In both its spoken and written forms, the English language is constantly evolving. Grammar - the system and structure that underpin communications - and linguistics - the science of its study - can help us make sense of these shifts and changes. We talk with experts in each field about the quirks, foibles, understanding and glory of the written and spoken word.
Brick and mortar retailers fret over “showrooming:” tech-savvy consumers using their smartphones to find the best holiday deals after or while checking out products in person. Facebook banks on “social shopping.” Nintendo introduces “asymetric play,” a new video game system with a unique user interface. The Computer Guys and Gal are back to explore the new buzzwords of the tech holiday season, and the latest headlines from the digital 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
From tablets to apps, the best technology gift ideas of this holiday season. Plus, the hottest tech buzzwords, news and happenings.
The Tablet King continues with the iPad Mini. It’s a heftier price tag, but with a lighter form factor.
Never leave home without it: a USB key.
No need to walk around with glove holes! The tips of your thumbs and forefinger will help make it work on any smartphone or tablet.
Running out of batteries? Who doesn’t?iPower Case can give you five hours of battery life and
makes your iPhone 4 & 4S look good.
Hi-tech flower pots? An electronic smartpot that grows plants without watering and fertilizing.
Hi-Tech puzzles! For a rainy day, this set of old-fashioned 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzles contains high-tech surprises.
Don’t lose your car in a crowded parking lot this holiday season with the Find My Car app, which remembers the GPS position of your car, hotel or any other location and shows your current position on the map.
E-readers. There’s so much to think about with this holiday season and e-reading, with a million flavors of Kindles, Nooks, Sony Readers and more.
iPad’s “brutal impact on Windows desktops,” Apple desktops unscathed.
Dateline: Cupertino, Calif. Headline: Hell freezes over.
Now here’s a dirty secret: $300 phone bills! Consumers spend more on service than gear.
The advent of a new gerund: “showrooming” –- using your smartphone to get the best price.
Google is a mobile-first company (sounds like a “me-too” company”)
Where will Windows be in a few years? Survey says…
Not a good sign when HP has to tell consumers not to downgrade new computers.
Speaking of artists, sketch on your iPad with more control. The Pogo Connect looks like a lot of the styli that are out for iPad, but this one’s different.
Retrode, for the geeky old school gamer.
Stuff the digital stocking with the Humble THQ Bundle.
A few interesting — and free — 3-D modeling packages:
SketchUp 8 for Windows and Mac.
Autodesk 123D Design for Windows, Mac and iPad. This is another good entry level option for people looking to learn how to model objects in 3-D.
Autodesk 123D Sculpt for iPad is a 3-D modeling tool that works like digital clay. You use fingers to sculpt organic shapes on the screen. Even if you’re not serious about 3-D, this app is worth checking out.
Samsung’s 5 Durability Tests for Smartphones
Geek.com explores how Samsung tests new smartphones, including a “robo-butt.”
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. That heartwarming jingle can mean only one thing. It's the first Tuesday of the month, and The Computer Guys & Gal are here to explore how technology is changing old holiday rituals. Last month, millions of black Friday shoppers lined up in the wee hours of the morning to buy their high-tech gadgets at the lowest price, but the smart ones used their smartphones.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIThey went to the big-box stores and the showrooms. They test drove the coolest new tablets and laptops. Then they used their smartphones to see if they could find it cheaper somewhere else. Retailers call it showrooming, and they don't like it one bit. Technology is empowering us to do all kinds of things this holiday season.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIWe can find spiritual comfort in 140 characters now that the Pope has an official Twitter handle, and we can finally find our car in a crowded holiday parking lot, thanks to the new apps. Joining us in studio to discuss this is John Gilroy, director of business development at Armature Corp. who has one Twitter follower. John Gilroy...
MR. JOHN GILROYAnd it's me.
NNAMDIAnd it's himself.
GILROYAnd I pay him 10 bucks a month for that. I was in my Pope imitation with the hands up like this. You see, this is (unintelligible).
PROF. ALLISON DRUINNice. That's nice.
NNAMDIOh, I see.
