With instant communications, why do we make worse decisions?

Old road signs
Seen near Marshville, NC

For years we found out information from signs and books.

I sometimes joke that the best way to get information around the Emerald Isle and Swansboro area is to hang a hand lettered bed sheet at the intersection of highways 24 and 58.

Yet I know from my experience with lots of clients that almost everyone has a cell phone, and that an amazing number of people have smart phones.

Still we recently had an experience that made we wonder how in an age of instant communication, some folks felt compelled to make a really bad decision way too early.  On February 10 we were supposed to wake up with a chance of an inch of snow.

The afternoon before we heard on television that Camp Lejeune was closing the next morning in anticipation of this “storm.”  Only essential personnel were to report to the base.   It just seemed odd to me that a base full of young men who likely all have cell phones had to make an early decision based on what turned out to be a real miss on the forecast.

Somehow I expect our Marines to be a little harder to slow down in their home element.  With a forecast of  “one inch and less near the beaches,” it is a surprise so many places made a decision to close early.

Technology which could have easily let the Marine delay their weather closing to the last moment can also make for bad decisions.

I have had such good luck using my Droid smart phone for driving directions that I did not take the time to make a phone call or two before making a trip from Murrells Inlet, South Carolina to Cornelius, North Carolina.  I had asked a couple of locals in South Carolina and gotten the evasive answer that they “used a lot of back roads.”  That should have been a clue to me that I might be heading in a direction which required a little more research than Google maps on my smart phone.

The drive turned out to be an unpleasant one. and prompted me to write a post that people should consider how their retirement home fits in the scheme of trips they might need to make on a regular basis.

A little more use of technology could have made the Marines look a little less hasty when it comes to snow.  Just picking up the phone and calling someone that I knew in the Charlotte area could have saved me a lot of grief on my recent trip.

We have to make the best of instant communications and supplement them as needed with real conversations if we want to maximize the benefit of technology without throwing out common sense.

Technology that works for me

WAP and Router-Switch
WAP and Router-Switch

We are much more dependent on technology that we were during the years when we were farming in Canada.

In the seventies, a calculator and a typewriter were about the limits of our technology.  In 1982, I got an Apple II+, and life hasn’t been the same since.

I will be the first to admit that some technology has gotten really complex.  We have a mixed wireless and wired network at our home along the Southern Outer Banks.  We came home from a trip last Saturday evening.  Our wireless network wasn’t working.  Most times it just takes a simple restart to fix that.  This time it was much more complex.

First I tried directly wiring a single computer to the cable modem. It did not take long to determine that the cable modem was thankfully fine.   I have recurring nightmares of being stuck in cable modem support hell.

Next I knew my Apple airport was configured to not work as a DHCP server.  I remembered that even my uber-geek son had challenges in getting the Airport to stop distributing  IP addresses so I pulled up a spare Airport and let it become the wireless point and the DHCP server.   That way I managed to get a wireless network going and get four of our six computers up and running.

Unfortunately that left two computers, my old Mac Dual G5, My Dell Linux box, and our two printers off the network.

My guess was that the Netgear router/switch had lost its configuration somehow.  I tried to communicate with the router via the standard browser method with a single computer hooked to it.  I had no luck so I pulled out an identical router/switch that my son had given me when he switched to powerline ethernet.  I downloaded the manual and started configuring the switch.    We have given the printers manual IP addresses so I had to find those.  Surprisingly I found the easiest place to get that info was my Linux box.

I did have one hitch.  One I configured the switch to match the subnet of the printers, I could not establish communication with the switch.  My son reminded me that I needed to reboot my computer.  I then added my OpenDNS server information and powered all the computers, Airport, and printers down.  Then I hooked all the wires into the newly configured switch.  I switched to the old Airport and brought it back up.  Then I booted all the computers and turned on the printers.

A quick test showed that the printers were working and the Airport network was functional.  I had to go change the network wireless settings on one of our Windows 7 laptops, but other than that everything worked.  I still have to see if the old router can be fixed, and if it can, I will add it to my other spare parts like the other switch my son left me just in case I needed a few more ports.

While all that sounds relatively simple to the geeks among us, it took be about 24 hours of working on it whenever I had some extra time.  Fortunately we had the adhoc wireless network that gave us everything we needed except printers.

