WISE Tech Tip – November 2023

Word is 40

I know of no one who says that Microsoft Word is the best word processing product. I have friends who claimed that WordPerfect 5 was and is the best. (My favorite, Interleaf, was made by the company of the same name. The company failed to take personal computers seriously as an emerging market. Both product and company were left on the side of the road in the late 90s.)

Word is the thing that nearly everyone uses, and few people love, the product so deeply associated with Microsoft and yet wasn’t even first released on Windows. In

October 1983, Microsoft released a big floppy disk containing its word processing software for installation on the Xenix operating system, a version of the UNIX operating system that ran on personal computers, and on MS-DOS. Microsoft brought Word to Apple’s Macintosh computers. The Word for Windows didn’t reach the market until 1989.

Two score years later, nearly one billion people use Word each day. We can only imagine the number of illegally obtained copies of Word in use.

Word has helped to make English a global language. Further, its automatic correction features have degraded our spelling and language skills. We don’t see and learn from our spelling mistakes or our mismatched subjects and verbs. Word takes care of it so we don”t have to. Plato complained that writing would degrade our memories. Imagine his screams if he learned what has happened

Today I Learned (TIL)

  • An unknown Babylonian discovered Pythagoras’s Theorem 1000 years before Pythagoras. While Pythagoras can be credited with being the world’s first known mathematician, proclaiming that “Numbers rule the universe,” new archeological findings show the way that Babylonians divided land equally.
  • Roxbury Russet https://search.nal.usda.gov/permalink/01NAL_INST/178fopj/alma9916346259007426Your government at work. First of all, did you know that there is a federal apple division? In 1887, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Division of Pomology commissioned paintings of the known apples and other fruits. The project continued until 1942. You can explore the more than 7500 watercolors on the USDA website. FWIW, my favorite apple is the Roxbury Russet.

WISE Tech Tip – October 2023

Here we go again

It’s common sense that social media apps, and their persistent use, is messing up the young people. We need only look at the news reports of TikTok mayhem as well as the report from the Surgeon General about Social Media and Youth Mental Health.

The report cites a study that shows that youth who have spent more than 3 hours per day on social media have a doubled risk of poor mental health. Well, as we’ve known for quite a while, correlation does not equal causation. The study didn’t say that high social media use caused poor mental health, only that the behavior is a risk factor. The study’s authors concluded, “This study suggests that increased time spent on social media may be a risk factor for internalizing problems in adolescents.” Those hand-waving verbs, “suggest” and “may,” are a pretty good indicator that there’s a lot that we don’t know.

So, we know that we don’t know. Let’s leave it at that.

Today I Learned (TIL)

  • https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/488077678351145340/I took three years of Latin in high school. Although I did pick up a few things that have helped me, mostly what I remember are semper ube sub ube and Quid, me anxius? When started work in publishing, I learned about Lorem ipsum, the pseudo-Latin filler text that’s used to help designed work on layout of books, websites, and other 
    If the traditional Lorem ipsum doesn’t excite you, you can Choose your ipsum. For example, you can fetch a shot of caffeinated text from Coffee Ipsum :
    Decaffeinated, mazagran, blue mountain galão robusta fair trade foam a dark. Con panna galão cortado, caffeine cup strong redeye ristretto aroma medium caffeine. Redeye crema cup bar , cultivar aromatic, at, caffeine ristretto froth at affogato.Café au lait coffee, java aftertaste aroma galão robust beans. In viennese café au lait, aged trifecta extraction latte shop. Grinder a, white viennese macchiato sweet qui dark.
  • In the mid-1930s, my father bought an acre of land on the shore of Queen Lake in Phillipston. The property was one of several parcels in the cove that had been used by a man as a woodlot for his furniture manufacturing business in a neighboring town. The factory owner was sick and needed money for his medical treatments. (The owner died in 1942.) 
    Today I learned that the trees cut from this type of forest became lumber,  but the Brits would have called it timber. Across the pond, lumber is old furniture that you’d find in the attic. You can read about this and and a whole bushel of corn more on  The Early Days of American English
  • A few years ago, we read about a German artist who, annoyed at the traffic going through his area of the city, filled a wagon with iPhones, turned on Google Maps, and crossed a bridge to fake a traffic jam. In this one small act of rebellion, this person tried to thwart a growing problem: navigation apps are now in charge of traffic. The issue is one of “selfish routing.” What’s good for me is good for me and to heck with the neighborhoods through which I travel. 
    It might be, however, a self-limiting problem if, as happened in this case, drivers follow Google Maps right off the bridge. Also, if you’re waiting for your takeout order, you might want to check on the location of your driver: DoorDash driver follows GPS all the way to water in Middleton.
  • The U.S. government is funding research for intelligent fabrics. The name of the program is, wait for it …, SMART ePANTS. Nuff said.

