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.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

VOX 2.8.6 - Music player that supports m...
VOX just sounds better! The beauty is in its simplicity, yet behind the minimal exterior lies a powerful music player with a ton of features and support for all audio formats you should ever need.... Read more
MacUpdate Desktop 6.1.3 - Search and ins...
MacUpdate Desktop 6 brings seamless 1-click app 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... Read more
ExpanDrive 5.4.1 - Access cloud storage...
ExpanDrive builds cloud storage in every application, acts just like a USB drive plugged into your Mac. With ExpanDrive, you can securely access any remote file server directly from the Finder or... Read more
Espionage 3.6.6 - Simple, state-of-the-a...
Espionage offers state-of-the-art encryption and plausible deniability for your confidential data. Sometimes, encrypting your data isn't enough to protect it. That's why Espionage 3 goes beyond data... Read more
Pinegrow Web Designer 2.94 - Mockup and...
Pinegrow Web Designer is desktop app that lets you mockup and design webpages faster with multi-page editing, CSS and LESS styling, and smart components for Bootstrap, Foundation, Angular JS, and... Read more
1Password 6.3.3 - Powerful password mana...
1Password is a password manager that uniquely brings you both security and convenience. It is the only program that provides anti-phishing protection and goes beyond password management by adding Web... Read more
Sublime Text 3126 - Sophisticated text e...
Sublime Text is a sophisticated text editor for code, markup, and prose. You'll love the slick user interface, extraordinary features, and amazing performance. Features Goto Anything. Use Goto... Read more
ForkLift 3.0 Beta 2 - Powerful file mana...
ForkLift is a powerful file manager and ferociously fast FTP client clothed in a clean and versatile UI that offers the combination of absolute simplicity and raw power expected from a well-executed... Read more
OmniFocus 2.7.1 - GTD task manager with...
OmniFocus helps you manage your tasks the way that you want, freeing you to focus your attention on the things that matter to you most. Capturing tasks and ideas is always a keyboard shortcut away in... Read more
CleanApp 5.1.1 - Application deinstaller...
CleanApp is an application deinstaller and archiver.... Your hard drive gets fuller day by day, but do you know why? CleanApp 5 provides you with insights how to reclaim disk space. There are... Read more

Concrete Jungle (Games)
Concrete Jungle 1.16 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.16 (iTunes) Description: A follow up to the puzzle hit 'MegaCity'! Concrete Jungle is a new take on the city building genre that swaps micro-... | Read more »
5 great apps for the budget traveller
Travelling abroad, or even within your home country, has never been easier thanks to our handy smartphone companions. There are hundreds of apps on the market that promise to make your world journeys hassle-free, but we've selected five of the... | Read more »
Zip—Zap (Games)
Zip—Zap 1.01 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.01 (iTunes) Description: Touch to contract.Release to let go.Bring the clumsy mechanical beings home. · · · over 100 levelsno adsno in-app-purchases Zip—... | Read more »
Paperback: The Game (Games)
Paperback: The Game 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: You are an author trying to finish kitschy paperback novels. Complete Westerns, Science Fiction, Romance or even a Crime... | Read more »
How to Rule With a Firm Hand in My Majes...
My Majesty is a kingdom management sim not unlike August’s magisterial hit, Reigns. It’s essentially a reskin of developer Tigrido’s previous management sim, Dictator. As supreme ruler of the land, you must consult with a number of subjects to... | Read more »
Our 5 Favorite iMessage Sticker Packs
At long last, iMessage joins the ranks of messaging apps the likes of LINE and Whatsapp, adding an impressive collection of stickers. They’re a great way to add a little something extra to your daily conversations. [Read more] | Read more »
How to get past Vulture Island's tr...
Vulture Island is a colorful and quirky mish-mash of platforming and puzzles. It’s creative and fresh, but sometimes the game can throw a curveball at you, leaving you stuck as to how you should progress. These tips will help you explore smoothly... | Read more »
The new Clash of Kings is just for Weste...
If you’ve played the original Clash of Kings, you’ll probably recognise the city building, alliance forging and strategic battles in Clash of Kings: The West. What sets this version apart is that it’s tailor made for a Western audience and the... | Read more »
Frost - Survival card game (Games)
Frost - Survival card game 1.12.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.12.1 (iTunes) Description: *Warning: the game will work on iPhone 5C and above and iPad Pro / 4. Other devices are not supported* | Read more »
How to build and care for your team in D...
Before you hit the trail and become a dog sledding legend, there’s actually a fair bit of prep work to be done. In Dog Sled Saga, you’re not only racing, you’re also building and caring for a team of furry friends. There’s a lot to consider—... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Apple refurbished Mac minis available startin...
Apple has Certified Refurbished Mac minis available starting at $419. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each mini, and shipping is free: - 1.4GHz Mac mini: $419 $80 off MSRP - 2.6GHz Mac... Read more
13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro available for $928...
Overstock has the 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pro available for $927.99 including free shipping. Their price is $171 off MSRP. Read more
Buying McLaren Would Give Apple Instant Car C...
Apple “iCar” rumors have waxed and waned over the years, piquing interest and speculation as to whether Apple is seriously interested in getting into the automotobile business, either in a joint... Read more
Aetna to Transform Members’ Consumer Health E...
Health care benefits company Aetna, which has an estimated 46.3 million clients, today announced a new initiative to revolutionize members consumer health experience by combining the power of iOS... Read more
USB-IF Announces USB Audio Device Class 3.0 S...
USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF), the support organization for the advancement and adoption of USB technology, today announced the USB Audio Device Class 3.0 specification to establish USB Audio over... Read more
Clearance 12-inch 1.2GHz Retina MacBooks, App...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2015 12″ 1.2GHz Retina MacBooks available for $1189, or $410 off original MSRP. Apple will include a standard one-year warranty with each MacBook, and shipping is free... Read more
Logitech SmartDock and Skype For Business Com...
Logitech has announced Logitech SmartDock, an AV meeting room solution designed in collaboration with Microsoft. Logitech SmartDock works with Skype for Business and qualified devices, including... Read more
27-inch iMacs on sale for up to $220 off MSRP
B&H Photo has 27″ Apple iMacs on sale for up to $200 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - 27″ 3.3GHz iMac 5K: $2099 $200 off MSRP - 27″ 3.2GHz/1TB Fusion iMac 5K: $1899.99 $... Read more
Apple Macs and iPads available for up to $300...
Purchase a new Mac or iPad using Apple’s Education Store and take up to $300 off MSRP. All teachers, students, and staff of any educational institution qualify for the discount. Shipping is free, and... Read more
Save up to $600 with Apple refurbished Mac Pr...
Apple has Certified Refurbished Mac Pros available 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 following... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions- Raleigh...
Job Description:SalesSpecialist - Retail Customer Service and SalesTransform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
User Support Specialist *Apple* Product Spe...
…Description:Ciber, Inc. is seeking a User Support Specialist - Apple Product Support in Nashville, TN!Responsibilities:Support, implementation, and upgrade of Read more
Restaurant Manager (Neighborhood Captain) - A...
…in every aspect of daily operation. WHY YOU'LL LIKE IT: You'll be the Big Apple . You'll solve problems. You'll get to show your ability to handle the stress and Read more
US- *Apple* Store Leader Program - Apple (Un...
…Summary Learn and grow as you explore the art of leadership at the Apple Store. You'll master our retail business inside and out through training, hands-on 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
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.