Who needs the Internet?

Fact: Everyone who is reading this is on or has been on the Internet. But those of us wearing reading glasses on to see this should remember a few decades ago, when it never existed. Those were the days of typewriters and carbon paper, cursive writing, and real signatures on things we called letters. For me, I can’t even recall the last time I wrote a letter by hand and mailed it to someone.

The Internet has made our world smaller by connecting people and countries near and far, allowing us to obtain just about anything we need with the simple click of a a mouse. I think it’s one of man’s greatest inventions, but like so many of the drugs we’ve marketed to the masses, have we become addicted to the technology?

Try imagining one day in your life without the Internet. I don’t have to, our router crashed last week while we were streaming a television show. You know, the thing we do now instead of watching programs that have been broadcast over airwaves and sent through cables connected to our homes. For the next couple days it was if someone had cut off my hands and I couldn’t accomplish anything.

The experience made me appreciate my mother-in-law’s predicament, she has no idea how to use a computer and has difficulty using her mobile phone. And because of that she is constantly challenged by our technologically advanced world. She has to physically attend her bank, stare hopelessly at the GPS on her car’s dashboard, and fight with people on the phone who want her to go online to speak with them.

In my case, I couldn’t research my router problem because I couldn’t get online. We had to use Cathryn’s phone data (Internet) to find the phone number for the electronics store because there are no more phone books. And because of our current pandemic, there is nobody available at the store to talk to you. So, after driving to Chatham to get a router that was available here in Windsor, the simple instructions that came with it required me to connect via the Internet.

That time off line made me feel like I was sitting in the dark after a power outage. I couldn’t watch TV, check my mail, social media sites, or do any research for my writing projects. We couldn’t even talk to Alexa. And if Cathryn needed a recipe she had to dig through old magazines and cook books that are buried in the basement. So, are we addicted to the internet or just dependent upon it?

I know the answer, but you won’t be able to respond to my question unless…

Extended Warranties Yes or No?

Cathryn and I were on a tour of the canals off the Intracoastal waterway in Fort Lauderdale a few years ago, ogling mansions of the rich and shameless, when the guide pointed to the biggest shack on the block. Guess who owns that? he said. The guy who invented the extended warranty.

So, now you know where all that money goes when you never make a claim on the extra cash you pay for anything from a USB cable at The Source, to your new refrigerator. If you’re a wise soul like I think I am, you look at the clerk like he’s got two heads and ask what can go wrong with a simple cable.

But when I buy appliances I think about what moving parts they contain and the chances of something going wrong with them over their lifespan. Common sense, wouldn’t you agree?

The problem these days is that electronics have creeped into everything we own now, from alarm clocks to the cars we drive. And circuit boards run all the fancy do-dads that we like to have. I think you know where I’m going with this, especially if you’ve already fallen victim.

Shit ain’t made to last these days. Cases in point – my brother’s three and a half year old washing machine, and our three and a half year old smart TV, both of which were no longer under warranty. Should we have purchased the extended warranty? I can’t speak for my brother, but I thought, what can go wrong with a brand new television?

So, to skip the whining and complaining part, we decided it wasn’t worthwhile to spend $350 to fix our ‘old’ TV when we could get a ‘newer and better’ one for about a hundred bucks more. Hence the extended warranty dilemma. Add another $150 to the price tag for the four year warranty, guaranteeing a new TV if ours fails. (And btw, you should know extended warranty prices are negotiable)

The bottom line here, my friends, is that almost everything manufactured these days is disposable and not worth fixing. You simply budget and plan on replacing it within five years. And if you’re lucky, and have purchased the extended warranty, you can replace it even sooner at no cost.

Food for thought, ain’t it?

Ed’s Weekly Rant- Navigation – Paper Map or Electronic Device

a user is setting the gps on his carCall me old and stupid because I’m a map guy, but has anyone else every put their trust in a GPS while driving and ended up in a parking lot or dead end street? Maybe I wasn’t listening and should pick a better voice, one that says, “turn now you big dummy.” I’m sorry, but these devices are not foolproof and I know I’m not the only person who’s been led astray by one.

My first experience of trusting a GPS was on a boys bike trip where I was the old map guy and the three younger dudes all had fancy electronic gadgets that were supposed to take us to our cabin in the Smokey Mountains. When my buddy’s GPS said we’d arrived at our location I laughed out loud. There wasn’t a cabin, house, mailbox, or anything inhabitable in sight.

Cathryn and I relied on our GPS, a road atlas, and a guidebook on our recent cross-country trip on Route 66. Although not perfect, the book was the most reliable resource. I’m ranting on this topic because of Cathryn’s niece who recently told us paper maps are completely useless. This is from a Millennial who relies on Google to find the nearest shopping mall in the city.

Navigation systems are now built right into our vehicles and are supposed to be safer and more convenient – no more distracted driving or wire plugs hanging from your rear view mirror. But what about those fancy displays that tell you everything except what you ate for lunch?

The display on my dash likes to change when it feels like it and I constantly have to take my eyes off the road to get the proper screen back up. Same with the read-out for my odometer and speedometer, fluid levels and tire pressures that change with the weather.

My favorite is when my display goes black with a message that’s it’s unsafe to take your eyes off the road while driving. And how does one clear such a message? By taking their eyes off the road to select the appropriate button. It must have made perfect sense to the idiot engineer who designed it.

Ed’s Weekly Rant -Disposable Electronics

DocumentI’m not one to complain about the amazing advancements in technology that I’ve witnessed in my short lifetime, but at what monetary cost are these wondrous inventions delivered to us? I know I’m not the only baby boomer who’s noticed how disposable our electronic devices and gadgets have become.

Let me start with my personal computer. I’ve recently switched carriers, going for newer and more advanced fiber optic service that promises faster internet speeds than their old style cable competitors. My installation went smoothly but the service technician found my computer was running slow. A speed check on the new line confirmed it was my hardware.

My computer is about 5 or 6 years old (had to replace the previous one cause it was slow) and I added RAM about a year ago to speed things up. Slow response times on the internet was one of the reasons for switching companies. So why, I asked my friendly installer, is my computer continually getting slower. Updates, was his first response – think about your cell phone he said.

I’d already learned long ago not to add all the suggested updates to my phone because it becomes completely locked up and you have to get a new phone. If you think that big companies like Microsoft would never do something like that on purpose, you’d better think again. They need to sell new products to make money so it’s only good business sense to make your devices obsolete because they know you’ll buy new ones.

Just in the last couple years we’ve had to buy new computer components and  replace audio equipment because the old stuff wasn’t compatible to our new smart TV. If it’s so smart why couldn’t if communicate with our other electronics? We had to toss our Blackberry because they’d no longer service it and the Kobo because they don’t make parts for it – so much for buying Canadian.

We also have an old wifi router sitting in the basement, along with an old stereo and DVD player…who uses those anymore? We just stream everything now and ignore the hundreds of DVD’s that I wasted money on. The good news is that I made some good cash selling a bunch of movies to a pawn shop. The bad news is that now I have to buy a new computer so we can enjoy all of our other helpful gadgets that we’ve come to depend on.