Monday, November 17, 2008

Is Best Buy this year's mall hang out?

Last weekend my husband and I went to Best Buy to purchase the DVD, "Get Smart" and to look at subwoofers and although it hadn't been part of the plan, to browse the TVs. Why not? After all, we were childless for the evening and had nothing better to do on a Friday night.

What we found there were a bunch of teens and tweens playing in the video console aisles. Not just a few mind you, a bunch! In one aisle they were playing Guitar Hero, in another they were playing Rock Band. There were no less than three systems in use. It was even more interesting that I didn't see what looked to be their parents around. They had all drawn quite a crowd and it looked to be a bit of a jam off complete with people rotating in and out. It made me wonder... is Best Buy the new mall? Do parents drop their kids off to play Rock Band only to pick them up when the store is about to close? If I stuck it out until closing would I simply see teens and tweens lined up in front of the store, cell phones in hand, calling their parents because "the show was over?"

Friday, November 14, 2008

Keeping Westmont College in my Prayers

Westmont College is a small Christian liberal arts college who is also a member of the CCCU and close to my heart as a friend of mine is a member of the computer science department there. Yesterday their school was overtaken by the Tea Fire in California near Santa Barbara. They have lost some of their buildings, some staff housing and a residence hall. Some faculty have lost their homes. Today my heart goes out to the Westmont community as well as others who are having to evacuate their homes and I offer my prayers up to God.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Car Computing

A few years ago my family and I were traveling from Spokane to Seattle through the I90 corridor just past Ritzville when my youngest daughter, then about 8 or 9 asked me if she could use my laptop. I said sure as had a couple of movies on it and we had a few DVDs with us so I assumed that she was tired of my typical "just in time" Washington State history lessons and her father's "I put in that scale" jabber and just wanted to watch a movie. I handed the laptop bag to her, she took the laptop out of the case and plugged it into my inverter and turned it on. Within seconds of it booting up she whined, "Mom, your laptop is broken. It doesn't work!" Upon inquiring the issue, she explained to me that it couldn't get onto the Internet. It was then it dawned on me that she did not know life without the Internet and she expected it to be anywhere and everywhere. It was like air to her. After all, we have had Internet in our home since 1993 and my cell phone has had Internet access on it for several years. She was born in 1996 and my older girls barely remember our 15 hr a month connection limit and the annoying hand shaking sound of the modem that I can't seem to get out of my head.

In a few short years, life has changed. Today, not only can you connect your single laptop to the Internet while driving by tethering to your phone or using an aircard, but now you can create your own wireless network in your car. Autonetmobile has a router and service you can purchase where everyone in your car can be connected to the Internet at the same time. Jenny could be streaming music on Pandora, Michael could be watching Netflix though their streaming service, Johnny could be uploading his homework to Blackboard, Kelly could be playing Webkinz, and Mom could be uploading photos to Snapfish all for $29.99 a month and some fairly pricey hardware. No one would have to interact with anyone else in the car.

Gone are the days of family sing-a-longs, playing I-Spy with my little eyes and playing travel Bingo. We don't even have to watch DVDs together and discuss them anymore. Internet access is within our reach just about everywhere and now I guess my laptop would no longer be considered "broken."

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Mourning of Windows 3.x

The year was 1993, the month August...

I went to my local computer store with my $3000 in hand ready to buy my first desktop computer. Previously, I had the opportunity to take my classroom computer home during breaks so I had no need for may own, but my husband was transferred and I had to move. My Apple IIGS had to stay behind at Christ the King in Richland. Since we hadn't owned our home in Richland very long, we didn't make very much on it so my husband told me I could take part of the earnings and buy a computer. We had the conversation that was much like our political conversations in our home- Mac vs. PC. In the end, the PC won.

It was an amazing day when I brought my custom built PC home. It was a 482DX with Windows 3.1 (code name Janus) on it. People came from all around to drool on it. Let me tell you, there was a lot of coveting going on all around me and a bit of gloating on my part. The amazing thing was that it ran Windows 3.1. It had a GUI interface that people could understand. No more C:\ DOS command line garbage. It introduced the mouse for the PC and made us ask the question right click or left and if you have more than one mouse, is it mouse or mice? It was the beginning of double click this and double click that. It was the OS that fed my first gaming addiction, Minesweeper. When I came to work with my current employer the Windows 3.11 machine was still on-campus. Windows 3.11 was my first interaction with in an Ethernet environment and had the first virus I had to clean.

So this week folks, we cover our Vista and XP computers in black as we mourn the loss of our old and may I say reliable friend, Windows 3.x. After 18 years, the licensing has been laid to rest. The world has moved forward as Microsoft quits shipping the longest supported GUI operating system in it's line, which I know purists may argue that it wasn't a "REAL" OS, but for many it was their first interaction with a computer and it allowed the non-geeky/techie part of the world a comparable and less expensive choice. Now lets take a moment of silence as we remember the days when we could just push the power button to power down and not get a startup message that tells us that we have improperly shut down or that we may have to start in Safe Mode or freeze at the startup screen. It truly is a sad week.