5 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Tech OR I Hate Technophobes

This was a particularly challenging week in technology for me. I had to swap my work laptop out for the correct one (apparently the one I was using was intended for someone else) so I had to move my entire work life from one device to another. The new laptop then needed to get a total Windows reinstall the next day, so I had to re-reinstall everything I needed. For those unaware, I work in analytics, so my work requires literally a dozen specialty programs to work with data in various ways. Needless to say, it was a super frustrating end of the week for me.

That brings me to the point of this week’s blog – the things I wish everyone knew about tech. There’s nothing I find more infuriating is someone who just blatantly does not know about technology and just assumes they can fumble through it, and it’ll eventually work out. In my mind, that’s like getting behind the wheel of a car and saying, “Well, I know this pedal makes it go forward. Eventually it’ll slow down close to where I want to be, or I’ll hit something and stop.”

Technology isn’t going anywhere, and believe it or not, it’s not that much different in 2021 than it was in 1995 when Windows ‘95 reigned supreme running on an Intel 486 or the original Pentium. 

Before we get into the list, my biggest piece of advice is to use Google to find YouTube videos about the devices you use. Have a Windows-based laptop? Google “How to use Windows 10 for beginners.” Have a Mac? Trust me, there’s a world of YouTube videos on tips and tricks and how to get the most of your device. You more of a phone-only person? Android 11 or Android 12 tutorials with your phone manufacturer’s tweaks documented super-duper do exist. Do yourself a favor and spend an hour or two really learning how to use what you interact with every day. After that, start looking into the software you use all the time. “Top Tricks and Tips for Outlook” is a legitimate topic to search and that might save you headaches. 

Without further ado, here’s the list.

  1. Windows PCs and macOS aren’t that different anymore

While they can’t read from each other’s local disks easily, PCs and Macs can share files, use most of the same applications, and Macs released up until the end of 2020 can even run Windows natively. There are nuanced differences, and everyone is allowed their preference, but it’s not like oil and water and hasn’t been since about 2005. 

  1. Your phone is a computer, and you should treat it like one

Your phone is a highly specialized, shrunk down computer that has all the same functional parts as a computer. All phones, particularly Android phones, are subject to malware and hacks and everything on your phone can be pulled out shared with the internet. SMS messages are effectively just emails that use cellular signals to send. 

  1. Laptops are usually only usable for 3-ish years, and anything older that is pushing it

Some laptops have more longevity than others (Macs are especially long-lived), but for the most part your generic budget- to mid-tier laptop is only good for a couple of years before it needs some serious TLC. Cleaning out the fan vents, cleaning up the software installation (even reinstalling Windows), and maybe even adding in more RAM if possible. 

  1. You get what you pay for

There’s a whole world of budget computers that are basically e-waste waiting to happen in the world. It’s hard to really quantify a dollar range that these laptops exist within, but anything that has the wordsAthlon, Celeron, Atom, i3, 4GB, or 2GB are basically so underpowered they can’t even browse Facebook or Twitter smoothly. You’ll likely have to replace them within that 3-year window I mentioned earlier. There’s a sweet spot for price-to-performance and it’s not at the bottom of the budget—it’s about value not necessarily the best price. 

  1. Your screen is probably showing you the wrong colors

I see quizzes pop up every so often about being able to see X number of colors in an image. In reality, it’s not just your eyes determining what you see on your screen—your screen is often to blame. If you use a “business” quality laptop or monitor, you’re likely missing 20-50% of the colors that are intended on a screen. There are a few different ranges of colors, called color spaces, around and typically most Internet-based things live in sRGB 8-bit color space, but your stock Dell Latitude can only show about 50-60% of those colors correctly. Even if they can display the colors, the screen might be set up to extra-saturated (Samsung) or too washed out (older LG phones). For the most part, iPhones and Macs tend to have more accurate colors but even they play with things. 

There you go. My old-man grumblings after dealing with tech mayhem for the last week. #Sorrynotsorry

Nostalgia OR Visceral Vignette?

So, I’ve been experiencing some strange phenomena lately and I’d like to take you on a journey to get to the bottom of what’s been going on.

It all started a few years ago, when I moved from Chicago to Indianapolis. Ever since I started grad school in 2010, I had put my creative pursuits really by the wayside. I thought I had to, in order to become a “professional” in the “business world.”

After completing my course of study, getting a few internships, getting a job, getting my soul absolutely eviscerated by that job, and then finding another, I had really lost a lot of my creativity and personal passion for life. I decided to try and get back into photography to get my creative side to wake up. I bought myself a new camera and took a ton of photos. I loved doing it and it reminded me that life is more than data, deliverables, and dashboards.

Then, I took a job in Indianapolis and resolved to myself to spend more time on leisure, creativity, art, and music. That’s when I decided to join a few community music ensembles (shout out to Pride of Indy Bands and the Indy Winds Flute Choir!). After my car accident in 2018, I stumbled into crochet and knitting as well. That led to spinning yarn and eventually weaving fabric. Fiber arts are a fantastic creative outlet and at the end of the day you’re left with something useful! How great…I thought. 

