Category Archives: Computers/Electronics

Oh, Elon…

If you’ve been ’round these parts a while you know I’m really fond of electic cars.

I’ve long felt ICE cars (internal combustion engines) were a technology of the past, dirty, noisy (though I do love me the sound of 1960’s/70’s era muscle cars!), and featuring mechanisms that needed to change for the sake of the environment, if nothing else.

When Tesla became a thing, I read up on their cars. Their first big production vehicle was the Tesla Roadster…

Their first full on production model, however, was the Model S…

I felt the vehicle looked intriguing but the price was simply prohibitive to me. A little later they came out with the Model X, their luxury SUV, and the price was even more prohibitive…

I was so intrigued with what Tesla was doing and, yes, I became quite intrigued with the man behind the company, Elon Musk.

I suspect few people out there haven’t heard of Mr. Musk. He made himself a fortune being a part of PayPal in its infancy and bought up Tesla and pushed it along -at times facing financial collapse- until releasing the highly successful Model 3…

It can be argued, and I suppose it will in time, that the Model 3, first released in July of 2017, was the first electric car to break open the auto industry to EVs. Yes, there were hiccups. The early Model 3s had all kinds of minor issues, but the price was at least reasonable enough to allow people like myself to finally buy into these cars (mine is a 2019 model) and it certainly provided Tesla, and Elon Musk, their first really big success.

The Model 3 was followed by the Model Y, a smaller SUV, which seems to be even more successful than the 3 and in even higher demand from consumers…

In the meantime, Elon Musk has another company, Space X, which did the near unthinkable: Managed to create a rocket that could land vertically back on a pad! Mr. Musk has long stated a goal of his is to get to, and colonize, Mars.

In almost all his endeavors he seemed to have success and his forays into the media have been equally amusing and annoying, with many either loving or hating him… and perhaps in equally strong measures.

I still love my Tesla Model 3. I still feel it is a terrific vehicle even as I see the coming wave of EVs from other companies. If it wasn’t for Elon and Tesla and the Model 3 and Y, we wouldn’t be on the cusp of this EV revolution, and I think that’s a wonderful thing.

Having said that and for those who’ve been living in a cave these past few weeks/months…

What the hell is wrong with the guy of late?

Like Donald Trump, Elon Musk has used Twitter well, building up a fanbase and at times posting witty comments and cringey comments in equal measure and solidifying his fans and detractors.

It seems like a lifetime ago that he decided, via Twitter, to offer a fee to purchase the company. There was much back and forth afterwards, with many feeling Musk had overvalued the company and then he seemed to want to back out.

Lawsuits were filed but ultimately Musk bought the company for the price he originally offered, a whopping 44 billion dollars… and it seems like each day since things have gone further down the toilet for him.

Now, I don’t want to get into all the details as I’m sure most people know but some of the lowlights include Mr. Musk claiming he wanted to help “free speech” with Twitter but has banned many users… mostly because they were making fun of him. He also fired a whole bunch of Twitter staff and now looks like he’s realized he needed them and wants them back.

To say this whole affair is a shitshow is to undersell it.

The bottom line is that many are leaving the service and Musk wants to charge some $8 a month (admittedly not a terribly large amount) to have people given a “blue-check verification”… which frankly I have no idea how that works at all.

Yeah, while I’ve read the odd Twitter posts, some of which were quite witty and humorous, I’ve never been a part of the service.

Reports have stated Mr. Musk is basically flying by the seat of his pants here, doing this and that with Twitter and, I suppose, learning the very hard way that sometimes his instincts and proposed changes don’t exactly paint him in the best light.

This again returns to something I’ve stated before: Things can change and quickly.

I recall years ago the head of Netscape (remember that?) an early and quite popular at the time internet browser company having its CEO interviewed for some program or another and he was asked about the then new Microsoft Internet Explorer and the CEO scoffing at the interviewer and said something to the effect that the ship had sailed and Microsoft had missed the proverbial boat on the whole internet explorer thing.

Today, Microsoft has their Edge (Internet Explorer lasted many years before being retired) and Netscape is long, long gone.

