Thursday, July 27, 2017

Maintenance vs. innovation

Professors Andrew Russell and Les Vinsel wrote an interesting column for the New York Times that addresses the problems of many current Mac users who are trying to decipher how things that used to work are now mysterious black boxes: “Let’s Get Excited About Maintenance”, New York Times, 2017-07-22.

See also "Don’t get cut on Sierra" and "Computers under the control of magicians".

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Glyphosate and free market

I posted the following to
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/25/dining/ben-and-jerrys-ice-cream-herbicide-glyphosate.html?comments#permid=23415777

"Free marketers" too often ignore two important points of a true free market: buyers have all the information they need and there are no externalities.

If a product has any contamination from peanuts, then any buyer who is allergic to peanuts should have that information.

No externalities means that all costs are paid for in the transaction.  If a manufacturer is putting anything in the air or water that could harm someone, that is an externality.

Don’t get cut on Sierra (Apple's latest OS)

Sierra is Spanish for saw and is the name of Apple’s latest operating system OS 10.12.

However, it is not for everybody.  It has lots of gotchas that will cost the unwary in time and money.

When you upgrade, it moves your entire Document folder to iCloud.  One, the Document folder may contain more data than you have room for in your iCloud account.  Two, you will have to always have access to the web to access your data.

The first is not a big problem in that Apple will ask you to upgrade your iCloud space.  In my case, 50GB cost me 99 cents a month, automatically taken out of my checking account.

The second can be a really big problem if you either work offline a lot or have limited wireless service.  Although I did the upgrade at a coffee shop, I think home usage added a couple of GBs in only a day or two.

My current plan is for 15GB per month and I generally use about 8GB.  It used to be rather simple to calculate total prices, but it seems that AT&T is making calculations even more obscure.  I gave up for now trying to calculate the cost of unlimited service.

At least I have a nearby AT&T store.  I plan to stop by soon for a power-cord gadget.  I’ll ask if they can help me calculate the true cost to a significant upgrade.

I think I have all the really important, current “Document” data moved off iCloud and accessible without an internet connection.  Now the next question is how do I back that data up to iCloud at my convenience.

P.S.  I found out that the latest Epson software for my printer  is valid for older operating systems.  The list only gives the latest two OS’s but another page shows it would work for several older OS’s.  Sigh!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Computers under the control of magicians

How many of you are old enough to remember:
“The computer for the rest of us” and
“1984 will not be like 1984”

These were two of the slogans that Apple used in 1984 when it introduced the Mac.  I loved it with its WIMP interface (Windows, Icons, Menus, Pictures).  Almost everything you needed to know was on the screen.

Many Mac users of that time were eager for the newest operating system or newest Mac: hard drives, multi-tasking, color.

I can’t pinpoint when it all changed, but I stopped looking forward to the latest operating system.  Features that worked fine on OS P were a nightmare on OS Q.  It seemed that the gratuitous changes were made only to keep programmers employed.  Or that a new set of programmers had to do it their way no matter what most long-time customers wanted.

This has been one of those bad years for me.

Sometime in March or April, Apple made a minor update.  It did not seem like a big deal and I installed it.  I found out much to my chagrin that my Epson WF-3640 would no longer accept paper from anything but Tray 2.  I thought the machine didn’t work and exchanged it with Best Buy on a warranty.  The second one did the same thing.

After a couple of calls to Epson I learned that Apple had changed the print dialog to all the information the user needed from being on the screen to being buried under certain choices.  Once I had that info, I could print from whatever tray I chose.

Then Apple provided a gratuitous “EPSON Printer Software Update, Version 3.3”.  I downloaded and installed it.  Now my printer didn’t work at all!

A third person at Epson said it was my cable.  Well, as I talked to him, I did have my external hard drive connected, not the printer.  But when I was off the phone and had the proper connection, it still didn’t work.

I next tried the the friendly folks at Geek Squad.  I described the basic problem and they were ready to set me up with a Geek Squad account.  Each time I got near the bottom of the payment window it would disappear.  What were they ready to blame: my browser (Safari).  What?  There are dozens of payment windows that work just find with Safari.

I had to go elsewhere and excused myself.

Today, I despaired and went to Best Buy to buy another cable.  i also bought a couple of thumb drives to replace those that I “crashed” by taking them out of the USB slot before closing them.  Another story for another day maybe.

I plugged my new cable into my MacBook and into the printer.  Nothing happened.  I couldn’t print.

I didn’t keep track of the buttons I pushed on the printer and the computer, but the results varied widely as to what happened.  Eventually my Mac and my Epson printer connected properly with one another.  I really don’t want to be a scientist who keeps meticulous notes on every step and every observation.  After all, the Mac is the computer for the rest of us.  And after 58 years being involved with computers (from punched cards to rooms full of tape drives) I just want to be an ordinary user.

Then I exchanged the new cable for the old cable.  Everything worked as it should.

As a senior wailed in the computer lab when I was a graduate assistant, “That isn’t what I meant!


Thursday, July 06, 2017

Playing the right game with North Korea

Maybe the best solution is to send a Korean-speaking envoy who plays jang-gi (a strategy board game). Such an envoy could probably get a better dialogue going with Kim Jong-un in a week than a year of huffing and puffing from Washington. Many in Washington would think this a fool's errand, but I think George Washington would definitely approve (see "Farewell Address", https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/GPO-CDOC-106sdoc21/pdf/GPO-CDOC-106sdoc21.pdf).

Comment to “Kim Jong-un is not a freakish buffoon”, David C. Kang, New York Times, 2017-07-05
http://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/05/opinion/kim-jong-un-north-korea-sanctions.html?comments#permid=23152988

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Modern medical care precludes a “free market”

One of the latest to call for a free market in health care is Bert Stephens, one of the New York Times “conservative” columnists.  His latest column, “A Price for the G.O.P.’s Health Care Insanity”. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/30/opinion/congress-health-savings-accounts.html  He takes on Obama for creating the mess and the Republicans for making matters worse with their “fixes”.

He blames it as the “third party problem”; the consumer of health care does not shop around for the best deal but depends on an insurance company to pay the bills.

There may still be a free market in dentistry, but there cannot be a free market in health care.  Why?  What is one of the criteria for a “free market”: many sellers.  We have long ago lost many of our independent doctors: they are mostly in large clinic/hospital complexes.

In Duluth, Minnesota, we have two choices: Essentia Health or St. Luke’s.  It may still be that if you have company-provided health insurance, then your only choice may be a given clinic.  I know that we have switched clinics when we switched jobs.

Oh, sure, if we can’t get into one of these clinics or decide an out-of-town clinic is a better choice, we can drive a few hours or stay overnight to visit other clinics.  My wife couldn’t get into a dermatologist in Duluth and so drove to the Twin Cities.  We have had several friends who have stayed in Rochester to use the services of the Mayo Clinic.

There are certain specialties that are available outside the clinics, such as eye care.

A clinic may give you a choice of doctors, but you are often limited to those who have current openings in their schedule.  If your doctor leaves the clinic, the clinic may assign you to the next available doctor  I don’t remember if I chose my first cardiologist, but I know I was assigned to another when my then current cardiologist went elsewhere.  When my cardiologist decided that I needed heart surgery, I was assigned all the subsequent surgeons.

Another consideration is our knowledge of the available doctors.  Do we know who is available?  Do we know their credentials and reputations?  A free market includes having all the information to make a decision.  Very few of us will take the time to get the information, or, if we get it, have enough knowledge to make a decision.