Airline profits are soaring but passengers feel squeezed. We explore the economics of flying as the busy summer travel season takes off.
Tech titans are bringing their “A-games” this summer. A much-hyped streaming music service has arrived in America, via Europe. Early adopters are flocking to the new social network “Google+,” despite concerns about “not safe for work” content. And Apple is cracking down on knock-off stores in China. It’s the first Tech Tuesday of the month and the Computer Guys and Gal are back.
- Bill Harlow WAMU Computer Guy; and Hardware & Software Technician for MACs & PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc.
- John Gilroy WAMU Resident Computer Guy; and Director of Business Development, Armature Corporation
- Allison Druin WAMU's Computer Gal; ADVANCE Professor and Associate Dean for Research at the College of Information Studies, University of Maryland
Items Heard on Today’s Show
Counterfeit Apple Stores
The End Of Unlimited Data Plans
Interesting Developments With Touch Screens
- Toyota’s “Window to the Word” where the back window is converted into a see-through, touch-screen device capable of allowing people, likely children, to draw images with their finger, magnify objects they see outside the car and much more
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5, at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. It's the Computer Guys & Gal time. They are here, the Computer Guys & Gal, to ponder an existential question. What does it mean when a private technology company has more money in the bank than the United States government?
MR. KOJO NNAMDIThis weekend, as Washington teetered dangerously close to its debt ceiling, the government's cash on hand dwindled to $73 billion, a shade less than the piles of money currently sitting in Apple's bank account, which, of course, raises the question, what can our political leaders learn from big tech companies?
MR. KOJO NNAMDIMaybe Speaker Boehner and President Obama should ditch the suits and embrace the black turtleneck or the grungy hoodie, but I digress. Since the Computer Guys & Gal are not experts either in fashion or in politics, except, except for Allison Druin....
PROF. ALLISON DRUINThank you.
NNAMDIWhat they do know is technology. They'll explain why Google+ is growing faster than Facebook or Twitter, why Verizon is ditching its all-you-can-eat data plans and how you can get a free Xbox if you buy a computer this month. Our computer guy is John Gilroy is a WAMU resident computer guy and director of business development at Armature Corporation. John, always a pleasure.
MR. JOHN GILROYGreetings on this toasty day. Very toasty out there.
NNAMDIBill Harlow is a hardware and software technician for MACs and PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting Incorporated. Bill, always a pleasure to see you.
MR. BILL HARLOWLikewise.
NNAMDIAnd Allison Druin is an ADVANCE professor and associate dean...
NNAMDI...and associate dean...
HARLOWHe just make them up every week.
GILROYCall me in a half hour.
NNAMDI...in the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland College Park.
NNAMDIAllison, always a pleasure to see you, and it's the truth this time.
DRUINOh, thank you so much.
GILROYWell, no citizen will agree with that.
DRUINJealousy coming out, John, because your titles don't grow every month. Come on.
NNAMDIBill, over the last few decades, tech companies have complained about the rampant pirating in China, whether it's phony versions of Windows or fake iPhones. But this month, we learned that counterfeiters in Kunming, China, have taken it to another level.
NNAMDIAn entire fake Apple store?
HARLOWThat's a fact. Apparently, several within a few blocks, and they've got the Apple logo. They've got staff are wearing these attractive blue shirts with just a simple Apple on them and the little hanging nametags. They've got beautiful white walls and a statement staircase in the middle.
HARLOWMinimalist, yeah. And they sell...
DRUINThere you go. And they think they work for Apple, too.
HARLOWYeah, yeah, some of them think they work for Apple.
HARLOWWell, they sell, like, real Apple products, but these are fake stores. I'd like to go just to see that. That would be great.
DRUINOh, my goodness.
HARLOWBecause there are little details, too, like Apple always has their iconic logo on the facade. That's it. And this one actually has label. It actually spells out Apple Store, and they don't do that. So little things like that. But, you know, a lot of people shopping there think they're buying Apple products from a real Apple store with, you know, the full warranty and service and whatever.
DRUINBut I hear their service is actually better than here in the United States. I was hearing tweets from people in China, saying, oh, my gosh, they'll replace, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, for free. I'm going, oh, we should all go to China.
HARLOWSo, basically, as long as you could shop at illegal places, great service.
NNAMDIThis is like my friend who used to sell watches up and down his arm that were named...
DRUINThere you. It's sad.
NNAMDI...Abulova (sp?) ...
NNAMDI...as opposed to Bulova.
HARLOWAnd then you look at it, and it says, Bolivia. You go, wait a minute.
NNAMDIIs there anything Apple can do about this?
HARLOWOh, I'm sure they're looking into it. I mean, as far as I know, since that was posted, there have been some visits from actual law enforcement in China. Sure that they're going to be cracked down in these on a case by case basis. And given that Apple actually does have an official presence in China, I'm sure it's not going to last forever.
NNAMDIIf you'd like to join this conversation with the Computer Guys & Gal, call us at 800-433-8850. Or better yet, you can keep up with the conversation on Twitter by using the Tech Tuesday hash tag. 800-433-8850, Tech Tuesday hash tag, or send us email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
NNAMDIJohn Gilroy, remember when we used phones to make phone calls? Well, it turns out that those days are rapidly fading in the rearview mirror. Today, it would appear almost 40 percent of all mobile traffic is video.
GILROYIsn't that incredible? I saw the statistic. I couldn't believe it. So, you know, I understand -- when my wife got a smartphone, it was a month before she called anyone with it. I understand that. But, you know, the reason statistics show that about 40 percent of traffic for video has gone mobile. And so this is changing so many aspects of the marketing world, of people trying to sell stuff and communicating with people. I mean, it's just -- it's overwhelming.
GILROYAnd now, if you -- the further statistic is that one-third of Americans have smartphones. And so, I guess, how many Americans aren't looking at a video on their smartphones is the real question, huh?
