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A Box of Anxiety

What happens when your relationship with a computer is tested? The death of a computer can be either heart-breaking or a sigh of relief. The PowerMac that Mom and I used in high school was a waste of space. It had an Internet connection, but I often walked to the library for their public-use PCs to save some sanity. And see the color red. The RGB on the PowerMac became just GB.

(This was useful for Solitaire, if you were willing to deal with all black suits.)

I went to college and still had to use public computers until sophomore year. I was elated. I had finally joined the American tech revolution (which had started 10 years earlier). The Internet was faster. The resolution richer. The downloading illegal songs… I mean research for papers was easier.

I’m not sure how to convey my feelings of a computer relationship. I referred to it as a him and felt like he was a pet, a part of my family. I can’t remember what I had named him. He lived for 6 years until one day the power button did not do anything. Actually, it went ‘tick-tick-tick’ and then ‘thunk’ and then nothing. If it just hadn’t turned on it could have been a power source problem, but I was advised that the ticking… that was the heart of the hard drive beating its last.

There is a moment of grieving when something electronic that is *important* to you passes on. Maybe that is my experience because I wasn’t someone who could plow through toys and computers, replacing merely for technology. Something beautiful had to replace it. I found a Dell replacement (which was put on a payment plan which spent roughly two years ripping me off) that was white and silver and full of promise. I named her “Dr. Girlfriend”… for some reason. I blame my ex for that.

For 5 years she has worked. And she has worked hard. Part of me wants to buy a new computer (as soon as I get a job, of course), but it would feel like betraying a family member. Three days ago she didn’t turn on. It was the same as before, except no ticking. And I remembered that there had been some surges earlier which would either fry the power source or the motherboard. One was good, the other a cause for a psychotic meltdown. I finally took it to the computer vet and was told they could replace the power source for (relatively) cheap. So that has been done, but for three days I fretted. Yes, I have a net book from my loving family so I can blog abroad or write papers or something productive. The tiny laptop is not the same. Nowhere near so. It is with the large screen and tower and separate mouse that I can truly feel comfortable.

She is back and working (and the guy even fixed my second CD/DVD drive which I thought was FUBAR), but it reminds me of the mortality (ed: I originally wrote “morality”, which may or may not apply) of our electronics. I posted before about electronic evolution, but I’m not ready to rely on the portable, easier to look at, faster machines. Am I the only one?

Domo Arigato

Time for super awesome robot time (and other electronic adventures). This post is an inspiration from a previous one & The Black Fox. {She wanted a cool nickname and with her love of foxes that’s the best I can come up with. It’s a reference to one of my favorite movies.}

I had mentioned I’m collecting old, unused, and in somewhat working condition (arguably) electronics. When I asked what I should do with them, she was the only to reply and said I should attempt battle robots. I have absolutely no engineering or programming experience. Plus, I’m away from any buddies who may have those talents. I looked up what it may take to do that and there are several sites with instructions:
I found a specific thread in RoboCommunity that has many replies & links offering suggestions and help. I have also now learned that there is such a thing as a Robot Community.
There are several in fact. I found another beginners’ thread about motherboards at Society of Robots. (I would recommend just going to the main site – I’ve been finding these sites through the threads via Google.)

All I have is a soldering iron, several old crappy pieces of equipment, and a dream. Or I could go another route. By Googling “awesome uses for old electronics” I found a number of hits pertaining to robotics, practical uses, art projects, or (if it’s for old computers) just figuring out basics of programming.

On Hack N Mod there was an article about more artistic uses. It included “retro robots” which don’t look particularly active:

Make Use Of has more environmentally conscience options, including recycle/reuse/donate, but also mentions some interesting ideas like keeping that old laptop around and transforming it into a digital photo frame.

If those products are dead, dying, or out-of-date, try This Blue Marble‘s thread on transforming them into pretty awesome practical objects. I think my favorite was the “8-bit Belt Buckle”:

(Original article is from PC World by Anne B. McDonald, in case you miss that.)

So that’s all I’ve found. There are probably hundreds of things to do out there. I’ve seen plenty in my years of Interneting and have forgotten those ideas and links. If I’m really lazy I could probably just rip out the boards and glue them to stuff. I also bought wire and some random bits for Steampunk jewelry lately, so maybe it’ll just get added to that project. Well, it would be Cyber-Punk instead. I could do both. I’m crazy like that.

There Be Ghosts in the Machines

Last week I kept threatening to post something serious about Internet security. I had gotten all worked up over the kerfuffle involving HBGary Federal. (Although this particular article bothers me in part because someone in New Zealand tries to explain the pronunciation of pwned. Good luck in your future endeavors.)

