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Tag: Word

The Man Who Lied To His Laptop

Posted by tomwiles at 4:36 PM on September 19, 2010

I just finished listening to the unabridged Audible audio book version of “The Man Who Lied To His Laptop” by Clifford Nass and Corina Yen.

After many years of working as a software interface design consultant, Clifford Nass has developed the theory that human brains cannot completely and fundamentally distinguish the difference between interacting with people and interacting with devices. This book details nearly 30 experiments Nass has performed that back up this revolutionary theory.

Remember “Clippy” from Microsoft Word? Chances are, the mere mention of the dreaded Microsoft Office animated paperclip brings up wildly negative feelings. Clippy’s main flaw was that he couldn’t learn and kept badgering Office users over and over for carrying out repetitive tasks that were not mistakes. Even though users “knew” that Clippy was just an animated character, part of their brain actually related to Clippy as a real, despicable character that lived in their computers.

Similarly, BMW had a big problem with male German car owners complaining loudly about the integrated BMW GPS units. It turns out that German men objected over and over again to BMW’s help line that the BMW GPS units came equipped with a female voice, and that just wouldn’t do, because it just wasn’t “right” to take driving directions from a female voice. “Knowing” that mostly male engineers had developed it wasn’t enough to eliminate the problem.

The book is filled with some rather amazing results of experiments that indicate just how suggestible the average person really is. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Does The Cloud Have A Dark Side?

Posted by tomwiles at 2:41 PM on July 25, 2010

Does The Cloud Have A Dark Side?For some time we’ve been hearing about the virtues of cloud-based computing.

Certain functions seem to lend themselves to the cloud. Online word processing, spreadsheets, etc. can seem to make sense in some situations, such as collaborating with others.

In everyday use scenarios, does the cloud really make sense in more traditional private computer-use situations? I contend that it does not.

Right now I’m typing this into Microsoft Word on my MacBook Pro. At the moment I have rather lousy Sprint and Verizon connectivity, even though 12 hours ago at this very same location I had really good connectivity from both. The only thing that changed is the time of day. If I was currently limited to using Google Docs chances are I would be unable to write this. Network demand constantly fluctuates depending on the time of day and location.

Is there enough bandwidth available? With the tsunami of smartphones that are on the immediate horizon, will the carriers be able to keep up with the average five-fold bandwidth demand increase that the average smartphone user pulls from the network? Can carriers keep up with a smartphone-saturated public all trying to pull down data at the same time?

However, for the sake of argument let’s say that mobile Internet connectivity isn’t an issue.

What if the Internet is turned off due to a declared cyber attack and all of your documents are online? What good would the network appliance approach to computing be then?

Can e-books be revised after the fact? If government can simply decide to turn off the Internet, then it’s not that much of a leap to imagine laws and regulations being passed banning certain types of blogs or even books that have been deemed dangerous or seditious. There have already been books sold such as “1984” by Amazon that were deleted from Kindles after the fact by Amazon when it was determined that Amazon didn’t have the legal right to sell it in e-book form. What if instead of banning books, they were simply rewritten to remove the offending parts? What’s to stop instant revision of e-books that have been declared dangerous?