HARLOWWell, just the data in general. I mean, if I drop a call, you know, on AT&T, I don't really care. But when my data stalls, that's a big deal.
GILROYOh, that's a problem.
DRUINOh, it's so true. But, you know, and this is -- it is giving impact, though, to the carriers themselves, so even AT&T is saying now that they're going to slow down 5 percent of their largest users. Now, American public, please don't panic. This is like, you know, if you consume four gig a day or four gig a month or something...
NNAMDIIf you happen to be among that 5 percent, yeah.
DRUINRight. It will matter to you. They will slow you down.
HARLOWIt's going to matter with time, though. Consumption will continue to go up, you know?
HARLOWSo at some point, they are going to come to a head.
DRUINYeah, and, actually, I think they're going to end up having to come back to looking at the policies about this as well. I mean, are they really allowed to slow down those top 5 percent?
GILROYAnd on top of that is, is like -- Kojo, last week, had to call suicide hotline 'cause he found out that they're going to start tapping the limit of his phone.
HARLOWWith Verizon, yeah.
GILROYVerizon, ever start doing it -- I was going to say -- here's the minimum, and it's going to start costing you more and more to do this. So...
NNAMDIThey're changing their data plans. AT&T has long since jettisoned its all-you-can-eat data plan, and now Verizon is following suit.
GILROYAnd everyone is going to follow suit. What's going to happen is....
HARLOWWhat do you call these? These all-you-should-eat data plans?
DRUINOh, buffets make you fat. Come on. It's all right.
GILROYYeah, so it's -- I think it's going to change. I think we may look back at the good, old days, back in 2010 when you could -- Kojo could watch a movie on his handheld device and before they started charging crazy prices. But that should pull out for more competition, but we'll just have to wait and see.
NNAMDIRemember, Bill, when we used to watch movies on VHS or DVDs, when we listened to music on CDs. We gradually got used to the idea of storing our music on our computer. But now, a whole host of companies are competing to get us to buy into a new kind of service, streaming music. A lot of people may be familiar with Pandora, but, last week, we talked about the arrival of Spotify.
HARLOWYes. So it was big in Europe for a while. And, essentially, it's a jukebox online with streaming music. You sign up for a free account. I think right now you have to request an invitation, so you have to get behind the velvet rope before you can enjoy this. But once you do, I think they're saying about 15 million music tracks are available. And, unlike Pandora, you have some control over this. You can actually search. You can build playlists.
HARLOWYou can share these playlists with friends. So it's really catered to you. You can really make this into sort of an iTunes in the clouds sort of thing. So I don't know if it's going to necessarily replace buying music. But I think for a lot of people, you know, you're out there with your mobile device or at work with your computer and you're like, you know what, I really want to hear this one song that I don't have anywhere. You now have access to that. So...
NNAMDIFifteen million songs.
HARLOWAnd growing, and growing.
NNAMDIIncludes the 10 songs you know, John.
GILROYOh, that's exaggerating.
NNAMDIThis month, Netflix announced that it would be changing the way it charges customers for streaming movies. Explain.
GILROYSo they are now offering DVD-only plan. I think, before, you could get a streaming-only plan or a DVD plan plus streaming.
HARLOWThat's what I have.
GILROYSo they're breaking them apart, and I think the idea behind this is they're probably seeing a lot of people who, even if they are like me, where they have the ability to check out a couple discs per month, those have sat on my coffee table for, like, two seasons...
GILROYAnd whenever I want to watch a movie, it's like, you know what? I'll watch one of these whenever. It's sitting there. I wonder what's new on the streaming segment.
GILROYI mean, that was a bold move. I mean, suppose Ford decide to double the price of their car. I mean, that was a very bold move. Someone could have gotten fired over that, but the American audience didn't respond. I think that was a (word?). I couldn't believe it.
HARLOWI guarantee they know. They know exactly how long I've had those discs sitting on my table unused. So they're like...
GILROYSo you're the cause of all this.
HARLOWSo you're looking at people like me and say, okay, he is just -- let's give him a streaming-only plan. And he's -- he'll drop DVDs entirely, which is what I'll do when September rolls around. And then there are other people where they probably will continue to get physical discs because they probably can't get good enough broadband or other reasons. But that's probably one of them.
NNAMDIDo you use Netflix or other streaming services? What's your take on this? You can call us at 800-433-8850. Let us know what you're thinking on Twitter. Just use the Tech Tuesday hash tag. You can also go to our website, kojoshow.org. Join the conversation there or send email to email@example.com. Allison, is it too soon to talk about back to school sales and deals, perhaps?
NNAMDIBut there are some really interesting tech sales going on right now, are they not?
GILROYAs a parent, it's never too soon to talk about back to school.
DRUINNever too soon to talk about sales, my loves. Okay. So listen to this. Back to school, it's actually -- in fact, most colleges -- the college students are going to be coming back in a few weeks, so buy your MacBooks now or buy your HPs now. Basically, from Apple, you can buy a MacBook or a Mac desktop, and you can get a $100 gift card for the app store.
DRUINBut with HP and Dell, you can get -- if you buy one of their laptops for a certain amount of money, you can get a Microsoft 4G Xbox. And in, actually, HP's case, you can also -- you could also opt for a free printer and flash drive. So I tell you, it's a great deal.
HARLOWShe thinks students should buy Xboxes when they attend universities. Is that a good move?
GILROYIf you want to make some friends, yeah.
DRUINIf you want to make friends, actually, buy the -- no, I mean, it's very interesting because what's going on is that the PC manufacturers are seeing that tablets are really growing. The netbooks are dying. And so, now, their -- the sales are fab for students who really do need the keyboards and the printers and so on. So...
HARLOWI think every year or two, Apple does something like this right before school seasons starts, either a free iPod or, you know, some money offer something. And plus, if you're getting MacBook Air, now is the time to do it since they've just updated them. So that's the time, the cycle to pick one up.
