Category: technology

Physical is Cool Again

I was talking to Tomas this morning, and he was telling me all about the “new” camera he got in Slovavkia. It’s actually an old Russian one from communism, completely manual (no batteries, etc.), and he’s a big fan. (Well, he will be once he gets the camera fixed. He just had his first roll of film developed, and it looks like there’s a hole somewhere inside it that’s letting light in on the pictures. All of his shots have this huge christmas tree-shaped splotch of white in the middle of them. He’s pretty sure he can fix it.)

But what he was really excited about was having actual honest to goodness pictures that he could hold and feel. Or at least, that’s how I’d understood it at first. As we talked more, I realized he took the film in to get developed, and they gave him back the negatives and then digital scans of the negative, so he still doesn’t actually have pictures he can hold in his hand. But he does have something that feels much more real to him.

Of course, when I was on my mission, all I had was a physical camera that took physical pictures, and since then, the trend has always been toward more technology, not less. When digital cameras arrived, it was so exciting that they didn’t need film. That I could take as many pictures as I wanted without having to worry about getting one wrong. I could see the results right away. Phone cameras have only made that more extreme, with people taking multiple shots of just about everything, simply because it’s so easy to delete the ones you don’t want. (Or don’t delete them at all, since digital storage is so cheap.)

Likewise, Daniela got an instant camera for Christmas. (Like a polaroid.) She was also thrilled with the idea of having tangible things instead of just purely digital. That’s right in line with other trends: LPs in music, fancy leather bound books, etc. More and more, it seems like people are acknowledging that yes, they could have something digital, but what they’d really like is something tangible, at least of the things they’re big fans of.

Brandon Sanderson has made a lot of money with this principle, issuing deluxe leather editions of his books 10 years after they’re published. And fans gobble them up. I’m surprised more authors aren’t doing it. Scratch that. I just googled it, and they are. I just hadn’t paid any attention to it. If people really love something, they want to show that love in a way that lasts.

In a way, this is nothing new. How many people would buy t-shirts at concerts or musicals or events, to prove they were there? To have something physical they could wear and show to others as a way of declaring what sort of a person they are. What music they like. Sure, you can like a page on Facebook, but who actually looks at those?

It’s interesting that for years, the assumption seemed to be people would keep moving toward digital, until all physical things were gone. Now, in a time when AI can begin to approximate many of the same things that humans could make, it makes sense that there will be a continued focus on the artists behind the art. On going to concerts. On interacting with them online. Taking actual pictures. Buying prints.

I do wonder if the disposable nature of many things will continue to decrease. Will we get to a point where most paperbacks just aren’t published, because people either want the deluxe leather versions of the books they love, or just the digital version so they can read it? Actually, I doubt it, simply because not everyone can afford deluxe leather versions. People will want a way to show what they’ve read. To connect with it in a way digital ones and zeroes can’t.

Food for thought . . .

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this DON’T GO TO SLEEP Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Facebook and Me

I’ll be honest: I’m getting very close to just giving up on Facebook. Cory Doctorow had a great essay the other day about how websites go from being useful to abusive to dead (a process he termed “enshittification,” which is pretty accurate, if crude). It’s worth reading the whole thing, but in a nutshell, he describes how first websites focus on providing as useful of a service for as cheap as possible. The site needs to set itself apart from everything else out there, and so it focuses on attracting users.

Once it has those users, it monetizes them in order to attract investors, because sites ultimately want to make money. Once it has enough investors, market share, and advertisers, then it shifts to getting as much money out of them that it can. Raises advertising rates and sales fees. This continues to the point that everything falls apart, because there comes a time when people aren’t willing to keep doing business with them.

That’s where Facebook is with me right now. I’ve held on for much longer than many of my friends, mainly because I used FB as a vehicle for posting my blog, and because I enjoyed seeing updates from my remaining FB friends. It’s also still useful as a place to organize groups and events. But even that is becoming less and less helpful.

Facebook just doing what it used to do. I have no real control over what I see in my feed, and it’s getting dominated more and more by ads and promoted posts. Likewise, FB is showing my posts to my friends less and less. I don’t get updates about events or group postings unless people are paying for those to appear in my feed. It doesn’t help that so many people left because they were sick of what FB was doing to their relationships, and how toxic much of it was becoming.

