Archives for category: technology

The rapid rise in development of artificial intelligence and all its ramifications is fascinating. The potential for the betterment of mankind in its many advancements is boundless. But everything has to start somewhere. 

As a longtime user of smart devices, I’ve been feeling I have a front row seat in the entertaining horror show that is autocorrect.  Emails, tweets, blog posts…they all are enhanced by or fall victim to this oh so useful tool of the technological age. Sometimes I fear the cyberworld at large will think I suffer from some heretofore unknown form of illiteracy. Or worse. At times it could seem a gibbering idiot has gotten loose and launched into an undecipherable tweet storm. 

Yes, I do proofread. With autocorrect diligence is immaterial. I’m noticing more and more that that handy dandy ubiquitous tool has gone behind my back and made “corrections” after I’ve finished with a sentence. By finished with I mean already corrected autocorrect and moved on. Only after I need to go back for some reason to reread a sentence do I find bizarre gibberish that has nothing to do with what I think I’ve written. This can be particularly annoying as a writer, because it drags me way, way out of whatever world be it dark dystopian or fairy and unicorn otherworldliness I happen to be inhabiting at that moment. Try regaining your train of thought, after coming across half a sentence that looks like it was written by the dreaded BEM. 

While for a long time this whole thing was a minor annoyance of infrequent occurrence, I’ve become much more acutely aware of it this past month, since I started writing a story on my tablet. I was having trouble writing, after my mom’s death. Eventually, I thought it might help to be able to just pick up my tablet any time the urge struck and write whatever was willing to come out. That’s turned out to be a really great idea. I can be writing that way, while I would still be waiting for my laptop to be ready to go. I’ve kept up a steady stream of writing every day since April 10th. Even though I’m a little worried about taking the formatting to my laptop when I’m finished with the first draft, hopefully the fact that I managed it in an early experiment means it won’t be too horrible a format wrangling quagmire, even for Glitcherella.

The only real problem is the word processor app’s autocorrect. It has an unusually aggressive tendency to over correct. I know, I know they all do. This one, though, is extremely eager to help, changing words after I think its shenanigans have been reined in. On a particular problem area, anyway. Sometimes precious plotting on the fly seconds are lost, while I try to decipher what I’d originally written. At times there is zero resemblance to my own word or words, and I may not be able to even recall what I’d actually written, if enough wordage has passed. This is not good in Writerworld.

The most bizarre instance has to be when I recently typed the word wonderful. I went back to check something and found this: worth knob fearful! What? Literally. Not just a flip exclamation, but a sincerely confused, shocked, and frustrated cry to the writing gods for enlightenment. I knew I had not typed such a meaningless clutch of words. I didn’t remember on the spot what I had typed, and had to find context so I could reconstruct the sentence. Time wasted. Head briefly exploded. Regather former train of thought. Move on.

Done.

It’s not easy, however, to completely stop the boggling of mind whenever I think of it. I mean, that particular instance of autocorrect insanity is relatively innocuous. No harm done. But what about the future? Robotics is rapidly becoming a major part of our world. Will we be able to overcome the frustrations and foibles of an auto corrected life? Or do we face something much more concerning? Will our future be worth knob fearful?

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I’ve come across the theory before. Perhaps we are all unreal in the most real sense. Could we be a never ending game? Is life as we know it actually not actually life at all? Confused yet? That’s how I felt the first several times I encountered the entire impossible possibility. Then I read
this article a little while ago.

There’s something there that intrigues me, even as it totally weirds me out. My mind sort of screams like a little girl and wonders where the nearest Game Over exit might be. Images from The Matrix parade through my head, followed closely by eXistenZ’s ending. Movies like this fascinate me, partly because they subtley scare me. What if, what if, what if….

That other part of my mind…the part that creeps back into the what if pool, after trying to run away screaming…the writer part…that bold and curious part gloms onto the bit in the article about how sucky our lives are for something that’s created. That’s where my muse pricks up its ears and dives in headfirst.

Aren’t we as writers told and told and told to ratchet up the conflict, the pain, the outright emotional torture of our characters? Make them suffer and watch that character growth happen before our very eyes. Agitate the ink until it starts churning out angst so terrible that you must hold your breath, waiting to see if these characters you’ve created can keep on walking through the circumstances of their miserable existences. You know, the miserable existences that contain pockets of pure joy. Make them real. Make them hurt. Make them go through the crucible and emerge triumphant! Give them success and failure, until they cry tears of happiness and pain. Then let them have a good life…but only for a while.

Sound familiar?

Yeah. To me too. If writers do it right, we create people so real that readers identify with them to the point of feeling what they feel. Maybe the creators of our game are a higher level of writers, screenwriters, game developers. Maybe they’re the future us. Maybe they’re aliens. Maybe they don’t exist at all.

