Take The Computing Out Of Computers

If you’re at all tech savvy, then there is always going to be one phone call you dread. That moment when the parent with the computer calls you up unexpectedly to say “I think I might have done something to my laptop.” Or worse, “it’s gone funny.” And then expecting you to do something about it. Sadly, I don’t have enough command-line-fu to be able to drill into their file system over VPN and figure out what they’ve managed to do. Although getting them to delete the hundred gigs worth of material in the trash often work wonders.

I met Rev Sherlock for a livener yesterday, and he took the opportunity to wave his iPad at me, the dirty bugger. He loves watching me trying to explain why my netbook was really a much more sensible choice while the big WANT sign above my head flashes and klaxons. I hate Rev Sherlock.

Over the course of the conversation, we commiserated with each other over the endless hours and unpaid tech support we’ve done on behalf of our parents. The conclusion was reached that actually, an iPad isn’t such a bad idea for the person who thinks that file structure is something to do with building a cabinet. There’s very little you can do to the inner workings of the device, but it’ll get you online, playing music and videos and even handling basic word processing in a trice. All the primary boxes ticked. It’s just a shame that you need to hook it up to a machine with iTunes to manage the media.

Potentially, the new Google Chromebooks could solve our tech support woes. Putting content onto the cloud and running a minimal hard drive solves that annoying sync issue. However, depending entirely on the interwebs has its own issues, and gods help you if the wireless goes down. Might be worth splashing the cash on a 3G model. Dunno about you, but the prospect of troubleshooting a hinky wi-fi over the phone fills me with chills.

It’s good to be a geek, but there are times when it’s good to get the computers out of computing. Especially when you find that you’ve spent an evening troubleshooting your parents instead of repartitioning your significant other. So to speak.

How A Phone Changed My Life

***UPDATED***

to include link to Clive Thompson’s article in Wired on the death of the phone call.

This morning I downloaded the new Arcade Fire album, that I had pre ordered over the weekend (initial review – the sound of the autumn, you need this in your life), then checked my Twitter feed before heading off to the station. On the train, I began to write the post you’re now reading. I have a couple of photos of the cats that I took, cropped, post-processed and will drop onto Flickr at some point this morning.

I did all this on one device. You know the one I’m talking about. The one that was in all the papers a month ago. The one that was irreparably broken and was to be recalled at a cost of billions.

That didn’t happen, although my device is now snug and secure in a free case the manufacturers were good enough to offer to anyone that was having problems with phone reception.

That was not my experience. It has not been the experience of hundreds of thousands of users worldwide. This phone is rock solid. Although I can’t talk on behalf of the worldwide user base for this device, I want to go on record, and state that it is the best phone I’ve ever owned. It grabs and holds onto signal without a problem, and 3G reception is a dream. The only point at which it drops a call is on the train, in the signal-free zone somewhere in Southall which kills a conversation with every phone.

But I didn’t really buy the device to be a phone. Along with the general trend of mobile users, I would much rather text than phone anyway, and the software keyboard on this phone is a joy. I’m up to about 30 wpm on it, both thumbs a blur on the surface.

I bought this device primarily as a street computer, and in that aspect it succeeds admirably. It’s an excellent music and video player, a more than adequate word processor, and an amazing camera. With a couple of application downloads it becomes a powerful image capture hub that does significantly more than the camera I dropped £200 on a few years ago. If I felt the urge, I could even edit video on it. In fact, people already have.

This sounds like a gush from someone blinking in the full glare of the Reality Distortion Field. Yes, I know there are plenty of devices out there that do all this and more, that are not proprietary and locked to one platform. Yes, fine, it was expensive. Yes, fine, I queued for almost six hours to get my mitts on one.

You know what? Don’t care. Completely worth it. If I need to check my email, look up something on Wikipedia, while away a dull ten minutes with a game, then this is the device I reach for. My Blackbook is currently on loan to a greater cause (more on that later) and with this and my little Linux netbook, I’ve hardly missed it. It gets used every day. It will get used every day. It’s the most 21st century thing I own. Until the next one.

Please, feel free to hit me up in the comments and tell me why your phone is better than mine. I’d love to know what I’ve been doing wrong!