DRUINOh, absolutely. Yeah, so -- and even with Kindle. Kindle's prices are going down, too. And so, I know, John, you don't believe in these online book things, but even so, you can get your Kindle now for $50 less because AT&T is a lead sponsor. You get ads, but (unintelligible).
NNAMDIJohn is an online book atheist?
DRUINHe doesn't believe in books.
NNAMDIIs there a specific time of year that makes sense to shop for a new computer?
GILROYYou know, I guess in the business world -- that's just my bias, and I have a bias to it -- it's -- there's no good time. I think just...
HARLOWWhen you need it, basically.
GILROYYeah, you know, I mean, in my world, people buy HPs, notebooks, and everything's somewhere in the cloud somewhere. So it really doesn't matter. I mean, in my world, people change notebooks, and they can change in half hour, in just half hour, 30 seconds maybe, to swap it out. And so it's a different question in my world. There are questions -- my world evolves around security and compliance and all kinds of boring things...
GILROY...that listeners don't want to hear, but my world is a little different.
NNAMDIWell, we got an email from David, who says, "I'm a long time Verizon Wireless customer, the primary line owner with two lines under me. If we upgrade the mobile phones, will we lose our unlimited data plans?"
HARLOWAs far as I know, they'll grandfather you in as long you're on a current plan. There is a -- the deadline to get on Verizon at all, to make sure you still had an unlimited plan was, I think, around mid-July. So as long as you were subscribing to an existing unlimited plan, you should be safe.
GILROYI think if you look at what the plan is all about, is they're trying to keep people in their bundle. I mean, that's the target, to try to figure out, okay, Kojo, he's got a specific bundle. We're trying to focus on have him keep that and Allison trying -- whenever...
HARLOWYeah, they want to retain you. And if they look at you and you're not costing them money, they want to keep you.
GILROYAnd so the...
HARLOWEven people who have landlines at home, they want to retain that. Whatever they can do or add something, it's just -- it's going for the dollars. And so I think it's very negotiable.
NNAMDIAllison, there may be real deals out there for computers, but for smartphones, not so much. There are plenty of advertisements, advertisements -- tomato, tomato -- talking about...
NNAMDI...talking about free phones. But you say we should beware of the hidden cost.
DRUINYeah, there's so many people that say, look, I got a free phone. Okay.
DRUINWhat was your package? Did you have to sign up for the next 200 years for that? I mean, it -- so you got to be really careful or -- you know, or I'll just buy the data pack with it. I mean, the data pack could cost you five iPhones' worth compared to what you're dealing with, you know, just getting a feature phone or, you know, one that's not a smartphone kind of thing. So be really careful about what you sign up for.
NNAMDIAre you suggesting that nothing is ever really free?
DRUINNo. I'm afraid so.
HARLOWMy mind is blown.
GILROYI will start crying right now.
HARLOWI'm questioning reality right now.
DRUINIt's all about sales, my love. This is not true.
HARLOWWe've seen past the veil.
NNAMDIHere is Vee (sp?) in Falls Church, Va. Vee, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
VEEHi there. I'm calling from a cell phone, which is apparently strange now, but...
GILROYNo one uses those.
DRUINWhy aren't you texting?
VEEI'm sorry. I couldn't email or text.
VEEBut my main question is for streaming music for, like, Sony Qriocity and everything and the new Pandora stuff. What's to stop me from just going on YouTube and setting up playlists of videos of music, you know, that have the lyrics written on the video?
NNAMDINothing that I know of.
HARLOWYeah, I mean, they're out there. Just not that convenient. You know, the ideas of things like Qriocity or Spotify or Pandora is that, you know, they're a lot more convenient. They're somewhat catered to your taste. It's less leg work. And, you know, for me, personally, that's what I wanted. I don't want to sit there and hunt these things down and look for the videos with the lyrics printed in them.
GILROYAnd, you know, they change, too. You might see it there today. Go back a week from now, and it's no longer available 'cause, you know, the rights holders can't catch everything. But they catch a lot of it.
NNAMDIAnd I got to tell you, Vee, we got a tweet from @PaintsNature, who says, "You may be underestimating the impact Spotify will make. I see people switching to it from other services in droves." Anybody else having that experience?
GILROYWell, is this the soup du jour? Is this the technology du jour? Spotify this month, and in six months now, it's going to be kojosounds.com?
DRUINAnd you said that about Twitter, my lovey, so I'm going to play that clip someday.
GILROYAnd something about a lot of things. It's just -- what's next? I mean, I know a person in Northern Virginia who got all of their books, all of their CDs, everything in all digital, threw them all out. She doesn't want to even...
NNAMDIWell, let me explain to you about six months.
NNAMDIIn today's technological environment, that's a decade.
GILROYAnd so there could be Kojo Sounds. There's a new way to get it. Get rid of your Spotify.
HARLOWI mean, I think it won't be due to consumer popularity if Spotify doesn't take off. It's gotten traction in Europe. It'll get traction here. The issue is going to be, I think, are artists getting paid? 'Cause everything I've heard is that the ad supported model isn't really working out for a lot of -- especially the smaller, independent guys. They're making, like, five bucks after, like, you know, 50,000 plays.
HARLOWSo they need to get a lot of paid subscribers. They need to take off that way. And maybe it depends on what generation you're from. For me, I'm still with a mindset that I want to own a lot of my music. So this would be in addition to what I currently have. Maybe other...
HARLOWExactly. Maybe other people will be like, you know what? I don't buy CDs. I just subscribe.
DRUINThis is about music in the cloud, love. It's all about a new business model. And you just have to get comfortable, and you have to just say change is good.
HARLOWNo, I need my things. I need my things. I like physical objects, or they don't exist.
