Consumed by Technology

Consumed by Technology

Despite the fact that I earn a living with technology, and that even many of my leisure hours are spent in front of a computer, I'm feeling especially consumed by technology lately. By "consumed" I mean more of the "waste or burn away" sense.

I'm beta testing a wireless music player right now. It's one of those things that's awesome when it works -- instant access to all my music, streaming music from Pandora, podcasts from MediaFly -- but it unfortunately needs a lot of TLC at this stage to keep it working. Sometimes an app (MediaFly) will take the device over and only surrender with a factory reset. Sometimes a firmware update (which come fast and frequent since the device is still in development) will break something completely.

I got a Netgear ReadyNAS Duo for Christmas. It's basically a little Linux computer with a big hard drive. I can play my music off it (see above), use it as a print server for my home network, and send backups to it. Again, it's pretty cool, but getting it set up was a bit of a trick. For example, while it was fairly easy to get the print server set up. It was not as easy to figure out how to get it set up so that print jobs didn't have a two minute delay before they were processed.

Another Christmas gift was an LG BD390 -- a network video and Blu-Ray player. The reviews I read were all pretty glowy, but things were rocky right from the start. As soon as I got it set up, it said that there was a firmware update. I couldn't, however, get it to actually download. The wireless connection seemed extraordinarily shaky despite having a clear line of sight to my router (maybe 25 ft away), and of all the streaming content available, only Vudu seemed to work reliably. Of course, once I got support on the phone, the firmware update worked right away.

After Netflix streaming worked maybe twice in fifty attempts, I got back on the phone. It was an unpleasant experience wherein the support person continued to proffer bat guano explanations as to why it wasn't working. That's a metaphor, by the way. Real bat guano would probably gum things up pretty bad as well. But I didn't take it very gracefully, so he told me to try a wired connection and left it at that. It didn't help. It's now waiting for FedEx to ship off on what I hope to be a quest of self-enlightenment at the repair center.

Finally I've been trying to figure out how to manage all my passwords in such a way that they are accessible on my Palm Pre. I've used KeePass for years with a synchronized folder that makes the database available at work, too. There's no client for webOS, though, and no particularly easy way to sync the database even if there were. I looked at Passpack for a while, which I can access through the Pre's browser, but it is kind of slow and not very mobile friendly. I've been trying LastPass more recently since they have a beta version of a webOS client. It doesn't quite feel right to me, though. For one, they need desperately to get a graphic designer. Also, the desktop application is a browser plug-in, and there are lots of information bar prompts like the browser's built-in password manager, only more confusing. There's a distinct loss of control. For example, I changed my password on a site using LastPass and it didn't update the existing site entry. Instead it created a new, uncategorized site entry with the new password. I don't think it's going to work out.

So, I feel like I'm living this sort of meta-life. I'm not enjoying music, I'm fiddling with the player. I'm not watching movies, I'm arguing with tech support. I'm not visiting interesting web sites, I'm trying to get ubiquitous access to my passwords. (I'm not sure what the real-life activity is for a NAS. Maybe futzing with it is the "real" activity.) But in spite of all this, I still find myself thinking, "How can I get a computer into the kitchen? It'd be nice to replace my kids' magnetic chore chart with a slick application that rotates everything around automatically..." Maybe it's a disease of some kind.