Planned Power Cut

We have an all day power cut on Wednesday the 11th. No electricity for eight hours, which means we lose the line-booster signal for wi-fi too.
So no Internet access, whether by PC, Tablet, or phone.

I won’t be online at all in the daytime, and may not get the serial episode published.

I also won’t be able to view your posts and any emails or comments on mine.

If I can get back online in the evening, I will try to catch up.

Closing Thought–27Jan20

Check out the graphic below on chuq’s post to discover what life was like before ‘Online’!

In Saner Thought

Social media….vintage social media…..

I am an old fart so I remember the rotor telephone, stamps, photos printed on paper,….but enough of the that …let me show you “our” social media…

And somehow we made it to the 21st century without having told everyone every minute of our lives…..you were “famous” back in the Dark Ages for actually doing something exceptional…not because you did something stupid and put it on-line for all to see.

This silly thing, social media, is how we got to this spot in history and the turn will define the next decade……

“lego ergo scribo”

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The Parapet Of Obscurity

I mentioned on Maggie’s blog that writing or blogging online might well be an effort to let others know we exist.
https://fromcavewalls.wordpress.com/2019/06/19/one-liner-wednesday-are-you-out-there/

I likened it to ‘putting our head up above the parapet of obscurity’.

Maggie liked that line, which made me think more about it.

Before the advent of the Internet, it was all too easy to get lost in the crowd. Unless you were a sporting hero, an eminent politician, a popular film star or musician, perhaps a famous published writer, you could easily spend your entire life unknown other than to your family, friends, and work colleagues.

Most people lived and died without notice or mention, and any legacy they left of their ordinary lives was in some faded photos, and the memories of those who had encountered them.

Then Blogging arrived.

We no longer had to send pages of manuscripts to publishers, in the hope of getting our thoughts and ideas converted into articles or books. Class distinctions no longer applied, with usernames and graphics becoming the norm. Nobody had to know where you were from, whether or not you were well-educated, or what accent you had when you spoke. Unless you decided to tell the world, it was unclear whether you were male or female, old or young. Perhaps the only clue to your origins might be the language you were writing in. But with so many people speaking English, even that was no guarantee of where you might originate from.

Anyone who so desired could tell the world what they thought. They could have opinions that were widely shared, or be outrageously outspoken. The anonymity of your username ensured that you could do what you liked with no repercussions, other than some comment debate with those who didn’t agree with you. But even that could be skipped, as you could just refuse to approve their comments. If you wanted to publish your book, you could serialise it on your blog, cutting out the need to submit it to a company for approval. You could post photos of places you liked, or had visited, and tell anyone who was reading just what you thought of them.

An explosion of opinion arrived online. Opinions about everything from American presidents, to the quality of some blogger’s poetry. You could find yourself very popular, or perhaps reviled, depending on who was actually bothering to read your stuff. Those bloggers could be meek and needy, or rude and arrogant. Nothing mattered, because you were unknown, and anonymous.

Ironically, this very thing still made those bloggers as obscure and unknown as they would have been without the benefit of the online platforms they were using.

So some people, myself included, decided to stick our heads up above that parapet of obscurity, and actually tell everyone who we really were. Where we lived too, and how old we were. What we had done with our lives so far, and what we hoped to do with the rest. Whether we were married, single, gay or straight, depressed or happy. What we liked to eat, and what we didn’t like. We carried on with our ‘like them or not’ opinions, and cast our thoughts out online as if using small fishing nets in an huge, unfamiliar ocean.

We made some friends, and possibly some enemies too. Risking the disapproval of anyone who had access to the Internet, and potentially causing a great deal of embarrassment to those we knew and loved. And many of us laid our lives open to scrutiny, our pasts, and our presents. For all those of us who have chosen to throw off that cloak of anonymity, we should bear something in mind.

It will be ‘out there’ forever, and can never be taken back. Even if you delete your blog, every comment you made elsewhere will still exist. Your photos will be somewhere on a ‘cloud’, and as long as the Internet exists in its present form, whatever you have written about will never disappear. It doesn’t concern me, as I am closer to the end of my life than the beginning. But take heed, before you follow my example.

Once your head appears over that parapet, it cannot go back to obscurity.