Mr. Musk has paid a literal king’s ransom for Twitter but nowhere is it written in stone the company and service will continue to operate.

Given the way Mr. Musk has managed it so far, one wonders if Twitter might join Netscape in the near future.

What will become of the movie industry…?

Stumbled upon this rather grim article written by Tony Maglio and presented on…

Warner Bros Discover lost 2.4 Billion and Lionsgate lost 1.8 Billion and its not even dinnertime

The article rightfully wonders how film studios can survive with such staggering losses and, frankly, I wonder the same.

Looking at this from a longer view, it seems to me this is part and parcel of, of all things, the arrival of home computers and the internet.

Let me explain.

When home computers first appeared they were crude yet began changing the landscape. I’m old enough to have been part of the very first generation to have one way, waaaaaaaayyyy back in the early 1980’s. My first computer was the venerable Atari 800…

Compared to what we now have, the Atari 800 was a laughably crude and for the most part primitive machine. And yet I almost instantly found a use for it. See, I was in high school at the time and the word processing program it had allowed me to write reports and get them printed out (on an equally crude and extremely slow printer) which was an incredible blessing!

No longer did I have to use a typewriter and white out errors or have to start all over again when I made too many errors. With Atari’s Word Processor, I could type and correct the whole thing and print it out only when it was ready!

A truly marvelous innovation!

Of course, the Atari computers didn’t last and soon IBM and Apple computers appeared. Apple was viewed as more “graphic” intensive but the IBM computers seemed to have the leg up. They were constantly improving and, like the mania to buy new iPhones or new gaming computers, one expected each new generation of IBM or Windows based computers to be better and better.

And they were!

And then came the internet, which is essentially phase two.

Now, you could interact with people all over the world. You could communicate via email. You could send files…

When MP3s became a thing, you no longer needed to store your music on CDs or have those vinyl records (by then, cassettes were a thing of the past and, yes, I know vinyl records are making a comeback).

You could keep your music on your computer and soon enough, even buy albums digitally without having to leave the comfort of your home. Suddenly, all those music stores I frequented -some of which were incredibly large!- were gone…

Then came the Kindle and the iPad and, as with music, now you didn’t need to actually buy physical copies of books. You could buy digital copies and buy and read them in the comfort of your home and, just like that, bookstores also became something of a thing of the past.

Certainly in my area there are only a fraction of them around like there used to be!

Alas, next in line were movies.

With the ability to create music and book files, it wasn’t long before digital copies of movies became a thing as well. Further, Netflix appeared and showed the industry that streaming was also a viable option to watching movies and TV shows.

However, people still went to theaters to see the latest releases, so things seemed to be going ok…

Until COVID hit.

Suddenly people were homebound and the studios had to hold back on releasing their upcoming films. In some cases, these films eventually were released but appeared on streaming services very quickly afterwards. It’s fair to say that films such as Wonder Woman 84, No Time to Die, and Tenet, regardless of their quality (and I know some feel they’re not great films at all), would have performed far better had COVID not kept them from being released as they should have been… and those are the three “biggest” films I can think of offhand which were victims of COVID.

Here’s the thing I’ve come to notice after spending all these years watching the ebb and flow of entertainment: Something that is big at one point might suddenly become old hat really quickly.

There was a time disco music ruled. Then, suddenly, no one wanted to hear disco music. There was a time grunge ruled. Then, it was gone.

Movie theaters for so many years have been THE place to go see new films. But with COVID, we stopped going to them en mass. Yes, there are exceptions (Top Gun Maverick and the latest Spider-Man film being two of them) but in general the entire industry is in a funk.

And now that COVID is somewhat a thing of the past (get vaccinated, people!) we’re seeing that audiences aren’t necessarily flocking back to see the latest movies. At least not quite yet.

For we have seen movies appear on various streaming services and some of us figure we’ll just wait a month or two and see whatever film is currently in theaters then.

It’s happened to me, quite frankly, with Black Adam. I’m certainly curious to see it (Dr. Fate is a favorite comic book character of mine and the fact that they got Pierce Brosnan to play the role delights me!) but frankly… I can wait.

