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Being Human in the Age of Digital Obsession

104 year old grandma on Twitter

I can’t handle it sometimes. I hear my Skype, Gmail, Facebook and texting alerts all go off at once. I have dozens of tabs open in Chrome. Another email goes off as my inner calmness and serenity implode while I’m hungrily gulping down my second iced coffee of the day. I’m juggling twenty things at once. I want to make more money. I want to provide a nice retirement for my parents. I want to make the world a better place. I want to be a pilot, flying down 400 miles for a cup of coffee at the summit of an epic mountain; away from the dismal, banal and familiar. I want to be an author, self-indulgently writing about how I went from being a depressed, anxious teenager to a 23 year old rock-star.

This is actually a picture of me

I want everyone to read my book and have a cult following so that people pay $100,000 to hear me talk about the same stuff they read in the book.

I want to be the most-coveted, sexiest model first in Buffalo, NY and then the world. My modeling career taking off like no other; kick-starting my acting career and then I can finally get continent-loads of money to say a few words on camera. And everyone will love me.

I want to be the best salsa dancer in the world so that everyone sees power oozing out of me as I dance there on the floor. Sweat dripping down their sexy chins as I turn them and twirl them while their hearts throb to my assertive lead. They feel sexy in my arms. I am after all, a model.

If only I could avoid stepping on their feet, I’d look like that!

All the while, the GTalk, Skype and Facebook alerts continue to ask for my attention. All these distractions. All these dreams. Are these dreams just another distraction?

Meanwhile, people are starving. People can’t get access to clean drinking water. Babies are dying from diarrhea because of that. Cancer is rampant. The foods we are eating are coated with carcinogens because they preserve the food better and we can now make a higher profit of it.

Hold on, I need to pull out a notebook and generate some ideas to make more money. Maybe I can sell people an e-book: “The 7 foods they must eat to not get cancer” and write about broccoli and stuff. Organic broccoli and blueberries. That’s the cure! $19.95, please! Cha-ching. Now I can finally get that plane and pilot’s license, fly to the mountains and drink a nice cup of herbal tea and meditate at the top. I have to tweet about it, of course. It goes without saying I have to tweet while flying over the pretty sights and maybe upload an instagram picture.

This actually happened.

In an age so digitally-wired and connected that teenagers are falling down manholes while they are texting, why do so many of us feel so alone? How many of us text while walking, while at concerts, check our email at a red light? Flick on the iPad when we’re spending precious time with a loved one? Tune out the world around us to tune into something digital and perhaps less real?  Are we more connected or less? What are we truly connected to?

There are of course those moments when we can use an old version of Skype ;) to video chat with our grandparents living half a world away. During those moments I’m truly grateful for all this technology. Once, my grandmother asked me show her how to setup Twitter. She’s in Russia. Why do you need Twitter, grandma?

104 year old grandma on Twitter

I’m really in awe when technology is used to solve big problems. What if we built a huge spaceship; filled it up with all the world’s nuclear weapons, all of its landfill garbage, all the junk that poisons our air, crammed it all in that spaceship and then blasted it off to the edges of the Milky Way? How much would that cost? Could we get crowd-funding?

Do you ever long for simpler times? Even going back just seven years, before iPads existed and before the huge smart-phone boom? The days when we downloaded AIM 5.9, along with DeadAIM to get rid of the ads?

Back when we had an old flip-phone and could share a meal with a loved one and all of our attention was focused on them? Not on the fears of the future, when the next text-crack is going to arrive or what’s happening on our Facebook walls?

I can’t blame the technology. They are simply little addictive inanimate tools, swimming in the sea of the vast world around us; sending us waves of cares when our friends ping us on Twitter. When’s the last time you pinged a loved one with a hand-written letter or drawing? Or simply told them that you love them; not through texting, not through a digital screen of facades, but in-person from your heart?

