Wednesday, October 17, 2007

When technology pulls us backward

Couple of years back wireless Internet became ubiquitous and it became available on airports, hotels, restaurants, cafes everywhere. With the widespread availability of Internet, businesses took it as opportunity and started to sell the usage of Internet at these public places.

Now, to get access to wireless Internet at most of these public places, you need to sign up for some monthly service or pay exorbitant amount of money through credit card. So, you have to pay upwards of $7 if you want to check your mail real quick on an airport or even Starbucks. In the hotels also, the Internet is getting extremely costly. We went to a conference in Minneapolis, MN in summers and the rate of Internet was as high as $15.00 per day. Although we are in highly advanced world most of the people were not using Internet until they really really had to. On a sidenote, however, there are still couple of places with free Internet without any registration and sanity. One of them is Denny's restaurants. You can find them on almost all the highways in US.

At Virginia Tech, we can buy licenses for many software to work. I wanted to buy the server edition of MATLAB but its annual license expires in couple of months. So whether I buy the software in Jan or Dec, I pay the same amount and need to renew it in January. How is that for technology? Now many a software are server edition, that means they will work only if I have Internet. So, if I get stuck in an airport or I am staying in a hotel with costly Internet and I want to work on my laptop, I have to pay for that costly internet just for my software to work.

To me technology means efficiency. If something is not efficient, its not advanced, whether its a car or a computer system. We have recently experienced many popular software like MS Windows, ESRI (ArcGIS), are getting bloated and inefficient.

Anyway, I went to a Starbucks few days back. Besides the fact that they did not have Internet at all, that place was supercold. I asked if they could do anything about it, they told me that the temperature was controlled by a central unit and they cannot do anything about it. Besides the fact that temperature outside was in upwards of 80, workers in that place were wearing warmer clothes, and I was not able to sit there for long because of that cold temperature. This technology of air conditioning is supposed to make us feel comfortable, or uncomfortable and blatantly waste huge amounts of energy. I have felt this central AC crap many a times before as well. I know in some offices people keep heaters to counter the cold AC. The most stupid way to waste energy.

In Virginia Tech library last week, the temperature inside was too high in the evening as it became a little colder outside. And since it was controlled automatically, people had no option than to feel hot. In my department there is a classroom with special air conditioning unit. And the AC switches on as soon as somebody enters in it. It also makes it colder than that starbucks. The whole time in that class you wait for it to get over, get out and feel better. How is that for technology?



Al Gore and IPCC won the Nobel prize for peace, for their efforts in raising awareness about Global Warming. I take this space to congratulate IPCC and Al Gore both and I hope it will raise some more awareness.

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