WISE Tech Tip – April 2023

Karl Hakkarainen

As many of you know, I carry a pocketful of pens. Even though the ratings for best pens doesn’t include them, I prefer a Cross pen and pencil along with Pilot Razor pens in red (for editing) and black (for writing boldly). This kid, however, has us all beat, writing his notes with a quill pen.

This certainly didn’t age well

The iPhone is certain to fade into history as another cool Apple innovation, that others soon rushed competitive, like-products to market, blowing away any significant lead Apple might have.

From Apple iPhone Doomed To Failure, Network World January 11, 2008

Today I Learned (TIL)

  • There is a USPS facility in Utah where the work consists solely of deciphering handwriting.
  • The first U.S. president to be arrested had another distinct. Ulysses S. Grant had a condition called congenital amusia. People with this condition cannot recognize music as music; they hear only cacophonous noise.
  • Nearly two decades before Jackie Brenston and Ike Turner recorded “Rocket 88,” the Boswell Sisters sang “Rock and Roll.”
  • The Neutral Confederacy  was a union of Iroquoian nations in Canada. They were called “Attiwandaronk,” meaning “they are those whose language is awry” or, as authors David Graeber and  David Wengrow described them in The Dawn of Everything, “those whose speech is not quite right.
  • We know that lifelong learning is integral to what we offer in WISE. A researched at the University of California, Riverside, has also shown that older adults may achieve same cognition as undergrads. Let us keep on learning.

Creating memorable passwords

Just about every website requires a username and password if you want to do anything useful. Shopping online, using a web-based email service, participating in social networking: all require a username, such as your email address, and password.
There are too many to remember without writing them down, so we use the same password on multiple sites. That’s where the trouble begins.
The majors sites, banks, Facebook, Yahoo, Amazon, and Google, have solid security and account break-ins are rare. Smaller sites, however, may not do so well. For example, you’ve used
the same email and password for your account on Fubarbco.com and on Amazon.com. Someone breaks into Fubarbco. Using the email and password information they found on Fubarbco,they’ll attempt to log in to Amazon. Bingo.
Using standard password cracking tools, a password such as Aa123.yz will take five days to break. That’s pretty good.
So, here’s a way to create a password that you can remember, but that is impossible to guess and difficult to crack.
Put a punctuation mark and four or more numbers in the middle of the site’s name. You can use the same mark and set of number. That’s the only part that you need to remember.
For example, for Amazon, you do something like this:
2120 is the street address on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, the former home of the Chess Records.
According to How Secure Is My Password http://howsecureismypassword.net, it will take about four thousand years to crack the password. You can then use Goo&2120gle for your Google account and so on.
Your password for Facebook would then be:
Use some number that is meaningful to you – a date such as 102704 or the ZIP code of Graceland, 38116 – but which is not readily associated with you, such as your birth year or ZIP code..
It doesn’t matter much where you insert the punctuation and numbers.
I should note that many people use LastPass http://lastpass.com, KeePass http://keepass.info, or other account storage services. They like them. I don’t. Your mileage may vary.
The primary goal in security – at home or online – is to make the intruder take more time and thus increase the likelihood that you can detect the intrusion.

The Past and the Present of the Future of the News Business

For the past few years, I’ve been leading classes as a part of the W.I.SE. program at Assumption College. Last week we had a fun final class in class on the future of the news business. Mike Benedetti and Tracy Novick talked about the local news scene, how they get and share their news and the work that results from their knowledge of the news.
We talked about politics, education, the quantitative and qualitative differences between content on paper and content on screens of various sizes. Mike brought several issues of Happiness Pony to show how what happens when you need to fit disparate ideas into a confined space.
And then we became an episode of 508: A Show About Worcester.

The class was scheduled to run for five sessions. Snow took out two and we were able to reschedule one. For those of you who need the help of your second-grader on word math problems, it means that we were one class short.
This morning, the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism released its 2013 report on the state of the media. Their findings matched closely what we were seeing in class:

  • Newsroom cutbacks are affecting the quality of the product and consumers are noticing. 
  • Digital access is accelerating. 
  • Newspaper circulation is holding steady, but ad revenue is plummeting. (The Phoenix closed last week because it couldn’t attracting national advertisers.)
    The situation becomes complex and problematic as sponsored-content, material developed and delivered by companies trying to sell something, becomes indistinguishable from independent stories. 
  • People are using social media and other social contact to learn about news events. 
Students of the news will have plenty to ponder outside the classroom. All we need now is Neon Newsboy.
Via Paleofuture: The Newspaper of Tomorrow: 11 Predictions from Yesteryear