Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies, and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
Some employers demand Facebook passwords along with resumes from prospective job applicants. Ford sends thumbdrives out to 300,000 disgruntled car owners to fix software problems in new cars. And no, this is NOT an April Fools episode. The Computer Guys and Gal are back to explore surreal news from the world of tech, and take your questions.
- 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 Associate Dean for Research, University of Maryland's iSchool; Co-Director, Future of Information Alliance
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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 and Gal are on. It's the first Tuesday of the month. That beautiful spring melody can mean only one thing. They're here, the Computer Guys and Gal. Well, some of them are here. They're here to ponder April foolishness with surreal tech stories that probably should be fake. Looking for a job? Some employers are reportedly demanding Facebook passwords, along with resumes from jobseekers.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIHoping to get somewhere with that fancy new navigation system in your car? Some new Ford owners are dealing with software glitches. So last month, the company sent out 300,000 thumb drives to correct the problem. Searching for romantic companionship? There are plenty of legitimate apps for that. But Girls Around Me isn't one of them. This free program, which allowed men to find single women through their FourSquare accounts, creeped out so many people, it was taken down from the app store.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIThe tech world is getting weirder and weirder. And the only people, apparently, who can help us make sense of it are three pretty weird people in their own right. John Gilroy is a director of business development at Armature Corp. John Gilroy, welcome to weird.
MR. JOHN GILROYPresent for April Fools edition -- April Fools' Day edition.
NNAMDIYes. Is this the -- no, that was Sunday. Bill Harlow is a hardware and software technician for Macs and PCs at Mid Atlantic Consulting, Inc. He joins us in studio. Welcome to the weirdness.
MR. BILL HARLOWThank you.
NNAMDIAnd Allison Druin, associate dean for research, University of Maryland's iSchool, co-director, Future of Information Alliance. Why I said The Computer Guys are not all here is because Allison Druin is joining us from a cabin somewhere in the Berkshires...
GILROYI don't believe that.
NNAMDI...via a nifty iPhone app about which we will tell you more later. Allison, welcome. You sound great.
MS. ALLISON DRUINThank you. Thank you. You sound great, too. This is amazing. I love it. I'm in a farmhouse in the Berkshires. It's great.
GILROYYeah, we believe that one.
NNAMDIWe will describe all of this in a second, but we're also taking your calls, 800-433-8850. If you have questions or comments for The Computer Guys & Gal, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org, send us a tweet at #TechTuesday, or you can go to our website, kojoshow.org, and ask a question or make a comment there. Allison, everyone in the tech world loves new gadgets and gizmos. The Computer Guys & Gal love being early adopters.
NNAMDIAnd many companies try really, really hard to get out front of the competition with new products, but, sometimes, that drive leads to really bad outcomes. And, apparently, one such example sits in our computer gal Allison Druin's driveway. Tell us about...
NNAMDI...Ford and its epic fail user interface.
DRUINOK. So my husband, Ben, decides, you know, we have to get the latest, greatest of everything -- if it's a technology, right?
DRUINSo, finally, after 17 years, our Jeep dies. And we go out, and we buy a Ford Explorer with this wonderful my touch -- MyFord Touch interface. OK?
DRUINSo it's a nice little screen in the middle. And I swear to you, within one day of using this thing, the system is crashing.
DRUINIt's rebooting. You know, you're pressing on the thing, and it's not responding. You know...
NNAMDIWhy do I sense blame Ben syndrome here? But go ahead.
DRUINOh, and, you know, and it was crazy because I'm thinking, OK, just bring me back my old broken down Jeep. I'm really feeling it. Anyway, so Ben brings it in, OK? And he finds out, yes, the entire world is having the same problem. Hold on tight. There will be a system upgrade. And sure enough, there was a system upgrade just about a week ago. And so, with a USB drive, yes, you can upgrade.
DRUINBut it was insane 'cause you're thinking to yourself, OK, this is just my computer, no big deal. I'll reboot. But this is your car, folks. You're driving along, and a system failure. I mean, this is so wrong. And I thought to myself, OK, how many times do we have to complain before this is the lemon law? This is wrong, wrong, wrong. Anyway, Ford actually, because of this -- we're not the only people that are upset.
DRUINFord fell from fifth to 10th in the consumer reports for the auto report card this year because this was so bad. So -- and, you know, Ford is not the folks that actually made this. Let me just say...
DRUIN...it -- I hate to tell you. Microsoft, Microsoft made this. Yes. It's true.
NNAMDIThat's who's responsible for MyFord Touch?
DRUINOh, yes. Yes. And basically, Ford integrated it into its systems. And I have to say the stuff that Ford did, the physical interface is not bad at all. It's the software.
GILROYThat's just for navigation. I'm hearing all these talks about self-driving cars. And if that's we have to look forward to, then I will walk.
HARLOWThat would not be good, not for me.
NNAMDIOn the next Tech Tuesday, we will be talking about the good, the bad and the ugly of user interface and user experience design on new technology. But at least I'm glad that you, Ben and your children are still safe and sound, Allison.
DRUINYeah. We made it up here to the Berkshires. It's OK.
NNAMDIAnd I know you probably had a John Gilroy moment when this was all happening to you, John.
GILROYIt's Windows' fault. It's all Bill Gates. It's all his fault.
NNAMDIJohn Gilroy, the new iPad is out. And I must confess that I was planning on buying the latest and greatest version of the tablet computer today...
NNAMDI...right after the show. But I may have been dissuaded by a very level-headed article flagged by one John Gilroy, and nobody has ever accused John of being level-headed.
NNAMDIBut why should I not buy the new iPad?
GILROYEmpty-headed, but not level-headed.
NNAMDIThis is true.