This all works for me, but it occurs to be that I have the advantage of lots of spare gear that I have inherited from my son.  I have also lived in the world of technology for the last twenty-eight years, and I have a son who understand whatever I don’t.   Most people might have some challenges with this, but it likely that most people don’t need all the gear that I have to keep all my Internet projects running.

The one thing that I am really happy about is that I have removed servers from the equation.  I can still remember trying to get DHCP services set up using one of my Mac OS X boxes that I also used as a server.  I have given up on running a server at home.  It is just too much trouble when there are great services like DropBox around.  DropBox gives me online storage that automatically syncs across all my computers.

Maybe I will eventually get new gear that lets me have a less complex network, but when you are working with computers as old as seven years old, it sometimes helps to have some old gear around.

I think part of the great appeal of smartphones like my Droid is that they just work.  If we can have more powerful smartphone-like devices including printers that just work, we might get around much the complexity of a homegrown network.

Technology is too interwoven in our lives to disappear.  We just have to hope that we can stay on top of it, and that even more power technology will get easier and easier.  After all I think my Droid is a much more powerful computer than my original Apple II.

We have made lots of progress with technology,  I do not think the progress will stop.  I expect it will accelerate.

iPhone Dependence

Sail Boat Under Tow
ICW at Cedar Point, NC

We had our company holiday brunch today, and it came as no surprise that when the crowd was gathering, the talk turned to cell phones.

The conversation was very different from four years ago when I first became a Realtor®, but a little history is in order first

Back in that ancient time of 2006, there were phones and there Blackberries or Crackberries as we often called them in the Washington, DC area.   Being a long-time Apple employee, I had used AT&T for my cell phone service for a good part of my nearly twenty years with Apple.  Even when we lived in Roanoke, Virginia, and I worked in the Reston, VA area, I found AT&T service less than desirable.  I tried a number of phones, but none made a significant difference.

As a family we took care of the problem by having my wife carry a Verizon phone.  When we moved to the Southern Outer Banks, my wife’s Verizon phone hardly worked at all.  My AT&T phone worked from our front porch, but mostly it missed calls in our home in Bluewater Cove.   The real estate market was less than busy for those three years so we just lived with the missed calls and used the office voicemail.  We still had our home in Roanoke so keeping my wife on Verizon made sense for a while, but we eventually we got her a family plan line on my AT&T service.

Last spring I started to miss more and more calls with my AT&T flip phone.  I had long resisted the Blackberry or even the iPhone which Apple had introduced after I left the company.  Finally we got a mailer from AT&T about their 3G MicroCell™ which provides additional coverage for their phones in your home.  One rainy afternoon in March, we headed off to Morehead City to investigate the 3G MicroCell™.  It did not take me long to figure out that  by getting one those I was basically paying extra to fix AT&T’s terrible network coverage.

On a lark, we stopped in at the Verizon store to see if their service had improved any in the last three years.  They pointed out that they had bought the towers of a local cell phone company, and that they believed their coverage was now excellent on the Crystal Coast. They offered us a trial.  My son, who works for SAP in their division which moves text messages from one carrier to another, had gotten a Droid not long after they came out.  His experience seemed to be great, so I took the plunge and bought a Droid.  We got my wife a regular 3G phone since she only uses her phone occasionally.  Actually she claims the only reason she has one is so that I can find her when we go shopping.  My comment is we will get her a smartphone when GPS is more accurate, and I can really track her in SAMS Club.

Getting into the world of smartphones was probably a good thing.  I have run into more and more customers who are smartphone savvy which brings us back to our holiday party.  My Droid has a very useful tool in the world of real estate.

With that background we can get back to our holiday brunch phone conversations.  Some of our company’s original Blackberry users are now contemplating their next phones.  It seems most are looking at something besides Blackberries.

I listened with interest as a couple of iPhone users talked about how much they loved their phones. One even told me how great her phone service was in her home.  It did not take long for her husband to chime in that they had to buy one of AT&T’s 3G MicroCell™ towers to get that good service.  I related the story of a visiting friend from Canada with an iPhone. He had complained about getting no calls in our house, and I had suggested he take his calls on the porch which seemed to help.  However,  when we went for a walk in our subdivision the morning they were leaving, he did get a call on our walk, but he lost the signal three times.  I don’t think there is much of a case for iPhones in Bluewater Cove where we live.

