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Naveen Albert

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Yes, you still need a landline!

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Don't even think about giving up your landline. Yes, you still need it — same goes for your desktop. This concept is one I've been preaching for a long time now, but recently this past Tuesday an event occured that made me want to reiterate my point. Recently at Waukesha West High School, we experienced a power outage. In our area of Wisconsin, power outages are not uncommon, but they are not a frequent occurence. This particular day we experienced some mild gusts, but nothing to warrant any severe weather precautions. Regardless, with about half an hour left until the end of the school day, the power went out; at that moment I was on stage with one of the bands prepping for a concert later that night — the overhead lights went out and then flickered back on. They flicked off and on again a couple times before completely fading.

Anyone using a computer at that moment was probably having a bad day. (Hint: Don't wait until you're done to save your work.)

At first, I thought someone backstage was playing jokes on us, and we yelled at them to cut it out. When no-one answered, the lights didn't come back on, and we were left in the pitch-black dark, we figured that this was not a trivial matter.

We had experienced a power-outage once earlier that year, but it had lasted only a few minutes and it had occured over an hour after school had let out. This time, we were still in school, and the power was not returned. The power outage seemed bad, but the events that happened afterwards significantly belittled the initial outage.

Waukesha West does have a backup power plan, but only a partial one: once activated, only the lights in some hallways and classrooms returned (thankfully it was still bright out). The school's backup power supply was either poorly planned or did not have the capacity to power the entire building. And with the power out, disaster ensued; many parts of the building were hard to navigate, and the loss of the mains power had disrupted the majority of instruction throughout the building. Not only had computers turned off without warning, and proejctors shut off mysteriously, but hosts off other items reliant on the power mains came to my attention. It had never occured to me that the clocks at this school needed a constant power supply, but alas, all of the clocks mysteriously froze as soon as the power went out. To add insult to injury, the School District of Waukesha had decided to migrate away from landline telephones a couple years ago in favor of VoIP technology provided by Citrix with new telephones that took advantage of Power over Ethernet with some cool features such as built-in video-conferencing. One would think that the school's network systems had a backup power supply, but no — therefore, all of the telephones turned off as well with the outage!

The bell still rang at the end of the day to signal its conclusion.

If you haven't already been confused by this series of events, you're probably not thinking correctly. Although a power outage is not often a technique used to isolate poor practices, in this case it provided to be effective. The power outage had not been unique to West High School; a number of surrounding neighborhoods had been hit as well. And maybe it is too much to expect a high school to provide a complete backup power supply for the building. Maybe it is. But some of these issues are indisputably inexcusable. For one thing, if every clock in the building stopped working, then why did the bell still sound at the end of the day? Is it too much to ask for working clocks in a building? Even without batteries, a small power supply could easily be allocated towards such a feat to avoid future problems — after all, not everyone in the building can be expected to be wearing a watch (although if you don't wear one, it's about time you started!). And non-functional clocks are just the tip of the iceberg…

No one can argue that telephones utilizing VoIP are as basic as a landline telephone. They do indeed offer some superior functionality. No one ever dreamed of video conferencing with a landline, and no one ever will either. Especially in business and educational settings, VoIP telephones are a great choice for offices and classrooms. But you can't ditch every landline in the building. Not yet, not ever — here's why:

Landline telephones continue to operate properly in the event of a power outage. The reason being is that landline telephones don't draw any power from the local power grid; instead the telephone company sends a small amount of power through the telephone lines to your house, right down to your RJ11 phone jack. If the power goes out, it doesn't matter; your landline was never getting its power from your panel anyway. But VoIP, and any other technology that attempts to reinvent the landline, is different. Even if you use the actual landline that your telephone company leases to your house, if you use a telephone that doesn't connect directly to the line, that's a problem. What does this mean? It means that any sort of cordless phone is useless in the event of a power outage. Now, you don't have to go all out and install rotary or vintage touch-tone telephones in every room in your building (although by all means go ahead), but you need to at least have one or two working landlines in your building. For businesses and schools, you'll probably want at least five or ten. Why?

