Kojo talks with author Colson Whitehead about his new novel "The Underground Railroad" and its resonance at this particular moment in history.
From glare-free e-readers and calorie-conscious watches to portable power supplies, we explore the best new gadgets for heading back to school or work. Plus, as we mark the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, we explore new websites and online tools that help us prepare for the unexpected and remember those we lost. The Computer Guys and Gal are back with the latest and greatest from 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
A binder insert case for your tablet
Nike Fuel Band
Sept. 11 technology
I Will… Technology for Sept. 11
Tracking terrorism with Big Data
The 9/11 Memorial online
Technology in the news
Apple v. Samsung, pinch-to-zoom, and the supposed “rounded rectangles” argument
Of course, Amazon released a range of new Kindles. They look great! Cheap, too!
64 percent of teens use YouTube as a music service
The art and science of password cracking
Anonymous hackers allegedly breached the FBI and found 12 million iOS UDIDs on file
The challenges of providing wireless internet to sports fans at the game (there are just so many of them!)
Apps for emergencies
Apple defers to Computer Guys and Gal air to announce new product: iPhone 5?
51 percent think “stormy weather” interferes with online cloud
Last quarter, iPhone outsold ALL of Microsoft!!!
The “Big” three: Big Data & Big Brother & the Big Apple
Best practices to lock down your Twitter account
Revisit a topic from last month. Miss Digital Manners tells Bill to be polite online.
Who knew? Facebook has 150,000 servers and spends $20 million a year on energy. Google spends $100 million. Lesson learned: “Free” Facebook has gotta change.
MR. BILL HARLOWFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world and with The Computer Guys & Gal. You know what that sound means. They're here. Later in the broadcast, we'll find out why a top restaurant in Los Angeles is offering discounts to people who hand over their cellphones before they're seated.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIWe'll explore the future of the smartphone now that Apple has managed to convince a jury that it owns the idea for a rectangle phone with smooth edges and a button in a middle, and we'll get tips for finding the latest and greatest eReaders, portable power sources and other tech for back to school and back to work. But first, meet them in case you haven't before. Allison Druin is our computer gal.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIShe's an ADVANCE professor of the STEM Senior Women's Council and co-director of the Future of Information Alliance at the University of Maryland. Allison, good to see you again.
PROF. ALLISON DRUINGood to see you, Kojo.
NNAMDIAlso with us is Bill Harlow. He is hardware and software technician for Macs and PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting Inc. Bill, good to see you again.
HARLOWGood to see you too.
NNAMDIAnd John Gilroy, he is director of business development at Armature Corp. Hi, John.
MR. JOHN GILROYGood morning, Mr. convention expert.
NNAMDIGood afternoon, John. It's afternoon.
GILROYI attached the word convention 'cause it drives (unintelligible) crazy after two weeks of being (unintelligible).
NNAMDINo more convention talk. But today, we begin on a more somber note. Today marks the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, an event that not only changed the way we think about America and the world but also changed the way we use technology. It's also changed the technology world in profound and subtle ways. Today, most individuals have cellphones. They've at least given thought to how we would use them in case of emergencies.
NNAMDIGovernments are using sophisticated data-crunching methods and surveillance technologies that challenge some of our ideas about privacy. Looking back 11 years, I'm curious, what are the more interesting or important changes you've seen, starting with you, Bill?
HARLOWWell, Twitter, I think, actually, is a big one. It's one of the -- it sounds like a dumb thing, but if something is going down, everybody is going to talk about it on Twitter. It's going to trend. You're going to know what's up to the second. So it's actually a great way to keep on top of things.
NNAMDIIn your case, Allison, what have you noticed?
DRUINYou know, 10-plus years ago, people weren't -- didn't have the idea that when something happened, they could put it online and be a part of a very big online resource. And so way back when the oldest digital archives online, people really felt passionately about was actually the Sept. 11 digital archive, and that's morphed into so many places today that you'll see digital archives of people's thoughts and feelings about a particular event.
NNAMDI800-433-8850. How has technology affected the way you think about safety and security in your day-to-day life? What tech do you use now that you didn't use before for purposes of safety and security, John Gilroy?
GILROYMy wife and I were talking about this over the weekend, and, I mean, it's kind of good news and bad news. I mean, I would hate to have had a loved one on top of that building and talking to them on the phone or -- I mean, I think it's probably good that we didn't have as much technology back then as we have now. I think that would be, you know, talk about a nightmare for the rest of your life. I mean, that would have been a terrible event.
NNAMDIBut people would have been talking on -- people were talking on the phone with some loved ones, I think, then.
DRUINYes, they were.
GILROYIt wasn't as common as today. I mean, so they would be taking pictures, oh, which is terrible.
NNAMDIExactly right. Today, it would have been tweeted.
NNAMDIPeople would have been taking pictures which would probably have made the tragedy even more vivid...
GILROYI can't imagine.
NNAMDI...and therefore maybe even worse. But you can call us, 800-433-8850. Bill and Allison, you both flagged interesting websites and services that are designed either to help us appreciate and remember the past or to help us plan moving forward. Bill, what is Find My Friends?
HARLOWYes. So this is something you can get for free for an iPhone or iPad, and it -- it's -- just what it sounds like. You can invite your friends, and then you can keep tabs on each other. So I used this actually on vacation recently where my wife and I wanted to go do something else and maybe keep tabs on our friends who were out doing other things. So we could either just pull up a map and see where they were.
HARLOWBut it could be useful, too, if you need to keep tabs on where your kids are, loved ones, really easy to use. Just use a GPS. There's another app called Find My Friends with an exclamation point for Android, no relation, but it's the same idea. You can keep tabs on other people with their smartphones and their GPS.
NNAMDIIs there an app for lose my friends?
GILROYWell, are these...