NNAMDIThat owning stuff history. We've got to take a short break. When we come back, we will continue with The Computer Guys & Gal. And, of course, you can join the conversation by calling us at 800-433-8850. Or keep up with it on Twitter by using the Tech Tuesday hashtag. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to The Computer Guys & Gal. John Gilroy is director of business development at Armature Corporation. Allison Druin is ADVANCE professor and associate dean for research in the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland, and Bill Harlow is a hardware and software technician for MACs and PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Incorporated. You can call us at 800-433-8850.
NNAMDIOr just use the Tech Tuesday hashtag to join the conversation on Twitter. John Gilroy, over the last few years, we've been seeing this explosion on sales for smartphones, Androids, Blackberries, iPods, but as we become more used to accessing the Web in our phones, some people are dreaming of ditching their computers completely and cutting the computer umbilical cord.
GILROYYeah, it's a strange little graph we have here. What we have is that people like Allison have a computer at home, maybe computer at work, and maybe have a supplemental smartphone, okay, or you or Bill or a typical listener. But at a certain point in the spectrum, there are poor people that can't afford desktops. And their phone or device is going to be smartphone.
GILROYSo at what point in time are people getting away from standard desktops and moving more to smartphones? And if on third of Americans have smartphones now, and people prefer to get information that way, it's a shift. I just think -- but people in universities, people who study software development, they need that keyboard, and they need that specific precise control. So...
DRUINYeah, but I haven't had a desktop in, possibly, like, five years.
GILROYWell, you don't write software, do you?
DRUINWell, actually, I do, actually, with my students.
DRUINBut the interesting thing is I don't have a desk. I got rid of that long ago.
HARLOWOh, yeah, she got rid of the desk (unintelligible) desktop.
HARLOWSo poor Ben's sitting there, holding the computer. Where's the desk? I got rid of the desk.
DRUINI got the laptop. I just do the laptop and the cell phone. So, yeah, it's so last century, that desktop.
NNAMDIHere is Ellen in Berryville, Va. Ellen, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ELLENHi. We have a Netflix account, and I wanted to mention not only are they tracking those when gathering dust in your living room. But one day I went to watch an episode of "King of the Hill," and Netflix said, we're sorry. But you've got too many devices turned on right now. I turned around and looked at the house.
HARLOWHuh, I haven't seen that one. And I would know 'cause I do that.
ELLENI went, wait a minute. What are you...
ELLENAnd they said, well, you're watching "King of the Hill," and you're -- something downstairs, which my son was. And you're watching an episode of "Glee" on your PSP player. I said, well, I don't have a PSP player. How is this happening? And it turned out that somebody had hacked into my account and had been watching all sorts of wonderful things on their PSP player, whatever.
ELLENAnd I was wondering how -- at some point, the broadband's got to go down. It's their -- you know, everybody could, on one account, could be hacking in and watching all these things. And it turned out to be my son's friend, who is this big, burly 18-year-old, and we've had no end of fun with that thing, watching "Glee" online.
DRUINOh, my goodness.
NNAMDIGlad to hear about that, Ellen. A lot of people have been in touch with us about Netflix. We got a tweet from Atchon (sp?) tweets, "I'm keeping my Netflix plan. Some good movies just aren't available to stream."
HARLOWThat is true.
NNAMDIThen we got an email from Mark, who says, "The streaming-only DVD -- the streaming-only and DVD versions of Netflix aren't really comparable because the streaming version only offers a fraction of the material you can get via DVDs in the mail.
NNAMDI"Can you talk about Netflix's challenge of getting the rights to more material, so that they can round out their streaming catalogue?" I guess he makes a good point there.
HARLOWOkay. He does, and, for me, you know, that has been a problem in some ways. But I'm pretty flexible. I'll find something to watch. You know, maybe not the original movie, or if it's not there, there's a good chance, if it's a new release, I can walk one block to the Redbox around the corner from me and find it on physical disc there.
HARLOWBut it seems like, with a lot of this stuff, too, there -- a lot of the rights holders really don't want you watching, especially the really, high quality version of the content, anywhere near a computer. So if you're watching it on your Mac or your PC, you might, you know, in some cases, you only get the SD version.
HARLOWSo you have to have your PlayStation, your Xbox, your TiVo hooked up to actually watch it with surround sound and 1080p.
GILROYBy the way, if you're looking for a movie, a good movie is "Kill the Irishman." It's a very good movie about the East Side (word?) 1970s.
HARLOWCan I stream it?
GILROYYes, you can.
GILROYThere's that movie of the week.
NNAMDIIt's also available streaming, it's my understanding.
GILROYI assume it is. It's a good movie.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. Facebook is still the undisputed top dog when it comes to social networking sites, but Google's latest attempt to break into social media, Google+, has already registered some pretty impressive growth.
GILROYThis is a high stakes chess match we're playing out here. Very, very interesting. So, Microsoft, take a look over from Facebook. Facebook explodes, and so what do they do? So they go ahead, and they spend billions of dollars. And they buy Skype. That's interesting. Oh, by the way, Microsoft owns a little bit of Facebook. Isn't that interesting? So they're going to move all these chess players.
GILROYThey're going to move their Skype and their rook or their bishop, their Facebooks and start incorporating it into Facebook. And what happens is Google's, oh, yeah, well, watch this. We're going to come up with Google+. And Google+ goes from nothing to 20 million in 24 days. It's phenomenal because it took 1,000 days for Twitter and Facebook, so this is a very high stakes chess game being played out here.
HARLOWWell, interesting, though, because Facebook, they kind of started -- I mean, when they first came out to the public, it was Face-who? You know, Google had billions of users already using their stuff, so they send that invite and say, hey, you want to try this out? They're going to at least try. I'm curious about how active people are in there 'cause when I go in Google+...
NNAMDIWell, they're trying it. They're clearly trying it, Allison.
HARLOWI've logged in twice.
NNAMDIBut now that people have had some time to kick the tires and play around with the service, they're beginning to notice a few problems.