I recently realized that while it was a creative outlet, I was also letting my unyielding need for productivity just have another form to take. It’s no secret that I’m a bit of a workaholic and define myself by what I do for a living, what I make, and how well I perform business tasks to an unhealthy degree. I know, shocking moment of self-reflection, isn’t it?

Recently when my crafting passion took a bit of a break, I realized it was a great chance to look into something else creative. Something that isn’t useful but just is for the sake of being. 

What a freeing experience! I took some online classes that focus on embracing your creativity, divergent thinking, and self-expression. The most impactful thing that came up in the class was the fact that we’re all born creative, we’re born to combine things in new, weird ways. But the world ensures we suppress that natural creativity and tendency toward divergent thought and forces us to focus on convergent thought. Convergent thinking is the type of thinking that results in one, specific right answer or solution to a problem. Convergent thought isn’t bad, but it needs to be balanced out by divergent thought processes. “Thinking outside the box” is a type of divergent thought process that I’m sure we’ve all heard before. 

So, I’ve been taking all these classes on creativity, learning to draw and paint in Photoshop, understanding what makes art art and why not everything needs to be art to be enjoyable for someone to make. (Remember that “productivity focus” thing I mentioned earlier? Not this time. Nuh uh. I’m drawing cool things for the sake of it!) Throughout this process over the last few months, I’ve noticed a bit of a change in how my brain approaches things, what catch my eye, and where my thoughts wander.

One weird thing that’s been happening a lot is that I get moments that I can only describe as nostalgia on steroids. They kind of freeze me in my tracks and force me to stop and think about what the source of the memory/thought/moment was and think about what triggered it suddenly. And we’re talking about memories of things that happened years and years ago.

A perfect example of this occurred today. I was out on a run (4 miserable miles in 90F weather with something like 80% humidity) and as I hit the second mile I was just stopped in my tracks. I was taken back to a moment in my past that I didn’t even realize I remembered. I was in my elementary school, looking out a window, and had just the most intense feeling of ennui wash over me–and the same emotion came over me in that moment as well. It rang though my soul clear as the day it happened, I could see it in my mind’s eye, and I still have no idea what on Earth caused that moment. 

So, there I was, dripping with sweat, trying to look like I wasn’t absolutely dying on the running trail, and totally flabbergasted by what my brain decided to dig out of the deep banks of my memories. It wasn’t just a fun nostalgic thought or a fond remembrance, but a visceral sensation of being back in that moment in time. 

I don’t know if it’s related to my recent efforts to balance my brain between convergent and divergent thought, because I’m getting old, or if the months of COVID quarantining finally took the last bit of my sanity, but this is an entirely new experience for me. It’s not unsettling but is always unexpected and not always an opportune time to get totally thrown off my thought track. 

So, what do you think? Does this ever happen to anyone else? Let me know I’m not crazy by leaving a comment, please!

10 Useless Bits of Trivia OR I’m Super Fun at Parties

Feeling a bit braindead this week. I was feeling so braindead, in fact, I totally spaced on writing a blog last night!. Going forward I’ll just be planning to post new blogs every Saturday morning. This week, though, I thought I’d throw out some fun facts that like to rattle around in my brain, rent free as it were. 

So, lucky you, dear reader, will now be the victims of these mental squatters.

  1. The binary code used in computers (1s and 0s) is actually just voltage present or absent (usually 5v or 3.3v) and isn’t what we’d think of as a 1 or 0. A 1 just means that for that particular clock cycle there was a 5v current present.
  2.  The hard end of a shoelace is called an aglet. (Thanks, Phineas and Ferb.)
  3. DVD doesn’t stand for digital video disc, but instead stands for digital versatile disc because it can be used for video, audio, or data storage. Remember when DVDs used to be a thing?
  4. The reason modern touch screens can read your touch is because your skin somewhat conductive and completes small circuits on the screen of the device. It’s kinda, sorta electrocuting you to do that. Just a little. Neat, huh? 
  5. Potatoes are nightshades, along with tomatoes and eggplants. Some people think nightshades can have negative health effects. You’ll take my potatoes out of my cold, dead hands, though.
  6. The song “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music is often thought of as a Christmas song but has no actual ties to Christmas in origin. 
  7. Bananas are going extinct and it’s not the first time it’s happened in the last century.
  8. The name of the evil stepmother from the animated movie Disney’s Cinderella is Lady Tremaine. The name of the evil stepmother from Ever After is Baroness Rodmilla de Ghent. Also a fact, there is never a bad time to watch either version. Same goes for Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella with Brandy and Whitney Houston. “Ten minutes ago I met you, and we said our ‘how do you do’s….”
  9. Though there’s much debate, some people say the difference between a drawing and a painting is pretty easy in digital art. If the original sketch is painted over, it becomes a painting. If the sketch is preserved as line art, that makes it a drawing. I’d never thought of it that way before and it makes a ton of sense, if you think about it.
  10. Pockets used to be separate garments worn underneath pants/skirts and accessed through slits in the outer garment or worn on the outside of pants or skirt. Pockets on the outside were basically asking to be stolen, if you ask me.

There we go! Ten random factoids from my brain to yours! Expect something more hard-hitting and introspective next week.