GILROYWell, you know, it's interesting. We talked about 300,000 USB drives just a couple minutes ago. And, Bill, you're sitting in front one of those fancy new devices.
GILROYDoes it have a USB port on it?
GILROYNo? Hmm. Well, that's just -- you know, I saw this article, you know, they do surveys...
HARLOWDon't look at it, Kojo. You'll want one. Trust me...
GILROYThey do surveys of people. There was a survey last week, and 80 percent of the people plan on buying the Apple product. A very small percentage don't. And so I think this fellow, just for kicks, came up with 16 reasons why you shouldn't get the Apple product. And he has pretty weak arguments, I think. And I think anyone who has taken high school debate could crush him. But he did point out some things like the USB silly thing. I mean...
HARLOWWhat would I need to plug in via USB?
GILROYI -- exactly what I thought. But, anyway, it kind of puts in perspective. But, Kojo, I will -- you can record (unintelligible)...
NNAMDIHe says just...
GILROY...go buy an Apple product.
NNAMDIHe says just how many photographs are you really going to look at and ooh and aah about? Is it really worth dumping your old iPad just so you can show off the exciting new display? You're probably not doing advanced scientific work where the high resolution will be important. And, sure, you might find texts slightly crispier. But is it -- is that worth throwing out your existing iPad? Is it, Bill Harlow?
HARLOWWell, you know what? I looked in dumpsters. I haven't found...
HARLOW...them stuffed with iPads. Believe me, if they were, I wouldn't have bought this one. And so...
GILROYAnd by the way, there's a nomenclature you should hear, too. For the people on the television shows, they talk about getting a new iPad 3.
GILROYWell, cool guys like Bill don't call it an iPad 3. They call it...
HARLOWIt's just the iPad.
HARLOWBecause the other ones don't even count anymore.
HARLOWThis is just the iPad.
GILROYSo, Kojo, do not ask for an iPad 3. They will laugh at you.
HARLOWBut what I will say is that...
DRUINOh, but it's -- oh, I'm sorry. I was going to say...
NNAMDILooks like I'm buying again this afternoon.
DRUINI have to say -- OK. I actually did buy -- I did get mine. And it's really much easier on the eyes when you're reading a lot. And I do -- basically, I use my iPad...
NNAMDIThat's what I do mostly on mine, is read a lot.
DRUINThat's exactly right. And I read at night. And I have to say my -- I've been feeling a lot better about reading a lot more on the iPad. So I really like it. I don't know. What do you think, Bill?
HARLOWWell, it's my first iPad. So, you know, it's great to me. But what I will say, too, is that, you know, it's a tablet computer. The screen is the primary interface, so if they make an upgrade to the screen, and that's it. That's still a very significant upgrade for the usage of this device. So I think it's pretty important. You mentioned reading. I think that's great, too. The colors are really good.
HARLOWAnd -- but the other thing, too, is when looking at various Web pages, I find I don't have to zoom nearly as much to see details. It also exposes, though, some Web graphics aren't really optimized for a screen this good.
NNAMDIWell, do you have the new iPad? Call us. Let us know whether you're enjoying it or not, whether you had an iPad before, and if you found a significant difference. 800-433-8850 is the number to call. I am almost on my way to getting a new one again this afternoon. But there's this. It seems as if it's possible to rack up hundreds, maybe even thousands of dollars worth of data coverage charges. What do you say, Allison? Is that possible likely?
DRUINWell, it depends on what you're -- it depends on if you're wandering around and you're not -- and you're using the 3G, OK? Then yes...
NNAMDII'll be out of the country.
DRUINYou could be out of the country. You know, using it with Wi-Fi...
NNAMDIBill says don't use it there.
NNAMDIGo ahead, please.
DRUINBut using it with Wi-Fi is obviously, you know, optimal, but...
DRUIN...it really -- but having the 3G is very useful. But let me just remind you, hold on tight to those iPads and be careful about using them in public places where you think that someone could just walk by and steal them.
HARLOWCan I say I have a Kindle? This is not an iPad.
GILROYYou have a Kindle sign on.
GILROYI was starting business -- rebranding.
HARLOWI'm going to write Kindle in front on the case.
GILROYThere's a new business for you, Kojo.
DRUINOh, because people are getting them grabbed. So you've got to just be careful you're not sitting by a door on a Metro and such, OK?
NNAMDIAll right. 800-433-8850 is the number to call if you want to join The Computer Guys and Gal in this conversation. Have you encountered examples of very bad user interface on your new gadgets or gizmos? You can call us and share your experience. You can go to our website, kojoshow.org, and join the conversations there.
NNAMDIBill, economists tell us that there is no such thing as a free lunch, yet when I look at my smartphone and the apps I run on it, so many of them are free in the sense that I don't pay anything to download them. But you flagged an interesting study that points to some hidden costs in so-called free apps. Please explain.
HARLOWYes. So what's interesting is, of course, these apps have to get to you--these ads have to get to you somehow. And they're delivered over most likely your cellular connection. In many cases, they use the GPS to get location info about you so that maybe they can send more targeted ads or things that are local to you, like, I don't know, Groupon, for example. And guess what? That eats a lot of battery life.
HARLOWIn fact, what was discovered is that on the Android, there was maybe 10 to 30 percent usage of the power in the device to actually run the application or game, a lot of the leftover power use, to display those ads. So, yeah, it's free, but when your battery dies as quickly as 90 minutes later, you pay the price.
NNAMDII have been wondering about that when I've been using some of my free apps, why my battery was dying so quickly. Now, I'm beginning to understand it. Feels like this past month has had a whole lot of surreal true stories that felt like fake stories or April Fools' Day pranks or that you kind of wished were fake stories. Tell us, Bill, about Girls Around Me and why John Gilroy should not try to (word?) ?
