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Life Is Good. What Is there To Rant About?

The Daily Rant is about the trials and tribulations of everyday urban life living in Edmonton, Alberta. We live in modern times where life is a blur so we need to slow things down.

No, I’m not the raving, ranting “Looney Bird by any stretch of the imagination. I’m rather a mild-mannered, sensitive computer geek and family man: I will share my quirky comments, opinions and noisy rants on various subjects on my blog.

My daily commute by bus and train allows me observe life and express my opinions on world news, sports, technology, politics, environment, business etc.

As I vocalize on these topics that pique my interest, I hope you find it engaging and informative. Feel free to leave comments and share some constructive feedback. Thanks for reading!

More about me here.

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Hands off my tablet and laptop

Is the Desktop PC Becoming Irrelevant?

When was the last time you used your desktop PC? The desktop personal computer may becoming obsolete and irrelevant. Millennials grew up on these small form factor mobile devices with little disregard for these “mammoth-sized computers towers of the past. For the average user, they don’t need a powerful CPU, lots of RAM to perform basic computer tasks. Let’s face it: traditional computer sales have declined and the abundance of smaller form factor computer devices have taken its place.  The market is flooded with smart phones, phablets,

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Except for enthusiasts who build and upgrade their own computers, the Desktop Personal Computer has slowly been declining in popularity.

hybrids, tablets, notebooks with various subcategories….it is staggering! We are succumbed to the ease of use, mobility and convenience of them. Are we just turning into passive content consumers?

Down-scaled and re-imagined

Desktop computers, notebooks and workstations have been in noticeable decline in sales for years (lowest since 2007).  Blame it on proliferation of hundreds of smaller form factor devices or the rise in price of computer components. Ugly “cookie-cutter” beige and black “Windoze”computer boxes used to be the norm.  Apple helped revitalize and revolutionize the mass personal computer market with new innovative, sleek, user friendly machines and devices. Nowadays we can find everything from all-in-one devices, tablets, hybrids, netbooks to flash drive- sized Computer Sticks! There will still be a place for PC enthusiasts, gamers and computer servers for enterprises,  but the consumer has lots of choices for colour, style, functionality and size. One of my favourite small form factor computers is the Raspberry Pi 3 which is the size of a deck of cards with very low power consumption. My version runs OpenElec and Kodi media server to act as a central media hub in my living room.

Widespread adoption of Smart Phones

Apple conceived the idea of multi-touch touchscreen mobile phones (launching the iPhone in 2007) with a simple uncomplicated interface and there is no turning back. Smart phones are small computers that conveniently fit into your jean pocket allowing anyone to become an expert. No waiting for a machine to boot-up, the smart phones use a suspended or sleep state to save on power. Unless you work in a niche business or use proprietary business software which involves a lot of CPU and Ram, most productivity apps will work just as well on a smart phone. The popularity of such devices is apparent and has become the social norm.

Losing our “computer smarts”

Are we succumbing to the ease of use and convenience of smart phones and tablets that we are losing our computer smarts? Millennials never had to deal with Windows computer woes i.e. “blue screen of death.” The average user is ignorant and incompetent when it comes to basic computer fundamentals. Behold the magic power of a reboot! Most people can’t bother to learn to use a “full-fledged” operating system on a large desktop computer. I can’t tell you the number of stories about Gen-X, “baby boomers” that barely know how to use a desktop or mobile workstation. Rather then figuring out the intricacies of a operating system, users are resigned use their smartphone instead. Touch keyboards and the multi-touch screen force users to make compromises and change their workflow. Hard to get immersed in work when you got this “handicap” and new learning curve.

Passive content consumer or creative producer?

Can “real work” be done on a Smart device is a good question. Why use a desktop computer when you can just click on your favorite app to surf the internet, read the news on Flipboard, play music, send email or dictate a note in Evernote?  Some people have caveats about creating content and doing “real work” on an iPad or Windows tablet. We can’t really blame them! Manufacturers have bundled more apps on their portable devices to encourage content creators, but they are “watered-down” versions or the workflow becomes tedious.  Some people try to do both, but generally we are becoming lazy, passive and complacent using smart device technology. Passive content consumers can stream movies, TV shows and music and even buy digital copies all from the comfort of their “Lazy Boy”.

