Tag Archives: cell phones

To the Carpenter

How early is too early to get a cell phone? I have nieces and nephews that get their first phone or Android-based electronic device as young as five and six. Children in high school and even middle or elementary school are becoming emotionally dependent on these seemingly ubiquitous devices. From online lessons and homework to simple entertainment, cell phone use is quickly supplanting face-to-face outdoor activities for indoor sedentary ones. But for every benefit, there appears to be a hidden cost.

For instance, it appears to be linked to an increase in teen depression and suicide rates [1]. Since 2012, there have been several spikes in the rates of suicide and depression, for those who spend three or more hours a day, regardless of what content is being consumed.  The article offers suggestions on how to manage children’s time online and even goes so far as to say 14 is a good time for kids to get a cell phone.

But high school is an especially tumultuous time in the development of a teenager. They are just as likely if not more to withdraw from the world, either through social media, video games, or some other form of escapism. A phone would only exacerbate that. Further, the suggestions only treat the symptoms; the underlying cause remains relatively unknown. Certainly, everyone has their favorite political agenda, and are more than happy to co-opt these mental health issues to lend moral imperatives to their respective crusade.

To the carpenter, the whole world is a nail, and it’s easy to reframe an issue to take advantage of new data, new trends, or new crises. When you’re focused on how society has wronged you, any perceived slight is a good reason to tear it apart. And who feels more wronged than teenagers? Give them a popular cause and they’ll zealously support it just to fit in. They won’t stop until well into their 30’s when they start to question the relative worth of fitting in over finding out who they are and being themselves. If they ever question it. Young activists often find their ideals indistinguishable from their identity within a group and on occasion rarely move past that.

So what cause can we give the youth of today to positively channel their angst? Because rest assured, they will find something to throw their time and energy at. When they do, we have to be prepared to reap the rewards.


[1] https://www.npr.org/2017/12/17/571443683/the-call-in-teens-and-depression

Cover Photo from Pumpic

Why Students Should Be Allowed To Use Electronics In Class


In college classes, teachers have different opinions on whether or not students should be allowed to use electronics in their classes. Although “electronics” is a broad word but mainly in this discussion it refers to cell phones and laptops. Some professors don’t mind if students use laptops in their classes because it can be easier to take notes while typing instead of writing. Also, some teachers use powerpoints or online sources to help with teaching their lessons and think it’s okay for the students to follow along on their laptops.

With cell phones it’s a different policy in every teacher’s class, because some feel that it isn’t a big deal if students are using their phones, and some do not permit it at all. The argument teachers use when they say “no” to cell phones is that students should be paying attention to the lecture and the lesson plan.

Other teachers who say they don’t mind if students use their cell phones say they have this opinion because students, or their parents, are paying for the college courses so it’s ultimately up to them to decide if they want to pay attention to the class. What they get from the classes is up to them and the teachers who support cell phone use also think that because in the real world people check their phones all the time throughout the day that it should be allowed in college as well.

I believe that students should be allowed to use electronics in classes because otherwise all they will think about is using it the rest of the class. If students are allowed to use electronics in class they will occasionally check it and still follow the lesson and get something out of it. On the other hand if students use their phones and electronics the whole time that is their own fault by not paying attention even slightly and they won’t take away anything from the class but it’s ultimately their decision.

Thank F(AA) for my cell phone

On Halloween, the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) announced that it’ll allow the use of electronic devices during takeoffs and landings. This announcement will be the first time electronics can be used since the inception of the ban on FM radios in the 1960s. Continue reading Thank F(AA) for my cell phone

Introducing Siri

When the iPhone 4S launched, the big buzz was around its voice-controlled assistant known as Siri. Siri is similar to many voice control functions on phones, but differs greatly in the way it interacts with its users.

Photo from Creative Commons.

Siri is an exclusive iPhone 4S app developed by Apple to launch bundled with their new phones. Siri did exist prior to this release on the Apple App Market. The difference between the app that was taken down the day the iPhone 4S was announced and the one that is found built into the new iPhone is its complexity.

The new version of Siri operates through cloud computing. This allows for the bulk of the program to exist off the phone and have access to greater computing power than is found on a standard phone. This is great for the witty and mouthy Siri. The program, unlike most other voice command apps for phones, not only replies to users, but will also come up with an off-the-wall response when prompted with a question directed at it or a command it is not able to complete.

In some ways, giving Siri the ability to respond with something other than a standard “unable to compute” or “I did not understand that last command” is a brilliant move on Apple’s part. It makes Siri and the iPhone 4S into something people haven’t seen before and gives the phone a much needed attitude adjustment. The only down side with Siri is it requires an Internet connection to work at all times since it operates through the cloud.

Here are some examples of the non-standard responses that Siri can give users when prompted with a direct question or a command it cannot act on. When asked how it’s doing today, Siri has been known to respond to a user with “Finer than frog hair.” There are a number of jokes built around science fiction AI’s such as the HAL 9000. When queried about HAL Siri will respond, “I would rather not talk about HAL. But if you insist …” These built-in jokes and strange replies gives Siri and the iPhone a personality and makes the machine strangely likable or extremely creepy when coupled in with its ability to be programmed to respond to users by first name.

While the iPhone 4S may not have been what people were looking for, Siri was what people didn’t know they wanted from a phone. Websites are popping up to chronicle the responses from Siri, and since Siri is designed to learn and built into the cloud, it would be conceivable that these responses would change and evolve over time based on what people are asking their humble phone assistant.

Phoning cloud style

Cloud phones allow people in third world countries to have access to cell phones. Graphic by Alex Morgan.

People may be familiar with cloud processing, which is the process by which a third party does the vast majority of computer processing and then transfers the data back to an individual’s screen in any number of forms. The concept of cloud technology follows the same lines. Cloud gaming has just recently started to gain a foothold, and now cloud phone services are hitting the market in some select third world countries.

The concept of cloud phone services arose when Nigel Waller went out to create a cheap, affordable phone for third world countries, allowing the people of those nations a way to communicate with each other and the world. Cell phones are the preferred means of communication in nations where landlines are less than reliable. With cell phones, very little that happens on the ground will affect their overall service. This is why Nigel Waller looked into producing a cheap cell phone; the only issue was he couldn’t figure out how to make it any cheaper than $20. This was a major issue because for many people in developing countries, $20 is several months’ salary.

Waller spoke of seeing entrepreneurs in the developing countries sitting on the streets charging people to place a single phone call. The idea occurred to Waller that it might be simpler to provide users with a service that would allow them to have a sense of identity while borrowing a phone from someone else. It inspired him to develop the cloud phone.

The cloud phone is a simple service which gives users a log-on account name and password as well as their very own cell phone number. The number is tied into their account, not the phone they are using. This has a major advantage over the old pay-to-use-a-phone method. With their own number, people can leave them a message even when they are not currently logged into their phone. When they log-in to the cloud phone network, the service then pops up notifying users of missed calls, voice messages and text messages. They can then access and review these messages whenever they get the chance to.

To set up an account with a cloud phone would cost roughly 10 to 20 cents. This is a major decrease in cost for users who would’ve been paying up to $20 with the original plan. Users buy prepaid minutes for making phone calls. The account remains active whether they have any minutes on it or not allowing users at the very least to review missed calls and text messages they have received.

Cloud phoning is an exciting new technology that holds a great deal of potential for developing countries where communication and technology is key to making money. Cloud phoning allows users to have both of these things in the same package, even if the phone they are working on is borrowed. Despite its great intentions, it has the potential to be a problem as well. In the long run, the prepaid minutes will still cut into many families’ budgets in developing countries, but cloud phones are definitely a step in the right direction.