Really, what do you call an essay written about a technical device that has had an unimaginable impact on personal affairs and business? I set out to write this piece for a couple of reasons. They say that out of the heart the mouth speaketh – well, for me the hands typeth, and they are going to type about the iPhone. Hopefully those who are considering the investment on a mobile device will gain some insight on which direction to go, those who know will laugh at my technological naivete, and those who are repulsed by big brother’s CRACK will understand a little better why a mountain wanderer would carry this thing around.
I must begin by stating that while I have always been into tech and gadgets I am not this way for status reasons or mere novelty. I consider myself simply an efficient operator who will learn various tools and devices to better carry out a task or function and not be resistant to or embracing of something because it is new. One’s goals and vision should be clarified before introducing a new apparatus so the learning curve can be results oriented (Don’t buy something and end up immersed in online video role playing games unless you bought it to get immersed in online video role playing games). There is a certain warning here; everything you could possibly want, internet related, will be at your fingertips. There is a certain responsibility that goes with this whole realm of involvement, like driving a car - the tool could become highly destructive for personal, family, business, and so on, should one be unable to discipline their use of the device. That being said, let me BLOW YOUR MIND!
LOL. Can I use text msg shorts in an essay? This piece is going to be broken down into a few sections so you can skip ahead to find the most useful nugget for you.
1.) My original interest, why
2.) Organization, organization, organization (ewallet, calendar, prioritizing, alerts, bills and finance)
3.) General knowledge, the arts, and what else?
4.) Navigational tools; the pros and cons of all-in-one devices, my testing of the thing!
5.) Political Considerations, privacy and the Beast
7.) Mobile ethics and social behavior
It’s been a few years, like 6 at least, since I purchased a phone. My old phone could text and take pictures, but I cancelled the internet plan and used the most affordable plan available. $40 a month. Worked fine. Sometimes I wanted to do more things but as we all do on a budget I got over it. I heard about the iPhone’s SIRI, a voice activated assistant. Immediately I knew this thing was for me. Did you know I met my wife by hiring her as a personal assistant? She actually did things like data entry, messaging, planting help, clothing alteration and repair, errands, and the like before we decided to get ‘involved’. Now she’s my boss. How does that work? Anyway, I drive two hours minimum per day when doing the martial arts rounds. Music shows are often out of town. A voice controlled device has potential to save my life! No more texting or dialing numbers while driving. Yes I know you do it too. In fact, while I do nothing more involved than listen to music on the motorcycle, the fact that there is this potential for a voice controlled GPS/text reading/caller/music player/etc. thing in my helmet was a powerful draw. I had to look into it. Could technology actually be catching up and becoming, like Thomas the Train, ‘Really Useful’?
iPhone = o r g a n i z a t i o n
By age 35 we should be able to honest with our strengths and weaknesses. Or I could phrase it differently, our strong points and areas with great potential for development. Whatever. The fact is I have to use lists and calendars. Constantly. And they get misplaced. Or a kid carries them off. Or they get rained on. And the stakes are VERY HIGH (think; you are the drummer for an expensive, contracted gig and the whole band as well as your career counts on you being there on time set up and sounding good). I can tell my phone, “Set a reminder for 6pm tomorrow night to call my mom for her birthday.” Done. Tomorrow night I get a reminder from my assistant. I can tell my phone, “Make an appointment for February 14th at 3pm”, again, done. I can ask it to text the band that I am running late, or call home, without having to dial or type anything. This ain’t nothin’ yet.
The notes function handles little details I might otherwise forget, like a notepad, and the reminders can hit you everyday until the task is completed if that’s what you want (or need). Like me getting my passport stuff taken care of. You can set the device to give a little vibration or actually scream, “Hey Spencer get off your butt and quit farting around, get your stuff done right now you hippie-looking PROCRASTINATOR!!!” I’m not kidding. If you are a musician just hit the voice memo button to play a few chords or sing a tune, or knock out a beat, and then set it to remind you when you arrive home to develop the song further. Yes, your location matters. Reminders are for both time and space.
