Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Technology Marches On

Right now, I'm typing out this post using a new version of Gmail that requires that I open a new browser window if I don't want to draft a new message in a cramped text box that's squashed into the right half of my screen. I juggle enough different windows and tabs at one time that I really don't want to deal with another one, but I can't find anything in the settings that would restore the prior one-window method. I liked drafting in Gmail because I got to write and keep an eye on my inbox at the same time. Now, I might as well be using Google Docs or a separate word processing program. There wasn't much warning that this change was going to happen in Gmail, and it's just the first of a string of coming changes to the internet services and programs that I've grown to depend on.

In the next few months, we're going to lose Google Reader, which I was using as my primary aggregator for multiple entertainment news RSS feeds and podcasts, and the current version of Tweetdeck, which I use to update my Twitter feed. Tweetdeck was really just a quick fix for a problem I was having with the Twitter web interface, and not actually more convenient for me, so this could be a good thing, providing the impetus for me to get the issue sorted out for good. I'm going to miss Reader much more, since it is the most popular and most useful newsreader out there. There's some comfort in knowing there are a lot of other people in the same boat as I am. Right after Reader's impending retirement was announced, there was a flood of people on Reddit asking for recommendations for replacements. In both cases it's not going to take much effort to acclimate myself to a new or modified service, but it's still hard to shake the sense of loss, because I spent so much time using both, and I'd gotten very familiar with them.

I've always been something of a late adopter - I managed to skip Windows Vista entirely by holding out with XP until Windows 7 came along. My current laptop is nearly six years old, and I don't own a smartphone, tablet, or anything that supports an app. I'll probably be replacing the laptop soon with a newer model, not because I'm unhappy with its performance, but because you can't just go an buy a brand new 2007 laptop. There are already parts of the internet my processor and graphics card are having a hard time keeping up with, and I've been warned that eventually most of the online services that I use aren't going to run as well with my old, outdated machine as they keep getting upgraded and updated. Of course I've seen the benefits of many of these improvements over the years, but sometimes it feels like I'm running a Red Queen's race. Video platforms continue to be the bane of my existence. I spent a good chunk of yesterday evening updating Java and Adobe Shockwhatever, trying to get an old Stanley Kubrick supercut to play properly. And who knows what kind of horror will be unleashed when Netflix switches over to HTML5.

I've been through this familiar situation enough times before that I know that I'm really just grumbling over change in general. There's nothing I can do about the changes to my online services in the same way that I can't do anything about the volatile gas prices or the end of Saturday mail services. The online world is actually better in many ways because there are a lot of options to conduct basic activities, lots of different providers (except for internet service itself), and a lot of sympathy towards late adopters. If I really wanted to, I could hold out with my current laptop for a very long time. I finally gave up on Windows XP back in 2007, but Microsoft is still supporting the operating system until next year. I might just stick to Windows 7 for a while, considering what I've been hearing about Windows 8, and wait until 9 or 10 roll around.

But first things first. I need a new RSS reader, hopefully one that will let me download audio content directly. And I might just give up Tweetdeck entirely and update directly through the Twitter site, or see if there's another third party services that's a little more user friendly. I need my Gmail account, but I might start drafting blog posts in what used to be my Hotmail account, which recently mysteriously transmogrified into this thing called Microsoft Outlook. I can't really tell the difference between them functionally, so no complaints. The transition was handled so well that it took me a few weeks to realize that I was actually using a different service.

Sometimes technology marches on, and sometimes it can pull a fast one on you.

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