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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Technology makes us face our true selves

When the new computer arrived, I waited a couple of days to open the box. Though I’ve worked in high tech for years, I knew setting it up and getting familiar with a new operating system and software versions was going to be time consuming.

Most system and software updates, it seems, are a lot like someone rearranging your kitchen cupboards while you sleep. Even if the cereal bowls have been moved to a more efficient location for dishwasher unloading, you’re bound to open three cupboards before you find them. That’s if you find them.

I’ve never been able to get our financial software to play nicely with our retirement plan.

When I did open the box, I ran my hands over the clean, crumb-free keyboard with its clearly marked N and M keys. After more than five years of percussive typing, my trusty work laptop has been showing some wear.

While I don’t need marked keys because my fingers know the way, the last few months my computer has also been showing its age with progressively slower boot times, a quickly draining battery and repeated freezes and crashes that have failed to improve enough with maintenance.

Since my livelihood depends on a working computer, I knew I’d better find the next model before this one put itself out to pasture.

Still, it feels like I’m searching for the silverware.

In between deadlines, which I’ve met from the old computer, I’ve been installing software bundles and meandering through new features. As expected, I like some of the changes and shake my head at others. I’m undecided how I feel about my new log-on option.

On day two, the computer asked me if I wanted to log on with my face. Apparently, I can do this to access my files as well as enter websites where I have accounts. No more typing those hard-to-remember passwords. Instead, flash my mug and get waved inside.

I debated setting it up, remembering the spotty success I had trying to log on with my finger when I worked for a computer manufacturer. My company-made laptop included a fingerprint scanner, and I quickly became a beta tester for scanner software tweaks because my fingerprints are hard to read.

In fact, when I was 19 and got a job with the federal government, they had to ink all my fingers three times before my prints were approved for the background check. At the time, the U.S. marshal speculated my fingerprints were more worn than the average persons because I typed a lot and had played the piano for more than a decade.

Apparently, I have the hands for a life of crime. But I don’t have the heart for it. Or the face.

So far, the facial recognition software has only needed to take two mug shots to establish my identity. The first one it took in the morning, before I’d had my coffee and a shower. Though I should have been expecting it, when it flashed my picture on the screen I cringed. The only one happy to see that face is my dog.

“Do I really look like that?” I asked the computer, as if it would answer me and tell me “the camera adds 5 pounds and the webcam light makes everyone look 10 years older.”

Only girlfriends and husbands tell us those kind of ego-stroking white lies.

My ego was slightly soothed when the after-shower and breakfast picture made my computer question my identity. I wonder what it will do if I try to log in wearing makeup.

While I think I might like the ease of logging on with my face, I hope it’s a long time before someone thinks to update the software by integrating it with PhotoShop. I can only imagine my before-coffee reaction if the computer asked me if I wanted a touch-up. It’d be obsolete.

Jill Barville writes twice a month about families, life and everything else. She can be reached at
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