HARLOWWell, John is happy 'cause John bought -- John downloaded it right before it got pulled from the app stores. So he's ecstatic.
HARLOWBut luckily FourSquare realized what was going on pretty quickly, too. And they shut off those API hooks, which means this app can no longer get this data. But what it allowed a creepy single man to do or maybe not single man -- I think they are creepy after all. It allowed them to actually see women who were checking in -- single women who were checking in via FourSquare in their vicinity without these women knowing. So, essentially...
HARLOW...it allowed these people to stalk.
HARLOWAnd, yeah, first of all, whoever made this app, I wonder why. And, secondly, did he really think it was going to last more than two days on the app store?
NNAMDIThis is a story about a company based in Russia designing an app with some creepy sexist baggage. But it's also a story that should be making Apple and FourSquare and Facebook uncomfortable, right?
HARLOWI agree. I mean, it's one of those things where I think they get the sort of check- and location-based technology out quickly, and then the ramifications sort of settle in the real world. And that's when they have to go and backtrack and say wow, you know, maybe we should have locked this down a bit tighter, which is what they did in this case.
NNAMDIThe other creepy story, boys and girls, involves -- involved Facebook. The Associated Press reported last month that some employers are now requiring job applicants and some current employees to hand over their Facebook passwords. Allison, presumably, I guess, this is so they can make sure there are no secrets lying outside of the public profile of employees or potential employees. Some said that this story was overblown, that Facebook itself and some members of Congress are tying to intervene.
NNAMDIWhat's going on here?
DRUINThat's right. In fact, well, now, this bill was defeated, OK, by the Republicans. But it was introduced just a few days ago to try and ban employers from demanding access to their Facebook accounts. And, you know, basically, what employers were doing were saying, look, hand over your password and you can keep your current job, or you can get hired for a new one and so on. There's rumor that the State Department of Corrections actually is one example of one employer that was doing this, which is just horrible.
DRUINAnd, you know, it's everything from identity theft to, I mean, privacy concerns up the gazoo. But, you know, what I want to tell people -- I saw a comment on one of these boards that said, you know, if someone tells you that you need to hand this over -- this password over, then you can say that anyone who gives up their password that easily, you should be worried about because they'll give up their company password or their organization password that easily.
GILROYJust like a test, huh? Hey, you passed the test.
NNAMDIThat's right, yeah.
DRUINThat's right. It's just terrible.
NNAMDICare to comment, Bill Harlow?
HARLOWWell, I'll just say, if anybody asked for that, too, I'd be wondering, OK, sure, and here's the key to my house. You can come in anytime and root around and do whatever you please.
GILROYIf someone asked me, I would hit him with Bill's new device over there.
HARLOWThe backside's aluminum. Use the backside.
GILROYThere's no way. You got to say, no. Hey, draw the line here and say, no, get out of here, bozo.
NNAMDIAs for that picture of John Gilroy with a lampshade on his head dancing on the table, you'll find that on my Facebook page if I gave you my password. We got to take a short break. When we come back, more of The Computer Guys & Gal. If you have called, stay on the line. We'll get to your call. It looks the lines are filling up pretty fast, so go to our website, kojoshow.org, or send us a tweet at #TechTuesday. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDINow, they told me I could've deducted it for the iPad I bought two years ago. It's The Computer Guys & Gal with advice too late to be useful.
NNAMDIJohn Gilroy is director of business development at Armature Corporation.
GILROYThat's my motto. Call me for advice too late to be useful.
NNAMDIBill Harlow is a hardware and software technician for Macs and PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc., and Allison Druin is associate dean for research at the University of Maryland's iSchool and co-director of the Future of Information Alliance. On to the telephones. Here now is Lynn. In the mountains of North Carolina is where Lynn says she is. Lynn, go ahead. You are on the air.
LYNNHi, Kojo. Thanks for taking my call.
LYNNI had the original iPad. In fact, I stood in line the day it came out, and I loved it but thought must be great to get number three.
LYNNAnd I'm finding it very difficult to read books with it. It's -- the brightness issue is bothering me. And also...
NNAMDIIs it too bright?
LYNNIt -- no, it's not too bright. I've turned it all the way in settings to the highest I can of brightness. Then, when I go to my books, it's just very difficult to read.
LYNNI wondered if anybody had a suggestion. And also, the battery drains -- doesn't recharge as quickly as my old one.
NNAMDIWhy are you finding it difficult to read? What's the effect on your eyes?
LYNNI can't see the typeface clearly, which is supposed to be the whole reason for buying this one.
DRUINYeah, basically, do you know the system settings where you can lower the -- if you lower the brightness. In fact, it's too bright for my eyes as well. So I have it way down in terms of brightness level, and it really, really helps in reading.
LYNNOh, good. So you went into settings and lowered the brightness level.
DRUINExactly. Lower the brightness for the entire iPad. And you will be jumping for joy.
LYNNOh, good. Well, thank you.
NNAMDIWell, just don't jump off the mountain. That's all.
LYNNNo, I won't do that.
DRUINDon't drop your iPad either.
NNAMDIHere's Bill Harlow.
HARLOWI do want to say one thing, too, which is you are right about the battery. This device, when used the way most people will use it, has about the same battery life as previous iPads. But the battery can -- the screen can get brighter than the old iPads. So if you have this at 100 percent battery, you will drain it significantly faster than the previous iPad. And also, to drive this ridiculously nice screen takes a lot of juice. So the battery's almost twice as big as the old iPads. You are right. You might better charge the old one. It may be three hours. It might take six to charge the new one fully.
GILROYBut how much time do you have in yours now?
LYNNThat's exactly what happened.
GILROYBut how many hours?
DRUINHow are charging it though? Are you charging it through your computer?
