Putting Out Fires

HijiNKS ENSUE PODCAST Episode 87 “ZombieWhatever.com” is live!

I can’t say I’m totally in favor of tech that’s involuntarily ad supported. Maybe if it was an option for a lower upfront cost I’d be cool with it, but knowing that it’s just part of the package is a little hard to swallow. Of course Google (the actual search engine, not the media conglomerate that beams keywords into your nightmares based on specific childhood fears you wrote about on Facebook) is a piece of tech that only comes plastered with ads. So maybe that’s not such a bad way to keep costs done. Ok, in the course of two sentences I have invalidated my own opinion, or at least confused it a bit.

I remember in the late 90’s/early 2000’s when you could get free dial up if you agreed to have about 2″ of your 15″ (14″ viewable) monitor taken up with ads. I never got it to work at my apartment, but I had a few friends that did and they would make a bezel out of black tape around their screens to permanently cover the ads. Perhaps that was the first ad blocker. Speaking of ad blockers, if you use one please consider white-listing this site. I make a about a quarter of my income from ads and every little bit helps.

Despite being an iPad man myself, I am glad that there are more and more quality tablets hitting the market and taking a foothold. When I was a kid I always liked the “futuristic” shows that would depict the magical world of the year 2001 where everyone had a personal communication device about the size of a text book with them. I even made a cardboard and paper model of Penny’s Computer-Book from Inspector Gadget. Now there are at least 4 items in my house that could be described as computer books. I’m not saying a tablet in every hand drastically improves the world or the average person’s quality of life (though an argument could be made if we got down to specifics), but it does make everything feel more futurey and that is fine by me.

I feel like having a smartphone with relatively fast internet essentially makes you a cyborg. No joke. It gives you nearly instant access to essentially all human knowledge and effectively increases your memory and brainpower to superhuman levels. Sure you can’t tell me how far away the North Pole is off the top of your head, but you can find the information in less than 30 seconds. Effectively, isn’t that the same thing? What if your phone didn’t have a screen, but instead had a neural output that fed the information you requested directly into your brain? Would there be any difference in knowing the names of everyone that signed the Declaration of Independence or being able to recall and recite the information immediately? I already look at my brain’s relationship to my computer/phone/tablet/cloud storage as a relationship between two different computers. Instead of taxing my brain to remember the several hundred things on about a dozen differently prioritized to do lists (do now, do later, long term, website stuff, freelance stuff, etc.), I only have to remember to check the list. I have replaced hundreds of processes, commands, and chunks of memory with a single command and a single bit of data. You could do the same thing with a piece of paper, but that wouldn’t be nearly as fun.

I guess I didn’t talk about those new Kindle Fires much, huh? Well, it seemed like there were a lot of them. At least four. Maybe two hundred.

COMMENTERS: Please weigh in on ad-supported tech or the new Kindle Fires in general. Or share any stories about how far you have gone to defeat some measure intended to cripple a service you were using in some way. Any black tape on the monitor? Ever record early streaming internet radio to tape the edit out the commercials? If you are a weirdo like me, desperately clawing his or her way into a perceived “future,” please share your thoughts on “my phone makes me a brain robot.”

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  1. I'm generally in favour of things that let me get technology cheap, particularly if it crosses the line of "cheap enough to buy". Having said that, Amazon are already likely to make a bunch of money from the content I consume. And Google do manage to subsidise the Nexus 7 without obtrusive ads….

    • Google is subsidizing the Nexus 7 through web search and AdMob. Maybe not everyone will use web search enough to justify the cost, but someone out there will, and the ads they are served will make Google enough money to justify 2 or 3 or even 10 different Nexus 7s. Further, someone out there is going to buy content through Google and others are going to download free apps with ads in them. Google is going to get money there, as well. The Nexus 7 is subsidized with ads just the same as the Kindle. The Kindle is just more up-front about it.

  2. mandatory advertising just makes me think of Android Angry Birds. I would pay five times what they're asking on iOS to get rid of those bloody adverts that at times block the gameplay. It's not a good thing.

