Below are Atlantic notes, from James Fallows and others, on the expected and unexpected effects of the computer revolution on our habits of thought, work, and life. The thread’s title is in honor of the seminal article largely prefiguring the modern Internet, “As We May Think” by Vannevar Bush, which the Atlantic published in 1945.
Yesterday I mentioned the astonishing (to me) news that, by cramming a wad of Post-it notes underneath the cover of my ailing Android Nexus 5 phone, I could save myself the significant cost and hassle of buying a new one.
Three followups. First from Jason Virga, creator of the Post-in note video that saved me so much time and dough:
When my Nexus 5 microphone first started malfunctioning, my first thought was "oh well, time to get a new phone”!
Thankfully my curiosity drew me towards tinkering around a little bit before making that new purchase. Within an hour, I figured out the problem and posted the video.
The phone is actually great, and nothing else was wrong with it. So I thought a few minutes checking under the hood couldn't hurt. Thankfully, it turned out this way, and has saved many people as you said "hundreds of dollars".
And for me helping people brings me utter joy.
And to me too!
Second, from a reader who operates a charter-boat company. First he talks about a similar self-help story; then, reflections on What This All Means:
Last Spring, making flank speed to get a boat ready for the upcoming season my random orbit sanders seized. One, then the other 30 minutes later. From a remote port, the nearest replacements (on a sunday) were a 3 hour round trip away.
But the Internet to the rescue. Don't remember what I googled, but in short order I was watching a bearing repacking for my sanders on Youtube. (Fine particles from sanding enter the sealed bearings, mix with the bearing grease and turn it to non-lubricating goo) I took a chance and sprayed PB Blaster (WD-40 on steroids) into the bearings,and Voila! I was back in business and the boat launched on time.
I think the internet has been disastrous for professional communications, both the profession and the communication. I really do think books, magazines, tv, movies are worse for the internet.
But it is a true golden era for amateur communication, most especially peer to peer communications like your and my day-savers.
We’re fighting off the professional-world effect here at the Atlantic, but overall the reader has a point. His emphasis on the professional/amateur difference is a useful clarification.
Another bit of testimony:
The internet has also saved "early adopters" like me (more than once) from our impulses to upgrade things at the earliest opportunity.
My latest impulse (and fiasco) was to upgrade my Macs (both desktop and laptop) to Yosemite right when it came out (instead of rationally waiting until bugs had been fixed and, more importantly, vendors caught up developing drivers for it). [JF note: burned long ago, I never load an operating-system update until the first “maintenance release.”]
Later that day, when I went to print something out from my laptop, nothing happened (expect a notification on the icon bar telling me an error had occurred). So I looked at the error message and, of course, it was essentially gibberish to me: Stopped - ntdcmsmac open fail:dlopen(/usr/lib/dlthm1zcl.dylib…
Of course, I immediately knew it had something to do with the upgrade, and I got the sinking feeling I would need to wait for Dell (the maker of my printer) to get around to upgrading the drivers (I went to their web site, and they hadn't yet).
Instead, I decided to poke around the internet, googling the above error and the word Yosemite, to see what I could find out. Sure enough, someone had posted a "workaround" to deal with the issue.
(Essentially, Apple beefed up the security features of the OS; in doing so, they prevented programs, etc, from copying files into certain directories. One of those directories was the one the printer driver, dlthm1zcl.dylib, was located in. On top of that, I guess it also erased the driver. And, since the drivers could no longer access the directory, you couldn't simply reinstall the drivers.
The solution was to reboot the machine into recovery mode, disable the security feature, reboot into regular mode, install the current version of the printer driver, which could now access the directory, reboot back into recovery mode, re-enable the security feature, and then reboot back into regular mode).
Worked like a charm.
And, as you said, thanks to all those willing to share their expertise with those of us who often need it!
Disaster (or challenge) for professionals, golden age for amateurs: such are our times.
As a business matter, the Atlantic has placed tremendous emphasis through the past two decades on integrating all the different ways we try to get our message out. This means via the classic in-print magazine, the ever-expanding and -refining range of our web sites, live events, videos and podcasts, and so on. I say “through the past two decades” because we were one of the very first publications to have a serious online site, starting with Atlantic Unbound back in 1994.
