New Mac

No, not a new MacPro, unfortunately.
But admittedly, as I was playing with it in the shop, I realized just how much more powerful than my daily needs this machine is and what a terrible waste of money it would be.
So, I opted for a Mac Mini with 2.3 GHz Core i7 CPU (from ricardo.ch, but still shrink-wrapped). With a Crucial 480GB SSD and 16GB RAM, this is still a very powerful machine.
I still had the Apple Wireless Keyboad I bought a couple of years ago, I can still use my trusty Dell 24″ display (back from the time when there were no glare display…) etc.
iFixit gives the Mini a 8/10 score on repairability – it’s the only device Apple manufactures except for the aforementioned MacPro and the ancient and soon-to-be-discontinued non-retina MacBookPro that actually has user-servicable parts.
That and the fact that it’s still a fast machine, even compared to Apple’s 2013 lineup of 27″ iMacs, led me to go for it instead of an iMac (for which the latest models began showing up in the refurbished-store by the time I was ready to buy).

The SSD is more than 10 times faster than the hard disk in my iMac from 2008, it’s absolutely breath-taking – and with no mechanical parts except for the fan, the MacMini is absolutely, positively silent. There’s no telling if it’s on or not other than connecting the monitor (and the indicating lights on the unit).

It can drive a 30″ display, at 2560×1600, so once the prices of these babies come under pressure from the beginning 4K revolution, I’ll also get a larger display (and use the old one as a 2ndary display).
With a bit of tricking, it will apparently even drive a 4K display – at a meager 24Hz refresh rate, which would make it just fast enough to view a static image….

How long does the internet remember? And is there a difference between the internet and real life, anyway?

An interesting question arose on Slashdot: How long will the internet remember us?
That, coupled with another case of Online Career Suicide, prompted me to investigate my own past.
I took the opportunity and went to The Internet Archive to see if they had actually made a copy of my old homepage at FH Konstanz (which has renamed itself into HTWG Konstanz a couple of years back – a change I could never quite embrace).
So, archive.org had actually made a snapshot of my homepage, going back as early as December 5th, 1998. Over fifteen years to date. (Actually, I’m quite glad it didn’t catch any earlier incarnations of my site). Back then, nobody would have predicted how big the web would get. Not only in size – I don’t think we misjudged that – but rather how much influence the web would have on what back then would be called “real life” (as opposed to the “online life”).
Fifteen years later, with Twitter, Facebook (plus the three dozen social networks that preceded it and the couple of services it acquired), with Flickr, Tumblr, with the internet being in everybody’s pocket (that in itself being an enormous achievement few people envisioned), we have gradually shifted into a world where “The Internet” shapes us, rather than the opposite.
As long as archive.org is funded, it will keep those pages online. As for Facebook et.al – it’s pretty much the same. Which is good news and bad news at the same time:
It’s good news, if you want some of the content to disappear rather sooner than later.
And bad news, if you think the internet is some sort of history book, an eternal diary of your life – it isn’t.
Unless somebody else has enough monetary interest in keeping your data online, there is no way our “online history” will survive as long as a black and white photo-album from early last century, or the notes of my grandmother.
Just keep that in mind and maybe drag the really worthwhile moments into the analogue world. As difficult as that might be sometimes.

When reality looks like last year’s TV-show

I’ve recently discovered a Canadian TV-show from 2012. It’s called Continuum. You can read the summary on wikipedia. In one sentence, it’s about a female cop from the year 2077 which, by fate, gets transported (time-travelled) to 2012, along with a handful of criminals trying to escape their fate.
In the future of the TV-show, North America in 2077 is a Corporatocracy underpinned by a perfect and all-encompassing surveillance system where everything everybody does is constantly recorded – everywhere and at any time – “to keep people honest”.

The TV-show debuted in 2012 but recent events make it look awfully creepy in that I constantly have to think “yeah, they are already doing that. Now”.
The most troubling thought, though, is the one I had just while writing this piece: with all the data that is collected on individual and business communication – would it be possible to predict the future? At least, on a large scale?
As you know, Google often “knows” the outcome of elections even before the people have voted – so imagine a system that not only is able to collect all the data that people enter into google, bing, yahoo, Facebook and a dozen more websites, but also sift through the individual communication (email, phone-calls, chat) of the people related to the searches (or unrelated) and combine it with classified data obtained from, ahem, “other sources”.
I don’t know much about “big data” and just the very basics of statistics and probability, yet this strikes me as an incredibly powerful tool – and a weapon with great potential for abuse.
Obviously, one could be pretty sure when to buy or sell stock – but also predict regional conflicts or wars (which in turn is just another angle for the stock-market).

So, it’s 2013 and all your data are belong to us. Or at least, it’s recorded for a couple of days.
But what do we make of it?
Somebody once said that Americans can’t imagine – much less warm-up to anything unless it’s been on TV. It was in the context of the TV-show “24″, that depicted an “African American” president, next to the use of torture to gain intelligence – both now broadly accepted in the US-society.
To a certain extent, this (TV-shows shaping the perception of reality) is also true for Europe.
In this sense, it will take some time and some TV-shows before the truth really sinks in, I’m afraid.

Ah, the truth….
Not this time, though.