What happens when government aid doesn't go where it's supposed to?
A newly uncovered computer virus called “Flame” spooks cybersecurity companies, while new revelations about the Stuxnet virus raise provocative questions about government cyber warfare. And digital activists consider the power of “Big Dada” by turning the tables on online advertisers and intentionally distorting the data they collect about consumers. The Computer Guys and Gal return to discuss the latest news in the tech world.
- Allison Druin WAMU Computer Gal; ADVANCE Professor of the STEM Senior Women's Council & Co-Director of the Future of Information Alliance, University of Maryland
- John Gilroy WAMU Computer Guy; and Director of Business Development, Armature Corporation
- Bill Harlow WAMU Computer Guy; and Hardware & Software Technician for MACs & PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc.
Computer Guys And Gal Picks
Summer fun in the tech world, and Father’s Day and graduation gifts.
Father’s Day gifts for the Computer Guy in your life
Summer fun (in the tech world)
Scorching hot (tech)
Call the FCC! Kojo used the “Z” word on the air: Zettabyte
Nominee for scam-of-the-month: Viruses move to social media
Allison’s new wallpaper: a lovely shade of block
The Flame computer virus: Your FAQs answered
The Washington Capitals got knocked out of contention, but D.C. is #2 in tech jobs!
It’s a walk of shame for Apple: Turns to Kaspersky Lab to point out vulnerabilities.
Insight: Web 1.0, Web 2.0, no Web 3.0–it will be called “Mobile”
Everyone is going mobile–payments included–but consumers trust banks
Apple rumors looming before WWDC (June 11th): iOS 6 is expected, and with it are rumors of deep Facebook integration, as well as an overhauled Maps app, one that no longer relies on Google for data. The big feature is supposedly a sophisticated, fully 3D map view, complete with accurately modeled terrain!
Not to be outdone, Google is also touting their 3D mapping technology, in a preemptive announcement on June 6
Father’s Day ideas
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 first Tuesday of the month. That steamy summer slow jam can mean only one thing. They're here, The Computer Guys & Gal. Remember when playing video games was an anti-social activity? Well, Nintendo says its newest gaming system, the Wii U, will actually make people more social and change the way we think and interact in the living room.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIRemember when we thought computer viruses came from mischievous hackers and organized crime syndicates? Last week, we learned that the U.S. government was behind one of the scarier viruses of the last few years. Remember when John Gilroy used tin foil hats to prevent people from reading his mind?
PROF. ALLISON DRUINOh, yeah.
MR. JOHN GILROYLast week.
NNAMDIWell, French researchers have made that approach obsolete with special wallpaper that can block Wi-Fi signals.
DRUINNice to have.
NNAMDIHere to update us on all of this is Allison Druin, ADVANCE professor of the STEM Senior Women's Council and co-director of the Future of Information Alliance at the University of Maryland. Allison, welcome.
DRUINThank you. Welcome.
GILROYNew month, new title.
NNAMDIBill Harlow is a hardware and software technician from Macs & PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc. Bill, welcome to you.
MR. BILL HARLOWThank you.
NNAMDIJohn Gilroy is director of business development at Armature Corp. Welcome to you, John.
NNAMDIYou, too, can be welcome in this conversation by calling 800-433-8850 or sending email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can send us a tweet at #TechTuesday. Clearly, they're whispering already.
NNAMDIOr you can simply go to our website...
DRUINNo, just trying to hit him.
NNAMDI...kojoshow.org, and join the conversation there. It's fact of the Internet, as we know it, if you want to enjoy the benefit of new apps and new social media services, you have to expect to give up details, information about yourself. Internet companies spend billions of dollars every year building up profiles of you, me and everyone else and selling that information to advertisers. But it just might be possible to say no and fight back. Microsoft, Twitter, among others, are embracing a do-not-follow option. Allison, how would that work?
DRUINWell, actually, it turns out that some of the Web browsers that you already have -- Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer -- actually have a Do Not Track option, OK, which says, don't send a line of code, you know, to the website, telling the owner of the website something about you, OK? These are called cookies, OK? And it says, you know, just don't send the cookies. And Chrome will be coming out with this soon. In fact, actually, Internet Explorer is going to be coming out with this as a default option in its next version.
DRUINBut Twitter has actually announced that they are going to officially support the Do Not Track option, which is actually a big deal because Twitter is actually aggregating more and more data about all of us. So I don't know if you've all noticed in your -- when you log on to Twitter, suddenly, they seem to be able to suggest to you who to follow, and, boy, it seems pretty accurate. Or just discover potential -- in the Discover option, you can -- they suggest different stories that you might read.
DRUINAnd I'm thinking, oh, wait, that one's really interesting. Oh, how do they know that? Well, it's because they're not necessarily knowing just about me, but they're aggregating lots of information about lots of us together. So they realize that as they bring together all this information, they better give you an option to opt out.
NNAMDIBill Harlow, what do you see as the significance of Do Not Track apart from the fact that it'll keep John Gilroy from stalking me, which he's been doing apparently for the past 14 years?
DRUINJust always important.
HARLOWThat's a huge benefit. I know that was one of the key decisions behind this. But with Internet Explorer 10 for Windows 8, I find that really interesting that it will be the default because, I mean, when it comes to computers, that's still the biggest OS, right, Windows. And I imagine that Windows 8 will eventually get enough traction that it'll be the majority OS. So I also look at the fact that a lot of people don't go into their computers and tweak these settings. I might. I think the vast majority of people just -- they fire it up. It works. They don't think about it, so...
HARLOW...that kind of dictates, I think, how a lot of people are going to use their Web browser on PCs. So I think that's pretty significant.
GILROYWell, you know, years ago, they used to sell Windows without a firewall. Because, why worry? And then you'd get third-party firewalls, and so many things you have to learn over the ages, I guess, over the years. And I think this is one -- I think it's, you know, my teenage -- my teenager. She's 21 years old now. My daughter would call a lot of this stuff creepy intrusion, where Google wants to know everything about you.
GILROYAnd, I mean, there's ways around it. I mean, Kojo has had shows they talked about, you know, like, DuckDuckGo and different odds and ends. I think this is a noble thought by Twitter, but I think there's too much money to be made in them thar hills. And if you think you have privacy in the Internet, you're not very smart.
