Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Geek Wednesday: Flash Drunk

Lenin? And bin Laden??? Who is this guy's speechwriter now? And whose head is more deeply anally implanted—his or the guy who reads the copy? But the MSM carries on in its well-established slavish ways: the Washington Post called this speech "a stern warning." The phrase that occurred to me is "delusional rant." My blogging partner Terry McKenna wrote me a quick note after the speech yesterday, referring to it as "a distortion of history." Never mind—I just can't go there right now. On to Geek Wednesday, which contains a link to an excellent source of light in this nightmare of delusion that we have walked through together for six years.

After the English language, there is nothing so misused, amateurishly mishandled, and doltishly ubuquitous on the world wide web as Flash media. Open a website, and you're bound to find another example of Flash gone mad—draining your system's and some poor host's resources with vapid, unmeaning movement. Virtually every ad you see on the 'Net today is Flash-based, and let's face it, they're ramping up the annoyance factor a little more each day, it seems.

That's why we'd like to feature some model examples of Flash—code that's designed to a purpose and executed with elegance and taste.

Mother Jones, the lefty political/environmental mag, has managed to attract some of the best writers out there today. To take a look at their Webby award-winning website, it would appear they've also drawn some great geeks, too. Check out "Lie By Lie," their ingenious Flash-based timeline of the Bush admin's depredations, lies, and tragic fumbles on its career of tyranny and incompetence in Iraq.

Another instance of marvelous Flash design is UNICEF's State of the Children, 2006 site, with its moving soundtrack and simple slideshow format. I was assigned this site when I was reviewing for the Webby awards earlier this year, and it was the only site among the 250 I looked at that deserved a "10". It, too, won the Webby for its category.

Flash that works isn't pretentious: it doesn't strut or preen across your browser window, and you scarcely notice the demand it makes on your system's resources. It's simply a part of the whole site that you're visiting (usually an introductory part), that happens to feature movement and often sound. It's one of those areas where art and geekery merge. Unfortunately, all too often, geekery wins and art is suppressed or distorted.

But once in a while, you see Flash done so well that you have to stop and admire the work, even after you've absorbed its message. Another area where Flash can both inspire and irritate is in online games. My daughter's favorite game site is one of the best Flash sites I've seen, Ferry Halim's Play a few of these interesting, relaxing, and wonderfully designed games sometime, and you may agree.

If you have some favorite Flash media sites to share with the crass here, do post a comment with the URL(s).

I'll have a vermicelli motherboard, al dente: All right, so the pasta circuit board isn't likely to be the next geek wave, but the problem of e-waste is big and getting worse. Discarded geekery poisons environments and sickens people—it has reached a point of such ominous destruction that even corporations like HP, Apple, and Dell are starting to pay attention and do something about it. As always, they need our help, because...well, if you work for a corporation yourself, I don't have to explain: it's kind of hard to get things done in a big corp. You can start by looking here; and Grist has some helpful advice as well. But maybe the best advice is this: buy stuff that lasts, and don't throw it out just because it gets a malware infection on the hard drive. The machine I'm working on right now is 3 years old and shows no signs of age; I expect it to last another five to ten years, and I expect to keep using it until it can't be fixed or otherwise salvaged.

Don't fall for every wave of hoopla over the fastest processor, the maxed-out gaming machine, or the latest software that requires an extra GHz of clock speed beyond what your current machine has. There are always workarounds, and you will often find that you never needed that 'roided-up box that the corporations are trying to make you lust after. Don't forget—if you start treating your PC like junk, it will start to behave like it. There is consciousness in everything; every true geek knows this.


Miss Bitty said...

Cool Flash site:

Be sure to move your cursor around.

Computer sustainability:
look for organizations in your area like Portland's own:

Their philosophy is fabulous and they do great work for people who need it. (I oversee our IT Department at work, so I make sure every piece of hardware/software gets recycled or donated as appropriate -- FreeGeek is one of our biggest resources for donating hardware.)

Brian Donohue said...

Great links, Miss B. I'll be "recycling" them on a future Geek Wed. I, too, am involved in the management of geeks. The arguments that break out in meetings are fascinating to me: I would never have thought that people could become so passionate about javascript...

Miss Bitty said...

Oh, would that I oversaw geeks...I actually oversee the installation and management of our IT software/hardware. We actually outsource the work itself, so we don't have an in-house IT person; I translate the tech talk and make decisions on long-term plans/purchases/software changes, come up with procedures, institute projects, program, etc.

And I do a lot of hand-holding when there's a computer issue, determining whether the issue requires our IT vendor's time or if it's a matter of user...ah...inexperience. To give you an idea of the level of user sophistication: just last week, while talking someone through using an Excel spreadsheet (!), I told them to copy and paste a formula. Long pause, then, "Ummm...what's copy and paste?"


Brian Donohue said...

1993: what would be my first job in IT. Big insurance company with a claims dept. running IBM dumb terms in an AS/400 C/S network. Roughly 60 people in the dept., and not a one had ever touched a mouse before. They were setting up a LAN with PC workstations running OS/2 Warp (an excellent operating system, by the way, which should never have lost to the likes of NT), and needed someone there to teach these folks how to operate a PC. It was an adventure, of sorts...

Miss Bitty said...

Ahhh, then you know my pain. And I thought I'd paid MY dues....

Would you believe that our Accounting department uses an AS400-based system? Probably the same one you were using in 1993. You can imagine, with users that are mystified by the concept of cut-and-paste, how well that works out on any given day.

Don't even get me started.