Monday, November 26, 2007

iPhone Crashed With Latest Update

So it's been quite the week for my uberphone. I went on a quickly family vacation to celebrate my Grandfather's 90th birthday, and I found myself unable to perform the system administration tasks needed. Why?
  1. No Service: I guess the iPhone's reception isn't up to normal cell phone standards as others were still getting service. Even when I had a signal, data speed was too slow to be useful.

  2. Safari Crashes: It seems when the iPhone doesn't like a site, it just dumps you back to the main icon view. WebShell, which I've been using for emergency system administration, used to work with my phone. Now? Entering my password dumps me out of Safari.

So, the plan was to upgrade to 1.1.2 and see if it fixed the problem. After a few minutes of waiting, all I was left with was a pretty icon for iTunes sitting above an iPhone USB cable. It didn't matter whether I power cycled, disconnected, or reconnected, iTunes would no longer see it, and I couldn't get rid of the screen.

After a few searches, I discovered that a reboot of the iPhone with a restart of iTunes might do the trick. Sure enough, iTunes came up and said my iPhone was fubar (or something like that) and asked whether I wanted to restore it. Do I have a choice? About an hour later, my iPhone was once again functional.

With Android on the horizon, I hope Apple gets its act together and delivers 3G, a more stable Safari, and a reliable update process. If not, experiences like mine for those less technically inclined are going to pile up and damage Apple's reputation. The keyboard is a big enough headache on its own. They don't need to pile on at this point.


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Tim Ferriss on Language Learning

Even before reading "The 4 Hour Work Week", I had been keeping up with Tim Ferriss' blog. One topic he touches on from time-to-time that truly interests me is language learning. Today, he explains how to learn (but not master) any language in one hour. At the core, this article is really about how to choose a good target language so that reaching fluency is easier. However, the way he instructs you to break down a language is simple and highly relevant regardless of your suitability for the target language.

So, what does he recommend? He has a series of sentences that he asks a translator to translate for him. They expose important language differences like whether or not verbs are conjugated, how gender is handled, possessive forms, and others. Having learned quite a bit of French and a little bit of Mandarin, I can tell you from my own experience that remembering the basic rules of a language is much easier than learning it through immersion like an infant. So, if you're going to use an immersion product like Rosetta Stone, for example, use Tim's sentences or other resources to figure out the basic rules and save yourself some headaches.


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

FDA Rejects Generic Lovenox

As usual, the FDA has protected big pharma over its generic competitors. This time, the FDA denied an application from Momenta Pharmaceuticals for a generic version of Lovenox. Lovenox is a particularly personal medication for my family. At $30/day (our cost, insurance paid $70/day) for 2 years while we were having our first child, the pain of fraudulent patents and FDA protection of big pharma hit all too close to home. Now, maybe...MAYBE...there really was something wrong with the drug, but then again, isn't there ALWAYS something wrong with drugs even if they're approved by the FDA? Pondemin, Vioxx, Celebrex...the list goes on and on. Are they protecting us, or are they protecting corporations?

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Saturday, November 03, 2007

Forever Geek Says Technology is Destroying Society

How Technology is Destroying Society via Forever Geek

In his article, Dave at Forever Geek identifies several ways in which he feels technology is destroying society. They include:

  • Time
  • Friends
  • Communication
  • Health

The details he provides are, for the most part, irrefutable, but let's look at some ways in which those technologies he villainized might actually be benefiting society or maybe even save it?


Prior to the Internet, working a 40 hour per week job carried tremendous limits in how much outside, personal contact was allowed on a typical day. Before there were even cell phones, many employees had no method to contact friends or family during work. Now, most desk jobs include Internet access and allow some level of electronic communication for personal reasons.


In my case, it's a little odd to comment on friends because I'm definitely not the best in the world at making and keeping friends. However, technology helps me cope with my antisocial behavior. I rarely, if ever, pick up the phone to call a friend, but it's not unusual for me to send an e-mail or respond to an e-mail.

To take it a step further, I've even made friends online through work-related contacts and social networking sites. And, those friends span the globe...something that wasn't even possible when I was a kid. Back then, you had elementary school teachers trying to arrange for kids to have pen-pals in foreign countries where it could take weeks to exchange letters. Now, I can jump on Skype and video-chat for free just about anywhere in the world.


Dave seems concerned about what we're losing by communicating in text. While his household may sit at one extreme end, I don't think mine is losing much. Many of the messages we exchange by e-mail or text message wouldn't have been exchanged otherwise. I'm also much better at addressing difficult subjects over e-mail because it affords me the opportunity to closely examine the meaning and intent of my words, and in some cases, I say things that I wouldn't say in person...things that needed to be said.

As far as losing language, as much as we might not like it, languages evolve. When I look back at the Constitution or Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, I marvel at how far we've fallen. The focus when I went through school was less on eloquence and more on communicating (subject - action verb - object). Having said that, I tend to find Shakespeare a bit ridiculous (to which I'm sure many will object). Some of our new acronyms and slang from the text messaging world will be discarded, and some will be kept. That's just the nature of the beast, and if it wasn't text messaging or Twitter (what the heck is Twitter?), it would be something else.


On this point, I have to concede that being out of the sun as much as I am working at computers (that glare from the windows causes headaches, you know?) certainly doesn't help my health. Add on the sedentary nature of the job along with the bacterial/viral playground that is the keyboard, and you have a nice combination of increased risk factors for taking ill.

On the other hand, being online allows me to research health issues that I wouldn't have had a clue about otherwise. It allowed me to check into Vitamin K injections and their risks when my wife was having a bleeding event due to anti-clotting medication. I also found Dr. Eades who has dispelled several diet myths for me (fasting, fiber, protein, cholesterol) helping me to drop from 215 lbs to 184 lbs and maintain it for over a year. If I were left to mainstream media's whims, I'd probably be thinking eating a vegan diet, high in fiber, and low in fat and protein were the best options for my health all the while watching my cholesterol sky-rocket. So yes, the Internet and my computer industry job have hurt my health in some ways, but they're helping it in others.


Getting back to the subject of friends, I think it's important to point out that I communicate on a daily basis with people from the UK, India, and Russia. On a less frequent basis, I communicate with people from China and France. During the Cold War, how many Americans could say they new someone from Russia personally? How would that have affected attitudes of the citizens towards aggressive actions by their governments? My point is, the more technology shrinks the world and increases multi-cultural communication, the less we have to worry about governments going to war over invisible lines or other equally vacuous reasons.