Let's go back to the power outage. The power went out — great. Obviously, all after-school activities were cancelled, and the computers in the library were inoperable due to the power outage so it would have been folly to assume that I would be able to get anything done at school that evening. That particular week, I had been telephoning for a ride whenever I was ready to leave school — simple enough. But you must remember that because West High School lacked backup power for its network, none of the telephones were usable, and that was a problem. A terrorist could cut the power and raid the school, and no-one would be able to call the police because none of their telephones work. The school made a very serious mistake in not keeping extra landline telephones handy. And for those of you that think otherwise, get this through your head: landlines are NOT dead. They will not die any time soon, and they are unlikely to EVER die. The times of using a landline for placing and recieving every call of yours might be over, but the times of keeping one in your house or establishment are not. Landlines are simply better telephones that always work, and people in a building expect there to be telephone access there. It is not the job of 1,400 high school students to bring cellular phones to school. It is not their job, nor is it their responsibility, nor should they be doing so at all. It is the job of establishment to provide telephone access to visitors, even if that means directing to them to the payphone outside. And no payphones aren't dead yet; in fact, popularity is growing: in the aftermath of 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy, mobile networks shutdown and the only way to make calls out of New York City was with either a landline or a payphone. The legacy of these technologies ensure their compatability and widespread availability, but the technology behind them does even more. You're going to get a better connection with a landline over a mobile telephone, period. STOP. Why? Because the landline network is far more reliable, by design. You know the feeling: you call you granny using a cell phone and she complains she can't hear you; you call back using a landline and she tells you to quit screaming. The message is clear: why settle for less? Why should anyone settle for less? Don't get a cellular phone just because they're cool right now. The real deal and the truths is they're little more than paperweights that can sometimes manage to make calls, and maybe three out of ten times poorly attempt to emulate functions of a computer. The reality is, cellular phones are a fad, just like the cabbage patch kids (Remember those? Of course you don't!) If you think about this, this actually make a lot of sense. The growing fad around the world right now is the transition from powerful stationary devices to less powerful mobile devices. Get that? We are moving towards less powerful devices?Now why would anyone in their right mind do that? The primary answer is portability. If we weren't always moving around, WiFi would never have made it past the drawing board, the cell phone proposal would have been rejected and we would still be talking to our friends in person instead of looking at them inside a 4 by 6 rectangle. There is a direct inverse-correlation between power and mobility, meaning to have one, you need to sacrafice the other. We see it everywhere - plug a wired mouse into your PC and it just works. Good luck finding the batteries for your bluetooth mouse, and then trying to pair that with the 1% of computers that support that technology. Desktop computers are the go-to-machines for workaholics and power users. And studies have shown a correlation between people with landline telephones and people who get rich. Case in point? Unless you're always on the go and it's absolutely nessecary, choose power over mobility. You'll thank me later. Personally, I don't want to be reachable 24/7, and neither does anyone with any self-esteem. You know the stereotype — teenager girls caught up in their little screens doing who knows what. Please, get a life — go talk to someone in person or do something useful. Don't be viewed by others as social outcasts caught up in their own little world (a.k.a jerks). Whenever I see anyone at school with a cell-phone, especially a "smartphone" I sigh with disgust at how corrupted they have become by this terrible fad and thank God that I am not like them. Teachers, do me a favor the next time you see a student using a cell-phone — don't just tell them to put it away — chances are it's probably against board policy in your school, so take it away! Don't give it back to the student after class is over. Take it the office and instruct whomever you turn it over to not to return it to anyone except the parent of whomever's device was confiscated. Is this harsh? No, not really — they did violate board policy after all. They can't blame you.

When you think about it, you begin to realize that there isn't much cell phones are good for. Your internet usage actually comes with a data limit? Why would you use that when DSL/broadband/cable internet connections have relatively no limit at all? Why worry about charging a personal paperweight? And goodness gracious, how can people tolerate a huge lump in their pants? A life without cell-phones is a stress-free life with one less problem. It's one less thing to worry about forgetting, misplacing, or losing. Calls have more success going through with a landline, and anything else is better done with a computer. And if you absolutely need to be reachable on the go, get a regular cell phone with call ONLY. There's no reason to get a smartphone: they just lower your quality of life and your standard of living. Sometimes, you just need to be off the grid; it's good for you and it's good for your soul, whether you realize it or not. Remember when people actually talked during dinner and have these things called conversations with the other people at the table? And here's another thing to stew on: cellular phones are tied to themselves: in other-words, any calls you make, or any messages you send are tied to that device. If you forget your cellular phone somewhere, say goodbye to sending and reading text messages. But you can't just forget your e-mail somewhere — whether web-based or not, email is a universal solution that ensures access from anywhere with access to that mail server. Texts can be somewhat useful for a message of, say, "Don't forget the ice", but good luck attatching and sending a video from your home-server to your buddies or attatching a Word document with a list of places to visit on vacation. In other words, it ain't happening.