LYNNNo. I'm charging it with the accessory that came with it in the box.
DRUINOK. So you are plugging into the wall.
LYNNAnd I just plug it into the wall. Yeah, plug in the wall.
DRUINOK, good. Because don't try and charge it through your computer, it'll take forever and ever and ever.
LYNNOK. Thanks so much.
NNAMDILyn, thank you very much for your call. You, too, can call us at 800-433-8850. And while we're on the subject of iPads, here is another Allison in Northwest Washington. Allison, you're on the air, please, if you are in Northwest Washington.
ALLISONYes. Hi. I'm a little late to this party because I don't have a personal computer. I have a laptop. I work from home, and my company gave me a laptop, so I use that for everything. And I finally got a clue when I said maybe I need to be doing my personal stuff on my own, so I'm considering buying an iPad.
ALLISONAnd the only reason why I hadn't bought one before is I've been around them. They look highly addictive. They do everything. And all I'm going to use it for is to check my email, and I read everything on the Internet. I mean magazine, papers. I recently brought a Kindle, but I didn't get the Fire. I just got the one with the keyboard. So I'm just wondering, do I need the latest, newest iPad for this? Should I get any just generic notebook? Should I get a refurbished, you know, iPad 2 or whatever? I don't know.
NNAMDIWell, you do -- should know that the iPad has to be linked to a computer. Your laptop can suffice.
HARLOWActually, it doesn't. In my case, I set it up completely without ever hooking it up to my Mac. I mean, it has a free iCloud account on there. It can back up to the cloud. You can purchase things to have them sync via the cloud. So what you're describing is sort of what I was doing actually, Allison, in that I have a work laptop and it's, you know, about six pounds. And it's very powerful, but I don't want to put my personal stuff on it.
HARLOWI don't want to, you know, haul that out every time when I just check an email or something, and I find the iPad to be great for that use. If you're doing a ton of reading on it, I think that the iPad 3 screen is worth it. I think that you could put the Kindle app on there and find that, while the Kindle is still nice to have and in some ways a superior reading experience, you might find that if you have the iPad 3, you're not really reaching for the Kindle all that much.
HARLOWI think that the on-screen keyboard's nice, and I think the email program on it is actually really good, too. So, I -- whenever I pull out the iPad, I don't have to pull out my laptop, it feels really nice because I think for a lot of (word?) use cases, it's a really nice device.
DRUINLet me jump in and say, Allison, that we have a Kindle as well as iPad, and I actually don't enjoy the Kindle as much because the screen is smaller. And so...
DRUIN...I feel like I'm continually clicking that button just to change the page. And I much prefer...
NNAMDIShe's showing off that she's a fast reader.
DRUINNo, it's -- actually, I have...
ALLISONOh, and I use my Kindle for books.
ALLISONI just use my Kindle for reading books, so...
DRUINRight. And what I do is I up the size of the font for reading 'cause it actually is more relaxing for me, and by doing that, I'm, like, I'm clicking that thing to switch the page every 10 seconds because I'm only getting, you know, five words on a page.
ALLISONOK. Well, so do I need the latest, newest iPad or just any old iPad will do? That's -- I guess that's...
NNAMDIThe latest, newest is the only iPad according to these people.
DRUINWell, you can try out -- you should just try out the two. If you can go into one of the Apple stores and see if you can try them out, that would be the best because, you know, for some people, it makes no difference whatsoever.
NNAMDIYeah, they are still selling the iPad 2. We should -- we need to clarify that. It's not the only one that there is. But, Allison, thank you for your call, and good luck to you.
NNAMDIBill, John, you both faxed stories about the Microsoft Xbox. Apparently, the game system became more of an entertainment system than a game system for many users, Bill.
HARLOWYeah. So over the last year or so, they've added social media, social -- yeah, social media apps like Facebook and Twitter to it. And then they've branched out. I mean, you could get -- you could rent and buy movies through the Xbox for a while, but now they've got things like Comcast Xfinity on Demand, FiOS on demand, ESPN. I think HBO Go is on there, and there are more coming, too.
HARLOWAnd what they're finding is that, while it's a game console first and foremost -- and it's very popular for that use, I mean, very popular for online competitive gaming -- media consumption has now surpassed that. So people are actually using the general entertainment features more than online gaming.
GILROYThey're looking at it as supplanting Netflix and going after Netflix, which would be a complete curveball, yeah...
HARLOWWhich you can also get on it. You can get Netflix on it, too, so the one box that does everything.
NNAMDIBut, John, some people are uncomfortable with how much information Microsoft might be getting about you through your game system...
GILROYRight. Well, talk about another game, Kinect.
NNAMDI...especially the new Kinect system.
GILROYYeah, yeah. Well, apparently, there are very smart folks like Allison and Ben out there that study this, and what these games systems can do is they can track your movements. Well, that makes sense. If you're bowling or playing tennis, you've got to watch your movement. But what happen is if, let's say, Kojo walks into the room, he's never been in that room before, there's a 64 percent chance that the system can identify as a new person.
GILROYAnd so what they're trying to do is they're trying to apply this in a classroom situation where they can see Bill and Kojo there, and Bill's asleep and Kojo's awake. And they can try to figure out what they can do to -- just -- the more I read this, the more I think of Big Brother. I think of, you know, if there's a camera on the telephone pole, you're walking down the street.
GILROYI mean, not that they'll only watch you, but they're watching your movements. And maybe they'll no be -- not longer be any, like, retinal displays or fingerprints. It'll be movement identification. But I think it's taking this whole idea of a fun consumer experience like an Xbox or Kinect and moving it into the (unintelligible) like Alice lives in or go into a strange world of Big Brother.
HARLOWNow, we'll see what happens there, too, because they released Kinect for the PC as well. So they really want to see what people can develop with this technology.