GILROYIt's great for radio, by the way.
MR. BILL HARLOWYou look so much better without the hat.
DRUINYeah, really, it's (unintelligible).
NNAMDIBill Harlow is a hardware and software technician for Macs and PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc., and he will tell us a little bit later about Retrode...
NNAMDI...for the old school gamers. Do you consider -- I don't consider you an old school gamer. Do you consider yourself and old...
HARLOWI think so. I mean, anything that used a cartridge is old school.
HARLOWI had -- when -- my first console had one button, so, yeah, that's old school.
NNAMDIAllison 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 you can now find your car anywhere on a parking lot, can't you?
DRUINIt is so true. I have to tell you, growing up, I was always lost with my father wondering around looking for cars, and, now, just put a little pinpoint into your little app. It's called don't ever lose your -- no. Actually, it's called Find Your Car app and set a location. You've got your Google Maps. You'll find it again. It's awesome. I love technology.
GILROYWhat did we do for 5,000 years without these apps, you know?
NNAMDIAnd what happens if you happen to lose your phone?
DRUINAll right, all right. We aren't talking about losing phones today, folks.
GILROYNo. Wrong question.
NNAMDIOK. You, too, can call us, 800-433-8850. How has technology changed your holiday ritual? 800-433-8850. You can send email to email@example.com, send us a tweet, @kojoshow, using the #TechTuesday, or go to our website, kojoshow.org, and join the conversation there.
NNAMDIJohn, the two biggest days of the holiday shopping season are now past us -- Black Friday, when consumers line up in the wee hours of the morning for deals at stores, and Cyber Monday, when they lock in deals on websites. But a growing trend sort of splits the difference between the brick-and-mortar and the cyber world. What is showrooming?
GILROYWow. It's a word that I've heard about, but, now, it's becoming popular. And, now, maybe people who teach marketing will start using it. But let's say Allison goes into a furniture store or to a toy store, and she shops online, gets a better price than the brick-and-mortar store. And it seems like, oh, maybe Allison will do it, maybe her husband because they're big into technology. But 50 million people are reported to be doing this on Cyber Friday.
GILROYAnd so, now, if I owned a store like that and Kojo waltzed in there and started shopping me with (unintelligible), I'd say, well, I have to pay for the heat. I gotta pay for insurance, electricity, these human beings that work here, and all you're doing is just you're beating me up on price. It's -- I think a lot of retailers are getting mad, but it seems like it's a big environment. In fact, they're talking about, you know, showrooming influencing the big word, $1 billion in sales. So it's finally worth talking about.
HARLOWI mean, another term for it's being an informed consumer, too. I mean, you know, now, you're going around, and you're, you know, you're looking for the best price. I do feel bad when people were to go in there. They monopolize an employee's time, you know, ask all these questions. Then they leave and go buy it elsewhere. I think there needs to be a little balance there, but, generally, you just want to be an informed buyer.
NNAMDIIt used to be that the stores had all the power. Now, it seems like the people have all the power, but you quote the late great Sy Sims, an informed consumer.
NNAMDIAllison, you flagged some apps that we can use to compare prices with apps. Tell us about DealGrabber and PriceGrabber.
DRUINWell, the idea is that essentially, you know, from what -- from these apps, you can go and look for the lowest prices online, OK? But you can also look at, you know, ratings from consumers. You can look at the ratings from the merchants, the sellers. And they also offer you rewards, so if you're buying through their site, you're racking up points, and you can actually get more percentage off.
DRUINYou can also take a look, and they're going to predict prices and product releases and so on. So, again, you can be a more informed consumer. With these apps, it's just really simple, and, again, I sort of feel of sorry for the folks with the brick-and-mortar.
NNAMDIThere was a lot of buzz before this holiday season about something called social shopping. Basically, Facebook and other social media companies believe that people want to use their platforms to find out what their friends want for Christmas or for Hanukkah or for Kwanzaa or to tell other people what they want. How does it work, and is this really the future?