I hate checking voicemail. Some of you may know just how much I detest spending a half hour listening to people ramble on about whatever for the two critical messages buried in the mix. Sometimes I am in the woods running about, by the time I’m home there are 30 messages on there. No way. Ugh. It’s about to rain and I have firewood in the yard. On the iphone, messages are just like emails listed in order with any ONE available for immediate playback or deletion. I don’t have to listen through them all. If snow has cancelled class my greeting is the same; right there on the screen, quick change, done. No pushing #2 then #3 then # then on and on and on. If I just need to reply a couple of words texting is right there, and adding someone to contacts is right there too. Intuitive, efficient. It just works.
I have this drawer with 10 years of business cards crammed in it. Some of them I need, randomly, from time to time. The phone scans the card, taking a picture of it, converts all the letters and numbers into digital data, adds them to my contacts and records their business name/info with one push of a button. I can then email, call, or text them by ASKING MY PHONE TO DO SO. I still haven’t even started on this thing. See why I need an essay? LOL.
By the way, in case you are wondering what I would wonder – yeah, so you lose your phone. It gets smashed, stolen, etc. First off, it backs up data to your computer when you plug it in to sync with iTunes. Second, it backs up crucial data that you choose to iCloud, an invisible backup that works wirelessly putting your data onto any devices you want. Thirdly you can print it for a hard copy in case of EMP blast. If your phone is misplaced you can look up its location, erase it from a distance, or even have it set off an alarm (if it’s in a car or backpack for example). The screen of course is passkey protected with a four digit code anyway.
Ewallet: When I first heard of someone putting sensitive financial data on a phone, or any networked device I was like, “yeah ok, idiot”. But then again, I have lost my wallet. My wallet has no password protection. And in it are my…everything related to business expenses, personal accounts, military and civilian IDs, and a few coded passwords (that I occasionally forget the code to). The phone can, behind the first password wall, store in an additional encrypted vault, card numbers, website passwords, ATM pins, account numbers, insurance accounts, vehicle ID’s, or any other important information that needs to be accessible during daily business or personal goings on. If you have two emails, a facebook, business online accounts, a youtube, and personal webpages you manage, that alone can be a HUGE mental burden. Even more so if you subscribe to a Sailing blog, a motorcycle parts catalog, and a music industry website. The E Wallet vault takes care of it, and backs it up. You no longer have to use the same password for EVERYTHING.
Each month my wife and I ask one another, “Did you send off the mortgage?” That’s usually her domain but we check with each other on a variety of bills. Sometimes, even after a reminder, something gets missed. “Why is our electricity off?” Oh good, it’s just an ice storm and some high winds not another late bill. The phone reminds me each month with an alert system I program which bills are due when. It makes a chart for me to study expenses so I can see easily how the woodstove saves money over the heat pump, and how much money I save by paying off that debt instead of doing a monthly payment with interest. Still ain’t even started, you just wait, if you think this is a lot you are going to be like me and say…..WHAT?!?!? The phone really IS reversed engineered alien technology.
Hanging a picture? The phone has an accurate level on it. Need a ruler, the phone works like a tape measure as you move it across the wall. Need a light, the phone works as a flashlight using the flash bulb LED as well as providing screen options for reading and so on with various bulbs and colors, including red for us working at night, in the dark.
You may notice by now I haven’t mentioned facebook or games. Of course those are on there, but I wouldn’t buy a phone for that. They also have the potential for altering my lifestyle in negative ways that I choose to limit for personal reasons. As for watching movies, well, you can, but that’s what theaters are for right? I mean come on…imagine being the sound designer or director of photography for a masterwork of film and knowing someone out there has Netflix on their iPhone. Barf-o-rama. But while I am distracted off topic allow me to indulge my ADD a bit more.
I studied art history in college. My phone has famous works and little known artists from different cultures, eras, and art periods complete with biographical information. I can verify edible and medicinal plant information in the field with pictures, details, and even recipes for that shelf fungus I’d like to share with someone. The stars at night are important navigational tools, I’d like to know more about the constellations and how to use my telescope. My phone has every visible spark, and a few more, accurately mimics the sky where I am AS I MOVE IT AROUND, can zoom in to distant galaxies, and give detailed information on every star, planet, nebula, galaxy, or comet/meteor, as well as locate viewable meteor showers and identify the satellite going over in realtime. You know, that little speck that’s too slow to be shooting star but too far and fast to be a plane. It’s actually ORBVIEW 2, a seastar satellite, launched in 1997, orbiting at an altitude of 496.05 miles above the Earth.