Later at our brunch, I heard a couple of stories of people trying to call iPhone users who they could actually see in their cars.  The calls invariably went directly to voicemail.  Yet these folks who are missing their calls still love their iPhones.  As one person said, it seems that Apple could bundle up almost anything and add “i” to it and some people would buy it.  While I might agree to an extent, I do have a new I5 iMac on my desktop, and it is a very good though not perfect computer.

The iPhone is a great piece a technology, but if you need a cell phone along the Crystal Coast, your iPhone will be one useless bookend for much of the time.

My Droid has turned out to be a great phone.  Even if Verizon were selling the iPhone, I would stick with the Droid.  There are great choices on the Droid platform.  If you want an iPhone, you will get what Steve wants you to have.

I even have some complaints on iMac, but I have too many skills and years on a Mac to completely give it up.

Somehow the photo of the sailboat being towed down the Intracoastal Waterway reminds me of the iPhone and AT&T’s 3G MicroCell™.

On a closing note, my Droid works great from my skiff.

Technology can be a dangerous crutch

Boat GPS
Boat GPS

I will admit to loving GPS systems.  Well I love all of them except the one on my wife’s Toyota Avalon.  Even the passenger cannot use it when the car is moving.

My experience with GPS systems dates back to my second Acura MDX.  My first MDX was still running strong with just over 75K miles on it.

We made a service trip to the dealer, and I drove a new one with a GPS.  I was hooked.

When we bought our skiff, we got a GPS with it.  It has been indispensable at helping us make our way safely up and down the White Oak River.

Yet it wasn’t too long after I started using my first GPS that I realized it was very hard to get the big picture on a GPS.

We once took a trip to Greenville, NC and strictly followed our GPS, it took at least an hour longer than the route we got from some people who often made the trip.

We had some clients show up recently, their GPS had cost them at least a couple of hours.

After using our boat for a while, I realized that it was important to memorize landmarks because the GPS could break during a trip.

One day it stopped working, and I was grateful that I had in my mind landmarks that would make the route home easy.

Technology is wonderful, but it is even better if you don’t let it take over all the decisions.  Don’t make technology the answer to everything.

Many times it pays to talk to experienced people and use their opinions to balance what your latest gadget is telling you.

Our mania for relying on prepared lists

People on the beach at Sunset
Emerald Isle, NC Oct. 10, 2010

Late last week I got a call from someone headed to North Carolina to check out retirement options.

Apparently the lady had read a list of the top one hundred places to retire, and this North Carolina spot which shall remain nameless was on the list.

Long ago I learned not to say negative things about the competition, but this destination made me struggle to find the right words.

I finally said, “I don’t think you’ll find what you are looking for there,” and left it at that.

She did not find what she wanted there, and the next morning she called me and arranged for a visit to the area where we live.  I wondered how many people had been led astray by that particular list.

While struggling to fall back to sleep tonight, I searched a few lists of top retirement places.

I don’t pretend to be an expert in retirement, and some friends would even accuse me of being a failure at retiring since I keep working, but I do know a fair amount about cities in North Carolina and Virginia since they were in the heart of my territory when I worked for Apple Computer.  Also I was born in North Carolina, and I lived in Virginia for over twenty years.

Most of the cities and towns on the top ten list of places to retire were probably okay, but a couple on the list would cause me to question the methodology of the list.  I seriously doubt that any of lists that I saw this evening were based on a survey of retired people living in an area.

Having lived in three different places in Canada in addition to North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland, I feel that I can evaluate an area for my own needs fairly quickly.  Perhaps that is why we never bothered to look at any lists before we started our own research in 2003 about where to move after my career at Apple ended.

I do admit that the wanderlust that is in my genes might make me a little better at doing research on towns.  Of course having traveled for business reasons for over 25 years might also play a role.

We planned several vacations around destinations that my travels had hinted might be of interest.  I was also able to eliminate lots of potential places because I had seen some of them at their worst.  Business travel usually happens no matter what the weather so the odds of being in place when their weather is at its best are slim.

Our travels finally gave us our own short list, and we eventually moved to the Southern Outer Banks of North Carolina after three or four years of looking for the right spot.  It has turned out to be a nice place for us.  There are not many places where you can walk along the beaches in October and still enjoy warm water on your feet.

There is a list of reasons why where we live  has met our needs as a place to live, but I know this place is not for everyone, and the list is one specifically made for my wife and myself.

There are plenty of other lists out there besides ones of retirement cities.  There are the inevitable lists of top colleges, best cars, and top companies for jobs.

