Saturday, March 31, 2018

Gone Google

I have a Motorola Android phone.

I have an HP Chromebook.

I'm writing this using the Chrome browser on my Chromebook.

This little blog is hosted on the Blogger platform.

I have a Chromecast streaming device connected to my TV.

I have a Google Home Mini sitting beside my favorite chair.

All of those are Google products. Android is Google's smartphone OS. Chromebooks are computers that run Google's Chrome Operating System. Chrome is also the name of the Web browser developed by Google. Blogger is the blogging platform owned by Google. Chromecast is Google's streaming device. And, of course, a Google Home Mini is a Google product, similar to the Amazon Echo.

Now, a bit of clarification might be in order.

I still have an iPhone, a MacBook Air, a Dell Windows 10 desktop, Apple TV, Roku, Fire TV Stick, and TiVo. Yes, I still have those other things, but I do have a little segment of my life set aside that operates solely in the Google ecosystem.

Why, you might ask.

Go ahead and ask. I'll wait.

* * *

Well, since you asked, here's the deal. I'm trying to ensure that all my online business and my offline business are kept separate.

Remember when I was helping an old church lady with a smartphone? I ended up with an Android phone (more than one, actually) running on a cheap phone service. As I began compiling all my tax information together this year, I once again concluded that it sure would be helpful if my online life and my offline life were able to operate separately. So, I decided to actually do that.

I kept one of the Android phones (the Moto e4) -- because I like it -- and kept one of the the phone services (along with its own separate phone number) and configured it with the accounts I use for blogging and related online activity.

The Chromebook is something I was using when traveling. Mostly for blogging, as my iPhone handles everything else. I now use the Chromebook exclusively for blogging and other related functions.

I already had a Chromecast device, but rarely used it. If, though, I need to watch something related to blogging (it has happened), I've started using it excluseively. The Google Home Mini is connected to the same account as the Android phone and the Chromecast (as the Chromebook).

So, Basil has ... Gone Google. At least, as far as blogging-related stuff is concerned.

It's taking a little getting used to. Now, when I get an email or other notice related to blogging and all that stuff, I have to pull out the Android phone.

When I want to tweet something, I pull out the Android phone.

When I want to post on Facebook, I pull out the Android phone.

When I want to do anything that's not family-only or day-job related, I pull out the Android phone.

Yes, it's definitely taking some getting used to.

Friday, March 23, 2018

(Re)Generation Who

I’m in Baltimore.

“Why?” you ask.

No, really. Go ahead and ask. I’ll wait.

* * *

Well, since you asked, it’s that I’m attending a Doctor Who convention.

Why would I travel 607 miles to attend a Doctor Who convention?

Easy. I didn’t. I traveled farther than that. First, I drove to Atlanta, then flew to Baltimore. Then Uber to the convention at the Marriott. So more than 607 miles. I got that 607 miles figure because it’s 607 miles from here to my house, as the crow flies. And that’d be a darned tired crow.

But why this one? After all, there are Doctor Who conventions a lot closer.

Well, I’m a fan of the classic show. And the two surviving cast members from the very first season — the very first episode — were scheduled to attend this convention, called (Re)Generation Who. I said “were” because one has since canceled. Carol Ann Ford, who played Susan Foreman, the Doctor’s grand daughter, canceled this week. But William Russell, who played the Doctor’s traveling companion Ian Chesterton, is still scheduled to be here.

Also, there will be not one, not two, but three Doctors: Peter Davison, the 5th Doctor; Colin Baker, the 6th Doctor; and Peter Capaldi, the 12th Doctor.

Also, the entire contingent of 5th Doctor traveling companions will be here:
  • Matthew Waterhouse (Adric)
  • Sarah Sutton (Nyssa)
  • Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka)
  • Mark Strickson (Vislor Turlough)
  • Nicola Bryant (Perpugilliam “Peri” Brown)
Now, before any of you nit-pickers start up, Gerald Flood, who voiced the 5th Doctor’s robot companion Kamelion, died in 1989. And Mike Power, who built the prop, died during the production of the series. So there.

There will be others there, too, of course, but there is a big 5th Doctor focus at this convention.

