this list is rent. I can pay all of my bills (internet, credit card, electricity, student loans, etc.) online with the sole exception of my apartment rent. I have two used checkbooks where the only checks written from them were rent. This is the one time a month I have to pull out my checkbook and write a check. I’ve never lived in an  apartment that had a way to pay online. My current complex has modernized slightly by allowing auto-debit from a checking account, but I’ve never trusted auto pay systems.

Another thing I should be able to do online is order Chinese food. This may be possible in downtown Dallas or Fort Worth, but I haven’t seen any where I live in the suburbs. Most of them will accept fax (HAHA… fax…), but I know for certain none of the 10 Chinese food places which I live near have the ability to order online. Most of them do have a website with their menu and phone number, but no online ordering. Working in phone support, one gets accustomed to communicating with those for whom English is a second language, but for some reason the Chinese restaurants in my area are especially difficult. It would be beneficial for both me and the kind lady on the other end of the phone if I could place my order online.

I know there are many problems which keep these types of things from being done online. I also understand the fear behind allowing people to anonymously submit orders and information. But, many of the same fears can be applied to the current methods. Census papers could be snagged from your mailbox and falsely completed. Anyone can spoof a phone number and place a fake order to a Chinese restaurant. But the technologies to implement these abilities are widely available and easy to implement for even the most novice of web developers. Most businesses and government agencies have a website. With just a bit more investment into those sites I can be ordering my Kung Pao Chicken online while paying my rent and being a good census completing citizen.

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Free Websites a la Mark Kraus

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

Several years ago I stopped working on computers for free. I was beginning to think the requests for free work would never end. There is nothing less satisfying than spending your whole work week working with computers to have to spend your time off work doing the same thing for free. This is a common issue for people who have  trade skills like automotive repair, plumbing, and computer repair. But, this has started to get more complex recently. (more…)

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