Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Watch Out

I have to admit, I felt pretty clever. I'd rigged up my tablet and a Bluetooth keyboard into a pretty workable solution, and with the addition of an Ikea table and our broken-in sofa, I had a surprisingly ergonomic little editing setup. I'm still lacking actual *time* of course, and it's in the throes of the fall youth sports and annual project cycles at work that I wonder how I ever manage to carve out any spare time at all in November. (Secret: sleep deprivation, in the name of creativity.)

The best thing about my new setup is that it is fairly portable and easy to set up. Just about any location will do. And with a WiFi connection (strong on the sofa) all my changes would be backed up, trouble free in the magical Internet Cloud, where I could pick up the next day during a break at work, or on our home PC in the kitchen. Better editing through technology!

The Edit Zone
Textual Purgatory

Of course, there have been rough patches. No adoption period is completely smooth. I misunderstood the new Google Docs at first, for example, and assumed that a plain text document that I was editing on the tablet would see its changes blitted out into cyberland. In fact, I should have taken the trouble to convert that plain text into a "Docs" document first, because all those hard-entered changes were, quite simply, lost. It was with a Biblical level of frustration and some very un-holy language that I swore at my own stupidity, accepted that hour of writing as Really Truly Lost, and rewrote again. And maybe it's a little better for the experience, though a part of me still thinks that some of those lost sentences were gold.

Now flash ahead two weeks or so, and another editing opportunity opens up on a Sunday afternoon. I sequester myself in the bedroom with the door shut, flip the tablet into "Offline" mode after taking care to download the fragment I'm rewriting, and set to it with vigor. The words, they are flowing. The prose, it is prosing. Progress is being made: sweet, sweet progress. And eventually, when the kids and pets are demanding meals, I set the whole thing up on the table, click on the WiFi, and wait for the magic to happen.

Needless to say, the magic failed to happen. In fact, I was greeted with the unhelpful "Opening document failed" message for upwards of an hour or two, interspersed with random app crashes. Checking the document online on a different computer was just as discouraging, since it showed the pre-edited state from the morning, with a recent time stamp -- implying that Yet Again, all those newborn words were slurped into the ether, or whatever purgatory awaits the otherwise unsaved. The unholy vocabulary vented forth again.

This does, surprisingly, have a happy ending. After contemplating Deep Mysteries for a good long while, the tablet manage to send the text up into the 'Nets, though to this day it still cannot actually open the offending document. And I have come away properly humbled and chastised for daring to do the evidently unthinkable act of editing while not connected to the perpetual umbilicus of Internet connectivity. I dared to go offline and create, and I was punished for it. Those of you in the 'sphere doing your own voluntary de-Googling are welcome to smile at my hubris and the soul-crushing that followed.

So, ha ha, Google. Fool me twice, and all that. I've dug out the Neo, and what it lacks in superconvenience it more than makes up for in reliable simplicity. I'm back on the sofa again, typing this up, and I fully expect to retype the other chapters of this draft in this very spot. The Bluetooth setup will henceforth be reserved for idle forum posting or Twitter or the occasional remote access for work, where the text is transitory or unimportant or both. You don't get to hold my creative output hostage any more. I can't spare the time.

Old Faithful

* * *

And speaking of time, today was the generally-anticipated announcement of the latest Apple gadgets, including their first generation take on a Smart Watch. It sounds pretty slick, if you're the right sort of market. I'm certain that I'm the wrong sort of market, since I don't receive nearly enough calls to justify a buzzing reminder on my wrist, or if I need to -- send a doodle to someone? I'm sure it's going to prove invaluable to some market niche, and I'm perfectly satisfied not fitting into that niche. Surrounding all the hype and glory are all the unspokens, too: details like battery life, and the workability of the device when removed from the communications cloud emitted by its master device. I've had the unpleasant experience of watching my own personal technology have a mini-meltdown when it was isolated from the rest of the connected world for an hour or two. I can't imagine the anguish this poor device might experience if the wearer were to leave it in another room or (horror of horrors) turn the damn thing off now and then.

* * *

Multi-faceted technology can be great, I suppose, if your life is suited to it. But complex technology is like the teeth of a key, and it will only mate to a similar lock. If you depend on your watch (I depend on mine) and your watch depends on your phone, then maybe you adapt your behavior so you always always always carry both. Now you worry about charging both nightly. Now you protect your investment with cases and covers and carriers and pockets and pouches. Maybe you'll hold off on that hike or that bike trip, because the signal is so weak out by the reservoir, or you're not sure if everything is waterproof, and God, what if it slipped out of your pocket?

Watch out, is what I'm saying. The smarter the gadgets, the more they shape our behavior. The more the teeth of those keys will bite. I wouldn't wish those hours of textual uncertainty on anyone, and I certainly won't live them again. I'll write where I like, and I'll tell time by the old reliables -- my kids demanding food -- and I'll keep my habits my own.

1 comment:

teeritz said...

It's bad enough when my mobile phone rings. The last thing I want is a phone attachment strapped to my wrist. Besides, I'm old-school where watches are concerned.