Though I’m disappointed that Carol Ann Ford won’t make it, I’m delighted that, William Russell, at 93 years of age, is still able to attend.

He alone is enough for me to attend. Everything else is a bonus.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Mad Max on "The President and the Press"

I have a buddy -- he's real -- that, online, I call Mad Max. He embraces the name that was thrust upon him. Just like you and just like me, he's a little mad sometimes. Mad as in angry. Mad as in a little crazy. But, again, we all go a little mad sometimes.

Oh, I just remembered what that quote is from. Hmmm. I probably should have used a different quote. Oh, well.

Seriously, Mad Max a good guy. If you are in need, he'll help you any way he can. I think a lot of Mad Max.

He doesn't get on The Twitter, but he will show up on The Facebook. He'll leave some comments on other people's pages that get right to the heart of the matter, but he won't post much political stuff of his own. He's smart enough to use The Facebook as a stress relief. Cute kitties are his distraction from this crazy world.

He sent me this, because he's trying to keep his pledge to keep his activity on his page on The Facebook nice and light.

I have his permission to share with you.

The President and the Press

A few thoughts on the deterioration of press relations in the present day

These are just impressions of a casual observer of world events and history going back some 100 years. Certainly not scientific or learned – just some thoughts that occurred to me this evening, I'm not even sure why.

Any writing like this can devolve into a partisan thing right quick, a vicious attack on one side or the other. And that is exactly what this about, so I'm going to do my best to remain utterly neutral and objective over this little idea that somehow planted itself in my mind and won't let me go until I write it out and find someone who can get it out to others.

My subject is the relationship of "the Press" – once a few major newspapers, now a wide variety of media including late-night talk shows and Internet blogs – and "the President" – an elected official of the United States of America.

To make one thing perfectly clear: bias in the Press has always existed. We are all human, and have likes and dislikes. To say those perfectly human emotions do not affect our perception – and our relating our perceptions to others – is a lie. On the other hand, there have been many different types of Presidents – liars, scoundrels, corrupt, clean, dishonorable and honorable, good and bad -- and the conundrum for the Press – and for History – is to figure out which is which.

There was a time in my memory where there was a clear separation between the two, and they existed on two different planes of importance. The Press was definitely important – always has been – in reporting the news, investigating corruption, being honest, and thereby building trust, if not with politicians, celebrities, and sports figures, at least with the populace. There was also a time when the President – the highest elected office-holder of the land – was seen to be on a higher plane; you may not like him or her, but you didn't attack him, his character, his family, on a daily basis. Because there were greater dangers out there, and he was, after all, the Commander-in-Chief, and when all Hell breaks loose, God forbid, we need to come together behind our leader. There is no question every President all the way back, maybe even to George Washington, had his detractors in the Press, but overall, when it came down to it, there was at least some measure of decorum.

The country united with Woodrow Wilson, not at all a universally popular leader, a man who ran on the platform "He Kept Us Out Of The War." But when we went into what was then called The Great War, the country united. It happened again most famously with Franklin Delano Roosevelt, on December 7, 1941, and continued until the day he died in office, and carried over to Harry S Truman.

It began to break down with Lyndon Johnson, but let's face it – the Vietnam War was longer than WWI or even WWII. The popular support gradually and then precipitously diminished and the Press criticized his administration, but it did not attack with the utter viciousness we see today. And it did not attack his family.

Nixon again came under attack, for a variety of reasons, many of them justified. Professionally, analytically, with deep research and well-founded / well-sourced information, the Press took him on, and they took him down.

And then, I think, something changed.

The Press realized they could take down someone they didn't like anyway, even while a war was on. They realized their power. And that other subset of the Press that began to emerge – the late-night comedy, Saturday Night Live, had a good few years diminishing the character of a man they didn't like – Gerald Ford – because he tripped a couple of times. Never mind that two lunatics tried to shoot him during his short administration – it was all good comedy – and the late-night "Press" and the established Press had good fun with it throughout.

Four years of Jimmy Carter proved to be enough for just about everyone, and near the end there was great fun made of "askin' Amy about nuclear war" and the dreaded "Killer Rabbit" incident.

