Category Archives: Technology

Unknown at this address

Ever since I first went into the tiny computer room at my college back in the day, I’ve been a relentless email devotee. Sure, most of it’s spam offering to help me ‘make her sigh’ or trying to give me approximately $8 million dollars from a mysterious account in Ghana, but such fripperies don’t put me off. Like the schoolkid waiting eagerly for the postmail to arrive in hopeful anticipation of an unexpected package, I metaphorically sit under my virtual lettermailbox waiting for an electronic treat to plop onto the mat of my inbox.

Email has played a central role in my life over the last fifteen years or so. I’ve been offered jobs, resumed friendships, found out about births and deaths, and even helped stave off the pangs of being separated by an ocean from The Special One. Without email, it’s doubtful I’d even be living in New York today.

And of course, email has revolutionised the way I work – indeed, the way in which the vast majority of us work. It’s enabled quick decisions to be taken, measured responses to be made, and helped communication become much more effective. Sure, it’s made the fax machine as useful as the whistle and light on a airplane lifejacket, but email has clearly marked a step forward in the way that businesses operate. Certainly, no Chief Executive could manage without it in this day and age.

Unless you’re the Chief Executive of United States of America Inc, that is.

Because of both freedom of information issues and fears of hacking, the president of the United States doesn’t traditionally use email, it would seem. In 2000, George W Bush bade an emotional email farewell to his 42 friends via his AOL account after realising he would no longer be able to send his regular ‘Friday funny’ out (the quality of his jokes may actually explain why he only had 42 friends). And now self-confessed Blackberry addict Barack Obama, who famously used email and the internet to rally his supporters to victory, may be forced to cease ROFLing at some picture sent by Rahm Emanuel and cancel his own email account too. He’ll still be able to get a faxed copy of Colin Powell’s a**ea** as taken on the photocopier after the Oval Office Christmasholiday party, so all is obviously not lost.

Now, some might say the lack of email would explain a few things about the George W Bush administration over the last eight years. And I have no doubt that the president has plenty of minions to do his emailing for him. But how can you appoint someone to the most important ‘business’ role in America (possibly the world), and tell them that they can’t use the most rudimentary technology to get their job done?

And don’t talk to me about the difficulty of reconciling national security with the democratic right to read written presidential communications. I’m not allowed to be on the line when Obama calls Nicolas Sarkozy (or even when he calls for pizza) so why should I be allowed at some point to see his emails? And as for hacking…it really cannot be beyond the ability of man to come up with a safe system for the president to email without a 14 year old from Scranton breaking in and sending Angela Merkel an email saying ‘You is like wel fit. Lol!!!!!!!’

Having run on a platform for change, I hope Barack Obama sees sense and insists on becoming the first emailing president of the United States. It’s in the interest of the country, and it’s in the interest of common sense defeating anachronistic principle.

Can we get a supply of presidential Viagra? Yes we can.

Reality bites

I’ve been an avid follower of CSI: Miami for about three years now. However bad an actor David Caruso is, I practically live for the moments when Horatio Caine takes off his glasses and tells Frank that it’s murder.

I’ve now been in Miami for three days, and not once have I been shot at. There’s been no attempted murder, and I’ve not even been in the vicinity of a drive-by. I admittedly saw a Miami-Dade police car, but I think that had more to do with a John McCain fundraiser in my hotel, than any Emily Procter-led investigation.

Miami is known for two things – crime scene investigations, and dolphins. I’ve seen neither since I’ve been here. I’m thinking of suing under the trade descriptions act.

An Apple a day

In my first job out of university, I ran the office in which I worked with the aid of a Macintosh Classic. Looking back now, it’s hard to imagine that such a tiny little computer would be capable of running a bath, let alone a small business that produced dozens of publications every year. It was my first experience of an Apple product, and despite its lack of power, I remember being vaguely entranced by the desktop and revelling in the fact that my use of a Mac automatically meant that I was a creative.

Almost thirteen years on, and I now own an iMac, numerous iPods and the MacBook on which I’m writing this entry. I covet a MacBook Pro for no good reason whatsoever, and the newly-arrived presence of an Apple Store only a block away from where I work will do nothing for my (our) bank balance.

But however much of an Apple fan I am, it has to be said that I am a mere casual Johnny-come-lately compared to tech-savvy New Yorkers.

Last Saturday, I had to take a trip to Tekserve in order to take in for repairs the Mac Mini used by the kids to do their homework. Admittedly the reason it needed to go back was nothing to do with maths, science or humanities. But in this day and age, when the CD burner refuses to work and new tracks can’??t be transferred to iPods as a result, young person frustration tends to abound.

Walking into the service area of Tekserve was like stepping into the First Church Of Steve Jobs, with devoted followers seeking healing from their saviour. People were quite happy to sit patiently waiting for an hour to have their poorly computers tended to, content just to be in the presence of other disciples of the Apple way of life. If somebody had walked through the store holding a PC, it’??s not inconceivable that they would have been ripped limb-from-limb by a rabid pack screaming “OSX, OSX, OSX.”?

But nothing beats the sight that greeted me today when I returned to the store to pick up the fully restored Mac Mini. Among the acolytes and worshippers stood one man committed enough to wear his devotion publicly and permanently. The symbol of his fervour? A fairly large Apple logo, tattooed forever on the back of his neck.

Only in America, ladies and gentlemen, only in America.

American for beginners

They say that you’re only truly fluent in a second language when you can think in the foreign tongue, without mentally translating into your own language. If that is truly the case, then I’m a long way from being fluent in American, I can tell you.

I used to think I could spell. Well, to be fair, I was able to spell. Then I came to work in New York, and found that every single email I write, and every document I produce, is littered with spelling errors. Where once I realised that I was a spelling genius, I now realize that I know next to nothing. Where once I manoeuvred my way through sentences with relative ease, now I maneuver with the awkward clumsiness of Oliver Reed after a big night out. And having been honoured to do so well in my profession, I am now bringing dishonor to my good family name.

If that wasn’t enough, I’ve got Microsoft Word underlining all my little errors, like some know-it-all swot of a thirteen year old standing over me telling me that I clearly couldn’t spell my way out of a paper bag.

I’m slowly getting the hang of it, and can even write ‘organize’ now with only a momentary pause before I magic up the necessary ‘zee’. But it comes as naturally to me as successful comebacks come to Britney Spears, and I can’t see that changing any time soon. My spelling, that is. And Britney comebacks, to be honest.

As for toe-may-toes and bay-zill, they’ll always be toe-mah-toes and ba-sill to me. And don’t even get me started on oregano and aluminium.