As an intellectual and cultural matter, the whole undertaking is more connected than you might think, with most people working in the same physical space in Washington and talking about the interactions among the various things we do. Here is a reader note about the way it comes across on the other end. I offer it as a little document on the state of modern cultural / intellectual/ technological life.
A reader in Texas writes:
My hardcopy version of The Atlantic arrived today. It made me think about how my interaction with the world is influenced by the magazine and all of your various websites.
I use Feedly to collect all of the various Atlantic feeds and (yes!) blogs. I check these daily, indeed several times a day.
When the magazine is about to be released, I notice that all at once there are many long form article on my feed. I secretly rejoice, as I know that the hardcopy is on its way. I don’t read them on my computer or my phone, but do mark some that I know I will want to send to friends later.
Then, a day or so after that, I am able to access the issue on my Kindle. Yes, I pay for the Kindle subscription even though I can get all that content for free online, and I will be getting it a day or so later in the mail.
I use the Kindle version (Years ago, when you had reviewed the Kindle favorably, I sent you a note asking about the “reading experience.” You replied that just because you have a Kindle that doesn’t mean you need to give up books) to read most of the short articles. I will be waiting for a meeting, or just killing a little bit of time and say, “I can read a short article” and I will look for stories with a short word count. (I love the word count for this reason). I don’t like it for the articles with images (especially infographics) or the long form.
Then I wait and wait until I get the magazine. This is where I read the long form articles, review the pieces I have already read, and leave it around the house so when people come by they will think I am smarter than I really am.
I especially love the last sentence.
Two placeholder notes for later discussion, picking up on points I’ve mentioned before:
First, even though I find it much more convenient to read almost anything in a Kindle / nook / iPad version, I have begun consciously willing myself to spend more of my reading time (when possible) on the physical, paper versions of books, magazines, and newspapers.
The advantages of reading-on-paper vary among these media: the subconscious but surprisingly important flash-memory visual impression of where things are on a page with a book (and where the page is within the book), which does affect my recall of them; the attractive page layout of a nice magazine; the ability to scan things quickly and see their relative importance on a physical newspaper page. But beyond those differences is the common factor: my reluctant admission that reading from a physical page undeniably makes me retain and remember them better. I am sorry that this is so, because it’s less convenient. (And I still spend a ton of time reading electronic versions.) And maybe the difference is mainly the distraction factor: you can’t click a link on a page, which sounds like a minus but is a plus. One way or another, for me the difference in retention is real.
Second, let’s get back to that stellar last sentence. I’m wondering about the unintended long-term effects of electronic media reducing the amount of printed material that is just part of the visual landscape in homes and offices.
As early as I can remember, and long before I could actually read, I was conscious of my childhood homes being full of printed material, on practically every surface. Charts, maps, book covers, book cases, posters, stacks of kids’ books, stacks of adults’ books, magazine collections, things with words that were clues to interests my parents had had in the past or were reading / doing / planning on now. Or things they wanted their children to be aware of and comfortable with. The shift to e-reading leaves many fewer of these cues just lying around in constant passive view. There’s also a social effect. My wife Deb could always tell what book or magazine article I was reading, just by seeing it in my hands. Now she has no idea what is on the iPad, and I don’t know what she’s in the middle of reading.
We’ll see where this all leads. For now, thanks to the reader for describing his practices.
Or: how 50 cents’ worth of Post-it notes, and a brief bout of searching, saved me hundreds of dollars just now.
I am a fan of my Nexus 5 Android phone, made by LG and branded by Google. Its neon-orangey-red color makes it harder to lose than some dignified black phone. Also it conforms to my platform philosophy: Apple for laptop and tablet, Android for phone.
This Nexus 5 has always worked great, until yesterday when it just stopped working as a phone. If people called, I could hear them, but they couldn’t hear anything back from my end. Trying to use the voice-command function made it clear: the Nexus’s built-in microphone had completely conked out.
After 30 seconds of searching (in Evernote) to see how long ago I bought the phone, I find that it’s beyond its one-year warranty. In the next minute of searching online, I see that LG’s “repair” policy involves weeks of turnaround time and high enough costs that you might as well just get a new phone. Which in the world of unrepairable modern tech may of course be the intended point.
