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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Technically correct... if not politically so

One of the many 'apps' I've recently downloaded to my iPad is a nifty free alarm clock app which turns the svelte tablet computer into a bedside alarm clock, complete with big glowing green digital numerals.

Not only does it perform all the requisite functions of the old-school bedside alarm clocks (wake, snooze, etc.) but it has a few tricks up its sleeve that make it extra-helpful:

For instance, you can set the snooze interval to whatever you want (no more being stuck with the preset 7 or 10 minutes).

And with a swipe of your finger, you can adjust the brightness of the glowing green read-out from barely discernable... to Chernobyl meltdown.

You can also select from a pre-loaded menu of sounds and music for your wake-up call (or download many more). They range from gentle (birds chirping, rain pattering on a window pane, etc.) to jarring (shrill beeps, construction noise, Allied bombing of Dresden, etc.).

You can even program the alarm to come on full strength, or fade in gently.

In addition to all that, the app has a function that checks the web for local weather for your area and displays the day's temperatures (high and low) and weather conditions in the corner of the screen.

It's this last feature that revealed a small wrinkle in the overall goodness of this app. You see, in order to feed the local weather onto the display, you are asked permission to allow the app to use your 'current location'.

So far so good. This makes sense, since things like weather, time zone and such are pretty much tied to where you are.

But when I'd finished setting the thing up and was getting ready to go to sleep, I noticed that it helpfully displayed the name of 'my location' in the corner with the rest of the local info.

Apparently, I live in Bethlehem.

Granted, Bethlehem is (often quite literally) just a stone's throw from my town of Efrat. In fact, in the first book of the Torah, we see that they were considered one in the same:

"Rachel died. She was buried on the road to Efrat, which is Bethlehem." (Genesis 38:19)

Add to the mix that modern Efrat is not in the exact location of Biblical Efrat(a).

But politically, they couldn't be more distinct.

Bethlehem is an entirely Arab city where Jews are forbidden by law from entering. And Efrat is an entirely Jewish town where the sight of Arab contractors and workers is fairly common-place.

So yes, while the programmers of this useful alarm clock app may be somewhat technically correct in designating my present location as 'Bethlehem'... politically, they aren't even close.

Posted by David Bogner on November 14, 2010 | Permalink

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Posted by: Jack | Nov 14, 2010 10:28:17 AM

"Bethlehem is an entirely Arab city where Jews are forbidden by law from entering. And Efrat is an entirely Jewish town where the sight of Arab contractors and workers is fairly common-place."

This subtle -- but gigantic! -- distinction is one that is missed entirely not only by world media and Western powers but, alas, by some of the nicest people in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Posted by: rutimizrachi | Nov 14, 2010 12:05:36 PM

Eh. I see know that the distinction is important, but this particular manifestation is simply due to inexact geolocating software, not some malicious (or even accidental) code written by any programmer. That is to say, in all likelihood, NO PERSON made a decision that you live in Bethlehem, an inexact computer did.

Posted by: Ilan | Nov 14, 2010 1:05:36 PM

Oops, that should've been "I know...", not "I see know..."

Posted by: Ilan | Nov 14, 2010 1:06:23 PM

Oops, that should've been "I know...", not "I see know..."

Posted by: Ilan | Nov 14, 2010 1:07:50 PM

also, b-lem is about 5 times the size of efrat. so the mistake is understandable.
still, i can see why it rankles.

Posted by: fred | Nov 14, 2010 1:09:47 PM

my understanding is that Bethlehem is also not on the same Daylight Savings schedule as Efrat (and the rest of Israel). therein lies a bigger problem for your alarm clock!

Posted by: lisa | Nov 15, 2010 12:11:55 AM

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