“SIRI, where’s the nearest coffee shop?” “Let me see Spencer, ok, here are 14 nearby coffee shops, 3 are close to you.” The phone can then provide me with directions. YES! I can keep writing.
Speaking of stars and directions, let’s talk GPS. I have been through various states of perspective on hi-tech nav devices as an outdoorsman, a sailor, a primitivist, and also a responsible camp director with a dozen liabilities in my care – kids. There are some weaknesses to an all in one device. Considerations such as battery life; if I use one device for music, GPS, and emergency communications, I better have some backup energy somewhere. Also, damage. If a device covers all bases and it gets destroyed in a wilderness fall then all my music/camera photos/GPS/rescue communication goes down with it. That being said, the GPS software on the phone is better than my stand alone Garmin eTrex Legend-Cs, used at LOTSWild. The software conveniently turns down the music in my earbuds on the bike, or the stereo in the truck, and prepares me to turn and re-routes around road hazards ahead with amazing accuracy. Music gigs are time sensitive and often far away so this is a HUGE help. It gives me maps, satellite imagery, road information, distances, and estimated times as well as desired stops along the way – like Cracker Barrel. Mmmm. Or Taco Bell. I recently tested the program kayaking the coast of NC and found it to be essential in determining routes through an endless marsh with varying tidal movement, sand bars, and desired destinations. I could even see, via satellite photo, where the boats would tie for secret fishing locations deep in the intercoastal waterways. It’s worth noting that the camera is not quite as good as my stand alone Nikon, but it’s not far off, and in the right light it’s even better.
This brings up some serious considerations for the aware civil libertarian. Let’s just go ahead and jump right in. Yes Big Brother is watching. With an iPhone you are on the grid. The software you choose to use gives a hint of what’s capable that you may not be choosing. Regardless of what the Department of Homeland Security or your local public school may say, you don’t have to be a terrorist to want a certain privacy of information. Choosing to carry a smartphone is a big decision in that department. You can always turn on Airplane mode, but many of my old students may remember me talking in social studies about how the FBI has monitored individuals through phones that were physically turned off. Removing the battery used to be easy, not so much anymore. It’s a matter of becoming aware of the situation around you. If you want completely anonymous internet research you have to find a way, I can tell you, but you have to ask or discover on your own. If you want locational privacy and don’t trust the OFF function for phone tracking – don’t take your phone. It is not unwarranted to be concerned about foreign governments, corporations, or domestic organizations getting their hand in the pie. Who’s buying what, whose saying what, to whom, what are groups planning, and so on. Add this to issues related to radio emissions and cellular health and you get a strong argument to not have a mobile device. The Rasta in me still thinks the closer we are to natural creation the more efficient and healthy the living system is, as designed by the Creator. Period. As Sting put it, he never saw a miracle of science that didn’t go from a blessing to a curse. I have used my phone to monitor a few of the thousands of public cameras stationed around the world. I can control the zoom and motion of a color video feed from Myrtle Beach, VCU, App State, or the Bering Straight. I have watched a storm come in on the coast of Japan after a gig from my hotel room and caught a guy drinking in his truck somewhere in California while he was parked at the beach. He had no idea!
