How Technology is Changing Our Communication Habits

I was a great pen pal. Younger readers may have no idea what I’m talking about, but prior to computer email—YES before even the Internet—I wrote handwritten letters. Sending letters via postal mail service was the cheapest way to stay in contact with friends around the country. Yes, there was also a time when long distance phone calls were too expensive for everyday use. And *gasp* you had to use a land line, attached to a wall, in your house to make the call. Oh the agony of having only one phone per household.

That’s the amazing thing about today’s technology. We have so many ways to stay in constant contact with the folks we know anywhere in the world. Letters have been replaced by email, which has given way to social media outlets like Facebook, Google+ & Twitter. Mobile technology allows us to connect on the go, and cell phones are accessible to almost anyone.

However, technology has changed more than just how we stay in contact; it’s changing our communication habits. Raise your hand if you’ve done any of the following:

  1. Watched a movie, read an ebook, sent texts, talked on the phone in public.
  2. Checked your favorite social media channel while at the movies.
  3. Actively sent texts during a work meeting.
  4. Actively sent texts to someone while talking to someone else.
  5. Sent a Facebook message, tweet, or text to tell someone you emailed them.
  6. Texted your spouse, your kids, your parents for something while at home.
  7. Texted them while you’re in the same room.
  8. Talked on the phone or sent texts while driving—STOP THAT!

Some of the items above could be seen as bad social etiquette, the last one item #8 is a serious topic for another blog post. I see the above behavior a lot, and probably have committed more than one offense myself. With this seeming need/desire to be in constant contact I often wonder,

Why in this technological age of connectivity do we seem more disconnected?

Now, I am making a very general observation. Certainly, technology has played an important part in revolutionizing the way we communicate. Look no farther than the impact Twitter had on uprisings in the Middle East in 2011. What I am specifically referring to is the change in face-to-face communication, and how we interact in live social settings as families & friends. I see more folks plugged in and tuned out to the world around them. I thought this Xmas card that circulated the Internet last year a great summary of modern day communication.

(citation needed)

The changes I see go far beyond having our noses buried in our digital devices. How many folks can relate to the following statements?

  1. You have over 100 friends on Facebook, but you’ve never talked to your neighbors.
  2. Your relationship status isn’t “real” until it’s posted on Facebook.
  3. You have proposed or broken up with a text message.
  4. You communicate in the office with instant messaging even though your cubes are side-by-side.
  5. Your life is on your phone, to lose it would be the end of the world.
  6. If it were you trapped on a remote island, not Tom Hanks, you’d freeze to death.

OK, so maybe item #6 is also a separate blog post. Prior to technology becoming part of the mainstream those behaviors might have been limited to tech-savvy geeks, but it’s becoming more the norm as each generation is born amongst advancing technologies.

I’m not ranting against change, nor am I unwilling to accept this cultural evolution. I’m merely making observations as a digital immigrant adapting in a world growing with digital natives.

How do you think technology is affecting our social interactions & communications?

Aperture 3 vs Lightroom 3 (beta 2) – Feature Comparison Review

This is feature comparison review of Aperture 3 vs Lightroom 3 (public beta 2). While it is not my intention to be overly favorable of Lightroom, my opinions reflect those of an Adobe Community Professional & Lightroom enthusiast. There are definitely things I like in Aperture. That being said, what follows are my thoughts & observations about both products. Keep in mind, Lightroom 3 has not been officially released, and the findings here will be updated when LR3 ships.


While suited to the same task, Aperture & Lightroom utilize different approaches to managing & adjusting images. This is apparent when viewing the layout of each program’s interface.

Aperture’s interface is divided into two primary areas–The Inspector & Viewer. The Inspector features three primary tabs for working with images–Library, Metadata & Adjustments. Images display in the Viewer in either a Grid, Filmstrip or Single Image view. The Viewer window remains constant when moving between Inspector tabs. The Inspector can be toggled on & off, and Aperture can be put into a full screen mode.

Lightroom’s interface is divided into modules coinciding with a digital workflow–Library, Develop, Slideshow, Print & Web. Within each module reside a left-side navigation panel, right-side adjustments panel, center image view area, and bottom film strip control. Images display in the center image area regardless of module, all panels can be toggled on & off individually, and Lightroom can be put into a full screen mode.

Comment – In terms of UI (user interface) I prefer Lightroom’s module approach. Having the UI align with the tasks at hand, leaves a lot of guesswork out for new users. I also prefer LR’s implementation of keyboard shortcuts. “C” for compare view makes more sense to me than OPT+O. Many of Lightroom’s keys have a root in the actual command.

