Monday, March 12, 2012

Upload, download or offload?

Okay, I'm easing into the new vocabulary here. For several years I've understood download. It's something you do with photos and music and information files you see on the internet and want to load onto your own computer. You can also find software manuals and other vital information to download with just a few clicks. Downloading is great. It's empowering. It's efficient. 

Upload: That's a newer concept for me. You take a file of your own and send it to a website on the internet. That can be a little daunting until you get used to it. Millions have uploaded video clips onto Youtube, though.On Facebook or a blog you can post a comment and/or picture. That's an upload. You can also go to an organization's contest webpage and paste an essay, short story, etc. into a designated box. With one click it's launched, and although you cringe at the thought of judges reading it, you can't take it back. 

Then there's sending money to your kids. I suppose that's an upload, too. With one son living abroad, and a small financial matter to solve there, suddenly it wasn't small anymore. We don't bank electronically yet, so it was a very involved and expensive process to try to move funds from our bank to his bank via phone. it involved a lot of time and a hefty charge, and the funds wouldn't be available to him for several days.

When I recently visited him in Finland, he made a purchase on his Master Card that I had planned to pay for. I wanted to reimburse him. Well. I didn't have the correct password for my credit union account, so no luck there. At home, my husband had already tried to cover it online by sending funds from our bank to his (see above), with no success.

Hmmmm. Hey, how about reimbursing him in Euros? I had some in my wallet.

No, that wouldn't work, he said. That led to some head scratching on my part. I couldn't just put the cash in his hand? "You mean," I finally said, the lightbulb going off in my head, "that you have an online bank and you don't use real money, so these Euros would be useless to pay that credit card charage?"

Bingo. So . . . if I wrote a check and mailed it to his online bank, that would work, but it would take time to go through the mail and show up in his account. He'd heard you could take a digital photo of a check and sometimes an online bank would accept that, but we still looked for other solutions.

Then I thought of PayPal. It was worth a try. So, with a smaller transaction fee than our bank would have charged (because of the foreign currency conversion, I think), within seconds I was able to send the funds from my PayPal account to his bank. Within seconds the Master Card bill was covered. It was that simple. 

So I learned one way to upload money. Not that it's going to happen again anytime soon, but it's good to know different ways to do it. 

Now we come to offload. Sitting at one of the many airports I visited going to and from Finland, I heard an occasional announcement like this: "Mr. John Jones, your flight to Taiwan is about to depart. Please report to the gate or your luggage will be offloaded."

From the free online dictionary (if you click on the icon, a disembodied voice says the word): 
off·load or off-load  (ôfldf-)
v. off·load·ed or off-load·edoff·load·ing or off-load·ingoff·loads or off-loads
1. To unload (a vehicle or container).
2. Computer Science To transfer (data) to a peripheral device.
3. Slang To get rid of and pass on to another: "He does come close to offloading some of the blame for the launch on . . . the dear old media" (Meg Greenfield).
To unload a vehicle or container.

Speaking of offloads and airports: One interesting observation about the airports I visited in Europe: they are quieter than airports in the US. CNN doesn't broadcast continually (in fact, nothing does, imagine that), and boarding calls aren't blasted on the PA system every few minutes. I guess they expect people to find the correct gate, sit down, and pay attention. At the gate, the announcements don't reverberate throughout the whole terminal. A novel concept. I appreciated the relative quiet at those airports. If you have a long layover, constant noise can be stressful.

Speaking of airports, I heard something in Amsterdam that made me wonder who was in dire straits. An announcement came over the entire terminal's PA system, spoken by an employee with a Chinese accent: "We are looking for a passenger who can speak English and Russian to translate for us. Please report to Gate B-9 immediately." 

Anyway, back to the new terms: I can now use the following three words with some degree of confidence: upload, download, and offload. May your uploads be successful, your downloads helpful and rewarding, and your offloads nonexistent.

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