Thursday, December 29, 2011


When I started as a computer professional, we used minicomputers.  They were called "mini" because they were only as big as two or three refrigerators, and four times as noisy.  They had to be installed in special climate-controlled rooms, with raised floors for all the cabling and air conditioning.  We used to run what we called application programs.

Then the whole world went to personal computers. These could fit on a desk, with plenty of room left over for a pencil or a paper clip. The computers themselves weren't so big, but you needed room for boxes and boxes of floppy disks. And these disks contained applications. Not application programs. Just applications.

Now I carry the equivalent computer power in my pocket. One in each pocket, actually. We don't need floppies. Everything's in The Cloud. And those programs? Now they're just apps.

Next I suppose everything will be implanted surgically.  The user interface will be just to think of what you want. Of course, it will be hard to drive with all the "Updates are available" messages popping up in our heads.  But so what?  They'll drive.  There'll be an A for that.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Classics

I think it's great that Amazon has a Kindle app for iPhones and Android phones.  I can carry a hundred books in my pocket, and read them whenever I'm unavoidably detained, such as at the doctor's office, dentist's office, optometrist's office, barbershop, etc.  You get the idea.

Of course, I rarely get more than a few pages into one of the classics (They're free!), so I usually wind up starting over again for each new appointment.   I've read the first few pages of Ulysses dozens of times, and I still haven't made it to Lilliput despite countless embarkations.

The drawback to this is that catchphrases get stuck in your head like unwanted melodies, and then pop out at the most inopportune times.  More than once I've had this exchange:

 - Peter?
 - Call me Ishmael.

I have an odd tendency to refer to people as "you fearful Jesuit," with no regard whatsoever to their religious affiliations.

Shakespeare is plentiful in the land of free lit, and is chock full of juicy, tenacious phrases.  So why do I keep falling back on "It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury and signifying nothing?"

And, of course, these linguistic baubles are most likely to pop out the moment I finally get in to see the doctor, dentist, optometrist, barber, etc.

 - How have you been?
 - It was the best of times, it was the worst of times ...
 - What seems to be the problem?
 - It feels like my gall bladder is divided into three parts.

I wouldn't mind this patina of literacy, but, like a Tourette sufferer, I have no control over when these utterances choose to interject themselves.  Drink me.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Three Generations

Your grandparents ...

Your parents ...

You ...

Monday, December 19, 2011

Geek Morality

The most rigid moralists in the world today are not religious leaders or conservative politicians. They are the computer geeks, especially the ones who have been using computers and the Internet for 10 or 20 years (or more!!)

They have rules for everything. For example, nice looking formatted email is bad. Email has to be plain text, looking like it just rolled out of your typewriter. (Google it if you don't know what that is.)

Email should look like this: Not like this:
Hey, Max. Want to grab lunch? I was thinking either Changsho or Mary Chung. What say?
Hey, Max. Want to grab lunch? I was thinking of either:
  • Changsho, or
  • Mary Chung
What do you say?

And email with pictures?  Horror!

Also, when you reply to an email, you may not top-post (put your reply above the excerpt from the message you're replying to). This is a grave sin among knowledgeable geeks. Email has to read from top to bottom in chronological order, like some ancient scroll.

Using Flash to liven up a Web site is strictly taboo.  Web sites should also look like typewritten documents.  Except for the links.  Those can be blue.

But the worst sin of all is usability. Usability may mean more people can actually benefit from the technology, but it's always at the expense of performance. Nice looking Web pages take longer to download.  Understandable commands take longer to type. Worst of all, usability means that practically anybody could be on the Internet. Even non-geeks!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Letters From The Editor

I've wanted to do a letters feature for a long time. It gives me a chance to respond to comments and questions from this blog's readers. There's only one problem. There are no comments and questions from readers. Nothing at all, unless you count the offers to increase my girth.

So, I'm going to have to write my own. Here, then, are my letters from the editor.

Dear Adoring:

Thank you indeed for the high praise. It's very gratifying to know how much this blog has changed your life. As to how you too can become witty and wise, my recommendation would be to support this blog by buying merchandise at You'll fit in with any intellectuals when you're wearing one of our "non-shrink (too much)" t-shirts, or drinking from the "non-shrink (at all)" tall coffee mug.

