Showing all posts tagged: trends

Software vendors… supercharge their apps with AI. But why?

13 June 2024

This is a disturbing trend, vendors of software and apps, in particular those that have been around for years, suddenly introducing AI functionality. Indeed, whose idea was this?

What Apple announced looks like more of the same that’s been offered lately. Help writing emails that don’t need to be written, bad generative images that look little better than anything else on the market and a dubious integration with OpenAI which feels super weird given the former’s much marketed stance on privacy and the latter’s dubious respect for anyone’s data.

An app I use to read PDF documents, is an example. I just want to read PDF files… I don’t need help from an AI assistant for that. I’ve barely blinked at the feature so far, but who knows, maybe I should.

Perhaps the AI helper, will, like some book reading apps, scan the document, and return a summary of its contents, sparing the need to read it in full. Now that I think about it: no, I won’t find out if that’s one of the AI assistant’s purposes. That seems like a slippery-slope to me.


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Well-built furniture should last centuries, not a couple of years

12 June 2024

Tim Bray:

When Lauren was pregnant with a child who’s now turning 25, we purchased a comfy dark-brown leather sofa which fits our living room nicely. What with kids and relatives and employees and cats and Standards Comittees and friends and book clubs and socials, the butt-support cushions had, a quarter century later, worn out. So we had them replaced, at a fair price, by a small local business. Which is something that modern capitalism is trying to make impossible.

An old neighbour runs a furniture recycling business. His speciality is something called mid-twentieth-century furniture, sometimes mid-century furniture. It has a darker, wood stain/grain look, and really isn’t my thing. But it’s sturdy, well-built furniture, and will still be here long after the self-assembly particle-board stuff, this is presently so popular, has crumbled into ruin.

Short wonder my neighbour can’t keep up with demand for furniture that’s seventy-years old.


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Hello Linux, farewell to toxic Windows operating systems

11 June 2024

I’ve read a stack of articles recently about Windows 11 (11), the successor operating system (OS) to Windows 10 (10), and am not liking a single thing I’ve seen. Microsoft (MS) will soon begin forcing users to install Windows 11, whether they like it or not.

If that’s not toxic behaviour on Microsoft’s part, what is?

10 has been with us since 2015, and MS will end support for it in October 2025. In the ordinary course of events, long time Windows users have generally migrated to the newest OS, when one becomes available. And usually because the new version is seen as an improvement on the old.

But not always. Windows ME, released in September 2000, as a successor to Windows 98, was a notable exception. And so far, 11 is being received in a similar fashion. An OS featuring adverts? An OS coercing users to adopt certain apps, for instance the Edge browser, instead of one of their choice? These are among reasons I’m steering clear of 11.

To make matter worse, users will need to create a MS account when installing 11. This means providing MS with an email address. To date, I’ve been using a “local account”. In short, that entails choosing a username and a password. Nice and simple, end of story. It might seem like a “so-what” matter, but users should be able to make the choice.

If someone wants to set up a MS account fine, but no one should be forced to. And yes, I’m aware there are advantages to having a MS account, but to my mind that’s beside the point. Apart from 10, an old Hotmail account, and Word and Excel, I use few other MS products. I’m not keen on being “encouraged” to sign up for anything else, which I’m sure would be the case, if I had a MS account. As for storing my data and files on the likes of OneDrive: no thanks.

Another bugbear (and doesn’t MS just love to annoy its user base?) is forced restarts after OS updates. Regular updates are necessary to main the integrity of any OS, but generally there is some flexibility as to when users can elect to reboot/restart their devices, so the updates can take effect.

I do this when I’ve finished working, at a time that suits me. But in typical fashion, what suits users doesn’t suit MS. Some 11 users, who run processes on their devices that take weeks to complete, have complained there is no way to delay a system restart after OS updates have been installed. The result is lost work, when auto-restart commences.

