Some Thoughts On Technology

     Even though I was once an engineer, I’m something of a dinosaur when it comes to acquiring and using new gadgets. I’m not a Luddite, but I’m far from a “first adopter.” My experiences as a user of relatively new technology have been decidedly mixed.

     Most people are unaware of the full range of behavior built into a lot of new stuff. Something as seemingly innocuous as the “always on” characteristic built into a lot of new devices has consequences that don’t occur to many owners. For example, I have two large TVs that have “always on” characteristics. The designers did that deliberately to make start-up faster, and to facilitate certain functions of their remote controls. Together, those “always on” TVs were costing me about $80 per month in electrical charges…until I put them on power bars with independent switches, and made a habit of flipping those switches to Off when I’m not using them. (It was that or pull plugs out of sockets, and that’s just “too much like work.”)

     Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene has just discovered another “feature” of an “always on” TV:

     “Last night in my DC residence, the television turned on by itself, and the screen showed someone’s laptop trying to connect to the TV,” MTG posted on Twitter.

     “Just for the record: I’m very happy. I’m also very healthy and eat well and exercise a lot. I don’t smoke and never have. I don’t take any medications. I am not vaccinated. So I’m not concerned about blood clots, heart conditions, strokes, or anything else,” she wrote.

     “Nor do I have anything to hide. I just love my country and the people and know how much they’ve been screwed over by the corrupt people in our government, and I’m not willing to be quiet about it or willing to go along with it,” she wrote.

     Combine “always on” with embedded camera, microphone, and WiFi capability, and this “feature” jumps out of the box to bedevil anyone who’s jealous of his privacy. Indeed, WiFi might not be necessary. There are ways to encode digital packets onto the AC power line that runs from your TV to the wall. The only guaranteed method of isolating your TV is to disconnect it from its power source completely.

     Perhaps not a great many of us need concern ourselves with government snoops. However, there are plenty of private snoops in the world, too. Many of them take up sidelines in blackmail. Are you quite, quite sure that nothing you do might be profitable for someone like that to know?

     The “smart home,” its user-settable devices all WiFied together, is a control freak’s paradise. There are a lot of them out there, Gentle Reader. Some of them hail from the “environmental” section of the open-air loony bin. Any of those might decide that you’ve used up your monthly quota of electrons. And there’s always the looming threat of government intrusion, on whatever grounds you care to imagine.

     Until quite recently, I, like many other Americans, was in the habit of leaving my computers powered up all the time. In part, that was because of Dell Computers’ problems with unreliable power buttons. Apparently it’s the least reliable gadget in a Dell box. But since Sharyl Attkisson’s experience at being spied upon remotely – which included the actual erasure of some of the files on her work computer – I’ve been turning my machines off at night by flipping the power switch on their standby power supplies. I’m beginning to think I should disconnect them from the house router when I’m not actively using the Internet, too.

     The power savings are certainly nice, here on Long Island where a typical middle-class family sees charges of $400 to $500 per month. But even more gratifying is the elimination of that “somebody’s watching me” feeling so many of us have suffered in recent years. “Rockwell” may have been been prescient, if only a little ahead of his time:

     How about you, Gentle Reader? Can you think of any reason some inquisitive sort might want to spy on you, or give some of your “smart” devices a little goose from afar? Give it a few CPU cycles. There might be more such reasons than you’re ready to admit. Make a list and keep it near you.


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    • Evil Franklin on June 26, 2023 at 7:11 AM

    Leaving ones computer “always on” opens up the possibility of files be deleted or added. It’s bad enough that files might be deleted, but, the files being added may be quite nasty. Think child porn. Also, it’s enough that we have numerous electric vampires throughout our homes. Shutting off most or all of your electric devices lowers your power bill and works to reduce the chance of fires.

    Evil Franklin

    • Jay on June 26, 2023 at 11:30 AM

    “Can you think of any reason some inquisitive sort might want to spy on you…”. Yes. Because you exist.

    • SiG on June 26, 2023 at 11:53 AM

    Sharyl Attkisson has told the story of being hacked because she was telling the truth – part of being an actual journalist.  The FBI guys (fairly sure it was them) were putting child porn on computers in her house.


    One alternatives is to make sure you get dumb appliances.  Ever notice that smart TVs are cheaper than dumb TVs?  Remember that line about, “when the service is free, you’re the product”?   Same for when the product is unreasonably low cost – someone’s paying for the rest and you’re the product.


    There was a meme that Zendo Deb at 357 Magnum posted once that I’d love to link to, but I could only link to the time I re-posted it.  It talks about working in IT, which is why the house has mechanical door locks and mechanical windows, no Alexa/Google crap, or no internet-connected thermostats, then concludes with programmers and engineers say, “the most recent piece of technology I have is a printer from 2004, and I keep a loaded gun nearby to shoot it if it starts to make unexpected noises.”  My 2009-vintage printer died a year ago, so my printer is from 2022, but the rest of the sentence is true.


    • Yhe Other Florida Man on June 26, 2023 at 5:51 PM

    Fran, PLEASE, get away from Dell products.  I was in the business for almost 20 years, they have not been a go-to system (laptop or desktop) since maybe 2005.  HP are lovely if you must run Windows…  I learned my lesson – our household and that of our son and his wife are macOS only.  I won’t even get into how many ways the whole Windows lineup is broken, but if you’re somehow business-married to Win boxes, get away from Dell.  They use the crummier sweatshops in China by comparison.

    1. Dell computers –desktop and laptop, have served me well. By contrast, Hewlett-Packard computers have failed me in several venues.
      Windows, which I have taken pains to master, has served me well. By contrast, Apple’s OS and Linux have let me down more than once.
      Microsoft’s development products, especially Visual Studio, have been my mainstays for nearly thirty years.
      These “monsters,” which many people serially condemn, are all right with me. That is independent of anyone’s dislike of any particular individual identified with any of them — including mine.
      Your experiences may vary, but I testify from mine, which has been both extensive and demanding.
      In your future comments here, please stay “on topic” better.

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