  3. I feel like this particular strip needs to be passed around the Internet cause it is awesome and topical, but I have very little internet-spreading power, so I shall just have to admire it as a thing of beauty.

  4. Hi there, I like your site and would like to unblock it. Using adblock plus and noscript, any chance you could list the ones needed to make your ads work like they should?

  5. The advert below for the Dr Who tee has reminded me to ask if you've seen the first episode of the new Dr Who series yet. I don't know when you yanks get to (legally) see it. Let's just say it was… eggs-say-lent.

  6. I think if you look closely at how Google (and others) collect and use personal information, the sad truth is that most tech now is involuntarily ad-supported. I have a tracking blocker as well as an ad blocker, and while I’m happy to turn off the ad blocker for this site, there are 9 ad companies tracking activity here (without asking permission), including google. Not blaming the site, just saying that tracking and targeted ads are pretty inescapable on the internet now.

  7. When I was younger I remember my sister used to listen to the chart show on the radio on and record the top 10 onto tape, whenever I tried it the presenter would always interrupt the song at the end.

    Mandatory advertising is good for some things, I used to have a sim card that gave me free texts and a few minutes in exchange for getting spam texts and I put up with ads for free use of spotify… but having to pay for a gadget and still put up with ads is a bit too much for me. I’m staying out of the tablet market for now, I’ve got a laptop, galaxy s3 and a kobo e-reader I don’t really need another device.

  8. I still haven't jumped on the tablet bandwagon. Almost did when my boss offered to buy me an iPad, but his boss reversed that decision and then I quit. Not because of the iPad, but that would actually be a "better" story than what really happened, so let's just say I quit a job almost a year ago because they wouldn't buy me an iPad and that's why I don't have a tablet and never will. Until I do.

    As for ad-supported tech: Last Christmas I got a regular-ass Kindle with Special Offers. The cheap one, not Touch. It was my first e-reader, and I fucking love it. I could honestly not tell you a single product marketed via the ads on the thing. The ads only appear when I turn it off, and it took me about one second to train myself never to look at the goddamn thing when it was off.

    But they are occasionally sneaky: One time I missed the power button, but didn't realize it for few seconds because the ad on the screen was cleverly designed to look like the title page of a book. At first I was very angry because someone had touched my Kindle and it would take me forever* to get back to wherever I was in the Walter Isaacson Steve Jobs biography (pretty damn good read, for the two of you who haven't read it yet). Then I was a little mad because of the tricky advert. Then I was kind of amused.

    *Forever = about 4 seconds.

  9. I think this is more of an uproar over having no control of the ads being sent to the Kindle than there actually being ads on the Kindle. I have a Kindle DX (that has no ads) and I could really care less what the lock screen displays because if the lock screen is on, I'm probably not looking at it anyway. I also have an iPad 2. Once I am ready for my next tablet, I will seriously consider the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 inch model.

  10. I've whitelisted your site in my adblocker, but the ads that require javascript are still blocked. To unblock them, I'd have to allow those same domains to run javascript everywhere.

  11. I'm having more and more difficulty understanding the references of this comic. And as a person opposed to most of the electronic gadgetry crap, I really don't care what Apple, etc. do with their ipads. Time to drop my subscription to this site, methinks.

    • But yet, think of all the things you could iLearn if you only kept on reading…and iLearning…on the, you know, electronic gadget crap thing you read this comic on.

      My sarcasm tastes like puppy kisses…from a puppy Cerberus, that is.

    • Hey Margaret,

      What was the point of that? Or perhaps I should rephrase. Who cares? Why take 5 seconds out of your day to spread negativity. Your absence would have gone totally unnoticed if you hadn't made the unfortunate choice to interject. "ITS THE INTERNET! IF I DONT LIKE SOMETHING EVEN A LITTLE I HAVE TO SPEAK UP! IF I DONT PEOPLE MIGHT CONTINUE GOING ABOUT THEIR BUSINESS AND HAVING FUN!!! I AM A SPECIAL SNOWFLAKE AND MY OPINIONS MUST BE HEARD!"

