Do podcasts count as part of the Internet?

Does a podcast in of itself count as a portion of the Internet? I decided recently that I’m only going to go online during the morning before I go to work (at least as far as weekdays are concerned). I came to terms with the fact that I could have been getting addicted to surfing the net when I should have been trying to live something of a life—or at least get something productive done. I was spending too many hours after work watching videos online of other people playing video games or reviewing action figures from the eighties and none enough getting caught up on my reading, writing or actually getting outside. So came the decision to limit my Internet time to the hour or so I’m getting ready for work in the morning.

Then there’s things that I use the Internet to download. I’m still trying to catch up on back issues of magazine subscriptions. But I don’t tend to think of reading those as reading the Internet, regardless of whether or not my Kindle is online. Those magazines are getting written anyway for both print and electronic versions. The Internet is simply the tool I use to obtain the latter.

So why raise the question about podcasts? Isn’t it the same principle? When I think it through, yes. If I allow for one then there’s no reason I shouldn’t allow for the other. But as I was trying to play catch up on my podcasts yesterday (I’ve gotten behind on those as well) the thought crossed my mind that this might be cheating, listening to podcasts that I downloaded later. It still feels like I’m online. Podcasts could be thought of as the successors to radio. But they’re made for Internet users. Except for radio shows that were recorded and released online after they’ve aired, podcasts are made with digital distribution in mind. I don’t know how much this might affect the content—that would be the subject of a study bigger than my ranty little blog posts. It reminds me of David Byrne’s How Music Works. I suppose the same idea would apply.

By the way, I should point out that I’m not listening to podcasts on my phone like so many people do nowadays. I find it’s much easier to do it via an older method of downloading podcast episodes and then transferring them to my iPod, which is an older model that doesn’t have any Internet connection on its own.

Whatever I decide as to how I feel about the issue, it’s not going to affect my listening habits. If anything, I would come to the conclusion that my podcast addiction is separate from my YouTube addiction. But so far listening to podcasts on my way to and from work is a less obstructive habit than wasting time in front of a computer screen when I have too much real life to do.

Thoughts on Amazon Prime.

What’s this? Two blog posts in one day? After I published my last one I decided to do something that I’ve been meaning to do for a few months now, and sign up for a thirty day trial of Amazon Prime. Even in just the few hours  I’ve had it I’ve made a few observations about the differences between that and Netflix. I wanted to try Amazon Prime for two reasons: I’ve gotten really bored with Netflix’s lackluster selection and I wanted to also see what the Prime Reading option had in store for me as well when it comes time for me to resume writing book reviews in March.* There are other services as well which I’ll also go over but those were just extra icing on the cake for me.

I’ll start with a comparison of the Netflix streaming service versus Amazon Prime’s streaming. For the most part I watch both on my television through my Nintendo Wii. Because it matters I should point out that I’m watching both on a standard definition television. I would love to get a more modern (and bigger) set but as I have some big financial plans this year I don’t see myself upgrading anytime soon. I also have the slowest speed available through Comcast around here, although I haven’t noticed any effect on either service.

Netflix looks just fine on my television. I never had any complaints there. The interface, while a bit basic and having less options than the web version, serves its purpose without any regular lag. Amazon’s channel took quite a while to load the first time today, but I’m guessing that had to do with the change in my account. Since then it boots up at the same speed. However, I’m noticing that with many of the selections so far the picture quality is slightly lesser than what I would find on Netflix. I especially compared Star Trek: The Next Generation which is available on both services. If I didn’t already have Netflix I wouldn’t even think about the quality of Amazon Prime’s picture. I have read that depending on the user’s setup the quality can be comparable, so it could be my equipment that’s making the difference. Could it be that this would inspire me to upgrade that as well?

As far as the selection is concerned, I like what I’m seeing so far on Amazon Prime. Of course by switching I’m potentially losing some titles on Netflix that I would have enjoyed, but Amazon’s selection overall looks to be much better. Not only that, but through the same channel on my Wii I can access all of the instant videos that aren’t offered through the Prime service. Many of them can be rented quite affordably. I’m a bit of a cheapskate so I would really want to see the movie, but it’s nice to know that the option is there.

I also wanted to compare Prime Reading to visiting the public library to read new or at least somewhat new book releases so I could review them on my blog. Right off the bat I noticed that Prime has a small selection the newest book was released nearly four months ago. Neither problem is potentially that much of a concern when it comes to selecting a book for a review, but when I could chose from many more and much more recent book through the Maine public library system I wonder if the convenience is worth it. But it is more convenient than physically going to the library. That’s not to mention if I have a specific title that I want to order, which I have to wait to be delivered to my local branch. Cost is also significant. Borrowing a book from the library is free. Then again, technically it’s not—I pay taxes. I could apply the same logic to Prime Reading if I keep the service for video.