How many other people are saying the same thing?

I’ve mentioned it before to friends of mine, but we still don’t know the extent to which the internet and home computers will affect our lives. We’re seeing it, day by day, from the early days when I realized I could use a Word Processor to write my High School reports, to realizing you can have your entire music collection on a small memory card to realizing you can have your entire library (books, comic books, magazines, etc.) on a memory card as well, to where we now realize we can stream or own movies on that same memory card.

Where will it all ultimately end?

I guess we’ll all find out together.

On Writing… Wear & Tear

The other day my daughter was on my desktop computer and complained it was hard to use it because the letters were rubbed off in places.

I have two main computers I use for my writings, and both of them have K350 wireless Logitech ergonomic keyboards like this one…

Logitech K350 Wireless Wave Ergonomic Keyboard w/Unifying Receiver | eBay

I like ergonomic keypads and have used different types. I think my favorite is the Microsoft version but the one I like is a wired keyboard versus wireless and I prefer the wireless version, as I like to sometimes kick up my legs and type while its on my lap. To do so, I need a full, robust keyboard like the one above, one that can -natch- fit comfortably on my lap. With the wired version, I can only pull it so far!

Anyway, this is what my daughter was complaining about, the current state of that keyboard on my desktop computer:

As you can see, the letters S, D, F, C, L, and N are pretty much obliterated because of my heavy typing.

As I said, I have a second computer, a laptop, which I’ve also paired up with a K350 keyboard. I use the laptop in another room, away from everyone, so that I can concentrate on my work and not distract/be distracted by my family. Here is it:

I know the photos look about the same and the same letters are essentially missing: S, D, C, N, and L. Unlike the desktop’s keyboard, though, the F key is still visible and, showing the laptop’s keyboard has seen less use, you can still see a little of the S, C, and L buttons, though not enough to actually read ’em.

Worth noting, too, is that if you look closely at the pictures, you see that the letters M and V, while still visible, are also showing signs of heavy use. In the desktop picture at the top, both letters are quite chipped away while for my laptop the M is going but the V is still relatively intact.

I point this out not to denigrate the Logitech keyboard, though I would say that maybe the letters should last a little bit more, but it is intriguing that those letters, S, D, C, F, L, and N seems to get the most wear… at least when I’m typing, with the M and V being the next level of most used letters.

Because you had to know!


Overlord (2018) a (mildly) belated review

As I’ve made it plain many times before, it is difficult for me to find the free time nowadays to sit down and watch a film, much less go to theaters and catch the latest big or not-quite-so big release.

Instead, I make a note of what’s come out and, if I have the time, sneak films in whenever I possibly can.

One of last year’s releases, the World War 2/Horror hybrid Overlord, caught my attention but it wasn’t until now, weeks after its digital video release, that I’ve had a chance to sit down and watch it. Here’s the movie’s trailer:

The film sure looks like a live action version of the video game Wolfenstein, complete with similar font used in its title…

Related image

(A quick aside: I have very fond memories of the game that served as inspiration to this one, Castle Wolfenstein, originally released back in the early 1980’s. A friend at our High School had an Apple II computer and this game and we spent many a fun hour playing it, along with Ultima II! Here’s what that game looked like:

Image result for Castle Wolfenstein
Image result for Castle Wolfenstein
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Yeah, we’ve come a very long way, graphic’s wise!)

Getting back to Overlord, the film begins promisingly enough. We are quite literally plopped right in the thick of things, with a group of paratroopers, among them our heroes, about to deploy behind enemy lines shortly –very shortly- before D-Day.

Things, as they are wont to do, go frightfully sideways as Nazi air flak rips through the plane. Our heroes jump into the fire, quite literally, and we follow Boyce (Jovan Adepo), a Haitian/African American paratrooper (yeah, the film plays more than a little fast and loose with Army integration circa 1944) as he barely makes it out of the plane and onto the ground.

