Archive for ‘Technology Bites’

February 27th, 2012

You’ll Never Believe What I Found In My Garden

by Venomous Kate

Fourteen months ago — on December 30, 2010 to be precise — I went to a decidedly boozy birthday celebration. So boozy, in fact, that long before the other celebrants were ready to call it a night, I asked the bartender to call a cab for me so I could go home. The next morning, I woke up with one of the worst hangovers I’ve ever had… in addition to a goose egg-sized bump on my forehead from when I’d had to bend over and squint so I could get my key into the lock on our front door, at which point I’d overbalanced, whacked my head on the front door, over-corrected from that, and landed smack on my backside, which is how I was still sprawled when my smirking husband finally took pity on me and let me into the house.

It was not my finest moment.

Anyway, after spending several hours trying not to throw up napping on the sofa, I remembered that I’d taken several photos with my iPhone 3GS and had promised to send them to the rest of the gang. One problem: my iPhone was missing.

Now, had I been a smart woman I would’ve had Find my iPhone installed, and tracking it down would’ve been easy as pie. Then again, had I been a smart woman I would have realized — as I since have, I assure you — that a woman of my age and responsibilities has NO business going out and drinking like that.

My first thought was that maybe it had fallen out of my purse when I’d ricocheted from knocking my forehead against the front door to plopping on my ample posterior. But, in all honesty, I was in no condition to step outside looking for my phone, so I asked my husband if he’d conduct the search for me. He huffed a bit, then stepped out front and stomped around. Not two minutes later, he was back inside grumbling about how cold it was and that, even assuming my phone had fallen outside, it would either have cracked as it hit the ground or would have died in the frigid overnight temperatures. In sum, he said, I was screwed.

“You weren’t out there for very long,” I said. “How could you have looked all over the front yard in such a short time?”

“It’s in a pink case, okay, against white snow. It wouldn’t be that hard to see, okay?” he replied.

“But what if fell into a drift? You wouldn’t see it then,” I said.

“I looked for it, okay? It is NOT there. No doubt, you left it at the bar or in the cab or someone stole it from your purse, but IT IS NOT OUTSIDE, all right?”

Have I mentioned that my husband gets very, very touchy when we have to spend money on anything, and doubly so when we have to spend money replacing something one of us has lost?

Yeah, so I spent the rest of the morning using our land line to call everyone in the group, each of whom was as hungover as I was, and none of whom had seen my phone. To a man (or woman), they all pointed out that the bar we’d been at was — how to put this — a nasty little dive filled with such unsavory characters that none of us felt safe going to the bathroom unless: (a) someone would come with us; and (b) someone else was actively guarding our drinks. In other words, someone might have nicked my iPhone out of my purse when I wasn’t looking.

Because I use my iPhone intensively, I had a lot of sensitive data stored on it. Waiting and hoping it would turn up just wasn’t an option, so we called AT&T that day to deactivate the thing. Wouldn’t you know, they had a special going if I wanted to upgrade to the iPhone 4? Yes, please, I told them, and two days later my pretty new gadget, and new case, arrived in the mail. After getting my data transferred to the new unit, I never gave my old iPhone another thought.

Until yesterday.

See, yesterday we had absolutely gorgeous weather. Since this winter has been so mild, and our local weather gurus all agree we’re unlikely to get any significant snow or even another hard freeze before things warm up for the Spring, I decided to do some gardening. I weeded, raked, and pruned stuff, then planted four dozen frilly pansies in the front garden to give the house some much-needed curb appeal. Then I reached behind the foundation plantings next to the front step so I could turn on the sprinkler and water my perky new plantings.

Lo and behold, there was my iPhone, half-buried in mud and looking so similar to my current iPhone (I do like those pink cases) that for a moment I thought I’d just dropped it. But no, my iPhone 4 was in my pocket. What I was looking at was the iPhone 3GS that I’d lost not this past December, but the one before that.