But then, thank you Internet! The next 60 seconds of searching, and less than five total minutes of work, allowed me to get the phone back to working order. The answer is all here:
Executive summary: you open the phone, you cram in a wad of little Post-it notes, then you close the phone back up. The pressure from the notes tightens up a connection that has come loose. The phone now has a small midriff bulge but works fine again.
Apparently this is a prevalent enough design/structural problem for the Nexus 5 that the this video is part of a large selection dealing with the loose-microphone-connector issue. But it’s the one I’m highlighting, because it required no tools, had total material costs of about 50 cents, and was so quick from start to end.
No larger point, beyond offering a small positive note about the often-maddening online world. Specific thanks to “JBug1979,” creator of this phone-saving YouTube video.
Since 1972, the giant island’s ice sheet has lost 11 quadrillion pounds of water.
The Greenland Ice Sheet is the world’s second-largest reservoir of fresh water sitting on the world’s largest island. It is almost mind-bogglingly huge.
If Greenland were suddenly transported to the central United States, it would be a very bad day for about 65 million people, who would be crushed instantly. But for the sake of science journalism, imagine that Greenland’s southernmost tip displaced Brownsville, Texas—the state’s southernmost city—so that its icy glaciers kissed mainland Mexico and the Gulf thereof. Even then, Greenland would stretch all the way north, clear across the United States, its northern tenth crossing the Canadian border into Ontario and Manitoba. Kansas City, Oklahoma City, and Iowa City would all be goners. So too would San Antonio, Memphis, and Minneapolis. Its easternmost peaks would slam St. Louis and play in Peoria; its northwestern glaciers would rout Rapid City, South Dakota, and meander into Montana. At its center point, near Des Moines, roughly two miles of ice would rise from the surface.
“James’s performance, I’m sure, is causing grief for an accountant somewhere.”
Ken Jennings rose to fame after an unprecedented run on Jeopardy 15 years ago: Over the course of 74 episodes, he won a total of roughly $2.5 million.
Recently, a contestant named James Holzhauer has been working toward Jennings’s record at an astonishing pace. After the Friday-evening broadcast of the quiz program, Holzhauer had won about $850,000 over just 12 episodes. If he keeps up that rate, he’ll reach $2.5 million in less than half the time it took Jennings to do so.
No one has capitalized on this look’s popularity more than influencers. Some have even started to make thousands of dollars on photo presets that warp anyone’s pictures to fit this mold. But every trend has a shelf life, and as quickly as Instagram ushered in pink walls and pastel macaroons, it’s now turning on them. “Avocado toast and posts on the beach. It’s so generic and played out at this point. You can photoshop any girl into that background and it will be the same post,” said Claire, a 15-year-old who asked to be referred to by a pseudonym because of her age. “It’s not cool anymore to be manufactured.”
At times, the results are merely ridiculous. At others, they are actively dangerous. At the moment, Trump is declining to protect the United States from foreign interference in its elections, because it’s politically inconvenient and personally irritating to him.
Despite repeated evidence of Russian attempts to interfere in American elections—most recently detailed in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, released last week—the White House continues to refuse to take action, because the president can’t separate the nation’s security from questions about the legitimacy of his victory in the 2016 election. Wednesday’s New York Times offers disturbing new details:
There are three things that give the seemingly unstoppable contestant an advantage—and this isn’t the first time he’s succeeded on a game show.
Updated at 3:21 p.m. ET on April 24, 2019
On an episode of Jeopardy that aired Tuesday evening, James Holzhauer became the fastest-ever contestant on the show to earn $1 million in prize money. During his now 14-game win streak, he has seemed unstoppable, usually pulling away from his competitors early in the game and piling up money at an unprecedented rate: He’s winning more than twice as much per game as the Jeopardy legend Ken Jennings did during a record-setting 2004 run on the show. And Holzhauer’s highest daily prize yet, $131,127, exceeds the previous record holder’s one-day sum by more than $50,000.
What makes Holzhauer so dominant? When I asked him, he was able to sum up his gameplan pretty easily: “I sketched out what I believed to be my optimal strategy for Jeopardy: Play fast, build a stack, bet big, and hope for the best,” Holzhauer wrote to me in an email. “In my mind, playing a seemingly risky game actually minimizes my chances of losing.”
I was a Trump transition staffer, and I’ve seen enough. It’s time for impeachment.