The only thing keeping me around right now is that I’m not sure where else I’d go. It’s a real shame, because the thought behind the original Facebook was a good one, and honestly, it’s one I would consider paying for out of pocket, so that I could stop being the product and instead just be the customer. Then again, I don’t know how many other people would be willing to pay $5/month to get just the updates from their friends that they want. A social network only works if there are enough people on it to make it social.

Really, I’m not looking to meet friends online. I’ve got friends in life. I want to keep in contact with them, and FB was a good tool to do that. It’s becoming increasingly clear that it won’t always be.

Ironically, I’d love to have other people’s input on this, but most of the people who read this read it on FB, so it turns into an echo chamber. How can I find out what other people do to keep in touch with folks if I can’t get their attention to ask? But it’s still worth a stab.

Why are you still using Facebook? What else are you using instead of it? Is it a place that does more than videos and/or pictures? I’m a big fan of the written word . . .

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this DON’T GO TO SLEEP Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

(One) Problem with Artificial Intelligence and Writing

Back in October, I wrote a post about how artificial intelligence has started to be used for art. Paintings. Writing. And at the time, I really only thought of it from that stance. Would AI ever be used to write books? Could it ever write a good book? I was doubtful about that, though I recognized it might be an issue in the future.

However, I failed to think about it from the angle of writing web pages on a massive scale. And that’s actually a real problem.

People make money off websites by ad sales. The more views a site gets, the more money the site makes. The more pages a site has, the more views that site will garnish, plain and simple. And so if you want to make money, you’re incentivized to have as many pages as possible. But what if you can automate the process? Set up an AI to write pages about anything and then post them online? Suddenly, you can churn through thousands of pages a day, and (theoretically) you can start making all the money.

If one person does this, that’s quite annoying. Someone just spewing poorly written articles into the ether. But if many people do this? That becomes seriously problematic. Remember when telemarketers were just a general annoyance? Think of how many spam calls you started to get as soon as those telemarketers could be replaced with robots? Think of how much spam you get in your inbox, since people can program computers to just send the same message out to countless people?

The internet is already glutted with information, much of it of questionable quality. That’s the result of lots of people writing lots of pages over the years. Now, if one person can tell a machine to write 1,000 articles a day, that’s 365,000 pages a year.

Our current search infrastructure isn’t set up to handle that kind of flood. Already, as I’ve searched for articles about simple things (how to do something in illustrator, for example), and I’ve been taken to pages that made me wonder if they’d been generated by AI. It’s already hard enough to find good information. It will be much more difficult with so much chaff out there.

What’s the solution? I’m not sure, but my gut says we’ll start seeing a swing away from using search engines as much, with people instead going to a few trusted sites they use for different topics. This is also problematic, since it will put more power into the hands of a few companies, who can then go on to abuse that power as they see fit, since the path for smaller companies or writers to challenge those behemoths will be more and more uphill.

Anyway. Food for thought. Have you already come across an article you think was done by AI? Do you think you will? I haven’t really talked to many people about this idea, and I’m interested to see if other people have different takes.

Thanks for reading!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this DON’T GO TO SLEEP Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

3D Printing: Commonplace?

Now that I’ve been working with 3D printing for as long as I have (and seen what Tomas was able to get done with it before he left), I’m getting to the point that it’s becoming more difficult to impress me with different makes. I was at a meeting the other day where an item was presented that had been 3D printed, and I’d actually just been looking at that item on Thingiverse a few weeks earlier. True, it takes some knowhow to calibrate a 3D printer and to arrange things so that the prints are clean, but more and more, it’s to the point that 3D printing something is about as difficult as laser printing something. I commented to a friend that no one congratulates me when I print off an agenda from online, but that’s typically more complicated than printing something 3D. I wrote the agenda myself, after all.

That said, if you’re out there making your own 3D models, then I am still more than a little impressed.

By making this observation, I’m not meaning to put down the people who continue to be wowed by the technology involved in makerspaces. If you’ve never seen what they can do, or (better yet) used one yourself, then printing off a file can seem like a creative, involved endeavor. It’s just that I feel sheepish when people are impressed with something that basic. As if I’m taking credit for something difficult that wasn’t hard at all.