DRUINYeah, I know. It's interesting because it actually -- it does take more time to, first of all, set the thing up, okay, because you have to create your circles of friends, which is actually really good...
HARLOWIt's the best way to visualize.
DRUINIt's a wonderful way to visualize and for privacy purposes and such, but they're finding that people -- you know, the more users they get...
HARLOWDoesn't work me, though. I can't be labeled.
DRUINI won't go there. But that they're having a problem with returned visits -- returned visitors. And that it's -- that they're trying to say, okay, now that I've got the steam going, how they can keep getting people to come back? And so, basically -- but you got to remember, this is only in beta, folks. And they learned their lesson from Google Buzz. They don't -- they're still not going to be opening this up for a little bit.
DRUINBut with -- but only in beta, 20 million, that's pretty good. Now, the problem is, though, they got -- some of these features are going like wildfire. So there is something called Google+ likes, this little plus one thing. You know, basically, it's sort of you just click on it, and it says you like it. Well, it turns out that there are people selling these little plus ones, all right? Why?
GILROYBill, doesn't have any friends, but he can buy some.
DRUINWell, it's like (word?) or some of these other things is, you know, sort of voting it up. But, well, it turns out that people figured out that not only will this get more promotion and more people going, oh, that's really wonderful, but it may even change page rank in terms of Google search. So now, you've got companies like Google+1 Supply, Buy Google+1.
DRUINI mean, these are all companies that are actually getting people with Google accounts, okay? So $250 per 1,000 pluses, so in other words, I pay you, Sir Bill, okay? And you go and press this thing 1,000 times. But you can't do it in a certain way. They're being very sneaky. Can't do it.
HARLOWBut this is the exact opposite of what Google wants. Google wants organic popularity.
HARLOWThis is the exact opposite. So how can they respond?
HARLOWThey're used to people gaming the system. This is nothing new. They'll figure something out. It'll be a constant cat-and-mouse game, too.
DRUINRight. Well, they're actually not -- they're not doing anything about it just yet. And it's interesting because part of it is that they do want a little bit of promotion for this. So we'll see what happens. But, yeah, it's not all love fest and daisies, but it is actually -- bless you, sir.
HARLOWBless you, Kojo.
NNAMDIThank you. Go ahead.
DRUINSo anyway -- so -- but for a beta product, it's not doing too bad. They haven't had any major missteps, like Google Buzz. And, you know, I get to hang out with Bill a little bit, and, eventually, John will get on. He did his first tweet the other day. I'm very excited.
GILROYI sure did.
NNAMDIHere is Jessie in Leesburg, Va. Jessie, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JESSIEYeah, I have a comment about Google+. I have just recently started using it. And the thing that I found the most interesting is the integration with the Android phone where it automatically uploads all your photos and things. And I somewhat disagree about the ease of setting it up. My father and, you know, I have a small child, and I use Facebook to share photos with family and friends. And I find Google+ as much better for my family members because if they have Android phones, the notification system is a lot better.
JESSIEAnd the biggest problem with it right now, though, is if it's social networking a friend, the invite system is killing them, because the reason people don't use it a lot is because if they share something, but only four of your friends are on there, it doesn't really work.
HARLOWYeah, that's an interesting point. I mean, you've got -- it's a beta, so they still got to test it. And they got to face the roll up. But you're right, I mean, a social network is only as good as the social networks. So not -- if everybody you know isn't there yet, then it is of limited appeal.
DRUINWell, and when I meant the ease of use, Jessie, I meant that I got so into it, it actually is a really good user interface. I get so into it, I spent, like, two-and-a-half hours one night just setting up the thing. So, no, it's not hard. It's just -- it's like eating potato chips. You can, like, spend too much time.
GILROYYou'll never have that time again. My goodness gracious.
DRUINI know. Exactly.
NNAMDIWell, we got a tweet at hashtag Tech Tuesday, saying, "I finally got invited to Google+. Now, what?"
NNAMDIWell, one thing we can tell you is that that Google function that allows you to group your friends into circles has apparently caught the eye of the more literate techies among us, who saw an amusing parallel to the "Divine Comedy." To quote @pheezy, "Dante organized people he knew into circles, too."
HARLOWCircles, too, yeah.
NNAMDIIt turned out that @pheezy wasn't the only one who saw the Dante reference. Some people imagine his different circles for all the sins of gluttony, lust, traitors, heretics and, of course, limbo.
NNAMDIOh, well. What do we have here? Anything else on Netflix? No, no, no, no, no, not Netflix. We have from @TechTuesday, "The rise of touch screen tablets and fall of netbooks, laptops for a blind vision impaired user is a scary proposition."
NNAMDIAllison, last year, we did explore accessible technology design, and we spoke with your colleague Jonathan Lazar who is a professor of computer and information services at Towson University. We're going to tweet that link out right now. But for those people who are scared of the rise of touch screen tablets and the fall of notebooks, what can you said -- what can you tell them?
DRUINIt turns out that, actually, tablets are more flexible than netbooks. And, in fact, we even had a listener who was vision impaired, and, actually, the tablet -- they called in, and we suggested -- actually, between Bill and I, we suggested going with an iPad. And they called back and said they were really -- it just really works for them. So it depends on your disability. You know, any technology is not universally perfect for everyone.
DRUINSo you've got to do your homework. You got to try it out. And -- but -- and Jonathan does some fabulous research in trying to understand what are the pros and cons of different foreign factors for that. But don't be worried. It just gives us more options to serve more people with technology.
HARLOWI actually think it's pretty cool that you can, you know, that if you're vision impaired, you can use an iPad and have a pretty good audio interface. And this is just an off-the-shelf product. There's nothing specialized about it, which I think is huge.
DRUINThat's right. Absolutely. Absolutely.