      No one cares. See ya.

  12. I think (as someone who manages dozens of comic sites and is aware of how users deal with ads) Amazon is opening a can of worms. The most likely outcome is that any ad supported Kindle will just be 'hacked' by the same number of people of people who block ads on their PC. A very small portion of people block ads (like less than 0.4%) but a larger number of people will complain about the one obnoxious ad that pops up over the comic or plays sound (because they're at work and not supposed to be looking at comics.)

    Back in the day, where you could be paid to just have an "ad bar" or something else take up your screen space (toolbars do this now) I never managed to get enough time on one to actually pay up before they all went out of business. You know why they went out of business? The same 0.4% of people who figured out how to to put a drinking bird at their desk to "fake" activity and eventually destroyed that version of the "ad supported" model.

  13. Oooh, thanks for the reminder, I recently switched browsers and didn't think to turn off the adblock on my favorite sites.

    And I just saw one that interested me enough to click.

  14. I tried whitelisting but the ads I got was about womens clothing, renting cars in new york and world of warcraft.
    And for a man, living in Sweden, that doesn't play mmo's, you're just not getting many clicks from me any time soon.

    • Clicks dont matter as much as page views with most of my ad networks. You're getting irrelevant ads because yo normally block them so your browser has no idea what to serve you. I, on the other hand, dont use an ad blocker so I get ads about the music gear Ive been looking at on Amazon recently. Its not so bad.

  15. I… feel like I am offending other readers by not only failing to have a smartphone (I am that rare 1% who can't reliably use capacitive touchscreens, my Vita pisses me off to no end sometimes), but even by living someplace that has no 3G presence, much less 4G, so high speed internet phone thing isn't even a real thing here.

        • Capacitive touchscreen… can't use without special stylus, remember? Had considered getting one (a tablet) nevertheless. The good thing about the Kindle (as opposed to, say, my laptop) distraction is not simply an alt tab away. Also, everywhere I am does not have free Wifi access. The whole point of getting the Kindle is because I have no use for apps when I am away from my primary computing device. I do not Facebook, I do not Twitter, I do not Skype, I do not Angry Birds. The Kindle DX is big enough that I can see the PDF files that my textbooks are encoded in, and while many devices can rescale PDF on the fly, scrolling back and forth is a real pain on smaller screens, and most devices rendeer pdf files like crap.
          If I were to get a tablet, it would like be the iPad, only because everything (app wise) is freakin' developed for it.

          So that turned into a ong rant like thing. My bad.

  16. your friends were morons there was a add on you could get that would block the ads on the free dial up ISP's (probably the first "app" for a web bowser ever

    I know cause i used it

  17. I tried the Kindle Fire when they first came out. I don't remember seeing any ads, but everything about the Fire felt like it was designed to get me to buy stuff from Amazon. Instead of being just a tablet computer, it was a window into — and only into, it felt like — Amazon. I sent it back and got an ASUS tablet from costco. The box claimed it would upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich when that came out. Still waiting and checking, and ready to dump it for 100$ and get the new tablet from Google. Which I'll bet they keep up with the latest OS. Or maybe an iPad since so far I've only used the Android tablet to watch movies in bed when I'm traveling.

    • If getting timely software updates for your tablet means anything to you, then I would definitely suggest the iPad. Apple has shown that they continue to support old hardware with new software much better than other mobile device companies. My original iPad got two major iOS updates (from 3.x that it shipped with to 4.0 and then to 5.0 last year).

      I always joke with my tech friends that Apple is the only company that gives all recent iOS device owners a present every year with their iOS updates.

      • I have never understood the thing where all Android devices DONT get the new software updates at the same time. I always see headlines like "The HTC Battlestar Galactica might get Raspberry Cream Pie this year." I guess the subtle differences in hardware make implementing the new OS's more difficult. Or maybe the different hardware manufacturers have different software licensing situations. Either way it's dumb. Getting a new version of iOS DOES make it feel like you just got a new toy. Keeps that old iDevice feeling new.