As in, fourteen months ago.

Fourteen months, during which I’ve severed contact with everyone who’d been at that party, for what I think should be an obvious reason. Fourteen freaking months, during which time the Venomous Hubby has reminded me, every single time I’ve left the house, to be careful that I don’t lose my iPhone. Fourteen months during which we’d had over 70 inches rain/snow including one all-out blizzard, during which we shivered through the third coldest winter on record, then sweated through weeks of temperatures above 90F. Fourteen long months during which bugs, spiders and that damned woodchuck have scampered around behind the foundation plants doing whatever it is yucky creatures do outside.

What does an iPhone look like after it’s been exposed to all of that? Like this:


Needless to say, I did a happy dance which involved waving my old iPhone in my husband’s face while telling him, in a singsong voice, “I found it! I found it! It’s not lost anymore, ‘cuz I found it!” which was my way of telling him to shut the hell up about the incident already, m’kay?

His response: “So, you found it, big deal. And now you’re the proud owner of an overpriced paper weight.”

There are few things that I enjoy more than being right, so I slipped the thing out of its case and gave it a good rubbing with a barely damp cloth. I was surprised how few scratches the screen had, and how easily it cleaned up. No doubt, the case had a lot to do with that.

But then came the big question: would it work? I really didn’t have high hopes, considering the kind of weather we’d had since I lost the dang thing, but then again, it had been sheltered by both the foundation shrubs and a foot or so of roof overhang. Even so, you could have knocked me over with a feather when I plugged it in and the thing powered on right away.

And, just in case there are doubters out there, here’s a snap of my new and old iPhones side-by-side:


Well done, Apple. Well done, indeed! Not only did you help me shock my husband into speechlessness (yay!), but you’ve made an Apple convert out of him, too. Most importantly to me, now he’ll have his OWN iPhone to use when he wants to find tomorrow’s weather forecast, check the game scores, or maybe even call the florist and order a bouquet for his wife.


September 27th, 2011

Happy Birthday, Google!

by Venomous Kate turns 8 years old today Can it really be just thirteen years since Google’s birth? My, how time flies! Why, I remember when Google was still in its infancy, sucking its thumb and stinking up nappies. But, baby, look at you now!

Welcome to the teenage years, Google. So far you’re doing great with that whole whatever attitude. But don’t think we won’t all know what you’re up to during those hour-long showers!

July 1st, 2011

Google+ May Kill Facebook For Me!

by Venomous Kate

When it comes to games, I love Facebook. Except when I don’t. I can’t tell you how many games I’ve started playing there, only to find the game bullying me into spending more and more time (and urging me to spend money as well). Oh, sure, it’s all fun and games at first… then there’s some crop that’s going to wither, or some mission that won’t get completed on time, and I find myself trying to do something away from my computer only to feel myself getting antsy as the deadline approaches.

Screw that.

As far as the social networking thing on Facebook? I love it. Except when I don’t. Having to tweak my privacy settings on what’s starting to feel like a daily basis is irritating. My status updates belong to ME, and it shouldn’t be up to Facebook to decide with whom I’ll be sharing them.

And don’t get me started on the whole Facebook attitude that simply because I “like” a product or page means I want to get their updates in my news feed forever and ever, amen. I shouldn’t have to opt out of those; I should be able to “like” something and THEN have the choice whether I want to keep reading about it every day.

That, by the way, is how I initially wound up with a group of Facebook ‘friends’ that included people who update their statuses constantly, as if Facebook was Twitter, so I know where they’re eating, what they’re wearing, what hand they just used to wipe with, etc. Who cares?

Sure, I can hide all of that… but it’s far easier to simply tune it all out by pretty much ignoring any interactions not happening on my own wall.

Which is why, a mere four hours into it, I am adoring Google+. No, there aren’t any games (so far).

What’s there, however, is exactly what I want in a social network: an easy way to set my privacy levels, and an intuitive means to separate my social circles so I can selectively share information before I drunkenly automatically hit “Share”.

