stevenmansour's blog

iPad, kids, programming, and Digital Serfdom | Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

I like kids. No, scratch that - I love kids. Hell, not many people know this, but I actually used to be a kid. Infinitely curious with an imagination that knows no bounds, children have a way of seeing the world which is uniquely their own. They are nothing less than little people, with their own sets of rules, societies and laws, and one of the main reasons so many people find it difficult or awkward to interact with kids is that these people try to force children to step into in our "real" (ahem), man-made world, instead of working our way towards being accepted into the grand societies that children have built.

I must have been around 6 or 7 years old when I got my first computer; the family's Coleco Adam. Unlike most kids who had the marvelous opportunity to be exposed to computing at such an early age, I did not go on to become a hardcore, Godlike programmer nerd. This may have been due, in no small part, to my computer's tendency to "generate a surge of electromagnetic energy on startup, which can erase the contents of any removable media left in or near the drive." However, it did serve as a critically important introduction to the logic of programming, user interfaces, gaming, and science fiction. Several hundred "goto line"s and "run 80"s later, the path to personal technocracy had been laid.

Naturally, upon realization that my exposure to these themes was critical in shaping me into the strapping fellow you see read before you, I became a strong evangelist for the sort of exploration encouraged by these early computers. In his post “Tinkerer's Sunset”, Mark Pilgrim details his version of this shared experience many young kids went through at that age:

"As it happens, this computer came with the BASIC programming language pre-installed. You didn’t even need to boot a disk operating system. You could turn on the computer and press Ctrl-Reset and you’d get a prompt. And at this prompt, you could type in an entire program, and then type RUN, and it would motherfucking run.

I was 10. That was 27 years ago, but I still remember what it felt like when I realized that you — that I — could get this computer to do anything by typing the right words in the right order and telling it to RUN and it would motherfucking run.

That computer was an Apple ][e."

In Memoriam | Monday, December 28th, 2009

Hanna Z. Mansour, 1939 - 2009

Update: The Funeral will be held on Saturday, January 2nd, 12:30pm at St. George's Anglican Church (1101 Stanley).

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Today at 1:45pm, surrounded by loving family and friends, my Dad passed away peacefully at Sacré-Coeur Hospital in Montréal, at the rather young age of 70, following complications from a stroke he suffered in early November. Those of you who are close to my family probably also realized that 10 years ago - almost to the day - his wife, my mother passed away as well. The almost eerie timing of the situation has left us all with more questions than answers, but we're thankful for the time we spent with him and for all the lives he's touched in his time here. We're as grateful to him for everything he's done for us as we are saddened by his departure. He will be remembered as a good man who did good with his life to help others.

In lieu of flowers, donations to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada will be greatly appreciated.

You may leave us a message below if you wish to do so (to be be published after moderation).

The Funeral will be held on Saturday, January 2nd, 12:30pm at St. George's Anglican Church (1101 Stanley).

Head shaving tip #117 | Saturday, December 26th, 2009

If you have a shaved head and want to keep it, don't let it grow out more than a few days or so. Shaving your head after it's grown out more than a few millimeters is almost as irritating as when you shave it for the first time.

That is all.

Swine flu vaccination | Thursday, December 10th, 2009

I wasn't planning on getting vaccinated against the H1N1 flu. I tend to take a laissez-faire attitude about this kind of thing, and even if I did catch it I'm pretty sure my immune system would manage to fight it off. Coupled with my irrational belief that people who live in colder climates are naturally hardier, I figured it was all just an orchestrated panic to scare the Walmart crowd into submission again.

However, my family situation has changed quite rapidly over the past month, and I've been spending lots of time around babies and toddlers, not to mention a couple of hours a day at the hospital. Seeing as how the young and ill are higher-risk candidates for complications due to the swine flu, I decided that I should do it not for myself, but to protect those around me. I didn't, however, feel up to going to one of the clinics here in Laval and waiting in line. There's a certain herd-ness to it that bothers me.

Apple's Magic Mouse is magically useless. | Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

There is no love lost between Apple and myself. The limitations imposed on the way Apple products work - especially their software - is one of the greatest blights on digital creativity today.

Apple Magic Mouse

However, I can see how they are skilled at marketing and design intended to appeal to people who like neat, pretty, packaged things and are willing (and able) to plop down a 300% markup on a computer in order to get bouncing glossy icons and a glowing logo on their computers.

One thing, however, that Apple has somehow never, ever been able to create correctly, is a mouse. Even the most die-hard Apple fans I know draw the line at buying / using an Apple mouse, instead going for one of the more usable offerings from Microsoft or Logitech. For some reason, the fascist, rigid design principles that apply to their laptop, keyboard and software engineering divisions do not seem to carry over to their "Mouse Group" or whatever it's called. I am happy to report that their illustrious history of creating what are likely the most craptastic pointing devices ever to sport a USB plug (or Bluetooth chip) remains intact.

Apple Magic Mouse