I know all your secrets, through gmail

How does one even operate with so many emails unread?

This happened AGAIN when I went to use the computers at one of the branches of the Albany Public Library in May 2017. I went to gmail, and I got the message that it had “closed unexpectedly”, undoubtedly because the hour allotment of the previous user had expired. Did I want to “restore”? OK, let’s do that.

There was the gmail of a total stranger, totally accessible to me. At the end of each day, APL scrubs the records, but not always from user to user on the same day. I’ve gotten into people’s Facebook that way on public computers, and not just on APL’s, which is why, when I get that five-minute warning, I close down gmail and Facebook, then other items I might have open.

Per usual, I wrote her an email from “herself” explaining how and where I got into her system. I did not specifically explain that, had I been less of a swell guy, I could a wreaked real havoc in her life, trusting that she has figured this out.

So what did I learn from this woman? I never went past the first page, but I assume she’s looking for a job. But this really boggled my mind: she had about 9,300 emails, and around 8,500 of them were UNOPENED. How does one even operate with so many emails unread? She might have missed an employment opportunity, or six.

Now I’ve had even more emails than this woman, even a month ago, but I purged over 6000 of them in fairly short order, and they were all read. Some were things I was going to blog about – random ideas, news stories – but they got too old. Others were reminders of events to come that have since passed. And a lot were links to Facebook conversations – which I can never find by merely searching – that I decided just weren’t all that interesting, in retrospect.

Based on a blogpost I wrote a few years ago, the co-author of the Public Wi-Fi: How to Stay Safe and Secure Your Data infographic recommended it to me, and I do the same for you.

Haunted computers

SOMETHING is emanating from our house that risked disconnecting not just our service, but the service of a dozen and a half other customers in our neighborhood.

inexplicable
My friend Broome posted the xkcd cartoon above on his Facebook page. He explained that his astonishingly patient wife is “the only one who believes me when I say I experience certain things, people and places differently, like this great restaurant that always serves me uneatable food,…or haunted computers…or…”

I totally relate. At work, I’ve have my computer switched out more often than anyone. I used to believe that I had some sort of electromagnetism than wore down the functionality of electronic devices.

I got an Android tablet from work a couple years ago, but in a few months, it stopped working. I bought another one, and it lasted just as long before refusing to charge. My current Amazon Fire Continue reading “Haunted computers”

January rambling #2: JEOPARDY!, and recess

‘I feel like a dime among nickels.’

Abe Vigoda.Spidey

I received one of those recorded scam IRS phone calls this month, threatening to put me in jail. Mine came from the Syracuse, NY area from a known scam phone number.

2015 Was Hottest Year in Recorded History.

No boots on the ground… What does it mean?

Abortion Is as Old as Pregnancy: 4,000 Years of Reproductive Rights History.

No relation: The Green brothers explain January 1 and Oregon “militia” Continue reading “January rambling #2: JEOPARDY!, and recess”

Endangered skills?

I find it online banking so much easier than the paper version.

Satellite-navigationWhen you know you’re going to be unavailable, and you want to write ahead, you do list thingies. Thanks to fillyjonk:

20 Skills Facing Extinction
According to a survey, “younger generations have a lack of interest in things like reading maps, tying knots and remembering phone numbers. They don’t know how to knit, use a compass, darn a sock or write in cursive. Here are the following 20 skills facing extinction.”

1. Reading a map: Yes, I can do this; I often serve as a navigator, going back to my childhood. What I CAN’T do, apparently, is refold a road map properly. But I have loved maps since my grandfather gave me maps from his National Geographic magazines; still have a few of them.
2. Using a compass: I have, but haven’t had much need.
3. Tie a specific knot: Depends. I was excruciatingly slow learning to tie my shoes; I wore penny loafers until I was nine. On one particular job, I had to tie boxes in bundles of 20, and I had a bear of a time; I quit after two weeks. Ah, let’s say no; literally, I was no Boy Scout.
4. Darn socks: I never have.
5. Looking something up in a book using an index rather than ‘Googling it’: I AM a librarian, and in my office is a shelf of reference books, which I find not only easier to use than Google, but far more reliable.

6. Correct letter-writing technique: I DO know this, but haven’t much need of late.
7. Understanding pounds and ounces: I know a ton about this.
8. Knowing your spelling and grammar: Despite the typos in this blog, I really am quite good at this. I’ve even been known to offer correction to others, and they correct me.
9. Converting pounds and ounces to grams and kilograms: 2.2 pounds is a kilogram; knew without looking it up.
10. Starting a fire from nothing: Well, I’ve done it with a piece of glass and dried grass, but not in a long while. But NOTHING nothing? No.