NNAMDIGoogle says it wants Google+ to be a child-safe space, so it has relatively rigid rules preventing adult content. For example, Picasa, Google's photo site, bars any and all nudity. But some artist and some people involved with racier content on the Web say it's unfair and unworkable to have a blanket policy without user controls. What say you?
DRUINYou know, I mean, this is -- you know, I make technologies for kids, and I think it's really important that we do think about kids. And we don't think about kids enough. But, on the other hand, I'm all about making sure that we support all types of users. So the question is, you know, people have got to be sensitive to different user groups. And, you know, even though I'm not one of those user groups, you know, you got to think about it.
GILROYI like kids. I like them boiled. I'm not lying.
DRUINYou're so special. John, whoever said -- anyway...
GILROYWell, Mozart was a kid. He didn't have all this stuff. He turned out okay. Come on. A lot of smart people turned out without all this junk.
NNAMDIJohn, I have two for you. We just got a call from Jeremiah, who offered a year of oil changes...
NNAMDI...to anyone at this table if they would come and work on his computer, so, John, (unintelligible).
DRUINJohn, I think it's you.
GILROYI just had my oil changed this morning (unintelligible).
HARLOWI can get my own oil, so that's all you.
NNAMDISorry, Jeremiah. John just had an oil change. Here's another one for you, Bob in Olney, Md. You're on the air, Bob. Go ahead, please.
BOBWell, the reason I called was it sounds to me as though your guests are not having a good enough time, so I thought...
GILROYYeah, it's all Kojo's fault.
BOBTo give you an idea on who you're talking to, I still have a great turntable and a dynamite vinyl collection that I really, really (word?).
GILROYGroovy, dude, groovy. Do you go to disco on Friday night, too?
NNAMDIBut go ahead, Bob.
BOBAnyway, I'm -- the thing I've never able -- been able to figure out is the complexity of computers and how to buy them. And I think I -- though I hate to admit it, I'm one of those dinosaurs for whom things are just moving a little too fast. My wife has a Droid, and the thing can do anything. I think when the last shuttle went off, NASA checked in with her.
BOBI, on the other hand, am using a cell phone that just makes telephone calls. I went in to buy another phone. And when I explained that to the salesperson, she looked at me like I'd just grown another head.
NNAMDIYep, I can understand that.
BOBSo the thing I'm worried about, of course, is that one day soon technology may be so pervasive, and I'm not going to understand any of this. And I'm going to be afraid to leave my own home.
NNAMDIYou know, well, actually it's getting more user friendly, even as we speak, Bob. And for people like you, who say you don't understand the terms RAM or gig, that may not be as important in the future as it is. So, John Gilroy, tell Bob what RAM and gig are.
GILROYWell, the Unabomber had a response to this. Go find a cabin in the woods somewhere.
DRUINNo, no, no...
GILROYNo. It's going to become a lot -- it's no doubt about it. I mean, we used to get on the air 10, 15, 20 years ago and have to explain modems and serial ports, parallel ports. That was the show. It was, how do I get my modem to work and the transition to IPV4, IPV6? And now it's user interface. It's all changed. It's made more and more -- easier and easier and easier.
HARLOWYes. Less how to hook this up and more, hey, what are some cool apps I can use on this thing?
GILROYAnd, Bob, what's happening now is even someone as stodgy as the federal government, you can go to vaccines.gov and the person that designed that website, they designed it to be mobile friendly because they -- their audience wants information on handheld devices. So it's just going to happen, whether you like it or not. I guess (unintelligible).
NNAMDIBob, all you have to do is to tell the salesperson exactly what it is you want to do.
DRUINThat's right. And...
BOBWell, it's a funny thing you should mention that because not too long ago I went shopping for a new computer. Now, keep in mind I know how to navigate around, you know, through the Web, and I can get through Word and Excel. And I know enough to get in and get out without starting a border incident of some kind.
BOBBut I went shopping for a new computer not too long ago, and the salesperson got a hold of me. And it was like they were speaking Ukrainian. And when I said, I really don't understand this, the guy next to me who was looking at another computer said, you know, my 6-year-old has to explain this stuff to me.
DRUINBut, you know, Bob, that's what family members are for. So it sounds like your wife may be a little bit more tech savvy. Bring your wife with you, and your wife may actually be able to do some translation for you. And so, you know, don't be afraid to pin them to the wall, those salespeople, 'cause they're not supposed to be talking that way.
GILROYSo the toast in Ukraine is nostrovia, right? I think you should know that one.
NNAMDIBob, thank you very much for your call and for justifying the reason for existence of Allison Druin, to prove that the wife is always superior.
DRUINAbsolutely, no question.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. We've got to take a short break. When we come back more of the Computer Guys and Gal. You can call us at 800-433-8850 or join the conversation on Twitter by just going to #TechTuesday. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIIt's the Computer Guys and Gal. The voice you hear is that of John Gilroy, he's director of business development at Armature Corporation. Bill Harlow is a hardware and software technician for MACs and PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc., and Allison Druin is ADVANCE professor and associate dean for research in the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland. Tired of hot and steamy days? We've got you covered with tips for beating the heat, The Computer Guys and Gal way. First, Bill Harlow.
NNAMDII can't -- you found...
HARLOWYou're starting with me.
HARLOWWhat's wrong with you?
HARLOWYou're going to regret.
NNAMDIThis man, this individual has found a fan that plugs into the base of an iPhone.
HARLOWYes. Because there's nothing cooler than walking down in public streets with your phone upside down and a fan sticking out of the bottom.
GILROYAnd so you're a single guy, and you see a good looking girl. You'll go, hey, babe, (unintelligible) so far -- this phone in the fan?
NNAMDIHow large is this fan?
HARLOWOh, it's on a smaller side. It's probably like a...
GILROYFor him, he just carries a big fan with him.
HARLOWExactly. Normally have a box fan on my shoulder like a boom box. But it's a little more compact.
