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My Kids’ Technology Adventures Began With An Alien Named Cosmic Osmo

When my first-born daughter Liz was a toddler, I was hoping I’d be able to guide her towards becoming a techie. No pushing and no pressure was what I tried to achieve. Instead I tried to be a coach to her, gently showing her how stuff worked while striving to make it fun.

One of the ways I introduced her to technology was through games. There was a HyperCard ‘stack’ game — released at MacWorld in 1989, which I bought there, called Cosmic Osmo — and we played it often. She was always delighted to play it and asked to do so whenever I was on my Mac SE/30.

HyperCard was amazing and I learned how to build my own stacks. I built one with sounds I created in SoundEdit, and when any button on the stack was clicked, it would play that sound. I loaded as many funny sounds as I could find (along with the ones I recorded myself, including my daughter’s own voice) and she LOVED clicking on the buttons to trigger the sounds!

Fast forward to today and she definitely became very technically astute. She worked for the Apple Store for five years during college and just afterwards, at Best Buy (where she moved to corporate in to human resources), and every time I’m with her I learn some new tip or trick with my iPhone. The best part is that she grasps technology instantly and I hope I had some influence on her in this way.

Here is a video from 1989 where we are in my home office, she is sitting on my desk, and we talk about “Osmo” and I record her voice with SoundEdit:

Alex Begins His Technology Adventure

In 1994 our son Alex was born and he took technology like a duck to water. For him it was all about play, which fit perfectly in to my goal extending to him when it came to making the use of technology fun.

By this time Liz was well on her way toward her belief that technology was a seamless and integral part of our lives. She became a patient and encouraging tech-coach to her little brother. He wasn’t much interested in what Mom or Dad had to say about tech, but rather he watched, listened and allowed himself to be guided by his big sister. It was fun to watch!

In 1998 I was working at Apple in the business group after Steve Jobs came back, and had the chance to bring home the first iMac introduced and it had some built-in games, like the one they loved called Nanosaur.

Here’s a fun video of my kids using that first iMac at Thanksgiving, about three months after it was introduced:

We Have Come A LONG Way With Technology!

1) Holy buckets has technology advanced! When I watch these videos above (and the one below) and think about SoundEdit and a Mac SE/30, it’s just stunning how far we’ve come with computing technology, graphics, gameplay, sound, animation, and so much more.

Want to see what Liz and I experienced playing Cosmic Osmo on a Macintosh SE/30 with a 9″ screen? Here is a video of Cosmic Osmo’s click-to-trigger interface in HyperCard:

2) By the way, somehow I missed this Ars Technica article (30-plus years of HyperCard, the missing link to the Web) on May 25, 2019, but thought I’d add it to this post. In that article I learned about a way to goof around with HyperCard — this time by downloading Steam for your PC, Mac or Linux computer and actually introduced in 2010 — and, once you’ve installed it, you can load up an instance of HyperCard here.

Make Technology Fun

Whenever I’m asked about kids using technology too much, not enough, how to make it fun or educational, I always coach parents to limit screen time, always keep an eye on their kid’s use of tech, but most importantly make the use of it fun!

Having phones that are dozens of times more powerful than that previously mentioned Mac SE/30 and original iMac — along with Internet of Things devices that are inserting themselves in all parts of our lives — we all need to keep vigilant about how we use it. If you haven’t watched the Cosmic Osmo video above, view it now and see how laid-back, at-ease, and fun Cosmic Osmo is having with his out-of-this-world technology use. There’s a lesson there for all of us.  😉

Here is what I believe is the *best* backup solution money can buy

It happened again this morning: A friend reached out to tell me their PC’s 1TB hard drive had crashed and could I help? Of course you guessed it, they did not have it backed up, the drive was toast, and they have either lost everything or could pay close to $2,000 to have the drive recovered!

