Kojo talks with author Colson Whitehead about his new novel "The Underground Railroad" and its resonance at this particular moment in history.
Sony Playstation sees security breaches. Amazon and Yahoo have problems in the Cloud. And much ado about nothing on the newest iPhone being too big. The Computer Guys & Gal help you sort the tech wheat from the tech chaff, and answer your questions.
- Allison Druin WAMU Computer Gal; Director of the Human-Computer Interaction Lab and Associate Dean for Research, College of Information Studies, University of Maryland
- John Gilroy WAMU Resident Computer Guy; and Director of Business Development, Armature Corporation
- Bill Harlow WAMU Computer Guy; and Hardware & Software Technician for MACs & PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc.
Items Heard on Today’s Show
Allison’s Mother’s Day Tech Gift Suggestions
Mealsnap – take a picture of your plate to find out how many calories you’re eating
Mad for Mobile
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. The Computer Guys & Gal are here. John Gilroy, I bet you don't know the name of that song.
MR. JOHN GILROYI don't want to know the name either. (laugh)
NNAMDITobey Schreiner does. He just told me the name. I'm never going to tell you. The Computer Guys & Gal, as we said, are here. And though the weather is sunny outside, they say storms are brewing in cyberspace. We'll find...
GILROYWe like brewing.
NNAMDIWe'll find out why there's been so much turbulence in the cloud. Whether we can expect Facebook to freeze Osama bin Laden's fan page and whether yours may be next, and we'll share tech-savvy gift ideas for moms and graduates. Allison Druin is here with great gift ideas. She's associate dean for research in the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland, where she also directs the Human-Computer Interaction Lab and hopes to be able to direct her husband, Ben Bederson, in the musical "The Pirates of Penzance"...
MS. ALLISON DRUINAbsolutely.
NNAMDI...in the near future.
NNAMDISo Ben's father participated in "Pirates of Penzance"?
DRUINEighty years ago. Eighty years ago.
NNAMDIAnd now you're...
DRUINAnd we're sitting there in the audience watching his granddaughter going, hmm, I sang that. It was amazing.
NNAMDII would -- you and Ben what, punked out? You just...
DRUINWe bummed out, yeah. It was...
NNAMDI(laugh) There was -- did it yourself?
DRUINIt was bad.
NNAMDIOh, well, computer guy Bill Harlow, who looks like a pirate today...
DRUINHe totally does.
NNAMDI...is a former Mac genius, who now works on PCs and Macs with Mid-Atlantic Consulting. We'll try to get a picture and post it on our page.
MR. BILL HARLOWYou won't, Kojo.
NNAMDIWe'll see, Bill.
GILROYNot with a sword he's carrying. He'll cut your head off.
NNAMDIAnd computer guy John Gilroy is director of business development at ARMATURE Corporation. This month, you should know John enters his third decade...
GILROYDecade on the air.
NNAMDI...of giving tech advice...
DRUINIt scares me. (laugh)
NNAMDI...on WAMU. He also enters his first decade on being a mature adult.
GILROYThat will never happen.
DRUINThat explains it.
NNAMDIIt's a conversation you can join at 800-433-8850. 800-433-8850. You can go to our website, kojoshow.org, join the conversation there. Send us a tweet, @kojoshow, or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. While we've been seeing storm damage and tornados in the real world, we've also been seeing cloudbursts in cyberspace. Bill Harlow, Sony PlayStation is the place to be online, but this month -- this past month, it became more famous for being offline.
HARLOWOh, yeah. The ads were it only does everything, but you can scratch one item off that list because you cannot get online right now.
HARLOWAnd, you know, some people are thinking...
GILROYOutside of that.
DRUINYeah. It's a...
HARLOWSo some people think, you know, big deal. You can't play your games. Life goes on, right? Well, the issue is they were hacked, and they were malicious attacks. And there were about 77 million active registered users, and pretty much as far as Sony knows, their demographic info was harvested. So names, e-mail addresses, password, which kind of blows my mind. Why weren't those, you know, hashes? Why were those so readable? And then, there were also concerns that, you know, any credit card information on file since there was a PlayStation store where you can buy movies and games and whatnot. You know, maybe that got stolen too, but we're not entirely sure. So they put out a press release, information, FAQ on their blog, on their support pages, saying just to be safe, monitor your accounts, you know?
HARLOWIt won't be a bad idea to get a new card, and they're still offline as we speak. I think it's supposedly going on back online this week, but another thing, Sony Online Entertainment, a different games portal, also went down, I think, yesterday or maybe May 1. And another 25 million or so people might have lost their data there too, so scary stuff.
NNAMDIWhich is why Bill Harlow showed up today carrying a sign saying, will offer technical advice for food.
GILROYI just went over there.
GILROYI just went over, just yanked the FiOS cable, just to be safe.
GILROYBut, actually, I will say this. If any of you guys out there are on the PlayStation Network, a good idea to, you know, double-check your accounts, you know, maybe get a new card. And also remind yourself and be honest and say, did I ever use the password on PlayStation Network and recycled that everywhere else because you might want to get that changed.
DRUINOoh. Oh, yeah.
NNAMDIWe also -- a huge Amazon outage this month also. It took down Yahoo! for the day and a lot of other websites. How stable exactly is the cloud, John?
GILROYWell, there are some websites that got hit, and they're -- it's kind of notorious. People know about them, but, you know, there are government agencies that have important information that were sitting over the Amazon cloud, and, you know, they just planned ahead of time to switch zones. And so they didn't get hit, so I think it's another bell ringer for planning and making sure just -- you just don't arbitrarily go into the cloud. You have a plan, and you make very sure where your data is sitting in the plan. And I'll name the site, recovery.gov. It's a SharePoint site that's sitting on the Amazon cloud, which doesn't make sense for a lot of listeners, but it went down.
GILROYThey didn't go down at all. So you can plan some of these things in advance. So I think the cloud is going to be here. Well, just have to maybe approach it with open eyes.
NNAMDIAnd any other advice about how we might be able to protect ourselves in these situations?