DRUINWell, it's, you know, it's interesting because everyone is sort of seeing social media as solving every ill in the world, OK? And now, it's all about, woohoo, we can shop through social media. So, you know, you can go take a look through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, all those different places and find the deals and find the information you want to start doing your shopping.
DRUINAnd, actually, it's interesting because people are realizing that they're not quite sure how successful this is yet because some folks that are taking a look at these e-commerce through social media sites are saying, oh, look, social shopping has doubled in the last year, and other people are saying, wait a second, it looks like it's decreased. The folks that have -- are saying it's decreased, it's because they're not counting all the social media sites, so...
DRUIN...for example, IBM suggested that that it had decreased by 26 percent. But Adobe claimed that it had doubled. And so it turns out that IBM wasn't counting Pinterest, and Pinterest is an enormous area for social media, as well as for shopping. And, gosh darn, isn't -- there are a lot of women that are shopping through Pinterest. So maybe, hmm, you want to discount those women on Pinterest, you know?
DRUINYou know, it's terrible.
GILROYI think it's 80 percent female on Pinterest, pretty high number.
HARLOWIs it really?
DRUINYeah. It's insane. But, you know, the other thing that they're learning about the social media shopping, OK, or social shopping is that you can also tell how people are shopping. So you can also tell that this shopping is happening with mobile phones during the day, and then they're switching out at night to tablets.
DRUINAnd it's fascinating because you start to see that, you know, people have their phones out either as they're shopping with brick-and-mortar, or they're actually, you know, at the dinner table discussing. And then, you know, they move away, get rid of the leftovers, and they get -- and they put themselves on the couch. And what are they doing? They're shopping with their tablets.
GILROYHere's a fun fact. Forty percent of Americans watch TV and use mobile devices at the same time, so...
GILROY...that's what they're doing. They're watching TV, and they're shopping...
HARLOWI'm part of that stat.
NNAMDII am a part of the 40 percent.
NNAMDIAre you using Facebook and Pinterest and other social media to find gifts or figure out what to get someone? Give us a call. Tell us how it's working out for you, 800-433-8850. Bill, this holiday season marks the latest installment in the tablet wars, pitting iPad and Android platforms against a new and potentially game-changing player, Windows tablets. There are lots of Windows 8 tablets being marketed to us but only one expensive computer that seems to use all the system's functionality. Tell us about the Surface.
HARLOWThe Surface Pro, so the Surface with Windows RT came out recently. And it's a nice tablet, but I don't really get the appeal, especially because they -- the iPad is pretty entrenched, a lot of good Android tablets out. So the Surface Pro, I find more interesting because it's a full computer. It's basically an inverted Ultrabook. And what I mean by that is it's got a powerful processor. It's, you know, it can run the full version of Windows 8.
HARLOWBut rather than being, you know, a conventional Ultrabook in a laptop form factor, it's all about the tablet. So the screens, the star of the show, it's a 1080p screen. It's got the ability to use a pen digitizer, and, for me, that's -- I'm curious about that from an artistic standpoint because there have been a lot of interesting tablets out there that you can, you know, use, let's say, SketchBook Pro on.
HARLOWAnd the iPad, for example, it's really weak at that, so this is going to have a proper pen digitizer. You can get a keyboard for it. And for the price, I think it's fair for what it is. It's just a matter of is there a market for this. Are people willing to spend full Ultrabook price for what is a tablet first and a full computer second?
GILROYYou know, what's amazing is that -- a real quick rundown here. My daughter dropped her computer, bought a used Toshiba for $300, and some people in this room just bought an iPad for $500. And then the Surface sold for $900 in January. It's like, well, this is all upside-down, isn't it? I mean, the notebooks are supposed to be more expensive than the tablets. It's just it's all flipped.
HARLOWWell, sure, a $300 notebook is cheaper than a $900 Surface Pro, but there are also $900, $1,000, $1,500 laptops out there, too, so they're just different segments of the market.
GILROYBut even October, we saw it shifting, more tablets being purchased than even notebook computers. It's -- you're just old-fashioned, Bill.
HARLOWI am old-fashioned.
NNAMDISo does this mean...