I don’t doubt that some research went into all of these lists.  What I do doubt is whether or not  they have any real value to people reading them.

Are we so lazy that we cannot make up our own lists of places to go or colleges or even places to retire?

After all, there is very little information that cannot be had easily on your computer screen these days.

I would think there is some value in finding your own destinations whether it is college, retirement, or the best beach.

It is a little like recipes and a great cook.  While my mother, who was an amazing lady and a great cook,  followed a few recipes in her day, her most delicious meals were ones where she had created her own recipes.  When I go searching for a hush puppy recipe or one for fried chicken, it is hers that I am trying to find not one on some website.

I will remember that the next time I read a list for the best jobs or the greatest places to start a new business.

Hurricane Hype and Media Madness

Earl's Clouds
Earl's Clouds

My wife and I live on the Southern Outer Banks of North Carolina.

We just got to experience not only Hurricane Earl but also the media coverage of Earl and lots of concern that was spawned by the media coverage.

We were witness to the full hype well before Earl and his thirty mile per hour winds and 3/4 of an inch of rain showed up.  We had far more than 3/4 of an inch of hype.

I know hurricanes including Earl are dangerous.  Earl went on to knock the power out for a couple of hundred thousand people in Nova Scotia.  Also at least one person died up there because of Earl.

We did get several calls from friends not living in the area.  Most were worried for our safety. One was worried about the roof of our house blowing off and was adamant that we needed to leave as soon as possible.  We really appreciated people worrying about us even if we had few concerns.

All of the worrying I suspect is a result of people paying too much attention to the thrill a minute media and not enough attention to the real resources that are available in most situations.

I am an admitted weather junkie. I spend a fair amount of time on Weather Underground and during, the tropical storm season, I closely watch the tracking of storms.  You can see some of the tracks in this archive.

When we moved to the Crystal Coast, we came with the heritage of being born in North Carolina and spending the first twenty plus years of our lives in North Carolina.  The last twenty years we have lived in the mountains of Southwest Virginia.  Our home actually overlooks the city of Roanoke.  We are located at about 1,600 ft on the side of Twelve O’Clock Knob Mountain.

We have seen plenty of destruction and flooding from hurricanes in the mountains.  Hurricane Floyd deposited a large tree on our screened porch just before we were set to take possession of our home in 1989.  We were stunned to see our home on the evening news from the apartment where we were living.

With that kind of background, we made the decision to not live directly on the beach.  We do live on the water, but we are located approximately three miles up the White Oak River from Swansboro which sits on the Intracoastal Waterway behind Bear Island and other pieces of the Southern Outer Banks. The net of all that is there is some serious barrier island protection between us and any hurricane unless it comes right up the White Oak River.

Our home is off an inlet of the White River.  We are located on what is called Raymond’s Gut.  We are actually in a very sheltered spot.  I have seen some of the local fishermen bring their larger boats up the river and anchor them in our inlet when bad storms are on the horizon.  We are in a flood plain, but our home is built so that the only part of the home that would get wet in a 100 year flood is garage floor and the crawlspace.  Both have plenty of flood vents.

At no time during my intense watching of Earl did any of the models predict a turn towards us or even a wobble in our direction.  Of course hurricanes are unpredictable to a certain extent so we did prepare by removing a couple of light weight glass tables from our porches.  We also put our skiff on storm footing which means I raised the lift and secured both the bow and stern to the bulkhead.

With all of that done well ahead of Earl’s pass by the Southern Outer Banks, we amused ourselves the afternoon before Earl was set to arrive by going to watch the surfers over by Bogue Inlet Pier on Emerald Isle.  While the waves were impressive, we have seen bigger ones.  A friend and I actually went fishing in Bogue Inlet that morning.  We are careful boaters so we were not tempting fate as you can see from the pictures.

The afternoon before Earl was to arrive in the evening, I went and bought 75 lbs of ice and stored it in a cooler.  We had plenty of water and food on hand from our normal two to three visits to the grocery store weekly routine.  After getting the ice, I took the opportunity to sneak over to Emerald Isle for one last peak at the waves.

I got to see some less successful surfing and a few bigger waves with winds cutting off their tops.  I also got to see the closing of the bridge after the mandatory evacuation of Bogue Banks including Emerald Isle.

That evening we watched the weather and computers for any changes.  I checked outside at the dock a couple of time to see if we were getting a surge.  With none apparent and winds under 30 miles per hour, and almost no rain, we went to bed shortly after 11 PM.  I got up the next morning early enough to see a healthy high tide but nothing more.

