Tech-Friendly: Desktop and laptop computers best for research

June 5, 2013

By Paul Gorski

I drew inspiration for this article from the article “Sosnowski: Historic fracking agreement means jobs” (http://rockrivertimes.com/2013/05/31/sosnowski-historic-fracking-agreement-means-jobs/) posted online May 31.

I had set out to write an article about how desktop and laptop computers were often better research tools than tablets and smartphones when surfing the Internet. I lacked an immediate example, though, until I read the article mentioned above.

To begin with, the article is only available online, so I needed an Internet-enabled device to read it. Unfortunately, as many news sources, databases and other materials become digitized, you need Internet access to view this content.

Next, the article only caught my attention because of the large slide show with its small text teasing to the article on the article’s Rock River Times homepage. I would have missed the slide show on some smartphones, and probably would not have been able to see the text that well on a tablet. Fortunately, I was reading the article on a 17-inch display.

So, on my larger desktop display, “historic” stood out like a beacon. “Historic” is often overused in the press and by politicians, so I decided to research how historic this legislation was.

It wasn’t historic at all. A search for “history of oil and gas regulations” shows results from both “conservative” and “liberal” sources indicating large-scale government intervention in the energy sector began in the 1930s. I was able to quickly scan these articles, while still having the Rock River Times article displayed on my screen.

I then wanted to verify the definition of “fracking.” The articles I found were consistent with the description in The Rock River Times’ article. Also, I found a good article from the Illinois Times (http://www.illinoistimes.com/Springfield/article-11190-the-cost-of-fracking.html), a good downstate weekly newspaper, that illustrated how fracking involves “pushing” the oil and gas out, rather than “being sucked out with a straw.”

Also debunking the “historic” tagline, the Illinois Times and other sources (all up on the screen) indicated fracking is already legal in Illinois, with a number of oil and gas companies holding leases to land in southern Illinois ready to start operations. (Search for “is fracking legal in Illinois.”)

I then asked myself, “If fracking is already legal and these folks have the land, how does this create new jobs?” Well, this legislation doesn’t actually create new jobs. It creates a common set of regulations for all the “frackers” to follow. New jobs claim clarified, if not debunked.

The legislation does have more “teeth” in it than other fracking laws in the U.S., but what it really does is grease the path for the oil and gas companies to start new fracking operations under new basic guidelines — a level playing field.

Applying regulations to an industry that relies on pumping toxic chemicals into the ground to pump out other toxic chemicals doesn’t meet my guidelines for historic, either. Rather, it should be expected. Maybe that’s just the former chemist in me speaking. It is nice, though, that this recent process included the input of some environmental groups.

I’ve bookmarked these articles and/or printed them to PDF files (not to paper) to save the research without downing a few trees for all the paper that would have been involved. I save a lot of web pages, text documents and more to PDF, something not as easily done on smartphones and tablets.

So, my old trusted desktop computer helped me: 1) find the article, 2) research key points, and 3) write this follow-up all much faster than I could using a smartphone or tablet.

My point being, if you want to be an efficient researcher or creator of information, you need a desktop or laptop. Use the tablet or smartphone for consuming data or with dedicated “apps.”

When it comes to being “pro” or “anti” fracking, that requires a bit more research. What it comes down to is: Do you trust the geologists and engineers employed by the oil and gas companies?

I know a local “engineer” and politician who thought a dead elected official should still be considered “in office” weeks after the person passed on. The state supreme court said no, when an elected official dies, that office is then vacant. Imagine that. I’m just glad that engineer isn’t working on the southern Illinois fracking projects. If nothing else, we need a little common sense in addition to any research we do.

Paul Gorski (www.paulgorski.com) has been a technology manager nearly 20 years, specializing in workflow solutions for printing, publishing and advertising computer users. Originally destined to be a chemist, his interest in computers began in college when he wrote a program to analyze data from lab instruments he hard-wired to the back of an Apple IIe.

Posted June 5, 2013

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