For IT help, go to the Bulldog

I’ve talked about Stewart Lundy, the Renaissance man who is equally adept at continental philosophy and the latest computer technology.  He has set up a business, Bulldog Technology.  If you need help with web design, your blog, your business computer needs, software solutions, or even fixing  your computer, consult with the Bulldog.  Seriously.  He’s good and so are the people he has working with him.   His prices are low.  The quality of his work is high.  Here he tells about his services:

// why we started
Bulldog Technology Solutions was formed to reconcile art and technology. For many, technology is worse than Greek, it is Geek, an obscure dialect known only by obscure technicians who jabber on unintelligibly and never really communicate much of anything. We aren’t going to give you a lot of tech babble. We aren’t going drone on and on about computer parts. We aren’t going to speak “geek” to you. We hope to provide you with dependable service at affordable rates so that you can trust your technology to serve you in the most effective manner possible.

// what makes us different
We promise to be prompt, efficient, and sensitive to your technology needs. We want to make your technology seem effortless. If we design a site for you, we want it to look good and to look easy. We will work to give you the most intuitive presentation possible so that you can use your technology better than ever before.

Price is the most obvious difference between us and our competitors. We charge less for superior service, more personable people, and more consistent care. We want you to get the most out of your technology. We want your technology to be secure, stable, and solid. For this reason, we offer maintenance services, security updates, and diagnostics. We want your computer to run faster, longer, and better than before.

// so what now?
Give us the opportunity to help optimize your technology. If you need diagnostics, repairs, or optimization, we offer the lowest prices you will find. We are the best computer company you could hire. We only have one reputation, and we are committed to keeping that reputation what it is: excellent. Your computer’s productivity will be increased after a visit from Bulldog Technology…we guarantee it!

Also the bulldog blog is a good way to keep up with the latest developments in online technology.

I invited Stewart to put an ad in the sidebar here. (He is the one who knows how to do that, not me!) So if you have IT or website needs, contact him. He has just gotten married and I figure he could use the work.

Color photos of Tsarist Russia

A Russian photographer used a complicated method to create color photographs way back before the Communist revolution.  The photos of Russia under the Tsar, dating from 1909-1912, are quite stunning, reminding us that history consists of real people, just like us.  See Russia in color, a century ago – The Big Picture – Boston.com.

 

The decline of telephone conversations

Despite the cell phone revolution, people are talking on the telephone less and less.  The phones are increasingly being used for texting and for their other functions instead of calling people in real time and talking to them.  This is true of the younger generations especially, leading to conflicts with their parents and grandparents who complain that “you never call.”  So says this article:

A generation of e-mailing, followed by an explosion in texting, has pushed the telephone conversation into serious decline, creating new tensions between baby boomers and millennials — those in their teens, 20s and early 30s.

Nearly all age groups are spending less time talking on the phone; boomers in their mid-50s and early 60s are the only ones still yakking as they did when Ma Bell was America’s communications queen. But the fall of the call is driven by 18- to 34-year-olds, whose average monthly voice minutes have plunged from about 1,200 to 900 in the past two years, according to research by Nielsen. Texting among 18- to 24-year-olds has more than doubled in the same period, from an average of 600 messages a month two years ago to more than 1,400 texts a month, according to Nielsen.

Young people say they avoid voice calls because the immediacy of a phone call strips them of the control that they have over the arguably less-intimate pleasures of texting, e-mailing, Facebooking or tweeting. They even complain that phone calls are by their nature impolite, more of an interruption than the blip of an arriving text.

Kevin Loker, 20, a rising junior at George Mason University, said he and his school friends rarely just call someone, for fear of being seen as rude or intrusive. First, they text to make an appointment to talk. “They’ll write, ‘Can I call you at such-and-such time?’ ” said Loker, executive editor of Connect2Mason.com, a student media site. “People want to be polite. I feel like, in general, people my age are not as quick on their feet to just talk on the phone.”

The bias against unexpected phone calls stems in good part from the way texting and e-mail have conditioned young people to be cautious about how they communicate when they are not face to face, experts say.

Deborah Tannen, a linguistics professor at Georgetown University who studies how people converse in everyday life, said older generations misinterpret the way younger people use their cellphones. “One student told me that it takes her days to call her parents back and the parents thought she was intentionally putting them off,” she said. “But the parents didn’t get it. It’s the medium. With e-mails, you’re at the computer, writing a paper. With phone calls, it’s a dedicated block of time.”

via Texting generation doesn’t share boomers’ taste for talk.