NNAMDIHave you tweaked you own considerations to prevent yourself from being followed? You can call us at 800-433-8850. Some people are proposing more radical active forms of resistance, actually distorting our profiles by zigging when they expect us to zag, maybe clicking on ads that we are not interested in, answering surveys dishonestly.
NNAMDIThe Atlantic tech writer Alex Madrigal recently called it Big Dada. Allison, what is Big Dada?
DRUINWell, it's basically using statistical noisemaking as a form of protest. I mean, it's basically saying, hmm, OK, so this company, this mortgage company wants me to click on their ad in Google, OK, when you're in a Google page. And if you click on it, well, they'll send -- you know, they'll send a dollar to Google. Well, what happens if everyone decides not that they want to know about this, but they want to basically make that company send millions and millions of dollars to Google to bring that company down?
DRUINAnd so if everybody says, hey, as a form of protest, OK, is it -- now, is it a denial of service attack or is it a protest in the street? But it's the same thing. It's online, and so, Joe -- you know, so we got a John and Bill and I all click on this, but three of us clicking on it, big deal. But if you now organize people and have millions of people clicking on that one ad, then this company has got to do something.
DRUINNow, would Google give back the money? In the contract, it says not so much. So this is very similar to, you know, essentially culture-jamming of the 1990s in terms of advertising which it was to use the consumer culture as a disruptive agent, and we're now using the consumer online culture as a disruptive agent.
NNAMDIAnd it's called Big Dada because it's a culture-jamming alternative to big data and because my high school nickname was Dada. But that's a long story.
GILROYThat would be an excellent rapper name for you, Kojo, Big Dada.
NNAMDIWell, that was my older brother, actually. I was just Dada.
GILROYYou were Little Dada, huh?
GILROYIf you would like to get in this discussion, there's a guy named Matt Cutts, C-U-T-T-S, and he is the guy from Google who tweets a lot about this and talks a lot about how Google handles these different -- and he has all kinds of videos on YouTube. And he's a fellow I've been following. I think Google has a response to this. I don't know exact response, but I know someone like Matt Cutts will be able to maybe help our listeners fare through this information if they have to get more.
NNAMDIBut, John, it's my understanding that there's also good guidance for protecting the privacy of listeners that's available.
GILROYYeah, there's, you know -- we know there's no privacy, but there's ways you can kind of control it. I think one way is what the browser -- you know, have some control over what gets placed in our browser, what doesn't get placed in our browser. There's a search engine called DuckDuckGo. Now, what, I think, Allison was referring to was a thing called bubbling. In other words, if every day I get up and I type in Washington Redskins, sooner or later, the search engine is going to go, well, he wants to know about, you know, Shanahan.
GILROYAnd so what's going to happen is some of my searches are going to be guided toward that direction. It's called bubbling. I think that prevents being open-minded about that. You may want to know about the Redskins team in North Dakota or something or whatever the heck it is, Florida, whatever team -- so it kind of limits you. One way is to control your browsers. There's email you can use that -- you know, if you're on Gmail, you got to assume they're going to know everything about you.
NNAMDIIt's the Computer Guys & Gal. We're asking you to join the conversation by calling 800-433-8850. Do you deliberately distort the responses you send so that you can throw them off track? 800-433-8850. Two years ago, a mysterious, powerful malware virus called Stuxnet virus emerged, was detected on computers across the Middle East and Asia.
NNAMDIGiven its apparent target of Iran, a lot of people assumed the U.S. or the Israeli government might have had something to do with it, but we never really knew for sure, that is, until last week. According to an article and new book by The New York Times' David Sanger, Stuxnet started as a targeted weapon against Iran's nuclear program but ended up escaping to other computers. What exactly does that mean, Bill?
HARLOWWell, I'm kind of curious myself because it's -- I mean, I'm sure this kind of stuff -- you know, this can't be the first cyber attack that the U.S. has ever been involved in. And, apparently, this was co-developed with the Israelis. It was supposed to be really targeted on Iran, and then a bug in the code or something caused it to propagate more than they expected to. So it was still effective.
HARLOWSo apparently, the U.S. administration kind of wanted to stay back and let it do its thing, don't pull the plug just yet. But some of the other ramifications I find more interesting, such as -- apparently, the source code's out there. So, you know, theoretically, anybody could get their hands on this and -- smart enough, reverse engineer it, do something with it.
HARLOWAnd the other thing I'm wondering about, too, is, you know, we loves us some technology in the U.S., right? So if there's ever a counterattack, you know, we have a lot to lose. A lot of developed nations have a lot to lose, and I kind of wonder, you know, what the collateral damage would be if this sort of thing becomes a modern form of warfare.
DRUINWell, I mean, first of all, you have to ask yourself, OK, this has been -- you know, as the articles have been coming out in different places, it's been emerging that this has been going on at least for five years, OK? So you have to ask yourself, could this article been written last year? Why wasn't it written last year? And why are we just finding out about these things now?
DRUINNow, the significance of this is obviously that somebody's admitting that we're actually developing offensive weapons, not just defensive mechanisms. And also -- now, we're also talking about cyber attacks that now affect the physical environment. I mean, these were cyber attacks for -- particularly for Stuxnet...
HARLOWStuxnet. There you go.
DRUINOh, I can't even say it 10 times fast. That was, you know, supposed to bring back -- bring down Iranian facilities, and they were doing this completely through cyber attacks. So that's pretty powerful. Now, the thing I was shocked about is how did this thing initially get in there? A thumb drive, folks.
DRUINNow, what do we have to learn about this?
HARLOWPeople can't be trusted. That's what you have to learn from this, seriously. There's going to be somebody who just doesn't think for a split second.
DRUINA thumb drive.
GILROYIf you talk to people in the intelligence community here, which I have, they talk about servers being air gapped. And they say, well, that was air gapped. It means it was not connected to the Internet. And somehow, you know, Kojo is walking into work and saw a thumb drive in the parking lot, picked it up, brought it into work and said hey, put it right in. Hey, this is fun.
GILROYSo that's how they got in.