During the evening I had done both a Facebook post and a Twitter Tweet indicating that all seemed well on the Crystal Coast.

Still the next day we got a lot of calls from folks worried about whether or not we had survived the storm.

I sent a couple of folks a link to the Raleigh New & Observer article on Earl, and I published my own article on surviving Earl.

The question that is begging to be answered is why people were so worried about us when the only evidence of any danger was a Weather Channel Reporter standing in the surf a long way from our location?

I can only explain it by saying that unfortunately it is easier to believe what the Weather Channel dishes up than it is to actually find out what is happening.

Sometimes I guess, all it takes is a little spark for the imagination, and those prone to worrying can let their minds get carried away even when there is plenty of evidence that things are fine.

At the time everyone was worrying about us, I was actually concerned about friends in Nova Scotia which did appear to be the bull’s eye for Earl.  In the end, Earl did hammer Nova Scotia and lots of people lost their power.  Our friends were among the lucky ones who did not lose their power.

In these situations people seem very willing to make up their minds based on their perceptions rather than some serious fact checking.  I see it all the time in our online world, and it is not just related to hurricanes and the Weather Channel.   Someone jumps to an unfounded conclusion because of either sloppy thinking or no thinking at all.

Yesterday I had someone say to me on an online forum  “it is still a fact that you do get clients by writing on this forum.”  That statement turns out to be a jump to a conclusion that has no basis in fact. I have been writing on that particular forum for 3.5 years, and I have yet to get a client from the forum.  Obviously I either am having trouble figuring that out, or I do not write to get clients.  Of course the latter statement is the real truth.  I write there because I like to write, and I want to make certain our area is accurately represented.

While several people who found out about me and my real estate service on the forum have visited our area and taken advantage of my real estate hospitality, none have ever turned out to a real client and bought something.  I have had clients who found me via my other blogs and then noticed me on the forum, but none have ever done it the other way around.

It has reached the point that I have a hard time taking anyone seriously who comes to me by way of the forum.  It seems that the people who really want homes get in a car and go visit them and don’t spend a lot of time on online forums.  Either that or they write me and email or pick up the phone and call me.

It seems we have a problem with people not using their minds to analyze situations properly.

I think critical thinking is an important element in the foundations of our society.   Based on the recent Hurricane Hype and observed tendencies of many folks to not want to be confused by the facts, I am not sure critical thinking is alive and doing well in our Republic.

With media hype twenty four hours a day, critical thinking is something we need more and more.  I hope we see a rebirth soon.

Some iPad feedback

Waves on the way
Waves on the way

Sometimes I feel the iPad is like a wave in the ocean.  It is inevitably going to hit me and get me wet even if I want to stay dry.

I am never surprised at the techno-lust that develops around new Apple products.  A couple of decades at the company gave me a chance to see almost every rationalization for buying a new Apple product.  I came up with a few myself.

While I have been gone from Apple for nearly six years, the problem has only gotten worse.  Now we have the spectacle of folks waiting in line to buy products that have not even been reviewed.  Steve says it is great, and there are hundreds of thousand of people who will buy whatever it is.

On top of that people will pay much more for an Apple product than they will for a product from Dell or HP.  The perceived value of an Apple product is much higher.

Having said that, there are some significant challenges for Apple in leveraging all this techno-lust.  While Apple’s commercials are very persuasive, the iPad  is a new category of product, and beyond the faithful, most people need to be convinced that they need it.

The iPod was a solution to problem that a lot of people had with their music.  The iPad is a solution looking for some problems.

I think the iPad is a good fit for some people and will solve a number of problems, but I also believe that a lot of people are going to have a hard time giving up their laptops.  Many of the people that I know are uninterested in having another gadget in their lives especially one which might require a whole new set of applications.

One friend was all set to buy an iPad until I told her that no Apple printing solution comes with the iPad.  Though I do not stay up on all things iPad, I believe this is still the case.  Apparently Steve Jobs when asked about printing recently said simply, “It will come.”  My friend decided to wait until printing was native from Apple.

Another friend wanted a device to read electronic books.  She evaluated the iPad and the Kindle.  She ended up with Kindle because she thought the iPad was too heavy for her old hands.