Techno fear

Another old post from 2012, lamenting the addiction to technology, and the controlling practices of the major electronics corporations. It only had one like and comment, so nobody should remember it. 🙂

beetleypete

There is something sinister about the way that Technology creeps up on you. One day, life is going on as normal, and the next, you can’t remember how to use a telephone box, or even know where to find one. I can almost remember the last time I made a call from a public kiosk, queuing patiently, until it was free to use. Then, in what seemed an instant, I had a mobile phone in my hand, and I have never used a public box since; though I still had a phone card in my wallet, until very recently.

Can any of you remember what life was like before mobile phones? Imagine breaking down in your car, on a country road, late at night, in an unfamiliar area. You had to walk for an unknown time, until you could find a telephone box to use, to summon assistance. You also…

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Cookies, and Advertising

I have written previously about the connection between cookies, and receiving targeted advertising. It is only to be expected, in our modern online world.

But it is getting better, and more detailed. There is ample evidence to show just how immediate and powerful it is.

Over the course of the last twelve months, I have had occasion to research things online. Subjects I would not normally investigate. For my serial ‘Benny Goes Bust’, I looked at the phenomenon of ‘Granny Glamour’, something that has an overwhelming following on Internet search engines. Within minutes, I received invitations for sites that dealt with ‘Granny Dating’, ‘Granny Sex’, and ‘Willing Grannies’. The only real surprise, was just how many ‘Grannies’ were out there. In various forms of undress, and in many manifestations of ‘old-age sex’.

More recently, I have noticed that whatever I search for, that subject will appear in seconds, either via email, or in a ‘pop-up’ when I am surfing any site, no matter how unrelated.

Not too long ago, I bought a pair of casual shoes, from the website of the manufacturers, ‘Crocs’. Seconds later, I checked my email, only to find numerous advertisements for Croc shoes, even though I had just bought them. And they were identical to those I had bought too. When it comes to the mighty Amazon, it is even faster. Buy something from that dominant website, and within a heartbeat, you will get emails suggesting that you buy exactly the same item again.

This is all driven by ‘Algorithms’, I am aware of that. But what kind of silly process decides that you will buy exactly the same thing again, five minutes after you have just ordered it?

I recently researched ‘Omega Seamaster’ watches, for a fiction serial. Moments later, my email inbox was full of jeweller’s advertisements for that very watch. I had to laugh, as they cost almost £2,000, far beyond my reach. Those algorithms are completely skewed, but the companies paying to be included are oblivious to the actual genuine market for their products. It may not be a problem for me. I can just delete the emails. But I am left wondering about all the time and money wasted, picking up on search engines, and sending targeted emails.

So this is an open letter, to all those companies paying a small fortune for ‘targeted’ advertising.

Forget it. It is pointless, and it won’t work.

Retro Tech

I saw a post on Kim’s blog, about two young men trying (and failing) to work out how to use a rotary-dial phone. It’s an amusing video, but I found it quite worrying too. Here’s a link.
https://cadburypom.wordpress.com/2019/01/10/on-the-lighter-side-7/

Are you old enough to remember when the only TV you could watch was what was on at the time? Were you born (as I was) a very long time before the Internet? Can you remember VHS TV recorders with cable-connected remote controls? Phone boxes (booths) that needed the right change to make a call, and life before credit cards?

Some younger people no longer know how to tell the time on an analogue watch or clock. The video in the link shows that some cannot even work out how to use the type of phone that others still have in their homes. They have never written nor posted a letter, bought a stamp, or signed a cheque. I’m sure a lot of them don’t even know what a cheque book is. They have grown up in a world of fingertip convenience, with the answers to everything provided by the screen of their mobile phone, or a shout to ‘Alexa’. They can watch anything they want, when they want, on any platform that they choose. Their social interaction is primarily electronic, rarely even bothering to actually speak on the phones they all own.

It won’t be long before a generation exists that has never entered a shop. Online deliveries of everything, even food, mean that they don’t ever have to leave home, to buy anything they might need. You can even buy a car online, and have it delivered to your house. Virtual reality may one day remove the need to even travel abroad, as they experience any place in the world whilst lying on their bed, wearing a headset.

It’s a wonderful future, apparently. A brave new world of electronic convenience.

But what happens if and when it all stops? Solar flares, natural disasters, diminished resources, or ‘operator error’. So many things can potentially unravel the reliance on electronic aids and lifestyles. I wonder how they will cope in a future that I am fairly content to not be around to see?

Watch the video, and you will find out.