The other morning I woke up from a nightmare – the storyline being that one day in the future you were REQUIRED by law to carry your phone on you. It always kept tabs, it always listened, it always watched, it always monitored. Failure to have it put you in trouble with authorities. My phone can scan any barcode (for those of you of such thoughts) and tell me all available prices locally and online of that item within 3 seconds. No one will be able to buy or sell without the mark? Not entirely paranoid there. It’s becoming reality. We have to work and envision a world where this new technology is used to empower not control and manipulate, it will be a constant battle forever almost, I suppose. It has been so far. Is there a text short for not funny? nLOL! I’ll leave any potential future-techno-ninjas with the adage; sometimes the safest place for the mouse is under the cat’s nose! Just as a side note that’s really nLOL, the rats in MY house put stashes of poison under the rug in my KID’S bathroom, and in my shoes. Counter chemical warfare, rat-guerilla style. And before you ever say or write anything remember Wiki-Leaks! That being said, I recently saved someone potential jail time and a lot of legal hassle by recording something on a mobile camera as video evidence that was used in court as a bulletproof defense. Just sayin’. Ok, a few more things. Read that last paragraph a few more times and be politically active to protect civil liberties – no political party seems to be a safe bet.
I saved the best for almost last; MUSIC. Another one of the things that drew me to the iPhone in particular over other smartphones was the power of the dual core A5 chip that seems to be more powerful than my laptop. Playing music is old news. Creating songlists of new things my band leaders send me to learn for the studio or live performance is old news. Reviewing changes while setting up a drumset is old news. A real time stream of a song is getting warm. Finding any song within seconds of me humming the melody is freaking unreal, complete with lyrics and instrument data! Having a pro level MIDI sequencer that rivals my home unit, on the go, is hot stuff. An unlimited number of tracks with high quality pre-amps, vocal recording, direct digital line ins, exporting files, sound file editing, and effects with video editing and mastering is blowing MY BRAIN OUT! In fact I recently wrote, recorded, mastered and uploaded a song and video from my phone, all on my phone, over Christmas while at the beach. It’s already sold a dozen copies on amazon and iTunes and is available here; www.youtube.com/windrider707 It’s called “Touch of Infinity; Blue Days mix”. In fact, I can generate sounds using not only the motion of the phone as an input variable, but the environment around me including ambient sounds and images to produce other-wordly synthesizers and rythms. I can create samples at a home studio and take them on the road, listen to them in my truck driving to make EQ adjustments later, and get a better singer while visiting a friend who actually sings. That’s all in addition to having most languages, including Cherokee, available for translation both with the spoken word and in typing. This was pretty advanced DARPA/military stuff just a few years ago. I’m not going to spend more writing space on music because this essay is for a wide range of people; but for musicians, just know there is a universe of potential for your work – on the iPhone. The iPad might keep you from going blind, however.
It’s only been a month, a little under, and these are a few of the things I’ve gotten into with this thing. I have professional business advice and daily motivational quotes available. The whole Bible is on there, with concordance and Hebrew translation, able to be noted upon, highlighted, marked, saved, and studied. My information, once again, is backed up and transferable. The hourly weather is at my fingertip, displayed with alerts and precipitation forecast. I think the best place to leave this writing endeavor is to say I have only scratched the surface. Every day I learn a new shortcut, something crazy, some new ability, some information I’ve wanted. I can remember the details of my last private lesson with Sean, Master Blackburn or Brian Adams (intructors), and actually pick up flowers for my wife for the morning of Valentine’s Day, not the day after. All to what end?
And that’s where the decision is. Do I want an expensive piece of high technology, bordering on magic, that can almost tell what I’m thinking, so I can spend more time with my face in a glowing screen? Do I want to be that friend who can’t hold a conversation because of constant texting, or the person missing the beautiful day around them so they can check out awesome ‘graphics’ in their virtual world? Do I want to tune out my real life for cool music and audio ‘tapes’ on…anything? For me, the payoff is in the life away from my phone that the phone affords. If it helps me communicate more efficiently I don’t have to get on the computer every night and miss bedtime with my kids. If it reminds me of things to do while out I don’t have to make multiple trips to town, burn more gas, be away from the important things I have prioritized. Is the learning that is possible all in vain (newsflash; we are going to die, and probably can’t take the phone with us), or does it allow me to accomplish something more meaningful with respect to relationships, income, or time alone in the mountains?
Surprisingly, within a month, I have found that to be the case. Let’s just not be so distracted that we miss the out-of-congress legislation that makes the digital personal network mandatory. We know where armbands lead, right? nLOL! If you have any questions, send me a text. Or then again, I just might be out fishing. There is an App for tying flies right? You bet.