Previously, it was possible to delay these auto update restarts, but not anymore. No doubt MS will defend this behaviour by claiming “most people” don’t run processes lasting weeks. It makes you wonder what MS thinks of its users. Do they think everyone is exactly the same? There’s no think different at MS?

But enough complaining. This coming from a one-time Windows fan*. Maybe it’s me that’s changed. I’ve simply outgrown Windows operating systems. And why would I continue using Windows instead of something like Linux? Am I not, after all, #IndieWeb/#SmallWeb? How could wanting to use an OS like Windows even be in my DNA? It’s high time I became #IndieOS.

A few days ago, I installed Linux Mint on my backup laptop. When I buy a new device, I keep the previous machine as a spare. It’s not too old, I bought it about four years ago, but that it handled a new OS installation, and is (so far) running smoothly, is a good start. Linux Mint is one of many Linux OS’s, or distributions, on offer, but is considered to be user-friendly from a newbies point of view, and somewhat mimics the Windows OS experience.

I had been considering making the switch for some time, but the main stumbling block has been finding suitable replacements for some of applications I’ve been using for decades on Windows. Chief among them is Photoshop. While there are Linux-friendly alternatives for most the apps I use on Windows, the Photoshop-like options aren’t quite the same. At the moment I’m looking at installing sort of virtual environment app on the Linux setup to run Abode products.

But it’s been well worth making the move. Linux Mint is not a carbon-copy of Windows 10, but it is relatively similar. If you’re likewise a long time Windows user, I’d suggest installing Linux on an older, spare device first, if that’s possible. That way you can go through the preparation and installation process as a test run, while getting used to a new OS.

The installation process was mostly straightforward, but it’s a rainy afternoon sort of undertaking. It can take time, so best to block off at least a half a day initially. Having a holiday, three-day weekend, open to me, was a definite advantage. There are ample help resources available, with the answers to most questions you might have, only a search engine query away.

If you are making the move from Windows to Linux, all the best. It’s not overly difficult or complicated, just new and different.

*Granted, that was long time ago. I was still using, lol, dial-up networking when I wrote that post.


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Four-day workweeks are nigh, followed by zero-day workweeks

6 June 2024

There has been talk of the four-day workweek for as long as I can remember. We were told about it when I started school. Yet it’s to fully, properly, officially, arrive. The work week is still, for the most part, in many places, five days: Monday to Friday.

We don’t live in an age where Monday to Thursday is the norm. Or, as I’d prefer it, if four day weeks becomes a thing: Tuesday to Friday.

The sooner Monday absorbed into a three-day weekend, the better. No more Mondayitis hey? Still, a four-day work week is stepping closer. A number of companies and government organisations are embracing it, as Andrew Keshner writes for Marketwatch.

For the record, I will however strive to continue posting to disassociated at least five-days per week*.

But what of the zero-day workweek… utopia, we also heard about at school? When computers were meant to be doing everything, so people didn’t have to lift a finger. If AI is all it is cracked up to be, the zero-day workweek may likewise be nigh. But, as Joanna Maciejewska says, we’re not presently training AI correctly to bring that about:

I want AI to do my laundry and dishes so that I can do art and writing, not for AI to do my art and writing so that I can do my laundry and dishes.

We need to be training AI to do the grunt work, not the creative stuff. It’s very simple really. If we’re no longer going to the workplace (and presumably living in a universal basic income world), we’re going to need something to do with the time we’ll have in all those seven-day weekends, fifty-two weeks of the year. You’re already looking at what I’ll be doing when the zero-day workweek arrives.

But what about you? What will you do when the work-free utopia of the future materialises?

* excluding (possibly) holidays, etc.


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If Starbucks gives you lemon lattes, go co-work at McDonalds

29 May 2024

Craig Meerkamper, writing at Spacing, laments the apparent demise of the once omnipresent commercial third place, a kind of neutral zone between home and work, such as a cafe, where people gather. Or where remote workers can set up shop for the day.