Let’s start at the end of this story. This weekend, I read Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report twice, and realized that enough was enough—I needed to do something. I’ve worked on every Republican presidential transition team for the past 10 years and recently served as counsel to the Republican-led House Financial Services Committee. My permanent job is as a law professor at the George Mason University Antonin Scalia Law School, which is not political, but where my colleagues have held many prime spots in Republican administrations.
If you think calling for the impeachment of a sitting Republican president would constitute career suicide for someone like me, you may end up being right. But I did exactly that this weekend, tweeting that it’s time to begin impeachment proceedings.
It’s much less scientific—and more prone to gratuitous procedures—than you may think.
In the early 2000s Terry Mitchell’s dentist retired. For a while, Mitchell, an electrician in his 50s, stopped seeking dental care altogether. But when one of his wisdom teeth began to ache, he started looking for someone new. An acquaintance recommended John Roger Lund, whose practice was a convenient 10-minute walk from Mitchell’s home, in San Jose, California. Lund’s practice was situated in a one-story building with clay roof tiles that housed several dental offices. The interior was a little dated, but not dingy. The waiting room was small and the decor minimal: some plants and photos, no fish. Lund was a good-looking middle-aged guy with arched eyebrows, round glasses, and graying hair that framed a youthful face. He was charming, chatty, and upbeat. At the time, Mitchell and Lund both owned Chevrolet Chevelles, and they bonded over their mutual love of classic cars.
Embracing your inner child is comforting and fun—and just might revitalize the English language.
I recently had the honor of meeting an award-winning literary sort, a man wry and restrained and overall quite utterly mature, who casually referred to having gone through a phase in his 20s when he’d been “pilly”—that is, when he’d taken a lot of recreational drugs. The word had a wonderfully childish sound to it, the tacked-on y creating a new adjective in the style of happy, angry, and silly. My writer-acquaintance, I recognized, was not alone in bending language this way. On the sleeper-hit sitcom Schitt’s Creek, for instance, one of the protagonists, David, speaks of a game night getting “yelly,” while his sister describes a love interest as “homelessy.” Meanwhile, back in real life, one of my podcast listeners informed me of a Washington, D.C., gentrifier who declared that a neighborhood was no longer as “shooty-stabby” as it once had been.
The White House’s stonewalling leaves Democrats facing a new dilemma.
Even the announcement was delayed as long as possible.
It has seemed likely since before Democrats won the House of Representatives in November, promising to demand President Donald Trump’s tax returns, that the White House would refuse to hand the documents over without a fight. But after weeks of dickering and assurances that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was considering the legality of the request, the White House finally said, with just hours to go, that it would not produce the documents by the Tuesday deadline set by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal.
Also on Tuesday, a former White House official in charge of security clearances did not appear to testify to the House Oversight Committee, after the administration instructed him not to comply with a subpoena. Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings said he’d move to hold the former official, Carl Kline, in contempt of Congress. The Washington Post also reported that Trump would fight a subpoena calling former White House Counsel Don McGahn to testify. And on Monday, the White House filed a lawsuit against Cummings and his own accounting firm to try to block the firm, Mazars USA, from handing over information about Trump’s finances.
Five conservative justices are bent on defending a policy that is unpopular, expensive, and cruel.
The post–Anthony Kennedy Supreme Court majority has introduced itself to the nation by strapping itself to the decaying corpse of the American death penalty.
It is a curious choice. Capital punishment is a relic of a harsher time, now stumbling toward extinction, unpopular with both right and left. For these conservative justices—Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh—to embrace it is like an American politician journeying to the Soviet Union in 1991 and saying, “I have seen the future and it works!”
In February, the Court rejected a plea from an Alabama inmate to have his spiritual adviser in the death chamber with him as he died. The inmate was Muslim, and Alabama law allows only the prison’s full-time chaplain, a Christian, to fill that role. Remarkably, the Court had no need to become involved. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit had already granted the inmate, Domineque Ray, a stay of execution until a court could hear his religious-freedom claim. The Eleventh Circuit encompasses Alabama, Florida, and Georgia—the heart of the death belt. Its judges hear in one year more death cases than Roberts, Thomas, or Kavanaugh heard in their whole careers on the circuit bench. (The Tenth Circuit, where Neil Gorsuch was previously seated, includes Oklahoma, which conducted 33 executions during his tenure; only one other state in the circuit, Utah, conducted an execution during that time.)