Ramblings from the Warrior's Den
Saturday, January 11, 2003
 
I have now been using my Axim for a week now. I'm still using the Transcriber to write stuff with, including to take notes in my various classes. So far, I've only needed to even open my backpack once in a week of classes. I've been able to take notes quite effectively with this thing. I don't see myself ever trying to use it to write code or any other thing where typos can be a matter of life or death, but I can take notes with it in class pretty well.

It's amazing just how much stuff I can use this for. One thread that I read recently On the Axim board asks the question if one of these is more than just a fancy technotoy.
The vast majority of the responses seem to suggest that o of these can be used quite effectively as a productivity tool. Sure, I have to admit that I bought this partially for the overall gee-whiz factor, but I'm actually surprised at how much I've used the various "productivity" features for keeping track of stuff. I'll eventually post a more thorough review of this.

At the end of my last Blog entry, I made a comment about the age we live in of "Information At Your Fingertips." One of the TV shows that is watched frequently in our house is 'Iron Chef' Oh Food Network. For reasons not fully explained by anyone, we even manage to watch it during dinner. I suppose that much of what is prepared on that show is probably considered incredibly fancy gourmet cuisine, but here in the western world, most of what is prepared would probably be considered unfit for human consumption. Even so, it's an interesting show to spend a spare hour on. Somehow, I managed to pick up a reputation for being something of an expert on the show (read: knowing more about it than most sane individuals generally would.) In reality, more than any individual, sane or otherwise, would ever need to know about the show can be found at a couple of different Websites: Ironchef.com or Ironfans.com.

Questions regarding my sanity aside, it occurs to me that we live in a time where just about any subject one might ever need to know anything about can be found by spending five minutes on the Internet. With sites such as Google, we have the ability to type in just about any keyword or topic we desire, and instantly have all the info we'd ever need sitting on our monitor. Usually one has the added step of sorting through thirteen thousand useless results to find the three useful ones, but that's just an accepted fact of life on the Internet. It's the small price that we pay to have all the useless information we could ever possibly need at our fingertips.

This ability to find information this readily has made changes to the way students research a topic for a report or project. It would seem that Academia would be among the most willing to embrace this new paradigm for research, but in the last year of school, I've seen what seems to be something of a reluctance to accept the Internet as a source of material for students to use. I can understand this reluctance to some extent, given the sometimes questionable validity of the material generally found on the net, but to me, it seems almost as if teachers want to downplay the significance of the Internet as a research tool.

For example, one class I had last year focused on Professional report writing. The major project for the class was a Comparative Feasibility Study which required a minimum of eight different sources, including at least two sources from periodicals and two others from books. For my study, I chose a topic with which I was quite familiar: buying (or building) a PC. I ended up not using a lot of sources because I was so familiar with the topic. In the end, I found myself having to search through a copy of PCs for Dummies to find something to use to satisfy the requirement to have one token book source in a 45-page report. In this case, the requirement to use books as sources seems arbitrary and ended up being more of an inconvenience than anything.

I can appreciate the fact that students need to be able to use a variety of different sources when they research a topic, but I seem to get an impression that teachers think the Internet is making research too easy. Because of this, they try to complicate things by telling students to not use the Net. Most of then do anyway. And somehow I don't think that teachers realize that.

Sunday, January 05, 2003
 
(Note: I wrote this one on the Axim too, and I'm too lazy to proofread it much.)

In my continuing efforts to get this thing to be able to read my crummy handwriting, I am still writing a lot of random stuff. For reasons unexplained to anyone but the geeks who design these things, it actually seems to be improving. Through hours of hard work and perserverence, I have managed to get to the point where I only need to rewrite every sentence about ten times or so to get any sort of intelligible result. Every once in a while it even manages to get something right the first time.

Anyway, school starts again for me tomorrow. I'm just now starting to get into the meat of the degree program I an pursuing. After spending a good portion of time on a bunch of prerequisites and classes which I didn't much care for, it's nice to be able to start taking useful classes l can actually learn stuff from. Anyone who knows me well enough to be reading my Blog has probably heard me rant In my usual long-winded Fashion about school, any particularly the degree program that I'm in. There seems to Ise a lot of classes I've taken in which I've learned little to nothing useful. In some cases, l could have practically taught the class :n question. I imagine that tle people in charge don't care much what I think about the Program as long as I keep paying my tuition.

I'll probably end up writing a long- winded rant on the subject one of these days, but probably not on this thing. On a good day, my writing is bad enough, if I tried lo rant on this thing, the result would probably take days to proofread. I'd probably manage to scratch the crap out of the screen too. From what I've read. the digitizer is a rather costly part to replace too. Maybe I'll try it after I buy some good screen protectors.

So far, I haven't had much chance to use this thing for any useful purpose yet, and in fact have yet to take it much past "new toy" status. Ostensibly, it was purchased to be used for school, but I would be lying if I tried to say I wasnwas't a gadget freak. I have a long history of buying high- tech gadgets first, and trying to come up with some sort of useful purpose for them later.

My cell phone was purchased because I could use it to browse the Internet. of course, it could only go to something like five sites in cheese lo-res text mode, and the fact that I could get my e-mail from almost anywhere didn't change the fact that it was 95% spam, but at least I could get that spam wherever 1 wanted, whenever I wanted. Never mind the fact that l used my phone for all of ten minutes last month. Recently I was looking at newer models, Mostly because those ones can play pac-man at three frames per second. I probably wouldn't use the new one much more than I use My current one, but I would feel smug in knowing that any urges to chonp dots at low FPS in the Middle of Nowhere could be satiated. (The fact that this thing can do the same thing at a whopping 15 Frames a second is apparently irrelevant.)

This fascination with gadgets of questionable utility is nothing new. All throughout history, people have pursued all manner of bright shiny objects of questionable use. The ongoing pursuit of such items is responsible for a good portion of recorded human history. A good portion of recorded history documents Man's ongoing quest to beat up their Fellow man and take their stuff. In many cases, there is little or no need for said stuff, but people feel the need to take it anyway. The people who had their stuff taken usually wanted it back, and proceeded to beat up the people who took it in the first place. This process hail an annoying tendency to leave a lot of people dead, which if you think about it is a pretty silly thing to end up dead over. Throught history, this process has resulted in wars, famines, and the rise of The Sharper Image stores in the shopping malls of modern civilizations.

Another consequence of this ongoing Pursuit of new and exciting gadgets, especially those of a mobile nature, is the fact that you have to find some way to carry them all around with you. Sure, six ounces doesn't seem like much, but try carrying it around on a belt clip all day with ill-fitting jeans. Someday someone is going to get very rich By devising a way for people to comfortably carry all the:r gadgets around without looking like a total dork. And yes. I know people have tried already, but the non-dorkiness requirement has yet to be fulfilled.

We live in a day and age where information is quite literally at our fingertrps. Whether or not it does us much good to actually have it there remains to be seen.


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