Archive for April 2010

Install software on your computer? Soooo 90s!

April 25, 2010

Remember the days when you used to load software on your computer? Pretty much everything you wanted to do on the computer required you to purchase software, either online or at a store, and then install it: email, photo editing, writing, designing, page layout, spreadsheets, creating forms or website development? Boy, have things changed!

I thought about this last week as I created a form for our website. It never even occurred to me to purchase software. I simply went to an online provider of forms (this is not an ad or necessarily a recommendation but the one I used is called and whipped the form together. It was actually very cool and very easy. I could simply drag and drop text fields onto a page and then write whatever question or statements I wanted. I embedded the code on my website, and now the application gathers all the information and creates reports that can be organized and reported in many different ways, even displayed back on my website using an embed code. No software, no installation, no registration key, no worry about using up disk space, no long-term investment or obligation.

Of course, this is just one example of a change that has been revolutionizing computing – what is often referred to as cloud computing. Instead of loading software onto your computer, you use software and servers accessed across the internet. Often, the provider will allow you to use a limited version of its application for free, with embedded advertising. You can pay to get rid of the ads and to access a higher level of service.

Instead of installing Outlook on their computer, people just use gmail or yahoo mail or any of dozens of other email services. Instead of installing Photoshop, they can use online photo editing software provided by many companies, including Walgreen’s and Kodak. Instead of installing Dreamweaver, they can use Wix or WordPress or Blogger to create websites or blogs.

Lately I have been using Ning and Groupsite to create social networking sites without loading any software. For my personal computing, I used to use Quicken to manage my checking account; now I just use my bank’s online services. Even TurboTax is now available online with no need for software.

A fully functional high-end computer without software? I’m not quite there yet, but I am very close. Premiere, InDesign, Outlook, Word, PowerPoint and Photoshop may be my last big hold-outs, but I really believe their forecast – at least as software products individually installed on personal computers – is cloudy with a good chance of extinction.


Blending art, activism and social media

April 19, 2010

We all know that activism and social media produce a powerful combination, whether it involves politics, the environment or any of a thousand other issues. And we know we can find many forms of art throughout the social media sphere, from photography to videos to poetry. But it is when art, activism and social media are all skillfully molded into a single force that social media reaches its pinnacle, not only educating and motivating an audience, but inspiring it as well.

Milwaukee poet and educator Ryan Hurley proves this point with a moving new YouTube video that not only displays his varied artistic talents – including poetry, photography and video production – but serves as a rallying call on behalf of the arts themselves.

Using art to promote art is the power behind this video. Moved by the dedication of Milwaukee students who are weary of seeing art fade from their schools’ curriculum, he and colleague Eric Mire document how these students take to the streets – both as artists and as activists – to fight to keep the arts alive.


(In the interest of disclosure, Ryan Hurley is my very talented son.)

Where are the flying cars?

April 10, 2010

For all the incredibly fast changes in technology in our lives, some things just don’t change at all.

Take the toilet, for example. Still pretty much exactly as it was 50 years ago.

Cars are starting to change, with hybrids and such, and the engines are more efficient and reliable but the basic gas-reliant technology is pretty much the same as it has always been for the vast majority of car owners. I think about that every time I pull up to the gas pump. And what ever happened to the Jetsons’ flying car?

The TV has changed a lot, with color in the 50s and 60s and now HD and DVRs and cable channels and flat screens, etc., but AM radio hasn’t changed a bit. You can still get faraway stations at night if the climate conditions are just right, and if you drive under power lines you still lose your signal. And our local public radio station, which broadcasts only 15 miles from my house, gets all crackly as soon as the sun goes down. Can’t they fix that?

Anyway, with all the focus we always put on our changing technology, I thought it might be fun to think about the technology in our lives that doesn’t seem to change much at all. What else can you think of?

So much technology, so little time

April 5, 2010

On the day that Apple released its iPad, I was not standing in line to get it.

On the day that Apple released its iPad, our family was celebrating my daughter’s 22nd birthday. We were sitting around the living room as she opened up her present: a new Motorola Droid, an incredible phone that rivals if not surpasses the iPhone in the Wow Factor. When we bought it for her we knew it had some amazing features, but we didn’t know it has a voice recognition browser. Tell the phone what you want, it automatically Googles it for you. It has a built-in GPS and, of course, an MP3 player that syncs with Windows Media, which syncs with iTunes.

We sat around the living room. I had my MacBook Pro and was looking up directions for tethering her new phone to her PC. My 26-year-old son was working on a YouTube video he is creating on his MacBook. My wife had her Mac and, just for fun, was Googling my 90-year-old mother’s name as my mother sat next to her to see what would come up. My sister had her iTouch out and was hooking it up to the Wi-Fi in the house. We all had cell phones with us, including my mother.

So, here we were, six of us of all ages sitting in our living room. Among the six of us, three of us were on our computers, all of us had cell or smart phones (including one iPhone, one Blackberry and one Droid), and we had one iTouch and an iPod in the room, although our background music was coming from the cable box hooked into the stereo system.

It was the day before Easter, and we had rented a movie to play on our Blu-Ray player but we never got around to playing it. We have two HD TVs but never got around to watching them. And the Wii we got a month or so ago was not even turned on, despite the fact we had a cool new Resort game we wanted to play.

On this day that the iPad was released, we clearly already had far more technology to use – and play with – than we had time for. And that’s not to mention the time we spent just talking among ourselves over Easter brunch and playing a highly non-tech bean bag toss game in the backyard.

Sure, the iPad is very cool, and I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point I will purchase one, mainly for newspaper and magazine subscriptions, and maybe even some books. But on the day the iPad was released, my only thought was – how on Google Earth will I find time to work another tech toy into my life?