Tag Archives: smartphones

#Whatsapp – oh, so that’s what it is!

meeka-thinksWhat a difference a name makes. Believe it or not, until today, I really didn’t know what Whatsapp was.

So for all those other dinosaurs out there, here’s my definition of Whatsapp and messaging in general:

It’s instant messaging, but for your phone!

-blush- I know, I know. I feel so dumb, don’t rub it in… But you see, all the hype made me think messaging was something new. It’s not. IM, or instant messaging has been around on the computer for a very long time.

“But what is it?” you say.

On the computer, instant messaging is like making a phone call with your eyes instead of your ears. You and the person you are ‘talking’ to are connected in real time, and you type messages back and forth, also in real time. So you are having an ‘instant’ conversation using text instead of voice.

Compare this to email which is like sending a letter that the recipient receives instantly, but may not read [or reply] to until some time later.

I can’t remember when I first started using instant messaging, but I know I was using it daily by 2001. I stopped using it daily when I started receiving massive phone bills [I didn’t know that I would be slugged with a massive data surcharge].

Fast forward to the mobile era and ‘lo, smartphones have apps [a sexy word for a program] which can do instant messaging like computers but on the go. Instead of talking to someone on your contact list, or sending them a text [which is like a teeny tiny email that may or may not be read straight away], messaging apps allow smartphone users to text back and forth in real time.

“But why message when you can talk?”

Okay, I’m not completely sure of the answer to this one, but I think it has something to do with cost. Voice calls cost a certain amount of money. SMS text messages also cost money but less than voice calls, so my guess is that messaging costs less again.

The reason I’m so hesitant about the cost is because Australia is very different to the US. I believe that in the US, data [i.e. SMS and messaging etc] is practically unlimited so messaging is a satisfying and cheap alternative to voice calls.

Here in Australia, however, we have to pay for our data. I’m with Virgin Mobile and from memory I have 1.5 GB of free data included [per month]. Any usage above that incurs a cost. As I know how easy it is to use up 1.5 GB of data, I try not to use data at all – hence my lack of knowledge about messaging. And yes, I could upgrade to a better plan, but that would be an added cost on top of the money I already spend getting internet access for the computers in our house.

To be brutally honest, I’d rather play FFXIV and have access to the internet on my computer with its lovely big screen and decent speakers than ‘chat’ with you on my smartphone.

And that is why I didn’t know that Whatsapp is just an instant messaging program – because it’s designed for phones not computers.

So there you have it, a dinosaur’s eye view of Whatsapp.:)

cheers

Meeks

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#Chatbots – and we need them because…?

Okay, all I know about chatbots is what I’ve been reading on Medium lately, and the frustrating experience of ringing my utility company and being forced to answer the STUPID questions of its chatbot.

You know how it goes. You ring and either have to wait forever for the call to be picked up, or the chatbot answers and asks for your account number when all you want is some general information. Grrrr….

So you dig out a utility bill and spit out the account number, knowing full well that if you get through to a real person they will ask you for the number again anyway.

Then the utility company bot asks you to explain the reason for your call. You grit your teeth and try to think of a one or three word description and e.n.u.n.c.i.a.t.e it as clearly as possible while growling in the back of your throat.

What happens next? The chatbot either mishears you, or simply doesn’t have a response for your particular query and asks if you want to speak to a customer service representative…

-face palm-

Do I want to speak to a real, live person? Oh god…

Anyway, if you look at this infographic from Medium, you will see a comparison between a chatbot ‘conversation’ and the same query via a simple Google search:

chatbots vs google

To me, there is no point in carrying on a long, inane Q&A ‘conversation’ with a chatbot when a word or two is all I need to get all the information I need from Papa Google. But am I just being an elitist nerd?

I rather suspect I am. In fact, I rather suspect that most people who regularly use computers are elitist nerds. Why? Because using a computer is actually a lot harder than learning how to use apps on a smartphone. That is why smartphone use has skyrocketed world wide. It is also the reason some pundits believe the days of the desktop [computer] are over. Why pay so much and have to go through such a steep learning curve to do things a smartphone can do so much easier?

There is a part of me that wants to scream that what a smartphone can do is just a fraction of what a ‘proper’ computer can do, but the words barely form before I get a flash of the early 80’s and the emergence of the personal computer. Back then, PCs were much less powerful than mainframes, and I’m sure a lot of old school programmers could not see why everyone couldn’t just learn FORTRAN or something…

So…smartphones may be to the future what PCs were to the past because they are:

  • cheaper,
  • convenient,
  • portable in a real sense,
  • easy to use, and
  • a growth market

But I hope, truly ruly hope that chatbots are just the toddler stage of a technological progression that will end [?] with real voice recognition and real AI support.

