TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Andy Inhatko: A Helping Hand

Volume Number: 24 (2008)
Issue Number: 06
Column Tag: Andy Inhatko

Andy Inhatko: A Helping Hand

by Andy Inhatko

There's a scene in the movie "Private Benjamin" in which a (ugly cruel racist insensitive stupid offensive) (okay, can I proceed?) stereotyped Japanese businessman tries to pick up women in bar.

"Sayyyyyy," he oozes, offering up his wrist. "Could you please tell me what time it is?"

The blonde peers closely at the suspiciously chunky watch and is immediately blinded by a flash of light.

"I just took your picture, mama!" beams the u.c.r.is.o.s.J.b. Visions of second base are dancing in his head.

It was a cheap joke and the audience of the era (that memorable and interminable dry spell between "Empire Strikes Back" and "Return Of The Jedi") was meant to laugh at what passed for a mating call among the geek species.

Me? I thought it was an awesome watch. I have a Casio camera watch somewhere here in my office and still I lust for the Sweet Mama Camera Watch.

"Because it has a flash, and the Casio doesn't?"

See? There's nothing to this writing game: it's all about knowing your audience.

Yes. Exactly. It probably shot incredibly grainy photos on 8mm Minox spy film and it required that you walk around all day with the knowledge that one spark of static electricity would set off the 10 grams of magnesium on your wrist.

(Possibly while you were standing at a urinal.)

...But still: I look at the indoor photos I've been taking with my iPhone and I'm eager to at least read the terms of the trade.

Wristwatches got boring a long time ago, anyway. Today, when a nerd scores an epic strikeout at a bar, it's by trying to impress a member of the appropriate target gender by flashing a cellphone, not a watch, though this device does has its advantages.

Witness an actual scene from my days as a naive, unsophisticated youth way back in 2006. I had Nokia's then-new, then-hot N80 smartphone. Pretty hot stuff for the day. It supported full 3G speed and the ability to play live streaming media without breaking a sweat. Onboard video players and a card slot allowed me to put a movie and a bunch of "Simpsons" episodes on the thing. It had a 3-megapixel camera with a v.decent lens...

...And it even had a flash.

This, I demonstrated to a cute bartender-ette.

"And the camera is integrated into the contact database, too. I can easily attach this photo to your address card. Here," I said, handing the phone over. "You'll be amazed at how quickly you can type in your name and phone number via the keypad's predictive text-input system."

(Shut up. I got her phone number.)

Of course, we were all different people, back in the middle of Bush's second term, weren't we? I'd never resort to such tactics today.

But again, I think I can safely say that I know my audience. You're way too classy to use technology as a pickup vector. And yet, your iPhone, your MacBook Air, iPod Nano (the new, cool ones) wind up acting as social lubricants whenever you're out and about in Human society.

Why? Because of all the people at the wedding reception...you have the unmistakable aroma of someone who can explain how to get "Back To My Mac" to work properly.

(Speaking of cruel and inaccurate stereotypes: this is not the spicy pong of someone who hasn't bathed in a month. It is instead the unmistakably fruity scent of someone who has never bought a brand of shampoo that didn't feature the phrase "Compare and save!" somewhere on the bottle.)

Not even the deployment of thousands Apple Geniuses — certified by no less-authoritative a method than a custom tee shirt bearing that exact phrase — to shopping malls all across the world is able to out-pull the intoxicating lure of The Biggest Geek In The Room. For good or for ill, you're The One To Ask, and if you're invited over to someone's house for Christmas, their intent is clear. Enjoy the spirit of the holiday, bring a hearty appetite for a style of cuisine best described as "medically-contraindicated"...but make sure you that also bring enough computers, software, cables, and other knick-knacks to make damned sure that all of their kids' presents are up and running by dinnertime or else you'll find yourself pushed out to your car with a barely-defrosted Hot Pocket pressed into your hands.

Now all of this may sound like a lament, but honestly...it's fine. Because being a knowledgeable and helpful nerd is like showing up at a park with an adorable dog. You meet all kinds of neat people without much effort at all.

