Why doesn’t my phone have a thermometer?

It’s get­ting pret­ty warm again (did it ever stop?) in South Flori­da, so today when I had the mis­for­tune of being out­doors, I got to won­der­ing why with all the sen­sors found in most mod­ern smart­phones, they don’t usu­al­ly include a thermometer.

It’s com­mon to find sen­sors for ori­en­ta­tion, screen contact/pressure, video, sound and even loca­tion. How­ev­er, for some rea­son, the task of telling me about the cli­mate sur­round­ing me gets out­sourced to a third-party that is some­where com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent.

Just think about that for a second.

What we’re miss­ing is the abil­i­ty to know the actu­al con­di­tions we’re expe­ri­enc­ing. If one hap­pens to be indoors, in the shade, or some­where else entire­ly, all they’ll get from their phone is the typ­i­cal out­door tem­per­a­ture for their gen­er­al area. Even if they hap­pen to be inside of, and get recep­tion in, a walk-in freez­er. (“It’s cer­tain­ly not 90° F in here…”)

On the oth­er hand, I can think of rea­sons why our phones tend not to han­dle their own tem­per­a­ture read­ings. Wire­less car­ri­ers obvi­ous­ly pre­fer that cus­tomers pay for data plans to use as many phone fea­tures as pos­si­ble. There’s also the mat­ter of expec­ta­tions: nobody (but me!) seems to demand the fea­ture, so why include it, even if the hard­ware could­n’t be all that pricey?

But most impor­tant­ly, the sen­sor would like­ly be undu­ly influ­enced by the tem­per­a­ture of our hand, the atmos­pher­ic con­di­tions in our pock­et, the heat gen­er­at­ed by the phone itself, and so on. Heck, I dis­tinct­ly remem­ber how wild­ly inac­cu­rate my circa-mid-90s Casio G‑Shock ther­mome­ter watch (same mod­el pic­tured at right) was.

But gosh, was it ever enter­tain­ing to watch that dial spin! I also used to watch that bar graph scroll through the last few hours of record­ed tem­per­a­tures and pre­tend I was in a boat watch­ing waves go by. Ah, childhood…

I can’t quite place my fin­ger on what I would do with the abil­i­ty to keep a read­ing of my own sur­round­ings’ tem­per­a­ture over time… but I know I want it.

Impressed, perplexed by Howard Johnson

I’m present­ly at a hotel, and I’ve found myself impressed with the Wi-Fi here. The sig­nal strength is okay and the speed is ade­quate, but that’s not what’s stand­ing out. It’s the brand­ing.

I’ve seen all man­ners of SSIDs since Wi-Fi became com­mon­place in hotels, from “Free Wifi” to “[hotel name here],” but in my expe­ri­ence, this Howard John­son loca­tion is tru­ly sin­gu­lar… and per­plex­ing to me.

The hotel offers mul­ti­ple wire­less access points. I’m guess­ing this is for bet­ter cov­er­age, but they decid­ed to give each one a dif­fer­ent name. The names aren’t any­thing pre­dictable, like hojo1, hojo2, either.

I’m impressed that the man­age­ment actu­al­ly took the time to inte­grate feel-good cor­po­rate mes­sages into each access point’s SSID. Using tech to com­mu­ni­cate thoughts in non­tra­di­tion­al ways is cer­tain­ly rel­e­vant to my inter­ests. How­ev­er, pick­ing a dif­fer­ent slo­gan for each AP not only seems tech­ni­cal­ly slop­py, but makes for an awk­ward mish-mash of old and new com­pa­ny taglines. Also, how am I sup­posed to know the AP I’m con­nect­ing to isn’t an evil twin? It’d be pret­ty triv­ial for some­one to throw togeth­er some­thing like hojolovesy­ou and have its poten­tial for mal­ice be imper­cep­ti­ble next to the oth­er goofy networks.

My con­cerns over the wire­less ameni­ties are most­ly the­o­ret­i­cal, since my teth­ered Android phone has me ade­quate­ly cov­ered when it comes to Inter­net access. My use of the free Wi-Fi is lim­it­ed to con­sum­ing to high-bandwidth con­tent that would make my currently-EDGE con­nec­tion choke. (What’s more, as a Lin­ux user — varoom! —much of what a the­o­ret­i­cal attack­er could do, out­side of MITM, isn’t real­ly a con­cern to me.)

The plugins behind the blog

I appre­ci­ate the slick pub­lish­ing plat­form that Word­Press pro­vides for my writ­ing. Per­haps even bet­ter is its plu­g­in sys­tem, which lets me make it do just about any­thing I like.

Since you wont find me churn­ing out PHP code of my own any­time soon (I’ve actu­al­ly been mean­ing to take anoth­er stab at to wrap­ping my brain around Python now that ver­sion 3 is out), I rely on the Word­Press com­mu­ni­ty to do so for me. For­tu­nate­ly, with near­ly 10,000 plu­g­ins avail­able, they seem up to the task!