GILROYYou mean like with credit fraud? I would be scared to death if my credit card is bouncing around somewhere in Eastern Europe. Somewhere in Russia, someone is selling it right now. I would cancel that card in a heartbeat.
GILROYSorry. I would.
DRUINYou don't say.
NNAMDI...is the number to call. Last month, we talked about Amazon's new push to compete with iTunes and try to convince people to store their music in the cloud. Some people would argue or could argue, Bill, it's not ready for prime time yet.
HARLOWWell, I think music is a little different from...
HARLOW...that's not pointed at me, is it?
NNAMDIThe camera the just entered...
GILROYIt's the pirate look. (unintelligible) what a software -- you have software pirates.
NNAMDIActually, the camera--the camera is pointed at you. What we'll negotiate later is what...
NNAMDI...we will do with the image.
GILROYIt's $10,000 to get rid of it...
HARLOWI brought some cash. We'll work something out.
GILROYGold doubloons probably.
HARLOWBut -- I mean, I look at -- like this with music is, you know, generally, the cloud services are pretty stable. I mean, in the grand scheme of things, if your music went offline for a while, you'd cope. You know, if you lost credit card info, it's an entirely different matter. And, you know, the other thing too is how much downtime was this in the grand scheme of things, like this outage, you know, over the course of a year, that's really minuscule.
NNAMDIOkay. Well, it's ready for prime time in other words.
GILROYYou're not going to have any choice.
HARLOW...like most of these technologicals.
NNAMDILet's go to something happier. Allison, we all know about your love for the Kindle, but it's my understanding that come Mother's Day, you are pretty impressed by a different new e-reader. Should I could be considering getting a Literati?
DRUINI know. I just like it for the name. You know, that's part of it, but no, the Literati -- actually, The Sharper Image actually just came out with this, and it's a new color e-reader similar to the Nook, but it's the size of a -- sort of a cell phone kind of thing, maybe slightly bigger. But it -- you can access over two million books, and so they were smart. They started with a large library, and this is very funny. They give you 150 free classic titles. Of course, 150 titles that you probably don't want is probably more than you want, but, anyway, but actually what I like about this one is that it doesn't make you have one of those annoying little lights that like stick on your head and...
DRUIN...it hits you on the head. And I hate it. And so it's got one of these adjusting lights in the back, and so you -- and my eyes are very sensitive these days, so being able to adjust the light brighter or softer, it -- really nice design. So I actually -- I've tried it out, and, you know, I'm going back and forth. It's getting there for me. I like that.
NNAMDILet's ask a member of the Literati if you...
HARLOWI would prefer being a member of the Digirati than the Literati.
NNAMDIYou're a member of the Obliterati...
NNAMDI...that's what you are.
DRUINThat makes more sense.
NNAMDI800-433-8850. Let's talk with Eric in Fairfax, Va. Eric, you're now on the air. Go ahead, please.
ERICHey, thanks. It's always a great show, and I just wanted to talk to the panel about, you know, we hear about all these outages, and, you know, those are very often, you know, electro-mechanical and human error maybe. But the breaches are targeted, right? The breaches are...
ERIC...a lot of criminals going in, putting stuff on the network. So what are the ways that organizations can reduce these advanced persistent threats and reduce their -- the infection rate, one, and then do a better job of cleaning up before they harvest any data?
GILROY(unintelligible) is now the big fellows in town who are worried about them. And I think you have to go back to best practices, and especially in the cloud, I mean, there are all kinds of ways to be careful about that. I think selecting the vendor is one part, and I think planning and having backups and being careful about what zone you choose.
HARLOWYeah. And generally also, a lot of things I heard about are often exploitations of existing known bugs and compromised systems. So, you know, keeping things up to date and patched and doing that makes a big difference too. Back when there was that HB Gary incident a lot of that could have been avoided by keeping things patched.
GILROYFor example, if you do, with a company like Allison's company, where she guarantees to patch certain things or make sure best practices are followed versus the Kojo Company, which is, you know, whenever we get around we may patch at some point.
HARLOWIt's good enough.
GILROYYou might want to avoid the Kojo data center.
DRUINYeah. But you also do want to make sure that as much as you can to distribute things. I mean, the bottom line is that if something goes down at least you have something somewhere else to go for.
NNAMDIEric, thank you very much for your call. John, you've been watching the Microsoft versus Apple battle forever. Bill, I'm sorry, maybe we should have said the Apple versus Microsoft battle. Were you surprised to see the recent profit and quarterly sales numbers apparently showing Apple beating Microsoft?
GILROYWell, I would reluctantly admit that they, you know, they had a big bump of 82 percent, but Microsoft had a bump too of 13 percent like they're both doing well.
HARLOWAnd it's not like Microsoft is doing poorly here.
GILROYNot doing bad. Thirteen percent, I mean...
DRUINI would like to do poorly like that.
GILROY...I would like to have a 13 percent bump. What's interesting is that people are getting away from desktop computers and these silly little things that Allison likes...
GILROY...and -- but they're still…
GILROYThey're making money with some new products and consumer products. So Microsoft is not doing bad. It is just that it's going to be like me having a race with the number one draft choice of the Washington Redskins. I mean, I wouldn't come within, you know, 40 yards of him in a 100-yard race.
DRUINYou're just not running fast enough.
GILROYI mean, it's just that Apple is way in the lead, so they're both doing well. It's sort of interesting that you’d never think this would happen years ago when...
GILROY...Microsoft is kind of maybe fading away a little, and who's the new bad guy going to be? Is it going to be Facebook? Is it going to be Google? I mean, there's going to be a bad guy popping up.
NNAMDIWell, we'll decide later.
NNAMDIWe make the official declaration...
NNAMDI...of who the bad guy is.
NNAMDIHere is Anne in Largo, Md. Anne, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ANNEOh, thank you for taking my call. In the last week, I've had difficulties with my e-mails. Something or someone is using my e-mail address going into my address book, sending messages to my friends which they in turn contact me and say I couldn't open what you send, but I never sent the messages. What can I do?