Or just send donations via PayPal.

Best regards,


Dear Peeved:

When the Eiffel Tower was first built, many Parisians considered it a blemish on their city, a garish pile of industrial scrap. Yet today it's regarded as one of the most beautiful and romantic sites in the world.

So give Windows Phone a chance.


Dear Want-repreneur,

Certainly the world of mobile apps is exciting. It's a growth area today, and sure to continue for the foreseeable future. In addition, mobile apps tend to be highly interactive and fun. So here's how to get started writing them:

  1. Google "how to write mobile apps."
  2. Read some of sites in the search results.
  3. Do it.
As always, Tech Curmudgeon is happy to provide detailed technical information like this. More technology just benefits all of us.


Well, I'm afraid that's all the space we have for this week, but keep those cards and letters ... well, just keep 'em. We'll be back with more next time.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Monday, December 12, 2011

Friday, December 9, 2011

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


I met a salesman from an antique shop
Who said: "I have for sale an Apple ][
That has one drive for tapes and one for flop-
Py discs to store what's valuable to you.
There's also an enormous twelve inch screen
So you can read the symbols and the signs
As they appear, on black, in shining green
Some forty letters wide, twenty-four lines.
It has one quirk, if anyone should care.
When booted up, a message it displays:
'Look on my AppleWorks, ye, and despair.'
I guess this old thing has seen better days.
This thing that once had power to excite -
Now just a memory (4 kilobyte)."

George M. Kōan

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Military Honors

Throughout history, the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a military leader is to make him or her the namesake of a chicken dish.  Think of General Tso, who defeated arch-rival General Gau in a fierce battle over naming rights. Or that other peerless military leader, Colonel Sanders. And I'm sure that someday, we'll all be able to enjoy a delicious meal of Petraeus Poultry.

But it's hard to ignore the irony of this. After all, "chicken" is the last thing most of these commanders would want to be associated with. So why do we accord them this particular honor?

The answer, it turns out, has absolutely nothing to do with the question. Rather, the answer is about the use of the term GAAP in financial statements. Seriously? GAAP? That stands for "generally accepted accounting principles."  That's the closest we can come to dictating how accounting should be done ... it should be "generally accepted." No right or wrong. Just do it the way most people do it. It'll be fine.

That's similar to the way health insurers decide how much they're willing to pay for a procedure. Look at the fine print. They'll pay "reasonable and customary" charges. Not "that's how much it should cost," or "that's the cost of time and materials."  Just "reasonable and customary."  Yeah, that's what the doctors down the street are getting for an MRI, so I guess it'll be ok for us too. No wonder health care costs are out of control.

The other reason for skyrocketing health care costs is, of course, our determination to violate every known guideline of preventative medicine. Bacon double cheeseburger? Yeah, gimme two. And a large order of fries. And a gallon of Coke. Better make it Diet Coke. Exercise? Yeah, I gotta carry all this crap in from the car. Oh, wait! I can just eat it in the car! All this despite the fact that beef is literally a synonym for complaint.  What's your beef?

That's why military personnel always seem so fit and trim. It's the chicken.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Friday, December 2, 2011

News Roundup

Following eviction from its downtown location, the local protest movement has decamped to a nearby home, where it has become known as Occupy Steve's House. Steve Metzger (31), of Greenville, says he's "pleased and proud" to have the tent city in his living room.  Pauline Metzger (27) admits it can be "inconvenient, especially when I'm nursing the twins." The twins could not be reached for comment.

* * *

Perennial Republican runner-up Mitt Romney said today that he had a revelation after talking to a prominent immigration scientist, and that now, like his rival Newt Gingich, favors allowing undocumented aliens who have been in this country for years to remain, provided they have WalMart cards.

* * *

Senate Republicans blocked a Democrat-backed measure to extend payroll tax cuts, saying it would only benefit people who work for a living.

* * *

Euro-zone countries tentatively adopted a plan to buy tons of gyros and souvlaki, and millions of barrels of Ouzo, in order to help debt-ridden Greece. German Chancellor Angela Merkel commented that the European Union is unsure how to proceed with other troubled economies, however.  "We already have lots of tapas and pasta."

Thursday, December 1, 2011