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Time Warner Cable To Meter Internet Access

It appears Time Warner Cable has decided to test the waters for metered Internet access. Starting in Beaumont, Texas, customers will be charged additional fees if they go over their monthly allotted bandwidth. The proposed rate is $1 for every gigabyte of bandwidth exceeded.

Time Warner spokesman Alex Dudley has stated that the new price plan reflects the impact of 5% of customers consuming a heavy amount of bandwidth. Michael Arrington from TechCrunch shoots back that metered access will stifle innovation.

I agree with the opinions that Time Warner Cable, Comcast, and other cable companies are simply extorting customers in areas where they are the only option for Internet access. It doesn’t surprise me that cable would make this shift given the availability and increasing use of media downloads via iTunes, Amazon, etc. The telecommunications industry has a better network to handle the bandwidth usage of its customers, and is not directly impacted by the consumer choosing to download an episode of Grey’s Anatomy from iTunes or versus watching it on cable.

I’m not sure how many customers will jump ship when hit with the new metered access plans. The unfortunate folks trapped with TWC or Comcast as their only option, will have to pay. For myself, I will quickly change providers.

I don’t see this proposal as a long term option in a competitive market. Hosting companies used to charge for the bandwidth usage on a metered basis, but many now have super-large plans or unlimited bandwidth. Same can be said for cell phones; competition recently spurred the new onslaught of unlimited plans.

Pop-ups, Viruses, The Internet, Oh My!

Although, I’ve changed careers and moved from a computer/network consulting role to teaching I still carry the label amongst family & friends as the “computer guy”. Never has that been more true than these past few months. With the advent of the MS-Blaster worm, Gator pop-ups, spyware, adware and the multitude of annoyances the average computer user endures, I’m surprised I haven’t found a way to exploit Joe Somebody with my vast knowledge and make tons `o cash. I could have easily invented the trick e-card.

I kid, I kid… I wouldn’t want to get caught violating my parole.

All I’m sayin’ is that it amazes me that anyone in this day & age doesn’t have at least an intermediate level of computer knowledge. Consumers are told to buy anti-virus software, personal firewalls and now spyware removal tools, but it’s like handing someone a firearm without a gun safety course.

With that in mind, I’ve put together a list of things the average consumer should consider when using computers and the Internet:

AOL is not the Internet. Sure AOL capitalized on consumers by signing up millions with free CDs, but they also did little to prepare those people for using the Internet. The only thing useful about AOL these days is their instant messenger. If I hear one more AOL user say “Why don’t you fix your web page so it works with AOL” it’s a 10 a day postal rampage for this blogger.

Mr. Perry will tell you take those training wheels off and start surfing like the rest of us.

I know, I know, ignorance is bliss. You’re the one that put together Timmy’s bicycle with only 8 spare screws and the constant 12:00AM flashing on your VCR is some sort of personal affirmation, but confusing the CD-ROM tray for a coffee cup holder only makes you look stupid.

When the tech support person you called asks to speak with your two year old to fix the computer there’s a problem. When you ask your secretary to print off your e-mail messages because you don’t know how to open Outlook there’s a problem. When an ex-lover tricks you into installing spyware on your computer because you just couldn’t be bothered learning “the computer thing” don’t come crying to me.

If you’re on the Internet then you best invest in the following software applications. I’m a savvy computer user who was the victim of identity theft, what makes you think you’re luck will hold out?

  • Anti-Virus – A virus that flashes an annoying message once a month you might be able to live with, one that deletes important files from your hard drive is a different story. Get the latest version of Norton or McAfee products to make sure your e-mail and web surfing stay clean.
  • Firewall – First generation cable modems lacked the bandwidth to support all the users in one area. Back in the day, it was a simple matter for me to disconnect other subscribers and keep the bandwidth to myself. If those people had bothered to use a firewall it would have made the task more difficult. ZoneAlarm or Black Ice do the job and will protect you from mischievous folks like me.
  • SpyWare Removal – Companies like Gator Corp provide consumers with free downloadable utilities like the “Weatherscope” or “Precision Time”. These folks are the unwilling recipients of adware which tracks their web surfing habits and sends demographic data back to the marketing firm. If your computer is running REALLY slow when connected to the Internet or you seem to have 10x as many pop-ups then you remember you probably have adware installed on your computer. Spychecker has a list of freeware products or you can go with the highly rated SpyCop.

After buying all the software I recommended be sure you constantly watch for software updates. Lucky for you most updates are available via the Internet and some applications (like Norton anti-virus) can be automatically set to update themselves.

