The Fairphone—A Good Start at Ethical Hardware

Casey Johnson at Ars Technica (“Fairphone” looks to give power back to customers):

The “Fairphone,” a phone that purports to approach smartphone design in the most ethical way possible from every conceivable angle, opened for preorders last Friday. The phone uses only conflict-free resources wherever possible, it has an open design, and it is marketed in a transparent way to customers.

Starting small.  Android only, Europe only, and about $400.  As a product, it probably won’t have a huge impact in and of itself. Hopefully it will serve as a very successful proof-of-concept that we can do tech in a way that both respects everyone involved (trying to improve practices along the way) and is financially viable.


© Fairphone

Binge Watching Is Changing Us: Recognizing the Power of Imagination

It may not be one of the great novels of all time, but one of my favorite reading experiences was Umberto Eco’s Name of the Rose. Genre wise, it is a historical-fiction whodunit set in a medieval monastery.  The story and action are great (which the film version attests to), but it also has an intellectual depth that only a professional semiotician like Eco could bring to the table.  As the novel unfolds, Eco probes the deeply symbolic side of our lives, exploring how the categories we think with structure our actions and passions. (Think of the short ancient language and culture sections in Snow Crash, but this time marinating the whole thing, not just peppering here and there.)

Monastery Davidovica

Monastery Davidovica (© Vhorvat)

For Eco, the swirling liturgical and religious imaginations of monks in medieval Europe shaped—for good or for ill—the way that monks understood the world.  Indeed, that imagination, populated by angels, devils, and biblical figures, is almost a character of its own

Looking back, I probably liked The Name of the Rose so much because I read it as I travelled in Europe for the first time. I picked up the novel as I waited for a train in London at the start of a long solo trek to Florence.  I had spent months poking around churches, castles, and museums in England during classes, so my head was full of the images Eco drew upon.  I was in the perfect place—both literally and figuratively—to enjoy the work.


My Joy for the Week: Welcome Fresh Pressers!

I just wanted to take a quick sec to welcome all of you new visitors to Rewiring Virtue. My guess is that many of you happened across this blog at Freshly Pressed. Thanks for taking the time to jump over and take a read. I hope you decide to follow!

In my previous post, I wrote about disappointment. But the last few days have been nothing but joy. It has busy here at Rewiring Virtue, and I am endlessly thankful to WordPress for including me in their Freshly Pressed list. It has been a blast to jump around and check out the blogs of all you visitors.

So, thanks all! Your comments have been great and your likes appreciated.

I hope to see you again soon!

Peak, Permanence, and the Precision Bass: On What Lasts

The myth out there is that college teachers have the summer off. I wish. I don’t have to be in my office, but summer is a time to regroup, kill off lingering committee work, get new classes set up, and try to get ready for the next semester. As part of that, my computer was replaced. I now have a nice iMac in place of my MacPro, which exceeds what I need these days.

Of course, the complicated part of the upgrade was getting all the stuff that I use on the new machine: apps, fonts, bookmarks, etc.  Lots of reinstalling and updating. Sadly, as I was doing this, I found out that my favorite 2 track audio editing app—BIAS’s Peak—is no more. As Peter Kirn at put it:


It Only Gets Better When We Redefine “Better”

Intriguing reflection by Matt Buchanan at BuzzFeed (It Never Gets Better) about how strongly we buy into the promise of technology:

There’s an update waiting for you. For your apps, for your computer and phone and tablet and the box attached to your TV. Updates are so routine that when you buy a smartphone or a tablet, you don’t just hope it will be better tomorrow than it is today, doing new and wonderful things that it doesn’t already do — you expect it. That’s the magic of software.

Yet, for the most part, it never gets there. Buchanan’s advice is to buy things that work well now, not those that only offer the promise of working well, once the next update comes out, etc. Great advice.

It seems to me that we place a lot of faith in technology as a means to achieving what we hope for. Social media will put us in touch, easing our loneliness. Biotech will heal our bodies, extending our lives. Manufacturing and design will make our lives easier, improving the quality of our lives. We have so much faith in our tech to live up to our hopes, we will cut it some slack when it fails to live up to our expectations. And it pretty much always does. So, when will we start to accept the fact that tech doesn’t solve every problem? When will we learn to manage both our faith and hope?

Storms Take Down Tech, The Physical World Remains Relevant

A severe patch of storms that rumbled across the Eastern U.S. [on Friday night] — leaving [thirteen] people dead and millions without power — also disrupted an Amazon Web Services data center, affecting service for social media sites like Pinterest, Instagram and Netflix, which host their services at Amazon’s data centers.

Netflix and Pinterest had recovered most of their service by [Saturday] morning. The worst affected appeared to be Instagram — the Facebook-owned social photo-sharing service remained offline for many users as of this morning, and as of 11 am PT, it hadn’t updated users on its status since its initial service failure. Some users reported on Twitter that service had been restored for them, while others said it remained offline.

via Storm Knocks Out Amazon’s Power, Takes Down Instagram, Netflix.

There are lots of funny quotes floating around from people who found themselves unable to overcome the crushing boredom of down web services. For tech junkies, Barb Darrow had an interesting analysis of the outage for cloud subscribers over at GigaOm (including a link to her story about AWS outage two weeks ago). Four our part, we were awakened by the edges of these storms here in Philly on Friday night. Scary stuff here, so I can’t imagine the scene down there. And I wasn’t online, so didn’t notice any interruptions myself.


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