I have a hard time feeling any sympathy for them, especially since he and I have discussed backup numerous times. I’ve always encouraged him to buy one of inexpensive backup drives that exist, which makes backing up so simple that anyone can do it, even him. So I’ll implore you to backup just like I did him but he is serious about it now after it is too late: PLEASE back up all of your systems and, especially, your main PC or Mac. It’s not IF your hard drive will fail, but rather WHEN it will fail.

WHY I DON’T BACKUP TO CHEAP DRIVES
For me, however, a cheap backup drive won’t do it which is why I use the ioSafe G3 drives:

The ioSafe Solo G3 is fireproof and waterproof external hard drive engineered to keep data safe during fires and floods and to protect to from theft. Designed for optimal reliability, the G3 hard drive is the easiest way to protect your photos, videos, documents and other irreplaceable data.

I’ve written about these drives before here and here and I own two of them. My iMac has a 1TB solid state drive in it and I have one external 3TB ioSafe G3 drive which is nearly full of music, photos, and files. Both my iMac’s drive and my external 3TB drive are encrypted with FileVault, so I needed a 4TB external drive to use for a Time Machine backup drive. So I purchased that second ioSafe drive — this time in a 4TB size — to back them both up (and yes, everything is encrypted there too).

In fact, today I ordered another ioSafe G3 drive but this time in a 6TB configuration. Why? Because my Time Machine backups only go back 30 days and I want them to go at least 30 days further back and maybe longer, so an extra 2TBs of storage will enable me to do that (and I’ll wipe my 4TB drive and connect it to my wife’s iMac).

WHY I DON’T BACKUP TO THE CLOUD
Consider me paranoid, but unless I control the private encryption key I don’t feel my data is safe. Anyone with that key can unlock my data and view it (e.g., Dropbox can, in theory, read all of your files).

The only one I would consider is SpiderOak’s personal One backup plan, a solution that encrypts your data before it is backed up and sent to their servers. As good as SpiderOak is, there are a few “fatal flaws” I see with using it (or any cloud service) as my primary backup solution:

  • My data is in the cloud on someone else’s servers.
  • It takes forever to transfer large data files so backing up is time consuming. Moving huge files can also hammer on your internet service provider’s data caps (which are becoming more common now that TV streaming is ubiquitous and used by more people than ever before) so you’ll have to pay more for data.
  • The 5TB service I’d need is $29 per month ($348 per year) which would buy an ioSafe G3 drive itself!

WHY I USE IOSAFE DRIVES & BELIEVE THEY’RE THE BEST

Look … you can go ahead and backup to cheap drives. But lets say your house catches on fire and the fire department arrives to put it out. If the area near your computer burns your PC is melted and so are your backup drives and everything will be lost. Even if it doesn’t burn and melt, the water used to put out the fire will most likely compromise the backup drives and make them unrecoverable.

The features that make it “the best” backup solution money can buy include:

  • The ioSafe drives can withstand temperatures up to 1550°F for 30 minutes per ASTM E119 (PDF).
  • They can be completely submerged in fresh or salt water up to a 10′ depth for 72 hours (which is so much more than a firehose would douse them with in a house fire).
  • The drives can be secured to either the floor or a hard-to-move object to prevent the drive, and the data it holds, from being stolen (I bolted my drives to my desk when our house was up for sale so no one could grab one and run off with it!).
  • These drives are very, very quiet and, with USB 3, they are fast.
  • They are a “set it and forget it” backup solution. If you have a Mac, use Time Machine to back up your computer. If you have a Windows PC, buying an ioSafe drive includes a license to Genie Timeline Professional: easy to use backup software for Windows that can protect your data with military-grade 256-AES encryption.

Living here in southern California makes drives like these even MORE important for my wife and for me. With earthquakes, wildfires, and more humans than most places on earth (so more likelihood of theft), having these drives as my backup solution give me peace of mind.

HOW AND WHERE TO BUY
Though you can buy these drives directly from ioSafe, here are a few places to pick up a 2TB, 3TB or 4TB drive less expensively:

WHATEVER YOU DO … BACK UP!!
Borsch, you’ve told me I need to back up … I get it!” OK, OK … but I thought my buddy didn’t want to hear me pontificate about backing up either and he didn’t … and now he’s lost all his photos, videos, emails and other data.