NNAMDIWell, last week we learned about a mysterious new uber-virus called Flame capable of logging your key strokes, stealing your file and even eavesdropping on your conversations through the built-in microphone in your computer. On the surface, it sounds like a really scary new threat, John, but some are not so sure.
GILROYWell, some people argue, well, it's only in a couple hundred machines, and my argument is maybe they're in the right machines for that specific virus. And I think, secondly, is that it's been around for several years. Where else is it? I mean, is it in the machine across the street? Is it just in the Middle East? We don't know where it's at.
GILROYAnd I think Bill alluded to this earlier, is that, well, the fact that it's out there, that means that someone can take and just, you know, reverse it and have it up. So I think it's something to be serious. I think it is to be worried about. People that I know in this town are worried about it.
DRUINBut the thing is, OK, you know, it spreads itself in a similar way as the previous virus, and we don't know if it's previous or it was created in the same time, Stuxnet.
NNAMDIYou're in a flux about this, aren't you?
DRUINI really am.
DRUINI really can't say that. Anyway, but here's the thing, is that, yes, it's similar to some of the other kinds of viruses and worms that we've seen in the past. But -- and Microsoft immediately has, you know, addressed this in different ways. But, you know, but we have to also calm ourselves here. Let's not go running screaming from a room.
GILROYBut that's way more fun.
NNAMDIThat's a way to get rid of John, right?
GILROYI'd like to headline, Microsoft tries to make Windows Flame retardant.
HARLOWI like that one. That's a good one.
NNAMDIHere is Grace in Bowie, Md. Grace, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
GRACEHi. Hi, Kojo. Nice to be in your show. How are you?
GRACESo, you know, Kojo, I'm thinking. You know, I know one of your panel members mentioned in the beginning that, you know, the audience and the consumer does have options in terms of how to deactivate, you know...
GRACE...you know, the (word?) system, et cetera, et cetera. But, you know, blocking cookies or, you know, disabling the cookies, et cetera, et cetera.
GRACEBut one thing that I've known -- noticed is that when you do so, you're unable to surf, like, normally. The system automatically tells you, unblock your cookies. So, you know, you're damned if you do, and you're damned if you don't. I just wanted to kind of bring that point up and find out if I'm talking from more of a layman's perspective.
NNAMDIYou speak truth, apparently. Bill?
HARLOWWell, I guess the nice thing about having an office, you -- then you know which sites want your cookies, right? So at least you have some control over it.
HARLOWSo you can say, you know what? You can have a cookie. I will give you cookie. This is -- I use all the time. You have value. You're my bank. You know, I kind of need my money. So, yeah, maybe I'll unblock the cookies for you. Then maybe you go to some other random website, and it's like, you know what, I didn't realize you're tracking me. I'm glad that I have this feature on. I'm glad you're not getting this data from me.
DRUINBut, you know, the -- I think it -- you raise a really interesting point, Grace -- is that, you know, a lot of these companies are not doing this so that, you know, they can be stalking you. It is about making a better piece of software for you to be able to better address your needs. Unfortunately, they have to get to know you better in order to do that. And if you don't give them that option, then, yes, you do lose functionality.
NNAMDIGrace, thank you very much for your call and for bringing that point up.
NNAMDIWe're going to take a short break, but you, too, can join the conversation. You can send us a tweet at #TechTuesday, or go to our website, kojoshow.org, or just pick up the phone, 800-433-8850. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to The Computer Guys & Gal. John Gilroy is director of business development at Armature Corp. Bill Harlow is a hardware and software technician for Macs and PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc. And Allison Druin is ADVANCE professor of the STEM Senior Women's Council and co-director of the Future of Information Alliance at the University of Maryland.
NNAMDIWe got an email from Kawn who said -- well, this was posted on our website by Kawn: "I have a question for your experts. I once had Gmail and Yahoo both open on my computer in different windows, and Gmail popped a window asking me to import my contacts from my Yahoo accounts. How did Google know I have another account open at that moment? Do they have an eye inside my computer?"
GILROYWell, everybody's looking at me, so, I mean...
NNAMDIGuilty as charged.
GILROYYeah. It's my eye in your computer. I'm willing to bet, like we were talking about cookies before...
GILROY...they may have seen something there that said that. It may have been -- I don't know if he ever communicated between the two accounts. That may have something to do with it as well. I haven't seen that pop-up myself, but...
HARLOWThey may monitor the (word?) mail if it's at Yahoo...
GILROYThe big thing I want to know is...
NNAMDIWe've been talking about crazy viruses, but these are legit companies doing things that we still don't understand.
HARLOWThe other thing, too, is just to make sure it actually is a pop-up from Google, you know, and not just some random pop-up, you know, designed by a third party to look like it comes from Google. That's always a risk when you're on the Web.
DRUINThat's what I wondered about, is whether or not this is bogus as well.
NNAMDIBack in 2006, Nintendo unveiled the Wii and surprised a lot of people by presenting video games as a social activity. Now, Nintendo is about to release its newest game system. What can we expect, Bill, from Wii U?
HARLOWWell, they talked about the Wii U in their pre-E3 announcements, which, by the way, is harder to say than Stuxnet.
HARLOWThank you very much. But, somehow, that came out, and I'm caffeinated. What's your excuse?
GILROYSome listeners understand that.
HARLOWSo the Wii U, it's like a lot of stuff Nintendo does. They don't invent unique technologies necessarily, but they bake them into something. It gets really popular, and it's fascinating because it forces developers to utilize these things. So the Wii U is the follow-up. It's going to be more powerful, which is sort of interesting. But the controller, again, is the most interesting part. It resembles a scaled-down iPad or Android tablet. It still has conventional controls on each side of the tablet.
HARLOWIt's got a camera in the front, an IR transmitter like a remote control on the other side, tilt sensors. And they were talking about -- it was actually pretty cool that the president of Nintendo, Satoru Iwata, talked about the book "Alone Together" and talking about how personal technology can sometimes make us hide in our little bubbles. And he wanted to bring people together through gaming. So his idea was, you know, with these cameras, with the Internet connectivity that it would be a more social aspect of gaming.