It's been on my mind over the past few days because I've just returned from one of the highlights of my year: the annual Conference on World Affairs at the University of Colorado. This weeklong event was founded exactly 60 years ago as a way to bamboozle the University into covering the exorbitant appearance fee demanded by a speaker who was deemed "unpalatable" by the management, due to the fact that he was a Communist or possibly Eleanor Roosevelt (I've been told conflicting accounts). By disguising the payment as the budget for a prestigious, big deal conference they were able to get the guy in under cover of darkness and then smuggle him out again at dawn's light, concealed under a wagonload of hay.

The upshot is that the University invites a hundred professionals of all disciplines to come on out to Colorado at their own expense and discuss issues that certainly seem important at the time. Topics like "Privatizing War: Blackwater, et al" (not me) and "U.S.-Mideast Relations: The Cost Of A Damaged Dialogue" (not me) and "Bad Things You Can Do Online" (bingo).

This was my ninth or tenth year speaking at the Conference, but it was the first one since the iPhone was released. Word quickly spread that I have a best-selling book about the thing ("iPhone: Fully Loaded"...oh, bless you for asking) and this meant that at lunchtime in the speakers' dining room, I was never lonely for very long.

I spent fifteen minutes with an Academy Award-winner, explaining the limitations of the iPhone's contact manager. Ten with an internationally-reknowned expert on Parliamentary law, telling him about storing personal and financial information securely via iPassword.

I figured out why a Macarthur Genius Grant winner's phone was stuck speaking German and for bonus points, wound up convincing him to ditch his ancient Dell laptop in favor of a MacBook Air like the one parked in front of me.

One fellow speaker — I think she was either an astronaut or a World Court justice; what with the lack of oxygen there at 5640 feet, things tend to get a little blurry — asked me about a certain function that wasn't available, which sort of inspired me to explain the iPhone SDK, the upcoming App Store, Firmware 2.0, and its implications to reinvent the iPhone from an Awesome Phone into a Whole New Computing Platform by the end of June.

I entered into my Nerd Trance, opened up that portal so that monkeys and orange birds could throw acronyms, architectures, and strategic visions directly into my conversational output buffer, and before long I discovered that I was having a bit of a Sermon On The Mount effect upon a gathering and growing audience of iPhone users.

Which points out the real reason why acting as somebody's Seeing-Eye Geek is really nothing to complain about. The aforementioned Academy Award-winner was Dave Grusin, a jazz keyboardist of ungodly gifts. One of my annual Conference traditions comes after the Tuesday night jazz concert, when I bump into Dave and say "Once again, your performance made me think that quitting the piano lessons after five years was one of the shrewdest decisions I've ever made."

For me, playing anything was hard and frustrating work. But it's all so damned effortless for him. This is where his talents lie. He works hard at it, but it doesn't seem like work, really; it's just what he does. So to a guy like Dave, tossing off a brilliant ten-minute improvisation on "Autumn Leaves" is about as difficult as running a leaf-blower.

So when people like you and me are asked about the future of the iPhone, well...it's so damned effortless. We're good at stuff like that. We spend all day reading and learning about technology because that's just what we do. It's baffling and frustrating for others and that's often hard for us to fully appreciate. I babble for ten minutes and when the monkeys and the birds return control of my faculties, I'm amazed that my audience is so grateful. Just by relating the world as I understand it, I've taken a tangled mess of information in this person's head and laid it out into an orderly grid, a sense of direction, and a big red star on it labeled "You Are Here."

Surely you've been in the same boat. It's a terrific gift. Not this knowledge, I mean: the opportunity to be so helpful while taking so little trouble in doing it. If there's truly any purpose to our limited exile on this planet, it's to seize every opportunity to lighten another biped's load.

And then, of course, there are side benefits. Like scoring that lady bartender's phone number.

Okay, true, it turned out to be for the bar's laundry service. But just like buying a lottery ticket, it was fun to pretend that I had the winning number for a day or two.