When I set up my Word­Press instal­la­tion ear­li­er this year, I promised myself that I would­n’t go over­board the way I usu­al­ly end up cus­tomiz­ing and extend­ing most of the oth­er tech tools/toys in my life. Even while show­ing restraint, I’ve man­aged to accu­mu­late just over 20 plu­g­ins at this point… whoops! [fn]The plu­g­ins actu­al­ly seem to be impact­ing the blog’s per­for­mance; I need to take a clos­er look into just where the inef­fi­cien­cies lie.[/fn] That said, every plu­g­in I’m using has helped make this blog what it is today… from one that mir­rors com­ments that peo­ple post on Google Buzz, to one that gives me a per-post space to brain­storm as I compose.

Thus, I’ve cre­at­ed an ‘About Plu­g­ins’ page that prop­er­ly rec­og­nizes each one.

Why I don’t worry about blog stats, not even a little bit

I don’t obsess over this blog’s traf­fic stats. Doing so would be an exam­ple of kick­ing my own ass.

This graph is unimportant.

So while I use both Google Ana­lyt­ics and the Word­Press Stats plu­g­in, I don’t care a whit about the num­bers. I don’t even have to check them to know that they are mean­ing­less; they’re close enough to zero that they might as well be. (Words I’ve nev­er spo­ken: “I had 12 pageviews today, up from 10. High and to the right, baby!”)

I can’t sep­a­rate bot traf­fic from human traf­fic, and for all I know, I’m prob­a­bly respon­si­ble for some inci­den­tal pageviews… at least if I hap­pen to load pages when not signed in to Word­Press. And why should I care about pageviews, any­way? It’s not like I’m look­ing to sell ads.

So why do I con­tin­ue to use not one, but two solu­tions to not give me num­bers? For the qual­i­ta­tive data. I can’t get enough of those.

My two favorites are as fol­lows: refer­rers and search terms (which are, them­selves, refer­rers, any­way). Both of these give me infor­ma­tion that is actu­al­ly use­ful, right now. Search terms tell me about a case where some­one was look­ing for some­thing and found my post’s title and/or sum­ma­ry promis­ing enough to actu­al­ly click through. And refer­rers, clear­ly, show me who (if any­one) is dri­ving peo­ple my way.

(Even in my past life on Mul­ti­ply, I hooked my account up with Site Meter’s free ser­vice to see if they could show me any insight­ful stats. I took a look through what they offered and found that all I real­ly cared about were the refer­rers… which were, more often than not, hilar­i­ous. Web brows­er, OS and screen res­o­lu­tion can be inter­est­ing for see­ing how my vis­i­tors stack up against Web users as a whole, but what am I going to do with that sort of insight? Fix IE6 CSS issues? Ha.)

The qual­i­ta­tive data that these ser­vices col­lect from my blog have shown me that peo­ple have found my post about the crap­py Viv­i­tar Clip­shot, some even won­der­ing if it’s OS X‑compatible. (Hint: it isn’t.) A bunch of dif­fer­ent search terms brought peo­ple to my logo/visual puns post. And one search that did­n’t even log­i­cal­ly match up with con­tent I’ve post­ed, recent­ly learned words reap­pear­ing, gives me a great idea for a future post!

Should I be wor­ry­ing more about appeal­ing to the mass­es, or about cre­at­ing the sort of con­tent that peo­ple who actu­al­ly do vis­it are inter­est­ed in? That’s easy. The search­es and refer­rers have shown me that (please cue the schmaltzy music) I’ve touched peo­ple’s lives… even if I did­n’t nec­es­sar­i­ly give them any­thing of val­ue, and per­haps even wast­ed their time with con­tent that was­n’t rel­e­vant to their inter­ests. I made a difference!

Pocket paper perplexity

I don’t like shop­ping for cloth­ing very much, and it shows: my wardrobe over­whelm­ing­ly con­sists of solid-color shirts, jeans and the same kind of sneak­ers in a few dif­fer­ent col­ors. Stick­ing to basics keeps things sim­ple. Hmm, does this plain t‑shirt come in black? I’ll take it!

So yes­ter­day, while at a local out­let mall, I did some­thing I did­n’t real­ly enjoy: I bought a new pair of jeans. I had to dig through a few clear­ance racks before com­ing across a pair I did­n’t dis­like that much, one that actu­al­ly fit me with­out suf­fer­ing from the inten­tion­al dis­tress­ing that the cool kids seem to favor these days. I would have ini­tial­ly liked my cho­sen pair even more if they did­n’t suf­fer from this funky (that means “bad”) col­or pat­tern sewn into the back pock­ets. The pants are made by Mec­ca, and accord­ing to an attached tag, fea­ture a “rock­er fit.” (Oblig: \m/) I sup­pose this is to dif­fer­en­ti­ate from most of their clothes, which fea­ture a hip-hop fit.

I decid­ed to try them on for size (a phrase nobody uses lit­er­al­ly these days!) regard­less, and per­haps hav­ing caught a look at them in the fit­ting room mir­ror, found myself… actu­al­ly lik­ing them, even sort of appre­ci­at­ing the funky (that means “good”) col­or pattern!