NNAMDIHow about I'm not interested in signing up for that sales job that you just sent to me?
NNAMDIAre you getting some of those too?
GILROYI think you want to get your pencil out and write this word down and then go to Google. It's called B-O-T-N-E-T, botnet, because you're in one. (laugh) What happens is, let's say, a naive computer user, like Bill, would go to site. They would drop that software right on his machine, and they would take over his machine unbeknownst to him and start sending out stuff or maybe who knows what it's doing. And I think what you have here is you're in a classic situation where a machine has taken over yours whether it's with a root kit, where there's some malicious software. So -- and I would have someone look at very carefully because goodness knows what's going on.
HARLOWRight. Another thing too is if it's a Web mail account, let's say, Hotmail or Gmail, sometimes someone could just have hacked in or guessed your account and gotten your password reset, and maybe they just got into the Web mail and did things that way too.
GILROYLet's hope that's all it is.
HARLOWYeah. But that will be the best-case scenario here.
DRUINBut, Anne, you want to send out an e-mail to all of your -- all the people you care about saying if you get an e-mail from blah-blah-blah, it's not me. This is what's going on, and it's very important because there -- then it ends up propagating otherwise, and you don't want your other friends to have this kind of thing.
NNAMDINo, I am not in the Viagra selling business.
HARLOWYou don't want your friends to hate you, the very least.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Anne. Bill, Cisco is one of the biggest names in networks and enterprise computing. This month, it gave a death sentence to one of America's most popular consumer devices.
HARLOWYeah, the Flip camera is gonna be no more it seems. They bought Pure Digital a couple of years ago, and people who have used the Flip know that it's popular because it's cheap.
HARLOWIt, you know...
DRUINOh, it's so good.
HARLOWYou pull it out of your pocket or your bag and it's ready to go immediately. There's one button, you record and that's it. I mean, it's great. And some people were saying, well, you know, my iPhone or my Droid now can take really good video, why do I need a Flip? But Pogue, David Pogue for The New York Times actually pointed out that the Flip is immensely popular in the camcorder world. They've got like 35 percent of the market. They were -- the day after they were killed, they were supposed to introduce the Flip Live, which was actually a real neat idea, a Wi-Fi enabled camera.
HARLOWYou'd set up and start filming, and then you give people a link. And they click on that link, you know, on Facebook or Twitter, whatever, and they immediately see the stream. So you could live stream from your Flip camera.
NNAMDIWe may never see that, huh?
HARLOWWell, we may never see that, at least not from them. Maybe someone else will make something similar. But, yeah, I guess Cisco looked at it as you know what, you know, if consumer space is rough, we got to, you know, refocus, we got to do this properly, and we got to focus more on networking. So...
DRUINIt's such a shame...
DRUIN...because we use those Flips...
NNAMDIIt could have been a contender.
GILROYI could have been a contender.
DRUINBut we use them all the time in research because it's so easy to hand them to kids to...
HARLOWI was just about to say.
DRUINI mean, you're not gonna hand your cell phone to some kid you don't know.
DRUINYou can hand the Flip and take it off and they do it and they drop it six times. It doesn't matter. I was so heartbroken. I couldn't believe it.
GILROYAnd Cisco doesn't have a good track record when they play around with consumers. They should stick in the data center. And they're having some issues there too with the cloud, but that's where they should stick.
NNAMDIWe got to take a short break. When we come back, have you called already? If you have, stay on the line. We'll get to your call. If the lines are busy, go to our website, kojoshow.org, or send us a tweet, @kojoshow. Shoot us an email to email@example.com. It's the Computer Guys & Gal. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIIn case you haven't met them before, allow me to introduce our Computer Guys & Gal. Computer guy John Gilroy is director of business development at Armature Corporation. And we mentioned earlier, this month, he enters his third decade of giving tech advice on WAMU. So if you're just meeting him for the first time, you're in for a treat, not.
GILROYWow. I don't know if it's good or bad. (laugh)
NNAMDIComputer guy Bill Harlow is a former Mac genius who now works on PCs and Macs with Mid-Atlantic Consulting. And computer gal Allison Druin is associate dean for research in the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland, where she also directs the Human-Computer Interaction Lab. Allison, now that a Flip camera seems to be off the list for the best next gift for mom or for graduates, let's start with helping them organize or helping mom organize her to-do list. What is the Cosmic Child?
DRUINOh. (laugh) Wait, wait, the Cosmic Child is in the to-do list. (laugh) The...
NNAMDIOn the to-do list.
DRUINIt's on the to-do list. The Cosmic Child -- okay. You picked an Android app here, okay? It's a...
NNAMDIYes. Of course we can go to cozi.com and find all kinds of other things.
DRUINYeah, well, you could -- right. Cozi is a...
NNAMDII just picked the Cosmic Child because I like it.
DRUINAll right. Well, that's a virtual magic ball, (laugh) a magic eight ball and a fortune cookie. And there's a little floating head that says...
NNAMDIFloating kid's head.
DRUINYeah, a floating kids head gives you your fortune.
NNAMDITells you the future.
NNAMDISo it's a great app.
GILROYIt's important to know the future.
HARLOWCreep out your mom on Mother's Day. It makes a great gift.
GILROYThat's really creepy.
DRUINIt really is actually very creepy. But actually, the one that you -- I think you might have been thinking about, okay...
DRUIN…is a cozi -- yeah, cozi.com. It's actually -- it's a pretty cool little app there. And, basically, it's got all these little to-do lists and grocery lists and calendaring. You could get it from all of -- from a lot of different apps, but what they do is they put it together so that you can actually, you know, sort of have family central kind of thing, and so it's nothing that you couldn't do with Google and so on but...
GILROYFor thousands of years, families didn't survive without one of these, I'm sure. (laugh)
DRUINI'm telling you. But, you know, you have no idea, in the digital age, what we families have to go through. Anyway -- but, yeah. So it's a -- so -- and this thing is free, so go for it guys, really. It's great, cozi.com.