HARLOWAnd, again, these aren't new technologies necessarily, but Nintendo's baking them in. So I want to see what they can do with the controller that has a camera and you're seeing the other person, you're seeing their reactions. There's a social network built in. You're communicating. It's not out yet. It'll have to come out before we really see what it can do. But, just like with Nintendo DS with the touch-screens or the Wii with the motion controllers, I mean, if it takes off, it could be pretty huge. There's so much potential in there. I'm dying to see what it can do.
NNAMDIWell, Nintendo announced these plans in advance of the E3 conference, one of the biggest events in the gaming industry. And, today, Microsoft also announced that it's going to have a new Xbox product. Tell us about SmartGlass. And what's the significance of announcing these before the E3 conference?
HARLOWI guess before it's just the idea is, you know, you've got the big announcements today. So, you know, get that first shot over the bow of your competitors first. That's a real significance in my book. And also, they knew that Tech Tuesday was coming out.
GILROYThat's exactly why...
HARLOWThey wanted to give us some time. Exactly.
NNAMDIYou're the Computer Guys & Gal.
HARLOWSo SmartGlass is -- take an Android tablet and iPad, Windows 8 tablets and make them a device that communicates with the shows you're watching, the games you're playing on your Xbox. So you could -- the example they showed were "Game of Thrones." While the story is going on, while you're watching it, there's a map of the world on your tablet. And as the plot points develop, it's tracking what's going on where in this world. That, I think, is pretty cool. It's such a subtle thing to talk about watching something on your tablet, going home seamlessly takes over and gets thrown to your Xbox.
HARLOWYou continue it there. They're going to expand it so that it can be an extra controller for a game. So let's say you're playing football. You can call plays and draw them up on your tablet and then execute them with a conventional controller. It's an app. You know, you can -- you'll be able to install it in the fall on a variety of devices. So it's cool 'cause a lot of people already have these things, don't have to buy a new console.
DRUINWell, it's -- you know, what's nice about this is it uses the back channel as a part of, really, a technology ecosystem because it acknowledges we're not just on one device anymore.
DRUINOur attention isn't even on just one device here.
GILROYAnd I applaud Microsoft for acknowledging that, you know what, we want Windows 8 tablets to be popular, but we also know everybody has an iPad, so we will release it for iOs. We'll release it for Android as well.
GILROYI don't believe in the back channel. I believe in the backyard. I think you should be playing football in the backyard with kids in the neighborhood. You can fight with them and get in trouble and break a leg and have all kinds of problems...
GILROY...much better than this draw a football plan.
HARLOWThat's right 'cause you only do one or the other. You can't actually have a life where you do both.
GILROYWell, I don't see my -- I see a lot -- there's a lot of kids that aren't doing much of the outside stuff.
NNAMDIHere is Daniel in Silver Spring, Md. Daniel, what is your concern?
DANIELMy question is about the companies which list personally identifying data online, like, in particular, blockshopper.com. I don't know if you guys know about it. It has my wife's information from, like, all the places she has lived in the past 10 years. And, from what I understand, it's a real estate data, but the information it had on her is more than real estate. And I also have found out that people in the public services can take themselves out of certain lists, but that doesn't apply for regular folks like us.
NNAMDIIt's already out there, John Gilroy. What should Daniel do?
GILROYWell, I wish I had an answer for this. But then genie gets out of the jar then all you can do is find another genie, find another jar. I mean, I don't have the answer for this. I mean, she willingly gave out information. I mean, this isn't something that people broke into your house and took it. I mean, she willingly gave that information.
HARLOWYeah, they just organized in one place.
GILROYIt is organized in one place.
DRUINYeah, that's -- I mean, unfortunately, the power of the computer is that it's a massive aggregator. It's a massive collector of what's there. And, you know, what it should it do is teach us all every time you give out your information, think about if this is what you want the rest of the world to know about because somebody is going to get a hold of it.
HARLOWYou know, Google says they'll do no evil. Well, the people who need Google now may believe in that, but what about in 10 years from now when all these kids put these Facebook pictures up? There could be a change in ownership at Google, and things could change drastically.
NNAMDIDaniel, thank you very much for your call. Sorry about what happened to you. You, too, can join our conversation. Call us at 800-433-8850 with your comments or questions. On the issue of viruses, John Gilroy, earlier this year, Apple computers were afflicted with a powerful virus that shook Apple's image as a virus-free product. And there's an interesting common denominator across that virus story and recent revelations about Flame that we were discussing earlier, a Russian company called Kaspersky. Tell us about Kaspersky.
GILROYMm hmm. Well, they're involved in Russia. And they're the ones who found Flame. And they're the ones that Apple's turned to and said, look, we're going to have to knock on your door and help us with some security because we have 600,000 machines that are infected. And I think it's kind of the tale of what's happening now is that Kaspersky -- well, I think some people are saying Kaspersky's is hyping the story up too much.
GILROYBut what about the story of 600,000 Macs that are infected? I mean, that hasn't been hyped, but I think people should know it. I think it's embarrassing for Apple who's always talked about being bulletproof, bulletproof, foolproof. Now, they have Kaspersky. What's going to happen to the iPhone two years from now with all the iPhones out there? Is Bill going to sit in his basement and do the Flame two for the iPhone? We don't know. So it's kind of interesting how a Russian company got involved in both of these.
HARLOWYeah. What's interesting, too, is that Flashback wouldn't happen on the iPhone because, you know, it can't execute -- there's no Flash in -- it wouldn't be (word?) for the Flash plug-in. There would be no option, and you can't run Java on the iPhone. It's actually more secure than the Mac in a lot of ways.
NNAMDIFlashback, of course, being the virus that plagued the Mac. But on to the important stuff. I don't know if you've noticed, but in 12 days, it will be Father's Day.
NNAMDIAnd we would like to know if there are any of you who have suggestions about what gifts to get, well, for me.
GILROYLet's be honest.
NNAMDIAllison, you have flagged gifts for Father's Day. So have you -- or, really, any occasion or, well...
GILROYAny day is good for Kojo.
NNAMDIIn preparing for this show, let's say, you came across some really cool gadgets that you want or think your highly tech-addicted spouses would want. What are they? Starting with you, Allison.