On a daily basis, I need to remind myself to be more loving, more caring, simply being there for the world around me. Swami Kripalu once said: “Do not fight the dark. Just turn on the light. Let go, and breathe into the goodness that you are. “ I can’t fight the world around me and where it’s heading. I can only be the best version of myself for that world. Someone recently posted a comment on our FB page that made me smile: “How can I download the old version of my own life?” I don’t think you can, my friend. You can simply be here, as you are.

Resist the compulsion. Stay human in the age of digital obsession.

A Week With WordPerfect 5.1

Editor’s Note: For this assignment, one of the writers for the oldversion.com blog was given a daunting assignment – to use WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS for some of his writing assignments for a week.

Below are his thoughts of the experience. Do you still use WordPerfect 5.1? Feel free to discuss this in the comments below.

The first problem was installation.

Frustrated woman

Initially I attempted to run the application downloaded from this very site in a virtual machine installation of Windows Advanced Server 2000. The DOS window here seemed to run the application without any problems until the actual point of tapping Enter to install the software post-setup. Creating a large-size disk image for the application didn’t work either.

While dropping down to Windows 95/98 was an option, it was one that would require a trip into the attic. With this in mind, I opted for a sidestep – I would try installing WordPerfect in DOSbox!

Running through the installation, I was presented with a lot of screens that in a modern day application would be dealt with via a single check-box or radio button. At the end of the installation with mention of printers and restarts, the application gave the impression of needing to be reinstalled; indeed, I attempted this at the first run, realizing when I reached the end the second time that this was either the beginning of a trip into the box room or I would have to try something else.

Typing WP at the prompt got the software running, however. So, how would I use it for the rest of the week?

Help!

The first thing was to track down the help function (F1) and try and work out what keys did what. As a keyboard-driven application, the most important thing to appreciate is that all of the functions were on the keyboard – the mouse is almost completely useless.

WordPerfect 5.1

Pleasingly, the array of keys to the right of Enter and Backspace come in very useful – as an “old school” user these have always been a part of my keyboard use, and it is good to be able to rely on these 30 year old legacy options.

The various options and functions available in WordPerfect can be found via the Function keys, presented via Shift, Ctrl, Alt or with no modification.

So with everything ready, I was set to go. My first task would be to introduce this challenge, the results of which you can see above. But would I be able to use the application daily?

I certainly wouldn’t be able to get away with outputting all of my work using WordPerfect – the majority of material that I am involved with requires a pretty quick turnaround, which usually means writing directly into the browser window and submitting.

However there are enough suitable features in WordPerfect to be able to use this application daily…

Day 1

I left WordPerfect running in the DOSBox window overnight, and found that I was unable to restore the document! The whole scenario of saving and closing is a confusing one at best, and discovering that my most recent save file wasn’t being displayed in the “Retrieve” screen was jarring. Fortunately closing the app and restarting “rediscovered” the file.

I have also noticed that the lack of an auto-spellcheck (used in Microsoft Word to resolve common typos) is slightly annoying. Indeed, I’m noticing a lot of errors that I really shouldn’t be making!

Day 2

Something else I have noticed with the application is the difficulty in applying formatting to text.

Via Help (Shift+F1) I discovered that this done by selecting text using the block command, placing the cursor at the start of a word, activating Block (Alt+F4) and then taking the cursor to the end of the word. Once the word or passage is selected, the appropriate formatting can be applied, using the corresponding keyboard shortcut. For instance these bolded words were originally achieved using F6 after selecting the text as a block.

Day 3

Remarkably I found myself up and running with WordPerfect without mistyping DOS commands today. As someone with experience of DOS going back to 1990, installation and running of the application had been somewhat frustrating until now, but it all seems to be coming back to me!

If you’re planning on using WordPerfect – and if you are limited by hardware and budget it is worth considering – then printing out the keymappings for the Function keys is a good idea. In the absence of an on-screen menu system, having a reference for what key does what is going to prove useful. As it is, remember that F7 is for saving documents and F5 for opening!

Day 4

As I approach the end of the week, I’ve found myself wondering just how to transfer this journal into something I can publish at OldVersion.com.