There are many morally ambiguous questions when it comes to “hacktivism” and the future of Anonymous. My personal stance is that I hope “they” start coming up with a better plan instead of lashing out. This idea of vengeance to those who anger them – the cultural war as it were – needs to be understood as a method of fear. It’s the same method their enemies are using and in the end may get the opposite of what they want (as many bloggers are saying). Those participating in the attacks are on the borderline of cyber terrorism, though some see it as a form of social activism and the only way to actively struggle against increasing rules. Everyone involved has different views and some of Anonymous doesn’t even take part of DDos, but actively discusses ways to fight for the freedom of the Internet (and the take-down of Scientology). Unfortunately, security groups want to find the main attackers and bring them down and say: “These are the leaders of Anonymous. These are the people who represent an entire body of beliefs.” You cannot defeat the Internet Collective that way. There is no Borg Queen.

techdirt wrote an article examining each and every player. We have Barr & Co. We have WikiLeaks. We have Glenn Greenwald (of Salon). We have Bank of America. And of course, we have these mystery names of Anonymous that Barr claims are the leaders. Whether or not they are and whether or not they could just be replaced and whether or not these are just the leaders of the attacks he focused on is not discussed. It’s just a big clusterf**k. As Lewis Black says, “I don’t have the energy. I don’t have the energy.” Even though this attempt has been partly curbed by Anonymous, I fear we will see before the end of the year an even bigger meltdown if these companies wizen up and focus on the overall security of the Internet and start breaking down Net Neutrality. That’s going to hit us all where it hurts.

And don’t forget, these security groups have Gene Simmons working for them. He is working hard day and night to get the names, faces, and IP addresses of those who have hurt him and his family by taking down his site. He probably believes it’s as easy as fighting robots in the park. Don’t worry, Gene, you’ll get ’em:
Vodpod videos no longer available.

I Have Technofear Around the Parents

Sometimes I worry that I am possibly computer illiterate. This concern arose when I asked tech support for help trying to reconnect my netbook to the main network here at home. Their reply was like an alien language to me, but I managed to get through all the steps provided and then realized that my family had set the router to sleep when not in use and that I tended to use my new toy when they were not near the Internet. Not to say they weren’t on their computer; it’s just that if they don’t use the Internet the router takes a nap. Apparently. Whatever I did worked.

The point I am making is that after MANY MAN HOURS during which I had lost sleep and threatened dear Hobgoblin (yes, that’s what I named it) I would spill coffee on it and see if the warranty covered that, I succeeded. I no longer found myself in doubt. This was doubly, no *triply*, enforced when I spoke to my family this week.

Case a) My father is stuck in the 90’s representation of hackers. Yes, there are many hackers with focus on identity theft, information theft for financial gain, or (as he put it) a malicious game. Yet there are many “hacktivists” who put their powers to social causes, whether he agrees with them or not (he also believes in the anti-Wikileaks propaganda), and a focus on free information or net neutrality (something else I’m sure he doesn’t understand). Trying to convince him that all hackers are not like the people from The Net is a losing battle. It was like convincing a crotchety old man that hippies made some sort of positive difference in the world and still exist today. This is ironic since he was a hippie.

Case b) My step-mother just argued with me for 20 minutes about viruses and my networking with the main computer. For one, she was concerned that my netbook was not connecting because there were “too many computers connected”. Yes. We’re flooding the router. Gotta ease up on the clutch. I promised her the router could handle many, many computers, but if they were on-line at the same time that might affect quality. The router is a dirty, dirty whore. Then she wanted to tell me that if I got a virus there was a high likelihood that since we’re all on the same network I could give it to her. She asked about my virus protection and she is going to ask her very special tech friends how good it is and how likely that scenario is. I felt like an after school special. She doubts my word that I can stay clean and won’t transmit anything to her. I can say something about connection, network, adapters, virus software and yet she will only trust the word of other old people. I understand your friend “does” computer… stuff for a living, but that doesn’t make him infinitely more knowledgeable than I. This is especially true since I have grown up in the computer era and he has had to learn this as it develops.

Case c) Mom asked me if she could e-mail a song file this morning. I… I can’t… I won’t get into it. She reads my blog. I’ll leave her be. People who know where I’m coming from will understand.

And it makes me think of this:
Keep Your Parents Off The Internet – Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie

Execute the program?  That seems a tad extreme.
Via Memebase
More Technology Impaired Duck Memes here.

Again, there was going to be a less personal post, but I was purely frustrated this morning and had to do a little venting.

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