Archived entries for Technology

A modern plague: loud cell phone talkers

I have a little — but increasingly passive-aggressive — thing for people who talk loudly on their cell phone. Modern technology is great: you don’t need to scream into your phone for that person 2,000 miles away to hear you. On Sunday I had two profoundly disturbing experiences of this sort. The first was at Paradise Cafe in Chelsea, the joint notorious for its awful service, and I suppose, sometimes awful clientele (yours truly excluded), too. When I stopped in for my usual weekend morning iced coffee fix, the same girl who was there talking loudly on her phone last weekend was back, chirping away, although this time she had lovingly placed her bare feet on another chair. Eeeewww! (See the photo snapped from afar for visual evidence.)


In my second hair-pulling moment of the day, I was over at Joe The Art of Coffee, on 23rd Street, getting my usual weekend afternoon iced coffee fix. The man sitting next to me clearly has relationship issues with his wife and control issues with his children. I learned all this, you see, because said man was talking at a decibel level that would give a lawn mower a run for its money. Truth be told, he also sounds like he has a touch of manic depression. In any event, I never thought I’d be able to snap a shot of said social-etiquette-offender without him noticing — you’ll remember, I was sitting next to him. But he was such a space cadet it was a cinch.


Let’s all get ADD

The San Francisco Chronicle today has an article that every BlackBerry/cellphone/email addict should read: “No one is getting enough sleep. No one is getting enough sleep because everyone is so damned stressed. Everyone is so damned stressed because everyone has way, way too much to do and far too little time in which to do it.”

“Everyone has way too much to do and far too little time in which to do it because modern technology has made us a thousandfold more accessible and more wired up and more media drenched and able to communicate in 157 different instant digitized ways, has given us entree to so much astounding information at so much faster and more unbearable rates that it has, in effect, compressed time into sweaty slippery little knots we are forever trying to untie as quickly as we possibly can even though we can’t.”

A new phone!

I just got a new BlackBerry Curve (LOVES IT – it’s truly the best phone ever!) and I’m addicted to its camera function. I’ve been without a cameraphone for a couple years (suffering through life with a crappy old BlackBerry) and I never realized what I’ve been missing! Now I can snap photos of anything and everything, including these shots from yesterday in New York.


Bereft of BlackBerrys, the Untethered Make Do

“Where were you when the BlackBerrys went out?” asks The New York Times today. I was getting ready for bed when mine went out, and I didn’t even realize there was an outage until the next morning when my brother checked up on me — he knew I couldn’t go long without my Berry.

“The BlackBerry blackout was grueling to many — and revealed just how professionally and emotionally dependent so many people had become on their pocket-size electronic lifelines.”

One user told the paper, “I started freaking out,” he said. “I started taking it apart. Turning it off. Turning it on. I took the battery out and cleaned it on my shirt. I was running around my hotel like a freak. It’s very sad. I love this thing.”

The Globe and Mail quoted a Bay Street broker as saying, “It was like a bunch of guys hanging around a narcotics anonymous meeting, completely cut off from their information.”

The high price of addiction

My infamous CrackBerry addict friend, whom I’ve written about before, dropped his little device into the toilet of a New York City bar last night. What does one do when they drop their phone in such an unfortunate spot? He fished it out to recover the SIM card.

Today my life changes

Apple’s new flagship store opens tonight on Fifth Avenue, and being the biggest Mac booster on the planet, I can’t wait to check it out! I think the open-24/7 store’s glass entry is stunning, but perhaps I’m a bit biased: my brother, who works on Apple stores around the world, was one of the engineers who figured out how to make the glass cube work. Apple is predicting they’ll do $40 million a year in store sales at their new location, and based on the line at the store already, that looks like an easy goal.

The New York Sun is calling the new space a “triumph of urban design…that carries into the realms of architecture the clean, minimalist perfection that graces Apple’s desktops, laptops, and iPods. Just as these physical implements of leisure and creativity conceal all manner of hidden complexities, so the commercial core of the new flag shipexists entirely below grade. Indeed, the cube is nothing more than a grand entrance: You descend into the predictably clean and minimalist retail space either through a glass walled elevator or a staircase that spirals downward along glass steps cantilevered along the elevator shaft.”

