The Arrow

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Archive for the ‘technology’ Category

Steve Jobs and Craftsmanship

Posted by thearrow on November 15, 2011

[Note: totally self-congratulatory post.]

Did I say that Steve Jobs was a craftsman or did I not? He uses the word at least two times in excerpts from The Lost Interview, as reviewed by Time.

– “there’s a tremendous amount of craftsmanship between a great idea and a great product.”

– “The product genius that led to that monopolistic position is rotted out by people who have no conception of good products vs. bad products – the craftsmanship required.”

Of course, I didn’t know anything about this until today. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw it. Then I started to suspect that maybe I did hear about this somewhere and then it seemed like it was my original thought. Although I usually remember if someone else said something, even if I don’t remember who exactly.

So I searched for “Steve Jobs craftsmanship” on Google to see what else is there and if it rings any bell. The only other thing along these lines that came up at the top of the search results was a blog post from August this year, titled Steve Jobs’ reverence for craftsmanship. So, OK, someone else stumbled upon this before me, but prompted by another Jobs quote:

“When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it.”

This other quote offers me even more validation of how smart I am (ha ha!): Jobs uses carpentry as an example of craftsmanship, which is what I did. Sure, that’s a very obvious example to pick, but I thought of Jobs as a craftsman after I had actually visited the shop of a guy who was both a carpenter and an electrician, who makes custom electric guitars.

Iz smart.


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TeamViewer Rocks!

Posted by thearrow on November 14, 2011

First, watch this hilarious short film that captures perfectly how (at least) Romanian parents react when having to turn a computer on and use it to communicate with their overseas kids. Almost everything in it applies to my mom, particularly the fear that she’ll break the computer if she clicks on some button.

If your parents are in a similar situation, TeamViewer is there to help. I never had enough time to show them everything I wanted. With TeamViewer I get access to their computer and show them whatever they need to know. Hundreds of pages of notes would do nothing in that regard because the first thing you need to do is allay their fears that they’ll break something. Showing them how to do stuff is the perfect learning experience!

Posted in my parents, technology | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Steve Jobs Was a Craftsman

Posted by thearrow on October 6, 2011

I went along with my husband yesterday to a guitar repair shop down in Virginia. He had bought a mass-produced electric guitar a while ago and Larry, the guy whose shop we were visiting, had replaced all the electric components in it, had refinished the neck, replaced the pick ups, and generally turned it into a really fine instrument. The shop is actually his garage and basement. I was impressed by how neat and orderly it was, and by how many pieces of machinery it had. Rock music was humming from a radio indistinguishable from the tools around it and a Great Pyrenee made the place homely.

After testing the guitar and getting his face expanded into a wide grin at the amazing sounds it made, my husband started asking Larry if he played the instrument. He must have since he could build guitars so well. To which the even more amazing answer was, no. He said he wanted to play guitar when he was a kid but wasn’t that good at it, so instead he learned how to build one. On his own, by taking it apart and putting it back, and then by studying books and other materials. He got his basic training from his dad, a machinist, and his grandparents, who were carpenters. As he was saying this, I started looking at rows upon rows of small tools that looked identical, like pliers, but whose tips were slightly different, each adapted to a purpose that seemed very precise. All of them in their neat place, waiting for the right moment.

So here was this universe, quietly mastered by a self-effacing man, from which wonders of woodwork and electrical skill sprung out. Larry can build probably any model of electric guitar there is starting from a block of wood. If I can’t describe his work in more relevant details it’s just because I know nothing about guitars. But it was impossible not to see the exquisite quality of what he did.

In the evening, when the sad news of Steve Jobs’ passing reached me and I started reading the obituaries and the long list of amazing devices that “suffered a sea-change, into something rich and strange,” it struck me that he was, in fact, a craftsman. He focused his immense talent on creating and perfecting exquisite things that give us pleasure. The joy of using them makes us forget how useful they are. The quality of the devices he created is amazing, but it’s transcended by their beauty and the attention to detail that went into them.

That’s why Apple was so intimately dependent on his vision, because he took his creations to a different level, way beyond mass production. He would have had great success even if his devices weren’t so great; if they were just good enough. But a true craftsman is never content with anything less than the highest level he can achieve.

Steve Jobs, 1955-2011

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Goodbye, Typewriter. Sigh.