NNAMDII'm gonna get you the Cosmic Child for Mother's Day (unintelligible).
GILROYYeah. I thought I'd get arrested in town here for pulling out one of those things. (laugh)
NNAMDIHere is Gene in Rockville, Md. Gene, your turn.
GENEThank you very much.
GENEThis is -- I'm calling to follow up on a good report of the advice that you guys gave me last year. I called asking for advice on selection of an e-reader for my wife who is digitally impaired, and you suggested using the iPad since it was backlit. We bought a version of that, and it has worked. And I have an additional comment. We downloaded the Kindle software and actually tried some of the other e-reader softwares as well, and the Kindle software seems to do a much better job of repaginating the documents based on font size. And so, she's been able to read again for the first time in, you know, five, six, seven years. So, appreciate your advice on that. It worked out very well.
NNAMDIGene, do you remember who specifically offered that advice to you? We're having several hands being raised here.
GILROYWe’re having a fist fight here.
NNAMDIWe're having two hand being raised here, and both of them belong to Allison Druin.
GILROYOkay. It was me. Okay?
DRUINWho told you it’s dumb to read yeah. That is so wonderful. I'm so happy for her. And, you know, and it's a really interesting point you make about the Kindle software. The Kindle software is so wonderful because it goes on all different platforms, and they really thought about how to paginate between all these different platforms, and so they are agnostic. And I'm so happy for your wife and just -- this is exciting. Thank you so much for calling.
GILROYServing the listeners here, the Computer Guys & Gal are serving listeners.
NNAMDIGene, thank you very much for making Allison cry.
HARLOWSo, our success rate is about 7 percent now, right?
NNAMDIWhat did you say, Gene?
GENEIt was Allison, the computer gal, who said to choose iPad...
GILROYYes, it was.
GENE...because it was backlit.
NNAMDIWould you please stop saying that, Gene? She's celebrating way to much here. But, Gene, good luck to you and your wife.
GENEOkay. Thank you.
NNAMDIYou, too, can call us at 800-433-8850. Are you a tech savvy mom? Were you affected by one of the breaches we discussed earlier? 800-433-8850. John, Facebook is trying to make people happy. This month, Facebook rolled out it's version of Groupon.
GILROYWell, you know, if you pick up the newspaper or you read the newspaper online, you'll see that Groupon's making money, and everyone's swarming into that space. You know, Living Social, I mean...
DRUINI use it. It's so cool.
GILROYAnd Facebook is saying -- Google is getting into the game. Facebook is saying, hey, guess what, we're gonna be the bullies in the block. We got 500 million sticks here. We're gonna use our bully stick and come in. And they're moving in to this market. Now, they're being very clever about it. They're saying, okay, let's say Kojo and Bill want to go to a concert and they can get together on Facebook. And so, are you gonna go to the concert? Let's go some tickets and go down and see, you know, whatever music's in town here, maybe H.M.S. Pinafore.
GILROYAnd you can see something like that.
NNAMDIThat's an inside joke.
GILROYAnd so, the Facebook is really doing it cleverly, but Facebook, you know, if I were in Groupon, I would be really, you know, kind of scared. I would be scared because this is really gonna be the bully. Facebook is gonna take advantage of the 500 million people they have or 600 million, or whatever it happens to be. And so, Living Social, based in town here, I think. Amazon is investing in them. Google is investing in all of this. It's gonna be an interesting market to see the next -- especially from a marketing perspective of how can they use social networking sites for generating revenue, to monetize the whole idea of Facebook. It's gonna be really exciting.
NNAMDII was a child. I was 10 years old, in high school, an all-male high school, where I tried to audition to play...
NNAMDI...Buttercup for H.M.S. Pinafore.
DRUINThat's great. I love it.
NNAMDIJim in Frederick, Md., please bring some sanity to this conversation.
GILROYJim, call him Buttercup.
NNAMDIJim, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JIMHello. I'm sure I have the most basic of questions. Laptop, notebook or one of these new pads -- I'm not all that tech savvy and I all I wanna do is, you know, occasionally surf the net and check my email. What's the most economical way to go? And also this month is Dell month on QVC, and I'm just wondering if those bundle packages they put together are really good value. Thank you.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Jim.
GILROYWell, three different answers here. Let me start with my different answer. (laugh)
DRUINGo for it, John. You're the senior man here.
GILROYQVC is for losers, boozers and midnight cruisers, so I would never buy anything from QVC. Now, Buttercup may buy something there, but I sure wouldn't. Now, I would do I would go be -- get a cheap little Toshiba notebook computer, set it up, run with it and see what happens in the next couple of years. That's a nice safe bet. Toss to you.
DRUINAll right. Okay. I go next. And I say it depends on how much you care about cheap versus do you want the thing to lasts more than a year, okay? And if you want it to lasts more than a year, I'd go with the pad, iPad, because you just described what the iPad was created for -- was for surfing and for the occasional email. Notebooks, man, you can throw them away once a year, because they're gonna break. The keyboards were a pain in the neck.
DRUINThe screens -- yeah, thank you very much. And the screens are -- and if you care about your eyesight, woo, that's a harsh one. So, anyway, pass it Bill.
HARLOWWell, I would definitely agree with the iPad first. I think that...
HARLOW...most people will deal with this especially if they're not tech savvy. And this thing -- we are -- we take it for granted. When I see people who aren't savvy playing with an iPad, they -- it's -- their eyes light up. So, you know, they got it, being able touch the interface directly and have everything, you know, whether it's a Web browser, email respond instantaneously versus waiting for apps to load on a cheap computer. It makes a big difference, you know, because it -- options to me are either an iPad or a nice laptop. And nice laptops are really expensive.
NNAMDIBill, back to Facebook. Facebook is also, we mentioned, in addition to trying to make people happy with their version of Groupon also making some people really mad. For those who don't know, explain who Ars Technica...
NNAMDI...and its fight with Facebook.