DRUINAll right. You want to start for free or do you want to start for thousands of dollars?
NNAMDIFree. Always free. Always free to start.
DRUINOK. All right. We'll start with the free. A really cool app for the iPhone and iPad called "Punchfork." It's what I call the barbecue Facebook.
DRUINIt gives you the best new recipes that are trending among popular food sites, and it's totally cool. So you can find about peach whiskey barbecue chicken or spicy whiskey sliders. And if you're not John Gilroy, you can think about barbecue chicken pizza. Anyway...
GILROYTofu on the grill.
DRUINBut what's great is that it also can even -- you know, it can even sort by what's vegetarian, what's gluten-free -- yay for me -- and it actually also points to the sites that these things come from so you can then go and look, say, hmm, the healthy foodie site. Ooh, I'm going there. OK, that kind of thing.
NNAMDIOK. That's for free?
DRUINAll right. So that's free. That's free. All right. Then you got e-book readers. OK. Yes. I know I've been talking about this for a while, but...
NNAMDIWe hadn't noticed, actually.
DRUINYeah, I'm sure. I'm sure.
HARLOWNo, we haven't.
DRUINBut, look, you know, every papa wants to read that newspaper, and it's time. The e-books readers are there. And, actually, they've been -- the consumer search site actually has rated the pros and cons of a bunch of e-book readers, and they say the number one e-book reader for folks is Kindle. Number two is Kimball Simple Touch. Number three is Nook Color, and number four is iPad.
DRUINAnd so, you know, but think about, you know, what your father cares about, all right? Do they want to get e-books from public libraries? Then the Nooks are probably better for that. Do they care about, you know, easy-to-read in direct sunlight because they're always at the beach? Then the Kindle, it's lightweight...
NNAMDIYou came across a website that aggregates reviews for products like these. Well, you should tell...
DRUINYeah, yeah, which is that...
NNAMDITell us about ConsumerSearch.
DRUINWell, ConsumerSearch is this really great site. And it actually -- you can -- it not only gives you those reviews and points you back to the original reviews, but it also gives you snippets and then decides, OK, well, based on what all these reviews are saying, here's number one through four. So that's -- so definitely go to that site and check it out.
NNAMDIWait a minute. For anybody who has a yard, this warmer spring and summer weather brings, well, some think of them as annoying chores like mowing the land. But you have flagged the gift of all gifts for the tech geek with a yard full of weeds. Tell John Gilroy exactly what he needs.
HARLOWA flamethrower, right?
DRUINThis is from a Swedish company, Husqvarna. I think I said it right, maybe. And this is for the people that, like, have all this extra money laying around.
NNAMDINo, Husqvarna. Husqvarna, Husqvarna.
DRUINHusqvarna, Husqvarna, Husqvarna.
NNAMDIThey used to sell motorcycles, yes.
DRUINOK. All right. And they have been actually creating robotic mowers, robotic mowers since 1995.
GILROYSo that's the answer.
DRUINThis is the third generation. And now, yes, this costs -- I figured out from pounds to dollars is about $1,800 or so. But, anyway...
HARLOWSo I'll probably divide that by how many times I could pay the teenager next door to mow my lawn.
DRUINYeah. All right. But this is like the Roomba for vacuuming, but it's actually for mowing. And it's called Automower 305. And it's automatically going to cut your eight -- one -- an eighth of an acre. And when it starts to run out of batteries, it's going to go back automatically, go back to the charging station. And it even has an anti-theft alarm, so that when John tries to steal your mower, you can actually -- so...
GILROYIn my eight of an acre?
DRUINIt's -- yeah. Well, you know, anyway, actually, you can get ones that do larger spaces but for more money. But I thought, this probably would be enough.
GILROYWhat's its cost?
NNAMDIWell, if it only cost $1,800, does it come with a beer for John while he's watching it work?
GILROYThat's the question.
DRUINIt's just an alarm, guys. It's just an alarm. But anyways, so those are my three big picks.
NNAMDIIf you have picks for Father's Day, high-tech gifts that you would like to share with us, call us at 800-433-8850. Bill Harlow, what's a wormhole switch?
HARLOWThis is pretty neat. It looks like a USB cable, just with a larger connectors in each ends, and you just plug it into, you know, a couple of PCs, a couple of Macs, a mix of a Mac and a PC. And that's it. And then you can suddenly control one computer with the other's mouse and keyboard, vice versa. You can drag and drop files back and forth. So that's why they call it the wormhole 'cause it's like you're teleporting data back and forth. And what's cool...
GILROYThat's just like it.
HARLOWExactly. I mean, this is "Star Trek" technology in a USB cable.
GILROYIt's just like "Star Trek."
HARLOWIt's identical. This is...
DRUINSo I want an automatic mower, and you want a cable.
HARLOWI want a cable, yes.
DRUINOK, got it.
HARLOWThink small. What's really neat, too, is...
HARLOW...you plug this into your iPad and your PC or Mac and, suddenly, you can just instantly use the computer's keyboard to type on that. But the whole point of it isn't that it's -- this, you know, USB cable. It's that you don't have to install drivers. You just plug it in, and it just works. I thought that was pretty neat. If you -- they have a video on their website at j5create.com. You can see it in action. It's pretty seamless and pretty cool.
NNAMDIAlmost as neat as for those of you who believe in slam dunking your iPhones, a LifeProof case.
HARLOWActually, water polo with your iPhones.
HARLOWSo, yeah, it's a company is called LifeProof, and they made -- and they're not the first company to make a ruggedized iPhone case. But it's the first one that's not the size of an '80s Volvo, so that is very promising.
HARLOWIt's relatively sleek. It is shock-proof. It's dust-proof. And you can...
GILROYWater resistant, not proof.
HARLOWThey showed people taking pictures underwater with this thing, so...
DRUINYeah. I like the videos.
GILROYBecause their competitor is DryCASE, and they very specifically say water resistant so (unintelligible).
HARLOWYeah. I think they actually say waterproof on this one, though. I think they say dust-resistant...
GILROYWe're going to have to have listeners test this out for us.
HARLOWYes. So, Kojo, you have an iPhone, right?
NNAMDIA LifeProof case?