Boyce and a group of three other survivors of the doomed flight get together and make their way to their target: A very small French village which has a church up the road from it in which the Nazis have taken over. The Nazis have a communications station in the church and it is this groups’ primary mission to wipe it out before daybreak and D-Day, when the communications array could harm the incoming troops.

So there we have it, the tense mission and tight deadline.

But wait, there’s more!

When the soldiers are within the village planning their moves, an added complication: There’s something else going on in that Nazi-held church, something that looks like a science experiment gone extremely wrong…

Overlord, as already mentioned, starts well enough and had me interested in where it was going despite some of the politically correct elements thrust upon the story in an effort to give us a more “diverse” cast of characters.

Unfortunately, as the movie progressed and our heroes were in the village, it felt like the movie’s creator’s had used up their deck of creative cards. Frankly, as the movie progressed it settled into a neither terribly bad nor terribly good “groove” and never got out of it.

Worse, the film’s actions became predictable. When the big bad Nazi showed up, you knew the heroes would do something about him. But when he got away, you just knew he’d become… well… I don’t want to get too spoilery but, suffice it to say, along with a general deflation, the film’s story beats became only too obvious.

In the end, Overlord was an “ok” film in my eyes. Visually, they nailed the look nicely and some of the gore effects were very well done.

But having said that, the film couldn’t build upon its opening act and, instead, coasted to an all too obvious -and never as exciting as it should have been- ending.

A shame.

Once again, regarding technology…

I’ve written many times before of my -I guess you could call it amusement- over the gnashing of the teeth of business/wall-street types toward the supposed “fall” of technological best sellers.

I recall the many articles released years ago -erroneously, IMHO- talking about how the desktop computer market might be “done”, when in reality what I felt was happening was that people simply weren’t buying new desktop computers at the same pace as before because the technology had plateaued.

In other words, in the past, ever year it seemed a far better desktop computer would be released, so much better than last year’s version that you were effectively encouraged to buy the next generation to “keep up” with the latest programs.

But there came a time, around when desktop computers sported the Pentium chips, that the technology had reached that plateau. Suddenly, instead of needing to buy a new computer every year, you could hang on to you “old” computer for many years before needing or wanting a “new” one.

So the time has come with Apple and their iPhone.

Will Oremus at wrote this fascinating article which I encourage you guys to read:

Why the iPhone is finally fading

Mr. Oremus notes many of the things I’ve been saying for years now: That there was a time getting a “new” iPhone (in my case, talking about desktop computers) was a thrill. There was something new and magical about jumping from an 8088 processor to a 286, then 386, then 486, and finally Pentium computer.

So too was there magic in going from the early iPhones to the later models. People would stand in ridiculously long lines getting the latest model and reveling in being among the first to have the latest model.

But as with desktop computers, iPhones have plateaued. Perhaps it happened around the time the iPhone 6 was released. Its the model I still have and use. Its camera is pretty weak compared to the more modern iPhones, but otherwise its a perfectly functional cell phone and I suspect I’ll replace it only when it no longer works well with me.

Mr. Oremus goes on to theorize as to what “comes next”. He feels it may be machines like the Amazon Echo, AI machines that you talk to and get what you need from them.

I’m in agreement with him that these machines are certainly intriguing, even if they are also scary regarding privacy.

On the one hand its wonderful to ask the machine what the weather will be tomorrow and get your answer almost right away. Or ask it to play an album or song. Or, if you’re doing some timed task, tell it to set up a timer. If you have the proper devices, you can also have these machines linked to the lights in your home and, instead of stumbling around for a light switch, tell your device to turn on “X” light.

It’s fairly simple stuff -at least what I use it for- but a nice convenience.

But like the desktop computer and the iPhone before it, I suspect these devices will also have their ceiling.

And then we’ll wonder what’s next.

Called it…


From and written by Seth Feigerman…

Apple has a problem it doesn’t want to talk about

At the risk of spoiling the entire article, it notes that Apple has decided to no longer report how many iPhones, Macs, and iPads they sell.

What used to be a great source of pride -and promotion- has become something they no longer want to talk about.

A BIG change in philosophy, to say the least.

