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If you follow as many Mac websites as I do, you’ll notice waves of people talking all at once about the same apps being on sale. Usually it’s because there’s a good affiliate program promotion going on and, you know, earning money for helping other people save money is A Good Thing™ (especially for hard-working writers).

Case-in-Point – Making its way across the Twittersphere right now are really good sales on three Mac apps via StackSocial.

Quickly, they are:

  1. Text Expander 4. Truly one of my “essentials”, TE4 has become one of those “How the hell would I live without this?” apps for me. When I use my wife’s computer and forget that she doesn’t have it installed, I groan every time I have to type something out the long way. (The fact that I haven’t convinced her to try it yet is, to date, my greatest failure of Nerd-suasion ever.) You’ll want to snap this one up ASAP as the sale ends in a few hours.
  2. Dragon Dictate 4. I’ve used Dragon Dictate for years and it keeps getting better and better. The latest version adds built-in transcription of audio files (a feature that I’ve been concocting some fun/unholy experiments with here in my secret Veritrope Lab). If you’re a creative person who sometimes can’t type as fast as you think, I think this is a fantastic tool to capture those thoughts quickly.
  3. Undercover. This is one of the better theft-recovery apps and it’s what I use for peace of mind on all my Macs. Warning: If you steal my Macbook Pro, I have the ability to track you down and/or play bad US Top 40 songs at full volume until you lose the will to live and are begging Ryan Seacrest to offer you the sweet release of death. (This is a little extreme, don’t you think? Just give me back my computer and no one gets hurt, capiche?)

I use each of these apps myself and think these prices represent a very good bargain. If you’ve been considering purchasing any – or all – of these apps, I’d buy them on sale while you can!

Deadline for Public Comments is September 15th

If you’re an American, I’ve got a fun little Sunday activity for you…

The Federal Communications Commission is making new rules affecting something called ‘Net Neutrality’. Before we get to what that actually means, here’s the important part: The FCC’s deadline to receive public opinions about these new rules is September 15th and I think that you ought to take a few moments today to do some reading about the issue.

Once you get into the details, I suspect you’ll laugh out loud at the absurdity of the current situation (that’s where the “Fun Sunday Activity” part comes in). [Read more…]

You probably could have guessed that I’m a fan of integrating automation into daily routine. Call me old fashioned, but I feel like computers are supposed to work for human beings: Reduce the number of routine tasks in our lives, watch over things for us, and generally help us accomplish more stuff with less effort and with fewer errors.

But what if I’m wrong about all of that?

The latest New Yorker features an article called ‘The Hazards of Going on Autopilot’. In it, Maria Konnikova looks at the societal effects of automation by focusing on a sector which is on its leading edge – Aviation. While the dramatic perils of “getting it wrong” at altitude have driven the introduction of automation into the cockpit, the overall effect might actually be more dangerous than the risks these systems are intended to reduce.

Why? Simply put: Bored pilots. “I know I’m not in the loop“, said one quoted in the piece, “but I’m not exactly out of the loop. It’s more like I’m flying alongside the loop.” Stephen Casner, one of the researchers that Konnikova cites, has studied the effects of automation over many years and has come to the conclusion that it diminishes one’s ability to make complex cognitive decisions:

What we’re doing is using human beings as safety nets or backups to computers, and that’s completely backward,” Casner said. “It would be much better if the computing system watched us and chimed in when we do something wrong.” Ideally, he said, automation would adopt a human-centered approach—one that takes seriously our inability to sit and stare by alerting us when we need to be alerted rather than by outright replacing our routines with computerized ones. This kind of shift from passive observation to active monitoring would help to ensure that our minds remain stimulated. Casner likened the desired approach to one taken by good lifeguards. In the absence of a safety net, they must remain aware. “They don’t just sit and wait to see if someone’s screaming,” he said. “They scan the pool, look for certain signs.”

The whole article is a fascinating look at the hazards of automation and well-worth checking out.1.

  1. Don’t have your computer read this one to you, m’kay? []
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