Don’t be like my buddy … back up now.

Disclaimer: I receive absolutely nothing from ioSafe or anyone else for my enthusiasm for their incredible hard drives. Yes, I do think they’re the best and just want everyone to back up!

Play With a Real HyperCard Stack

Open to see an update to this post added Tuesday, June 11, 2019
Somehow I missed this Ars Technica article (30-plus years of HyperCard, the missing link to the Web) on May 25, 2019, but thought I’d add it as an update to this post. In that article I learned about a new way to goof around with HyperCard — this time by downloading Steam for your PC, Mac or Linux computer — and, once you’ve installed it, you can load HyperCard here.

One of THE most amazing technologies on the Mac ever, was a software “stack” builder called HyperCard, created by a guy named Bill Atkinson (whom I met in Chicago in 1987 just after HyperCard was launched). Now a developer, Josh Deprez, has created this ‘virtual’, 9-inch, Macintosh (running System 7.0.1) with a “Disk 1” loaded in to it. Inside that “disk” is a Hypercard stack.

What’s HyperCard? Here is a brief explanation from the entry on Wikipedia:

HyperCard is based on the concept of a “stack” of virtual “cards”. Cards hold data, just as they would in a Rolodex card-filing device. Each card contains a set of interactive objects, including text fields, check boxes, buttons, and similar common graphical user interface (GUI) elements. Users “browse” the stack by navigating from card to card, using built-in navigation features, a powerful search mechanism, or through user-created scripts.

Fun to play with this virtual machine and the stack, but also to remember me how far we have come when it comes to computing and devices! The machine I spent most of my time using HyperCard on was my beloved Macintosh SE/30.

My Macintosh SE/30 was an amazing machine, especially since it had a 30 megabyte hard drive! That seems laughably small now, but at the time it was huge.

Having that machine enabled:

  • My daughter to learn about computers (we always played Cosmic Osmo when she was a toddler along with SoundEdit so I could change her voice to a chipmunk-like voice)
  • My wife and I to launch Marketing Directions, Inc. and her business The Trend Curve™. The first newsletter I created was built on that SE/30 and Aldus PageMaker, the first wildly successful page layout program.

Check out Dr. Josh Deprez’ virtual Mac and Hypercard here.

A Billing Scam by proXPN?

securitynow

One of the podcasts I listen to regularly is Security Now, a TWiT show. Every one of these shows (as well as many of the shows on the TWiT network) finds me learning a great deal that I use personally, for my company, or my own “Security Tip of the Week” on the Minnov8 Gang Podcast. To say I find Steve Gibson and Leo Laporte knowledgeable, trustworthy and reliable is an understatement — and I’ve taken to extending those feelings to their advertisers — since Leo continually touts the fact that he only supports advertisers he vets and actually uses.

proxpn-logoBut I think these guys either had a lapse when it comes to the VPN provider proXPN, or they have never signed up for a trial period with this vendor and then tried to cancel the account during that trial period (which I now suggest they have a TWiT staffer do for EVERY potential advertiser).

A ‘SCAM’?
Making it hard to cancel is the oldest trick in the book to get some percentage of people to pay when you charge their credit card immediately and then make them jump through a bunch of hoops to cancel and get a refund. Here is what happened and why I strongly caution you to consider another vendor for your VPN servicesRead More

A Technology Adventure

Clockwise l-r: Commodore PET (1977); Apple IIe (1983); Macintosh SE/30 (1989); original Macintosh (1984)


Clockwise l-r: Commodore PET (1977); Apple IIe (1983);
Apple III (1980); (Macintosh SE/30 (1989); original Macintosh (1984)
Click for larger view

One of the fun aspects of a year ending and a new one beginning is thinking back on times past and how technology has evolved. As I sit in front of my 27″ iMac this morning — a computer I paid $2,500 for in August, which is a bargain compared to what you’re about to read — I’m struck by all the technology experiences I’ve had.