Posted by thearrow on April 26, 2011

Last typewriter factory in the world shuts down. Rest in peace.

The reporter even included this description of the typewriter, which, 20 years ago when I learned to type on one, would have been considered an exercise in the literary technique of defamiliarization:

“The typewriter is a mechanical device with keys that, when pressed, cause characters to be printed on a medium, usually paper. The first commercial typewriter was produced in the US in 1867 and by the turn of the century had developed into the standardized QWERTY format keyboard that we still have on keyboards today. The device was used extensively through much of the 20th century by many authors and businessmen.”

I guess you have to explain it to those born in the early 90’s; they might not have ever seen a real one. And when you think that those who perfected the typewriter arrived at the QWERTY keyboard in order to slow down typewriters that were getting all tangled up with other designs. Now we are locked in this keyboard layout forever.

I learned to type (blind) on a typewriter during communism, in high-school classes of stenography and typewriting. It was love at first clack. We had a terrific teacher who guided us through endless drills meant to help us memorize the keyboard and improve our accuracy. While my speed was lightning-fast, it took me a couple of years to get my accuracy at some acceptable level, because I had been typing on my own for two years before taking classes and, as we already know, it’s hard to root out bad habits. Also, I didn’t quite have the notion of self-discipline yet. I still remember how the tiniest error would show up on the page; there was no fooling the teacher.

I loved typing so much that I even went to two national contests for typewriting. I don’t remember winning, but it sure was fun to participate. In college it was a skill that helped me land my very first job, which started with typing and turned into translations — another great love of mine.

I still have my typewriter at my parents’ place and hope to keep it forever. Now that I think of it, I might want to be buried with it 🙂

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Password Your Way to the Future

Posted by thearrow on November 30, 2010

No, this is not about some secret time machine.

Have you ever scratched your head when trying to come up with a hard-to-guess-by-others but easy-to-remember-by-you password? Has the system you needed to log into tell you that you can’t choose a dictionary word? I know what you’re feeling.

Next question: Have you also heard of how, if you keep repeating what you desire, it will force it to become reality?

Well, I thought I’d give it a try and create a winning combination. I think about what I really want (say, a really big salary) and turn that into my password: rlybgslry2011.

There. Take your wishes and run with them 🙂

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Spooky Advertising

Posted by thearrow on October 1, 2010

You might have heard about behaviorally targeted online advertising, which gets data on what sites you visit and then feeds you ads for those companies on other pages you visit. It’s been happening to me for a long time now. I’ve checked out a few vendors and now all I get to see are ads for them. I’m ok with that; it makes sense, in a way, except that those behind this didn’t seem to think that at some point it becomes really annoying to see the same ads. Use some variation, people. As much as I’d like to buy clothes from or to-die-for rings from I.Gorman Jewelers, they’re not in my budget range 🙂 Find something else.

But something spooky just happened. I passed by The Art of Shaving today and a few hours later I see an ad for them on a Yahoo! News page. Wow! I think that happened because I have enabled the GPS on my phone, so now my carrier has extremely precise data on my whereabouts. I wouldn’t be surprised if they triangulated that with my office position in the afternoon and determined I need to see an ad about the store. I might be giving technology more credit that it’s due, though. How would they know how to send the ad precisely to my computer?

So I’m baffled but I can’t imagine it’s just pure coincidence. Or maybe deux ex Internet sends ads to nearby IP addresses?

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Suggestion for a Smart Phone App

Posted by thearrow on September 10, 2010

I’ll start by saying that I’m not a big fan of apps for the simple reason that I just don’t have time to play with them. When a friend switched to iPhone she said it’s much more conducive to using apps, which might explain why I don’t do it on my Droid phone. While probably true, I don’t intend to drop a wad of cash every month for AT&T’s data plan and dropped calls.

That said, I would LOVE to be able to capture web addresses with the phone’s camera, store them, and make them clickable. That’s an app I’d definitely use. There are a lot of websites promoted everywhere you look in DC (on buses, signs, ads), not to mention the now ubiquitous Twitter and Facebook icons for those businesses. I always stumble upon web addresses for interesting organizations that I’d like to check out later, but I never jot them down and I never remember them.

I need to point my camera phone to them, click on one button, and check the websites later.

So there, app developers, take this idea and run with it!

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