The end of projectors

I recently bought a 17″ Dell laptop and didn’t find out until yesterday about a little feature it has – and most recent PCs and laptops have – called Miracast. The 50″ 4K SUHD Samsung TV I bought in an irresistible deal last week also supports it, as do most new Smart TVs. To use it in Windows 10, you simply click the Connect button in the Notification Center, then on the TV that shows up on the network listing – that’s it. Miracast is essentially HDMI-over-WiFi projecting (Intel’s version is called WiDi), and it’s so good that I’d advise selling any projector manufacturer stock you own. To wit:


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My Samsung phone also supports screen mirroring, so I can display its screen live on the new TV as well.

For fixed setting projection needs, I don’t see why anyone should ever again shell out US$700 or $800 for a projector – that was the price last time my company bought one six years ago – when one can spend the same amount and get a 50″ TV with 3840 x 2160 resolution, triple that of a typical projector, or spend a hundred or two more for a 60″ version. The quality is several tons better than projecting on a white screen, the speed is fine on 802.11n wireless, and you don’t even have to turn the lights off.

Compare and contrast

Compare this article: Why Millennials Can’t Grow Up

To this story from SBS 2 Australia:

I don’t think that Japan is fundamentally different. In fact, the segment brought to mind my own childhood, during which I was on my own or with pals most of the day – no parents in sight 90% of the time from the age of six.

I think the chief difference is an overarching paranoia in the West that has developed over the last thirty to forty years, where now, most people are convinced that child abduction by strangers is a lot rifer than, for instance, the 110 or so actual occurrences per year in the US. A recent episode of 99% Invisible – one of several podcasts I consider essential – explored how the milk carton missing kids of the 1980s contributed to that paranoia in this country.

Each morning on the drive to work, I shudder a little when I see parents waiting at school bus stops with their children. Why? Because I can easily imagine the abject shame and embarrassment kids would have felt had parents hovered like that just a handful of decades ago. “No, that is not my mother! I don’t know who it is! Gawd!

Invisibilia, another good podcast, recently examined a 1970s study Roger Hart did at a rural town in Vermont to discover where kids spent their time and what sort of secrets they kept from their parents. Returning to that town in 2004 revealed astonishing contrasts in attitudes – from the very kids in the original study, now adults. This Atlantic article goes into more depth on Hart’s return to the town thirty years on.


Afterthought: While ruminating on these ideas, it occurred to me that endless selfies may have their roots in the overprotective, overpraising, “You are the most special and precious snowflake in the world and nothing untoward must ever happen to you” style of parenting. If you grow up believing you’re that special, you might actually feel it imperative to take pictures of yourself several times a day, if only to provide documentation for future historians and biographers.

Selfie absorbed

“Gas…Market Basket…veg…Dingleface. Wait, what?”

See if you can spot the fraudulent transactions on my debit card:


On submitting the dispute just now, I said:

I’m not a member of Facebook or any of the other ultimately antisocial media sites (case in point).

I’ll stop by the credit union tomorrow for a replacement card – for the third time in a little over a year.

I thought it unusual when a friend told me recently that she routinely cancels her debit card and gets a new one every six months. I no longer think that unusual.

It’s like having Big Ben on your wrist

You know how whenever you hear Big Ben, you count even when you know how many bongs it’s going to be? In a similar vein, I did not make this up:

Follow directions. After you tap Start and head off on your first leg, Apple Watch uses taps to let you know when to turn. A steady series of 12 taps means turn right at the intersection you’re approaching; three pairs of two taps means turn left. Not sure what your destination looks like? You’ll feel a vibration when you’re on the last leg, and again when you arrive.

This makes me idly wonder what eight and ten taps might mean, or indeed if another series of signals might be two sets of four taps followed by a single pair of taps for ‘stay in the left lane looking at your monthly calendar until you glance up and see the left turn only arrow, at which time rapidly cut off the car to your right’ followed by a light stroking of the wrist to indicate you should ignore any blasting horns or shouted epithets because who the hell are they to judge?

I wonder even more idly whether those twelve taps – deemed by someone in the know to be handier than a voice saying ‘in a quarter mile, turn right’ – proceed in a stately, Big Ben-like manner forty-seven seconds before your turn, or are they more like, say, a tiny jackhammer, as in yuddayuddayuddayuddayududud – in which case, can you count that fast? This brings to mind the further question as to what sort of tapping might be done for something more urgent than ‘take the next right’?