I like that. Or, should I say, I +1 it?

Regardless, if you’re on Google+ feel free to find me. I am, as always, Venomous Kate. (In fact, you can find me here:

December 14th, 2010

Technology Lets Me Reverse My Mother’s Curse

by Venomous Kate

If you’re a female, you know the curse I’m talking about. The one your mother uttered in the midst of one of your teenage, tear-stained, incoherent outbursts. The one where she squinted her eyes, pursed her lips and, with hands on hips, said, “Someday, I hope you have a daughter exactly like you.”

I was 14 when my mother bestowed the maternal curse on me. At the time, I’d sworn off having children. The very thought of wiping snotty noses and even ickier bottoms was gnarly, dude. Like, ohmigod, I was SO going to be a Bolshoi ballerina, despite never having taken a ballet class. (They’d recognize my natural talent, I was certain.) Or maybe a TV foreign reporter covering exotic locales for the 5 o’clock news which would be early enough that I’d still have time to sit in wood-paneled bars chain-smoking Galoises and sipping absinthe cocktails. (The notion of time zones eluded me.) Or even… wait for it… the first female President of the United States.

Yes, I was going to live a glamorous, child-free life clad in designer duds I’d ferry from one 4-star hotel to another. What did I care about having a daughter just like me. Flash forward a mere decade and, sure enough, my first child was a girl. Speed the life tape up another decade and, sure enough, my daughter is just like me.

Which means, of course, that she’s got a smart-ass comeback to just about any situation. Her verbal judo is a force to be reckoned with. I know this because my self-esteem and sanity barely survived her teens. Then again, for the same reasons, she barely survived them herself.

Now that she’s almost 20 years old we’ve finally made peace. Her company is actually a comfort to me, and I am constantly awed by what a wonderful person she’s turned out to be. (As long as I don’t read her Facebook page.) In fact, we’re close enough that I can joke with her about how my mother drives me nuts these days, and she’s thanked me on more than one occasion for being nothing like my own mother. Considering how hard I work at that, it meant a lot to me that she noticed.

With that said, I do sometimes miss her histrionic outbursts. Oh, not the ones that were directed at me, mind you, but some of them were so pointed, so burn-and-salt lethal, that I used to wonder where the hell she got that kind of venom. Then, of course, I’d pass by a mirror and totally get it.

From what I read over at Techcrunch today, I might be able to put my daughter’s skills to good use. See, apparently Gmail now allows users to delegate responsibility for replying to email to other Gmail users.

So that next bitchy letter from my mother railing about how I don’t visit often enough, how I don’t call, how I should smoke/drink/weigh/work/expect less? Yeah, I am SO letting my kid answer it while pretending she’s me.

July 25th, 2010

Would 4G Broadband Make Us More Mobile?

by Venomous Kate

Even before the iPad made its debut, mobile broadband device sales had dropped around forty percent over the past 18 months. According to Rob Webber from Broadband Expert (, things like smartphones and the iPad aren’t entirely responsible for this trend.

The feedback we hear most often is that speeds are disappointing and coverage is inconsistent or non-existent in many areas.

After hearing similar complaints, my husband and I are among those who’ve opted to stick with hardwired broadband at home where portability isn’t an issue. For travel, we’ve often thought about signing up for pay as you go mobile broadband. (Last weekend’s drive from Kansas to Minnesota and back certainly would have passed more quickly had I been able to stream Netflix to my laptop, for instance!) But from what I’ve heard, mobile broadband in its current state is not going to be any faster or more reliable than my iPhone, which is much lighter and easier to carry on trips than a laptop.

Despite the abundance of mobile broadband deals being offered as providers attempt to compete with the lure of the iPad and smartphones, Webber says we’re not alone in our reluctance to make the switch. That may change as new 4G technology finally delivers speed and reliable coverage competitive with home broadband service.