HARLOWYeah, so there -- a popular blog new site for tech issues, gaming, tech law, that sort of thing, and they have a page in Facebook. And then one day, it wasn't there anymore. So it turns out, you know--and I understand why Facebook does this. They allow people to report that there is copyrighted material illegally posted on another page, and then that page gets taken them down. And what Ars Technica is pointing out is that's funny, nobody told us, you know? There's no warning. You know, no formal complaint that they could address. It's just no page anymore and no clear indication of what they're suppose to do to get the page back up and running.
HARLOWSo because they're a pretty large organization, they were able to publish this, get some feedback from readers and, eventually, making up noise at Facebook, you know, got back to them and, you know, there was a little bit more of an open dialog. But for a lot of people, this is...
GILROYWhat about Ben Bederson? He has his page. They could take that big bully stick. They can hit him and...
NNAMDIThat was -- well, I was about to say anybody they (unintelligible) you.
DRUINAnybody. That's right.
HARLOWNo. You know, you guys go out drinking, say things you shouldn't have said, the next thing you know, you know...
HARLOW...you know, Kojo says, you know what? I'm gonna report that picture on John Gilroy's page. It's actually stolen from another blog...
HARLOW...and they can take them right down. And there's not much you can do quickly and easily to get that page back up and running.
NNAMDIYou really don't have much recourse at all.
NNAMDIIf this has happened to you, you can call us and tell us about your experience and how you dealt with it, 800-433-8850. On to Jim in Port Tobacco, Md. Hi, Jim.
JIMHi. I really enjoy the show.
JIMMy problem is I have FiOS Internet service. A couple of week -- about four weeks ago, they asked me to upgrade my browser, which I did. I went to Internet Explorer 8. And since that time, approximately every maybe two out of eight times I am not able to get onto the Internet. The only thing that will come on to my screen is the Internet Explorer page, but the Verizon end of it does come up.
GILROYI'd jump over to Firefox and fire that one up and see how it works. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me why, you know, the service would impact something with the browser. Bill, did it make sense to you? I mean...
HARLOWI mean, it sounds like maybe there's an issue going on when they said try a new browser, but I can't believe that upgrading browser suddenly mean that the service doesn't work.
HARLOWI take it that you've talked to Verizon. They've confirmed that on their end that your line seems to be active and running. Is that correct?
JIMThat is correct.
HARLOWOkay. So, I mean, it sounds like it's just some, sort of, strange software issue, either, I don't know, a setting somewhere in the options in Explorer. Maybe it's something as simple as -- it's either at the bottom or maybe in the options menu where you can tell it whether or not you're working offline. It's just a simple toggle. So, you know, I'd look for that and switch that online mode. I've had that happened to me once. I don't remember how I set it. Just the simple things you take a look for.
GILROYYeah, I would try Firefox and see -- if it happens with both, then you really got to call and talk to FiOS people and complain. But if it just happens now, it could probably Google that somewhere. And I'm sure there's a form somewhere where with 30 people work around on that. It just doesn't -- it doesn't -- it's got to be something simple like work offline. It's got to be too simple.
JIMThank you very much.
NNAMDI...thank you very much for your call and good luck to you. We have Chip in Hagerstown, Md. looking for suggestions. Hi, Chip.
CHIPHi. How are you?
NNAMDII'm well. What can we suggest for you?
CHIPI'm actually calling from the courthouse. I'm an attorney here at Hagerstown.
GILROYWell, now, we're in trouble.
DRUINWatch what you say.
HARLOWI was just leaving actually.
CHIPI need to replace my Dell 9300. I do everything on the laptop. All the 17-inch laptops I can find have the really wide cinema screen...
CHIP...and I need something more of a standard aspect ratio. I know the 9300 has a 16:10.
CHIPIs anything out there has this short-wide screens. And I, you know, I can't two pages side by side on that.
NNAMDIHere's John Gilroy with some pro bono advice.
GILROYYeah. Yeah, I don't have any pro bono. I don't know the subtle variations with the notebooks that much. Bill, have you seen some that might fit to -- I don't know.
HARLOWOn top of my head, no, but I will definitely say that the vast majority of laptops now, they're 16-by-9. And you're right. With 16-by-9, the resolution is often 1920-by-1080, which is 1080p TV. That's why it's so popular.
HARLOWAnd because it's so popular and that's what HDTV is, I think that's why you’re seeing it because the panels are more readily available and they're probably cheaper for the manufacture. The older ones were 1920-by...
CHIPWell, I spent days on Google. And there's hundreds of people posting that they want be the older ratio, but they are cheaper to produce and that's what they're giving everybody now.
DRUINJim, just a question, do you wanna use that when you're sitting at your desk or do you wanna use it when you're traveling around? Because if you're sitting at your desk, you could probably plug your laptop into a screen.
CHIPRight, I do. I have a 21-inch monitor. I use dual monitors...
CHIP...when I'm sitting. But sometimes, I take my laptop and go work in a coffee shop or...
CHIP... in a bar or whatever.
DRUINOkay. So, yeah.
CHIPSo I really do need to have those screens where I can get two pages side by side and still be able to read it.
DRUINThat makes sense. That makes sense.
HARLOWYeah, I think maybe down the line when the resolutions get higher, you might see, you know, where there maybe a less of an issue because even if it's still 16-by-9 aspect ration, it maybe a case where there's so much, you know, real state as far as actual pixels that you can comfortably put to two pages on the screen and see them. I know that, for the longest time, Apple had 16-by-10 screens on most of their laptops.
HARLOWAnd I'm just looking at the specs now. Looks like their 17 still does.
CHIPAnd that's what I have now. The 16-by-10 works just about right.
CHIPI (word?) Precision series Dell have the 16:10 I believe...
HARLOWRight. I just looked it up and the -- I know for a fact the Apple MacBook Pro 17 still with 16-by-10.
HARLOWSo if you go that route and you come to all installing Windows on it, there might be an option.
CHIPWell, my brother is the Mac guy. I'm the PC guy, so...
CHIPI'd rather not go there. I'd rather have a lot of software that is -- and I know you can emulate Windows and everything else, but, you know, I'd probably -- I think it better off with a straight Windows machine.