But, alas, I could also get Amazon Kindle Unlimited for unlimited reading of millions of books for approximately the same cost as what Prime would amount to once a month. Then I really would be paying for the convenience of not going to the library. Is it really worth that cost?

Like I said, there are other services that come with Amazon Prime, such as streaming of digital music. There are many albums that I can listen to either online or on my phone (provided I get a good enough signal) at no additional cost. It is a bit annoying that there are many albums that I want to listen to that aren’t offered through Prime, or if they are, not in their entirety. But, like I said, this was just a bonus for me. I have other legal means to stream music, even if it does mean listening to the occasional ad. Besides, sometimes I really would rather buy an album in order to support the artist.

But wait, I could also sign up for Amazon Music Unlimited, which would give me access to the albums I want plus many more, all for the same price as Prime.

There are many other services that I could go into and this post is getting pretty long, so I’ll only point out one other one that caught my attention when I signed up for this. Amazon owns Audible, and offers many audio books to Prime subscribers for free. They also have a thing called Audible Channels, but it’s essentially the same thing as podcasts (and in fact, even includes podcasts that are already free anyway).

But wait, I could upgrade to Audible for the same cost per month as Prime—noticing a trend here? It looks like in many cases being a subscriber to Amazon Prime offers a limited version of other services through Amazon, and if you want to get more you have to pay more. Honestly, I don’t see a problem with the idea of a tiered program Unfortunately the cost is a bit ridiculous. Okay, so you don’t have to be a Prime member to also sign up for one of these other services. But I would think that if you chose to upgrade, being a Prime member should give you a discount on the other subscription. For example, you pay nine dollars a month for Kindle Unlimited, or you pay nine dollars a month for Prime and then five for Kindle Unlimited on top of that. I’m not particularly interested in any of these other services myself but I can’t imagine somebody signing up for Prime, making the yearly payment and then signing up for a monthly bill for an upgraded portion of what they’re already getting, ultimately doubling the cost.

So, when it comes down to it, am I going to follow through with the trial period and sign up for Amazon Prime and cancel my Netflix account? Honestly, I’m on the fence. The better selection and access to other services, albeit limited, make up for the slightly lesser picture quality of Amazon’s video. When it comes down to it, the yearly payment for Amazon Prime comes out to less per month than my monthly Netflix bill. That may end up being the deciding factor between the two.

For that matter, I could just save my money and cancel both services. After all, I can always borrow movies through the library (even though that raises other concerns, such as my history of borrowing damaged discs frustratingly often) or rent them individually through Amazon or Redbox. (That also has a trade-off: assuming that I’m only going to watch a movie once anyway, Redbox’s cheaper price and DVD quality offsets Amazon’s convenience and still lesser picture quality.) I’m probably still going to borrow books from the library anyway. Should I just be a cheapskate and cancel all of these services?

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*As a side note for those who may care, because of potential plans for the first weekend of March I may end up not getting to the first book review until the second Monday.

Six things that I hate.

This is not an original topic for a list presented on the Internet, not by a long shot. Therefore I’m going to dispense with the usual long-winded introduction. If anybody’s keeping score, this is supposed to make up for the fact that I didn’t get around to publishing a list on Sunday like I normally do.