NNAMDIIt plugs into the base of an iPhone?
DRUINYou walk around like this, Bill, really? And you say I find new things.
NNAMDIWhere did you find this fan?
GILROYDanger, danger, Will Robinson, danger.
NNAMDIWhere did you find this fan?
HARLOWOh, I don't remember. This is a blog that talked about ridiculous technology, and this came up. And I thought it was hilarious. You know, just in case...
HARLOWAnd, actually, if you drain your battery in your iPhone -- I'm sure John can have a solution for that, too, that's even more fashionable.
GILROYYes. And I have something very practical. Thank you very much. There's a shirt I'm going to buy for Bill for Christmas, maybe, that it recharges batteries based on noise. If you go to a rock concert…
DRUINAnd you guys are talking about me finding weird things...
NNAMDIA fan of the iPhone fan. But, John, if we run out of juice on our iPhone or iPod, you have come up with the perfect garment: a shirt that can charge a phone.
GILROYRight. Discovery.com, Dateline, discovery.com. This is a shirt that someone in France came up with, where you're at a concert and you're, I don't know, you're running your battery low from texting friends. And you put the battery in your shirt, and the noise gets accepted into this fabric of the shirt. And it creates -- it charges it.
HARLOWA big foil patch in the front, too.
GILROYSo you got your fan (unintelligible) shirt...
HARLOW(unintelligible) on the front of your shirt.
GILROYThat should really make you attractive to the young ladies if you're a college kid, you know? Let me plug in my battery into your shirt. And then you get your fan going.
HARLOWOh, the battery pack's overheating. I'm going to pull out the fan. Exactly.
NNAMDIAllison, fortunately for us, you have become fixated. You have now become fixated with something much more fundamental than iPhone fans or shirts that charge your iPhone. You've become fixated with water.
DRUINYes, that's right.
GILROYYou know what, that's old fashioned.
DRUINI mean, come on. You got to deal with the lack thereof...
NNAMDIIn New York City, a new app let's people finds cafes and other businesses that will let you have free access to water?
DRUINYeah, it's called TapIt Water, okay? And what's amazing is I just found out -- in fact, today, I found out that it's in D.C. This is a network. They're -- these are people starting a network of cafes that have agreed if you bring your sustainable bottle, okay, to any of these cafes, they will give you free tap water. And so...
NNAMDIWhatever happened to walking in -- can I have a glass of water, please?
DRUINNo, no. So you can go...
NNAMDIYou got to have an app now?
DRUIN...downtown, and in the app it will show you the whole map, okay? And you can go to any of the Potbellys, Mixt Greens. You can go to Capitol Ground. You can go to all of these places in D.C., guys, and you can -- and it shows you where all the water is. Now, if you forget to keep drinking, you can get -- this is great...
GILROYThat's just so stupid. You forget to -- if you forget to walk, if you forget to breathe...
DRUINYou can get an Android app for free...
GILROYTo remind you to drink, right?
DRUIN...to remind you to drink, absolutely.
DRUINActually -- now, but -- listen...
GILROYIs this an advanced idea because you're an ADVANCE professor?
DRUINNow, if you really need to calm down, which I know you do right now, okay, you can get the best app there is though. It's called Koi Pond, okay? And this just gives you the sounds of a pond as you drift off to sleep. And if you really just want to calm down and so on, so it's very sweet. So I think water is what's going to help all of us in this heat wave.
GILROYWho drinks water?
NNAMDIJohn is looking for an app for free beer.
DRUINFree beer. You know, if he's had beer every 10 minutes, he would be happy, right?
GILROYNow, that's a good idea. A reminder for that, now, that's practical.
NNAMDIOn to the telephones. Here is Andrew in Tysons Corner, Va. Andrew, thank you for waiting. You're on the air. Go ahead please.
ANDREWHi. Thanks for taking my call. This is a rare show where I could talk about any topic that...
NNAMDIThat's why we're canceling it. But go ahead, Andrew...
ANDREWTime is limited, though. I'll keep it back to the music topic, which was -- I mean, you were talking about Spotify.
ANDREWAnd I had actually gotten a copy of it back in the fall because I took a trip to Europe and I've heard about it so much before. And I couldn't wait till it was opened up to the States. And since it has, I've actually not used it any because there's a new site called Turntable FM, which I've been really addicted to. It's also on a test mode, sort of like a cross between, let's say, Pandora and Spotify.
NNAMDIThat's what I was thinking. What's -- what does it do that neither Pandora nor Spotify does?
ANDREWWell, for one thing, there are no ads, so it's constant music. You have the power to play a song that you choose. Either upload your own library, or, you know, they've got a huge database there. And what they have are rooms set up that's sort of like old school Internet where things are by theme. And there are five spaces for DJs, so you could have up to four other people playing music with you. And each person takes one turn at a time.
HARLOWSo the idea is that you're spinning for each other effectively?
ANDREWRight. So you get turned on to other people's tastes in music and (unintelligible).
HARLOWThat sounds really cool. I think I heard one of the limitations, though, was that if your room was empty, you couldn't play any of the music. So the idea was you couldn't just open an empty room and play music because they didn't want you to use it just as a streaming music service. So it sounds like it's definitely more for sharing music, playlists and discovering new songs from other users. So that's why...
NNAMDIThat's how you've been using it, Andrew?
ANDREWThat's right. Well, only a few days. I think it's been up for about a month. But it's tied into Facebook right now. You have to have a friend who's already in there in order to join. But, I don't know. For the last 72 hours, I've been popping in and out. And it's a lot of fun. I mean, there's a chat system, so you can talk to people. You can sort of fan DJs, so you can follow them whenever they're playing music.
NNAMDIAnd it's Turntable FM?