HARLOWYeah. I mean, I think, I wish to give you a better answer, but just, I think, look around at lot of the more pro-oriented laptops. You can probably see a 16-by-10 screen somewhere in there. Maybe check out the ThinkPads too.
GILROYIt could be an off brand is the problem.
NNAMDIOkay. Chip, thank you very much for your call and good luck to you. Bill Harlow, earlier we heard Allison talked about the Literati. You say Barnes & Noble's Nook might be the best value in tablet computing?
HARLOWIt can be. You know, it's...
GILROYWhat a definitive answer.
NNAMDIMight, maybe, could.
DRUINI like that about Bill.
GILROY...maybe someday on some planet, on Mars in the future.
HARLOWI guess, what I'm saying is no one think about this as a slam dunk in any one area, but it seems to be a nice balance of features. So, you know, it's a good reader. Get a lot of good books for it. It's got a nice screen. It's a capacitive, color, seven-inch screen. The price is right. I mean, it's 250 bucks for that sort of technology. And it runs on Android. And a lot of geeks were really loving it, because, late last year, they found it you can actually hack it and install Android 2.2 Froyo on there, which have additional features.
HARLOWWell, the reason why I like it now is because I don't wanna hack it, but you can officially put the Nook update 1.2 on there and get, you know, officially supported Froyo 2.2 with Flash and a faster browser and they even put and get their Nook store. It's not that big, but it's actually curated, which is nice, so you know that the apps you're gonna install in your Nook are going to work and work well.
NNAMDIAllison, you've got a gift idea for mom or dads on-the-go, something you describe as the Rolls Royce of Bluetooth.
DRUINThe Aliph Jawbone Icon. Okay, this -- I, first of all, I actually like the name of it. But, no, it turns out, all right, how many of you know -- okay, you're not supposed be talking on your cell phone in the car with -- holding that thing to your ear and you're doing it, right?
DRUINWell, okay, I finally -- I've done a lot of research here, okay. And then Ben, of course, didn't believe me, my husband. Oh, look, Bill's got one. (laugh) Oh, he's got the...
GILROYWhere's the camera guy? Where's the camera guy?
DRUINWait, where's the camera guy?
DRUINBut, yeah. You have the Hero version.
HARLOWI do. I'm a Hero.
DRUINHe is the Hero. I want the Diva version, okay?
GILROYHe's a pirate. He's a hero. He's in trouble.
DRUINThe diva looks like a piece of jewelry on your ear. But anyway, no, what's so cool about it is it's got excellent sound and it actually has a USB connector so you can power it in your laptop. And so, yeah, this is my gift. And Ben, my husband, checked it out. He called up his buddy that's basically on the phone all the time, and he said, yeah. She picked it. I'm like, yes. So anyway, so this is my pick. But it is 100 bucks, but there's -- but it's -- the design of it is fabulous. There's -- and there's even an app store, so you could pick your speed dialing and -- your speed dial numbers, your voices and so on. It's just...
HARLOWI'll vouch for it. It works. I mean, it's pricy, but it works really, really well. I mean, I've got a loud car too.
DRUINYeah, yeah. There you go. And it's a -- the thing you wanna...
NNAMDI'Cause I'm gonna tell you, until this time, I haven't been able to find one that works really well, so...
DRUINRight. That's exactly the problem. And so -- you really wanna look for sound quality first, and so this is it. And I'm so excited and Ben has -- oh, and John is sitting here going, yeah, yeah, yeah. (laugh)
NNAMDIWell, John has a much more sophisticated device...
GILROYI have an analysis on that.
NNAMDI...much more sophisticated device.
GILROYWell, first of all, the WPGC had a rapper in the studio a couple of years back, and he had one of these ear devices on. And the host turned to him and said, well, you're like Uhura. He came over this and he punched the guy. (laugh)
NNAMDII remember that.
NNAMDII remember that very well.
GILROYDo you remember that? It was a terrible studio situation, not that that ever happened here. (laugh) But I don't wanna get punched for wearing something like that. I mean, come on now, I wouldn't (unintelligible)...
DRUINIn your car, you're gonna get punched?
NNAMDIJohn has a much more...
HARLOWYou haven't met my wife. (laugh)
NNAMDIJohn has a much more sophisticated app that he would like to recommend.
GILROYMeal Snap. Now, this is what Kojo -- everyone knows that Kojo is a foodie. You read the article two months ago in The Washington Post, the big foodie going to all the restaurants, doing all the tastings. And what he uses as an app -- this is really a stupid app (laugh) you take this app...
HARLOWDon't oversell it, John.
GILROY...you take a picture of the food and it tells you how many calories is in the food.
DRUINNo. I love it, John. I love it.
GILROYWhat a stupid app. Of all the dumb things I've, I mean -- now, do you eat it? Do you not eat? Do you eat three of those? Do you eat your neighbors? I mean...
HARLOWIt's a bit late at that point, isn't it?
GILROYThat's something late. Okay, here's the food, so...
DRUINSo wait, they're doing image recognition on that. That's cool.
NNAMDII thought so.
DRUINI love it. I love it. Kojo, let's get one on there.
GILROYIt's called Meal App -- and Kojo 'cause he's a foodie, and that's what you do before you sit down, you take a picture, oh, yeah, 5,000 calories. Oh, yeah. You don't want to -- what's the place with 5,000 -- oh, yeah, the guys -- Five Guys.
HARLOWIs that Five Guys?
NNAMDISo are you saying you don't care how many calories you take in at each meal? You find this Meal Snap app completely useless because regardless of whether it's 10,000 calories, you're eating it anyway.
GILROYKojo, if I sat down, had lunch with you and you got out your camera and took a picture of the lunch, I think I'd kind of like make an excuse and leave. (laugh) I might say, what is going on here?
DRUINYeah. I would say how this century, oh, cool.
GILROYHow, this century. I'd say, whoa, is he a weirdo. (laugh)
NNAMDII've been advised that this is huge. Everybody is doing it.
