Sunday, April 15, 2012

10 Things that used to be Optional/Required

Kudos to my younger and smarter brother for the idea on this one.  I've noticed that there are several things in life that used to be something that you did if the situation warranted it.  Discretion based activities.  For some reason these activities have become mandatory.  Other activities used to be required, but are now optional.  I think you'll get what I mean.

10. Now Required - Shirt and shoes - Well, I guess this is obvious.  Apparently there was no need to wear these items into the store historically because later on, signs stating that these clothing items became required were all the rage in the late 60's 70's.  Hmmm...seems like a lot of crappy stuff happened around then.

9. Now Optional - Dress up at work - Thank goodness.  that whole 'dress for success' thing was such a boondoggle.  just a way to keep suit sellers in business.  I've always said 'People trying to rip you off come in suits'.  Now, if you are keeping most of your body covered and you have a decent sense of hygiene, you're in.  Certain professions still require a suit, but the civilized world has devolved to business casual thanks. Many of those professions include Lawyer (if you are paying THAT much, he'd better at least look nice), Timeshare Sales (see my statement above about who is trying to rip you off), People managed by people that think suits are important but don't really know why.

8. Now Required- Fries - I remember just getting a burger.  no drink, no fries, no nothing else.  Just a burger.  They might ask 'would you like fries with that?'  and I'd say hmmm...yes please.  or the alternative.  Now, the question is 'Would you like that _______ Sized?' Where the blank is King, Super, Biggie, Gargantuan, Behemoth.  Of course the problem is, if you do the math on it, you aren't really saving much money, just calories.  I know they aren't really required, but it just seems like you have to ask to get them taken off the list.

7. Now Optional - Who asks who to a dance.  I've only noticed this because of my boys.  Allow me to put my old man voice on...Back in my day...a boy asked a girl out to the hoe down or the local cotillion.  On special occasions the girl may ask the boy on a dance called sadie hawkins when everything is topsy turvy. It seems that now dances lean in the favor of the boy being asked by the girl.  There are several differences between boys and girls but one of the differences that is not obvious is that given the chance to do nothing, most boys are perfectly willing to do just that.  Back when you had social norms enforcing actual movement on behalf of the boy, things worked out fairly evenly.  Now Guys just hang around perfectly willing to not do anything.  It may be the end of the species.

6. Now Required- Your lack of Privacy - Well this isn't completely true, but thanks to the Internet, events in your life were once optionally publicized.  Now, they are all over the place for everyone to see.  For a while we will try to protect our privacy as best we can, but new generations will not really know what privacy is like because they won't have any unless they go camping with no electronics.  It's strange for me to think of my kids as the last generation that had privacy of any sort.

5. Now Required - All of the points of any given legislation.  Those that know me know I lean right.  I'm afraid that I can't side with a lot of the things my brothers on the right are gunning for these days.  No compromise is a great way to get nothing done.  On the other hand, I'm not sure that's a bad thing.  I've never pictured the government to be good at much more than taking my money and doing things I probably don't approve of with it; if I knew what they were doing.  So in that respect they are no different than teenagers.  It just seems that if you can get 80% of what you want by giving up 20% of what you'd like, that's a good deal.

4. Now Optional - Hats.  Not those goofy knit wierdo hats you see the young jacka$$ crowd sporting.  But a fine fedora.  Time was that all men wore a fedora, even the bums.  They also dressed in suits and pants, not jeans and t-shirts.  I'm quite glad that I didn't find myself in that time.  I might have exploded.  This really is different than the dress up at work mentioned above.  I just realized that dressing up wasn't really just for work, but for every day sit around clothes as well.  Glad that's over.

3. Now Required- Standing Ovation - I'm not sure what happened, but Standing O's were reserved strictly for really really good performances.  Otherwise, you got some applause and off the stage with you.  Now, if you aren't giving up a Standing O(vation), you are likely some kind of ultra-right wing arts hating John Bircher.

2. Now Optional - Handshakes - Time was a mans word was his bond.  That bond was sealed by his handshake.  Now it seems that handshakes are really the worlds largest propagator of disease.  How sad is this?  The upcoming London Olympics are trying to abolish the good will handshake all together to prevent the spread of zombie bacteria.  Thank goodness, who needs Olympic Zombies.

1. Now Required- Food Server Tip - I tend to think that the tip was instituted to ensure good service from a service provider.  Now a tip is something that is so non-optional that they include it on the tab if there is a group of you and sometimes if it's just you and the meal is expensive.  Once you start including the tip on the tab, it's time to eliminate tips all together.  Just pay your servers more and increase the bill so when your server sucks we can find another way to show our disdain.

The future is ours, and our future resumes in 15 days.  Thanks for reading!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

10 More pieces of useful free software 2012 Edition

Early on in this blog I wrote about 10 Pieces of useful software. It's not that many of those aren't good, but the truth is, the interwebs are full of new things all the time and people get new interests all the time.  It's been 4 years now (I would NEVER have believed that I would still be writing this thing that long).  So I revisit 10 pieces of free software and I had so many entries that I had to cull out some that I thought were fun but not really useful.  I'm trying to display not only software, but some new ways of doing things that people might find useful.