NNAMDISometimes, you need to do that.
GILROYAre these cellphones or are these trackers? I mean...
GILROY...good question to ask. I mean, I'm starting to refer to them as trackers.
NNAMDIAllison, talk about how technology can also be used to prepare kids to think about emergencies and prepare for it.
DRUINYeah. There's actually, you know, way back when, actually, my kid was 2 years old when this all happened, and I had absolutely no idea how to approach the subject with my kid. But now, there's something from the makers of Sesame Street, so -- which actually talks about, you know, let's go and tries to define what an emergency is and what it means to have something happen that you didn't expect and how you can act quickly and create family emergency kits.
DRUINThere's also even something for older kids, you know, grades three and up, for something called Brain Pop where they -- it's an animated carton, and they talk a little bit over the heads of preschoolers and so on. So there's a number of different sites today, thankfully, that can help parents think about how to talk about this because, you know what, emergencies will always happen, hopefully not as badly as the 9/11 experience for all of us.
DRUINBut it's always important to understand what your plans are and what your resources are, and the kids just knowing, what's their name, what's their address, what's their phone number?
NNAMDISounds like a paradox preparing for the unexpected, but, nevertheless, you can -- one thing in life that is guaranteed is that there will be unexpected situations.
NNAMDIBill, tell us about the emergency radio app.
HARLOWYes. So it's just a combination app that pulls in various sources so you can get, like, weather information. You can get police scanner info, emergency medical info. There's all sorts of stuff in one spot using iPhone as sort of, like, an all-purpose radio scanner, weather radio, and it's, you know, then one more great way to keep up on things. And it's a little nicer than maybe one of those old-school weather radios that you can still buy, those big cumbersome things.
NNAMDIInformation technology has also changed the way we remember past events and the way we think about charitable service. Allison, what is I Will?
DRUINYes. This is from the folks from My Good Deed. It's an international nonprofit that's trying to get people to understand that 9/11 can be used as a wonderful day to do charitable service and doing good deeds. And so they are trying to collect basically notations from people that say I will remember 9/11. What they're saying is I will remember by giving blood at the blood bank, or I will remember by being a better neighbor.
DRUINI'll remember to help somebody build a house. So people are basically donating these I'll remembers via text, video and so on. And My Good Deed is actually working with a tech company to collect and screen these and actually transmit them, and they've been transmitted to places like Times Square where they have two large video billboards with people talking about I remember and what they're going to do to do something good today.
NNAMDI9/11 also ushered in new hi-tech approaches to combating terrorism and crime. Today, many of them integrates so-called big data, mining huge data sets to detect patterns. At the same time, John, these approaches raised all kinds of red flags in terms of civil liberties, don't they?
GILROYWell, you know, I sent an article called something about Big Brother, Big Data and the Big Apple.
NNAMDIThe big three.
GILROYThe big three. Well, what's going on there? Well, I mean, coincidentally, that's where these towers, you know, got attacked. I am comfortable and uncomfortable with the amount of information that place organizations can gather on me. My two kids were up in New York about three or four weeks ago. I wonder how many times they show up on cameras. My daughter was in London last summer. How many times did she show up on camera?
GILROYI mean, I just -- maybe I'm at the age where I'm scratching my head, going, well, I don't know if I'm comfortable with this. My kids didn't bat an eye. They didn't even think about it. I think combining big data with cameras I just I think you could -- you know, the previous show was on ethics. I think you do two hours on ethics of that and the good and the bad and...
NNAMDIA lot of people think it's the end of privacy as we knew it, Allison Druin.
DRUINYes. But, you know what? The key to doing more is knowing more. That's a Nike slogan, OK? But there's...
NNAMDII want to know more about John Gilroy.
GILROYNo one does.
DRUINBut, actually, Gary LaFree said something last year that made a lot of sense to me. He said, imagine trying to fight cancer without knowing how much cancer there is. And that, to me, went, whoa, that's powerful. Now, he's the director of a consortium at University of Maryland that actually thinks about responses to terrorism. And so, for the first time in four decades, there's actually a national, international terrorist -- a collection of information on terrorist attacks.
DRUINAnd by understanding these patterns, we're able to hopefully make better decisions about how to prepare for these things and how to understand going forward what are the new ways that we should be collecting information. Now, I completely agree with you it is a little scary in terms of our privacy, but sometimes we have to say to ourselves, how much do we want to be protected and how much do we want to be private?
NNAMDIIt's a delicate balance between security and privacy. But speaking of finding friends, David in Washington, D.C. apparently wants to find some friends in L.A. David, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DAVIDYeah. I was just wondering if there's an app or a plug-in that kind of syncs with Facebook so you know who of your friends from years ago have ended up in L.A. or in one specific spot, so that when you go visit that place, you can know who to call up there.
NNAMDIAre these people who are already your Facebook friends or people who were...
NNAMDI...simply -- oh, OK. Bill, know anything about that?
HARLOWWell, I mean, there is location capability built into Facebook. So if these people are using that, which some people do, some people don't. I myself, I'm sort of like John in this regard. I don't necessarily want people to know where I am 24/7. But, you know, if I'm going someplace interesting, I might say -- or a cool hotspot and I want to say, hey, maybe my friends would like to know I'm here, and they'll come and find me. I might put something up. So there is the location capability built into Facebook from mobile devices.
DAVIDWell, I was...
NNAMDII think something like...
DAVIDNot to interrupt, but I was actually just interested in people that have -- that actually live there. So that's their designated location and base, but not necessarily where they are at this moment.
HARLOWRight. But I think you can actually look by location, too. I think Facebook actually kind of filters based on what's in your proximity as well. And the nice thing about Facebook is there's so many other things that connect to it that if you take a look on, like, the app store for, like, Android or iOS, you might find apps that work with some of that data and present it to you in a manner that helps you find what you're looking for.