DRUINExcuse me, the dinosaur calling the dinosaur old?
NNAMDIDoes this mean, John, that -- I was about to say...
NNAMDIWe knew that our desktops were dinosaurs. You're saying that our laptops are now dinosaurs also?
GILROYI've been in tablets for decades. I really have. Before there were tablets, I was into tablets, you know, and mobile.
HARLOWNow, you mean literally a slate.
GILROYYeah, a slate. That's what I mean.
NNAMDINo, actually, he's talking about pills, but that's another story.
GILROYOh, tablets. Yeah, oh, my medication. We don't talk about that on the air.
DRUINWell, you know, Moses and the tablets. OK.
NNAMDIAllison, you have been intrigued by all these options. Which tablet makes the most sense for different users?
DRUINOh, this is so hard, OK? So I'm in the Apple store actually the other day because I was trying to figure out what my next MacBook was going to be, you know, if it was going to be, you know, it's going to be the Pro, the this, that.
GILROYJust get an Air. The Air is fine.
DRUINSo I catch my eye, go, ooh, look at those Minis over there. So I go take a look, and I, you know, and, to be honest with you, I had been jaded. I really have 'cause I have...
GILROYWere you spoiled?
DRUINI am so spoiled. I have every gadget in the world because my husband keeps dragging things into the house, OK? He's like a cat. Anyway, so...
DRUINSo I look at this Mini, and he says, isn't this the most right form factor ever?
HARLOWIt kind of is, yeah.
DRUINAnd so I pick this up, and I start...
GILROYIt's not what Steve Jobs says.
DRUINI start looking this -- Steve Jobs is dead. Be quiet. So I...
DRUINSo I start picking up, and I like, you know, I really could feel -- ooh, yeah, this feels good. And even the keyboard is the right size 'cause the keyboard on the regular pad -- I'm thinking, oh, that's pretty good. So, anyway, I have to say the Mini has started to get under my craw. The other thing is, you know, now, that's 7.9 inches, but, you know, the Nexus tablets...
HARLOWThe Nexus 7 is really nice, too.
DRUINThe Nexus 7, you know, and I'm taking a look at that, and I'm saying, you know, that's pretty good. But I have to say that, unfortunately, the content is not there for the Nexus like it is for the Apple line of things. So it's very hard. I think this goes back to the same kind of stuff we were talking about with e-readers. Which e-reader do you want? A lot of it has to do with how much content, how much access to things you want. So I, you know, I'm still living in the Apple world, and I have to say I'm leaning towards that Mini, even though I've got my iPad 3. So it's hard to say.
NNAMDIWhat are you looking at? What piece of technology you've been impressed with thus far? Give us a call at 800-433-8850. John, when the iPad Mini came out, some people wondered whether they would be competing with themselves, whether consumers would buy the lighter one instead of the regular iPad. Who is buying this thing?
GILROYNow, Steve Ballmer, you're -- call suicide hotline. This is bad news for Windows.
GILROYWell, first of all, people would say, well, geez, it's going to eat sales from other iPads. Then people would say, well, you need sales from your -- oh, it turns out that, you know, statistically, the people who are buying these things are first-time buyers. And so traditional Windows people like, say, some people in this room are buying Apple products reluctantly only because it's the best value.
GILROYAnd it's just -- it's going to put Microsoft in a very bad position. Now, my friend, Steve Ballmer, says that the direction Microsoft is going to be heading is not licensed-based. It's going to be Xbox and Surface. Well, he's got some competition. Now, the Xbox seems to be doing real well here. But we'll see where Microsoft -- in the next few years, no one knows. I mean, I think they're going to -- doesn't look good.
DRUINBut even when the tablets came out, they first said, who are these things for? And they said over and over, it's for the people that are the Web surfers, the people that want to look at video, the people that just want to relax with their family, and it's true. It's turned into that, and it's also turned into more. So it's a very interesting thing. It hasn't changed, but it's been added to.
HARLOWWell, it's interesting because originally tablets came out, they ran, like, you know, Windows versions for tablets. And they were basically large and more like laptops.