NNAMDIOn to Susan in Arlington, Va. Susan, your turn.
SUSANThank you, guys. I'm seeking advice. I'm a professor who's traveling off and on, and I don't have a laptop computer or a netbook. And I was looking at the iPad and something called the Eee Pad Transformer. I don't like typing on a tablet. But most of the time, I'd be watching movies, getting my email. But, occasionally, I'll need to do Word documents, editing documents.
SUSANSo the question I'd like to ask you: Should I get this Eee Pad Transformer, which, you know, you have to pay $400, just like for the iPad, but then it has like a charging dock station with the USB? Or should I get a netbook and pay for Word?
HARLOWTough call in my mind, but I would say that a cheap netbook like that, it's probably going to be less satisfying to use than something like the Eee Pad Transformer or the iPad. In the case of the iPad, you do have to pay extra for a keyboard, but there are a lot of keyboard cases or separate keyboards you can get for it. And it probably has the best app ecosystem out there. There are some many applications for it. They make Documents To Go, which is sort of like an office suite for it.
HARLOWApple makes their Pages, word processing program, Keynote presentations. They make something like Excel called Numbers. And there's still a really good ecosystem for the Android, which is what the Transformer runs, but it's a little bit more fragmented. But as far as the Android-based tablets go, that one's supposed to be really good. The Transformer is said to have one of the best screens out there in any tablet device.
GILROYYou know, Susan, I think, from a professional perspective, I mean, you obviously, you're -- you've done a lot of editing and writing. I think if you don't have a standard computer with you, you're going to feel like your arms are tied. And you're not going to be able to be as fluid as you can with maybe editing something or making comments. And I've seen my wife -- they're very articulate, and then go back and forth. And you have to have this capability. I think if you don't have a full-fledged machine -- I'm not suggesting you get one of these little devices. It's not like...
HARLOWDo you think, like -- you think having a mouse, too, would be -- or a (unintelligible) ?
GILROYI just think -- it depends how much writing -- you may wind up four hours writing something on the back and forth. I don't know what you do, but a lot of lawyers or, you know, professionals or professors like you may wind up in getting a battle with someone. And, you know, you're battling with one finger. Then you're going to lose the fight.
NNAMDIWhat do you say, Allison?
DRUINYeah. Well, it does scare me -- it scares me. I actually agree with John.
GILROYOh, first time in five years.
DRUINYou know, there's a first time for everything. I actually, you know, as you were talking, I was thinking, why not get a laptop? I mean, I wouldn't get a -- I definitely wouldn't get a netbook because you're going to find quickly that the power of it and the keyboard is so uncomfortable. But I would definitely go with a laptop. And some of these are -- these laptops are really reasonable, and they -- and can do, you know, the entertainment as well as the work. And I think you'd -- you'd probably be better off with that.
NNAMDII have the iPad keyboard accessory...
GILROYLa di da.
NNAMDI...and it works very well.
SUSANBut can you -- all I'd be doing is occasionally reviewing grant proposals or stuff like that. Mainly, I'm using this to -- for email and to watch movies, but, occasionally, I'll need to edit Word documents and take notes.
HARLOWI guess, what I would say is go to, like, maclife.com or macworld.com or ilounge.com and read some of their -- if you're looking at an iPad, for example, read some of their keyboard and keyboard case reviews. And if you haven't…
GILROYThat's a good idea.
HARLOWTry them out because maybe you'll find that, yeah, these portable keyboards for the tablets are fine. If not, take a look at some of the nicer laptops out there.
NNAMDIAnd, Susan, good luck to you. Thank you for your call.
DRUINOK. I agree with Bill now.
NNAMDIYou, too, can call us at 800-433-8850. Allison, this broadcast is...
HARLOWShe's so loyal.
NNAMDI...in a way a trial run for a smartphone app called Report-IT Live. It's quite expensive, clocking in at $29. But it apparently allows a computer gal to defy the laws of physics and space and join us on the show. How does this work?
DRUINThis is amazing. I have to say it's broadcast, you know, high definition quality audio from your iPhone live, streaming. And it's recognizing, you know, a certain IP address and so on. And as long as you have in your -- you have to be where a Wi-Fi network is.
DRUINSo, you know, we happen to, of course, in this 250-year-old farmhouse have a Wi-Fi network, wireless, of course.
HARLOWOf course, you guys do, yeah.
GILROYI think John Adams had one of his offices up there.
DRUINI've got -- we use it over this -- yeah, of course. Anyway, we used it over the summer and -- for the broadcast, and it was great. And then I get a phone call from the company, the Report-IT Now folks, and they say, did you really use this thing over an hour? And I said, yes. And they said, you realize that no one's ever used it longer than five minutes? And I said, what, are you kidding? This is like I walked on the moon, and I didn't know it.
DRUINAnd they said, yeah...
GILROYFrom a nerd perspective.
DRUIN...apparently, you know, this was -- yeah, it was great. Apparently, it was created for reporters out in the field to do, you know, max, five-minute segments kinds of things. And it's been amazing, I have to say. Just now, I lost the connection for a second, and then I reconnected in. And we didn't miss a beat. But, honestly, that's probably the first time I ever lost the connection between last summer and now.
DRUINSo I have to -- I recommend it highly and scarily so because this has made it so that I don't sound like (unintelligible) 'cause that's what sometimes it will sound like calling.
GILROYWe should start dropping our sentences like this and drive Allison crazy.
NNAMDIAllison Druin, working...
DRUINThank you, John.
NNAMDI...as our reporter in the field, she's associate dean for research at the University of Maryland's iSchool and co-director of the Future of Information Alliance. John Gilroy is director of business development at Armature Corp., and Bill Harlow is our hardware and software technician for Macs and PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc. If you have questions or comments for us, call us at 800-433-8850. John Gilroy, what if Allison happens to drop her phone during this interview, maybe then she steps on it, maybe she can use a service called iCracked?