GILROYYeah, we're going to test.
NNAMDIYes, yes. Get me -- you get me a LifeProof case as a gift.
HARLOWI'll get you the case, and then you put your phone in it. And we'll go drive over it a few times.
GILROYCall me from underwater. That's what you do.
GILROYCall me from underwater and tell me if it works.
NNAMDII'm willing to put it through all of those tests. But, first, you have to give John Gilroy something that he has wanted for years because he wanted to see if he could wash it in a washing machine...
NNAMDI...a real keyboard.
DRUINYou know, men want real keyboards.
GILROYReal men have keyboards.
HARLOWExactly, exactly, exactly. So, you know, if you, you know, were in on the early days of personal computing, you probably had, like, an IBM Model M or the earlier Macs they had. The Mac II especially had a really nice mechanical keyboard.
HARLOWAnd, you know, now we have these little chiclets. We've got virtual keyboards. And, you know, sometimes it's time to go back to the basics and get, like, a proper mechanical key switch keyboard, you know, the kind that clicks when you push the button, the kind that you can just, you know, type along and just pound out, you know, words per minute at obscene rates.
DRUINI'm not there.
HARLOWAnd they're also, like -- they're built like tanks, too. I mean, these things, you know, they were designed for, like, millions of clicks. They're big. They're heavy.
GILROYThe original IBM keyboard, you could use for self-defense. It must have weighed 10 pounds.
NNAMDIBut I remember speculating with you about whether you could clean your keyboard by putting it in a washing machine.
HARLOWI've done the dishwasher.
GILROYWe've done this for 20 years now. We told people that it's OK to put their keyboards in the dishwasher.
GILROYYes, we have. We've done for 20 years, and it works. So I think it's a good idea.
NNAMDIAnd, presumably, this is this kind of keyboard also. Here is Joe in Washington, D.C. Joe, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JOEHi there. You may be aware that IPv6 launch date is tomorrow. That's replacement of the Internet protocol to make it more secure and more flexible. Do you guys have any comments? I'll take it off the air.
NNAMDIThank you very much.
GILROYThey running parallel right now, IPv4 and 6 and...
HARLOWYeah. It's not like they're shutting off the rest of the IP addresses.
GILROYYeah. And I don't see a whole lot of people getting behind it because there's no financial reason to make the switch.
GILROYI mean, I understand they run out of addresses. I mean, that's easy. But I don't see big companies really worried about this very much.
HARLOWI think, you know, when they get back -- when they get penned into a corner, then they'll make the switch or they may have plans already. But they're not worried about it just yet. I think that the average consumer doesn't have to really worry about it for a long, long time. You know, I mean, your internal network at home is not going to be affected by this, which could be a long time.
GILROYAnd the Cisco switches can run both, so -- and we're getting into the world of virtual switches and virtualization, so it's going to be easier to make this transition. So I think it's a great front page story for Computerworld, but in the real world...
HARLOWJust a blip, really, I think.
NNAMDIIs it a blip?
GILROYYeah, it's a blip. You know, if...
NNAMDIWhat are we talking about anyway?
GILROYA couple of years ago, they ran out of addresses, OK? It's like running out of cars, and you run a bus company or buses. And so they have to change the way they assign addresses on the Internet. It's called IPv6.
NNAMDIOh, that's a blip.
NNAMDIWe're going to take a short break. When we come back, we'll continue our conversation with the Computer Guys & Gal. If you have calls, stay on the line. If you haven't, the number is 800-433-8850, or you can send us a tweet at #TechTuesday or go to our website, kojoshow.org. Join the conversation there. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIOur guests are the legendary Computer Guys & Gal. Bill Harlow is a hardware and software technician for Macs and PCs at Mid Atlantic Consulting, Inc. Allison Druin is ADVANCE professor of the STEM Senior Women's Council and co-director of the Future of Information Alliance at the University of Maryland. And John Gilroy is director of business development at Armature Corp. Together, they are, well, legends. Here's Laverne in Washington, D.C. Laverne, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
LAVERNEYeah. Hi. Thanks for having me. I just wanted to identify with your caller who called about ShopBlocker, (sic) having his wife's information because I have found my information on there with ShopBlocker simply by Googling my name. And it turns out that everyone in my entire development also have all their private information on there.
LAVERNEHe mentioned that...
NNAMDIYou checked. You checked with everyone in your development?
LAVERNEIn my development.
LAVERNEEvery address I put in...
LAVERNE...popped up with their entire information -- when they purchased, how much they purchased it for, all of that stuff. Now, the caller mentioned that private -- that public employees can have their names removed. And it incensed me because when I contacted the company to get my information removed, they told me this was public information. Once you purchase a home, it's public information, and it's their prerogative to use it.
LAVERNEI cannot imagine a police officer's information being so available to the public, and, apparently, they can have it removed. So why can't we, as private citizens, have our information removed so that no one profit from our personal information?
HARLOWWell, you use the word profit. I think that right there kind of tells you all you need to know about it. I mean, my guess is that they don't -- it's probably not illegal, so they're going to do it until it is illegal. And that's probably all you have to say about it, unfortunately. I don't think it's necessarily a technical issue. It's just the information is there. They're able to collect it and sort it and presumably sell it, and they're going to until told otherwise.
GILROYAnd that's why Microsoft is listening to people like Laverne and saying, OK, we're going to change our browser, and the FTC has things behind this, too. But I think that the genie is out of the jar, and once you're willing to give that information, there's no way back.
NNAMDILaverne, thank you very much for your call. Apple tends to keep its newest features under wraps until it stages new releases with great fanfare on June 11 at its big developer conference, WWDC. Many people expect them to release the latest, its updated operating system, iOS 6. What's expected, Bill?
HARLOWWell, one of the things that's been kind of going on behind the scenes is Apple's been purchasing various mapping companies. I can't remember their names, but there was -- there are a couple. One is a map database. Another one is a company that makes this pretty amazing technology that allows them to assemble gorgeous-looking, three-dimensional, topographical, detailed photographic maps of the world.