The obvious option is to open it in Microsoft Word and then paste it into the site – but if I already have Word, why am I using WordPerfect?

Saving options are limited in WordPerfect, so what is the best way of converting the document into a format I can use online?

The WPS format can be opened in apps such as WordPad and Notepad, but sadly there are odd artifacts within the text which need to be edited out. As WordPad and Notepad are built into Windows, you shouldn’t have any problem running them.

Day 5

So what have I learned about using WordPerfect as a word processor?

Well, it certainly wasn’t as easy as I expected. For some reason, even though my writing career has taken place almost exclusively on GUI word processors (with the small exception of an old Amstrad PCW device in the late 1980s) I had expected to find WordPerfect more usable than I did.

However, as the days progressed I found more and more features and I believe that if you need a good, no-frills word processor that doesn’t blind you with formatting options, this is a good way to go.

Running in DOSBox allows you to ALT+Enter to view full screen, presenting you with a pure page of text. Sometimes Microsoft Word and OpenOffice give you too much to look at, which is why the full screen options on those applications are so good to use.

In fact, if you’re the type of writer who prefers more page and less icons, using WordPerfect in full screen mode might be exactly what you’re looking for. It’s an ideal way to get your thoughts onto the screen quickly without worrying about formatting, something which could, for the zen writer, enable and inspire better writing.

Once you’ve got the words down, you can then use other applications to deal with the formatting and redrafting…

Editor Note: Do you still use WordPerfect 5.1? If so, why? Let us know in the comments!

iTunes

Ahh – yes, iTunes.

I spent over ten hours yesterday cleaning up our Windows iTunes page. It was far too out of date and I apologize — we had some technical glitches supporting the larger file sizes which were just recently worked out. I probably spent half the time cursing Apple for releasing so many versions for me to keep track of. While doing research on specific versions, I noticed some interesting patterns; such as the usual scheduled release of a new iTunes (i.e. 9 to 10) version in the first few weeks of September.

Also, I saved some version numbers for your convenience: iTunes 9.1 was the first version to support iPad syncing, but you may want to take heed at its enormous near-100MB file-size. Version 10 became a bit leaner and dare-I say..better then its 9.0 counterpart with a 20MB cut in file size and no longer a bundling of QuickTime with the releases.

Another version to take note of was iTunes 8.2 as it was the last version to support syncing with Palm Pre devices. Apple decided to take “mimic” players seriously and disable Palm Pre syncing with any version afterward. Boo!

Anyway, what’s your favorite iTunes version?

P.S. Our Mac users: sorry! I will update the Mac section as soon as I find another 10 hours. Leave a comment or send me an email to get me to hurry up if you need a specific version now ;)

Do you still use Windows 98?

If you want to explore an option, just click it. Thanks Microsoft!

Ahhh – the nostalgia of Windows 98 – the days when NetMeeting was still integrated into the Operating System.

If you want to explore an option, just click it. Thanks Microsoft!

“If you want to explore an option, just click it. Thanks Microsoft!”

It makes sense for me to use Windows 98; I do after all run an old apps repository archive. In fact, just today I learned that Skype 5.9.0.115 isn’t compatible with Windows 98SE. Darn!

Skype 5.9.0.115 not installing on Windows 98

Don’t tell me what to do, you damn alert bar! I’ll upgrade my Windows version when I damn well please!

The point of this blog post is to enter into a dialogue with our community about Windows 98. Why do you still use it? What are your favorite versions of programs for it? Feel free to engage this discussion in the comments below or on our Facebook or Google+ page, although the Facebook page may not render very properly on your Windows 98 machines ;) !

Why old software versions matter

In a recent post on the oldversion.com blog attention was drawn to a comment left on the site’s Facebook page by a user who said, “I am using your oldversion.com resource to restore some really low resource computers to give to people who have no money to buy a computer for themselves or their children.”

What a fantastic use of the oldversion.com service!

If ever there was an argument for maintaining freely available archives of old versions of software, then this has to be one of the better ones. Why should access to computers and the Internet be the sole preserve of those privileged enough to afford it?

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