Andy Ihnatko is The Chicago Sun-Times' technology columnist.

 
AAPL
$117.60
Apple Inc.
-1.03
MSFT
$47.47
Microsoft Corpora
-0.12
GOOG
$541.08
Google Inc.
+1.81

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

RapidWeaver 6.0.3 - Create template-base...
RapidWeaver is a next-generation Web design application to help you easily create professional-looking Web sites in minutes. No knowledge of complex code is required, RapidWeaver will take care of... Read more
iPhoto Library Manager 4.1.10 - Manage m...
iPhoto Library Manager lets you organize your photos into multiple iPhoto libraries. Separate your high school and college photos from your latest summer vacation pictures. Or keep some photo... Read more
iExplorer 3.5.1.9 - View and transfer al...
iExplorer is an iPhone browser for Mac lets you view the files on your iOS device. By using a drag and drop interface, you can quickly copy files and folders between your Mac and your iPhone or... Read more
MacUpdate Desktop 6.0.3 - Discover and i...
MacUpdate Desktop 6 brings seamless 1-click installs and version updates to your Mac. With a free MacUpdate account and MacUpdate Desktop 6, Mac users can now install almost any Mac app on macupdate.... Read more
SteerMouse 4.2.2 - Powerful third-party...
SteerMouse is an advanced driver for USB and Bluetooth mice. It also supports Apple Mighty Mouse very well. SteerMouse can assign various functions to buttons that Apple's software does not allow,... Read more
iMazing 1.1 - Complete iOS device manage...
iMazing (was DiskAid) is the ultimate iOS device manager with capabilities far beyond what iTunes offers. With iMazing and your iOS device (iPhone, iPad, or iPod), you can: Copy music to and from... Read more
PopChar X 7.0 - Floating window shows av...
PopChar X helps you get the most out of your font collection. With its crystal-clear interface, PopChar X provides a frustration-free way to access any font's special characters. Expanded... Read more
Carbon Copy Cloner 4.0.3 - Easy-to-use b...
Carbon Copy Cloner backups are better than ordinary backups. Suppose the unthinkable happens while you're under deadline to finish a project: your Mac is unresponsive and all you hear is an ominous,... Read more
ForeverSave 2.1.3 - Universal auto-save...
ForeverSave auto-saves all documents you're working on while simultaneously doing backup versioning in the background. Lost data can be quickly restored at any time. Losing data, caused by... Read more
Voila 3.8.1 - Capture, annotate, organiz...
Voila is a screen-capture, recording, and annotation tool that is a full-featured replacement for Mac's screen-capture and screen-recording capabilities. It has a large and robust set of editing,... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Screeny (Utilities)
Screeny 1.0 Device: iOS iPhone Category: Utilities Price: $.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Screeny is an utility app that helps you save space consumed by screenshots. It screens your camera roll and helps you to filter and... | Read more »
Tilt to Live Bundle Set to Arrive This T...
Tilt to Live Bundle Set to Arrive This Thanksgiving Posted by Ellis Spice on November 25th, 2014 [ permalink ] One Man Left has unveiled an upcoming Tilt to Live bundle, allowing players to get the series for a di | Read more »
BattleLore: Command (Entertainment)
BattleLore: Command 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Entertainment Price: $9.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: ***NOTE: Compatible with iPad 2/iPad mini, iPod touch 5 and up and iPhone 4S and up – WILL NOT RUN ON EARLIER... | Read more »
Weather Or Not Review
Weather Or Not Review By Jennifer Allen on November 25th, 2014 Our Rating: :: STYLISH WEATHER REPORTINGiPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad Check the weather quickly and conveniently with Weather or Not... | Read more »
The All-New Football Manager Handheld 20...
The All-New Football Manager Handheld 2015 is Available Now Posted by Jessica Fisher on November 25th, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Six iOS Games to Get You Ready for Thank...
Image Source: Friends Wiki At this point in the month, you or at least a few people you know are probably getting ready to scramble around (or are already scrambling around) for Thanksgiving Dinner. It’s a hectic day of precise oven utilization, but... | Read more »
Call of Duty: Heroes: Tips, Tricks, and...