HARLOWSo, you know, they show demos like flying over the Hoover Dam and, like, all of the -- like, the river and the dam itself were rendered in 3-D. You could pan around it. It was really smooth, and it looked great. So the rumor is that they're going to continue to distance themselves from Google Maps. And the maps -- Apple use this data, and it'll have a 3-D view that has this gorgeous rendered image.
NNAMDIWhat does 3-D mapping look like, apart from gorgeous?
HARLOWLooks like a video game, in a lot of ways. I mean, if you've ever played, like, a flight sim on a computer or on a gaming console, it looks a lot like that, except, you know, with very accurate real data. That's one of the things. The other thing is there's going to be, presumably, Facebook integration. If you have an iPad or iPhone now, you're familiar with the way you can Tweet from almost anywhere. And they're going to bake that in. That's the big rumor.
HARLOWAnd the other thing, too, is that there are new chips out for computers, for PCs, and it's called Ivy Bridge. It's a new, faster, more power-efficient CPU in companion chips. So there's talk that we may see some of the Mac lineup being refreshed at the Worldwide Developers Conference, I don't know about that personally. I mean, it's for developers. I imagine it's going to focus more on software, maybe one hardware announcement. But I think, you know, with Apple, they can kind of announce hardware whenever they feel like it.
NNAMDIJohn Gilroy, earlier this year, several news stories reported that potential employers were demanding Facebook passwords from job applicants, prompting outrage and even proposed legislation in the U.S. Senate. For many, that was a bridge too far. But what about asking for passwords at other businesses like night clubs?
GILROYFinally a story that'll resonate with Kojo, you know? What they're doing in London now is someone like Allison will walk in and say, OK, I want to get in this night club. And they want to look at her ID, and it's a fake ID. So they've been checking it on Facebook to see if she's -- this is fascinating. Now, just last week, I was at an organization that required a driver's license to enter, and I didn't have it. I said...
NNAMDIOh, I'm familiar with that nightclub.
GILROY...just type my name in the Internet. You'll find my face. That's who I am. It's just -- I don't know if we're going to have hand IDs anymore. I think it's all going to be in the Internet. (unintelligible) curious that people would want to make this transition. I just think it's a great fun story. Oh, really?
HARLOWYou going to start selling fake Facebook profiles now?
GILROYI have a fake -- no, no. So I can get into those bars.
DRUINIt's very hip and happening, guys.
NNAMDIAllison, is there going to be a Facebook for kids?
DRUINWell, that's the big, new rumor. Actually, according to The Wall Street Journal, they're working on -- actually, more tightly integrating, tying the parents' accounts to kids that are under 13. Currently, the guesstimation is for -- that there are maybe 7.5 million underage, under 13 accounts already in Facebook. And so the Facebook folks are figuring, well, we might as well do something about this so that maybe there's not so many false ones.
DRUINBut, obviously, some people are not very happy about this, comparing this to Big Tobacco, trying to hook their kids early into Facebook, into terrible things. So, you know, look, Facebook has got to figure out the privacy concerns. They've got to look at, you know, parental controls and a kid-friendly version, and this is no small matter. So even if they're working on it now, it's going to take a little bit of time. But watch out.
NNAMDINot only are they working it, but we know they're discussing it in the Bederson-Druin household even as we speak.
GILROYAs we speak.
NNAMDIWhat do you think about having a Facebook page for a 7 or 8-year-old kid? You can call us at 800-433-8850. Have you and Ben made any decisions along this line as yet?
DRUINWell, actually, I don't have a Facebook account. I have chosen to be unlisted, and my kids don't have Facebook accounts in any way, shape or form. Though the 13-year-old does tweet every once in a while. So -- but we're not big fans of Facebook for many different reasons.
NNAMDIWell, you're going to still have that discussion if your kids turn out to be big fans of Facebook at some point.
DRUINOh, yeah. Well, at certain point, I'm going to have to brand my kids.
HARLOWAll the other kids are doing it.
GILROYOh, you'll never hear that. No, you'll never hear that.
DRUINOh, but my kids are such big texters. It's scary. All of a sudden, my 7-year-old knows how to text me on her cellphone. Anyway, that's OK.
NNAMDIJohn, French researchers have designed wallpaper that can block Wi-Fi signals. Why would I ever want this product?
GILROYI got a telephone call from Allison. She said she's redecorating her living room. It's in a lovely shade of block.
GILROYThat's what -- well, apparently, there's wallpaper out there that can block Wi-Fi signals. Now, you know, what's the song from the 1970s, "Paranoia Will Destroy You?" Well, maybe it's one of the songs here for Kojo you can use today. So what's going on here? It sure looks like people are getting flipped out about all this wireless interference and trying to maybe prevent it in their home site.
GILROYAnd there are buildings throughout this town here that have metal walls to prevent Wi-Fi signals coming through. Been in a couple of them. I just think this is interesting that people actually that worry about that much signal. I...
HARLOWI guess they're worried about people outside their home getting on their Wi-Fi network without their knowledge.
NNAMDIYeah, that's probably one...
HARLOWIt does happen periodically.
NNAMDIThat's probably one of the reasons are -- that people are doing this. John, what is a zettabyte?
GILROYWell, you know, just a few months ago, I used the word petabyte, and I thought the FCC was going to arrest me. And now, I guess, they're using the word zettabyte with a Z.
HARLOWThe Z word.
GILROYI mean, it's like, it's changing that fast? I mean, I (word?) megabytes for 15 years, and I (unintelligible) megabytes. Bang, bang, bang, bang. Petabytes, terabytes, you know, it's a size that is going to be more and more popular in the Internet. I don't how many zeroes it is. It's a trillion gigabytes. It's a whole lot of gigabytes. And by 2016, there's going to be that much traffic on the Internet. You know, what with increased speeds, what with mobile devices, what with videos.
GILROYThe amount of information going back and forth on the Internet is going to be staggering. I think when, you know, we talked about running out of things. I think we're going to run out of terms here. No, it's Z with zettabyte. What's the next word? Well, Bill, start with A again, an autobyte and a billabyte. So it's interesting.
DRUINOoh, a billabyte. Ooh, I love that.
GILROYThe billabyte, that's what I've got to do, go back to the top of the alphabet. And maybe in year, we'll go through that.
