Text Patterns - by Alan Jacobs

Monday, October 6, 2014

rebel tech

Electronic technologies are seeking to escape my control — and they are largely succeeding!

This must stop.

Take Ello, about which I have written. I fooled around for a bit, but it has no privacy controls of any kind: everything is public to everyone, nobody can be blocked, etc. I understand that the service is new and still under development, but I won’t be back until I can control my environment (if then).

And then there’s this: I subscribe to some magazines on iOS, because with my aging eyes — I’ve mentioned this before — I really like being able to adjust the type size. (Most print magazines are close to unreadable for me now, unless I take off my glasses and hold them inches from my face, which is not the most comfortable way to read.) But the iOS 8 update broke a number of magazines in Apple’s Newsstand, including Scientific American, and while some of them have been fixed, SciAm has been both inactive and silent. I have paid for their magazines, but I can’t read them; and so far they have not responded to my emails.

These are just reminders that, for all the convenience that online and digital life provides, and while we use a great deal, we own very little indeed. I admire Comixology’s recent move to enable PDF or CBZ downloads of comics I’ve purchased from them — “from participating publishers.” But Marvel and DC (among others) aren’t participating.

So I guess I’d better get used to reading magazines and comics a few inches from my de-spectacled face. And I should rededicate myself to owning my turf.

5 comments:

  • What you need, Alan, is a big-ass magnifying glass. Not only would it free you from the tyranny of capricious gadget makers and app writers, but when wielded in public it would give you the aspect of an eccentric, which, as one moves toward one's dotage, is not a bad aspect to cultivate.

  • I would follow your advice, Nick, except I bet all those darn Brooklyn hipsters are already doing it!

  • This is one of those conversations that I have where people are just too invested in the notion of Luddism to really engage. I mean there's subscription services like Amazon Prime and Netflix where stuff you have access to just disappears overnight (and where they have no incentive to warn you in advance). But OK, you can own digital copies of things. But people's faith that those copies will always be accessible just seems crazy to me. People say things to me like "you really think Amazon is gonna disappear so you can't get your ebooks?" And I just say, you know, I dunno. Did people feel comfortable buying proprietary technology from Kodak in 1995?

    If you went down to my sister's basement, you'd find tons of media in formats that we have no way of playing now. And digital files, even in the era of the cloud, are no guarantee. There was an old 386 moldering in that basement for years that had some of my father's old files on it that I wanted to have-- his CV, for example. But even if I could have gotten the computer up and running, there was no way to get the information off of the computer short of copying it down by hand. Meanwhile, a box of my grandfather's papers that is sitting here in my office has some material that is 75 years old and yet is in no danger of disappearing.

    There's a no-bullshit value in physical ownership that just gets ignored, but if you try to talk about that, people insist that you're making a romantic argument rather than a practical one. It's aggravating.

  • Go to Harbor Freight, buy one of those lighted headset magnifiers. It smells like Harbor Freight's weird plastic, works on and off, and looks absolutely ridiculous. You will completely avoid looking like a hipster.

  • Retro-futurist ridicule with a balancing hint of instrumental dystopian menace:

    http://www.tmart.com/2-LED-Light-Magnifying-Glass-Headband-Loupe-Magnifier_p165604.html

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