10.  BitCoin : This is revolutionary.  Really really a whole new concept.  Forever we have used currency both coin and bill to pay debts.  Currency has always been based on governments and boarders.  Once you go from one country to another you have to change your currency to that of the country you are visiting.  There is of course an exchange rate that is based on the relative economies of both countries.  It wasn't always this way.  It used to be that the currency had it's own intrinsic value based on the precious metals it was created from.  Currency based on this has a problem with value volatility.  Currency based on countries has the same problem, but not as much.  The larger the country the currency is based on (economically) the more stable the currency is.  Ok, that's WAY enough boring talk about currency, here is the new way.  BitCoin is currency based on the rarity of the 'coins'  You can read about how they are made and why they have value on the website.  Here is a synopsis of why they are a new wave.
    1.  They can not be counterfeited because of their nature.  They are encrypted.
    2.  They do not track so they are like cash.
    3.  They have no base country so they are based on the world.
They may not emerge as the dominant currency, but they have enough benefits that they, or something like them will be around.

9. Google Docs : In my prior blog I found that Open Office (now Libre Office) was a great Microsoft Office alternative.  It's still true.  I'm not taking away anything from this.  Google docs on the other hand are the next step.  The documents are not as full featured as standard PC style, but they will do what you need and more.  I've always thought that office style programs actually have too many options and features that might be convenient but we don't really need it.  What the docs offers is a way to collaborate over a single spreadsheet or document over the internet.  Like this scenario:  A family has a calendar each member has their personal calendar.  Each calendar will combine in each family members view of calendars so everyone can know what is on everyone's schedule.  The other benefit is the information is all held on google's servers so it is all automatically backed up.

8.  Spotify : Who doesn't love music?  I know I do.  In the prior post I mentioned media monkey.  It's still good, but it doesn't do this.  Spotify will let you play nearly any music you like with ad's in between so many tracks to pay for it.  You don't get to 'keep' the music, but you don't need to.  if it's on I-tunes, it's on Spotify.  If you want to listen to the music on portable devices, that's a different story, but on your PC at work, it's perfect.  A close runner up for this is the website PANDORA which will create themed radio stations based on your interests.  Spotify will also do this but is an app that sits on your PC.

7. RockMelt : If you are a big fan of Facebook, you probably spend a lot of time on it.  You keep coming back to update statuses and play games etc.  I know.  I do it too.  Well, RockMelt is a browser based on Chrome that integrates your facebooking into your regular web browsing.  it has a lot of other fun features that make it more handy to check on your running interests.  You can also browse with friends which is a whole other handy thing instead of pasting links back and forth.   Give it a try, you might like it.

6.  DropBox : Ok, you have a bunch of files that you have at home.  they are all important to you when you need them.  Gosh if there was some way to make them available on the other computers I get onto that would be swell.  Enter DropBox.  This program will take folders on your computer you designate and co-ordinate them with the same folders on other computers you have drop box on.  So if I'm writing a book in 3 different places I simply save the file to the folder that is assigned to Dropbox and then I don't worry.  Not only is the folder backed up onto the internet, but it is then propagated to the other computers that I have assigned it to.  No more worrying about making things current between two or more computers.  It's easy and VERY handy.

5. Google Voice : So you really like your telephone at home right?  who doesn't.  good ole ma bell.  She was there for us through thick and thin.  Well, enter google Voice.  A way to have a phone number that works just like your telephone.  It's free to get a number and it costs a small fee to get numbers forwarded to that number, but you can get messages and have them transcribed to emails for you as well as not have to worry about pesky bills because like everything else in this list.  It's free.  If nothing else it's nice to be able to have a different disposable phone number that isn't directly attached to you, but that you can still monitor.  It's worth looking into.  It's not necessarily an easy thing to do, but the cost savings are pretty obvious.  One problem is the lack of 911 locality in the voice.  Notable alternatives is magic jack.

4. Keepass : This is a password keeper.  There are online ones that work well but I don't like them for some reason.  Mostly because if my internet is not available there are some things I still need my passwords for.  The nice thing about keepass is that it encrypts your information very strongly and saves it.  If you use it in conjunction with DropBox, you can have your passwords anywhere you have a computer.  A lot of other people like LastPass.  It does a good job for internet passwords as well.

3.  Inkscape : Is a vector based drawing program.  If you are not particularly artistic because your hands don't go in the right places, a vector drawing program might help you a little bit.  It won't give you the artists eye, but it will help you correct mistakes.  It's Open source, which means you can take the code and specialize it and make it your own if you like.  It's full features.  If you aren't an artist, programs like this might at least help you fake it.  (You'll want to look into some basic design tips if you really want to go places)

2.  Procexp : Process explorer allows you to see what programs are running as well as what they are dependent on.  This is not for everyone, mostly just for people that want to find out why some things break when other things run and other techie things.  It's still really handy to tell you what is making your computer slow etc.

1.  Winmerge : Winmerge is a program that will compare two files OR two directories.  I for one have lots of directories that have files that duplicate the files in other directories.  This program helps you spot the differences.  If you are writing something and you want to see where your changes are, this will really help you a lot

Not all the software I think is cool, but it's the software I come back to over and over.  Thanks for reading!