• BusinessWeek: Apple’s new store is pure glass
• NYT: Apple, a Success at Stores, Bets Big on Fifth Avenue


Boston Apple Store delayed

What a shocker — Apple’s plan to build a four-story flagship on Boylston Street in Boston has been thrown into question after the Back Bay Architectural Commission said that the new building “is quite inappropriate in this location.”

John over at the Boston Real Estate Blog isn’t happy. He says he doesn’t care one way or the other about this Apple Store, but is “concerned with the ability of a company to build something they like and that people presumably want, without their plans being totally ruined by a bunch of NIMBY-loving, pantywaisted, out of touch snobs.”

Tapped out users get ‘BlackBerry Spa’

blackberry_thumb_0119It’s appropriate that has a story onthe pains of BlackBerry Thumb today because just this morning I was struggling to type on my traditional keyboard because of the repetitive stress my BlackBerry has inflicted on my left-hand thumb. I can’t hit the space bar anymore! But I’m not alone in having overworked digits.

“With the number of Blackberry users continuing to rise, one Toronto spa is hoping to cash in on what it thinks will be the next big thing: Blackberry massages.”

“For just $80 — and with soft music and calming sounds of nature as a backdrop — professional masseurs will focus on the areas most affected by the constant tapping: forearms and thumbs.”

• RIM, the Canadian maker of the BlackBerry, says its product is so vital to the continuity of the U.S. Government that the patent infringement suit against it should be dropped

A high tech ball and chain

blackberry_1222You’ve got to love when internal memos end up in the hands of reporters, and this one is a gem. Brian Bixby, a partner at the Boston law firm of Burns & Levinson circulated a memo to his department, reminding his attorneys that CrackBerrys are not playthings.

”They are not just accessories or collectors’ items,” Bixby wrote in his memo, which was sent anonymously toMassachusetts Lawyers Weekly. ”They are not to be used only when you feel like sending an e-mail. They are supposed to make you more accessible for receiving e-mails after hours and on weekends.”

The sordid life of kids and their webcams

sordid_world“Interesting” is perhaps the only word to describe the tale of Justin Berry that the New York Timeschronicles in a new gazillion-page article. “Shocking,” “appalling,” and “terrifying” are also fitting descriptors.

The 19-year old Californian has been “performing” before his webcam since age 13 and created a hugely profitable empire, in part through the assistance of his father, fed by hundreds of predators now being investigated by the Justice Department. After speaking with the Times some six months ago, he received legal immunity from any charges and is now part of a wide-ranging federal investigation into the business of online child pornography.

“This soccer-playing honor roll student was drawn into performing in front of the Webcam – undressing, showering, masturbating and even having sex – for an audience of more than 1,500 people who paid him, over the years, hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

“Justin’s dark coming-of-age story is a collateral effect of recent technological advances. Minors, often under the online tutelage of adults, are opening for-pay pornography sites featuring their own images sent onto the Internet by inexpensive Webcams. And they perform from the privacy of home, while parents are nearby, beyond their children’s closed bedroom doors.”

BlackBerry to be spared?

blackberry_usersThings haven’t been looking good for the future of the BlackBerry in the United States after repeated patent-infringement rulings filed in U.S. courts against Research in Motion, the handheld’s manufacturer, have been lost by the Canadian company. But now the U.S. Government has gotten involved and filed briefs in a Virginia court saying that if a shutdown of the BlackBerry service is ordered (which is seen as the best remedy by NTP Ltd., which is suing RIM), “it is imperative that some mechanism be incorporated that permits continuity of the federal government’s use of BlackBerry devices.” There are more than 200,000 government BlackBerry users.