HARLOWNobody really wanted those. And now we've got these consumer-oriented ones which are a lot cheaper, really popular. And I'm wondering what's going to ramp back up into more full-featured devices over time.
GILROYYou know, for decades on this show, it was Mac or PC, Mac or PC. Now, it's supplemental. Also in addition to your Mac, what do you need? It's a -- I guess, it's a more sophisticated audience.
NNAMDIGot to take a short break. If you have called, stay on the line. We will get to your calls. The number is 800-433-8850. Do you use technology to find the best holiday deals? 800-433-8850. Or have you come up with a good strategy for keeping technology at bay? 800-433-8850. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. It's the Computer Guys & Gal. Allison Druin is ADVANCE professor of the STEM Senior Women's Council & co-director of the Future of Information Alliance of the University of Maryland, John Gilroy is director of Business Development at Armature Corp., and Bill Harlow is hardware & software technician for Macs & PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc. You can call us, 800-433-8850. Here is Ellie in Bethesda, Md. Ellie, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ELLIEHi. How are you?
ELLIEGood. This is my first time calling into the show actually. But I wanted to get your opinion on a tablet that I actually did purchase for my kids for the holiday, but I haven't obviously given it to them yet. It's called the Nabi 2. And I know you've talked before -- I've heard you talk about how kids just want what adults have, but I was not going to get them, you know, an iPad. And this is interesting because it's -- my understanding is that it's a tablet that really adults can use, and there is a parent's mode.
ELLIEAnd if you go log in as a parent, you have access to anything that you would on any other tablet. And I recall that it use the Ice Cream Sandwich something operating -- I don't know what that is 'cause I normally work on Apple. But, anyway, so then there's a kid mode where you can block out, you know, website that you don't want them to go to. And you have a lot more control over it. And they said that it really is something that can grow with the kids. I was curious if you've, A, heard anything about it and what you thought about it. I did a bit of research, but I'm curious about your opinion.
NNAMDIYou know, we talked with David Pogue of The New York Times last week, I think. It was about kid stuff, and he was recommending the iPod touch as something that you can use for kids.
GILROYYou're talking about price, wasn't he? He says it's pretty much just about the same price.
ELLIEWell, it isn't a tablet. I mean, this is tablet. This is not, you know, like a small thing. This is a full, you know, seven inch, whatever, tablet.
DRUINAnd who makes the...
NNAMDIThe Nabi 2.
ELLIEAnd it's N-A-B-I 2, and I'm blanking on the name of the company. But I did -- they seem to have very good support online, and they really -- the feedback was that the first version wasn't as robust as this one was but that the new one, really, an adult can go on and use it if they wanted to. And it had the functionality that, you know, maybe another Android-type tablet would have.
ELLIEBut it really would be a good thing for kids, and it has some extra features. I mean, I did a bit of reading on the reviews, and it looked good. But I guess none of you are familiar with it.
DRUINWell, here's the thing. In general, there are a number of companies that do package technologies for kids, specifically for safety mode, for being able to work together better with parents, be able to separate people's content between parents and kids. So if this is something that you're looking for, then this, you know, these kinds of features, then, absolutely. It sounds like this -- you may have purchased the right thing for yourself. If you have a messier life and you think that you're going to want to mix and match in terms of your own content with your kids, I mean, how old are your kids, by the way?
ELLIEThey're 7 and 9.
DRUINSeven and 9. OK. So that's actually a good age for a starting kind of technology that gives you some safety modes as well because somewhere between 7 and 9, they will stumble upon stuff you don't want them to stumble upon. And so that's actually something that -- what are called -- that you can think about.
HARLOWSo we just pulled up the specs on this thing, and yeah, it sounds, I mean, to me, it sounds like it hits the right notes as far as the price, as far as the size and the fact that it runs Android. So you're getting access to an ecosystem that's pretty decent. And I think one area where Android was kind of limited was as far as parental controls.
