Thursday, January 17, 2019

Oh, Brave New World!

There are upsides to this new economy.

I realize that my last posting comes across as a bit of sour grapes.  I don't want to end up as one of those guys who claims that carburetors are better than fuel injection and the good old days are gone for good.  Things are changing, and as you get older, change is harder to accept.  However, I do realize there are a lot of advantages to our new modern world.

Although most software packages are indeed sold on a monthly subscription basis these days, a reader points out that it is still possible to buy a copy of QuickBooks - albeit for nearly $200 - and install it on your Windows 10 computer.  And I guess Windows 10 isn't all that bad, although I don't see the point of trying to make your laptop look like a cell phone.

Other readers (that posting generated a record response) suggested installing Linux, or using a Virtual Machine (VM) which sort of misses the point.   Linux is nice and all, but I am not sure what installing all new software does for me (I would have to "start over" with all my finances) other than to make an older computer run faster - for a while.  And by the way, why didn't anyone seize on this idea and sell cheaper Linux-based computers with open-sourced software back in the day?  They could have undercut the Microsoft monopoly by $100 a machine, at least.   But I think that ship has sailed - my next "computer" will likely be a phone, or a netbook or tablet.   As  I get older, my needs to compute become less and less.

But getting back to the main point, we do live in a wonderful era.  Maybe we have lost some of the simplicity of the past, but we have gained much more in the process.  For example, the rights of women and minorities are far greater than they ever were in the past.  Today, we wring our hands over whether a man shaving is an act of sexual aggression, whereas in the past, the big debate was exactly how many times a man can beat up his wife before it's considered spousal abuse.

And while we may be moving toward a rental economy, some of the things we can rent are pretty amazing.  These self-driving cars of the future - whose future may arrive within a decade - might not be something you want to own, anyway.  As technology becomes more and more complicated, it becomes harder and harder for the average individual to repair.  Of course, we want to make sure that there is healthy competition in this marketplace. Otherwise when you dial for a ride on your cell phone, you may be shocked to find out it costs you $100 just to go to the grocery store and back.  Of course, by then, maybe you'll have all your groceries delivered.  The downside to this, of course, is that maybe you'll never leave home.  That's not very healthy.

Of course, even as technology becomes more complicated, technology sometimes provides the answers.  I noted before that you can fix a lot of problems with these modern cars if you have an inexpensive code reader and can read the error codes from the car's computer system.  Type in the make, model, and year of your car, plus the error code, and chances are you'll find a discussion group where somebody's having the same, if not identical, problem.  Scroll through the facile answers that float to the top of the discussion and you may find the actual cure for your problem, and maybe an inexpensive cure at that.

And while technology does get more complex, it also becomes more inexpensive.  Our standard of living today is far better than in the past, despite what some people want to sell you.   We are fatter, healthier (ironically), and have more toys to play with, nicer (and larger) houses to live in, fancier cars, better clothes (and more of them) and so on and so forth.   When I was a kid, only "rich" people had air conditioning in their cars - or even their houses!  Today, even the poorest have both.

We are better off today with all this tech, even if there are downsides.

So take my previous posting with a grain of salt - the frustration of an older generation finally sick and tired of all this "newfangled" stuff that always seems to have one hand in your wallet - sometimes literally.   It is possible to have all this tech and not pay monthly subscription fees until you are broke.

Because the bottom line is, if you signed up for all the monthly fees for all this crap - from video streaming services, to XM radio, to cable television, to software rental, to Onstar car monitoring, to an alarm service, to extended warranties, to Amazon Prime, to - whatever else they think up this month - you would go quickly broke - or at the very least, be missing a few hundred grand from your retirement account by the time you retire.

In the meantime, I'll keep flogging this decade-old laptop and 20-year-old software for another few years.   My experience illustrates why the PC market basically died - they made a product that didn't really need updating anymore, so other than replacement sales, there was no compelling reason to buy.  So people stopped buying.

This is something Apple should realize with its smartphones, perhaps.  Or maybe they are realizing.

I suspect they will come up with some "new" tech that necessitates bricking all their older phones, as they are wont to do.   It is that sort of thing that sticks in my craw - not the newfangled tech, but the newfangled ripoffs.