Tech resistance

For some time, I have been contemplating getting myself a Chromebook to serve as my personal, private computer for writing, reading and research. A Chromebook, I thought, would suit me nicely, because they offer a light-weight user experience, unencumbered by the time-consuming updates that regularly beset Windows computers. For writing, I would either use the very minimal Chrome plugin, Caret, or the Android version of Microsoft Word. All I need is a good keyboard, a silent fanless chassis and a reasonable screen. To this end, any Asus Chromebook would easily fit the bill.

But observing US protectionism at its worst over the past few days, as US tech companies respond to the presidential decree to block trade with Chinese technology companies, I find myself contemplating a return to an independent Linux distribution. Over the weekend, Google has ceased its relationship with Chinese tech giant, Huawei, which is bad news for users of its excellent smartphones (budget Honor phones included). It’s likely that Microsoft will have to follow-suit where the company’s laptops are concerned, to avoid state sanctions.

All of a sudden, our over-reliance on US software providers seems perilous. All it takes is for an erratic president to announce an embargo on trade with a foreign technology company, and consumers all over the world are effected. Today it is a Chinese company that earlier in the year was seen to be rapidly challenging the dominance of a US technology company. Tomorrow it could just as easily be a Taiwanese, Japanese or South Korean company. Overnight, they can kill off every upcoming device that was just on the brink of coming to market.

So perhaps the way to go is not to embrace a US software house to power my personal computer. For my use case, I could make do with some technological home-brew. It’s not that I imagine that Britain will find itself directly subject to US protectionism of this kind any time soon. It’s more the principle of resisting monopolies that dictate to the end user the choices they make.

Paranoia

How easy it is to succumb to paranoia. On my return from lunch today, I found an alert on my phone and then my computer telling me that my Apple ID had been locked for security reasons. Apple says: “If you or someone else enters your password, security questions, or other account information incorrectly too many times, your Apple ID automatically locks to protect your security”. Continue reading “Paranoia”

Hunters

Be careful what you say, for the hunters are out hunting. Say the wrong thing and they will declare your social media accounts fake, to be reported and closed. Advocate for the wrong party or speak of things that must be censored, and you will find your accounts inaccessible, marked for deletion, obliterated from public view. Speak of the wrong matters at the wrong time, and thousands will be mobilised en masse to report your profile, and silence you for good.

Why are muslims…

Google Search is contextual, delivering specific results to its audience, based on what it has already learnt about you and your confirmation biases. Continue reading “Why are muslims…”

ad-blocker disabled

Dear Publisher,

I have just responded to your plea to turn off the ad-blocker when visiting your website, by disabling it. But I wanted to follow up with the reason I’m using an ad-blocker, in the hope that we can meet in the middle. Continue reading “ad-blocker disabled”

The video call

I’m known for my occasional Luddite lapses, but still we should challenge some of the technophobic declarations of our some of our scholars.

My wife has just had a seamless face-to-face conversation with her mother, 1600 miles away, both via a flawless video image on a pair of mobile phones, one out about in the streets of Istanbul…

What untold reward awaits the software and hardware developers that facilitate the coming together of families separated by seas and continents, who make these conversations possible?

All things can be used for good and bad, be it the marketplace, the cafe, the school, the book, the knife, the car…

The internet, television, smartphones and Facebook are no different.

We just need to remember that ethics and manners apply to this sphere as much as any other. That should be the concern of our scholars: how to we navigate these new avenues of communication. Not encouraging us to abandon them altogether.

Truthfulness is an issue on the web because it is an issue in general. Verifying information is an issue for the same reason, albeit amplified by immediacy and reach.

For all the claims that something awful is happening, it could be said that something beautiful is happening. Perhaps access to more information than ever before and exposure to new ideas might be good for us.

Perhaps the perpetual challenge of ideas we are subjected to might help us see a clearer forward path, that would have been impossible in our cloistered life of old, when gate keepers defined for us what is orthodoxy and what is heresy, regardless of truth or godliness.

Technology challenges us, without a doubt: it forces us to ask new questions, to negotiate the unknown, to be ever more vigilant to the pitfalls and obstacles brought ever closer to us.

But we have been placed in this time and place for a reason: in this world where national borders or vast oceans, or treks across sand dunes, rivers, valleys, mountains and ravines, risking the assault of bandits or pirates, no longer need keep loved ones apart. Blessings, if only we would allow ourselves to see it.

Make time for meditation, yes: for quiet and peace and a time for contemplation. Disconnect when you have to. Apply ethics liberally to these new gateways, check your intentions and habits and manners. Yes, all of this is important.

But be open to this world; embrace it. Be grateful, count your blessings. Make a prayer for the software developers that facilitate family time, even if thousands of miles separate you. Be in awe, and amazement, and thankfulness. Make good use of the blessings bestowed on you. We are living in an amazing time: we just have to try extra hard to see it.