The sad part? It seems most of us are always looking for that “next, big thing” without appreciating how far we’ve come and knowing how far we’ve come might give you some insight in to what’s coming next.

For any of you readers (or my own kids) who might read this and think, “Oh…he’s just an old guy reminiscing” just know that you will some day look back and be stunned by the funny, cute and quaint little smartphone you own and the expensive and slow mobile network you use. I guarantee it!

Example of a "Snoopy" printout in ASCIIClick for larger view

Example of a “Snoopy” printout in ASCII
Click for larger view

HOW IT STARTED
My buddies and I used to sneak in to the high school computer lab to use the teletype (it was a terminal connected to a mainframe at the University of Minnesota) and used it primarily to print out “images” like an ASCII character Snoopy or Playboy pinup. Not terribly useful, but it helped us to appreciate what it took to create the tape that you fed in to the teletype to get it to work.

One night during college my girlfriend and I were walking through a mall and there was a Commodore Store. In it were rows of “PET” computers ($795) and I could demo games by inserting a cassette tape and letting it load for a few minutes. Adventure games, a text-based genre, were about all they had along with a few crappy little “productivity” applications. I thought most of what the PET could do was boring but the machine was so compelling and cool I couldn’t take my eyes off of it and my girlfriend had to tear me away!  Read More

Technology is SO CHEAP!

Click for larger view…

Would you spend $13,000 for your Dell or Apple desktop computer this week? I didn’t think so. Well that is roughly how much this Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 16 would cost in 2012 dollars (using a relative measure of worth from here). This past week my sister purchased a new iMac with 8GB of memory, a 1TB hard drive and a huge color screen for $1,299! 

One of my favorite sites, Archive.org, had this 1983 Radio Shack catalog of computers and accessories that you can view which is where I first saw this machine and its price. When I think that this green screen, 5.25″ floppy drive, half a megabyte of memory machines cost $5,000 back then it is just stunning how far we have come and how cheap and powerful today’s computers are (and don’t even start on the power of our smartphones and tablets).

You could also buy a 12 *megabyte* hard disk to accompany that computer for $3,495 and, as a point of comparison, you could buy a 128 *gigabyte* thumb drive from Corsair — a “superspeed” drive that’s one of the fastest on the market — for $150. I also remember paying over $4,000 — at an Apple Employee Discount cost — for a Macintosh IICi.

OK…if you are NOT amazed at how far technology has come in just a few short years then watch this hilarious bit by the comedian Louis CK on the Conan O’Brien show (skip ahead to 3:19 for the “everything’s amazing!” rant on technology).

UPDATE: The dorks at NBC Universal (now part of Comcast) for copyright reasons did a DMCA takedown on the video on Vimeo. The decent ones on YouTube have also been deleted. It’s sad that NBC doesn’t “get” that watching stuff like this is an incentive for people to watch Conan’s show. 

What you need to know about OS X Mountain Lion

Apple’s OS X Mountain Lion is available in the Mac App Store this morning and, like always on first release, getting in the queue to download it is a challenge! Once in this morning it will likely take some time to download since the installer is over 4GBs and there are undoubtedly hundreds of thousands of people downloading it concurrently.

So while you wait, here is a list of resources I found and sent off to a buddy this morning…and thought it would make a good post as well:

My own take on Mountain Lion? Apple is clearly moving toward merging OS X and iOS so that the Mac experience is more like that of an iPad or iPhone. Since most hacks, cracks and malware on computers comes from the capability to install unsafe and insecure code in the bowels of your operating system, Apple knows that the only way to scale security is to build it in. Here are all the security features Apple touts in OS X Mountain Lion.

Power users and developers are clearly upset about the constraints being placed on them by Apple. But think about it: it was one thing when a family had one computer with multiple user accounts and was somewhat easy to manage. Now many families have multiple computers, each family member with a smartphone, and many families with multiple iPads or tablets. Without a fundamental rethinking and reimagining of computing device security models, our increasingly always-on and always-connected device use is in considerable jeopardy.