NNAMDIDavid, thank you very much for your call. Good luck to you. Well, off of 9/11 questions and on to the new iPhone is coming. Among the things we've been told, we might expect a thinner, sleeker design, a new jack that may very well abandon the familiar prong unique to the iPhone and iPad and iPod. But, I guess, some of us are getting kind of jaded with this, Bill.
HARLOWYeah. It's not that I don't want technology to advance. It's just I'm really happy with my current iPhone. I'm at a point now where I can't think of too much I want in this. 4G LTE, that would be nice. So this new iPhone has it, great. I'm not going to run out and get one, but that's great. It's a great technology. The only thing I really want is I want a magical alien battery where I can plug this in one night and then have the thing last all week. That would be incredible. There was a time when phones lasted more than 24 hours.
GILROYYou know, it almost seems Pavlovian. I mean, you know, ring a bell, Bill runs out, gets a new phone. Ring a bell, Kojo's gonna get a new phone, ding, ding, ding.
NNAMDIYou know, John, I got my iPhone about a year-and-a-half ago, and it's like this pressure that you got to get a new one in under two years. You can't keep...
GILROYIt's subtle, yeah, of course. Yeah, what a loser you are. Come on. I mean, Pavlov would love this human being situation.
HARLOWI'll be able to sit this one out, I think. I mean, this current iPhone is just so good, I just -- I'm happy with it.
DRUINNo, they're all -- but they are talking about a bigger screen. They're talking about a half-inch bigger screen, yeah.
HARLOWYeah, half-inch taller. Oh, that's going to change everything.
GILROYYour life will change.
DRUINYour life will change.
HARLOWI mean, maybe it'll be nicer. But I think it...
DRUINIf it's thinner, you can stick it in your pocket easier.
HARLOWIt's already very thin. If I wanted a bigger screen, I'll buy one of the Samsungs that have, like, a big five-inch, near-tablet size screen.
NNAMDIWell, the announcement is not until officially tomorrow, John. Does that mean that Apple is now relying on you, The Computer Guys & Gal?
GILROYWell, I think it's very considerate. They're waiting until what we have to say, and then they're going to pimp it. They're very mysterious. They have some letter 12 out there, and the shadow is five under it. So you have to guess that something's to do with five.
GILROYIt's not 17, but something to do with five. But I'm very -- I think they're very nice and considerate, you know, The Computer Guys & Gal, you know, we talk about it, and then they release it. And we probably give them the bump. It's like the Colbert bump. It's The Computer Guys & Gal's bump.
HARLOWYeah, we affect their stocks directly, don't we?
GILROYYes, yes. By the way, I've heard that this new phone is supposed to impact the GDP by one half a point.
NNAMDIHere is E.W. in Crofton, Md. E.W., you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
E.W.Yes. Good conversation. You guys were talking earlier about the use of technology in other areas besides its intended use. As it relates to solving crimes and, you know, oftentimes with added government officials and even personally, I experienced a situation where I thought it could've been used. But the company that would've been, you know, would've allowed us to use it, didn't allow it. I lost a sister about a couple of years ago. Her car was missing.
E.W.We were certain her cellphone was in her car, and that particular cellphone had a GPS system in it. But, you know, the local Verizon would not, you know, do anything as it relates to, you know, going in and tracking it. The police department wouldn't track it. And then, finally, as it relates to, say, crimes, by politicians, for example. Now, I think I've mentioned this to you before, Kojo. But that whole Sulaimon Brown thing was, you know, was he there with the mayor....
NNAMDIOh, you think GPS could've solved that whole issue right there?
E.W.Oh, no, no, no, not GPS. No, not GPS, but cameras throughout the Union Station. I mean, that conversation never even came about of checking, you know, of cameras in Union Station.
NNAMDIYou've said that before. You are right that Sulaimon Brown said this occurred in Union Station. There are cameras all over Union Station. How come this conversation was never actually captured on camera? You have any answers to that question, John Gilroy?
GILROYWell, you know, it all depends on who you are. This gentleman who's on the phone here, he obviously wasn't connected in high places when David Pogue loses his phone.
GILROYHe makes some phone calls, and, guess what, he gets his phone back.
DRUINNo, no, no. He tweets, my love. That's what he does.
GILROYOh, so that's what he does.
HARLOWBecause he built up a fan base.
DRUINIt's called social network, folks.
GILROYSo tweets, and, all of a sudden, he's connected. So he finds his phone, and the poor fellow here gets nowhere.
HARLOWSo what you're saying is E.W. needs to build up a global audience of millions of readers first...
DRUINIn a social network...
HARLOW..and then -- got it.
DRUIN...you get your followers, yeah.
GILROYLearn to sing and then go to Shaker Heights High, and you'd be fine.
NNAMDIGot to take a short break. When we come back, more of these insights from The Computer Guys & Gal. Of course, we treasure your insights also, so give us a call at 800-433-8850. Send email to email@example.com. You can send us a tweet, @kojoshow. Make sure you use the #TechTuesday. Or simply go to our website, kojoshow.org, join the conversation there. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. It's The Computer Guys & Gal. They are in studio with us. John Gilroy is director of business development at Armature Corp. 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 Bill Harlow is a hardware and software technician for Macs and PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting Inc.
NNAMDIYou can call us with your comments or questions at 800-433-8850, or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. It's been called a patent worth. Basically, every high-tech company out there owns thousands of patents, and they seem to be amassing them as a way to prevent other major tech companies from suing them with the imply thread that if you sue me, I'll sue you back. But last month, something potentially game-changing happened. Apple beat Samsung in court. What happened, Bill?