Cloud storage as the digital hub

People are no longer relying on their desktop personal computer to be the central digital hub: scanning documents, uploading music to their MP3 player or composing a resume using Microsoft Word. In the last 7 years, cloud-based storage solutions has made some leaps as a digital central hub and has untethered the desktop personal computer. Apple was the first to offer tight integration with an end-to-end solution (ecosystem) for sharing media across their line of consumer products. iCloud performs seamless syncing online allowing the user to work on the same file across any Apple portable device or Mac. Companies like Google and Microsoft have similar cloud-based storage solutions, but they are not nearly as elegant or tightly integrated. Editing and sharing documents anywhere you can access the Internet, has never been easier!

Smart Home Hubs

Home automation using Smart Home Hubs like SmartThings, Wink or future Apple’s HomeKit device could potentially act as central hub in your home. Amazon Echo is a series of a smart home devices that can control things around the house with the help of a computer assistant, named Alexa. Google has their own version too! Some future smart home hubs may also integrate technology called The Internet of Things (IoT), virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). Exciting times indeed. The computer assistant could answer computer queries, play music, close the drapes and even turn on your “Smart Appliance” etc.  Smart Home Hubs seem promising, but they are relatively new and still need to mature. Just a matter of time until there is a standard home automation solution.

Consumers need to adapt to the evolving technology

Unlike the desktop personal computer, the smart phone, tablets and other portable devices continues to thrive and evolve. Unfortunately this “dumbed down” experience with its easy to use interface has made the average user a passive content consumer. Look at the numerous Android and Apple iOS devices on the market. Do we use them for “work” or “play” or somewhere in between?  As smart phones and other portable devices mature and get more sophisticated, users are not as dependent on large desktop PCs to do real work. We need to provide training and education on basic computer fundamentals and for emerging new technologies in the future. This is where the “grey” area or transition is exists…and I believe users want a complete elegant solution to consolidate these new devices and technologies. Whether the home desktop computer will still be a part of the solution remains to be seen.

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Is The Sky Falling?

Remember the phrase uttered by Chicken Little: “the sky is falling?” Seems like the case with the increasing number of disasters due to extreme weather and climate change. In the latest news, tropical storm Harvey wreaked havoc in Houston with flooding and destruction. Red glowing sun above Edmonton is stark reminder that the BC fires are still out of control and burning. As tropical storm Harvey threatens Louisiana and leaves heavy floods across parts of Texas, thousands of people affected by disasters in Asia and Africa as well.

Evacuation and disaster fund

You have to wonder if this could have been avoided. No evacuation order or state of emergency declared for the city of 6.5 million. I can understand an evacuation of that scale would cause further chaos and panic, but some death toll could have been avoided. The governor could have done more. Trump came to rally them back during the aftermath, but have to wonder about his competency and priorities as a leader. House Republicans are looking at cutting almost $1 billion from disaster accounts to help finance the president’s border wall. Ridiculous!

In other world news…

The global media seem to be swayed to cover the tragedy in Texas, but what about other parts of the world? More than 1,200 people have died across India, Bangladesh and Nepal as a result of flooding. The devastating floods have also destroyed or damaged 18,000 schools. I can give you more numbers about this horrific event, but hopefully you get the point.

Who is to blame?

Climate change is to blame for extreme weather disasters. Rising sea levels and emissions of carbon dioxide warming the atmosphere. Not everyone agrees with the theory: Trump would like to you ignore the science and statistics, but hopefully this will open up his eyes. I recall a quote in late 2012: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” You really can’t believe anything he tweets.

Let’s do our part!

Apparently weather extremes is the new normal which is a frightening thought. As Canada suffers its most damaging wildfire in history, Texans are coping with a massive devastation and flooding from tropical storm Harvey. Even if we drastically reduce our carbon footprint and adopt electric vehicles, we are playing catch-up.  One thing we can take away is our humanity: the kindness and generosity of people helping each other in their time of need; Mexico is offering aid, large corporations like Apple is donating $2M and helping collect donations for the Red Cross relief fund. While corporate America is responding to the needs of the “Oil Capital”, normal citizens and communities can help as well. The red sun and smoke-tinged air does not signify the second coming of zombie apocalypse, but it does sound alarm bells that we must do more to protect Mother Earth. Instead of the widespread rise of zombies, we are faced with extreme climate change and we need to do more to combat it.