A while back I noted, and re-noted, my experiences with the rise of the PC computer market (I did a search so you don’t have to, the full gamut of articles I’ve written about Apple and computers and their sales).

I noted how in the early going of the first desktop PCs, there was such a rush of new, better technology coming out seemingly every year that you were essentially forced to pick up the latest computer to keep up with the latest, and better, technology.  So the 8086 processors gave way to the 286s, then the 386s, then the 486s.  Then came the Pentiums, then the Pentium IIs, and so on and so forth.

However, while there was a HUGE difference between the 286, the 386, and the 486 processors, when the Pentiums came around, it felt like desktop computers hit something of a peak.

Instead of needing a new computer each year, I wound up working with my past computer well over 5 or so years before it started dying and I bought my latest desktop.  During that time, there were business articles wondering if the desktop PC was a thing of the past, while to my mind it certainly wasn’t.  I still use my desktop, quite a bit actually, its just that I’m in no hurry to run to a computer shop and get myself a new one.

So too I felt the time was coming with Apple and their various machines.  The fact of the matter is that each new iteration of the iPhone, for example, is not longer such a light years difference from the previous version.

There used to be heavy lines waiting for the next Apple iPhone and now, when a new phone is announced, it doesn’t engender nearly the amount of hysteria it did before.

Because, like those desktop PCs, the public no longer is as eager to replace their perfectly good previous generation (or, in my case, several generations old) iPhones.  Those “older” models are, to many perfectly good still and they don’t need the latest emoji updates or a better camera or a mildly better processor.

To counter the fact that sales are plateauing (or even going down), Apple essentially doesn’t want any such bad news released to the public and, frankly, I can’t blame them.

However, those in business will no doubt wonder, like they did with the desktop, whether the iPhone is “done”, stupidly not realizing that, again like the desktop PC, they have reached a point where consumers no longer need to buy a “new” machine each year and can wait one, two, three, or more years before making that heavy investment.

Sometimes, success simply damns you.

Maybe getting an Echo isn’t such a great idea after all…

Rachel Withers at reports on how…

Alexa recorded a couple’s private conversation and sent it to a contact

The headline essentially gives the whole story away, but I’ll offer the following from the article itself:

A former smart-home enthusiast, named only as Danielle … and her husband recently received a call from her husband’s employee in Seattle, telling them to unplug their Echo immediately. The employee then went on to tell the couple that he had received recordings of their (mercifully) mundane chitchat—a conversation about hardwood floors, which Danielle and her husband had been having.


The big question for those who own one of these devices is: How exactly did this happen!?

When I read the article yesterday, there was no clear answer.  Apparently, one has now been offered by parent company Amazon:

Echo woke up due to a word in background conversation sounding like “Alexa.” Then, the subsequent conversation was heard as a “send message” request. At which point, Alexa said out loud “To whom?” At which point, the background conversation was interpreted as a name in the customers contact list. Alexa then asked out loud, “[contact name], right?” Alexa then interpreted background conversation as “right”. As unlikely as this string of events is, we are evaluating options to make this case even less likely.

Sounds like a lot of things had to go “right” for this screwy situation to happen.

I dunno.

Then again, the Echo is extremely popular -and has been since its release!- and this is the first time such a strange occurrence has happened.

Still, be careful what you say around your Echo!

Apple troubles…?

Interesting article by Seth Fiegerman and presented on

Apple faces Wall Street ‘panic’ over iPhone

The key line from the article is this one:

Apple stock fell this month after one of its key chip suppliers warned of “continued weak demand” (for the iPhone).

Which, of course, brings me back to something I’ve talked about several times:  The silly need for tech companies to look successful by selling “new” versions of their products when they get to the point that their current product is so good that people no longer need to make that upgrade.

Once again: I lived through the rise of the desktop/personal computer golden age.  We went from the 8086 processors to the 286 processors to the 386 to the 486 to the Pentiums and, for the most part, each new iteration was much, MUCH better than the previous one, and if you were into using your desktop computer, it made plenty of sense to toss the old version away and buy the newer one.

It was that good.

A very similar thing, IMHO, happened with the iPhone.  Each new version was a hell of a lot better in ways both large and small to the previous version.