GILROYRight. This is great. This is just great for our listeners. Another tip you get from WAMU, save you money, and you can take that money you save and contribute to the station in the next fundraiser. Well, anyway, you can go a site called I-C-R-A-C-K-E-D, iCracked, and you can have someone come out and fix the phone for you. Or you can get a do-it-yourself kit for 10 bucks. And I was at the video -- you can have a little video and the guy says, OK, here's what you do, step one, step two, step three.
GILROYAnd I just think it's a real practical approach. Now, there are some people who are do-it-yourselfers and work on their car and some people who do plumbing repairs around their house, and they may be comfortable with this. And there are other people that don't have any money, and they have to learn how to save money and, for $9 -- I mean, I have talked to probably three people in the last year who have dropped their iPhone and cracked it. So this is a great money saver for our listeners, $9.95.
HARLOWI think it's not for everybody. But, yeah, if you enjoy tinkering and if you watch the video, which it's great they have it. If you watch that and say, you know what? I think I can do that. You know, give it a shot. Your phone's already broken. What are you going to lose?
GILROYYeah. What's the worst that can happen? Yeah.
NNAMDIOn to Kerry in Washington, D.C. Kerry, you're on the air. Go ahead, please. Kerry, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
KERRYYes. Yes, hi. OK. Hi. Yes, I keep -- every time they announce a new iPad or anything from Apple, I get all excited and look to see if it will finally do something like real Excel or Word. And I'm always disappointed. Is it possible that Apple will ever come up with something that does full functionality for a spreadsheet? Or on the Numbers thing, just, you know, you can read what you've worked on, but you can't do any more work on it.
NNAMDIWhat do you say, Bill Harlow?
HARLOWWell, I mean, Numbers, it does let you do some editing and more advanced work. But if you're looking for the full-on Excel application for the iPad, they don't make it yet. So, I mean, that's the case where you're going to be using a full-fledged Mac or PC in running the office suite. So I can't say that I do expect Apple to ever release that, but, you know, there have been rumors, you know, here and there about Microsoft working behind the scenes on an office for iPad. I'd love to see it. I think that'd be a very popular application and would sell really well. But, so far, it hasn't happened.
NNAMDIKerry, thank you very much for your call. Good luck to you.
NNAMDIWe've got an email from Rebecca, who says, "I'm frustrated by having no Adobe Flash. Will this be available on the later versions of the iPad?" Any idea?
GILROYNot in this world.
HARLOWI mean, even Adobe has pulled the plug, saying, yeah, whatever's out there for, like, Android and mobile, that's it. We're done. I mean, it's a computer-only technology going forward.
GILROYIt's not going to happen.
DRUINIt's a religion. They're not going to do it.
NNAMDIWhat is going to happen is a short break. And when we come back, we will continue our conversation with the Computer Guys & Gal. If you've called, stay on the line. We'll try to get to your calls. If the lines are busy, shoot us an email to email@example.com. Or join us at our -- on our website, kojosghow.org. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. It's the Computer Guys & Gal. Bill Harlow is here. He's a hardware and software technician for Macs and PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc. John Gilroy is here. He is director of business development at Armature Corp. Allison Druin is in a cabin somewhere in the Berkshires.
HARLOWA likely story.
NNAMDIShe joins us by an iPhone app that she just explained. You can join us by calling 800-433-8850. Well, not right now. The lines are busy. Send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. This email we got from Catherine in Springfield, Va. who says, "I'm using an antique and deteriorating Palm Tungsten TX."
NNAMDI"The beauty of the PDA is with their size and ease of input. I can't afford and don't want a smartphone and the associated cost. And the tablets all appear to be way too big to slip into pocket or purse. I use limited functions -- lists, memos, calendars -- and like that you could sync the palm with a desktop. I live by that little PDA. Do your guests have any suggestions for a replacement?"
HARLOWI guess an iPod touch or an equivalent like that. It's basically an iPhone without the phone.
GILROYIf it ain't broke, don't fix it. I mean, if it works, I mean...
HARLOWYeah. As long as it will sync with your computer, I mean, it -- those were neat. I kind of miss Palm back -- from back in the day. But that's my only advice. You know, the Touch, you know, you can install almost any app you want, and they're kind of, you know, tailored to your needs.
NNAMDISpeaking of which, Debra writes: "I'm having a hard time finding a good iPod touch or iPad battery extender, I mean, one that takes batteries. I have the latest iPod touch, but now the battery extenders I have do not support the device. I travel quite a bit, and it was great to put in a couple of AAA or AA batteries in the device while others could do -- could not do anything. What are others doing now?"
HARLOWI'll tell you what I'm doing, and I'm looking into bigger ones now that I have an iPad. But you can get these battery packs. There's a company called Just Mobile that puts out a line called the Gum. I think Kensington has a couple. They're a bunch. If you look in Amazon for, like, a USB battery pack, you'll find them. And they're basically just lithium-ion battery packs or lithium-polymer battery packs like you find in a laptop.
HARLOWAnd they either have an AC adapter or a cable that plugs into an existing charger you have or into your computer. And that charges the battery. And then that battery pack has a USB port that you can plug in an iPad or an iPhone or really almost any device that can charge via a USB cable of some kind.
GILROYWell, Ben Bederson tells me his runs on a dilithium crystal, but (unintelligible)...
HARLOWBut those are expensive. And if you can't get those, this is a good alternative.
NNAMDIHere is Scott in Garret Park, Md. Scott, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
SCOTTHi, Kojo. I heard your earlier discussion about Ford having problems with their new navigation system. I recently bought a new 2012 Prius with in-tune. I wondered if your guests had any thoughts about that or if there were any bugs that they've heard of, any issues with that.
