Saturday, August 29, 2009

Update, Don't Upchuck!

Get ready for TMI (too much information). This blogger runs iGoogle as the home page in four (4) browsers (in this order of preference: Chrome 2, Firefox 3, Safari 4, and IE 8. Why 4 browsers? This blogger looks at the finished blog posts in all 4 browsers to make certain that nothing is amiss with the formatting. Wikipedia tells us that iGoogle

(formerly Google Personalized Homepage and Google IG), a service of Google, is a customizable AJAX-based startpage or personal web portal much like Netvibes, Pageflakes, My Yahoo!, MySurfPad and Windows Live Personalized Experience. It was originally launched in May 2005. Its features include the capability to add web feeds and Google Gadgets (similar to those available on Google Desktop). It was renamed and expanded on April 30, 2007, and is currently available in many localized versions of Google, in 42 languages, and in over 70 country domain names, as of October 17, 2007.

Yesterday (08/28/09), the Google Gadget for Gmail stopped working from the iGoogle page on the Firefox browser; the Gadget worked in the other three browsers. A click on the Gadget controls provided access to the Comments bulletin board about the Gadget. Wow, several other users of the Gadget experienced the same anomaly in the Firefox browser. This blogger added his own moans and groans about the Gadget's problems in Firefox. Flash forward to this AM and when the blogger fired up the Firefox browser to post this blog entry, a window popped up on the Firefox screen: a new Google Gadget Plugin had been added to Firefox! A click on the Gmail Gadget on the home page produced the blogger's In Box! Wow! A helpful update! However, The Krait offers another view of software updates in today's NY Fishwrap. If this is (fair & balanced) technophilia, so be it.

PS: The Krait (Gail Collins) is the distaff Op-Ed teammate of The Copy-Cobra (Maureen Dowd).

[x NY Fishwrap]
The Updating Game
By Gail Collins

Tag Cloud of the following article

created at

There was a time when people in search of a full and meaningful life were advised to start off each morning by telling themselves: “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better.”

Now, we get up and hear: “Updates are ready for your computer.”

It’s depressing to realize that my computer is more bent on self-improvement than I am. At home, my laptop is so ready to update that it can barely be constrained. The other day, I found three different pleas floating around on the screen.

The “Dell Support Center Automatic Upgrade” was the most tempting since it sounded as if the computer wanted to give me a really good seat on a plane.

“Effective now,” the announcement continued, “these valuable messages are part of the new Dell Support Center. Dell needs to upgrade Dell Support without impeding system performance so that messages continue to be received.”

In other words, I need an upgrade so that I will better be able to receive more upgrade requests in the future. This is extremely important to my laptop, which is only offering me the response options of: More Details, Start Upgrade or Remind Me Later.

There was a time when I would have responded, but nothing good ever seemed to come of that. The updated computers were never any better at doing the things I wanted to do than the old ones. And there’s always the possibility that I could trigger an inadvertent disaster.

I have been permanently traumatized by an experience with my BlackBerry, which started sending me signals that it was unhappy about something. I kept clicking around, looking for a positive response, trying to show it that I was a partner, eager to keep up my end of the relationship. The upshot was that the BlackBerry began refusing to do anything whatsoever except call up the telephone number of former Senator Trent Lott.

My most benevolent theory about the updating requests is that my computers are just bored. The one I take on the road is always whining about the unused icons on my desktop, like a hyper-tidy roommate who follows you around saying, “Gee, I notice you haven’t made your bed. Do you want any help with that? I know it must be really hard to remember every day, but if you want me to remind you or anything....”

My home computer has begun to flash a Windows Genuine Advantage Notification, urging me to press a button so it can reduce software piracy and “help confirm that the copy of Windows installed on this PC is genuine and properly licensed.” This does not sound as if it’s all about me. In fact, the computer has no interest whatsoever in me, my BlackBerry crisis or my inability to make the iPod stop playing “Kokomo” by the Beach Boys all the time. It just wants a world where all its icons are tidily arranged, software is licensed, upgrade messages flow untrammeled and it feels better every day, in every way.

My darkest suspicion is that my computers are preparing to join their comrades in overthrowing humanity so machines can rule the earth. I have seen quite a few movies on this theme, and really, the signs are everywhere. The other day, Jim Dwyer reported in The Times about a man in Brooklyn whose oven broiler turns on every time the cellphone rings. Experts think this is caused by electromagnetic interference. However, I believe the oven is ticked off because its owners, in typical New York fashion, use it for storage rather than for actual cooking. And it is in cahoots with the cellphone, which probably is resentful because it is not allowed to spend its time doing the things cellphones really enjoy, like talking to Trent Lott.

The way you respond when your computer asks for an upgrade is a good test of how you relate to technology in general. My nephew Hugh and his friends seem as excited as the computers over the whole concept. “Actually, everyone would be fine with an annual update,” he said, “but that would make people feel like they were out of the loop. Unclean.”

I had a good deal of trouble getting hold of Hugh since he doesn’t respond to old-fashioned e-mail. “By the way,” he said delicately when we were finished talking, “if you tell people other than me that you’re writing a column on technology but don’t know how to text, they might sense, um, a — disconnect.”

Edward Tenner, a visiting scholar at the Rutgers University School of Communication and Information and author of Why Things Bite Back, told me he actually used to be in the if-it’s-not-broke-don’t-update camp, until his computer suffered a total meltdown. The tech who fixed it told him that he should have been installing the virus-detecting updates all along. “Don’t try to second-guess Microsoft," he warned, in tones the professor has now taken to heart.

Truly, words to live by. Every day in every way. Ω

[Gail Collins joined the New York Times in 1995 as a member of the editorial board and later as an op-ed columnist. In 2001 she became the first woman ever appointed editor of the Times editorial page. At the beginning of 2007, she stepped down and began a leave in order to finish a sequel to her book, America's Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates and Heroines. Collins returned to The Times as a columnist in July 2007. Besides America's Women, which was published in 2003, Ms. Collins is the author of Scorpion Tongues: Gossip, Celebrity and American Politics, and The Millennium Book, which she co-authored with her husband, Dan Collins. Her new book is about American women since 1960. Collins has a degree in journalism from Marquette University and an M.A. in government from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.]

Copyright © 2009 The New York Times Company

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Copyright © 2009 Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves

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