11. Handwriting: I know the rules, but the truth is my handwriting is terrible. Thank goodness for the computer.
12. Understanding feet and inches: It helps to have a young daughter who is learning this anew, but yes, and fathoms, and furlongs, and miles.
13. Knitting: No, nor any of those other fine arts, such as crocheting.
14. Remembering a friend or relative’s phone number. Several of them, if they haven’t changed, including both of my sisters. The problem is that people get cellphones, and get new numbers. Then I NEVER remember the new numbers.
15. Remembering a partner’s phone number. I know The Wife’s cellphone number. I also remember her Social Security number.

16. Identifying trees, insects, flowers: Not my strength, except for the really obvious ones. Ah, a purple flower…
17. Touch typing. I’m a terrible typist.
18. Baking bread from scratch. I’ve done it, don’t particular enjoy it.
19. Taking up trousers. No.
20. Wiring a plug. A qualified no. I’ve actually done it from modeling another, but not my strength.

I also have changed a car tire, though it’s been years. I can figure out square root by hand and occasionally do so, just as a mental exercise. I hate automatic bowling scoring because I’d rather do it myself.

They also apparently listed “10 essential skills for modern life”

1. Searching the Internet: Evidently, I have figured this out, and not just Google.
2. Using/ connecting to WiFi: Done that. It’s fun traveling on a bus and finding the goofy hot spot names.
3. Using a smartphone. Rarely have done this. And I so seldom use my dumb phone.
4. Online banking. Actually, I find it so much easier than the paper version.
5. Knowing about privacy settings online: I probably should do more.

6. Searching and applying for jobs online; I’ve actually been on the other side of this, on search committees. Don’t much like it, but it’s “efficient.”
7. Being able to turn the water off at the mains. Haven’t had the need.
8. Using and following a sat-nav: You mean GPS? I’m inherently suspicious of it, ever since I was in my brother-in-law’s car some years ago and we literally drove around in circles. I like road signs, directions, maps. Mark Evanier has a good example of blind reliance on GPS.
9. Updating and installing computer programs. I’ve done it. There’s usually something wrong, and I have to reinstall.
10. Working a tablet: I like them. I can work them. The problem is that I tend to kill them.

S is for skeuomorphism

Skeuomorphism increases your understanding of the product.

skeuFriend Dan wrote to me about the word skeuomorphism, which was not in my vocabulary. But I didn’t see the email right away since it ended up in my spam folder, because “It’s written in a different language than your messages typically use.”

So what IS it? The Technopedia explains:

Skeuomorphism refers to a design principle in which design cues are taken from the physical world. This term is most frequently applied to user interfaces (UIs), where much of the design has traditionally aimed to recall the real world – such as the use of folder and files images for computer filing systems, or a letter symbol for email – probably to make computers feel more familiar to users.

Yeah, sure. I hadn’t thought about it, but that was a really ingenious idea.

However, this approach is increasingly being criticized for its lack of ingenuity and its failure to pioneer designs that truly harness a computer’s superior capabilities, rather than forcing it to merely mimic the behavior of a physical object.

Wait, what?

Skeuomorphism has increasingly come under fire, largely because many of the nostalgic elements it attempts to portray – such as calendars, day planners, address books, etc. – are almost entirely foreign to younger generations of users. In addition, critics of skeuomorphism point to this reliance of physical objects in design as an impediment to making more useful designs.

In fact, skeuomorphism in computers is already starting to die.

But, but, but, without those cues, I’d NEVER figure out any devices. It’s hard enough for me, as it is. I agree with Matt Webb, operator of BERG, “a design company that makes electronic devices incorporating human faces and emotions”:

“People that criticise skeuomorphism say it’s pointless, but I say it isn’t. It increases your understanding of the product. Technology is getting so complicated that we’re going to have to find ways for people to understand what it can do without having to spell it out.”

Or as friend Dan put it, ” It’s not so much fake as a bridge between two things or systems.”

The term long predates computers. From The Economist:

The term skeuomorph was originally coined in 1889 to refer to an ornamental design derived from the structure of an earlier form of a particular object… Examples would be car seats made of plastic, but textured to imitate leather; plastic spoons moulded with patterns to provide an echo of engraved silver; or imitation wood-grain printed on furniture or flooring.

 

ABC Wednesday – Round 16