        • I've heard a number of theories, all of which may have a grain of truth to them.

          1) Like you said, the subtle hardware differences likely prevent all manufacturers from simply putting the stock OS on their devices without tweaking it.
          2) The phone manufacturers want users to prefer their device over others so they all create custom interfaces that take time to implement with each new release of the OS.
          3) The phone manufacturers want users to buy a new device to get access to the new software features rather than giving it to them for free.

          Either way, it's one of the main reasons why I only have an Android device to tinker with and all my primary-use devices are iOS.

  18. One of my lecturers noted that most of his younger students basically don't remember anything beyond the most basic facts because what's the point they can just google it. I've also noted that if you compare younger people to older people the younger people are worse at following directions, I think its because they don't have to, they can just googlemap it on their phones.

    Don't get me wrong I think this is just adaptation to circumstance and probably a good thing (well as long as nothing happens to the net of course).

    I am a bit put off by the tablet PCs so far mainly because they have touch screen. I personally don't get on with touch screen at all,(they don't recognize me for some reason (neither do automatic doors its a machine conspiracy I tells ya!)) I would get one if it came with a stylus as well (attached by a cord/chain ideally) just as I find that easier, could I use a stylus from something else on existing tablets?

  19. "You could do the same thing with a piece of paper, but that wouldn’t be nearly as fun."
    This just makes me smile. I can't tell you the number of lists I have around the house (most of them lost forever) but the todo lists on my phone (synced with my original fire) are always close at hand.

    • If all the comments = tl;dr, then you're attention span = ts;db (too short; don't bother).

      And, no, no one should point out what a real falconer should call a bird when it concerns a farcical comic where a billionaire tech CEO tries to sell a falcon as a part of a line of tablet computing devices. Tried to keep this comment short enough that you might actually be able to get through it before your eyes and mind wonder sideways to all the shiny things on the periphery.

  20. If I weren't a poor schmuck, I'd probably think about getting an ipad…(btw, I was totally there with you on Penny's book Joel, that thing was AWESOME), but there is this part of me that wants to stay analog, in a weird way (says the girl who carries a gameboy or psp with her everywhere….). I think the one thing that I'm a stickler about is books. I like the physical presence of a book. I like how they smell. I like how they feel. I like the different fonts, and I like the feeling of history a used book has. I like libraries, and I like the comfort of a bookshelf full of different worlds, sitting in front of me.

    Now that that rant is over with, I get what you're saying about computers and handhelds being an extension of yourself. If anything, my epilepsy making my memory a big pile of mushy BLAH, I should embrace this technology more, because it would in that sense, greatly enhance my own capabilities. In saying that though, and reading through what you've had to say, would that not make basic schooling, as it is, obsolete? I mean, think about it. If/when we do progress to the point that human/computer interface is a direct connect, would schooling then be focused purely on how to interact with that interface? Would the interface be connected to you as a child? I suppose you would go to school to learn whatever your native language is, but could you not just program in something to do that instead? Maybe I'm just rambling about nonsense, but these are things that keep me up at night.

  21. I haven't read the other comments but, my wife's life has been greatly improved by having a tablet (we're ipad people too). she is legally blind. We got the first ipad and it allowed her to read books again, it allowed here use the internet including Google and Facebook without the headaches and twisting and uber unusable zooming she had to do while sitting at my desktop. We can play games together like scrabble, trivial pursuit, and boggle, where in real life she would have been nearly impossible to keep any sort of flow to these games, and she would have again gotten a headache trying to read the boards. She can edit photos and male slide shows. It lets her read and send texts which she can't do on a smaller smart phone screen. We skipped ipad 2 but got the 3, now she can take video and use the camera to read street signs and price tags when traveling and shopping. So while tablets have had a moderate impact on the convenience of the average person, it has dramatically increased the way in which my wife can participate and interact in the world and the people in it.

  22. re: “I feel like having a smartphone with relatively fast internet essentially makes you a cyborg. No joke. ”
    I am in total agreement. The Singularity has come and gone many times in human history, and the internet-enabled smartphone is only the most recent.

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