Let’s take a moment, as autumn begins, to pay some attention to “The Ol’ Ball Game.” Yes, baseball, a game of many traditions and much folklore.
One of the oldest skills used by the game’s players and coaches is stealing signs. For those who find the game slow and boring (and thus tune out), this involves the catcher calling what he thinks would be a good pitch by flashing a number of fingers (one for a fastball, etc.) to the pitcher.
When you have a runner on second base, however, the runner can see the catcher’s fingers pretty clearly, and thus can relay this information to a base coach — who then goes through the ritual dance of sending it to the batter using a mating dance of brushing arms, touching his cap and his nose and other odd signings.
To combat this, the catcher will often walk to the pitcher’s mound and change the signs temporarily. While that slows down the game, stealing signs has a long history and is legal.
Now, enter technology. We’re now way past having someone in the centerfield bleachers with binoculars reading the signs, even when there is no one on second base. Baseball has finally started an instant replay system that trains a camera on the plate, and managers have a monitor (not in the dugout, but close by) they can use to decide to challenge an umpire’s call.
Last month, the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees, long-time and heated rivals, became embroiled in a “what’s legal in baseball” tiff, because the Red Sox were accused of using an Apple watch to relay the signs to one of their trainers. The Yankees responded by training one of their stadium cameras on the Red Sox dugout, trying to catch the manager’s instructions being sent to their base coach.
Someone will end up getting fined about all this, and new restrictions will be imposed — no doubt resulting in new attempts to circumvent them. In other words, it’s the usual result of introducing new technology into an old game, much like the introduction of larger metal racquets changed tennis.
Pitchers, especially closers, often go over the scouting reports on upcoming batters using an iPad. The devices are banned in the dugout. But not in the tunnel leading to the dugout.
Last year, the Dodgers were also attempting to signal their players to shift field position for particular batters by using a laser system to “paint” spots on the field for the fielders to follow.
So, stand by. As you read this in October and the playoffs and World Series loom, try to focus on the long traditions of the game, even though we know that technology will affect it. Just like it has in all other aspects of our lives.
Security, Comrade Revisited
As I write this in mid-September, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced that all civilian agencies of the federal government should remove Kaspersky anti-virus software from their computers, based on fears of a backdoor allowing Russian access. Although Kaspersky has denied any such thing exists, its close ties with the Russian security agencies makes it suspect.
The GSA removed Kaspersky from its list of approved vendors months ago, but now DHS has upped the game by telling people to remove it now, rather than waiting until contacts expire.
Allow me to take a small victory lap here: My column of last month (available at http://feldwick.com/content/security-comrade) talks about Kaspersky. What fun.
Best Buy also has announced that it no longer will sell Kaspersky, as it has for decades. A marketing decision, I’m sure, but a welcome one. I’ve always suspected that its push of Kaspersky was based a lot on spiff and commissions.
A Lighter Note
I noticed recently that a roll of dental floss had an expiration date. Milk, I understand. Meat, certainly. Maybe even some of the “so full of artificial preservatives that if you eat two, you’ll never die” things, like Twinkies.
But what expires about dental floss? Sounds like a way to get you to throw out a perfectly good roll of unused floss. Aren’t they all unused?
So Apple has unveiled the new iPhone X (seriously, is anyone else still using Roman numerals besides the Super Bowl?) starting at $999 (or $1,149 for a decent model). It has a different display and face-recognition technology that will let you turn it on just by looking at it. That’s something deeply desired by most single men, but not necessarily when it involves phones.
Seriously, why should we be paying that kind of money for a phone? Elsewhere in the world, basic phones cost $50, with advanced smartphones running $250. Apple is expanding its tradition of marketing luxury items at corresponding prices, assuming that its addicts will keep signing on.
And yes, I own an iPhone, but that doesn’t mean I appreciate the cost of them. And I like my PCs, as opposed to expensive Macs. Bah humbug, two months early.
Cliff Feldwick is owner of Riverside Computing and does PC troubleshooting, network setups and data recovery for small business, when not dancing a Russian dance. He can be reached at 410-880-0171 or at [email protected] Older columns available online at http://feldwick.com.