Friday, July 14, 2006

Something's fishy

Screensavers are intriguing. Even they are no longer technically necessary, we still use them.
On the helpful site how stuff works, they describe how the early screensavers were "designed to protect computer monitors from phosphor burn-in." Now that we no longer need them, why do we still use them? The site gives multiple reasons:

Here are the main reasons why:

  • Entertainment - The most common reason we use screensavers is for the fun of it. Watching that macaroni dance across the screen to the tune of "Hey Macarena" can be a great diversion for a few minutes.

  • Security - By setting up a screensaver with password protection, you can walk away from your computer and feel comfortable that nobody is going to be able to see any sensitive information.

  • Uniform look - Many companies require all employees to use a particular screensaver. This creates a uniform and perhaps aesthetic environment and ensures that no inappropriate screensavers are displayed.

  • Advertisement - Companies, particularly retail businesses, that have computers in areas accessible to customers will often have a screensaver that promotes their business or product.

  • Information - A lot of screensavers provide either static or real-time information. A screensaver may cycle through a series of trivia questions. Another may pull stock information from a Web site and stream it across the screen.

  • Distributed computing - Another form of screensaver takes advantage of your computer's inactivity to process data from another source. A good example of this type of screensaver is SETI@Home, which is currently utilized by thousands of computer users. This screensaver displays a graph of the radio spectrum and processes radio-signal information received from the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) servers. It sends back results based on the data processed. By using the combined processing power of all of these computers, SETI is significantly reducing the amount of time it takes to sift through all the signals received from its radio telescopes.
At work, I upload a few pictures from my home computer and cycle them, so I have maybe 5-6 recent pictures of my kids and spouses and Caroline and Charlotte circulating at any one time. Fine for work, but for home I had a little more difficulty. I asked the screensaver to go to my 16,000+ photos and choose pictures at random. It sounds feasible, but the "at random" part was a little too random. It had no sense of choosing appropriate pictures. Every one of the over 16,000 pictures was willing and able to pop itself on the screen. Not all were suitable. I'm not talking indecent, by the way. I'm talking aesthetically pleasing.

For the last few years, I have documented everything. I documented the porch being rebuilt, former co-workers whose names I cannot even remember, pictures of things I'd rather forget, other people's dogs, and photos of furniture I had for sale. I do not necessarily enjoy having such pictures as a desktop decoration, even for a few seconds. My screensaver program also had a way of trimming my good pictures, so that I had a headless person on the screen.

For all the above reasons, I figured it was time to get another screensaver. I perused my choices that are built into my iMac, but they didn't impress me at the time. I decided I would like to try an aquarium screensaver. What fun it would be to see fish swimming around! I'd have the enjoyment of an aquarium without the hassle. I asked Matt for help, and he steered me to a list of aquarium-themed screensavers made for Mac.

I downloaded one with 2 fish. Apparently, if you want more fish, you have to pay for the privilege, and I was using a limited free download. The whole thing was so cool - I chose the "depth" of the water and the method by which it entered the "tank." I could set my choice as to whether I wanted the fish to stay on the screen continuously, or whether I would allow them to move off the screen and come back on. Yes, I had the POWER! I chose all my settings, and as soon as I could see my 2 little fishes were swimming happily around the screen, I figured it was fine, and I left the room to do other things. Unbeknownst to me, the screensaver came with real aquarium sounds. And, apparently, I had forgotten to mention my new "toy" to Ed.

So Ed was in the kitchen at the sink, and when he turned the faucet off, he was alarmed to hear that water was still running somewhere. Oh, that's just great, he thought. We have a pipe busted - just what we need! So with trepidation, he quickly searched the house, finding nothing out of the ordinary. He finally went to the master bath, looked around, couldn't find anything amiss. He thought that I might have been filling the tub. He claimed the running water sound even confused the dog Babe (but that's his excuse for a lot of things: "Hey, Babe even was worried/scared/upset/excited too, just like me....").

Well, he finally traced the water sound to the computer, and there they were, my 2 new fishies, rolicking in the tank, figuratively speaking. Ed was none too pleased. He had been duped.

Of course, I thought it was hilarious.

Anyway, suffice it to say, the fishes have been terminated. I never did get to pay to download any of their colorful friends, either.

So, taking my cue from my journey to simplicity, I left the Internet and decided to use one of my built-in screensavers. It's outer space pictures - galaxies and such. Ed loves them. They are beautiful, and seeing the Milky Way reminds me that my nagging life problems are not so big after all.

I do miss my fishies, though. And I do enjoy freaking out Ed sometimes. Hmm...I wonder if someone sells downloadable asteroids?


Cuidado said...

Very Funny! I use Webshots for my screensaver.

Jackie said...

That's hilarious :)