Mac App Store Makes Buying *Easy*

Analysts and tech pundits have been buzzing about Apple’s App Store ever since its introduction, and with Citibank’s projection that Apple will rake in $2 billion in 2011 from sales within it, logic would dictate building an app store for Macintosh applications would be another great way to make a ton of money.

Apple’s Mac App Store is now open for business (press release; Mac App Store web page). I submit it’s instead part of an overall strategy to make the Apple experience just as seamless, integrated, rock-solid and, most importantly, easy…as it is for the iOS powered devices: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch (and even iPod to a certain extent).

Why do I think this Mac App Store will be wildly successful? Three reasons:

1) Discovery: In the past most of us read one of a handful of magazines to find new applications, used a website that offered reviews, had a friend or colleague recommend one, or shopped for one in a retail store (yikes…remember buying shrink-wrapped software!?!). Though there are still far too many apps on the iOS App Store—and will certainly be too many to browse all of them on the Mac App Store—at least the wisdom of the crowd will help hot ones bubble up to the surface for simple and quick discovery. I’m hoping Apple will use the “Genius” capability in the Mac App Store at some point to look at what we have installed on our Macs and make recommendations on other complimentary apps we might like to own

2) Easy Downloads with “No Baggage”: The Mac App Store removes several steps to obtain a Mac application. Before, we’d have to find the app; download the Zip or DMG (disk image); do the install; if DMG, eject it; then open Downloads folder and move the Zip or DMG to the trash; empty the trash. THAT ‘OLD WAY’ EQUALS SEVEN STEPS!

Now with the Mac App Store, THE ‘NEW WAY’ IS ONLY THREE STEPS: Discover the app; click “Install”; enter your Apple ID to buy one or download a free one. Even I, someone who can do this sort of stuff in my sleep, smiled in delight at how easy this would make it for me, a self-described “power user,” let alone someone new to the Macintosh. This is especially true if someone has come to the Mac due to their experiences with an iOS device and using the iOS App Store

3) One-stop-shop: Over the last three years as my firm has done work implementing numerous ecommerce sites for clients, not only are ecommerce experiences completely different on nearly every website, but I’ve been increasingly stunned as to how many sophisticated consumers I know and meet do very little or no ecommerce transactions! They’re afraid of an insecure site, are reluctant to buy an app and download it, and so on. I’m convinced that this Mac App Store will extend the accounts people already have on iTunes and the overall experience will remove all sorts of barriers to even newbies buying Mac apps online.

Nicely done Apple.

A Perspective on iPad’s Impact on Your Mind

With a potential 8.5M iPad’s sold in 2010 and projections of as many as 43.7M units sold in 2011, there is no question that this device has created quite an impact and will going forward. Some are even heralding the death of the netbook (the under $400 tiny laptops) but what I’ve not seen is any discussion about how the use of these devices is changing the way we interact with our computers and, most importantly, its impact on our minds.

The problem with using current desktop or laptop computers is that far too often we have multiple web browser windows open, each with multiple tabs for email, calendar, your blog, Facebook, Twitter and who knows what else. You’ll also have applications open (e.g., Word, Excel, Photoshop, iTunes) and be interacting with all sorts of these applications, most of which are connected to the internet.

Not only is the visual noise of all this stuff running on your screen a disruption, but when an email comes in, someone connects with you via chat, you see a tweet come in from one of your Twitter follows, or you hear a “ping” that someone has begun a Facebook chat with you, it’s a disruption that can knock you off track and off task for quite awhile.

In the scientific community there is significant research that has gone in regarding what happens in our minds when we multitask. What happens when we’re interrupted and then resume our work. How long it takes to resume our cognitive processes after being interrupted and what this does to our ability to get stuff done.

But what does this have to do with the iPad and its impact on your mind? Read More

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