If you are using Windows XP utilize the automatic update feature. You can also check for updates to other Microsoft products (Outlook, Outlook Express & Internet Explorer) at

NOTE – Microsoft will never send you an update file via e-mail. In fact most companies will direct you to a secure website to download patches & updates.

Before double-clicking on that nude picture of Anna Kournikova or Jennifer Lopez ask yourself “Do I know who sent this to me?” or “Is Mom the type of person who normally e-mails me this kind of attachment?” Just because you know the person who sent the message doesn’t mean it was not an automated virus worm. Remember, a quick reply to an e-mail or even a phone call to verify a valid file attachment will alleviate any confusion. What’s a file attachment you say? This is why you should follow Step #2. Generally speaking picture files (ending in .GIF or .JPG) are okay, but anything ending in .VBS .EXE .COM .SCR should be suspect.

MICROSOFT TIP – Most e-mail viruses are launched when you open the attachment, but newer viruses can run automatically using exploits found in Outlook & Outlook Express. Not only can viruses send themselves to everyone in your address book, but now they have the ability to randomly pick a name and place it in the “TO:” field. Imagine Fred calling Bob upset about the virus he actually received from you. To minimize your risk turn off the “Preview Pane” & “Auto Preview” features for e-mail (found under View) and stop using Microsoft Word as your e-mail editor (found under Tools –> Options).

As in the case of “SULFNBK.EXE” “Spunkball” or “Bud Frogs Screensaver“ the purpose of the HOAX was two-fold. First people deleted valid files by mistake and then mail servers were overloaded once people started forwarding the warning message. If you do receive information regarding a potential virus or other newsworthy items you can check to see if that information is true at the following websites: – This site contains information about real viruses AND hoaxes. – This site lists many urban legends, Internet spread rumors, etc.

E-MAIL TIP – Before you simply forward an e-mail message be sure to clean all the previous mail headers. Nobody needs to be bothered scrolling down a page reading other e-mail addresses and “>” symbols only to find a paragraph that’s four sentences. My advice, if you’re sending e-mail to a bunch of people who don’t know each other personally use the “BCC:” field (blind carbon copy). You’ll keep your friends & coworkers from being added to numerous spam lists and avoid the one person who’ll use their names to get a jump start with Amway.

The BCC: field is turned off by default in Outlook & Outlook Express. If you create a new message and select “VIEW” from the menu bar, there should be an option to view all headers. This will show you the BCC: field.

SPAM PREVENTION TIP – Have you ever received a spam message and it contained a removal link?

DO NOT use that link (or the e-mail address provided) to remove yourself from the spammer’s list. Thanks to a loophole in the Anti-Spam legislation when you submit the remove request not only have you told the spammer your e-mail address is valid he’ll simply delete you from “List A” and automatically subscribe you to “List B”.

My advice, learn how to setup rules in your e-mail program. Most programs (including Outlook) let you setup spam filters so you can delete the offending e-mails without ever reading them. Be sure NOT to setup a blind filter that says “Delete messages where my name is not in the ’TO:’ field”; you might just have a friend who’s smart enough to send messages using Blind Carbon Copy.

Did I ramble on enough for ya?

Now I know some people say “I just don’t get computers, this is all too hard for me” and hey that might be true. But I’m of the opinion that you can choose to stay unaware and hope that “it never happens to me” or you can take a moment to educate yourself with these simple steps.

Me? I can always use the bandwidth. *chuckle*

Identity Theft Ring Busted

Well, it looks like I wasn’t alone with my financial troubles this month. Three people have been accused of running the largest identity theft in history – more than 30,000 people had their credit information stolen.

I caught a portion of the story just a minute ago on Good Morning America. The scary part is the U.S. District Attorney could offer little in new information to protect yourself from this crime. So here’s my two cents:

Get your credit report from ALL THREE of the major credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. This will provide you with the most comprehensive picture of your current credit history. I’ve said it many times before, but I’ll point it out again – if you’ve got good credit get yourself an American Express card. If you already have one go here:

Credit Secure through America Express will provide you with DAILY monitoring of your credit accounts AND a quarterly report from ALL THREE of the credit reporting agencies. Other credit card carriers might have similar services, but I am not familiar with them.

The key thing is to know your credit history and check it at least four times a year. According to Good Morning America some people are victims of identity fraud almost two years before they discover a problem.

In one month someone purchased over $25k worth of stuff using my name. Imagine what two years might have been like.

UPDATE – Another suggestion I forgot to mention. I keep a lamenated wallet card with any important phone number (medical contacts, credit card 800#s, etc) on me at all times. I also have a detailed phone list in my home so I don’t have to rummage through bank & card statements in the event of fraud. That saved me a lot of time earlier this month.