Have We Lost Touch?

Unless you’ve been hibernating in some cave, you would know about the way people seem to battle surviving without their tech devices these days. Personally, I think its getting worse.

I got my first cellphone when I was 17 and doing Grade 12, and it was probably the right time for me to get one. In fact, I didn’t really need it. Which school kid needed a cellphone anyway? Its not like we had a job and needed to be on call. At that time my parents would give me a lift to wherever I needed to be, gave me the time that they’d pick me up, and that’s all the arrangements that were needed. My friends were (and still are) trustworthy and reliable, and so in the same way we’d make plans to be at whatever place at whatever time, and 95% of the time we’d meet as planned. The time spent with each other was always great because all of us paid attention to each other and we had no distractions apart from the creepy boys who hung out at the same mall.

Since I had a prepaid phone, I had to buy airtime (credit) every so often. Phones had such limited functionality at that time that the only thing I used it for was to send 2 texts a day to my best friend. Both of us would send the texts at 8pm, and again when we went to bed (i.e.: off peak). It worked out to roughly 60 texts per month. All I needed was R29 airtime every month. It was a damn affordable cellphone bill.

Lately, and often, I’ve been hearing people saying that ever since electronic communication became more sophisticated, the more personal communication deteriorated. BBM, Whatsapp and God knows what else…how many people make actual phone calls anymore?

There have been several occasions where I was with a bunch of people, of various ages, and there were moments of silence because all of them were preoccupied with their phones. To me it was the rudest thing. I also have a smartphone, a pretty damn good one at that, but unless I need to make/receive a call, or take/show a photo, my phone is within my reach but not the centre of my attention. It seems like unlike most, when I meet with people, I actually want to share their company. Am I part of a dying breed?

I’m a great tech fan. I write code, and I love my job. I can’t see that its very common for a programmer to not enjoy tech. But as beneficial as tech is, people seem to be more in touch with it than actual people.  The very foundation of our existence, relationships, seems to be taking a back seat. As much as tech companies like Samsung and Apple go on how you can communicate with people in new ways,  it seems like people still prefer using these devices to communicate over meeting in person. Why is this? How is a text message better than an actual hug? Or a smile? Or a twinkle in the eye?

People, for God’s sake, get your fat head off that phone and start looking people in the eye when they’re in front of you. They could be somewhere else, but they choose to be with you. Whether its in a meeting at work, a party, or for a cup of coffee, no matter where you are, its damn rude to be giving your cellphone more attention than the people around you.

Challenge yourself. Give your phone up for a day. You’re not going to die without it. Yes, emergencies do happen, but that’s why they’re called emergencies. Unless you’re a doctor in the ER, there’s no way you’ll be encountering emergencies all day. If you really think some emergency is going to happen, stay in a safe place, even if its at home. All you need to do is switch off your cellphone. Most people have landlines, right? Surely someone would call you if there is an emergency? And don’t tell me that people don’t have your landline number. Someone will.

Have I been without a cellphone before? Of course. In 2004 I was in India for 4.5 weeks. I left my cellphone in a drawer at home. I didn’t have Internet access either. The same for 2009 when I went to Italy and Greece. In 2011 at Victoria Falls. Europe 2012 was different because I used my 8MP cellphone as my primary camera. But, unless I was lucky with free WiFi, I had no internet. I didn’t even bother getting an international sim card. Why should I? I was on holiday and my family had the phone numbers of the hotels I was staying at, so what more did I need? Being away from the world I knew was the best thing I could have done. It allowed me to enjoy my holiday much more than I ever would have had I had a fully functional cellphone.

Would I get rid of my cellphone? Of course not. Is it vital to my existence? Of course not. Although it allows me to communicate with those I love in this crazy world, I would totally trade it for the ability to share a physical space with them.

To quote Albert Einstein:

“I fear the day when the technology overlaps with our humanity. The world will only have a generation of idiots.”

Sometimes the friendship is strong enough to not be hindered by tech. No matter after how long you speak or meet each other, the bond is still there.

To my 3 dearest friends – Trisha, Sophia and Rowan – love all of you. You all have a special place in my heart.

To my other friends, both old and new – don’t be jealous of the above 3, I love you too! 😉

To my dearest family member, Dash – well, what can I say. We grew up together; you’re the baby sister I never had.

Oracle Woes

I’ve been waiting for over a year to get a new PC at work. Developing on a Pentium 4 machine with barely 1Gb of ram was a nightmare. Ok so I will admit that I was given extra ram, which then made a total of 3Gb – this made working a little more bearable.

I was told by a person very high up in the company that a PC replacement project was underway and that I just needed to wait a bit as I would definitely get a new PC. So that’s what I did.

2.5 weeks ago, to my delight, a brand new core i5 with 8Gb of ram, running Windows 7, arrived. Only 3.8 Gb of the ram was actually usable since some genius installed a 32-bit Windows 7. But what the hell, I preferred Windows 7 to my old XP, so I didn’t care.

