A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Friday, 26 April 2013

Hooptedoodle #86 – The World Is Getting Faster

This is not a rant. I state this right here, up front, so that I can refer back to it if I forget.

A gentleman on the radio this morning was waxing positive about how technology has speeded everything up, and how much better our lives are as a result. He may be correct. If he was on the radio, then it’s bound to be true, isn’t it?

I have expressed concerns here before about the risks to mental health and society if the entire population has too much information, most of it distorted by marketing and vested interests, too little imagination and judgement to make use of that information, and a compulsion to multitask between trivial, inconsequential, purely transactional exchanges. That was beginning to sound a bit rantish, so I’ll stop that paragraph.

The world according to my desktop is not getting faster. It is continuing to slow down. As I have mentioned before, I live out in the countryside, and my broadband is slow. This means that most of the cyber world is now specifically designed not to work properly for people like me. The charming little lady illustrated here is someone I see a great deal of. Since my internet provider is BT (British Telecom), and since they are sort of poor relations within the Yahoo edifice, I am unable to open any page in my email service until I have been provided with an advert for an American charity – they even have 800 toll-free numbers, which of course are meaningless outside the US. I can’t switch this feature off, and the ads take on average about 22.46 seconds a time to retrieve from some remote server. Every single mail item, every index page – everything – has to wait for an ad which I’ve seen before and is of no relevance. You can see that would begin to grate after a while.

As I type my mail, the browser is constantly jamming the buffer, trying to check what I am saying, so that it can target advertising at me which is relevant to what I’m writing about. I constantly have to retype bits where it got stuck, or where it dropped characters while it was distracted. I’ve started using WordPad to type my bigger mails, and pasting them into the browser – I hope the text interpreter gets very serious indigestion as a result of not being able to chew its food properly.

As I type anything into the input field for a search engine, the poor thing has a brave attempt to predict what I’m going to type, but always gets it wrong, since the time taken to realise that I am typing in the search field and call HQ results in its losing the 2nd to 5th characters – so its predictions are not worth the effort. Not helpful.

Well, I’m fighting back. We realised that, despite everything, my wife’s new laptop works much faster than my desktop does when it’s online, so we deduce that more modern designs cope better with all this friction and superfluous junk. I shall buy a new desktop machine next week, and set about the (estimated) 3 month project of transferring software and documents from the old one. I shall, however, keep the old computer – it is still of a high spec, although it is coming up for 7 years old now, and the processor and video components are fast and efficient, if left to themselves and not constantly interrupted.

I intend to strip back the old machine – remove Internet access, take off the virus checker – XP will no longer be supported very soon so a static OS should be OK. I shall remove everything I don’t need to be on it. Goodbye Google Toolbar. Goodbye RealPlayer. Goodbye DropBox. Goodbye Spotify. I shall use it for typing, and utility jobs like writing CDs, graphic and photographic work and desktop publishing. When I need to move files between the machines, I shall use USB memory sticks. The computers will share a printer, but it will be hard-wired so that there is no need for WiFi.

I can sense the beginnings of a smile playing around the corners of my mouth. With luck, my future sightings of the little Unicef girl will be instantaneous, since my new computer will be designed to cope with her as part of the mail service.

The broadband will still be slow, though.

Maybe it won’t work any better.



  1. Hear Him! (When it will allow you to read this)

  2. It may sound counter intuitive - but you might want to consider Windows 8 for your old machine.... the OS was designed primarily for tablets and mobile devices not known for their CPU/number crunching speed.... people have said they have noticed (favourably) the increase in speed on their desktop machines..... just a thought...

  3. While I can't relate directly to your connection speed and problems with BT, I certainly can with your observation on the impact of an overload of information on society.

    It's very much a two-edged sword, isn't it ? I certainly believe there's a relationship between the decline of civility & collapse of political unity in the US with the way we now get our "news" and collectively interact in the internet age.