Finally, when you absentmindedly miss your turn and need to make a U-turn because you were busy snoozing a reminder to read the safety section of the manual, is that when an eighth-inch hypo comes out and jabs you, or, in spite of the battery life, might there be a light electrical shock applied?

Long-lost cousin?

I found this particularly interesting because it’s precisely the sort of quote I would give to the media should the occasion arise.

Chucklehead here fell asleep on the taxi on the runway, and I guess his arm kind of brushed over to her. She just went nuts and started stabbing him with the [fountain] pen. He screamed really loud, almost like a little girl,” said Michael Sutton, Mordarski’s friend.

He also succinctly referred to the perp as a ‘psycho’, bringing this to mind:

This business is well ended.
My liege, and madam, to expostulate
What majesty should be, what duty is,
Why day is day, night night, and time is time,
Were nothing but to waste night, day and time.
Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit,
And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,
I will be brief: your noble son is mad:
Mad call I it; for, to define true madness,
What is’t but to be nothing else but mad?
But let that go.

Hey, cool site redesign, Sprint

After not answering an unfamiliar caller ID on my mobile just now, I found it was a survey company, so I visited the Sprint site to forever block the number and, on arrival, found they have a rather unfetching new design. I’ve had my desktop browser windows set at 1024×768 for years because that’s the way I like it. Sprint does not care for my preference, so much so that they’re willing to make their site close to indecipherable at that size to show me the error of my foolish and ignorant ways:

Sprint dummies

Click for full size

Sprint menu


I suppose I could offer offer to do everything for everybody in order to get everything done well, but I fear that might severely eat into my sleep time.

People still need better hobbies

That’s my thought whenever I read that people have spent hours and hours scouring through someone’s online history specifically to find something to get angry about. Jon Ronson mentions in this 2 April interview that the citizen police examined over 9,000 posts by Trevor Noah. I can’t think of a reason why people – at least those who are not in possession of a genuine obsessive-compulsive disorder – would do that other than a combination of plenty of idle time and being supremely bored with their own lives. It’s easy to wonder if they were even remotely interested in the topic at hand before the possibility of a fresh new outrage, however small and inconsequential, presented itself.

These “find anything some person has ever said that might now or ever in the past or future offend someone – anyone” research projects, said goal always attainable no matter who you’re talking about, also seem like busy-work to me, akin to a boss telling an underling “Go through the customer records and prepare a listing in reverse last purchase date order, with subtotals by month and year – but only include purchases up to but not including fifty dollars” because he hasn’t any real work to give them. In the case of people who enjoy generating or fueling the internet outrage du jour, they are their own boss giving themselves ridiculous time-wasting things to do.

The first article linked above, which I noticed because I’ve just started reading Ronson’s new So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, disingenuously quotes Jim Norton out of context, but does link to his full article, which includes this key paragraph:

Being outraged and upset and feeling bullied or offended are not only things we enjoy, they’re also things we have become thoroughly addicted to. When we can’t purposefully get our feelings hurt by a comedian, we usually find another, albeit less satisfying, source of indignation. A few of the old stand-bys are sports announcers, radio hosts, Twittering athletes and paparazzi-hating actors. These are always great sources to look to when we need to purposefully upset ourselves. And make no mistake about it: Upsetting ourselves on purpose is exactly what we are doing. At least that’s what I hope we are doing. Because the other alternative is that Americans have collectively become the most hypersensitive group of whining milksops ever assembled under one flag. I find this second choice to be particularly humiliating, so I opt for the first. I choose to believe that we are addicted to the rush of being offended, the idea of it, rather than believing we have become a nation of emasculated children whose only defense against an abyss of emotional agony is a trigger warning.