NNAMDITurntable.fm. Andrew, thank you very much for sharing that with us. On to John in College Park, Md. John, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JOHNHi. Good afternoon, everyone. Enjoying the show so far. I got a question for you about an older laptop, though. I'm going to pull away from the phones and the music. I have a Toshiba Satellite laptop that's four or five years old, running Vista, and I've noticed that it's really started to slow down. I'm wondering how to go about cleaning it up so maybe I can get some of the speed back.
GILROYWell, the traditional way is there are some utilities that can do that. I don't know if Vista will support some of these utilities that are out there. There's a lot of different cleaners and scrapers that are out there. I use many of them. It's been a while since I've actually seen Vista and used it. I got away from that after I saw a few problems I had with it. But I think if you Google -- I forget the name of the product that I used to use all the time. But I don't know if it even works with Vista. I imagine it's...
HARLOWIs it CCleaner that you're referring to?
GILROYYeah, that was one of them that was real popular. I'm in the corporate environment where I don't do that stuff anymore. We have folks that do that, but I think CCleaner's a classic. I would try that one. That's one that cleaned up everything that -- when I used to use Vista many years ago. So (word?) or CCleaner.
NNAMDIAnd good luck to you, John. Thank you very much for your call. Allison, the advent of the portable DVD player has probably saved more family road trips than any other piece of technology. Today, parents can pop a DVD into these devices and distract kids in the back for an hour or more. But you're excited about a more, well, wholesome technology project that is also aiming to entertain people in the backseat of cars. Tell us about Window to the World.
DRUINOh, it's actually Window to the Word.
DRUINIt's really interesting. It is...
NNAMDIWell, the word is the window to the world, isn't it?
DRUINRight. It's sort of something like that. Anyway, it's from the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design. They actually have been working with engineers from Toyota. And they demoed this -- the work they've been doing at the European Manufacturers Association, car manufacturers, okay? And what this is, is they converted a window in your backseat for a kid as a see-through touch screen. And it's really cool.
DRUINYou got to see the demo of this thing. But, basically, the kid is -- the kid can draw with their finger. But what's cool about this is that then it moves away, just like it's -- just like the car is moving. Or you have an option to be able to get more information about what you're seeing out the window. Or you can get a distance, how far away the distance -- in the distance is the sheep or the building. And it also can magnify things as well. So...
HARLOWI want that on my windshield. That's like a heads-up display. That sounds really cool.
DRUINBut it's totally cool. Now, there's a million reasons why this is not out as a product right now because they're still, you know, trying to sort out things, like what happens if the kids smashes their face into the backseat window.
GILROYOh, the real world.
HARLOWHow to make it not cost $30,000.
DRUINRight. And, oh, people are really concerned about the kid turning their body constantly to the...
DRUIN...you know, to the right. And so is this made for chiropractors of America to, you know, actually be fixing children's little bodies? So, anyway, but it just shows that there's always something new to think about in terms of interaction design. I think this would be a fabulous thing because, you know what? Number one problem with kids and technology, everyone always says, oh, it takes kids away from the real world.
DRUINWell, what this does is it combines the real world with the virtual world in such a really wonderful way.
NNAMDIWell, combining the real world with the real world in another way, John Gilroy, how much should we be concerned about who's tracking us and our cell phones? It would appear that we can be tracked in ways that we haven't even thought of as yet.
GILROYYeah, you know, what's interesting is they're starting to take and study this. You know, one of the problems that cell phones have had is if you're at home and you pick up the phone and there's a fire, they can track it pretty easily for 911. And so with cell phones, they can track it with this thing called E911. So we know that -- and that's one of the problems with VOIP systems in large organizations.
GILROYAnd they're doing some studies now about who would be doing the tracking. I mean, if this tracking were available -- and it is -- I mean, would it be the federal government? Would it be the state police? Would it be your spouse?
GILROYThey've run some studies, and they're just some general surveys from a couple of small companies. And it hasn't been a concern for Big Brother. It's Big Spouse watching. And so it's -- if you're dating someone, you may want to take and find out what this person has been up to the last four or five days or something. So it's interesting where this technology is heading, where you would think it'd go in one direction.
GILROYBut it's morphing away from what all the fears were. That's not to say that the federal government can't track you, but I think it's -- everyone has smartphones, trying to find out about conversations, social networking, social sites. It can be very sticky.
NNAMDII now base my life on the assumption that I am being tracked or watched 24/7. It's the only way to live.
GILROYI think it's true.
HARLOWI'm not living.
NNAMDIBill, you say this is the year of SSD, solid-state drive. And to prove it, you're pointing to exhibit A, the new MacBook Airs.
HARLOWYeah, so earlier in the year, I was talking about how I put an SSD in my Mac Mini at home and just how dramatically faster it is. And the MacBook Air, the new designed one, it's standard with flash hard drives now. So no moving parts, very rapid, and it's also a very thin and light and relatively affordable. And it's been selling like hotcakes. So the new version...
DRUINBen just got one, of course, yes.
HARLOWYeah, did he? So the new one, it's got a much faster processor...
NNAMDIWho is this Ben person we keep referring to?
DRUINOh, my wonderful husband, yes.
NNAMDIBen Bederson, yes.
HARLOWYes. So Ben's got one, and I'm jealous. And they benchmarked this, and, you know, even with the low-powered chips, it's a pretty fast machine. And, in many ways, it keeps up with the previous MacBook Pro. So, I mean, moving forward, I think part of that performance and reliability and wage savings is because of these really small, fast solid-state drives.
GILROYIt's another innovation from Apple. I hate to say it. But they're promoting it, and it's being picked up all...
HARLOWYeah, they're making it happen.
NNAMDIWell, if you hate to say it, why say it? John Gilroy is...
GILROYI hate when he says that.
NNAMDI...director of business development at Armature Corporation. Bill Harlow is a hardware and software technician for Macs and PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting. Allison Druin is ADVANCE professor and associate dean for research in the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland. Together, they make up the Computer Guys & Gal. Thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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