Monday, February 18, 2013

Too Many Bits, Bytes and Tech?

At the risk of the GSD blog losing its focus from being a scratch-pad/notebook for my interactions with technology and shifting to a curmudgeon's front yard, I have lately been re-considering the role technology plays in my life.

My “pay me” job is to manage technology at work both for our customers and our organization. Truth-be-told I don’t “create” technology, I just manage the consequences (good and bad) that it offers and brings. Usually that is pretty fun and rewarding when we succeed.

My “don’t pay me” job is to help friends and family understand and cope with the never-ending upward thrust of technology in their lives. What used to be calls of “can I get that family recipe for grandma’s dinner rolls” has become “hey, a new update for Java/Flash/Windows was released, we need to update your PC. By the way, made chili lately?”

When those who know me engage in “hobby talk” I share about a few books I am reading, a few movies/TV shows I follow, volunteer work doings at the church-house, and mostly about relaxing by keeping my eye out for new utilities, applications, and for/sec trends and news.  They usually just nod politely at the last one.

So recently when I read each of these these posts, the experience gave me pause.

I don’t do Netflix. I do buy DVD/BluRay movies and TV series I really, really like.  We do buy digital entertainment media - song/album downloads -- online. I still prefer to buy CD hardcopies but the writing is on the wall as even in the BigBox stores the CD section is shrinking. And that bookcase unit full of VHS tapes (mostly Disney movies) from 20 years ago stands as an accusatory judgment about investment in a technological media-delivery standard.  Sure I “own” all those wonderful movies and the delivery cassettes they come encased in, but cold-comfort when our HiQ-VCR finally dies. Should I (can I legally?) convert them to a digital file? Why bother. The quality will be sub-analog in the HD-standard world. And my time is much more valuable now than the hundreds of hours it would take to do so.

Bin them? EBay them? I don’t know.

How long until those DVD/BluRay’s will be the next VHS tapes in our house? Probably sooner that I care to admit.

Then there is that drawer of audio cassette tapes. Alvis found them a while back and used some of the “blank” cassettes (I hope) for an art-project.


I have a cassette player in my car but it only is used for the cassette adapter for me to play my iPod/iPhone/Shuffle through. That’s it.  Lavie and Alvis’s cars don’t even have one in them; just radio/CD units.

I guess an art-installation is as good as any solution I can come up with for them…probably better.

My personal digital hoarding issue seems to be centered around collecting of Windows utilities; portable ones.

I have a folder I keep these in -- as well as on my USB flash drives -- and currently it is just under 10 GB. Seriously!

Do I really need (or even use) all of them?  Not at all, but then I might need one of them; a specialized digital tool for a specialized task. So I add to the collection, watch for updated versions, etc.

A digital version of the Boy Scout’s mantra of “always prepared” gone amok perhaps.

And now that I have a wonderful, super, life-enhancing iPhone (5) with 64 GB of storage, I find it calling me to dig deep into the App Store looking for additional productivity apps, tools, and what-not to fill it with.

So over the next year I have resolved to:

  • Carefully review that 10 GB collection of utilities to honestly see if I can pare it down to a core set of tools and utilities that will allow me to accomplish what I need to do and support without all the overhead. A journey in coming to trust my skills and knowledge rather than the tools in-of-themselves to provide the solution perhaps?
  • Negotiate the clear-out of VHS tape-based media in the home…if nothing else to get the DVD/BluRay disks off the pile on the floor.
  • Get the hard-copy books I have out of storage and begin to interact with them again; to supplement the Kindles/Nooks in the house….and to make it a point to re-read them with relish. Shakespeare and Homer still are alive and relevant today for good reason. Let’s not forget that.
  • See if I can live with (and thrive) on a few choice quality cable/broadcast/radio media sources rather surf aimlessly through the hundreds I have on hand at my disposal right now.

Technology is part of our lives and a major part of the culture and experience that makes us “human,” but it should never, ever, be a balm and substitute for human “being.”

Lest we forget where having too many bits and bytes and capability can take us:

Moving on…

Claus V.


FF Extension Guru said...

Thing is DVD/CD/Blu-Ray will still be playable in 20-years as long as you can find the equipment (odds are you will). Unlike VHS (which my parents still have a massive collection and 2 working VCRs) and audio tapes, there is not the 'wear and tear' of the media (and the equipment). Kinda the reason vinyl records are still popular.

However, I know what you mean by trying to find CDs at your local store. Even the store that specializes in Music/Movies is not get some of the latest stuff.

So, what to do with those old VHS tapes? Some of it depends on the condition, other may depend on how much time you want to put in. I agree the conversion to DVD may be a bit of 'gray-area' but you are right the quality won't be there. Besides, it would be cheaper just to buy them on DVD. I get a lot of hard to find DVD and CDs via for decent price. Now, back to the VHS tapes...if the conditions are good and you want to invest the time you might be able to make some money off the Disney ones. Otherwise, donate them to a local thrift store. You'd be amazed at how much VHS and VCRs they still sell.

Claus said...

@ guru - thanks for the thoughts on "old-school" media technology. We both might be able to go a bit further back (I remember reel-to-reel audio tapes). I'm not "old" yet but the technology littering our home is starting to call me out.

I will probably cull the VHS collection down to a few choice family favorites (for sentimental reasons) and donate the other "family-friendly" ones to the church garage-sale fundraising efforts. The handful of "R" ones I have will probably just be binned.

--Claus V.