NNAMDIWell, here's Brian, speaking of Bs. Brian in Alexandria, Va., you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
BRIANOh, thanks, Kojo, for taking my call. It was interesting, and I was calling about the whole Facebook thing and your guest there in the studio, I forget who it was there...
BRIAN...that mentioned they didn't have a Facebook, yeah, which is great because that's what I was going to call and say, when I hear all the stuff going on about Facebook, it just kind of makes me laugh 'cause I've chosen not to get on Facebook. My wife isn't. Most of the people I know don't. It always just seems very kid-oriented. It's all the kids I hear -- parents will tell me about their kids have Facebook, but -- and the only reason they're on it is just to keep tabs on their kid. But it's not the kind of thing that I or my circle is that involved in.
BRIANBut the story about the -- allowing it for even younger kids, bothers me even though it's not going to affect me 'cause my son isn't on it. We're not on it. But -- 'cause it seems like almost every day or every week, you hear another story about somebody who's lost a job or gotten in trouble or something because of something was posted on Facebook. And with kids getting even younger with not having the maturity to know what they should do or shouldn't do yet on that, I'd hate to have something I posted when I was 13 or 14, if it was around back then, come back to haunt me now.
BRIANSo I can only imagine what's going to happen 10, 15 years from now through these new generation of kids if they're -- you know, without the foresight to know what to, you know, to know how to manage their life account, as it were there. But I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one out there. I knew I wasn't the only one out there. It's good to have the confirmation that...
NNAMDIYou mentioned that neither you nor your circle of friends have Facebook accounts. What happens if the rest of the people in the circle start getting Facebook accounts? Will you join?
BRIANThey -- probably not. I mean, I have -- this whole idea that you can only communicate through Facebook is just so strange. I've had email for years. I've sent out -- I had a dozen emails this morning. I've sent pictures out to people, but I send it to specific people. It's not posted for everyone to see. If I wanted to send something to a relative of mine, I send it to him. I don't understand this concept that you...
NNAMDIYou can adjust your privacy settings on Facebook, so that only people you...
BRIANOh, I'm tired of hearing about this setting (unintelligible).
GILROYHe's a man of my own heart.
HARLOWKojo with the peer pressure. What gives?
NNAMDIOK, OK, I'm on Facebook.
BRIAN(unintelligible) me 'cause I've just decided not to -- I mean, it's just not necessary.
BRIANI don't -- no one's explained to me yet why I need to have a Facebook account. They always tell me the same boiler plate. You can connect with friends and relatives.
NNAMDIBut, John Gilroy, did we discuss some jobs where people are asking their employees to have -- not only to disclose their passwords, but to have Facebook accounts?
GILROYWell, the reason is to put more money in Mark Zuckerberg's pocket. I mean, this is a poor fellow. He's only worth $30 billion, you know? That's why.
DRUINYeah. Well, I mean, and -- but, you know, there is a big difference between the microblogging like Twitter and Facebook. And there is, I mean, for example, even though Twitter does have all of your data forever for whatever you've tweeted, you -- most people cannot actually get at what you've tweeted, except for what's the last -- for the last seven days. So it's -- it does shut down certain parts of people getting at things forever. But it is a good question. I mean, I actually decided I didn't have time to be on every social network, so I choose -- I pick and choose.
NNAMDIYou're too busy tweeting.
DRUINIt's so true. I am too busy tweeting.
HARLOWWell, it's funny, too, 'cause, obviously, no one needs a Facebook account. But, I mean, as new technologies come out, we find ways, or maybe we prefer communicating with -- for certain things. You know, I mean...
HARLOW...a lot of people never would have imagined now I prefer texting versus phone calls. You know, my in-laws will text me rather than just phone me, which strikes me as odd, but it's what they prefer to do in some cases.
GILROYSome people like RSS feeds. Some people don't.
GILROYSome people like Twitter. Some -- and some people like Facebook. You have to find out what your audience is.
HARLOWWhat's interesting, too, is, like, you know, my circle of friends, you know, we do use Facebook a lot, but not necessarily for just silly things. It'll -- I'll get event invitations all the time. They'll do that versus e-viting, for example. So for me, that's a reason to be on Facebook 'cause that's how I hear about some things.
DRUINBut then there's going to be Pinterest, so watch out, guys. Come on.
NNAMDIBrian, thank you very much for your call. John Gilroy doesn't have a Facebook account.
GILROYI don't have any friends.
NNAMDIDoesn't have a circle of friends.
GILROYI do have -- I have two friends on...
HARLOWBut he has support groups.
DRUINThat's the point.
GILROYYou know, I'm been to Facebook. I have two friends: one in North America, one in South America. That's it.
NNAMDIHere's the good thing about friends, though, Allison -- and we only have about 30 seconds -- crowdsourced fact-checking.
DRUINYes. Well, you know, with that many people tweeting and Facebooking and breaking data, you can also verify things. And so, sure enough, we have social journalism and ambient journalism. So it's something to talk about for another week.
NNAMDIFor another month.
DRUINOh, another month.
NNAMDIPlease don't bring John Gilroy back here next week, come on.
DRUINAll right, all right.
NNAMDINext month. Allison Druin, she can come back every week. She's an ADVANCE professor...
DRUINOh, thank you.
NNAMDI...of the STEM Senior Women's Council and co-director of the Future of Information Alliance at the University of Maryland. Bill Harlow, he can come back every other week.
NNAMDIHe's a hardware and software technician for Macs and PCs at Mid-Atlantic...
HARLOWAnd legendary, apparently.
NNAMDI...Consulting, Inc. And John Gilroy, well, he never leaves. He's director of business development at Armature Corp. Together they are The Computer Guys & Gal. Thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
Most Recent Shows
Montgomery County Public Schools recently denied a local girl admission to a language immersion program, and her father now says discrimination is to blame.
The Supreme Court today unanimously ruled in favor of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell on appeal of his corruption case. The conviction was vacated, setting the stage for a retrial. We consider the implications of the ruling - in and beyond the Commonwealth.
It's hot, humid and officially summer, which means mosquito season is upon us. Kojo discusses local prevention efforts and the ways to keep yourself and your family safe from the viruses they can carry.