I think his first choice is the correct one, but only because I, on the outside of Fnooter, Dingleface, et al and looking in with cocked eyebrow, have been saying that in one way or another for about a decade. People who have no rushes in real life can predictably and easily obtain red faces, hot tempers, and irresistible urges to join one fray or another several times every day through antisocial media. The exclamation points and the ALL CAPS and the vituperative spluttering might seem to be of a sapping nature for the soul and therefore not a good thing in the long run, true enough, but I also have no doubt that, in the short term, it’s a boatload of fun for people with nothing to look forward to in their own lives: “At last…excitement!” The popularity of such virtual Pixy Stix for the terminally bored and boring is not surprising to me, nor that most can’t stop themselves once in the habit.

When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience, and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; culture-death is a clear possibility.

– Neil Postman in Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business (1985)

Living on the large print shelf

Current one-size-fits-all web design increasingly leans toward the smaller tablet screen – not fitting all well at all, it turns out – and much of it becomes annoyingly large on a full-size desktop screen. The font below, for example, is twice as large as it should sensibly be on my desktop, and makes me feel like I’ve inadvertently picked up a book from the Large Print selection on the bottom shelf at the library. The three screenshots here are each about 1,000 pixels wide – click on any to see that size.


Click for original size

Sometimes these “must fit an iPad mini” fonts get all bright and shouty, much worse than ALL CAPS. When I see something like the story opening below, I automatically think of Garrett Morris on Saturday Night Live. But before that, I squint, wonder if my sunglasses are still in the car, and idly imagine myself phoning the designer to ask sincerely, “Are you an idiot, or are you being intentionally evil?”


“What’s that you say, sonny? Stop whispering!”

Then there are the large print shelf sites also obviously designed by – or for – the colour-blind, in eye pain terms really only one or two steps away from the worst of the Web 0.1 of the mid-1990s:


Is there a medical term for when your eyeballs feel like they’re being squeezed, roughly?

How is it that a colour scheme like that didn’t get laughed out of the room in early design meetings? At my job some companies ago, they hired a logo design firm, or at least a company claiming to be that. One of the product logos they came up with was so inappropriate as to be unbelievable. It had made it through several meetings, and had been approved by Marketing. So what was wrong with it? Well, it did not mistakenly imply harm to our customers, no no. It actually showed harm to our customers. “What? What? Flthhhhp!” came to mind when I saw it. It was presented to a group of users of the product shortly afterward, and they did laugh it out of the room – and I mean that literally, and I assure you I’m using that word correctly. I’m happy to say that it was never seen again.

My other “How is it…?” question today is: How is it that reviews of goofily-outsized dumbwatches, the Large Print edition for the forearm, do not all begin with the caption “Tee hee!” underneath the leading photograph? I look forward to saying that myself the first time I see in person some chowderhead wearing one of these “Look at me, all terribly modern and suchlike!” wall clocks.


Tee hee!

For reference, this is what a wristwatch looks like:


A tad anachronistic, perhaps, but does it elicit a “tee hee!”? I think not.


Ultimate optimists

In the last few years, I’ve noted a small but noticeably growing trend of people wearing no winter clothing on the coldest of winter days – trousers and shirts, sure, but no coat of any kind. I usually see them in shopping centre car parks, but have noted them in other places as well.

Because they used to be rarer sights than they are now, my theory used to be that they were just running a quick errand and were in a hurry. Now I see them – almost always male and usually younger, I should point out – often enough that I think it may be reflective of a time where many simply never go outdoors for more than a run to the store for something, some of them perhaps thinking of frigid weather as a sort of annoying feature of the non-online game of life that never needs to be thought of in terms of anything but several minutes.

I’d be willing to bet that some of them don’t even own a coat – I mean, why would you not take five seconds to don one if you did own one, other than thinking, “How could there possibly be any consequences of dressing for balmy weather in the dead of winter?”

My puzzlement with this has only a little to do with the old admonition to “Bundle up or you’ll catch your death of pneumonia!” It’s more to do with the baffling optimism of someone who’s totally unprepared to spend more than a few minutes in an environment where the phrase “died of exposure” crops up with fair frequency in news reports. Will their car never break down or slide into a ditch? Will they never lock themselves out of their house? And will their mobile’s battery never hit 0%? To me, it’s akin to parents refusing to vaccinate their kids, rationalising “Oh, what are the chances they’ll ever get exposed to that. Anyway, we bleach every surface in our house and that will protect them just fine.” Such levels of optimism imbue the world with a gentleness and harmlessness that, on average, it simply doesn’t possess.