So I bought them. Arriv­ing home, I put them on and noticed the famil­iar rus­tle of paper in the pock­ets… except I could­n’t imag­ine why that would hap­pen, unless the receipt had some­how slipped in. I reached into the rear pock­et to remove the paper and found that it did­n’t eas­i­ly slide out on its own. I pulled hard­er, heard a soft ‘tear’ sound and found myself hold­ing some­thing that looked like newsprint.

I kept pulling and, as you can see, pro­duced a good amount of paper scraps from the pock­ets. Per­haps not sur­pris­ing is that many of them include clothing-related infor­ma­tion, but what of the “fork­lift pock­ets,” which seem to dif­fer from pants pock­ets? Or the seem­ing­ly ran­dom phone num­ber scrap?

I could still feel a lit­tle bit of paper in the pock­ets; I changed into anoth­er pair of pants so I could have a clos­er look at these. I turned the pock­ets inside-out, and this is what I found:

To state the obvi­ous, it looks like the process used to cre­ate those col­or­ful pat­terns on the pock­ets involves sewing newsprint onto the reverse side of the pants. Not being a big tex­tile enthu­si­ast, I can’t imag­ine what pur­pose that the paper serves, but I’m guess­ing it should have been removed before leav­ing the fac­to­ry in Pakistan.

With Eng­lish being the offi­cial lan­guage of Pak­istan, and wide­ly used in com­merce, I sup­pose it’s not much of a sur­prise to find paper from there with Eng­lish writ­ing on it.

I just was­n’t expect­ing to find any­thing of the sort, you know, in my pants.

How to kick your own ass

So last night I was let­ting my mind wan­der while sit­ting around play­ing some Cave Sto­ry,[fn]Awesome, awe­some game. Free down­load here for Windows/Mac/Linux/etc. or buy it for $12 on WiiWare.[/fn] try­ing to decide whether I should blog the sto­ry of how I learned the word “res­i­dence” (yes, these are the things you think about when you are me), when I had a fun­ny thought. Yes, a sec­ond one.

It went a bit like “Everett, you could share bits like that on your blog, but you do real­ize that in doing so, you’re can­ni­bal­iz­ing con­tent that you could be sav­ing up for the mem­oir you may one day write, right?”

I chuck­led at the thought and con­clud­ed that the sto­ry of how I learned the word “res­i­dence” may not, after all, make for that great a blog post. But in anoth­er moment of insight, I took my sec­ondary thought to its log­i­cal con­clu­sion: if I were seri­ous about con­sid­er­ing writ­ing a mem­oir (and I was­n’t), per­haps at this point in my life I should wor­ry more about who would even want to read such a book.

That’s not to put down my life and those who have played a role in shap­ing it, but… sor­ry you guys, I just don’t think it would make a com­pelling book. And a life spent sit­ting around won­der­ing if I should write a book about my life seems even fur­ther away from a life worth writ­ing about.

I won­dered if maybe this prin­ci­ple (one wor­ry­ing more about some poten­tial future, at the expense of the present, which could be bet­ter used to get one to their desired future) is some­thing that a lot of peo­ple do, some­thing that has broad­er impli­ca­tions than some hypo­thet­i­cal, self-indulgent tome. Con­sid­er the exam­ple of rel­a­tive­ly not-well-off peo­ple who oppose that which would be ben­e­fi­cial to them, by, say, hav­ing polit­i­cal lean­ings that do more for those who are much bet­ter off than they are. Why would they do this? Do they actu­al­ly think they’re like­ly to be in that oth­er class some­day? Plan­ning on win­ning the lot­tery, much?

It’s one thing to plan for the future. But it’s anoth­er to fetishize some out­come that, be real with your­self, is unlike­ly to hap­pen… and is all the less like­ly, yet, if you sit around day­dream­ing about it.

Real artists ship”

I’m by no means an Apple fan, and don’t own any Apple prod­ucts (though I’ve always want­ed to play with a New­ton!), but to a geek, it’s pret­ty hard to ignore the effects that Apple has had on the world around us.

This prob­a­bly would­n’t make it to the aver­age list of Apple’s con­tri­bu­tions, but my per­son­al favorite is a Steve Jobs saying:

Real artists ship.”

I take this to mean that you can keep pol­ish­ing the prod­uct until it’s per­fect, but it does­n’t mat­ter how great it is unless it makes it out the door while it’s still rel­e­vant. (No, it did­n’t take a lot of read­ing deeply into the phrase for me to come up with that, Mr. Hypo­thet­i­cal Snarky Com­menter. An alter­nate mean­ing could be an expla­na­tion for push­ing a prod­uct out the door when it con­tains bugs that may give oth­ers pause.)

I some­times find myself spend­ing more time than I should on some­thing, in pur­suit of get­ting it unim­peach­ably per­fect. It’s a flaw of mine. I need to do some­thing about that, but I’m not sure what… and giv­ing up on qual­i­ty isn’t an option. Con­sid­er this bug #1 in my pub­lic bug track­er, pow­ered by WordPress. ;-)

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to ship this post so I can go ship that e‑mail I’ve been craft­ing so I can final­ly ship myself some Zs.