  1. Obnoxious people in a movie theater. This came to mind specifically because of a bad movie-watching experience last night. I went to go see a 1922 Swedish movie about witchcraft in Portsmouth last night, the proceeds of which goes to the Portsmouth Halloween Parade. The movie was accompanied by live musicians, so it was a pretty good evening overall. Yet it was ruined, at least for the first half of the movie, by these two women behind me that wouldn’t shut up during the filming. Apparently the live music made people feel like it was a rock concert instead of a film viewing. Finally the guy next to me said something to them and they shut up, at least for the most part. Then people elsewhere in the theater started shouting.
  2. Wasting my time at comic convention. This came to mind because of the convention that I went to in Portland this past weekend. I know that the organizers of these events have to pay to host them at convention centers and the like. Still, I hate having to pay to go in somewhere to shop. But if I didn’t, then the vendors would probably have to raise their prices. Then again, I have had such bad luck finding anything that the higher prices wouldn’t really affect me, anyway. I’m not saying that comic conventions have problems. I just have my own problems going to them.
  3. My employers restricting my Halloween costume at work. This year the company I work for is specifying the if we wear costumes to work on Halloween, we can’t wear masks or full-face make-up. I get it. You want to be able to identify people on camera. It’s a loss prevention issue. But it also throws all of my costume ideas out the window. I like to think that I work better creatively with restrictions but now I’m having a hard time coming up with something.
  4. There’s all this stuff on the Internet and I keep visiting the same handful of websites. I’m sure mindless scrolling through Facebook and Twitter feeds isn’t something readers of this blog wouldn’t understand. But I’m always just scratching the surface of the Internet. It’s not just that I’m stuck in a rut. I just don’t have any clue what else to look for that would interest me. The most I get out of the Internet, most of the time, is publishing this blog. Then again, I’m paying for my Internet connection. So I’m paying to work. Something doesn’t seem right there.
  5. People who don’t understand what the world “yield” means. I’m not talking about when I’m driving past an on-ramp and somebody cuts me off when they’re supposed to yield to me—although that is pretty annoying. I’m referring to when I’m on the on-ramp and am yielding to oncoming traffic, and the person behind me gets right up on my ass and gets pissed off at me. This is especially infuriating when there’s no room for me to move into traffic. What the hell do they expect me to do? Yeah, I stopped my car. Deal with it, asshole.
  6. The fact that my tooth still hurts. Seriously, I’ve been going to the dentist for pain on the left side of my mouth for years now. It hasn’t always been the same tooth—at first a tooth on the bottom was giving me problems, and ultimately I had to have root canal therapy done on it. But now the tooth above it hurts. I’ve already been several times for this one. He keeps trying to adjust the filling he just did as that could cause pain, but it doesn’t seem to be working. The worst part is that I’m not completely sure which tooth it is. It could be the one on the bottom I’ve had problems with before. I really hope not, as that would mean he would have to extract it entirely and give me an implant.

Can I replace Yoono? #socialmedia

The social aggregation software Yoono would be great if it actually worked. I had it on my previous computer for quite some time and enjoyed having both my Twitter and Facebook feeds off to one side of my screen, constantly updating themselves without me having to do anything. Now that I started up a new Google account* I could also hypothetically link Yoono to my YouTube account so I can get updates to my subscriptions. That right there would clean out three of the five tabs that I have Firefox open anytime I use it.

However, there doesn’t seem to have been any activity on the developer’s part in over a year. The only thing that I can use it now is for Twitter feeds. I’ll still use it for that as I much prefer Twitter on Yoono than in a regular web browser. I like the fact that it automatically updates the feed instead of me having to click a tap at the top saying “2 new tweets” or whatever. But I wanted my other feeds in there as well. Back when it worked on my old computer it was great. However, I can’t even sign into my Facebook account through Yoono. I have to use that program’s browser and it doesn’t support cookies. Facebook won’t let me log in without cookies. Provided that this is the only problem with getting my Facebook feeds, does anybody know a way around this?

I’m having a similar problem with YouTube, although it’s still letting me log in. For some reason it’s still not connecting to let me get my YouTube feed. I might try that one again. That one I’m not too worried about, though. If I can find some add-on to Firefox to let me know when updates are available, I’ll take it. I get the feeling that Firefox is a more secure program than Yoono.

I would also love to get my e-mail’s inbox in Yoono, but they never did get around to including that option. Again, there are other ways to get notifications for that.

Yes, I’m being lazy. But with everything else being so convenient, I don’t see why this isn’t possible. I’ll even settle for a news ticker going across the bottom of my screen. Unfortunately, either those programs are crap or when they are good, like WorldFlash, they cost money. Why can’t I have my Twitter, Facebook, e-mail and YouTube feeds all in one place so I don’t have to have so much clutter on my screen?

I’m not worried about the WordPress blogs that I subscribe to. While separating them would be a nice feature I get them in my e-mail anyway. I would also like to see if I couldn’t incorporate podcast feeds but it looks like I would still have to run iTunes to connect to my iPod anyway. I gave up to listening to Podcasts on my phone. It was convenient but it had its downsides as well.

If anybody has any suggestions as to what I can do for a Yoono replacement let me know. I would love to get a Firefox add-on that would do all of this but I haven’t found anything yet. I would prefer to have my web browser take up most of the screen with the feeds running off to the side.

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Also, while we’re on the subject of software, it looks like the “Create a New Post” screen here on WordPress got updated again. That’s fine, but I can’t see my word count anymore. Does anybody know if there’s a way to re-activate that?