HARLOWThey beat them in court. Basically, they just proved that a lot of the Samsung phones, I guess, looked and behaved awfully similarly to the iPhone, and they -- it was a whole bunch of things. It wasn't just, you know, a round corner or rectangles as has been implied. But I think it was a combination of factors that, you know, came to be, you know, including the pinch to zoom, including the scrolling and having the screen bounce back, including the huge screen in the front face, the shape of the icons.
HARLOWI'm not a lawyer, so all I can say is I don't know if, you know, this, you know, is going to necessarily hold up or if the appeal process, which will be long, drawn out, and expensive, will change some things. But I think a lot of people will look at it from the outside and say, yes, Samsung was copying them. Is it illegal?
HARLOWWell, I guess, here, some things work.
NNAMDIAllison Druin has, as you know, has had a lot of titles. Maybe legal counsel is one of them.
HARLOWSlid one in there.
DRUINThank goodness, no. But I can tell you that the research community, in general, is up in arms against Apple because it's not that we don't all love Apple products. It's that, guess what, what they're suing Samsung and many other companies for, it's our work. It's people like us in universities that first wrote the papers, and we don't have the money to sue Apple. But Apple has the money to sue the other guys. And so it is so frustrating, I can't begin to tell you. I'm so -- I'm up in arms because that was a jury trial, and that jury did not understand what they were listening to.
GILROYYou know, it's so ironic for an old geezer like me 'cause I remember years ago what Steven Jobs did. If you remember, Kojo -- perhaps you do -- is he had a pirate flag on top of his building in California because he wanted to steal people from Palo Alto Research Corp., PARC. And he'd bring people -- he had the flag right there. Don't people remember that? I mean, he was stealing -- I mean, it's just seems so -- it's just crazy.
DRUINIt's so upsetting.
HARLOWWell, in the case of PARC, that's interesting because I don't know how it was with, like, a lot of this stuff you're talking about Allison. But with PARC, I understand that wasn't -- it was sort of dead end. It was like research. It wasn't really-- and Apple wanted to do something with it. So they brought the people over from there to continue developing and do something that became a product.
DRUINThey didn't do that -- they didn't do that. In fact, Apple never gives back to the research community, doesn't show up at conferences, doesn't support research in universities, nothing. And, basically, they take the research and do with it what they want.
HARLOWThis is like the reverse of the Apple bump right now. Stocks going to back down.
GILROYYeah. Just because of Allison right here.
DRUINOh my goodness then.
NNAMDINote to self, never bring up slighting of the research community with Allison Druin again.
GILROYNo. I think the research community is tremendous. I really do. They're great...
DRUINThank you. I appreciate that.
HARLOWMore Kool-Aid, John? Going to walk out of the room.
NNAMDICan we change the subject before we get beaten up here today?
HARLOWWhat about them Redskins, huh?
NNAMDIA restaurant in Los Angeles is offering diners discounts if they hand over their phones before they have their meals. Is this a good idea, John?
GILROYWell, I want Allison's title to be even longer. And so I think her title should be the digital Miss Manners.
GILROYI want her to patrol all the restaurants in Washington, D.C., and if someone like Bill is sitting there chatting on his phone, she should discreetly walk up to him and say hi, I'm the digital Miss Manners. We prefer that you don't have -- and take the phone and just stomp on it.
HARLOWIt's funny you say talking on the phone because you can see, like, the generational gap here because...
HARLOW…there are people who, like, sit there, and they talk during dinner. There are people who might yap on the phone, and then you go lower still and people who are now texting or using apps on their phones.
HARLOWThat's how you can tell the age brackets of each user, each diner.
NNAMDIThere are people who are using their cellphones in restaurants and not saying a word.
DRUINWell, I think -- I think that...
NNAMDIBut they're more distracting even than people who are talking on the phone.
GILROYThe digital Miss Manners should chime in in The Washington Post, have a little column and this is how you tweet, this is when you tweet. This is -- if you're at a wedding...
NNAMDIWhat say you?
DRUINBut, you know, but what's the difference between me and Kojo sitting there, having a meal and talking versus me and Kojo, and I'm talking to Kojo on the phone? I mean, I honestly don't see that as a big deal. I mean...
HARLOWActually, it's funny. I saw something -- I think it was actually just a cheesy TV show, but they were talking about how hearing a one-sided conversation on the phone is much more distracting than hearing two people talking.
HARLOWOh, I think so, too.
HARLOWYour brain tries to process what the other end is saying because you can't hear it.
HARLOWSo, yes, face to face conversation, even it's right next to me, that's less distracting than you yapping with Kojo, Miss Manners.
GILROYSo now, in L.A., this restaurant is trying to encourage people not to do that.
GILROYNow, whether it's going to happen or not, I've been in some strange restaurants in L.A., and I would expect anything out of any restaurant there.
NNAMDIBut they're using your magic word, discount.
GILROYDiscount. Well, I like me some save. Save, S-A-V-E. I like saving money.
NNAMDIAnd that would be the incentive. The newest version of the Kindle Fire is out. And, Allison, everyone seems to be blown away by it. Why?
DRUINWell, you know, I actually am blown away by the -- actually, the Paperwhite Kindle.
HARLOWYeah, me, too.
DRUINOK. It's not necessarily only Kindle Fire. I mean, it's OK. You know, it's colored and all, but the Paperwhite Kindle is so cool because...
HARLOWSo cool. Actually, one word.
DRUINSo cool. So cool because it's actually lit. The way it's lit, it's not lit from behind. And so the light is not going into your eyes. It's going down at the actual screen. And so because of that, it's supposed to be a help with screen fatigue. And it's matte, so it reflects light like it's an ordinary piece of paper. So I -- so, actually, I have to tell you, this has been already pre-ordered this for his...
HARLOWOf course, you did.
GILROYOf course, you know, you don't have to say that.
DRUIN...for his birthday next month.
GILROYFor himself. What a swell guy.