Then came the setting up. Visual Studio 2008-great. SQL Server 2008 R2 Express-great. Now…time for Oracle. There was no real reason to instal any other version besides 10G, so that’s just what I did, using the client setup file that we all used. Done. Loaded the code from SubVersion-great.

Just when I thought I could start working again, something seemed to be wrong with the application. Logging in, while running it from my PC, without me doing any choose changes, seemed to be freezing when trying to make a connection to the database. Yes, I also wondered what the hell was going on because this code is as old as the hills and works fine everywhere, including production. That’s when I realised something was up with the Oracle installation.

I thought since its Windows 7, perhaps installing a newer version of Oracle may help. So I installed the 11G client. Still no difference. I restarted my PC, and again, no difference.

What if the order in which you instal the different versions makes a difference? So, I uninstalled both 10 and 11G, and restarted. To my horror, my LAN connection disappeared. I couldn’t do anything for 2 days. After I got it back from the IT guy (conveniently named Neo), he said the only way to fix it was to format the machine. He initially thought it was an issue with the LAN card, but when he replaced the hard drive, the problem vanished!

So began setup again. The same procedure of installing 10G was repeated. Amazingly, things suddenly worked.

Then the weekend happened. Patches were applied, and everybody’s PCs were rebooted. Monday arrived. Bang….my login died again.

After some installing and uninstalling, off went the network again. This time for 2 full days. Of course I became extremely frustrated since I have so much to do and want to finish it before my 3.5 weeks of leave which are only 2.5 weeks away. When Neo brought the PC back, he said he didn’t have to format it this time, but he fiddled so much with it that he can’t remember what actually worked. Thanks dude, that helped!

I then decided to do some proper research on what Windows 7’s problem is with Oracle (or vice versa, since I’ve liked Windows 7 a lot longer, and much more now, than Oracle) and came to find that yes, by all means instal Oracle 10G, but make sure the VERSION is correct.

So which one is wrong and which one is right for Windows 7?
Wrong: 10.2.0.1.
Right: 10.2.0.3, plus the 10.2.0.5 patchset.

It helps to instal using the Universal Oracle Installer.

Did this help me? I believe it did, after a hell of a lot of trying and testing!

Smartphone confusion

My cellphone contract is due for renewal soon. I currently own a Blackberry Curve 8520. I loved it at first, but after a year, that quickly changed. It died on me almost exactly a year after I got it, and was so bad that when I sent it for repairs, it was decided that it would be better to just give me a completely new phone to replace it. The same model. Much to my disgust.

Since then, even the replacement model is giving up. Freezing every so often, Blackberry App World upgrading but the not working… I mean, for goodness sake, isn’t there a limit to how many things can break on a single device? The last straw for me was that worldwide blackout of RIM’s servers, where about 5 continents were without BIS.

Long story short – I once thought that Blackberries were for the rich and famous, and when I got one I was pretty thrilled. Now, however, I can’t wait to get rid of mine.

Since my contract lasts 2 years, I had that amount of time to research the other mobile OSs. Of course, there are only 2 worthy contenders – Apple and Android. Everyone had heard of Apple, but Android? I’m a huge Google fan and I think they’re geniuses, but I really had no clue about Android and how good it was. In fact, the same for Apple for that matter. I had never owned an Apple product before, up until recently when I decided to break the ice by getting myself an iPod Nano (which I think is brilliant).

And so the research began. iPhone 4…hmm, saw it before it was even released in SA because of my now English neighbour who came to visit with her one that she had bought in the UK (for about R2000 less than the proposed SA price, I might add), but I still had no clue how to operate it. I only knew from watching some tv shows on how to pinch to zoom into a picture, and how to swipe to the next screen. I was rather thrilled with the crystal clear display, as well as the photo quality.

The iPhone 4 was something I really thought I’d get, but I still had about a year to decide. Knowing how quickly technology changes, I didn’t want to make that my final decision. I was impressed at the announcement of the iPhone 4S, but the only real feature worth mentioning, that was different to its predecessor, was Siri,

Then one day along came along the Samsung Galaxy S2. The more research I did, the better it looked. And overall, it was actually better than the iPhone 4S. I had still not seen one in person though and didn’t get an opportunity to play around with it. Brilliant South African phone stores…the only phones they can show you are non-working dummies. Apparently, though, this has changed. My decision however had been made – Galaxy S2 over the iPhone 4S for sure.

Another problem arose for me though…the Samung Galaxy Note was announced. That phone completely blew me away with its features and capabilities. Until one day I decided to go to a cellphone shop and compare it with the Galaxy S2. I heard it was a “tablet phone”, but couldn’t quite picture its size, so seeing the actual thing in person helped a lot. For anyone who hasn’t seen it…take an average sized serviette and hold it against your ear. Awkward to say the least. I couldn’t imagine having a conversation on something I could barely fit into my pocket (I’m more of a cellphone-in-handbag person, but there are those lazy occasions where I need it in my pocket).

So, unless you’ve read this post incorrectly, I think its obvious which phone is the winner in my opinion. If not, well…read it again!