NNAMDISo far -- Allison.
DRUINYeah. Well, I have one of the original Priuses. You know, of course, Ben had to have the first model that came out of the Prius. I know you're shocked.
NNAMDIBlame Ben syndrome again.
GILROYIt probably runs on a dilithium crystal, too.
DRUINMy husband is crazy for technology that way. But I have to say that we never ever had a problem with any of the touch mechanisms and the software with the Prius. I have not heard problems with the Prius line. But do you have problems to report?
SCOTTWell, I've had trouble trying to get the Internet to work through it 'cause it's an Internet-based system. Downloads are through the Internet, and people that have it need to have a phone and -- a phone with an unlimited data plan for it to really work properly. I'm just trying to...
SCOTTYeah. It's completely different than the other versions of the Priuses.
DRUINIt sounds like it. Wow.
SCOTTIt's pretty high-tech. I'm having a little trouble trying to figure it out. But I was just asking if you guys have heard any -- of any glitches or bugs or problems. That's all.
DRUINWell, take it immediately -- you know, bother the dealer, OK? Because that's -- one of the things we found out is if everyone bothers the dealer, guess what will happen? Some change will happen. But if you don't bother the dealer...
DRUINReally. And -- you know? And we found out that the lemon law holds for software. So you really -- you can, you know, bring that thing back as many times as you think you're going to have to. So -- if you don't want to...
DRUINI mean, I was dismayed when I couldn't even get two cellphones to hook up to our touch system. And, apparently, that's, like, the big deal why people buy the thing. So, anyway, so, really...
DRUIN...you know, that's -- if that's one of the reasons you bought that thing, then you should definitely call that dealer and bug him.
NNAMDIOccupy, dealer style.
SCOTTThat's good advice. Thanks, guys.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. Try not to get arrested. We got this email from Lisa, who says, "How come your guests write off free software when people call in with questions? The correct answer to the woman who called in a moment ago about what device to get..." -- well, now it was more than a moment ago, but we know who you're talking about -- "...a good answer would have been a netbook and free -- and usage of free software like LibreOffice or openoffice.org."
NNAMDI"Both software packages run on Windows, Mac's OS and Linux. They save to all formats that MS Word uses. And guess what? It's free as in beer and free as in freedom."
HARLOWAnd free as in free for a reason. I've tried them. I don't care for them. I think their interfaces are awful. But, yes, they are free.
NNAMDIAh, yeah, well...
GILROYThere's free beer, and there's free puppies. And I think a lot of the software is like a free puppy. It requires a whole lot of maintenance and support. Now, I'm all for free beer, and I'll see you after the show, Bill.
HARLOWYeah. I'll see you then. It's not too early.
NNAMDIJohn, Microsoft has built a lot of buzz around its new mobile phone platform, and a lot of people actually expected the new Windows operating system, Windows 8, to continue a relatively robust run of good news for the company. But the early reviews of Windows 8 have not been that great. One reviewer likened it to the new Frankenstein.
GILROYFrankenstein. You know, I've been around so long I remember before they came up with XP, which is pretty good, they had this strange, weird Vista stuff. And what's happened is they seem to make a mistake, and then they recover. And this looks like a Frankenstein operating system. I'm not going to see it probably till the fall, but all the reports that are coming up now, the previews and everything else, it's supposed to be just terrible. It's supposed to be a mix and match, and it's not intuitive and doesn't work. I mean...
NNAMDINo start button?
GILROYExactly, and so different from the Steven Jobs product. It's just such a contrast. So maybe -- I think this may be the death knell for the personal computer. I mean, if they screw up on this, more and more people are going to want something more comfortable. Just -- what they're trying to do is combine odds and ends, two different products, a diesel motor and a gasoline motor on one interface, and they're not succeeding. So some people say it's such an amalgam of technologies, it's a Frankenstein.
NNAMDIHere is Wanda in Bowie, Md. Hi, Wanda.
WANDAHello there, everyone. How is everyone doing?
WANDAI suppose well in the Berkshires.
NNAMDIExcept for John, we're all doing well.
GILROYWe suspect she's not in the Berkshires. Well, sorry about that. Later.
NNAMDIGo ahead, please.
WANDAActually, my question was a little bit geared towards Allison. I have a high school senior, so we're coming up on graduation time, ladies and gentlemen. And, mind you, this child has, you know, two, three Nanos, a Touch, an iPhone. She has everything. But I'm thinking about getting her the new iPad. And I was wondering, does Allison have any feedback on whether or not kids or students -- kids, my goodness -- are using this thing in classrooms? Or am I just giving her a license to not pay attention and be on Facebook and Twitter while she's supposed to be paying attention in class?
NNAMDIWanda, you'll happy to know that this is the subject of an academic study that Allison actually flagged. Allison?
DRUINWell, I did flag it, but, Kojo, it's for, like, you know...
NNAMDIShe didn't actually read it. She just flagged.
DRUIN...for kindergarteners through second graders, so -- but...
DRUINYeah. So in terms of -- let me refer to that study in a moment. But in referring to your question, at least at the University of Maryland, we're seeing only a trickle of iPads in the classroom, where the majority of the laptops we're seeing are, you know, are full-pledged laptops. We're not seeing a lot of netbooks. We're seeing an awful lot of Apples, actually, many, many more than we had ever expected in terms of MacBooks. And so the majority of our students are walking around with laptops, full-fledged laptops. Now...
WANDAInteresting. So are they really getting away from pencil-and-paper note-taking? Is that what you're seeing pretty much?
DRUINOh, yeah. Oh, yeah.