*I know, I had a bad past with them. But I bought an Android phone and had to sign up again if I wanted to do anything. I figured that if I was really worried about anybody watching me, I already failed in buying the phone. But my problems with Google weren’t what they did with the NSA. My problems had more to do with the fact that I downloaded a piece of their software and got a lot of files that I didn’t feel that I authorized to be crammed onto my computer. I just won’t download that program again.

Taking on the downsides of our current way of living. #informationage #worldwideweb #dystopia #facebook

10/20/15
A little after 7 p.m.
Breaking New Grounds, Portsmouth

I had to get out of my apartment for a while. I spent too much time staring at a computer screen distracting myself from concentration on even a blog post, let alone anything more “serious” like this screenplay I’m supposed to be working on. Yet I was tired and couldn’t even focus on any decent writing or journalism online. It was in this state that I naturally honed in on the “what’s trending” topics on Facebook. I keep thinking that this is a quick way to find what big news headlines people are talking about. Instead I discovered that an actor posted a picture online of her son wearing a bra on his head and that somebody beat the world record at speed-running an old video game.

Is the downside of living in the Information Age the discovery that most information is uninteresting? Are we that absorbed in everybody’s day-to-day life or is there nothing left to distract us now? I shouldn’t go down this rabbit hole as it could spell trouble for this blog. But it did make me wonder about something I learned as a Media Studies major in college—that by its very nature, television news isn’t the most reliable source of information. There isn’t enough time in a news program to cover everything. The issue of media corporations’ biases aside, is that such a bad thing?
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Then my train of thought took an unexpected track.* Somehow I recalled a conversation with a friend of mine a while back. She took the position that we’re all so addicted to the modern way of life that should society collapse we’re all fucked. I don’t entirely agree. Life would be painful at first, to be sure, but humanity still has the potential to survive. Our ancestors did for a long time prior to the industrial revolution. There’s no reason to believe that just because we can’t charge our cell phones we’ll all have panic attacks and choke.

Besides, suppose there are some people out there that couldn’t survive without their nightly visits to K.F.C. It may be cruel to say, but what contribution to the new human way of life would we miss?

But on the other hand, this all assumes that the measure of a person is the survival of the fittest. I’m not ready to commit to that idea. Our current way of life certainly includes the bad—fast food, our addiction to fossil fuels, weapons of mas destruction—but it has its good points as well. Medical care is constantly improving due to technological advancements in both research implementation. Being able to share so many ideas so quickly brings culture and new ways of thinking to more people than ever before. Even if people agree that some innovation didn’t turn out so well, we have the means to efficiently take care of the problem.

It’s possible to take the bad with the good. But supposing that everybody can agree on what “bad” and “good” means, would it be possible to weed out the bad? That may depend on what the problems are. It might prove difficult to take on such a question in such general terms. Using another general term such as “better education” might be a good place to start. Then again, how do we agree on what that means?

The above was written by hand earlier this week. I’m afraid that I didn’t write too many blog posts by hand but now that I have the new computer I should be able to work on it much more easily than in recent months. I’ll write a new post for today as well.

*Yes, I realize that trains can’t just take new tracks as easily as a car could take a different road. But as I have said before, I still haven’t quite got the hang of metaphors. I spent too long on that one and gave up.

Fine, I’ll sign up again. #internet

I caved in and signed up for a home Internet connection after all. I say “caved in” only because of the way I’ve been debating it over the last few days. At first glance it may look like desirability overruled common sense. In a way, it may have. All of my arguments against paying eighty dollars a month for a service that I wasn’t using enough to justify the cost still apply. So what changed my mind?

The truth is that I was spending far too much for what I was getting. Of course I already knew that. But the further truth is that I didn’t have to spend that much. That eighty dollars was for one of the highest speeds that Comcast provides—105 Mbps—which I don’t need. To be honest, I’m not even sure that any device I own can even handle those speeds. Then some further research online revealed to me that not only did I not need that much for what I was doing, but that the amount I needed could very well be the lowest package available.

From what I can tell, three Mbps is more than enough for what I need. At half the cost of what I was spending before, I certainly hope so. Even if it isn’t, the next tier up doesn’t cost much more. I can keep upgrading to what I think suits me best. If that doesn’t work, I can always cancel again. If the lowest speed possible is enough that I won’t notice a significant difference, then I’ll be happy that I reduced the cost by half. Even the upgrade to my cell phone service won’t feel like a waste. Between the new service and the upgrade to my phone, I’ll only be spending ten dollars more than my Internet bill alone from earlier this year.

I’m only kicking myself now because I didn’t think of this before. Because I cancelled a month or so ago and am restarting it, I have to pay another installation fee that is going to cost more than the monthly Internet bill. But in the end it’s worth it. It seems like that, for better or worse, there are certain lifestyle choices that no matter how hard I try to let go. Having quick access to the Internet at home is one of them.