Until then, I’ll stick with old school search engines and my antiquated desktop because…I’m an elitist dinosaur with poor eyesight and a pathological hatred of chatbots.

cheers

Meeks


But I like my horse and buggy!

meerkat pic smallI’ve never been a true techie geek, but I did pride myself on being one of the early adopters of personal computers back in the 1980’s. I used to shake my head in dismay at my peers who were bending over backwards to avoid computers. Could they not see computers were the way of the future?

Fast forward to 2015 and the new ‘tech’ is not computers, it’s not even mobile devices like tablets and phones, it’s the apps on those devices. And guess who doesn’t want to have anything to do with those apps? Yup, me.:(

Oh don’t get me wrong, I do have a smart phone, and I do have a tablet, and I use both, but only in small, timid ways. I did work out how to get music on my Kindle Fire, but I don’t listen to it because the speakers on my computer [at home] give me a far better sound experience.

Another thing I don’t use on my tablet is the ability to browse and buy – we don’t have wi-fi at home, and I have yet to work out how to access the so-called ‘hot spots’ outside the home. Instead I do just one thing on my tablet, I read.

My smartphone is even more unloved because I can’t afford to pay for the plans that allow you to download masses of data from the internet. Here in Australia, data is expensive, so basically my monthly download limit is reserved for my bushfire warning app.

[Note! Since upgrading the firmware on my phone from Ice Cream Sandwich to Jelly Bean, the EmergencyAus app works properly.]

I don’t check emails on my phone because all my data would be eaten up by the flood of spam I always get. I don’t ‘read’ on my phone because I’d need a magnifying glass to see what I was reading. I’m not interested in Facebook or Twitter so I’m not going to waste data on social media, and I don’t play ‘games’ because…

Hmm, the real reason I don’t play games is because I don’t really know how to do the whole ‘app’ thing. And that is the part that has me scared. Why am I not embracing this new technology the way the youngies are?

When I was a kid, we used to marvel at my friend’s grandmother – the old lady would always get properly dressed before sitting down in front of the TV. Why? Because she believed the people inside the TV could see her and she wanted to look her best!

Years later, I remember wondering why old people were always so negative about new things, and so unwilling to learn. Well now that I’m becoming one of those old people, I have the answer to my questions: we all learn on a need-to-know basis, and it’s all too easy to decide that we don’t need to know the latest craze sweeping the younger generations.

I know I’ve been guilty of that ‘I don’t need to know’ attitude, but after reading about Meerkat this morning, I’ve recognized the folly of my ways. Frankly, if I don’t embrace all this newfangled stuff, and soon, I’m going to become one of those little old ladies who talks fondly about the horse and buggy, and how much nicer life was ‘back then’.

cheers

Meeks

p.s. What’s that? You haven’t heard of Meerkat? Mwahahahaha! Google it and find out, or click on the cute picture. đŸ˜€


OMG – have you seen the Google ARA?

I have never been a huge fan of smart phones, but this …this excites the hell out of me!

It’s quite a long video clip so I’ll give you a very quick summary of what it’s about. Basically, this is the first launch of a new technology that makes the smartphones of the future completely modular, and completely customizable.

So what? you say. Well, imagine that you are a little old lady of 90 who can’t make head nor tail of all this smartphone technology. But she needs some way of making calls, and her family need some way of ensuring she’s ok. They buy one of these ARA phones and put in just two modules – one for making calls, and one that acts like a current SOS device [i.e. it rings for help if the user falls unconscious etc].

Not a little old lady? No problem. You buy an ARA phone and plug in a camera and some high end modules so you can break dance wherever you are.

Not a break-dancer either? A reader perhaps? Easy. Just plug in the basics you need, then plug in an Amazon module that will allow you to comfortably read your favourite books as you commute.

But these are just the things I can think of that would appeal to users. The true beauty of this new technology is that it will throw the hardware development market wide open to every manufacturer in the world. The consequences of that will change the world as we know it.

In fact, it will be similar to the revolution that modularization brought to computers. Wha’?

Back when personal computers were babies, they were very, very expensive because the technology had not been standardized. These days, you can either buy a generic computer off the shelf – say a Dell or whatever. Or you can buy the modules you want and install them yourself, effectively building your very own computer exactly to your specifications. Or …you could do what I do which is to research which modules you want, and the relative quality of each module, then go to a local computer shop and get them to build your new pc for you.

The point is, making pc hardware modular allowed all sorts of manufacturers into the game, and that level of competition brought the price down to the level we have now. Beyond that, however, the true beauty of this technology is that we have no idea where it will go!

I’m guessing Google ARA will develop hand in hand with 3D printing to completely change the way ordinary people interact with technology. And that, my friends, is the stuff of science fiction. I can’t tell you how happy I am to be alive at this turning point in history.:D

Enjoy!

Meeks


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