Vincent Ritter

Useful technology

The past week I took some time off, personally, to work out a few issues I have been having with technology.

I am a lover of technology but the reality is, is that most of it is garbage and useless. This stems from the fact that everything is made more for the "average" mainstream person on their company's portfolio (and I mean no offence by that at all, just more of a way to see where they want to go in terms of "general" appeal)... which also means average to bad software quality. And here lies my beef.

Over the years I tended to stay away from anything too complicated, from buying a HomePod to making sure I stay in one ecosystem, namely Apple. But as time has passed and as I look up outside into the world, it dawned on me... and hit me, that this one trust in one company is just plain dumb.

At this point it feels like I serve my technology and something needs to be drastically done to have technology serve me.

My HomePod is so "Apple" that it doesn't even have a 3.5mm input jack. Heck, you can only stream to it via AirPlay. Oh and forget about using it for anything outside of that universe either. Stream from a non Apple device? Nope. Again here, I am the victim of my own doing. I have to serve my HomePod by integrating into their services.

This is only one example of course but this kinda brings me to my point. Is it useful technology?

I don't think it is at all.

Not to mention the bad software quality that is around these days. My HomePod doesn't work with requests for more than 60% of the time... it used to be better... but here we are.

iOS, macOS and everything else just feels the same most of the time. Not to mention their apps. Oh and don't get me started with the AirPods.

So what the heck am I actually talking about?

We put so much trust in companies to do what we think we need, and to have ease of mind so we don't have to manage it ourselves. But I think giving away too much, and dumbing down on our knowledge on how to manage these devices and things, can ultimately lead to disappointment.

I've been reflecting back before 2007 and how we didn't have iPhones and then whatever other garbage came out afterwards. The ease of use, whilst sometimes cumbersome, of most technological devices was just so much better. I am not talking about user interfaces... but more on the level of: "I turn it on, press play, plug in my headphone jack and boom it works... every-single-time".

All in all, I feel that over the years technology isn't serving me anymore. It's full of frustration which really didn't happen that often in the past. It all feels like patchwork and hope for the best it doesn't break.

This, again, is 100% my fault... by putting too much trust into the "system". I've also been advocating for it for so many years... blinded.

Granted, a lot of things are easier now... but can the costs be justified? Yes and no.

Smartphones can be incredibly useful pieces of technology, but there is too much of a human cost to it... it takes away extraordinary amount of needless time thanks to big tech in general. It's a hard problem to solve and I wish I knew the answer.

Technology should, at the forefront, always give back time to you... and not take it. If it takes time away from you I don't think it's useful anymore (or it's a slippery slope anyway).

Being bound in by one company, or the other, is also not useful at all. Open standards are way better than closed standards.

So what's my conclusion? I really don't know. I'm in the process of moving more things "in-house". That includes messaging with my wife (which is the most important) and also sharing our pictures we take whilst not having it locked away with a big tech company. I have the knowledge to do it, so I will.

I'm also going to be seeking out technology that works for me... instead of me working for it. That goes from speakers and other needs we might have (or don't need anymore). That may include my decision on our next car/truck, gear for outdoors and many other things. In general I want to be more human, instead of being stripped off of it over years of technological "betterment". I want to be able to function no matter what and not become a victim of technology getting it wrong.

My take is as simple as this... if tomorrow everything goes south, may it be financially, globally or whatever, I have what I need already and don't need to worry about a closed account or otherwise like a bricked personal pocket computer (or services disappearing). I can get somewhere if needed and do my best with minimal disruption.

This certainly won't be easy and sitting last week, depressed, certainly didn't bring me further in where I want to be technologically. It's going to be a long journey to unlearn a few things, especially habits, but I think it'll be personally worth it.

Small, but useful, technology is the way forward. I'm done with "closed" and "smart" because it really isn't smart at all - just look at HomeKit (urghhhh).

I'd like to blog about it more as the weeks and months and years pass... to see where I end up and then reflect on it all when I arrive at that sweet spot (if there is such a thing).

I want to bring back that human connection to the world... which seems to be taken more and more it seems.

Is this my midlife crisis?