HARLOWSo having someone with this where, you know, it's been forked, Android can fork to a customized interface that is tilted more towards something that parents can set up for kids and restrict access and maybe, you know, pull -- peel those restrictions off as time goes on and you trust your kid a bit more. It seems like it's, you know, one of the better options out there, I mean, certainly for the price.
ELLIEAnd, by the way, 'cause I didn't mention it, but when I looked all over the Web, I generally found it for $199, but Best Buy had a sale, you know, leading into the Thanksgiving weekend, and it was $169 at that point. So, I mean, if people see them out there online and you find a price below $199, I would go for it. So...
DRUINGood for you. Good for you.
ELLIEOK. Thank you so much.
NNAMDIThank you. Ellie, thank you very much for your call. We move onto David in Washington, D.C. David, your turn.
DAVIDAh, yes. How are you, Kojo? I love your show, man. I just want to say I worked in retail for about 15 years in management, and I totally understand how the brick-and-mortar stores can get upset about, you know, customers coming in and, you know, trying the wares and then going online. But the brick-and-mortar stores need to get a little more innovative, especially with the technology out here. They need to price match. I mean, that's really the bottom line. And if they're not willing to, you know, price match on the spot, they're going to lose the business.
HARLOWI do have one question, though. I think it's a great point, but at the same time, how do you price match with Amazon who could just slash prices so aggressively? They have investors backing them. They're raking little actual profit and just, you know, almost undercutting everybody ruthlessly. I mean, if you're a brick-and-mortar store, I mean, I think you can only go so low before you're just not seeing any revenue to sustain your business.
DAVIDWell, I want to say it like this: in my experience, you have to remember, everybody wants things now. That's what the success of the iPad, the iPhone, you know, any kind of device that we have out here. We want it right now. So if you can offer it to me right now at a competitive price, I'm going to get it. Think about that.
HARLOWRight. Well, that's what -- I mean, I'm part of the problem because I have an Amazon Prime membership. And one of the things I'm doing especially around now is, you know, I can order something. If it's a pretty popular item, they'll often do -- for a slight increase in price, but still often lower than a lot of big-box retailers -- same-day shipping, which in -- I get it the same day I ordered. I order it in the morning, go to work, come home, there it is.
DRUINOK. But how do you explain the Apple Store phenomenon? OK. Because, I mean, my father is -- I mean, he must get his cappuccino every day after the Apple Store, and he hangs out at the Genius Bar. And he drives them all crazy. And he tries things. And so he buys more things from the Apple Store than I know most people would.
HARLOWBut they're not competing on price either. I mean, if I go to Amazon and look for a MacBook Pro, it's basically the same price at the Apple Store.
DRUINRight. Right. So I think that there is something, though, about customer service that is absolutely an add-on to what your brick-and-mortar is. And there's also something about the environment and, you know, and just being there and being happening and cool. You know, my dad, he's cool.
NNAMDIApparently, your dad lives at the Apple Store.
DRUINOh, he really does. He's so cute.
NNAMDISpends quite a bit of his time there. Yesterday, President Obama held a town hall of sorts over Twitter in his bid to rally the public to his cause on fiscal cliff negotiations. But a different public figure also made a splash on Twitter with the handle @pontifex, one Pope Benedict XVI. Do we need -- do we want a little more spirituality in our 140 character -- well, I shouldn't ask you, John Gilroy. Yes, you do need more spirituality.
GILROYWell, there are a lot of enemies I want, but don't I want him as an enemy. No way.
GILROYNo way. I think it's a great idea, improved communications.
NNAMDIWell, he -- I don't think the Pope will be following anyone, but people like Gilroy certainly need to be following the Pope...
NNAMDI...in more ways than one. One annoying part of going out shopping, at least shopping in the suburbs, Allison, is the overcrowded parking lot. I mentioned earlier in the broadcast all the time we spent trying to figure out exactly where our car is. How does the Find My Car app work exactly?
DRUINWell, it's essentially using your GPS on your, you know, on either in your iPhone or your Android, so this is a Find Your Car app. You know, you can get across the board. And essentially, it says to you, set your car location. Now, if you forget to set your car location, then, guess what, you really aren't going to be able to find that car.
