Sometimes I miss the beautiful singing of dial-up modems communicating with each other and negotiating the terms of their courtship.
A brief thread in Slack at work had us joking about old technology, even though some of it isn’t all that old, but it had me try to be poetic about the days of dial-up internet. The sound really does hold some nostalgia for me. I remember the first time I heard a modem dial-up and connect with another computer on the other end. At that point, I didn’t understand what was going on and how it was working, but listening and then seeing information slowly appear on the screen from out on the Internet was special.
My career in support and technology started by providing support over the phone for an Internet Service Provider. People would call us up when they were having problems dialing up and connecting. Init strings, disabling call waiting, removing those splitters and dollar store phone cord, and uninstall and reinstall dial-up networking, were all familiar things we’d do so people could hear that sound.
The Internet has changed so much since then but people are still using it to connect, and I’m still earning my living by helping them to do it. It’s just a little less noisy.
This morning I was able to spend a bit of time with Noah in his class. They were participating in the Hour of Code. It was really neat seeing all the kids with Chromebooks working away.
Noah and I started out playing with Scratch. He wanted to build a basketball game but we didn’t have that much time and I haven’t spent a lot of time with Scratch so I’m not really familiar. We did make a character dribble a basketball across the screen.
From there we moved onto Code.org where we went through the steps to make a flappy bird game. It had ten steps where it gets you to setup the concepts of the game and change them around to immediately see the effect they have on the game. At the end he received a certificate he could print out.
He grasps the different concepts pretty quickly and seemed to really enjoy things. Im going to have to brush up on Scratch and maybe we can work at building that basketball game he wanted.
For many of my tech following readers may know Automattic, my employer, is behind the new domain extension .blog. The .blog domains were just recently released to be generally available to anyone who would like to register one. If you would like to, you can over at https://get.blog
Yesterday the activation was finished and I setup my new address for my blog here. Automattic allowed each employee to reserve a domain name and I thought long and hard about it. I came close to asking for sandy.blog because it’s nice and short. But I already have a pretty nice short domain name of sandym.ca which also redirects people here. So instead I opted for a more useful domain and received mcfadden.blog
This allows me to also create sub domains so that others in my family, if they wanted to start their own blog, could have a fantastic domain name too. Because I have access to mcfadden.blog I can now setup sub domains like https://sandy.mcfadden.blog/ which is the main address I’m using for this site now. Maybe my kids want to start blogging some day, I can then set them up with theirname.mcfadden.blog if they wish. Last night we switched my wife’s address for her site over so that it is now https://jen.mcfadden.blog/
I’m pumped to have this new domain for my blog, thank you Automattic!
Most of the time technology and I get along really well. Much of my time is spent working with technology and helping others use it. That’s the way I like it, me being the one to figure something out and help someone else use it. When it goes the other way and technology doesn’t work the way I expect it to, right or wrong, and I can’t figure out how to make it work I get frustrated.
Today I took a break from work to go for a run. My running companions are my iPhone with the Runkeeper app and my Pebble watch. Obviously I can and should run without these things, and just go for the enjoyment. However I love tracking and working to improve my running. Whether it’s to go faster or to go further or both. Being able to do better than I did before is a big motivator for me. Runkeeper does the hard work of tracking everything and while I’m running it displays how long I’ve been running, my average pace, and my distance.
Usually this whole process works perfect, today however and a few times in the past, the information doesn’t show up on my watch. Usually I don’t notice because I start my run and put my phone in my pocket and start out. It’s usually a little bit later when I look at my wrist to see and get my pace where I want it. Today my goal was to try and keep a pace of 5:00 min/km for as long as I could. I felt like I was running blind when I couldn’t easily see and keep track.
After my first km I stopped and tried to get it figured out. There is no reason I can figure out that causes this to not work when it does. Everything is still connected I was receiving email notifications right before I started. A big part of it is likely because I don’t fully understand how the connection works and how things need to be setup. It just usually works and I don’t worry about it. I tried restarting both the watch and the phone, disconnecting bluetooth and setting it back up again.
Finally after trying these things a few times I got it to work and started to go again. This time the problem seemed to be with Runkeeper though. The run it tracked showed further than I really went and as a result my pace was crazy fast. For a while it was showing 2:15 min/km which obviously wasn’t right. I ran another km anyway and then stopped and gave up on the run for today.
If anything though this helps me relate to the people I talk with each day. When one of them is displaying frustration trying to use something I’m glad that I’m able to help them figure things out and get things working for them.
Before we left for this vacation I knew one part was going to be rough for me in particular. It’s a very rare occasion where I’m not able to pull out my phone and be connected to everyone and everything.
Traveling to the US with a Canadian cell phone makes that very cost prohibitive. Luckily my wife has an unlocked phone so when we arrived in of the first things we did was to sign up for a prepaid account for her phone.
But that’s her phone, and besides where we are staying the signal is not great so it’s in and out. I find myself going through a bit of a withdraw. Even though I’m obviously still able to post blog updates and check email and social networks now and again, it’s sad how not having that constant connection is so noticeable and unpleasant.
During the day isn’t even so bad. But once the kids are in bed, or when we are trying to plan something for the day, it becomes annoying.
I’m hoping after a week of this I’ll be better, but that will be just in time to go home and be back to my connected world.
For now I’ll just enjoy my family and try to relax and enjoy this time away.