I know two ex-Apple employees who bought iPads in the first wave.  As far as I can tell, they both love them.  There is about a 90% chance of anyone who has worked at Apple is a hardware junkie so their motivations are not as interesting.  I would put myself in that category, but I am older and trying to spend less money so that curbs any appetite for new gadgets.  My gadgets end up being small and cheap.

The final person that I know who considered buying an iPad also bought one.  I thought his reasons were the most interesting of all. First of all he was an iPhone user except that the reception on his iPhone was so bad that he had to give it up for a Verizon phone.  Secondly he spends a tremendous amount of time on airplanes.

He told me that giving up his iPhone was a whole lot easier because he could use his iPhone apps on his iPad.  That actually makes sense to me.  He then said that he found the iPad much better for use on an airplane.  I can also see that.

I would have a hard time deciding to use an iPad because I would have to learn new ways of doing things which are already get done in very sensible way.   In spite of Apple telling me that I already know how to use it, likely getting my daily chores done would require some new software or new ways of doing things.  This is not change like when I went from a typewriter to a computer. That was change that saved me days of work.

Having an iPad with me is not that much different than having my smart phone except the screen is bigger.

I am actually really happy with my Droid, laptop, and desktop combination.  Things are working well, and I don’t see any reason to interject another device with yet again another series of tools.

I was around when we had to convince people that they needed computers.  Maybe it is easier to convince people that they need iPads, but I suspect it might be harder than Steve thinks to convert the world to iPads.

Anytime you ask people to do something different there is resistance.  Based on the number of commercials, Apple is going to give it a serious shot.  Apple never spends money on television commercials unless Steve is fully committed.

Actually if I am going to get wet, I would rather it be a real wave on a great beach day.

What is it with faxes?

I often think of technology as a wave that washes everything before it away.  The reality is a little different.

Years ago when I was working as a higher education rep for Apple Computer, I covered Va. Tech.  One of the tools of my job at that time was a fax machine.  I often had to fill out several bids a day and fax them to the procurement people.  This was in the late eighties.  I would get the bids by mail and have to fax them back.  It was not a lot of fun.

I moved up the ladder at Apple, and I suspect purchasing from the universities also moved beyond paper bids.  When I went to work in real estate, I expected that I would find some technology resistant people.  I had no idea that I was headed for the last stand of the fax machines.

Real estate law does require some type of signature on documents.  There are some acceptable electronic signatures, but most older clients are highly resistant to anything that requires anything but basic computer skills.

The net result is that we often work with contracts which have been faxed multiple times which results in the contracts being almost unreadable.

It is not like there is no technology to help us from this situation. Unfortunately few people make the effort to get away from faxes.  From the beginning of my real estate career, I have been fax resistant.  I have seen clients struggle to get an eighteen page document sent.

So here is how I have been proactively trying to cut down on the number of faxes.  First of all if my client has a computer and not all do, I sent any documents that need to be signed as PDFs with detailed signing instructions.  The real estate software that I use, RealFast, has the ability to convert documents to faxes, but typically I use CutePDF writer on my Windows 7 laptop to turn the forms into PDFs.

I then give my clients the choice of faxing them back to me and then mailing the originals or immediately sending the originals by FedEx.

Once I receive a signed, written and complete contract I convert it to a multiple page PDF.  I have a HP AIO 6180 fax, printer, and scanner.  It is hooked to a Mac running OS X and VueScan.  VueScan has this wonderful option of automatically scanning documents through the document feeder on the HP AIO 6180.  It saves each page as an individual PDF.

Once VueScan is done, I open the first page of the scan using Preview on the Mac.  I save it under an intelligent name and make certain the page sidebar is open.  Then one after another I drag the scanned PDFs in order to the page side bar.

Then I save it, voila I have a multiple page PDF which I send by email to the bank and the law offices.  They greatly appreciate a document that they can actually read.

I have tried eFax, but I like my system better.  I just wish more people would figure out that the fewer faxes we have, the clearer things are in this world.

A society hooked on the quick response

Years ago, I went to a military high school in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  One of things we had to do was write home each week.  The letter was graded and sent to our parents.  My real communication with my parents happened by telephone.  Each Saturday or Sunday, I placed a collect call to home.

When I got to college I wrote fewer letters, but I still wrote.  When I got out of college and moved to Nova Scotia, I continued to write letters.  They were private, and we were on a party line with a bunch of other people.  In 1974 we moved to New Brunswick and after a lot of battling got a private phone line.

