The Forgotten Role of Technology: One Step Away from Magic

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I’ve noticed an increasingly more prevalent theme this year. The core theme is the concept of technology that is so ubiquitous and elegant that it appears to work like magic. For most of us that is rarely our experience. Often technology, whether we’re using an electronic tool that performs some physical work, or a piece of software that executes a virtual action, rarely seems like magic.

Some of this is simply due to the fact that most of us have developed a specific level of expectation over time through gradual changes that occur across the span of decades. There are certainly many things that might be perceived as magical to someone from an earlier time, whether it was someone from five hundred years ago or only a decade ago.  Perhaps magic, in this context, might be defined as something that is done for you that you didn’t even think about when you made it happen. Like turning on a light switch or opening a door, except the level of interaction is subtler.

Earlier this year I was fortunate to have the opportunity to join a college at a conference where Josh Clark, a user interface design expert, presented along with several other experts. While there we also had the opportunity to speak with him directly at one of the lunches, where he joined our table. Much of our discussion was on this very subject as was his presentation. His topic, of technology functioning like magic, was engaging and, in my opinion, a change heading toward us rather quickly.

I love technology. I enjoy learning about new innovations and gadgets and I have spent several late nights and weekends just tinkering with devices and software, sometimes without a defined goal. Some of those projects were dead ends. Others were successes. I learned from each one.

Yet, over the years, I continue to notice one problem with much of the technology that we have at our disposal.

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Pebble Smartwatch Update (and a general opinion of smartwatches)

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Pebble-Box

It’s been almost eight months since I first acquired a Pebble Smartwatch. So, after all this time what do I think of the watch? It’s very good at providing it’s basic, out-of-the box features. My experience seems to have been better than some. Others have had more issues with firmware updates, reliability, and connectivity. I’ve experienced some of these problems myself though I was able to overcome them.

Initially, I had more issues with connectivity. For a while it would refuse to connect to the phone about once every two weeks and the process required restarting both the phone and the watch (and sometimes resetting configuration settings) to get it working properly. Over the past few months those problems have nearly dropped to zero.

Yet, I have elected to not take full advantage of the additional features available via the installation of apps. The few times I’ve tried them I’ve noted an increase in problems with both connectivity and stability. Early on I simply chose to avoid them and I suspect that’s the main reason that I’ve experienced fewer issues.

For the most part, I’m only interested in the clock, a few custom watch faces, and the notifications.

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Mario Kart 8 for Wii U – The Best and Worst Mario Kart Game

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Mario-Kart-8

Last Friday I purchased a copy of the new Mario Kart 8 game for the Wii U. It’s something that I’ve been anticipating for a long time. After all, I’ve played almost every single game in the series, with the exclusion of some of the older DS/DSi editions. Now the complaint I have isn’t something I was completely unaware of before I purchased the game, but I was hoping for a better experience with the Battle Mode than I’ve had so far.

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It’s Nothing Personal (Software Updates Changing Preferences)

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I’m departing from the usual purpose of this blog to take a moment to rant about software updates changing settings, especially when previously selected options still exist in the updated software.

My annoyance of the week goes to Apple for changing the security setting that permits the installation of any third-party software. I changed this setting in Mountain Lion a long time ago so I wouldn’t be restricted to using only software developed by Apple partners.

Sure enough, on every computer we installed Mavericks on, this setting had been changed. Previously, we had it set to allow apps downloaded from “Anywhere” but after the update it was set to the second option of “Mac App Store and identified developers”.

I suppose this might be an effort to curb future malware problems though, even if that is the case, it shouldn’t be reset after any update. I realize this is a minor annoyance but it’s not uncommon to experience similar problems with iOS updates and these particular options seem, in my opinion, to be modified in order to “encourage” a specific end-user behavior.

A long-time offender includes Mozilla with Firefox updates, which is why I created a post with specific settings that I could refer back to after installing browser updates.

Mass Effect 3: Initial Impressions

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I received Mass Effect 3 via Amazon.com on the release date. I’ve only played about five hours. This is May. The game was released in March.

Something is wrong with this game. It’s not terrible, but it’s lost something that the first two games had. I can’t really put my finger on it but I can point out some of the things that I think are bad.

Note that I’m nowhere near completion yet. However, since some of the things I’ve seen are spoilers I’ll continue my rant after the jump…

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Netflix Takes a Dive

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This is one of my more rare opinion posts. I usually try to provide useful information, but I can’t resist publishing some comments about the recent changes to Netflix. I think the change in their business model is unfortunate. Netflix was positioned to remain a leader in streaming and rentals, but I’m very doubtful that will continue to be the case.

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Apple App Store

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Usually I will try to keep my rants to a minimum. After all, my goal with this blog is to provide useful information for others. I try not to waste space with non-helpful opinions. Tonight I can’t resist the urge to bitch.

When Apple first announced the App Store for OS X I thought that it might be a good idea, but I reserved judgement initially. The idea of having a reliable source to download OS X software is an attractive one. However, the concept that it might become the only source is one that I find disturbing. There’s no indication that’s what will happen.

Well, not directly. But it could become more likely without direct action from Apple.

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