NNAMDIOut of luck.
DRUINOK. They just can't guess at you. But it's -- you can basically set your car location, your hotel location, any location, all right, and then it's going to give you -- when you're ready to find where you're going back to, it's ready to give you a little, you know, a little mapping back to it just like any Google Maps or Apple Maps. And it's great because I have to tell you, there are a lot people that forget things all the time, and you see in these massive parking lots, you see these poor people wondering for like 15, 20 minutes panicking 'cause they don't know where they're going.
HARLOWEspecially now. My -- I've got a black sedan. It is so ubiquitous...
HARLOW...that I could walk back, like, five in a row before finding mine. So that'd be really handy.
NNAMDIWell, I have one in which I sometimes walk past mine because so many else's look like it. Here's Joe in Vienna, Va. Joe, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JOEHello, Kojo. Thank you for having me on the show.
NNAMDIYou're welcome, Joe.
JOEI'm a pretty tech-savvy person, I would consider myself. I've been working as a wireless network engineer. I just wanted to kind of touch on, I guess, holiday shopping and using technology to kind of find the best bargain.
NNAMDIThat's why we're here. Go ahead, please.
JOEYes. I'm someone in my late 20s. So obviously, I'm very familiar with technology. And I definitely feel like having the Internet and the tools available on the Web to find great deals such as slickdeals.net -- I'm a big follower of that website, as well as the Woot. And many of my friends use the same kind of site as well to find bargains, and sometimes they find things that they're not really looking for but they'll purchase anyway.
NNAMDIWhat's the name of the site you mentioned?
JOESlickdeals.net and woot.com.
HARLOWYeah, Woot's a lot fun, too.
NNAMDIIt underscores the point our earlier caller made that brick-and-mortar stores are going to have to try to find new, innovative ways of doing business in order to compete with that because this is not going away.
DRUINBut it's also a point of purchase which is really interesting and sort of the whim buyer can also happen online. And, in fact, I remember when eBay, you know, first started growing in popularity. I mean, I remember walking into some of my friends' apartments in New York City that barely had enough room to walk through because they had boxes stacked to the wall of things they got on eBay, and you'd say, but do you need this? And then -- no.
DRUINI'm going to just send it back. But it was almost like a game. It became this weird gaming thing. So you got to be careful. When you're pressing that button, you really are paying for something. It is not virtual.
HARLOWPress button, get pellet, exactly.
DRUINOh, exactly. Exactly.
NNAMDIWell, Joe, thank you very much for your call. And continuing this discussion just a little bit more, Charles in Washington, D.C. has some ideas for big-box stores. Charles, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
CHARLESThank you, Kojo. I'm calling on behalf of the forgotten generation, the ones who does not wear slim fit clothing and who also has limited technical abilities, an extremely large but forgotten demographic. Big-box stores can do with -- what the online people can't do and don't care about doing.
CHARLESThey can operate clinics on how to operate what it is that you buy. Can you imagine how many people out there who don't know how to use a cellphone properly or take advantage of it, let alone tablets and other things? And so if they had onsite clinics that operated, I don't know, six hours a day where they just had people and chair setup where people could come in and get individual introduction, they'd sell hell of a lot more things.
NNAMDII think you've just described John Gilroy's future.
GILROYWell, I wouldn't use that type of language on the air, of course.
GILROYBut, you know, Charles, I mean this is the intuitive age. I mean, when people sell stuff now, they just assume you're going to pick it up and intuitively understand it. I mean, I've had many people with kids that are 2 and 3 that they put their iPad in front of them, and they don't need -- they just -- there's no instructions. They just go for it. And so I think we may be looking for a solution without a problem. And who's going to pay for it? I mean, you're going to pay someone $50 an hour for a how-to? I don't think so. Now, no one's going to hire people...
GILROY...on staff to do that. Now, Apple can afford it 'cause they got the margins, but, I mean, you know, Wal-Mart can't.