I am not young, but my sensibility agrees with that.  I don’t like to talk on the telephone.  It seems like an imposition on people who are not expecting my call.  I usually don’t mind it when people call me–that is, members of my family or job-related folks–but calls from people I don’t know really can be significant interruptions of a usually busy day.  I much prefer communicating via e-mail.  (To prove that I am not young but old, I haven’t picked up the habit of texting.)  Are any of you the same way?

Watching television

I am not what you would call an early adopter. Our one-and-half year old granddaughter was poking the buttons on our television set and somehow she broke the thing! The screen would light up, showing no picture, and then fade to black. Since that set dated from about the time when her mother was her age, we decided to buy a new one. I find that you can’t just get one with a cathode-ray tube anymore, so we ended up with a high-definition TV. I’m marveling. We are literally watching TV. Not watching programs, just watching our television set, surfing around for striking visual images. I realize that most of the rest of you have already had that experience with HDTV and now take it for granted, and I realize that some of you are standing tall against the baleful influence of this device. I salute that. But I am enjoying the stunning clarity and beauty of these pictures.

Predicting the future by projecting the present

That post about the Post Office contained an intriguing concept.  It accuses the USPS of acting like Kodak, which hung onto its chemical film business even after the digital camera was invented.  The syndrome is “looking at the future as a variant of the present.”

This is how most predictions of the future are made.  Take a current fact or trend and project it into the future and extrapolate it into infinity.  I think of the “Tomorrowland” features on the old Walt Disney show that I used to watch as a kid, predicting what life would be like in the year 2000.  Air transportation really had taken off in the early 1960’s, so we would have individual jet packs to fly around with by the year 2000.  Food technology–nutritional analysis, manufacturing, packaging–was exciting at the time, so by the year 2000 we could get our nutrition from pills and squeeze tubes.

None of these came true, of course.  The predictions ignored what is unchanging in human nature (our desire for safety and security; our love of eating) and they basically just were commentaries on their own, now dated, times.  Disney, of course, could not have predicted what computers would actually be used for (not housekeeping or as personal butlers, in that age when people were impressed with new housekeeping technology such as toasters and vaccuum cleaners), much less the invention of the internet.

I see this projection of the present into the future in political analysis, demographic studies, public policies , and cultural studies (such as those that predict where the church will be in the next decades).  Can you give examples?

End mail delivery?

The U.S. Postal Service is having financial problems again and is proposing higher postage feeds and cutting out Saturday deliveries.  What, though, do you get in your mail these days?  In an age of e-mails and electronic banking, do we even need snail mail anymore?  Yes, we need delivery of packages for what we order online–something done profitably by Fed-Ex and UPS–so why not make that the business of the USPS, with those who still send paper correspondence paying for them as little packages?  Or why not let the government-subsidized post offices go out of business and let the private companies do it all?  Here is a proposal and rationale:

The Postal Service projects deficits of $238 billion — roughly the current gross domestic product of Portugal — through 2020. Raising rates slightly and reducing delivery would make tiny dents — and that’s the best possible outcome; in the worst, the changes would accelerate the service’s problems. Meanwhile, the debate obscures the fact that digital communications are fast eliminating the need for mail delivery.

To understand what could happen to the Postal Service, look at Kodak, whose 130-year history includes the kind of dominance that USPS long enjoyed. Even as the long-term threat from digital photography became clear in the 1990s, Kodak temporized. It tinkered with its traditional film, paper and chemicals businesses, never acknowledging that digital would all but eliminate them. Kodak continually predicted growth, even as it fell from being one of the most profitable companies in the world to one that’s essentially worthless.

The Postal Service, too, is looking at the future as a variant of the present. USPS, convinced of the long-term need for physical mail delivery, has been relying on increases in volume, according to a Government Accountability Office report published in April. Yet delivery volume for first-class mail fell 22 percent from 1998 through 2007, tumbled an additional 13 percent last year and was down 3 percent in the first half of this year despite heavy mailings from the Census Bureau.

Step one in avoiding Kodak’s fate is for the Postal Service to acknowledge that its future will have almost no connection to the present. Anything that can be conceived of as information will, in time, be sent electronically. The Internet is faster, cheaper and more convenient for the sender and the receiver.

E-mail has already supplanted letters, but that’s just the start. More people will send money via PayPal or other electronic services rather than mail checks. As is increasingly the case, people will download their movies and books, check their bills online, receive information about their investments electronically, and so on.

USPS’s future lies in things that need to be delivered physically: shoes, computers and other objects. On those items, the Internet can’t compete, and USPS has assets that could let it take on UPS and FedEx (which, unencumbered by USPS’s declining business, are in splendid shape; UPS reported Thursday that its second-quarter profit had nearly doubled, to $845 million, from a year earlier).

via Paul B. Carroll and Chunka Mui – How the U.S. Postal Service can save itself.