Cybernaut 

Adbusters bust televisions

Like many people of my generation, the television was a kind of a babysitter when I was growing up.

Nobody talked about childhood obesity or Type II diabetes, probably because physical education was still a big part of the school curriculum back then. Home computers were still a few years away, video game technology was limited to Pong, Atari and Intellivision, and nobody thought television could be a negative influence.

As I grew older I watched less and less TV by choice, and although I still do put in the odd marathon session when I’m tired out from something, I think I’m happiest when the television is off. But I do suffer from a bit of withdrawl.

It’s not my imagination – research has shown that television waves, the flashing lights and colours beamed into our retinas, do have a pleasant hypnotizing effect on viewers, both at the conscious and subconscious level, stimulating areas of the brain that are normally only active when we sleep. It’s normal when you turn the television off to feel a moment of disorientation, and to be tempted to turn the box back on.

My problem is that I’m drawn to TV like moths to the light. If I’m at a bar and there’s a television on, my eyes will automatically drift to it – even if it’s curling. I was at the Boot Ballet once for a friend’s birthday (really) and I couldn’t take my eyes off the snowmobile video playing in the background.

I’m just doing what I’ve been programmed to over the last three decades of my life, but I really wish I could stop.

Adbusters, the Vancouver-based counter-culture magazine that monitors modern advertising and its negative impact on society, is one source that’s helping me to break the TV habit. I’d recommend regular trips to www.adbusters.org for reality checks to anyone, and for people to participate in TV Turnoff Week from April 25 to May 1.

If you haven’t participated before, this is exactly what it sounds like.

It’s a challenge to go one whole week without reality television, music television, rerun television, or any other kind of television. With no hockey this year, it should be a piece of cake.

It’s important to do it for the full week, because it takes that long to get over your TV withdrawl, and to realize all the things you could be doing if you weren’t spending every free moment hooked on the airwaves. You can read, listen to music, catch up on household chores, do a few art projects, learn to do something new, have friends over to play board games and chat, write a few letters that are well overdue, and catch up with the people you live with but haven’t really spoken to in months because the television was always on.

Adbusters is also selling a product I think I’d like to have – a universal remote called the TV-B-Gone that you can use to turn off any television. It’s available for cost, about $10, and is small enough to attach to your keychain.

I wouldn’t recommend using this device in Tapley’s Pub when everybody is there specifically to watch a sporting event, but most bars keep their TVs on all night, even after people have stopped watching. Do yourself, and everyone in the place a favour by taking the initiative with a TV-B-Gone.

If the bar turns the television back on then you should probably leave it at that, but chances are good they’ll leave it off. I guarantee that the atmosphere, and the conversation, will improve almost immediately once television’s spell has been broken.

Heavy is the hand that holds the remote. So use it wisely.

Adobe buys Macromedia

In a way it’s a match made in heaven. Adobe Systems Inc., the company behind such publishing industry standards as Photoshop, Illustrators and InDesign, purchased Macromedia Inc., the maker of web publishing standards like Dreamweaver, Flash and Shockwave, for about $3.4 billion last week.

Although shareholders on both sides of the fence are probably turning somersaults, one does have to wonder what this newest conglomeration will mean to customers. There is some overlap in their product offerings, and different people have different preferences.

For example, some web designers prefer Adobe’s GoLive over Macromedia’s Dreamweaver for various reasons, although it would make sense to the company to ditch GoLive in favour of Dreamweaver.

Macromedia also makes several graphics programs specifically for web designers, including Fireworks, FreeHand and Flash – will Adobe continue to offer those programs, or will they be replaced by future versions of Adobe Photoshop?

The companies also offer competing video software, document management software and more. Which program stays and which program goes?

Nobody knows how it will all play out regarding the various product groups offered, although Adobe did say they wanted to combine Macromedia Flash, which is currently is use in about 98 per cent of web browsers, with its popular Acrobat PDF technology.

Whatever happens, it’s a safe bet that when the number of competitors decrease in a market, prices will increase. With luck Corel will stick around long enough to continue to give Adobe at least some token competition, and Apple will continue releasing its own competing software titles.

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