GILROYOh, it's huge. Yeah, you can keep the food. (laugh) (unintelligible)
NNAMDIThe bandwagon effect is what were' looking for here.
HARLOWWhoa, he's a weirdo.
NNAMDIWe're gonna take a short break. When we come back, Mr. Don't-care-about-calories John Gilroy will be back with us along with Bill Harlow and Allison Druin. If you've called, stay on the line. We'll try our best to get to your calls. But the lines are full so go to our website kojoshow.org, where you can find all of the products and articles and the tools that our panelists are recommending at kojoshow.org. We've been having people sending us emails asking how to spell cozi.com. It is C-O-Z-I.com.
NNAMDIIf you go to our website kojoshow.org, you'll find a link right there. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to our monthly conversation with the Computer Guys. They show up on the first Tuesday of every month. And they are Allison Druin, associate dean for research in the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland, where she also directs the Human-Computer Interaction Lab. Bill Harlow is a former Mac genius, who now works on PCs and Macs with Mid-Atlantic Consulting, and John Gilroy is director of business development at Armature Corporation.
NNAMDIWe take your calls at 800-433-8850. Just before I go back to the phones, I've been reading, Allison Druin, recent studies have shown the average computer keyboard is home to more than 3,000 germs per square inch. One study revealing that the typical cell phone carries more germs per square inch than, well, let's forget the toilet seat...
GILROY(laugh) Yeah, well, we know that it’s all about that.
NNAMDIWhat do I do about this?
DRUINThis is so cool. All right. So I found this thing and I'm -- I tell you...
HARLOWThis is cool?
DRUIN(laugh) This is totally cool. ViraShield, okay?
DRUINAll right. It's a ultraviolet sanitizer, all right? And it's this large sort of -- it's not a "Cone of Silence," but it's this little tomb that you could put your keyboards in, your phones, your devices, and it zaps away all of the bacteria. And I have to tell you, in our lab, you know, one person goes down with the flu, five of them all go down like within a week. And I tell you, this is great. Okay. This is $250, but I'm losing graduate students like per minute, okay? And this is awesome. So anyway, yeah, so you just zap -- you put John underneath and zap -- no, you just...
GILROYYou're machine-gunning those graduate students over there. (laugh) Come on.
DRUINYou don't put them on the people. You put them on the keyboards and the phones. Yeah, I honestly -- these phones that they pass around...
DRUIN...it grows disgusting things. So be careful and this is great for schools and for labs and things like that.
NNAMDIBill, it's hard to believe that there is anything more to say about the iPhone tracking story. And I wasn't supposed to bring that up unless someone else did, but you found an interesting visualization tool you thought might interest people.
HARLOWYeah. I mean, actually the one thing I kind of made me feel comfortable is I couldn't run the tool, which is kind of cool. It's a -- the research has put together a program that's simply reads the location database that's stored via iTunes because every time you sync your phone, it backs up your entire iPhone contents it puts onto a computer, and that's normally not encrypted, and it just puts on a map. It brings up a map and shows all the hit points of these WiFi and tower access points that was logging.
HARLOWAnd, you know, it was kind of stunning 'cause it -- for a lot of people who have like very consistent commutes or travel patterns, they just see all this hits all over the map. And that sort of drove the point home that, you know, just how much data was being stored during this.
DRUINYeah. No, you are being watched.
NNAMDIOnto Tom in Bethesda, Md. Tom, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
TOMHi. Just as a reference. I love your show, Kojo. It's always very interesting. The -- but I -- first PC I had was a 8088 with a math coprocessor, and I've been doing a lot with PCs since the '80s. I have a Dell computer that will not connect to my BlackBerry. It shows errors and it also won't back up onto an external drive. And I'm completely at a loss. I've tried all the cleanup things. And I didn't know that there was some magic formula that you guys can pass on to me.
GILROYWell, the magic is pretty simple. You're trying to use the USB port to connect the external hard drives? Is that what you're trying to do?
TOMYes. Just to, like...
TOM...backup the entire computer. I put it on to do that using the program from the external drive.
TOMBut -- it works fine on my desktop. The laptop shows up an error, and then the error is, of course, one of those ones that has no directive of what to do about it.
GILROYYeah. Well, I'm not a big fan of those do-it-all programs that can work in anything. I -- you know, I personally just prefer to take the data files, using -- just drag them over to the external hard drive or use a service like Carbonite. It seems like the hard drive is full. I mean, it seems like too simple a problem. If you -- you take your external hard drive, you plug it into your notebook computer and it backs everything up onto the hard drive, and you take that same hard drive over your desktop and that doesn't work?
TOMRight. Right. It won't...
GILROYMaybe it's full. Is it full?
TOMOn the desktop -- on the laptop? Yeah...
GILROYOn the external hard drive.
TOMIt -- it's pretty -- no, the external got plenty of room on it. And it had backed it up some -- maybe a year ago.
TOMBut for the last six months, I've kept -- I keep going back to trying things. But you think I make this empty, start with just moving individual files.
GILROYIt seems like there's gotta be some kind of a -- maybe a bit was set, saying, okay, this is a backup for this machine, and that's how the software works. And maybe there's a limitation to the software as far as just backing -- you can't back up multiple machines.
HARLOWRight. If you're able to move files and maybe the software is not running, it could just be some sort of issue with the installation of that software on that laptop, too.
DRUINMmm. That's a very good point.
TOMI think that's it. So just moving it with individual files that I need may be easier.
GILROYThat's the best way. Drag it over there and it's much easier than all of this -- so many extra files you're not gonna need anyway, especially in a Windows program. Just take a little folder, bang, move it over there.
NNAMDITom, thank you very much for your call.
TOMAll right. Thanks.
NNAMDIWe move on to Nate in Sterling, Va. Nate, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
NATEHi. Thanks for taking my call. I really enjoy your show. I hope you can hear me okay. I'm actually using...
NNAMDIWe hear you very well.
NATE...a Jawbone Icon, so...
NATEIt's problematic with the beard sometimes, but anyway.