DRUINI know. It's -- he walked into my office the other day. I've already chosen my birthday present. I'm like, all right.
HARLOWAnd ordered it.
DRUINWhat should I do about ordering it? No, I already ordered it.
HARLOWI guess get him a gift card for some books. Get him a case. Your job's done.
DRUINBut, you know, but what's interesting about the Kindle is that you can order it more expensively without special offers or less expensively with special offers, which means that you get advertising and you can get it cheaper for $119 versus without advertising, $139.
NNAMDIHow do -- what do you think, Bill?
HARLOWWell, I'm in agreement that the Paperwhite looks awesome because I love focus products like this where they just nail what they're designed to do, and the Kindle has always done that. But the Fire HD and the larger 8.9-inch one that are coming out, those seem cool, too, because people have talked about the iPad being a consumption device. But in some ways, these are more of the ultimate consumption devices because they're hitting a lower price point, getting them into more hands.
HARLOWThey're doing things like really focusing on making sure that watching a movie on this could be decent, so they're putting in these supposedly really nice dual-driver stereo speakers with Dolby Technology. So if you're watching a movie on these new HD screens, you're getting sound that actually backs it up because anybody who's used an iPad knows that you've got that one speaker and, yeah, you can hear what's going on, but it's not at all satisfying. So I think the big thing is just the price point and the backing of a company like Amazon behind it.
DRUINYeah. That's a good point.
NNAMDIAllison liked the way it is lit. Some of us at this table like to be lit when we're reading it. We got...
DRUINI'm not going there.
HARLOWWhoa, whoa, whoa. Speak for yourself, Kojo.
GILROYI'm going there. I've been there.
NNAMDII mentioned no names.
NNAMDIWe got this email from David in Cleveland. He said, "I really enjoy the show. Try to resist the Cleveland jokes." John, you're the one who makes the Cleveland jokes.
GILROYYes. I'm from Cleveland.
NNAMDIThat's your excuse?
GILROYAnd so is David Pogue.
NNAMDIYes. That's John's excuse. He can make Cleveland jokes 'cause he's from Cleveland. David says, "My 11-year-old tech-obsessed daughter is very eager to join Google+. Apparently, there's a group video chat feature that she wants to be a part of with her friends. They already have Google+ accounts. My concerns are with privacy, and I would love your opinion on the matter.
NNAMDI"I know privacy isn't really a concern because nobody uses Google+ -- beat you to that punch line -- but obviously, the same would apply to Facebook or Twitter or whatever is coming next. How do you feel about 11-year-olds having a Google+ account? How public are profiles on Google+? If she joins, should it be with a pseudonym? Would using a different name require a new Gmail account different than the one she already has?
NNAMDI"I'm trying to minimize the exposure of personal information. We obviously have discussed Web safety with her, and her school is pretty good about that as well. But the fact is I don't even know how little I know."
GILROYPretty articulate for someone from Cleveland.
NNAMDIThey're not all like you, John.
GILROYI do have one quick question, which is, I think, Facebook, they require you to be at least 13 years old. Does Google have that?
DRUINAnd -- yes, Google+ does as well. And so as I was thinking, as you were reading that, Kojo, I was thinking that, honestly, what they should be doing is having a family account, OK, where the parent is -- this is obviously the parent's account. But the parent is there to set up the Google Circles, which are the special interface for who gets what. And they can -- and they -- and that laptop should be out in the middle of the family dining room when they're doing a Google Hangout, which is the video conferencing.
DRUINAnd, honestly, be there for the video conferencing as well. But sharing that account and sharing the experience of setting up the account will minimize the public blast of information that shouldn't go out. And it actually would be a good learning experience both for the parents and for the kid because then, together you can learn more about this, and the kid doesn't feel like, oh, mommy is just saying no again.
NNAMDIHmm. OK, so you got to be able to do it with your kids, so to speak.
DRUINThat's right. Do it with your kids. It's like watching -- it used to be like people always said, you know, you got to watch TV with your kids, OK? Don't walk out of the room. Same thing with social media.
GILROYWell, actually, there's some humans on the planet that do that, Allison. I just don't know any. I mean...
GILROYNow, from my perspective, it's not about her being 11 years old or 13 years old or 12 1/2 or -- I don't think anyone should go and hang out. I don't like Google+. I don't trust Google. I don't know what they're doing with their big data. I don't know what they're harvesting it for. And, tell you what, you know, I think a 23-year-old's gonna be a lot more careful about what they say and do than 11. And I don't think (unintelligible)...
HARLOWI don't know about that.
DRUINActually, that's totally the opposite...
GILROYI don't think an 11 year old is, you know, a parent is not going to sit down -- the 11-year-old wants to get away from their parents and do this. That's why they want to do it. So, you know, I raised three kids. I think I have an idea what's -- Allison's in the middle of raising kids. We all have our different opinions here. But, you know, I wouldn't even play around with Google+, no matter what, even with someone as old as Bill.
HARLOWI got to say I've used the Google Hangout feature. It's great. I mean, I've used it just as a great videoconferencing tool.
DRUINIt's very cool.
NNAMDIWhat do you think? Do you use the Google+ feature? Call us, 800-433-8850.
NNAMDITell us what...
NNAMDITell us what your experience has been -- or why you won't, 800-433...
GILROYI'm going to sit with mom and talk to my friends.
NNAMDI...8850. Bill, a couple of months back, LinkedIn suffered from a massive hack that ended up compromising the passwords of more than 6 million users, many of whom finally realized that their old password of their kid's name and birth date wouldn't cut it anymore.
NNAMDIYou flagged an interesting article about the art and science of cracking passwords.