Speaking of CrackBerrys, I went out to dinner last week at a new Boston restaurantwith the infamous BlackBerry addict (you know who you are!). We hadn’t seen each other in ages, but he remains addicted to the little all-in-one. At the risk of being repetitive and unoriginal, I am going to republish below one of my favourite BlackBerry quotes that I often refer to when I am in the company of people unable to put theirs down.

“Fewer and fewer of us appear capable of doing what used to be called being in the moment,” Christie Blatchford wrote in the Globe and Mail. “People now want to be in several moments simultaneously, with, I would argue, the result that they are properly in none.”

“The essence of being in the moment means being caught up in the presentness of the present such that you are deaf and blind to everyone and everything else, including the nagging voice of past experience and the ringing alarm bell of future consequence. It is what makes for the best spontaneous gatherings, the most exciting love and the most remarkable memories — those times when you give yourself over fully to the very taste of another mouth, the look of the slice of sky over your head, the feel of a summer’s wind on your face, or even the chemistry of a particular party.”

A jet for Google

google_767The founders of Google have purchased an unusual plane for their personal use. They paid $50 million for a former Qantas 767 that normally seats 200-300 but that will be outfitted to carry only 50 people. It will cost the billionaires about $13,000 per hour to operate.

The Wall Street Journal writes, “The purchase of a wide-body jet for personal use might seem at odds with the Google founders’ support for environmental causes. The company gives employees $5,000 if they buy hybrid gas-electric cars, for example.”

The agony of BlackBerry Thumb

The thumb on my left hand has been rendered practically useless for days now, sitting there lifeless as I suffer the pain and agony of BlackBerry Thumb. The solution, apparently, is to pound out only the shortest of messages. As a professor at Cornell who specializes in ergonomics points out, “If you’re trying to type ‘War and Peace’ with your thumbs, then you’re going to have a problem.”

Furor over Friendster

Social networking site Friendster has caused a furor in recent days because of its new “Who’s Viewed Me” feature that no longer means surfing profiles is anonymous. Now members can see every person who has clicked on their profile, leading many to cancel their membership and quit the site, which many people consider Internet Crack.

Disconnect, dammit!

The Globe‘s Ellen Goodman brings up an interesting perspective on one of my most beloved topics: getting people to disconnect from their cell phones and CrackBerrys and pay attention to others and the world around them.

cell_phone_addictGoodman writes: “How do you describe the times we live in, so connected and yet fractured? Linda Stone, a former Microsoft techie, characterizes ours as an era of ‘continuous partial attention.’ … [we] live with all systems go, interrupted and distracted, scanning everything, multi-technological-tasking everywhere. We suffer from the illusion, says Stone, that we can expand our personal bandwidth, connecting to more and more. Instead, we end up overstimulated, overwhelmed and, she adds, unfulfilled. Continuous partial attention inevitably feels like a lack of full attention.”

A few months back, I penned an entry about the pervasiveness of the CrackBerry and the inability of its users to put the things down (full disclosure: I have one) after another columnist so eloquently articulated my own feelings: “The essence of being in the moment,” Christie Blatchford wrote, “means being caught up in the presentness of the present such that you are deaf and blind to everyone and everything else, including the nagging voice of past experience and the ringing alarm bell of future consequence

You looked better on the internet

shirt_better_on_internetThe Globe has a pretty funny article this morning on the many pitfalls of online dating including a few hilarious anecdotes of online dates gone awry. The moral of the story: If you’re really a hobbit, you shouldn’t be advertising yourself as Prince Charming.

One woman said she got together with a man she met online only to be told, “I am extremely disappointed. Your photo wasn’t that clear. I am calling the whole night off. See ya, bye,”

In another instance, “Julie, who asked that her last name not be used, was looking forward to meeting a South Boston man she met on After exchanging photos and agreeing to meet, the North Kingston, R.I., woman drove to the rendezvous point, an Olive Garden restaurant. She knew the make of his car, a green Toyota Corolla, so when he pulled up, she was crestfallen when he pulled away.