There came a point, perhaps with the 6th version or so, that the iPhone seemed to hit the same wall the desktop/personal computer folks did: The phone had reached something of a peak, and subsequent versions merely tweaked things here and there and the changed were nowhere near as “exciting” as previous changes.

Thus, people were suddenly not quite as eager to line up around the block (remember when that happened?) to get the latest version of the iPhone.

So when with much fanfare Apple releases their iPhone X, and its priced extremely high and its features are a little better than the previous phone yet people don’t feel this difference is worth pursuing, especially for $999, it shouldn’t be too big a surprise.

Yet that’s the stuff that makes people in the business community suddenly think a company is in “trouble”.

No, people probably still love their Apple iPhones.  The problem lies in the fact that the company has refined the product to the point where people don’t need to toss their last version to get a new one.

Facebook and internet culture…

Hard to believe, given today’s news, the situation regarding Facebook and, specifically, Cambridge Analytica and the way they -let’s be blunt here- weaponized personal data through Facebook. (You can read more about that here.  As for Cambridge Analytica, read about how its CEO was filmed talking about using bribes and sex “traps” here).

Here’s the thing: People are vulnerable.  People are willing to think the best of others, sometimes when they shouldn’t.  People are also suspicious but perhaps not suspicious enough depending on circumstances.

I recall a few years back when a new type of crime was being perpetrated: Criminals would go on Facebook and see when people there noted they were traveling/on vacation and would then go to the people’s homes and, upon verifying they were indeed not home, rob the place.

The fact that there are companies out there like Cambridge Analytica taking vast swaths of data (not illegally, it appears) and using it to sway people’s opinions and -at times- make them believe things which are not true is far, far more worrisome.

Perhaps I’m the naive one as I’ve always felt people would be suspicious about information being sent their way.  Nowadays, thanks to things like Fox News and, obviously, the information presented above, I’m far more worried that people can be pointed in directions by those clever enough to do the pointing.

If there is a silver lining to this particular black cloud, its that these systems are being revealed for what they are and, hopefully, parent companies like Facebook will be proactive in shutting down these people.

Now, if only someone would do the same to Fox “News”.

Apple iPhone X…

Over at Christina Bonnington wonders…

Is the iPhone X in trouble?

Ms. Bonnington notes that Apple has slashed orders for both the creation of new iPhone Xs as well as their components and speculation is building that the unit is simply not selling as well as Apple hoped it would.

Ms. Bonnington further wonders in the article whether the very steep $1000 price tag might have something to do with the lag in sales of the phone.

I wouldn’t be surprised, but I suspect other things are afoot as well.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Sometimes an electronic product, be it a cell phone or computer or laptop or tablet, reaches a level where its about as good as its going to get.  Yeah, new models might come out and they may indeed feature some new/better things but at some point they become very incremental and small, to the point where people don’t feel the need to “upgrade” like they used to.

I’ve told this story far too many times before, but I distinctly recall the desktop PC rise, from processors that ran on the 8086 chip to the 286, 386, 486, Pentium, Pentium II, etc.

The difference between the 8086 processors and the 286 machines was like night and day.  Similarly, when the 386 machines came out they made the 286 machines look like they were in the stone age.  Similarly, the 486 made the 386 look weak.

By the time the Pentium models came out, though, the changes were much smaller.  Instead of seeing a brand new computer that clearly outpaced the one you currently had, you had a new computer system that was perhaps a little faster and a little nicer but not anything you had to get.

Thus, instead of considering buying a new computer system each year, I found myself going some 6 years with my Pentium machine before replacing it.  And I did so only because the computer I was using was starting to glitch and I need my desktop for the work I do and figured I should get a new system before my old one simply dies out.

With regard to cell phones, I fear they too are reaching that point.  There was, of course, a time when there was a strong and noticeable difference between one model and the next year’s model but, like the desktop computers, that isn’t quite as big a difference anymore.

Certainly one doesn’t need to upgrade to the current state-of-the-art model as before.

Especially when it’ll cost you some $1000.