HARLOWYeah. And this is a bit eye-opening for me. Some of it kind of makes sense when you think about it. But I hear about these breaches and all these passwords leaked and the first thing I do is, you know, check if any of mine are being rehashed. Now, all my passwords are randomly generated. And I look at it that way. It's, OK, my passwords weren't affected, I'm fine. But it's more than that because when they get this dump of passwords, they analyze it.
HARLOWResearchers and hackers analyze this and then use that to seed their algorithms to go back and try to hack other passwords. And when they look at this, that's where they find the patterns and they realize, all right, nowadays, people are realizing that they have to put in a capital letter. What do they do? Ninety percent of the time, they make the first letter the cap. So they know that that's how their program should focus.
HARLOWThe whole point of this is to go for the low-hanging fruit, and the fruit is not getting really low-hanging. But they're finding ways to efficiently go for the easiest route in. And every time a -- I hear about a breach or passwords coming out, I get a little nervous and realizing, OK, that just means that they're getting stronger. How do we fight back?
NNAMDIYeah, well, that's the question I would like you to answer.
HARLOWWell, in my case, I don't let my human brain do anything. I let my computer generate the passwords for me, and if you torture me, I couldn't tell you my passwords.
GILROYWell, there are best practices for generating passwords. We once did a whole show on passwords. I mean, what you want to -- I don't want to get in all this detail about length and upper and lower case. Everyone knows that, I think. But the thing that you want to do is, you know, it's obvious -- don't use the same the password in multiple sites. I mean, that's -- start there, you know.
HARLOWDon't use it everywhere. Keep it long.
GILROYAnd I think another thing that people don't realize is that you have to make sure your systems are patched because vulnerabilities come up, and they get patched. For example, there's 55 million WordPress blogs out there. I mean, you have to patch WordPress. It's just -- it's -- what's it got to do with it? It's got a lot to do with it 'cause a lot of these password vulnerabilities are attacked, and that's one thing. I think, you know, a lot of -- are connected.
GILROYIf your Twitter feed is connected to your blog and if you enter a blog and automatically tweet something out, guess what, if they're into your blog, they're automatically into your Twitter. So I think you have to be strategic about connecting your social media networks and just keep (unintelligible).
NNAMDIYeah. You flag tips for protecting your Twitter account.
GILROYYeah, I mean, I have seen Twitter accounts getting hacked here in the last, oh, I don't know, two or three months here. And I've just said, hmm, kind of interesting that people don't realize they're all connected because what people do is maybe a status update in LinkedIn and just send it over Twitter and then maybe if your blog automatically send it over, the (word?) automate a lot of social media. And that automation can make you more vulnerable. And a lot of people don't monitor what's going on, so I think one way is managing access.
GILROYI mean, if one username and password has access to Twitter, should it have access to three or four other social media sites? I don't think so. I think you should use a unique password, I think. Fox News was broken into last year by some guys putting up silly headlines. I mean, I saw some of the silly headlines. No, so I would disconnect it, and I would just, you know, step back and just think this through rather than make something easy. Now, it's not easy. I mean, I have a spreadsheet with, I think, 40 different usernames and passwords that change all the time. It's getting to be a real pain. I think...
DRUINSo let's break into his house and steal the spreadsheet.
NNAMDISpeaking of Twitter, Allison, it's my understanding that it's supposed to be ruining francaise.
GILROYNo, no, no.
HARLOWGot it out of your system yet?
DRUINOh, yeah. OK. So people have been...
NNAMDIWe've exhausted our vocabulary.
DRUINYeah, really. Folks have been analyzing the French language in Twitter, and they realize that because you only get 140 characters, people are shortening everything. So instead of using vous, which is spelled V-O-U-S, which means you, but in the sort of formal sense...
NNAMDIPolite sense, yes.
DRUINYes. OK. So...
HARLOWWell, Twitter is anything but formal and polite, so makes sense.
DRUINExactly. So they're using tu, which is T-U, which you save a few characters. And so by doing that, you know, some people are feeling that it's just rude. It's killing grammar.
NNAMDITu is overly familiar, yes.
DRUINIt's -- you know, are we teaching our society to be nasty? And how -- what about our writing skills and so on?
HARLOWNow, I haven't combed the French Twitterverse, but if people look at the English tweets that are out there, there are so many made-up ways of contracting words and using symbols and numbers to fit everything into 140 characters. Is this vous versus tu really a big deal?
DRUINTo the French, it is.
NNAMDII'd like our listeners to give us their opinion. In your view, is social media eroding our language -- 800-433-8850 -- or improving it in your view? 800-433-8850.
GILROYYou know, if you read Portuguese, they're the same thing, but it will say -- it says V period. So it's happening a lot. And it's been happening for centuries. I mean, if you speak Spanish, everyone says this word usted, which is formal...
GILROY...but it's derived from vuestra merced. It's from your majesty. So it was compressed, too. So I think that's just the nature of language. I think it just tends to get more compressed.
HARLOWYeah, it's fluid.
NNAMDIWe're going to take a short break. When we come back, more of this conversation with the Computer Guys & Gal. We're taking your calls at 800-433-8850. Do you think social media is improving or eroding our language skills? 800-433-8850. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIIt's the Computer Guys & Gal for their monthly visit with us. Bill Harlow is a hardware and software technician for Macs and PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc. John Gilroy is director of business development at Armature Corp. 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. They have just discovered that their new skill is linguistics. So we move on to -- we move on therefore to...
GILROYAnd digital Miss Manners. Don't forget that type.
NNAMDI...Ken in Gaithersburg, Md., who'd like to comment on this. Ken, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
KENSure. The question was about social etiquette and also reading and writing skills.
KENAnd as both an employer and a physician and somebody who writes a lot, I can tell you that, yes, there is a tremendous area of effect, first of all, in terms of etiquette and social skills. You may be old enough to remember James Forrestal, who was the secretary of the Interior. And he once mentioned that when he grew up, people were very, very polite because you never knew who was carrying a gun.