Online dependency: The Catch 22

It seems to me that very soon, we will be unable to do anything unless it is online. We can no longer get utility bills, except by having an online account, and the banking system keeps trying to ‘force’ us online too. Shops urge us to pay by card, presumably using accounts managed online. They don’t really want cash anymore. It takes too long to count it, then they have to pay a fee to have it collected by a security van, to be deposited in a bank that charges them a fee for handling that same cash.

Cards can be controlled of course. Tracked, monitored, watching what you spend, and how and where you spend it. Cash is anonymous. And that just won’t do. Try booking a table in a restaurant, an appointment with a doctor, or any ticket for transportation. They will suggest you do it online, and make the process of using a telephone to do it so taxing, that you will eventually resort to logging on. No more Yellow Pages here, and street maps soon to disappear too. They are all online after all, so who needs any paper alternatives anymore?

This all presumes that things work of course. Leaving aside the disregard for those who cannot afford the Internet costs, or the very old people who find it too confusing to learn how to use a computer, it all depends on a reliable signal. Good broadband speed, stable Wi-Fi, and the latest modem technology. Try struggling on a dial-up connection, or poor broadband reception in some remote district, and you will soon discover that nobody cares. If you are not online, you are out of the game, irrelevant.

This reached new heights of absurdity last year, when I had Internet problems with the previous supplier. I called them on the telephone explaining that I had no signal in the house, and I was unable to get online. This is how the conversation went.

Them. “Sorry to hear you have a problem sir, I suggest you report it as a fault”.
Me. “Isn’t that what I am doing now?”
Them. “If you go online, you can use our fault checker. If that stil doesn’t work, then it will be reported”.
Me. “If I could get online to use your fault checker, then I would have Internet, and we would not be having this conversation”.
Them. “Have you tried using a different computer or device?”
Me. “I have no Internet, so what would be the point of that?”
Them. “Can you not go to the home of a neighbour or family member and use their computer to report the fault?”
Me. “My neighbour is at work, and my nearest family member lives almost 90 miles away”.
Them. “How about a local Internet Cafe, or Library?”
Me. “You want me to walk 4 miles into town to use the Library? That’s crazy”.
Them. “Well it would speed up the fault-reporting process”.
Me. “You could have logged the fault by now, instead of just telling me this rubbish”.
Them. “I am unable to do that sir, you have to be the one who reports it. I can only send out an engineer, and that will mean a substantial callout fee”.
Me. “So you want to charge me money to repair a fault that is your issue, and meanwhile I am paying my subscription charges but have no service. Is that about it?”
Them. “The fault may well be with your equipment sir, I have no way of knowing if the problem is at our end”.
Me. “I have been a loyal customer for many years, yet you are telling me that you will not report the fault, and will charge me for someone to come out and look at it. If that’s all you have to offer, then I will change providers, then tell everyone I know not to use your company, are you happy with that?”
Them. “It is your right to change providers at any time, sir.”

So I did. But what happens when it all fails, as one day it surely will?

The big changeover

Many of you may remember my post ‘City Stress’, about when Julie and I went to Norwich, to change over our home telephone and broadband supplier.

Well, Monday the 16th was the big day, the day we were due to change over. We had the new router, delivered a few days earlier, and eagerly awaited the emails and text messages telling us how to get started. But of course, nothing happened.

We still had a phone line, and a broadband connection, but it was with our previous supplier, British Telecom. We heard nothing from EE (the new supplier) on Monday, and it seemed to be a case of ‘I told you so’, about changing companies, and nothing working as promised.

However, it all got going this morning, (Tuesday) albeit a day late. We were told to connect the new router, and to get ready for our faster fibre broadband connection. This involved me crawling around under the desk in the office, drowning in a sea of wires and cables, as I sought to disconnect everything from British Telecom, and set up the new system. Once it was all done, I switched on the new fancy router, and…nothing! We had a phone line, but no Internet connection.

I called the freephone number for EE, fearing the worst. But I was pleasantly surprised when an efficient young man, from a call centre in Bristol, managed to immediately diagnose our problem. British Telecom had failed to connect our new broadband at the exchange, he told me. Leave it an hour, unplug the router, and restart. I thanked him for his efficiency, but in the back of my mind, I thought ‘Yeah right, like that’s going to happen’.

But I was happy to eat my words, when it happened exactly as he had predicted. We soon had a great connection, faster Wi-Fi, and a good signal for all devices. Once the new passwords had been entered, Julie was able to connect all three tablets, and her smartphone. We have been flying away since, with a great speed broadband, and a reliable Wi-Fi signal too. So far, so good.

