What a weekend! I’ve spent the past two days in my version of geek heaven. I’m really just a junior geek… I know just enough about computers and technology to get myself into serious trouble. But I’m addicted to the stuff.
Here’s what happened:
On Friday, I ordered a new computer. Lots of RAM, big hard drive, assorted other bells and whistles. I can’t wait. The old desktop has been faithfully chugging along since 2004. Still runs Windows XP. And about 40 or 50 other programs. It’s just too much for the old girl so she’s being retired. As soon as the spiffy new processor is set up, I’ll clean everything but the basics off the old one and move it to the guest room so that people can do email, write stuff, surf if they want. But not much else. (As I write this, I’m feeling a bit like the guy who tosses out his wife of many years for the trophy version… not that that will stop me.)
But that’s not all. Sweetie and I also acquired a new internet TV. This TV is WiFi capable and can access our home network – assuming we have one.
There’s more. We also exchanged our old Rogers modem for a new combo modem/router. Which meant the retirement of another bit of technology. Anyone need a router?
All this meant a fair bit of change. First we had to move TVs around. Yes we have more TVs than we need. The old bedroom TV moved to the Quiet Room. (A bit of irony there, don’t you think?) The old, really old, Quiet Room TV went to the basement. In stages. It’s one of those monster boxes, not a flat screen. Sweetie moved it from the second floor to the basement in stages. The Quiet Room to the top of the stairs. The top of the stairs to the main floor. We left it on the sofa in the family room while we inspected the basement to find a place for it.
Our basement is unfinished. A mess. Full of junk. Disorganized. When I first moved in, I suggested to Sweetie that we just run a length of police tape across the door at the top of the stairs and abandon it as unrecoverable. Sadly, I’ve become used to it. And it’s where the washing machine lives so I don’t have much of a choice. But I digress.
Once everything was in place, we still had work to do. On Saturday, we discovered the internet TV doesn’t just access the internet – and the home network, assuming we have one – by itself. So we headed out to buy the necessary adapter.
Also bought a gizmo designed to make the migration of all my stuff on the old computer to the new one easy. Since we were there. As enthused as I am about the new desktop, I’ve been dreading the idea of setting it up. This gizmo won’t do everything. I’ll still have to reinstall all the software. But it will save me dumping stuff onto a memory stick, unhooking and rehooking the monitor, transferring, deleting, and doing it all over again a dozen or so times. There’s a lot of data. Perhaps there’s more housecleaning to be done. But again…
By the time I went to bed, I had set up the new modem/router, the home network, connected my cellphone, netbook, Sweetie’s laptop, the new TV and another internet TV in our guest room. I registered assorted devices and created passwords. I was thrilled. Lay around surrounded by remotes, changing channels, calling up stuff on Sweetie’s laptop downstairs on the TV screen in the bedroom. Checked my text messages from my daughter. Read some stuff on my e-reader. Geek heaven.
So where is the contradiction and irony beyond a Quiet Room that’s not all that quiet? Well here’s the thing. As much as I love my personal and household technology, as much of a sucker I am particularly for tiny technology, as much as I can easily spend 8-10 hours a day in front of various screens, it’s occurred to me that that’s not really the way I want to live my life. An ah-ha moment. When I choose to stay home catching up on recorded TV programs rather than go out and enjoy the day, get fresh air, a bit of exercise, interact with other human beings, I think there might be something wrong. I admit I’m a TV addict. A computer addict. A cellphone addict. I haven’t made any new year’s resolutions this year but I’m thinking this might be something I should try to change.
This morning, I sat quietly with my coffee and the supplement to the Sunday New York Times. A real paper newspaper that left ink on my hands. There were two items that caught my eye that started me thundering down this train of thought. The first was an editorial by Thomas L. Friedman lamenting the lack of debate amongst Republican presidential candidates over the need for more and faster bandwidth if the United States is to compete in the world of the future. The second was written by Pico Iyer. It was an opinion piece talking about the growing desire to become unplugged. He suggests that when something becomes scarce, it increases in value. And being quiet – and unplugged – is getting more and more scarce. So our future will see more and more opportunities created to unplug – the very opposite of what Friedman says is necessary to survive. In South Korea, writes Iyer, there are internet rescue camps to try to save kids who’ve become addicted to the internet. Ironically, says Friedman, South Korea’s ability to provide its citizens with widespread access to the internet is well ahead of that of the US. And two hundred times as fast. We have seen the future?
For more than 20 years, Iyer has been visiting a Benedictine monastery several times a year just to be quiet. And he feels revived. He has more to offer intellectually. Creatively. I was struck by the irony of the two pieces. By how much the second resonated with me. And by the contradiction of that, given the previous day.
So after spending a week catching up on email, paperwork (virtually of course) and dealing with a host of workplace stuff, then most of the weekend making it easier than ever to be a slug – both mentally and physically – I managed to talk Sweetie into going for a walk.
It was brisk outside, below zero. We bundled up and set off. We talked. We waved to our neighbours. We commented on our neighbourhood, on the colours in an otherwise drab time of year, on our errands, on whether we should stop for hot chocolate or wait till we got home (we waited). We went to the drugstore, then the grocery store. Bought just enough that it would be easy to carry. Warmed up. Set out for home. Talked some more. And we made it. No cell phones. No internet. Just good conversation, fresh air, a little exercise on a brisk, bright winter day. It’s the most fun I’ve had all year. And then I sat down to write.
- Internet TV In 2012: Roku Streaming Stick & Smart Televisions (readwriteweb.com)
- Apple TV, Google TV – Is 2012 the Year They Take Off? (webpronews.com)