Does it really matter? I’ve pondered this here before. It doesn’t matter if the theory is correct. It doesn’t even matter that it doesn’t matter. What matters is that we have the intelligence and curiosity to ponder such a concept at all. That a lot of us are able to stop the initial mental running away screaming and creep back into the what if pool is the way, way coolest part. Even if it were true we’d most likely never know it. After all, the veil between writer and reader remains intact in our own creations. When one of my characters steps off the page to confront me about the state of their affairs, then it will be time to worry.

This fact filled article about the impressive plan to explore Alpha Centauri that’s been hitting all the major news outlets is pretty darned intriguing. It involves tiny probes about the size of iPhones that could travel to our nearest space neighbor, look around, and send home information. It would take a long time, of course, but advances in miniaturization in particular make what seemed impossible not so long ago into a technically feasible ambition. The fact that Stephen Hawking is involved makes the whole prospect even more exciting. It’s the stuff of dreams, and science fiction, and a scientific reality we’re all privileged to witness unfolding its wings. Quite literally.

I am past weary of endless tamperi–er, tinkering with old movies and TV shows. The ones I never liked to start with, I don’t care about now. At all. Anything I loved, I like to remember as if it’s been caught in amber, not rebooted, remade, or just plain ruined. As someone who loves writing feature length original screenplays, in a reboot everything old world, I mourn the dearth of original anything anymore and get irritated when Twitter blows up with excitement and raving over whatever’s old is new again…again.

So it was when Terminator Genisys reared its probably ugly head. Oh. No. Not. Again.

I actually love the Terminator franchise…s so much that I watch it all. I find something to love about whatever they do to it, but I’m pretty sure by now that I’ll never really get over the death of Linda Hamilton’s iconic, ripped, half (only half?) crazy, one handed shotgun wielding Sarah Connor, when she was a mere memory in Terminator 3. Sure it was fun watching Doctor Silberman jibbering over a Terminator again, but not as much as it would have been if he’d spotted the preapocalyptic warrior woman stalking toward him with the future in her haunted gaze. I tolerated Lena Headey, who actually did bring her own take to Sarah Connor that wasn’t bad at all. She just wasn’t the Sarah Connor I wanted to watch. Terminator Salvation wisely had no Sarah Connor at all, except as a memory briefly, and was better for it. Then Genisys comes roaring in, with a new, new Sarah Connor, who thankfully looks nothing like a certain dragon mother. Too much confusion is a bad thing, you know. Usually.

One thing Genisys accomplished right away was proving what a talented actress Emilia Clarke is. I still didn’t like there being yet another incarnation of Sarah Connor. In fact, I hated the first half hour of Terminator Genisys. It was seeming like a weird rehash mishmash of everything that had come before. I couldn’t understand why they were covering such familiar ground and in such a bizarre way.

Slowly…and I do mean slowly…I started to get it. Ideas and imagery and people started to emerge from the mishmash. Things started to coalesce from a whirlpool of confusion. Hey, this thing is a whole new movie!

And then Pops came on the scene and I started to fall in love with Terminator Genisys. I’ve always loved Schwarzenegger in all his Terminator versions, and Pops was no exception. He revealed himself to be the perfect bookend to his original relentless hunter killer cyborg. Extrapolated from the kinder, gentler, funnier fatherly version who shepherded John Connor through many a crisis, Pops was the grandpa terminator of every little girl’s dreams.

Well, maybe not, but he was a fine protector and family substitute for an orphaned child Sarah. Her fierce devotion to and faith in him was touching, in a sea of deceit and violence and pain.

Having Genisys be an operating system serving as a Trojan Horse for Skynet’s inception of a foothold toward world domination was chilling genius. Our uber connected, on all the time relationship with our beloved technology made it a creepily realistic possibility. Possibly even a probability. I just read a collection of Elon Musk’s concerns about how fast AI can learn and the dangers that may lurk within our thirst for knowledge, invention, and whiz bang coolness. The real life potential of what ifs when it comes to technology makes the premise of Skynet bursting forth from a decision to connect too many things at once downright scary. Something like that turns science fiction onto a science/science fiction/horror hybrid. In some small way it’s a new kind of movie, in keeping with new kinds of thoughts and things we can hardly keep up with.

Something the Terminator movies have always done is pit the minds and hearts and souls of ordinary human beings against the heartless soulless minds of machines that always have the fatal flaw that they are not us. Will they ever be? That’s the question that haunts the thinking person into his dreams and entertainment. Terminator Genisys turned out to be an exciting, terrifying and ultimately satisfying venture into territory both familiar and alien in its own particular brand of what ifs.

I think what ultimately saved Genisys for me was that it reinvented itself so thoroughly that it really was a new movie, but a new movie with an old friend in the form of Pops to tie it into what I wanted to at least be reminded of. Overall it really is a good reminder that a reboot can be a good thing, with the right mix of old and new.

