Sunday, April 27, 2008

best picnik ever?

The other week I thought to myself: "I really ought to shell out for Photoshop...everyone else has such lovely photos, and I'm stuck with iPhoto.." However, shelling out is one of my least favorite activities, and thus it was much to my parsimonious glee that we learned about the wonders of picnik, picassa and gliffy last week. I immediately went home and downloaded picassa onto my parent's computer, and picnik onto mine. Fabulousness ensued, and I was quite pleased, except that picnik tends to be a trifle whiny and suggested I restart my browser. Never! But I will continue to use the program regardless. Because making pictures of my cat look like infrared neon is so cool!

A bit of technological news that caught my eye was this

about Lasik surgery and the potential damage it has caused a minority of those who have undergone the treatment. I had read in the newspaper a few months back about a woman who has been suffering severe depression since her Lasik surgery, but the article seemed to make it all better by mentioning that only a very small percentage of people have experienced complications and most people really dig the procedure. This was enough to alarm me, though, for I have entertained the notion of Lasik for years now, since my eyesight is atrociously bad and I hate it. Now, since the expose, many more afflicted people have come out and are demanding change. The most frightful side effect of Lasik-induced injuries is suicide. Blurry images, double vision and eye pain and dryness have caused many to experience depression and suicidal thoughts. Having poor vision is certainly a handicap in some ways, and is incredibly annoying...since fourth grade I've been a little angry at my ever-declining vision. But imagine the pain of these people who underwent a surgery to fix their eyesight only to be left with irreperable and painful damage. Indeed, any surgery is risky, and often people die under the knife, or emerge worse off than before. Lasik often seems too good to be true, too easy, too painless (definitely not too cheap, though). It's also elective, and these people knew there may be a risk of injury from doing it. Still, because Lasik is so new, we haven't been able to make really long-range assessments of it's impact and how it evolves with vision through the lifespan. The suffering people have had is important to consider, and I think that the procedure ought to be improved and re-assessed to further lower the percentage of people left in debilatating pain.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Second Life

Second life was launced in 2003 by Linden Research Inc. of San Francisco. Apparently the idea for the site was influenced by the novel Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson, and has been described as a Metaverse, a concept explored in the novel. As of March 2008, 13 million accounts, working or otherwise, had been created, and the popularity of the site has continued to grow, sparking parodies and rivals (such as the adult-themed Red Light Center).
Within the Second Life (SL) world, users create avatars of themselves (realistic to their actual person or not, usually not), and the avatars, or "residents" interact, create social networks, and even make business and sexual transactions with each other. Yes, SL has its own economy and currency, the Linden Dollar, which may be traded for real world currency. Goods and services are commonly exchanged between residents, and some people have earned considerable amounts from the site. Currently there is a debate on whether the Linden Dollar will be subject to taxation in response to the large sums being made by users. Only real world banks are allowed to operate in SL, to prevent fraud. In addition to real world banks, actual universities have set up "islands" in SL, and are experimenting in creating useful learning communities. Individuals have set up artistic and music communities within the site as well, and goods and services may be offered for fees.
Aside from "residents" garnering filthy lucre from the site, the creators have also profited from their operation. The basic SL account is free, but anything beyond that may cost up to $295 USD a month. Land and property may be bought for actual money as well, up to the thousands of dollars. Indeed there is money to be made in the SL world.
SL may seem like a virtual utopia where one may enact their dreams and live a life completely different than the one they actually have, others maintain vices in their second life carried over from their first. SL has instated an gambling ban, for example. Reports of child molestation and the like have also occurred, and thus SL has come under scrutiny and opposition from individuals. Just like chatrooms, even virtual environments are far from perfect.

Moog would be proud?

I loved week three of fact, I looked forward to it, as my other classes are driving me nuts. The lack of partner work was a haven, and I found that sitting on the far side of the room, or maybe just changing chairs, didn't kill my back with stabbing pain. My favorite aspect of week 3 were the lectures on technology and where it's going. This is a world I know nothing of, and I enjoy any insights I can glean concerning the cyber world and computer technology. I was so excited, in fact, that I went home and looked up Second Life and signed in (to see what it was all about). Alas. My crummy techo skills barred me from re-entering the candy-like other world. Oh well...that's progress, I guess.

Now, this week I thought I should probably post some useful and important technology information, but as usual I botched it up. Instead I found this article, on how to construct a tiny theremin. (For info on the theremin, click here). It's true--technology really is making everything smaller, including instruments hardly anyone (with an exception of yours truly) cares about. A pocket theremin has to be one of the most useless yet intriguing tiny things out there...and if I knew how to weld, I would totally make one! More importantly, however, it goes to show how an initially convoluted and sensitive instrument, or piece of technology, has been simplified to the point where anyone can make a miniature for under $20. It's also amazing how something great and baffling can become a novelty in a rather short period of time, as well.

Foiled Again!

Week two of CIS 120 went by surprisingly well...the classes were informative and interesting, and I predict that by the end of the quarter my Power Point Skills will be "mad hot." The homework was fairly simple, and proved useful overall. However, the reading for week 3 proved to be quite dry. Eventually I decided to 86 the reading and work on answering the end of the chapter review questions. Far more beneficial, encapsulated, and far less sleep inducing than my previous studying method.

In technology news this week, I learned that Paypal will no longer allow older web browsers, Safari and Firefox to use its services. This makes sense (security holes) but torques my goat as well, as I use either a. Safari or b. Firefox, and also use Paypal often as I buy items off the internet all the time. This will certainly have a ripple effect, moving beyond the gear heads and vintage-snatching bimbos of ebay and onto the browsers, hopefully inciting some improvement (Safari sucks), and the disuse of older browsers (they suck even more).

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Week One

A friend warned me a few weeks prior to the beginning of the spring term that CIS 120 was apparently difficult and insane on the homework front. I wasn't shaken...she hadn't taken it, so how the hell should she know? I was almost angry. However, I felt sheepish last week at my inner rage against her smug warnings. Yes, the homework load and class seem a little daunting, but I noticed that once I began doing the work, it proved absolutely do-able and slightly less scary. Am I still anxious? Yes. Have I finished the "Are You Ready?" test? No. But I'm an extent. This class bears a remarkable resemblance to a math class. The work appears hideous and awful, but once completed the simplicity becomes apparent and I wonder why I made life so difficult for myself. But this is only week one....who knows what the next nine will bring.

an interesting article about the Chinese suppressing certain Wikipedia articles and the like.

I hope to god that that makes a hyperlink. I'm on a Mac, and they certainly aren't as simple as a in...where the hell is the thingy that makes a hyperlink???

If this doesn't work, then expect a supplemental post with the link that will take you to an article that describes the censorship of Wikipedia by Chinese officials. Yes, censorship is alive and well, even on the internet. I guess my post is a little less technology and a little more critique on the suppression of information by governments. Control over the internet seems like something parents are in control of in the u.s....and who would consider Wikipedia dangerous? Ah, the Chinese government. And of course they've blocked information on Tibet....

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


I enrolled in CIS 120 for two reasons: one, that CIS 120 is a requirement for the AAOT, with which I'll graduate this Spring, and second, because I've finally faced up to the facts that I need to learn how to "do stuff on the computer." More specifically, to learn how computers work, and also to learn how to operate my computer so as to make my life a little more clarified and better. I mean, computers ought to be something more than a "talking picture box." Mind you, I can use Power Point, Word, e-mail, the intranet (hehe) and most of the applications on my Mac. Just not to their full potential.
So, I hope to learn, basically, how to use a computer. I wish I could be more concise, but I'd have no idea what I was talking about, and I'm embarassed enough as it is.