Leave It to Technology to Keep My Spirits Up

Duh-byaOkay, first the requisite rant, but I’ll keep it short. As mentioned in today’s Post, a new report is drawing attention to Bush’s rampant disrespect for anything smacking of intelligence. The report (available in pdf format) lends quantifiable support to the slew of allegations that have been haunting this regime: “Screw the science, we’ve got an agenda to push! ‘Stupidity for Stupid People,’ that’s our motto...”

Okay, rant over. We now return you to your regularly scheduled ’blog entry.

Even after as horrible a time as this past weekend, the world of technological advancement is able to provide a couple of bright spots. I only mentioned them in passing before, but since one of the professed purposes of this weblog is to discuss gadgetry, I thought I’d go into a little more detail. Hey, why not?

One of the two mentioned items is the new DishPVR 508. And while reviews on the ’net are mixed, I must say I’m looking forward to trying it out. It’s no TiVo, to be sure, but I look at it as TiVo’s little brother. No, I don’t have a little robot going out there and recording shows it thinks I might like. And no, the user interface isn’t nearly as crisp as TiVo’s (or even my existing receiver’s). But the basics — pausing and rewinding live TV, recording shows to the hard drive (up to an hour after the show’s started), programming future recordings up to a week in advance — are all there, and I’m not paying an additional $12 monthly for the privilege. Frankly, I’ve always wondered what “service” it is that you’re paying TiVo for — the “program guide”? Hell, the satellite and digital cable companies provide that already. The little robot? Doesn’t that reside on the unit itself? Okay, I suppose they’re adding extra information so that the robot can sort through your tastes more easily, but that fee still seems a little steep.

AppleThe other, of course, is my new iPod, and so far, it’s performing beautifully. It was really nice, on my nightmare trip, not having to switch CDs. Or being able to change my mind about what I was listening to on a whim. The FM transmitter wasn’t as clean as I’d hoped (particularly in Hampton Roads, where there are stations broadcasting on all of the available frequencies), but it worked passably — at least until I can rig a direct connection into my existing car stereo.

But I’m left with another dilemma. As you may recall, I personified my laptop, and I’ve found it rather convenient to refer to it as simply “Murphy.” But now I find myself wondering if I should similarly name my other electronic devices; the default “Bill Coughlan’s iPod” just isn’t doing it for me. I often refer to my Palm as my “baby computer” (a result of my having to explain what it was to my youngest daughter), but that’s not really a name. I had toyed with a slew of names for both devices — for example, “MiniMurph” for the Palm, “Winston” for the iPod (after Winston Smith, in defiance of Big Brother/the RIAA) — but as yet, none has really grabbed me. And frankly, I’m not too sure if I want to anthropomorphize them to the same degree as the PowerBook; where would I draw the line between device and personality? After all, I can see the entity known as “Murphy” surviving into future incarnations (likely incorporating some AI functionality that I’ve no doubt will exist in future generations of personal computers) — as I will be copying everything from this machine to the next — but I don’t know that I can say the same for the smaller devices.

Eh. If I get particularly inspired, I may decide to give them all identities. But for the moment, I think I’ll just let them stay machines.


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