By design, corporations and schools have to use landline or VoIP technology to ensure compatability with their PBX systems and PA systems. Home users are not held to this acountability, but there's no reason that they can't do so anyways. Federal law requires telephone companies to provide reliable landline telephone access to anyone who requests. No such law exists regarding mobile technology.

The damage done by the power outage was easily remidied. When the power came back on, the clocks resynchronized, the telephones rebooted, and 200 desktop computers around the building began groaning about being improperly shutdown. Thankfully, I had been able to walk home from school, given that I lived only about a mile from West High School. Incidentally, our band concert required a set of overhead lights that, like any other, needed electricity to work. Our band director agreed to cancel the performance by around 4:30 if the power had not returned. Most unfortunately, the power had not returned by 4:30 so our director contacted someone with a computer to send out an email explaing the predicament and that the concert would have to be cancelled since the power had not returned.

Speaking of the devil, about five minutes after the email was sent, the power was restored to the vicinity, inlcuding West High School. Oh well — too bad the last 3 months of band class had been solely dedicated to putting on a spectacular performance and a measily power outage got in our way. Don't let this happen to you — make sure your business or school has a thorough backup-power solution, and it wouldn't hurt to do the same thing at home either.

But the same cannot be said for everybody. Such an event could have catastrophic, and there is no excuse for not having landline telephones in your building. And if you think a cellular phone is a replacement for a landline — you're wrong, because it's not. In theory (and although few realize it, in practice as well), a landline is a far superior telephone as opposed to a cellular one. What is the purpose of a telephone? To make telephone calls, that's what! Have you forgotten that? And in terms of making telephone calls, landline telephones do it right and do it better every time. As a rule of thumb, wired technology has ALWAYS proved to be superior to wireless technology, and the same can be said for telephones. Why settle for a cellular phone when you can use a landline with three times the voice-quality, half the calling rates, and a comfortable reciever to cuddle under your ear? True, they're not portable, but I'd rather not allow anyone who knows my telephone number to be able to reach every waking and sleeping moment of every day of every week of every year. And anything that can be done with a smartphone (which I prefer to call dumbphones as that is what they really are) can be done better by a computer. This same concept applies to laptops and tablets although mostly the latter; unless you need to be always on-the-go, a desktop will serve you better. You get more power for what you pay, you benefit from better ergonomics, you have the assurance of a wired Ethernet connection, and you can use as many monitors as your heart desires. Oh, and by the way, if you're concerned about the power going out and losing your work, buy an Uninteruptable Power Supply (UPS).

Where you like it or not, the primetime of technology has passed. With a few exceptions, the best technology that humans are likely to ever use have already been invented. The desktop computer for one, is the ultimate workhorse. Alexander Graham Bell is credited with having invented what is arguably one of the most useful pieces of technology to have ever been invented. Envision how long it would take to type up your thesis on a "smartphone" without an actual keyboard — how about on a PC with full-size keyboard?

Now, if you haven't heard about the legal battle between Apple and the U.S. Government recently then I don't know which rock you've been sleeping under. Being in opposition of cellular devices, I am, predictably, on the government's side. Now, this isn't to say I don't value privacy. In fact, I do value privacy, which is why I side with the government on the issue. Additionally, Apple fails to make a valid point. If you want your data to be protected, you shouldn't be using any type of mobile device at all, especially a "smartphone". Additionally, try to stay away from cloud storage, although it may seem extremely convenient. Unfortunately, to truly secure your data as much as possible is usually no within the grasp of anyone except IT professionals. But, if you buy your own file-servers, set up your own domain at home (the Active Directory kind, the not the Internet TLD), then you are well on your way to a safe home network with no risk of others peeping in. You can always use remote-access software to access the file servers on your network on-the-go.

I hope this blog post has been useful to you. The number of tangents I have gone off on in this post might confuse you, but it really all does come back to your landline. If you've already gotten rid of your landline, do your best to get it back. If your telephone company refuses or wants to force some cheap wireless product on you, refuse and then go to court. If you haven't cancelled your landline yet, I can see your parents brought you up well and have instilled some real value and purpose into you. Now you know that you need a landline, and now you know why. Just remember this the next time someone tries to tell you otherwise — the day you get rid of your landline is the day that you begin to start slipping your soul to the devil, and if you want to live long and prosper, there's only one way to dial-in. The faithful landline is your friend — use it!

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