Coffee houses are one of the earliest examples of ‘Third Places,’ a term popularized by urban sociologist Raymond Oldenberg, who described them as “public places on neutral ground where people can gather and interact. In contrast to first places (home) and second places (work), Third Places allow people to put aside their concerns and simply enjoy the company and conversation around them.” More than that, Third Places are essential to community-building because they bring people together within a shared space who may otherwise remain in more disparate social circles.

Meerkamper cites the recent renovation of a large-chain coffee shop, where he used to work remotely, as an example. The once numerous tables where people could sit are gone, and the shop has been transformed into what he describes as “a one-room mobile pickup lane”.

Yecch. As if there were little enough incentive to visit the large-chain coffee shop in question. From the photos posted by Meerkamper, the renovation — to be blunt — looks hideous. The operators said one goal of the revamp was to improve accessibility for people with mobility constraints, which appears to be the case, but that seems to be the only plus.

But a whole bunch of matters are raised here. Do coffee shop operators have an obligation to provide office space for remote workers? Ditto, other organisations, such as large shopping centres, from where — as chance would have it — I wrote this post. Libraries even.

Further, what does the revamped setting say about us as a society? Meerkamper writes that tables have been replaced by a narrow bench running along a windowless wall. Patrons can choose to sit down. And face a blank wall. But they won’t be doing that. They’ll be looking at their phones. In fact, the new seating arrangement seems perfect for that purpose.

Does this mean people no longer want to gather at coffee shops to socialise? Would they rather sit there and stare at their smartphones instead? Is that what the new look caters for? Is a coffee shop, of all places, encouraging this behaviour? Structures on which people can lean have also appeared. They’re something to rest against, while waiting, presumably, for takeaway orders.

That definitely doesn’t make for a place where you can hang out for any length of time. Is this, I wonder, something the pandemic has occasioned? Now that more people are working from home, and have become accustomed to it, is there a need for somewhere else to go, a third place? We order our coffee online, race out to collect it, then return home.

No sitting down at the cafe to read, or chat with a friend, anymore. Are these the types of changes places like Starbucks are allowing for, when they remodel their shops?

Starbucks operates a store in a shopping centre I regularly visit. The last time I went passed, it seemed to be business as usual. No renovation work appeared to be in progress. I noticed, through the picture windows adorning the front of the shop, that tables along the back wall were occupied, as usual, mostly by people with laptops.

Meerkamper’s article makes me wonder if the same thing will happen in Australia. It might, but there may be a contingency option for people seeking a commercial third place to work from.

We recently had to make an “emergency” food stop at a large-chain hamburger restaurant, in the west of Sydney. A niece desperately needed a chocolate sundae. We decided to go inside and sit down for a while. As we did, I couldn’t help noticing all the tables along the walls had power points, along with USB charger slots.

Looking around the room, just about every wall table sported a laptop. And none of these people appeared to be in any hurry to leave. A group of people at a nearby table had bought in a scanner, which they’d plugged into a power point, together with several photo albums.

It was clear they intended to stay several hours, as they digitised their photos. McDonalds as a co-working space, or what? Could this be a case of a door closing, and a window opening?


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Telstra redundancies, AI robots come in, the future is now

24 May 2024

Australia’s largest telecommunications company, Telstra, announced this week it was making about three thousand employees, or ten percent, of its workforce redundant. About three hundred people were sent home straightaway — hopefully with some sort of pay-out — while the remainder will depart between now and the end of the year.

This is terrible news for those who will now be looking for new work, at a time when the seasonally adjusted Australian unemployment rate has also been rising. Telstra cites the need to cut costs, and claims the mass layoffs will produce savings to them of three-hundred-and-fifty-million dollars.

The thing is, when cuts are made to the workforce — allegedly in the name of saving money — the work once carried out by the three-thousand people who have been let go, does not necessarily evaporate. Accordingly, in the past companies laying off large numbers of staff have out-sourced some of this work to lower-cost providers.