Is that so bad? After all, it isn’t like I use it just for games or porn. Those are worthwhile diversions on occasion but I use it for more intellectual pursuits as well. I won’t bother listing those here. I hope they become apparent as time goes on. I’ll also have the benefit of using my home wi-fi connection with my cell phone. I’m tired of dropped phone calls just because I live a thirty second walk away from 4G reception.

Then there’s the problem of the Internet as distraction from working on my writing. It turns out that the Internet wasn’t really the problem there. It was me. I still find things to keep me from being productive. It turns out that I needed to cancel my home Internet connection to find that out.

The appointment to reconnect me to the Internet at home is on Friday, between four and six. It was the earliest that they could send somebody over. My father agreed to be here at four, seeing as that’s when I’m scheduled to get out of work. The only problem is that I was going to go to Portsmouth that evening for the fireworks—for some reason they always hold them on July third—and it would be better to find a parking space after I get out of work. Even getting into Portsmouth after six could be a problem, let alone finding a spot. I would have had to ask my father to stay at my apartment anyway if I had to make the appointment earlier. He did it for me before. I would hate to take advantage of him, but I’ll have to see if he would mind.

So this week will be the last that I update these blog posts on my phone, as far as I can tell. That probably won’t make much of a difference to my readers. Of course, now I really won’t have an excuse to be so lazy when it comes to blogging.

Missing the Internet. #internet #frugality

Lately I’ve been reevaluating my decision to cancel my Internet connection at home. While I made a sensible choice, there are times when I miss it. I always think it’s good to question one’s self, so I’m going to go ahead and make a blog post out of my dilemma. As I’m trying to look at all of the sides of the issue, I’m going to play the “On one hand/On the other hand” game.

On one hand, I can more easily afford it now. With my new position at work came a raise. I may be fooling myself with exactly how much, considering that I’ve been getting overtime the last few weeks. Nevertheless,  should any other argument win me over, I don’t have to worry about making monthly payments anymore.

On the other hand, I still have a hard time justifying the cost. The truth is, I could have afforded my Internet connection when I had it disconnected. It was hard but not impossible. But even so, eighty dollars a month didn’t feel worth it to me. Besides, I got a new phone and upgraded my phone’s plan, so if I did sign back up for the Internet through Comcast (and got the same rate as before), I’m paying more altogether. I think I’d rather spend that difference on records, concerts, books, movies… you get the idea.

On one hand, I can use the Internet for research, keeping myself informed and publishing my work online. In other words, I can use the Internet for my more intellectual and artistic endeavors. I thought I’d be able to view the news on my phone, and I can, but the connection is really slow at home. The Town of Kittery still has not put up an adequate tower for cell phone surface in my area. With the Internet on my computer I could get constant updates via RSS and Twitter feeds in a timely fashion. It’s also much easier to publish my e-books through Amazon on my computer (although I’ll admit that I haven’t researched an app for my phone that allows me to do the same thing).

On the other hand, I used the Internet to distract me more than anything else when I was supposed to be working. Whenever I would get stuck with writer’s block, instead of working my way through it I ended up surfing the web. I still distract myself with my phone but to a lesser extent (again, the slow connection comes into play). It’s not so hard now for me to keep working. Sure, I have all sorts of media in my apartment that I could pick up if I’m stuck on a writing project—but that would involve actually getting up and going over to it. The Internet was the right amount of minimal effort to keep me from getting anything done.

On one hand, I miss some of the entertaining aspects of the Internet. I enjoyed staying up late at night when I didn’t have to work the next morning, watching videos and discovering obscure bands online. I loved checking out all of the fan-created websites dedicated to entertainment franchises I dork out about myself. The Internet can be fun.

On the other hand, I can’t say that I was getting that much out of such things as I thought I was. My above arguments about distracting myself would apply here as well. Instead of enriching myself through watching new movies or books, I was hitting “Random Link” on a favorite Transformers wiki site over and over again. Besides, I can still find out about obscure bands and such through more traditional means, such as actually getting out into the world.

Believe me, as I wrote the above debate I still struggled with the problem. In the end, I convinced myself that my decision was correct, especially when it comes to the question of cost. I can still go out to coffee shops with my laptop, or if I really want to cut costs, the library. My old laptop battery limits the time I can spend  each time, but that problem can be fixed. I may not be able to lull myself to sleep with videos dedicated to video games, but if I really want to do something online via my computer and a fast connection I can wait until I go out for breakfast some weekend morning.