Hello Heroes: What’d we think of Call of Duty‘s take on Clash of Clans? Check out our Call of Duty: Heroes review to find out! Just downloaded Call of Duty: Heroes and need some handy tips and tricks on how to get ahead of the rest? As we often do,... | Read more »
Call of Duty: Heroes Review
Call of Duty: Heroes Review By Jennifer Allen on November 25th, 2014 Our Rating: :: CLASH OF FRANCHISESUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Mix Clash of Clans with Call of Duty, and this is what you get.   | Read more »
Slider Review
Slider Review By Jordan Minor on November 25th, 2014 Our Rating: :: SLIDE TO PLAYUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Slider has all the excitement of unlocking your phone screen.   | Read more »
oh my giraffe (Games)
oh my giraffe 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: Eat fruits while being chased by lions. Cut the vines to send fruit plummeting onto the lions. Don't worry, your flexible... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Early Black Friday sale price: 15-inch 2.2GHz...
 B&H Photo has the 2014 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale today for $1699.99. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only. Their price is $300 off MSRP, equalling Best Buy’s price... Read more
13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro (refurbished) avai...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pros available for $170 off the cost of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free: - 13″ 2.5GHz... Read more
Early Black Friday MacBook Pro sale: 15-inch...
 Best Buy has posted early Black Friday prices on 15″ Retina MacBook Pros, with models on sale for $300 off MSRP on their online store for a limited time. Choose free local store pickup (if available... Read more
A9 Chips Already?
It’s barely more than a couple of months since Apple got the first A8 systems-on-chip into consumer hands, but rumor and news focus is already turning to the next-generation A9 SoC. Apple Daily... Read more
NewerTech Announces NuGuard KXs Impact X-Orbi...
NewerTech has announced updates to its family of Impact X-Orbing Screen Armor bringing military grade, triple layer protection to Apple’s new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Like all models in the NuGuard KXs... Read more
13-inch 1.4GHz MacBook Air on sale for $889,...
 B&H Photo has the 13″ 1.4GHz/128GB MacBook Air on sale for $889 including free shipping plus NY tax only. Their price is $110 off MSRP. B&H will also include free copies of Parallels Desktop... Read more
Save up to $300 on Macs and iPads with your A...
Purchase a new Mac or iPad at The Apple Store for Education and take up to $300 off MSRP. All teachers, students, and staff of any educational institution qualify for the discount. Shipping is free,... Read more
Apple refurbished Mac Pros available for up t...
The Apple Store is offering Apple Certified Refurbished Mac Pros for up to $600 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each Mac Pro, and shipping is free. The... Read more
Jumptuit Launches One-Tap Windows 8.1 iTunes...
Jumptuit has launched Windows 8.1 support for One-Tap iTunes Sync. with which Windows 8.1 users can now easily sync their iTunes libraries with Microsoft OneDrive. Jumptuit provides easy access from... Read more
Apple restocks refurbished 13-inch 2014 Retin...
The Apple Store has restocked Apple Certified Refurbished 2014 13″ 2.6GHz Retina MacBook Pros for up to $230 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple (...
**Job Summary** The ASC is an Apple employee who serves as an Apple brand ambassador and influencer in a Reseller's store. The ASC's role is to grow Apple Read more
Senior Event Manager, *Apple* Retail Market...
…This senior level position is responsible for leading and imagining the Apple Retail Team's global event strategy. Delivering an overarching brand story; in-store, Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple (...
**Job Summary** The ASC is an Apple employee who serves as an Apple brand ambassador and influencer in a Reseller's store. The ASC's role is to grow Apple Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple (...
**Job Summary** The ASC is an Apple employee who serves as an Apple brand ambassador and influencer in a Reseller's store. The ASC's role is to grow Apple Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.