Isn’t it just great, when technology actually works?

Not knowing

During our longer than expected break this week, I didn’t access the Internet. I didn’t read a national newspaper, watch the news, or bother about what was going on outside of the quiet peace of the Suffolk countryside. This from someone who has rolling 24-hour news on for most of the day, and spends hours reading political commentary posts online, as well as those posted by bloggers.

I chatted to my relatives about ‘the old days’, and caught up on family news that I didn’t know about.
We drove over to the coast, and wandered around a timeless seaside town that hasn’t changed much in my lifetime. We ate food together, had a few drinks, and played with the three dogs. The others enjoyed lounging around in the huge hot tub (not my thing) as I brought them drinks from inside the house. Then we strolled on the edges of the fields that surrounded the old farm, tucked away almost a mile from the main road, down a stony driveway.

Not once did I concern myself about the EU, the antics of Mr Trump, weather disasters, North Korea, Iran, Pakistan, or the in-fighting in our own government. I didn’t catch sight of the buffoon of a Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, or the maligned Socialist opposition leader, Jeremy Corbyn. For three whole days, I was cut off from my normal life, and the events in the world that usually consume my every waking moment.

And nothing happened. There wasn’t a nuclear war anywhere, and America didn’t invade a single country. We continued to argue with the EU, and the Prime Minister stayed the same, without being ousted. No famous actors died, and we didn’t have any serious coastal erosion, or weather events here in Britain. On the smaller scale, there were no family dramas. Nobody ended up in hospital, or contacted us on mobile phones in a panic. In fact, there wasn’t so much as a head cold to worry about. I started to realise why people used to live the life of a hermit, and I came to a conclusion. When you don’t know about what’s going on, nothing goes on. You are better off not knowing, it would seem

I should go away more often.

I have finally got to the end of ten pages of emails. If I missed any of your comments, or didn’t get to one of your posts, I apologise. For the time being, beetleypete is back to normal.

20 minutes with no Broadband

When I got back from walking Ollie today, I noticed a warning message on the small screen of our landline phone, ‘Check Line’. Sure enough, the home phone was dead. This meant that we also had no broadband of course. So, no logging on to check emails, blog comments, or notifications. No browsing of websites, or any Internet activity whatsoever.

I went on to the fault checker, which of course told me that I had no Internet access to use to check the fault. Not for the first time, I wondered why the hell they bother to include this link. If I have no broadband, how am I supposed to get online to check where it has gone? I suppose I could use my smartphone, but trying to do anything on that small screen, with its annoying (US-based) spelling override is a very unattractive prospect.

I resorted to using my mobile phone to report the fault. Of course, being the 21st century, it was impossible to actually talk to anyone, except a computerised voice that offered me various options. After what seemed like an interminable wait, I got a message from the strange voice that confirmed I had a fault with the line. TELL ME SOMETHING I DON’T ALREADY KNOW! The voice went on to inform me that the fault would be reported to the engineers, who would send a text message to my mobile, and let me know what they were going to do about it. The text message alert then went off, to tell me that I had a fault on my landline phone, and it had been reported. More stuff I already knew. What a waste of time.

I then had time to reflect on a life without broadband. Not that long ago, I was struggling with a 56kps modem taking ages to send an email, let alone download a photo. But since 2012, I have had ‘good speed’ broadband, and using the computer has become second nature. We no longer get a phone book. After all, everyone looks up contact numbers online, and hardly anyone calls landlines anymore, do they? Appointments for the doctor can be done online, same with hospitals, banks, and almost anything you can think of.

But what happens when ‘online’ doesn’t work? What systems are in place to restore those old ways of doing things? The answer is almost none, it would seem. The world is online, and our lives are online. Even if you are not a blogger, and have nobody to send emails too, being online has become the norm. One of the everyday things of modern life, like flush toilets, and water from a tap. Online is no longer a luxury, not just a hobby, or a way of relaxing. It is becoming almost impossible to live an ordinary life, unless you are online.

Twenty minutes later, the phone activated. I re-booted the broadband, and it gradually returned to normal speed. No explanation, no text message from the engineers. It was off, and now it is on again. That’s about the size of it. During those twenty minutes, I became acutely aware of the power of the Internet. I also realised something. It is too late to go back now. We are stuck online.