DRUINYou know, in fact, even submitting projects. Everything is being submitted online. Everything is, you know, in terms of the materials, are even online. Now, this to say, though, a lot of our students have the -- have iPads as well where they're going in -- you know, going back to the dorms and sitting there, reading and reading and reading. And that's where they feel comfortable reading the iPads. However -- so I wouldn't forego a laptop in favor of an iPad for your college student. But in supplementing a laptop, that's great. But I wouldn't forego it at this point.
WANDAYeah. OK. She has a laptop, too. So, yeah, we'll be supplementing at this point.
DRUINOK. And supplementing is great because I know our students do a lot of reading, and it's much easier just manipulating and such.
WANDAInteresting. When I was in school, there was, you know, the archaic, old book and pencil and pen and paper. So it's changed, obviously.
NNAMDIYeah. Your daughter...
NNAMDI...is probably saying, mom, what's a pencil? What's this pencil thing you keep bringing up?
WANDAThank you so much.
NNAMDIWanda, thank you very much for your call. John Gilroy, it's the classic trade-off in the age of iPhones and BlackBerries. These devices make it easier to do some things and kill time while we wait in line at the grocery store. But they also mean that the line between private and work lives is becoming blurred. You flagged that interesting piece from The Economist, asking whether we are masters or slaves of technology. What do you think?
GILROYSlaves to the smartphone. I can see it, and -- what this person is arguing --and I don't know if he's convincing people or not -- is that there's no more free time anymore because people will be in presentations or meetings all day long. And then in the evening, they'll be catching up an email. And so there's no time off anymore. And I think if you look at trying to be creative, I think a lot of people who write books about creativity -- I think this -- one of your previous guests wrote a book on creativity -- you have to get away -- we have to unplug somehow in order to be creative.
GILROYAnd I don't know what's going to happen. I see people who are borderline rude with me when they're talking to me, and they just put their heads down, start reading something from -- I just -- I think it's kind of rude. It's a social skill that people haven't mastered. And I am not going to fall into the trap, and I don't know if other people have, but I can see it happening. Culture's going to switch to -- that's going to be an accepted part of social reality. I meet...
HARLOWI hope not.
GILROYI'd like you to meet Kojo Nnamdi, and then -- and he's looking at something and start looking him in the eye.
HARLOWI do make a conscious effort to put my stuff away. If it vibrates in my pocket, I know there's messages coming in. I know it'll be there when I'm done talking to this person.
NNAMDIAllison, as we said, you're in the midst of spring break, and you have flagged a couple of cool apps for long trips. Tell us about your spring break travel apps, one of which I should mention I've already downloaded. But go ahead.
DRUINOh. Which one, the iExit or the GateGuru?
NNAMDINo, GateGuru. GateGuru. I'm traveling in a couple of days. Yeah.
DRUINYeah. I -- first of all, I love the names of these things. They're awesome. But...
DRUINAnd -- GateGuru. And it's free for Android, iPad and iPhone, so yes, it is free, folks. And it -- basically, it tells you what to do, what's around in your, you know, whatever gate you're at. So if you're looking for a restaurant or if you're looking for a massage...
NNAMDIIf I'm in Miami or JFK...
DRUIN...you know, whatever, right? And...
GILROYIs this made by Cinnabon? Is this made by Cinnabon? Is that who makes this app?
DRUINCinnabon. Yeah, right.
DRUINBut it is -- it's -- I mean, look, I have to say, having had little kids for years and being desperate to find the kiddie play area, I would've died to have had this GateGuru app. So it's by appSmitten.
NNAMDIWhat else you got, KAYAK?
DRUINKAYAK is, you know, you can get cheap last minute travel deals, OK, so car rentals, flights, that kind of thing. And you're not actually going to be, you know, getting a million ads for additional items from KAYAK. It's sort of a very low-key app, and it's nice that way, also free for Android, iPad and iPhone.
NNAMDIIf you're in a mad dash to get away, to escape, John Gilroy, that's the app that you want to have.
NNAMDIDaniel in Silver Spring, Md. Daniel, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DANIELHi, Kojo. I am calling to publicize a real problem, I think. I give a volunteer computer help at the Silver Spring Public Library. They are using a system which is quite old, and, apparently, the library cannot afford to update. However, Yahoo and quite a number of other vendors are upgrading their mailers. Today, the upgrades are installed and available, but not yet -- the plug has not yet been pulled. Let's put it that way. I live in fear and trembling for all those people for what will happen if one day the change occurs. And so I'm hoping to publicize this dilemma and to avoid a problem.
NNAMDIJohn Gilroy, do you fully comprehend what Daniel is saying? I'm not sure I do.
GILROYIt seems like the way I understand it, Daniel, so there's this software that's written that's not going to be supported by Yahoo anymore. Is that what you're stating?
DANIELWell, so far, they have not shown any sign of not -- of halting support. And it's not just Yahoo.
GILROYYeah. I think...
NNAMDIHe seems to be concerned that they will, and we've only got about 30 seconds.
GILROYYeah. American Library Association in Chicago, I've talked to those folks. Write them an email and ask them. I don't exactly what the problem is here, but I know ALA does.
NNAMDIDaniel, thank you very much for you call. Good luck to you. John Gilroy is the director of Business Development at Armature Corp. John Gilroy, always a pleasure.
GILROYNext payday will be heck.
NNAMDIBill Harlow is hardware and software technician for Macs & PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc. I'm going to follow your advice, get the new iPad this afternoon. You'll from hear me the next time I see you. That's a warning.
HARLOWI won't be here.
NNAMDIAllison Druin is associate dean for research at the University of Maryland's iSchool and co-director of the Future of Information Alliance. Allison, thank you for joining us.
DRUINVery fun. Thanks, guys.
NNAMDIThank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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