That was not the end of letters, but it certainly slowed them down.  Then in the eighties came the start of email.  By the nineties it was spreading rapidly.  Eventually instant messaging and text messaging showed up.

Now email is often done on the small screen of a smart phone.  It is actually a bad way to communicate.   A cell phone also becomes a lousy way to communicate when you are doing something while you are talking.  Talking to someone while you are reading emails on your cellphone is a slap in the face.

Somehow society has decided that quick and fast is better than deliberate and at your leisure.  The whole idea of Twitter puts additional pressures on quality communication.  I type small messages which are seen by hundreds of people some of whom I know only by their messages.  Then there are others who see the message, and I do not even know them.

Facebook is yet another away to get in touch with people who have not been able to build either an email relationship or one based on writing letters.  We almost always have a cellphone with us.  It is actually easier to call someone on the cellphone than it is post a message on Facebook.  Somehow the layers that Facebook adds to the communication process make it easy to type the message to the person you probably are afraid to call.

So are we better communicating small tidbits of information to people we hardly know or was it better to have focused on speaking our hearts and minds to those who mean something to us.  How do you communicate today?

The siren call of new technology

Marked Channel to the White Oak River
Marked Channel to the White Oak River


Figuring out the right path to take in the world of technology is not as easy as following this marked channel to the river.

Right now is the perfect storm for technology users and addicts.  Apple has announced a new operating system and hardware for the holiday season.  Microsoft has also come running to the party with Windows 7.  Intel has helped with its I5 and I7 processors.

Best Buy is even offering a PC Makeover for $1199.99.  It includes desktop, laptop, and netbook with wireless network and setup for one price.

It is hard to believe that you could get three computers for that price, but I suspect you get what you pay for.  I have had great luck with my HP hardware, but I know others who have not.

Of course Apple barely offers one of their new iMacs for the price of $1199.

Having lived and worked in the technology industry most of my life since 1982, the natural response is to want to get my hands on some of this new stuff.

My newest computer is a HP laptop that has Vista and is two years old.  My newest Mac is a three and one half years old white MacBook running Snow Leopard.  My desktop G5 Mac was a previous year’s model when I bought it in December 2004.

Surprisingly I have gotten along just fine.  I did add Snow Leopard recently, but it only cost $29.  I do have a 2004 vintage Dell Dimension that I just upgraded to the latest Ubuntu.  It is likely my fastest system.

I suspect that I am getting to the point of upgrading to a new Mac. I have taken the hard drive size about as far as I want to go.  I certainly need more memory in my Mac desktop unit if for no other reason than my iPhoto libraries seem to get bigger even when I start new ones.  However, I am a little reluctant to put a lot more money in a system that is getting a little long in the tooth.

Whatever I do, I am in no rush.  My wife actually needs a system before I do since her Mac laptop is almost seven years old.

How did I get beyond the need to upgrade whenever something new is announced?  The simple answer is pretty easy, money.  While you are working for a computer manufacturer new systems are a status symbol and rarely cost your wallet anything.

When you are out on your own, a new system has to be justified by the results that it will deliver.  In my case, I doubt that a new system will bring me greater productivity.  It will allow me to standardize my laptop and desktop operating systems.

While that is not a big deal right now, my guess is that a year or two from now, it will be a big deal.

The other thing that has helped me resist all this new technology is that I have yet to see the killer application which requires new technology. Internet based applications have brought me more functionality than computer based ones.

I continue to be able to do my computing tasks on whatever computer is put in front of me.  That includes the ancient Windows XP Dells that are at our real estate office.  While I would likely not do photo work or website work on them unless I was desperate, my other work could survive.

Certainly if my main desktop is a Mac that is likely six years old technologically, I would question the need for new hardware for any other reason than mechanical reliability.

Actually if I could get better bandwidth for my Internet connection I would trade it for at least another year on my old hardware.

So how do you feel about that choice?  Would you give up buying new hardware for a year, if you could get faster Internet?

While I have a good solid cable connection, I work with enough large files that I could use some extra bandwidth if it were available here on the Crystal Coast.  I would like to see Internet sites almost jump into my lap.

When I go to work at our office where we have DSL, I almost die while waiting for pages to load.

In my situation new hardware would be nice, but more Internet speed would speed my work and be even nicer.

Of course I would trade both faster Internet and new computers for another day of great fishing like we had recently out in the ocean off of Bogue Inlet.