KENAnd if you're on social media, you don't even see the face of the other person. So, you know, social etiquette goes right out the window, and some of the rudest and meanest things I've ever seen have been written on Twitter and social media. From an employer's and a physician's point of view, however, two things have really been bothering me lately. The first is that people under the age of 25 have terrible writing skills. They cannot apparently string more than 140 characters together and make a coherent sentence. And also, handwriting skills are almost nonexistent, and if you're...
NNAMDIThis from a physician?
HARLOWI'd like to say.
NNAMDIPlease go ahead, sir.
KENWell, you see, I have the benefit or perhaps the liability of a fine English education, so we did learn penmanship. And if you're writing a script, you're writing an order or you're taking notes on a patient, if they're not legible to somebody, that's actually life-threatening. And I've been training my charges, my people who I have studying with me, to learn how to write in block letters clearly. And it's very eye-opening that they don't even realize that what they're writing is illegible.
NNAMDIOK. Thank you very much for your call.
GILROYKen, real quick. Did you know this week is National Health IT Week? Did you know that?
KENNo, I wasn't aware.
GILROYJust started on Monday. There's going to be an event in Georgetown at 6:30 tonight in case you're interested. Google it. You'll find it.
NNAMDIWhat does that have to do with handwriting and social skills and the ability to write well?
GILROYHe's a physician. He's a physician. Health IT...
DRUINThe non sequitur is wonderful with John. Oh, my goodness.
GILROYIt's a sequitur, not a non sequitur. Now she's using Latin, French, Latin.
NNAMDISee, I told you he's a linguistics expert. Ken -- thank you very much for your call, Ken. We move on to Liz in Silver Spring, Md. Liz, your turn.
LIZHi. You know, I want to get back to the whole Facebook and parental supervision thing.
LIZYou can customize your post, though I don't know how I'm supposed to get around, like, giving my kid some reasonable amount of privacy without going into their account every day and looking at everything they post 'cause all you got to do is select delete mom, dad or any other relative on your Facebook page who might tell on you that you posted an inappropriate picture or that kind of thing. And, I mean, I don't know if there's any way around that.
LIZDoes Facebook have any kind of law for kids that are under 18 that are on there that they can't customize their post? Or do you have suggestions for parents short of I got to go on there every morning and make sure my kid doesn't do something inappropriate online?
DRUINHow old is your kid?
LIZWell, she's only 8, but I'm talking about my brother's kids or teenagers, and I'm on their pages. And sometimes I'll email my sister-in-law and say, did you see this post from so and so because it's totally -- she should take it off. It's totally inappropriate. So I'm just wondering, when it comes up...
LIZ...and I'm hoping not for several years, if I have my way, I'll just say flat-out, no, until I'm ready to deal with it. But if -- you know, I have a lot of friends with teenage kids, and we talk about it all the time. And it doesn't ever seem to come up in the conversation that you can customize your post.
DRUINRight. Well, here's a few things. First of all, 8 is a wonderful age to start talking with your kid about appropriate use of information. And by doing things together, you can model that behavior so that it doesn't become something like, oh, mom's intruding on my privacy. It's mom and I are -- mom is helping me understand something that ideally, you know, they're going to take forward on their own.
DRUINAnd so when mom is not there to hold my hand, I'm going to do the right thing. That's like teaching them not to eat French fries for breakfast. I mean, maybe you get -- but, now, in terms of the -- you've already got -- if you've already got high school kids, you know, actually that social network thing of you telling your sister about so and so and -- that's exactly the main -- unfortunately, things are getting caught right now.
DRUINThere is -- there are no laws, you know, specific laws for you can't do this on Facebook and that if you're underage, OK? But -- I wish there were, but there aren't. So one of the things to do is to have a social network of people that look out for kid just like you would have a social network, you know, in your neighborhood to look out for kids that are wandering around and doing the wrong thing.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Liz. On now to Diana. A lot of people want to talk about this. Diana is in Purcellville, Va. Diana, your turn.
DIANAHi. I am glad to be on. I love you guys. You just crack me, and I get a lot of information. My...
DIANAWell, my 12-year-old -- and she's been on Facebook since she was 10. I, you know, filled out the form that, you know, she was under the age. And I -- and they said, well, you know, we will take her off. And since my husband works at Facebook, he put her back on.
DRUINDon't give us your last name.
GILROYI think this is the wrong show. This is marriage counseling hour. That's the next hour.
NNAMDIWe do do marriage counseling here.
NNAMDIGo ahead, please. We should be able to help you.
DIANABut I'm just -- the kids can get back on. You know, if they're not -- I mean, he did it. But if they just log in from another computer, they don't -- I don't think Facebook recognizes that computer, and so they just move to another computer, sign in as 18. And, you know, there is -- I know there's, you know, lawyer things and stuff I can probably do but can't afford. But we do need to watch out for, you know, our kids using it.
DIANAAnd when I do approve her to use Facebook, I will be checking up on her every morning. And she has her own Mac and her own air book or whatever. And if she has filters, I check what she does. But, you know, it's very hard to control what...
NNAMDIIt's hard to control, but you are apparently doing a good job of supervising. And I guess that would mean Allison would say you're being what a good parent is supposed to be.
DRUINYeah. The only thing I would suggest is just talk up front a little bit more about it. I mean, as opposed to the, you know, checking on the back end, talk about what they're talking about. Talk about, like, kids that do the wrong thing to use those as examples to say, wow, I hope, you know, I hope I never see anybody else do that because that's a really horrible thing. You know, talking upfront about things saves a lot on the back end of checking.
NNAMDIAnd speaking of non sequiturs since you brought up Facebook, John Gilroy, what does Facebook's energy footprint look like?