The same thing happens for me when I help people with computer issues. They’ll be struggling with something for a long time, and then I step in and get it done with a few key clicks. On the one hand, I’m happy I could help them out. On the other, I feel bad that they spent so long trying to get something done that should have only taken a minute or two.

Not that I’m immune from the phenomenon. After all. I regularly take my car in for routine things like oil changes, and I happily pay them good money to do something that I know (in theory) isn’t that hard to do myself. A good YouTube video would probably show me everything I need to do. But I’ve never done it, and so it continues to be something I don’t really understand.

When 3D printing first came out, I wasn’t sure if it was something that would ever be anything more than a gimmick. Now, I view it as something that will inevitably become as commonplace as laser printers. Things like basic tools and components will be easier and easier to come by. If you need a part to fix something in your house, chances are you’ll be able to get it without any shipping involved.

The more people can get accustomed to what’s out there, the better for them. It’s not magic, and it’s not even very difficult. But I can see why it may seem that way. The sooner we can get people to understand it, the better.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this DON’T GO TO SLEEP Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Upgrading to 4k

I’ve had my projector for around . . . five years now? Something like that. And I’ve been very happy with it. I remember when I first switched from standard definition to HD. It felt like I’d been seeing the world through blurry glasses all this time, and suddenly I’d gotten my prescription fixed. Since then, film and TV have continued to evolve, with offerings now that are 4k or even 8k in definition. (For a full explanation of the different definitions, see here.)

I’d held off upgrading for a number of reasons. First, it would be a real pain in the rear to do. My A/V receiver only did up to regular HD, so I’d have to swap that out, and that’s a lot of wires you have to futz around with. Second, I wanted to wait until I could upgrade one last time and then not worry about it anymore. While TV resolutions might keep increasing, the human eye’s ability to tell the difference does not. With a 105″ screen, as long as you’re sitting closer than 14 feet to it, you can see a difference between HD and 4k. To see the difference between 4k and 8k, you’d have to sit around 3 feet away. That ain’t happening, so there’s no practical need for me to get any higher resolutions.

Also, I didn’t have a 4k projector. I wanted to switch to a laser projector, because those are brighter and don’t need the bulbs switched out. And as long as I was doing that, I wanted to upgrade the sound in the room to the latest surround platform, which is Atmos. (With Atmos, you install speakers in the ceiling, so sound isn’t just coming from around you, it’s coming from above as well.) Again, I doubt I will need more speakers than that for my space. Any more speakers, and it’ll be more speaker than walls.

But upgrading all of that is expensive, and so that was another thing holding me up. I’d done the research, and I knew what I wanted to buy, but I was going to wait until I had the funds.

Then the royalty check for The Perfect Place to Die came in, and suddenly I had the funds I needed to make the change. I decided that would be an excellent way to celebrate the success of the book, so I pulled the trigger and have spent the last week swapping out most things in my movie room. A new A/V box, brand new speaker wire, four new surround speakers, two ceiling speakers (yet to be installed. I have to cut into the ceiling . . .), and a new projector.

Can you tell a difference? Definitely. The picture is crazy sharp. Daniela described it as feeling as if the people were literally in the same room with you. We watched the climax of Avengers Endgame, and it just looked incredible. I’ve watched some World Cup in 4k as well, and you can see pretty much everything.

So now I’m selling my old stuff and no longer worrying about upgrading anything again. Would I recommend 4k and Atmos to everyone? Probably not. For one thing, you have to have a big screen and be sitting not too far away for you to really tell the difference. (You can read all about that here.) Just because a TV can be a certain resolution doesn’t mean you’ll notice. For another, it’s quite tricky to set a system like this up on your own. You need to really want to do it, and do a lot of research to find just what you want. (On the plus side, I’ve spent this time rewiring me room so that most of the cables on the walls are hardly noticeable.) So in the end you have to balance between how hard it is to do it versus what you’ll get out of it.

But personally? I’m very happy with the result, and I’m happy to answer any questions you might have about it.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this DON’T GO TO SLEEP Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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