Terminator Genisys Official International Trailer #1

I had originally planned to do a straightforward post about what I loved and didn’t about my Kindle Fire HD 6. I got it in the spring, and have been getting to know it for a few months. My experience so far has been awesome…and awful.

As far as the device itself goes, it’s a love love relationship. As my first tablet, it far outpaces any smartphone I’ve had in the slick, sharp, fun, and cool departments. It’s an absolute joy to use. Unlike most people I need/want smaller screens. My weird eyes need less darting about, which kept me away from tablets, until I saw a random add for a new 6″ Fire on Amazon. I was always looking for a way to paperless proofread. This Fire solved that problem for me, as I explained in this post . While that and reading with a lighted screen were the main reasons I loved it, I quickly discovered so much more.

First, it’s really nice to look at. The screen is bright and sharp. That’s saying a lot, considering how low I like to keep the brightness of my screens. The sound is good on headphones. All this formed  background for my great discovery: Amazon Instant Video. I loved that I could buy music or download what I already owned from the cloud, with the nice big cover art display and some albums coming with scrolling lyrics, but being able to watch video was an awesome extra. Even being careful with usage of my data on the Fire’s WiFi connection, I soon had the Despicable Me 2 Mini Minions Movie Collection, one of my favorite Futuramas (the one where Lord Nibbler kidnaps Fry and takes him to Eternium, where he finds out he’s needed to save the universe…with the eventual aid of Scootie-Puff Sr.), and a free extra featurette from The King’s Speech. These kept me occupied for some time.

Then it all started going south when I was browsing, and accidentally bought a Bugs Bunny season. Oops! What the heck, though. I like Bugs and friends, and it would be cool to download it to my computer to watch whenever I want. Right? Oh, so wrong. I couldn’t find a way to download it to my computer.

I had to be me missing some little something. So I went online and started digging through Help stuff. That led me to the extremely frustrating and disappointing news that the videos can not be downloaded to computers! What the–? Turns out there had been software available from Amazon that did just that…until they discontinued it shortly before I needed it! Leaving the videos only downloadable onto Amazon devices.  Streaming only on other devices.

One of those anvil to the head
moments.

It gets worse. Due to a dearth of choices, I use a limited data WiFi hotspot as my internet service. So streaming is so out. I thought downloading a few Bugs Bunny 2 episode chunks a month would be an extremely annoying solution. But no.

It gets worse again.

When I looked into the downloading options, there’s a recommendation to download the entire season immediately, because even though it’s all supposed to stay in the cloud something could happen and you’d lose access. Oookay.

Now I know that if I download it all at once it will burn through my data, and if I don’t I may lose it. The. Video. Content. I. Have. Bought. I can’t stream, due to the limited nature of my data allowance. Okay, so let’s say I decide the lesser of evils would be to just download as much as I can, as often as I can, and try to enjoy my videos I’m starting to resent.

Well, that’s a great idea! Not!

So, the more you dig into all this detaily stuff, the more you feel the quicksand start to undermine the solid ground you thought you stood on. For when you order the Fire you can get 8GB or the more expensive 16GB. I chose the former, thinking that would be plenty of space for my music, video, app, and book needs on that particular device. I still think that. Only when I was doing my Help digging did I discover that my 8GB of storage is actually a lot less than that in available storage. Now, I know quite a bit about computer stuff, but it never occurred to me that there would be that big a difference between actual storage and available storage.

Some little annoying things, like having no ability to have cool wallpaper on the lockscreen and having to actually pay extra to keep from getting ads as your lock screen image were minor annoyances, especially when I got such a great Kindle/tablet combo for such a great price. This business of needing to download a whole season of something to ensure I can keep the videos I own, yet having so little actual storage that it would crowd or firestorm what I had left after getting so many awesome free App of the Day downloads…well, frustrating is putting it lightly.

I’ve downloaded my favorites of Bugs, and may do the rest a little at a time, watch, delete, then leave them to fend for themselves in the cloud and hope they’re still there if Amazon ever decides to give us back the ability to download them to a computer. Streaming is huge now and those of us who can’t do it are going to face being left out of the, well, stream. As things stand I’m going to have to give up buying video for my Fire, when I run out of room to store it there. I’ve looked into Google Play, but they don’t allow download to computers either. I guess if I want a series on my laptop enough
I’ll have to buy it on DVD with a digital copy, and download it a little at a time. At least the only worry I’d have about the physical copy disappearing is if I lost the DVD.

I really do love my Fire HD 6″. It does a lot, beautifully, and makes my tech loving side happy. That something as “simple” as wanting to enjoy videos on it is so complicated and frustrating is more trouble than it’s worth. Almost. That gorgeous screen….