GILROYWell, this is a shock. I mean, I never realized this. You know, I read an article said that Facebook has 150,000 servers and spends $200 million a year on energy. And Google spends $100 million a year on energy. Now, we know what Google's, you know, what their value proposition is, how they're trying to make money. We know that. But Google -- I mean, Facebook -- now, this whole free thing on Facebook, it's going to change drastically in the next three or four years. I mean, they're going to have to show people the money.
GILROYI mean, that Zuckerberg, he's making a lot of money, and everyone knows his face. He's great. But they're going to have to change something. I think it's going to change drastically in the next few years, and, all of a sudden, you're going to be sending a message to a friend about pizza. And you get bombarded with 22 pizza ads or something. I mean, they're not...
HARLOWThat doesn't happen now?
GILROYI mean, it's going to be much worse than that. It's going to be just...
NNAMDISee, Diana, that's the argument you now have for your husband. Maybe he'll solve these problems.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. Bill, whenever you or I download a new app or software suite on our computer, we're almost always presented with a long legal document called terms of service.
HARLOWOh, yeah. I call those click-throughs. Just click through till you get to the end and hit the agree button.
NNAMDIWe're presented generally with two choices: either read a rambling dense legal document or do what Bill does, just click I agree.
GILROYYou're the only one who does that, Bill.
NNAMDIMost of us choose to do that, but a new community-driven effort to actually read the terms of service -- tell us about the terms of service didn't read.
HARLOWYeah. That name comes from a really silly response to someone who post along with a post somewhere. You just type in TL;DR. It means too long, didn't read. So same idea with terms of service agreements for, you know, like, let's say, Facebook or Flickr, whoever. The idea is that the community will comb through these -- and I'm not sure how exactly.
HARLOWI haven't delved that far. Maybe they just, you know, dole out different passages to different people. And once they get a handle on what these terms mean, they go ahead, and they grade them in different areas, like privacy, ownership of data, all these things that might come back to haunt you, you know, because you just clicked through and didn't realize what you agreed to.
HARLOWSo at least now you can go, you can see who, you know, what Facebook's grade is, how they, you know, treat your privacy, what they do with ads, if they share your information with other sources, you know, do -- anything you post, do they own it, do you still own it, et cetera? So great resource, and I hope that their database of terms of service continues to grow 'cause they're very useful idea.
GILROYTOS dash DR?
GILROYDot info. That's a new one.
NNAMDIHere now is Roy in Fairfax, Va., apparently responding to the question of whether social media is eroding our language skills. Roy, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ROYHey, guys. Thanks for having me on.
ROYAll right. So about this whole erosion of language. I feel the phrase YOLO has become permeated in our society that when I see YOLO #Sept11, I get a little irritated. For those of you who don't know, YOLO is the shortening of you only live once. Now, I was wondering if your panel had any sort of comment on these sort of ridiculous phrases and how Twitter, Facebook and various users and not so (unintelligible)...
NNAMDIExcept that, as they accumulate, it becomes more and more difficult to keep up with them.
GILROYWell, in 1978, people had pet rocks. I mean, they did.
DRUINSpeaking of ridiculous.
HARLOWNot you, though.
GILROYBut, no, no, I was in grade school at the time, and Kojo was way, way beyond. But, I mean, I think human being...
NNAMDII did have a pet rock before.
GILROYHumans are silly things, and I think there's some silly things. And Twitter amplifies silly things that people do, so…
HARLOWYeah. Your silliness is public now.
GILROYYeah. I just -- I think this is not, you know, I think...
NNAMDIYou're calling my little rock silly?
GILROYThrow it at me, huh?
DRUINBut, actually, what it's doing is -- because Twitter has its limitation of 140 characters -- and it really is a random limitation, OK? -- it's not like this is the only way to make this happen. But they chose 140 characters. Because they did that, the software is actually, in effect, impacting the silliness, impacting what people will do and won't do and -- in our communication mechanisms so...
NNAMDIHere is Justin in Vienna, Va. with another take on this. Justin, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JUSTINHi. My name is Justin. I'm 24 years old. And I was commenting on the social network kind of resulting in the downfall of English language. I guess I'm a part of a niche group of friends, but I feel like this kind of resounds throughout most of social networking. Really, when somebody uses the wrong language or grammatically incorrect language on social networking, usually more times than not, it gets, you know, bombarded with additional comments correcting the original wrong grammatical comment.
JUSTINAnd I feel like it's the -- really the next evolutionary step in our modern language, abbreviations mostly. It communicates your ideas faster.
NNAMDIYeah, I've seen blogs in which they request in the comment section, please, do not correct the grammar of any of our comment.
NNAMDIThat's not the purpose of this blog.
DRUINWell, if you take a look at Wikipedia and how crazy the rules are for editing and just on grammar alone. So it's -- you're right. You point out an interesting phenomenon that, you know, on one hand, people are writing in bizarre ways. In the other hand, people are really still commenting on the structure of grammar.
NNAMDIAnd just this bit of information in response to a tweet we got from Randy, who said, "Should I be concerned about GoDaddy going down? Does -- there are some who have my info that I didn't before." Well, the tweet references the fact that GoDaddy, the domain registrar and Web hosting company, went down yesterday. A hacker affiliated with Anonymous apparently claimed responsibility, but today, the CEO of GoDaddy claims it was not the work of hackers, though he didn't say what actually caused the outage.
GILROYThe best tweet I've heard on that is "Earthquake in California, Anonymous claims responsibility."
NNAMDIIt's all the time we have. John Gilroy is director of business development at Armature Corp. Bill Harlow is 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. Together, they are the Computer Guys & Gal. Thank you all for joining us. Happy month.
DRUINHappy fall. Yay.
GILROYHappy digital Miss Manners.
NNAMDIThank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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