Or, have said advances in technology will make up for the shortfall in staff. In this instance however, advances in technology includes the deployment of Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered software:

“AI and cloud computing and robots, you know they can be far more efficient and effective in the network,” telecommunications consultant Paul Budde said. “So therefore, what you start seeing is absolutely replacing humans [with] this new technology … that is seriously happening.”

Telstra’s move has stoked fears of a wider adoption of AI “solutions”, for companies looking to reduce their headcount. It could be argued the Telstra situation is a one-off. The telco’s customer base has been declining for decades as people make use of internet based call services, and move away from landline phones. Other Australian companies, therefore, especially large enterprises, are likely not quite facing the same challenges as Telstra.

But does that mean they’re not looking at the cost-cutting potential of incorporating more AI technologies into their operations? That, unfortunately, remains to be seen.


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Running clubs, the IndieWeb of the dating realm?

23 May 2024

Konrad Marshall, writing for the Sydney Morning Herald:

Run South Yarra co-founder Tom Adair is wary of any suggestion that run clubs are the new Tinder, yet relationships are born here, and side-by-side chats while jogging, he notes, are definitely less pressurised than face-to-face interactions. (Plus, you can always pick up the pace and scoot away if a chat isn’t going well.) “It’s almost like a nightclub, but no one’s drunk, and you’re actually making meaningful conversation,” Adair concedes.

If you can stomach the unearthly start times, six o’clock in the morning, maybe earlier, weekends included, it all makes sense. You’re sharing a bonding experience with likeminded people. How could run clubs not be somewhere you’d potentially meet a romantic prospect? Aside from the fact you’re there to run of course, not anything else.

But here’s a thought. Granted, one that could probably only occur to me. If there is a movement online, a turning away from social media, a return to the small web, and personal websites, might the rising popularity of run clubs represent a similar movement away from dating apps?

Imagine meeting, then building rapport with someone — maybe in time, more — in a safe group setting, while partaking of a shared interest, such as running? Though it could be something else. Who needs a meddlesome, intrusive, dating app, for that?


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An indie guide to the IndieWeb, by Wing Pang

22 May 2024

Sydney based product designer Wing Pang, whom I wrote about last week, has published a comprehensive guide to the IndieWeb.

Coming from a design background, joining the IndieWeb was an incredibly exciting and rewarding, yet maze-like journey. To be honest, almost every step of the way was like a leap! But I’ve learnt so much and got a lot of feedback throughout this process from the passionate and friendly community.


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Blog of the .Day, bringing back the blogosphere one blog at a time

22 May 2024

Blog of the .Day, yes, styled as Blog of the .Day, a collaboration between James of James’ Coffee Blog, and Joe Crawford, will highlight a new blog every day.

Aside from casting the spotlight daily on a blog, another goal of the project is to bring the term blogosphere back into popular usage. For those coming in late, the blogosphere — that great interconnectedness of blogs — preceded the Twitterverse, and now looks to have outlived it as well.

Long live the blogosphere.


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What has happened to cover versions of popular songs?

20 May 2024

Every week, Australian radio station Triple J, invites a band or musician to record a cover of a song, for their Like A Version show. Anything goes here. About two years ago, Sydney based Australian DJ Dave Winnel performed a cover of Africa, by Toto, not the sort of music you’d usually hear on the jays.

While Like A Version recordings are archived on the Triple J website, I’m not sure many are released as singles, where they may, or may not, chart. The idea here is to have a bit of fun.

Cover songs, where one musician records a usually popular song by another recording artist, are an integral part of music history. Many well-known acts launched their careers by recording a cover of someone else’s song. The Rolling Stones first single, for example, from 1963, was a cover of Come On, by Chuck Berry.

But today though, covers are a lost art. Or, covers of popular songs, at least, according to this chart, compiled by American musician and writer, Chris Dalla Riva. The image makes for grim viewing for fans of cover songs. In the last fifteen to twenty years, barely any cover songs — of the popular variety, that is — have made it onto the Billboard Hot 100 charts.

Surely this is not the end of the road for covers? Read more about Dalla Riva’s findings here.