That coverage bit is the key in my mind. I get all tingly when I think of surfing the ‘net on my laptop while sitting beneath a shady tree in the park. Until 4G coverage expands I’m only as mobile as my iPhone allows me to be, and that’s a pity because I hear there’s a big, wide world out there.

October 26th, 2009

Lost In (Geek-Speak) Translation

by Venomous Kate

After an email tussle with a soldier friend who’s serving overseas, all of my profusely apologizing emails bounce back with an MMX error. This has been gong on for two months.

Can anyone explain what an MMX error means? And, more to the point, does this mean I should assume something horrible has happened to my soldier friend???

February 23rd, 2009

Proof That I’m Not An Economist

by Venomous Kate

With VH out of the country for what seems like an interminable future, I’ve been struggling for ways to keep The Big-Eyed Boy entertained. After school today I informed him we were going game shopping.

As I previously explained, we finally got a Wii. Oh, how I love that thing. If you’d told me a year ago — heck, even a month ago — that I would wake up in the morning looking forward to working out, I’d have told you to step away from the crack pipe. But here it is, just a few weeks later, and I can’t get enough of my Wii Fit.

But watching Mommy workout is even less interesting to the Big-Eyed Boy than watching Mommy’s toenail paint dry. Go figure. And that’s precisely why I’d thought that one of our best household investments right now would be a smattering of Nintendo Wii Games.

Unfortunately, in my glee to find something — anything — to engross the child (and thus buy myself some peace and quiet), I failed to factor in the hassle of having a somewhat small yet very loud kid demanding that I let him have a turn on the Wii.

So, back to the store we went in search of something that he could play without booting me off the Wii, and preferably play on his own. In his room. Or, at least, in any other room besides the one I’m in. Of course, the first thing he spied was the XBox 360, conveniently displayed beside its version of Guitar Hero.

Since that’s one of the Big-Eyed Boy’s favorite games on the PS2 — which we already have — I just couldn’t see myself buying a top-dollar console plus XBox 360 games that are basically carbon-copies of ones we already own, but for another gaming system.

Besides, even if I’d bought the XBox he’d still be begging to play on the family room TV, requiring me to abandon my Wii time (Mii time?), and thus entirely defeating the purpose of our shopping trip.

Fortunately, right next to the XBox display was a bright, shinny array of Nintendo DS’s, something my son has been begging for since he could pronounce “Nintendo”. And I, being the softy that I am (read: determined to beat level 2 of “Bunnies Love To Dance” on Rayman Raving Rabbids) agreed that he is, indeed, finally old enough to have a DS system.

That’s right, I bought my kid a Nintendo DS — and three Nintendo DS games of his choosing — so I could have my Wii all to myself.

But — when you compare that to the cost of hiring a babysitter, calling a cab, and spending a night out drinking — it’s worth it.

January 30th, 2009

Say Adios To Adobe

by Venomous Kate

I’ve mentioned before how very much I despise having .pdf documents come up in search results.

That’s in part because they tend to be massive gobs of poorly formatted text which makes for unpleasant viewing online. But, of course, Adobe managed to convince the government and big business to use their program by promising it would make information more accessible when, in fact, quite the opposite has occurred.

See, I do a lot of research online — a lot — and yet I cringe every time I see pdf files in the search results since I know I’m not only going to be staring at an ugly page, but that it’s going to be a useless page for the most part.

For all their promise, pdf files can be nothing but grief if you’re just interested in copying and pasting a section into the Word document you’re working with … unless you’ve got the program to convert pdf to text.

Frankly, I’m surprised I haven’t heard more about that program. Surely I’m not the only person irritated with Adobe, much less the high price of Adobe Acrobat? It shouldn’t cost that much to translate from pdf to text just so you can work with information!

Given the number of projects I’m juggling right now, I’m definitely going to be looking into this program further. There’s a 30-day fully-functional trial version, if you’re interested in checking it out, too: convert pdf2text.