”He never stopped,” she says, describing herself as a 5-foot-2 petite, with brown hair and brown eyes, Italian and intellectual. ”I’m not an ugly girl. People say I have a nice low voice and they expect a model. When they don’t find one, they get upset.”

God save us from the cell phones

jerk_cellThe Globe fronts with a story about the potential lifting of an in-flight cell phone ban in the U.S., “In-flight cellphone proposal hits static”. The evidence that phones interfere with the navigation systems is highly disputed, and the FCC is coming around to the general conclusion that they’re OK to use in-flight. So while cell phone use in-flight now seems like an inevitability, it will certainly be a while before a full-scale rollout on all the nation’s airlines. United has said they don’t plan to allow phones in-flight. Even Cingular Wireless has said it’s a bad idea, possibly because phone signals screaming through the air at 500 miles per hour can overwhelm cell towers and relay networks.

Though there have been times when I’ve circled an airport for three hours in bad weather, then been diverted to another airport hundreds of miles away, and could not get in touch with someone on the ground picking me up, I object wholeheartedly to the lifting of the ban. I don’t have major issues with flying. It doesn’t typically stress me out. But those times when it does, the last thing I want is to hear a clueless passenger jabbering away so all the sardine-packed masses can hear the mundane details of his life. It’s enough to cause air rage.

Cell phones have been transformed from small luxuries to basic necessities; elementary school kids have them now — and those of us who got through our childhood and teenage years without a direct line to mummy and daddy muddled through just fine, thank you very much. Don’t get me wrong. I couldn’t live without one, so instead I have three cell phones.

• Yesterday I started reading, “The Jerk with the Cell Phone: A Survival Guide for the Rest of Us.” It’s quite good.

• From ABC News: “How to deal with the jerk on the cell phone.”

Bloggers as Celebrities

Newsweek has a marginally interesting (read: pretty flat) piece on “net-oriety,” the unusual phenomenon of bloggers gaining celebrity. “Only a few years ago, fame on the Internet was more closely associated with infamy than achievement … Being famous exclusively on the Internet has always been worth considerably less than real world celebrity …[but] Internet fame is beginning to carry greater substance, and may be a pathway to real fame.”

• Blogebrity lists their top 50 bloggers, as well as second-string B-listers

iPod Class Action Suit

ipodIf you, like me, bought an iPod the second they were introduced in 2002, then yours is probably suffering the same fate as mine: gathering dust under your bed because it’s completely dead due to battery and/or software failure. The pain of owning a useless $400 piece of plastic and metal can now be alleviated thanks to the announcement that Apple has settled a class action lawsuitand iPod owners are who suffered battery problems are entitled to a $50 credit to the Apple Store or a $25 cash reimbursement, or an extended battery warranty, depending on which generation iPod you own.

As many as 2 million people may be affected by battery problems, and if they all were to file claims, it could cost Apple upwards of $100 million, though it is not expected that many will actually do so, since iPods tend to be replaced frequently and few people keep their dead iPods. Claims can be submitted online (but it’s a nightmarish process) or by mail. Learn more

Belting: Just Don’t Do It.

beltThere are few trends I find as ludicrous as attaching various electronic equipment to one’s waste. It is not slimming, and it simply not attractive. First Carson Kressley told the Queer Eye-watching masses that belting is a fashion faux pas, and today, Russell Smith, the Canadian style guru, uses his column to take a strong stance against the unsightly practice.

He writes, “The recent proliferation of hand-held electronic devices has spawned a corresponding fashion blight … They are often too large to fit comfortably in a trouser pocket, and so you hang them on your belt as if they are going to provide you with some sort of action-man charm.”

“You think that you are going to look like a futuristic, important, busy Batman, with his utility belt bristling with weaponry, but in fact you are going to look like a janitor … Remember that the higher you are on the social ladder, the further you are from the actual running of machinery. A visible pager or BlackBerry makes you look like the junior regional sales manager who might just have to rush out and deliver some boxes of potato chips or adding machines at a moment’s notice…”

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