DRUINI'm good. I don't have a beard. It's okay. (laugh)
NATEWell, right. My concern was about iPad. And, I mean, I listen to your show all the time. And I keep hearing recommendations about iPad, you know, replacing everything. But it's always been my experience that the iOS devices absolutely require another computer to synch to. So I'm just having trouble with the recommendation. I was wondering if you guys could say something to that.
HARLOWYeah. I mean, you're right. If you wanna link -- synch it back, everything up, you need to have a laptop or desktop to hook it up to and back everything up. For a lot of users who we've recommended them to, a lot of times they either already have that, or in the case of the person who called earlier, it sounds like the needs were so simple that I don't necessarily think, you know, you would have to back up to be able to use it. Then there are other things, too, like, you know, MobileMe or Google services where things like, you know, calendars and contacts and mail are backed up to the cloud, too.
HARLOWSo you have that if you have insurance. But you're right. If you're doing things like going to the App Store and buying a movie and you put on your iPad and the iPad gets stolen or you drop it, you have to buy that movie again.
DRUINYeah, I know. It's definitely -- the iPad is definitely for much more of a consumer type of person that is -- that really is concerned with also screen quality, as well as just playing around with it for more entertainment, reading. But it's definitely not a workhorse.
NNAMDIThank you for your call, Nate. We can go to David in Silver Spring, Md. David, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DAVIDYes. Two -- well, several different points. One is that, given physical access to a machine, you can almost always break through the passwords of it, and that's, of course, to be noted for not only for laptops, but also desktops and cell phones these days.
NNAMDII can't do that. (laugh)
NNAMDIDavid apparently can. But go ahead, please, David.
DAVIDYeah. And then -- did you hear me?
NNAMDIYes, we're still hearing you.
DAVIDOkay. And then the other thing is that I know that there's also equipments that's available out there that can remotely detect what you're typing on your keyboard, as well as display what is being shown on the laptop screen.
DAVIDIt's not inexpensive, but it is available and it has been used against me.
DAVIDYeah, honestly. Even on a brand spanking new laptop fresh out the box. Then thirdly, on the marketplace the other night, they were mentioning that you can now buy cell phone -- effectively fake cell phone towers and equipment for about $1,200. So you can force someone's cell phone to connect to a fake cell phone tower and therefore monitor all the traffic going through.
GILROYMan-in-the-middle. It's a classic.
DAVIDYeah. And so that -- so I just wanted to bring -- for $1,200, that's, you know, that's within the realm of reason. I'm -- as far as this equipment for doing a remote -- I mean, they have to be within physical, you know, probably line of sight distance of the machine to be able to use that other equipment for viewing...
DAVID...stuff on the screen and detecting the passwords that are being typed on the keyboard.
NNAMDIDavid, here's John Gilroy.
GILROYYeah. Do you work for an agency with three letters in it, by any chance?
DAVIDI don't work for a federal agency.
GILROY(laugh) I'm just trying to be...
NNAMDIWell, thank you very much for those warnings.
DAVIDHowever, I can tell you that all this stuff is available, apparently, on the open market. And given the amount of...
DRUINThe world is a dark horrible place.
DAVIDGiven enough time and money, anything is possible, practically speaking.
NNAMDIOkay. David, thank you very much for that warning and for your call. I wanted to get to Denise in Washington, D.C., who may have what may be a fairly common problem. Denise, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DENISEHi. Thanks for taking my call. I have a Facebook page that I don't use. I set it up a couple of years ago and it's up there. So a couple of weeks ago it was hacked. I got a call from a friend who said my email -- or my Facebook chat sent her a request for money. I was in London and stranded and needed help to get home.
GILROYOh, a new scam.
DRUINThat's not new.
DENISESo as a result, I had to change passwords, both to that site as well as to my associated email site.
NNAMDIYeah, we've discussed that scam before on the --
NNAMDI…on our Tech Tuesday in this broadcast.
NNAMDIWhat did you do about it?
DENISEThere was nothing I could do but change the password as it requested. And because I don't use it, I have not turned it back on since, except to put a note up there that said I have not ever -- nor will I ever -- ask for money from you for anything. And this was obviously a scam. But the second piece of that question is -- and this is what I told the woman that was -- that took my call -- that what I'm finding is Groupon and all these other people, like, want you to log in using your Facebook password.
DENISEAnd I'm just -- I'm beyond peeved. I don't wanna use Facebook. I don't wanna tie into this whole social world. And even as I said I have a page, but I just -- I can't stand it. And...
DENISE...and I feel like if I want to participate in these other sites, then I have to be a part of the Facebook world.
HARLOWI mean, I'm a Facebook user and I don't even like that.
GILROYYeah. You know, there's a company called Cyveillance. And what they do for large organizations, they take high-level executives and they search the Internet, making sure that...
GILROY...there weren't phony accounts set up just for this. I mean, it's a terrible situation. I think all we can do is float and see what happens the next year or two because this is gonna happen more and more.
DRUINYeah. And you're right to say, you know what? I'm swearing off Facebook. I mean, if it doesn't work for you, then you shouldn't deal with it. And if they only will take your Facebook information, then maybe it's not for you.
HARLOWI mean, that's what I feel, too. If there's not an alternative log in, then they're not getting my business.
NNAMDIDenise, thank you very much for your call. Another reason you might not wanna use Facebook, we posted a picture on our Facebook page of Pirate Bill and we got a response from Greg -- Greg who said, awr, he'd be a fine-looking pirate. But if you can't fix the computer, make him walk the plank like a scurvy dog.
GILROYScurvy dog? I like that.
HARLOWThis is why we can't use Facebook, people. Get off the grid while you still can.
NNAMDIThat's Pirate Bill Harlow. He's a former Mac genius.
HARLOWPirate Bill Harlow. Aye, matey. (laugh)
NNAMDIHe now works on PCs and MACs with Mid-Atlantic Consulting. Allison Druin is associate dean for research in the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland, where she also directs the Human-Computer Interaction Lab. And John Gilroy is director of business development at Armature Corporation. Together, they are the Computer Guys & Gal. Thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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