Monday, March 9, 2015

#182 - Taking Chances, New Toys, and Other Random Thoughts

Several days ago, I wrote a little something about technology, touching on a few good and bad points from my vantage point as a Baby Boomer miles away from friends and family. As I recall, that was the first post I had ever written and published from my Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 tablet. This will be the second.

One thing has changed for me technologically since that prior entry. I have now paired my tablet with a Bluetooth-enabled keyboard. The keyboard, while a bit smaller in overall size than a traditional computer keyboard, has close to normal sized keys, meaning that even someone as fat-fingered as I can be is able to type without too much frustration.

The keyboard was fairly easy to pair with my tablet. Within about 30 seconds, I was up and typing. In fact, the hardest part of getting the keyboard up and running for me was finding the two AAA batteries needed to power the keyboard.

The keyboard itself is about eleven inches wide, so it is a little wider than my table in widescreen mode. However, both are small enough and easy enough to balance that I can write a blog entry from an easy chair, as I am doing here.

Obviously, Android and Bluetooth have been around long enough that choosing to use either technology or both is not a great leap of faith. Enough people have come before that new users are unlikely to face any insurmountable hurdles when adopting these technologies for the first time.

Technology is certainly one area where early adopters at least are asked to take a chance on new devices, new programs, or new ways of doing things. As with anything new, there is always the risk of failure or at least the chance that things will not go as expected, as hoped, or as planned.

Of course, this is the case with any new venture, activity, or risk taken. I experienced those fears, as well as the relief when the worst did not come to pass, when I ventured onto the stage of the monthly Idaho Songwriters Association Forum the last Tuesday of February. The forum is an opportunity for Idaho songwriters, young and old, experienced or just beginning, to try out material before an actual audience.

My wife and I attended our first forum in November, and I came away thinking I could be up there and thinking I'd like to try it at least once. For me, the biggest problem was not a lack of material; I've been writing for 40 years. The biggest obstacle is the fact that I don't really write music. Thanks to my wife's help, I was able to get something I'd written into presentable form and was able to offer it up for public consumption. Thankfully, it was well received, although you never know how people will respond until you put something out there. The reception was positive enough that I am now working up a few other songs for future forums.

It is now several days later. The earlier material has just been left dormant, in some sort of electronic limbo, waiting for me to decide how or whether to finish the entry. I guess I've decided to finish it.

This morning, I went to start up my laptop only to find that, while the hard drive would spin up and the laptop would make all of the normal noises of booting, it was for all practical purposes a paperweight, simply because I could see nothing but a dark screen. Preliminary research indicates the CPU may have gone bad. Oh, joy!

My laptop is by no means new; I bought it about four years ago, but I had hoped it might last another year or so. The challenge for me in finding a new laptop, aside from not really wanting to spend any money, is the fact that I do not run Windows; I run Linux and have done so for more than a decade.

Unfortunately, it is hard sometimes to find a machine that is fully Linux compatible, a task made slightly more difficult with the advent of Secure Boot and UEFI-compliant BIOS. Don't ask me what either means or adds to a machine. All I know is that it make the challenge of a Linux user when selecting a new machine that much more difficult.

Sitting here thinking about the challenge ahead in terms of finding a new computer, I am reminded slightly of the ongoing Net Neutrality debate and of the old adage "Knowledge is Power." There are those who think knowledge and technology should be accessible to all people equally and those who believe those willing to pay more should get more Perhaps an oversimplification, but you get the point. As a Linux user, I guess I would fall into the equal accessibility camp, which is why I am not a big fan of Secure Boot or UEFI.

Perhaps there is a bit of Don Quixote in me wen it comes to such things, especially as I have neither political clout or big bucks to pump into any PR campaign. However, I have hope that a majority of people will reach the conclusion that equal access to information and technology is in everyone's best interests just as I have hope that I will not have too much trouble finding a new computer on which to run Linux. To quote the old reporting cliche, something we were advised as reporters never to say, time will tell.