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.

An afternoon of cancellation

I wanted to close my business Internet account with Charter/Spectrum, so I took my modem and went to their storefront on the other side of Worcester. There I waited for 15-20 minutes because, although there were plenty of people working, each customer took a long time. Finally, my name is called, and I go to the agent’s station. explain what I want to do, and confirm my account information (with ID).
The agent looks things over on his screen, leaves for a few minutes, and comes back to say that they can’t close a business account here. I have to call a special number, which he writes on a yellow stickie note. I ask if I can turn in my modem. He said no, but I could drop it off at any UPS store.
Puzzled, I left. From my car, I made the call. The automated system asked if I wanted to use voice recognition to speed up the verification for the future. I said ok and then waited.
The call center agent took my information and said, several times, that she was “waiting for the page to populate.” Oh, and did I have my security code. No, I didn’t. I was calling from my car and couldn’t get at any billing statement. She found another way to confirm that I was who I said I was.
After another five minutes, she said that she couldn’t close the account because there was a pending work order. I had had messages about an outage, but didn’t respond because I wasn’t going to be at the place where my business Internet was located and was going to close it anyway. This work order had to be cancelled so that I could close my account. I heard the agent say softly “Customer changed mind,” as she cancelled the work order.
“I’m going back out and try it again,” she said. “This should allow me to move forward with the disconnect.” While waiting, she asked if I wanted their mobile phone service. I didn’t want to ask if I could do that without being a Charter/Spectrum customer because that would prolong and already too long conversation, so I said no.
Finally, the account was closed. She gave me a 20-digit confirmation number and told me to go to any UPS store to drop off my modem.
That 15-minute phone call, after a comparable wait at the store, could have been handled either at the store or by a web transaction. But, in the name of customer service, I guess, they made it a lot harder to do something so very simple.
And, yes, I did drop off the modem at the UPS store. That was easy.

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 – May 2023

Twenty-five years ago this month, Apple introduced the iMac and, with it, changed my mother’s life for her last couple of years. (She lived with us for five years until she passed in 2000.) We bought her a Bondi Blue iMac.

With it, she discovered Amazon. She was a voracious reader and buyer of books. Packages with obscure books showed up at our door.

Google gave her new worlds of  news from folks such as the then-feisty Ariana Huffington as well as websites on psychology, sociology, history, art, and, of course, books.

She planned and paid for her own trip to Bermuda because she could.

Yes, the operating system on that early iMac was unsteady, requiring frequent attention from the in-house IT support. Mac OS X wouldn’t be available until after her death. Nevertheless, it was neither too soon nor too late to hop on that rickety raft of a computer, pretty and bold like her, to find new worlds.


Update; in the past month, there have been several articles about the 25th anniversary of the iMac.

From August 15:

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.