And then there was a pause. The Press didn't like Ronald Reagan at all, but he gave them little to make fun of. He reapplied the honor of the Presidency by keeping a significant aloofness from the Press, speaking to the country right over their heads on rare but significant occasions, leaving the Press to quarrel about what he said amongst themselves in the newly-created format of a "talking-head panel."

George H. W. Bush continued the honor of the Presidency but had some significant failings with his base. A weak economy did not help, and he lost to what I consider the major pivotal figure in this amateur analysis – Bill Clinton.

There can be no doubt the Press loved Bill Clinton. But why? Certainly his policies might attract their personal feelings, but the same could be said for Lyndon Johnson, and near the end of Johnson's last year the Press was ready to throw him out.

My answer is that he seemed to love them. What other President of the United States had appeared on a late-night show playing the saxophone? That in itself remains a famous image. And in my mind, a vast diminishment of the importance of the office of the President. He wasn't "Up There," he wasn't "The Commander in Chief" – he became our buddy. Our best friend. And who likes to lose a best friend?

So the Press lost a best friend – twice – in the 2000 election – Bill had to leave office, and their new best friend, Al Gore, lost in a squeaker that came down to a few butterfly ballots in Florida. This was a bitter pill, and one that still sticks in their throat. For 8 years, George W. Bush – but not so much his wife and children – was vilified in the worst possible ways. This marked a clear departure from past practice.

And then along came Barack Obama – young, handsome, telegenic, great speaker. AND – what else did he do? He went on all manner of late-night talk / comedy shows, gave interviews to all manner of friendly Press, even appeared with internet blog posters that would otherwise have remained unknown to everyone. He was our best friend – We had a best friend again!

But best friends don't last, and he had to go away, so the Press picked a new best friend.

But she lost.

This, I believe snapped something in their minds. I also believe, to return to the point of this essay, that the Press no longer see the President of the United States as a person of great responsibility, a responsibility that would crush most of us, but as a person who should be someone they like. And if he's not the best friend they wanted, they'll revert to a Lord of the Flies bullying and eventual murder, if they can get away with it.

There, in a nutshell, is the problem between the Press and the President of the United States. One is an office established in the Constitution of the United States of America. The other are a pack of wild and dangerous children feeling lost.
Mad Max may be a little mad. But he's not crazy.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Beginner's smartphone

Recently, I undertook the task of helping an older lady from the church get a smartphone.

How did I do? Well, I researched ten cell service providers, looked into cell phones, and gave her my recommendation. I think that's pretty good. I suppose the details matter, though, huh?

Where she lives, Sprint and T-Mobile don't offer good coverage, so I suggested she stay away from those services or services that ride those networks. For instance, Simple Mobile and Walmart Family Mobile ride T-Mobile. Boost Mobile, NetZero, and Virgin Mobile ride Sprint. Google's Project Fi used both Spring and T-Mobile. So, for her, those were out.

She currently has AT&T, and staying with them would be easy enough. The issue is that for the money, she could go with Cricket or FreedomPop (BYOP) cheaper. Of those, I recommended Cricket because of the low cost, and the peculiarities of FreedomPop.

I did suggest that Verizon would be a viable alternative to AT&T, as she could swap one company for another. Likewise, Straight Talk or Total Wireless would be cheaper alternatives to Verizon.

The other possibility I suggested was Xfinity Mobile. It rides Verizon, and has the best pricing on a single unlimited service phone at $45. Since she already has Xfinity cable, Internet, and home phone, it would be an existing vendor.

When it came to the phones, I suggested that she either get an iPhone, or an Android phone by Samsung or Motorola. Sure, there are other good Android phones, but the unlocked Moto e4 is a good phone at a really good price, and most Samsung phones are very reliable. I don't have enough experience with other Android devices to make a recommendation.

I wrote all this up and gave her a printout (10 pages) of the ten carriers and the phones they offer. I gave her the pricing on each of the plans, and a suggestion for each type of phone (iOS and Android) for each carrier.

What did she do with my recommendation? Nothing.

She'll eventually make her mind up about what to do (probably Xfinity Mobile, my gut tells me) and then want me to go to the store with her to make it happen.

So, I have that to look forward to.