DRUINYeah. But you know any -- how many people are paying 100 bucks so that they have unlimited access to that Genius Bar? There's a lot of people just like our caller and just like my dad, and --you know, and I have to tell you that that makes it so that they keep coming back into the store. And so it's not just about how to pay for the service. It's how to bring them into those stores and make them a part of that community.
HARLOWYou know, or maybe it's -- even before you buy, it's just an introduction or demonstration of a hot product. If that's something that turns browsers into buyers, that could be useful.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. There's something truly amazing, obviously, about smartphones, the idea of having a little computer that fits into your back pocket. But that size and its ability also comes with some hazards if and when you sit on your phone, you can accidentally call someone.
GILROYThis is important.
NNAMDIIt is very important. And do real damage to the phone if you weigh too much. Apparently, the good folks at Samsung have recognized this problem and they have designed a robot that simulates the pressure of sitting on a phone, which some are calling a ro-butt.
NNAMDIIs this the robot future we once expected? And I have seen that video. What is it exactly supposed to be?
HARLOWThat video is so cheerful, by the way. It makes me happy to watch.
HARLOWThe music and the transition.
GILROYIt's like Samsung "Gangman Style," right? That's what it's all about.
DRUINThis is such a boy topic, folks. I mean, girls don't put them in their back pockets. Boys do. Go ahead, guys.
HARLOWWell, as -- actually, I use my front pocket, but, hey.
HARLOWBut, first of all, this robot apparently has good taste in jeans. He's wearing denim in this video. But, you know, it's a common thing. Maybe either it's in your back pocket, or it just -- it's rested on a chair, and someone goes to stand on it. You know, it's an important thing to test.
GILROYSomeone goes to stand on the chair?
NNAMDIWhat have we learned from this test?
HARLOWWe've learned that Samsung makes some bum-proof phones.
HARLOWVery important. Actually, in all seriousness, the one that impressed me is they just soaked that thing with a jet of water, and it keeps on trucking. That was pretty impressive.
NNAMDIYes, it is.
GILROYYeah, they go through five tests. It's really -- it's fun. And the video is going to be at kojoshow.org. Is that right?
NNAMDIYes. We're going to post it at our website, kojoshow.org. You can find it there. John, the latest and greatest smartphones are undoubtedly exciting. They're enticing. But you would like us to take a quick step back with a cautionary handbook. That phone really costs a lot more than its sticker price. In fact, the biggest cost is the monthly phone bill and data service. Do you think we really recognize just how expensive having a smartphone is?
GILROYOh, I think the gentleman who called who's in his 20s and talks about buying stuff online and having a smartphone and this and that, you know, I don't think they realize how much money they're spending every month on this. There's some people spending $300, $400 a month for...
HARLOWI mean, I get a statement every month. I know exactly how much money it goes in.
GILROYBut -- well -- but I think they deny it. I mean, it's just an incredible amount of money you can spend. And it's an addition to whatever they're paying at home for their Internet service as well. It's just -- it seems like this is a generation that's spending money on toys and services and not worrying about long-term purchases. Here's an old guy talking about buying a house and investing for the future.
GILROYBut I see people throwing money away in this. They have to have the latest and greatest.
HARLOWIn some cases -- it depends. In some case, they just decide, well, that money means it comes out of something. I know a lot of people who, let's say, had Internet service at home instead of cable, you know, not both. You know, they use that as a way to get entertainment, and, you know, they're not paying for premium channels which can also add up.
DRUINAnd they don't pay -- and I know a lot of people that don't even have home phones, that they're...
HARLOWIt's all about point to point communication. So I have to say, John, you're a yawn.
GILROY$350 a month, that's a lot of money. And it's deceptive how, you know, give me a free phone, of course.
HARLOWThree fifty, who spends that?
NNAMDIWell, a lot of people feel they're getting a bargain when they get the free phone because they haven't yet considered how much it's going to be costing them per month. But as Bill says, they soon enough get that bill...
GILROYBut they're in denial about it. I mean, no one's ever called in in 20 years and complained about the amount of money spent on cellphone charges. They just don't.
NNAMDI800-433-8850. Now is the time to call with your complaint. If the lines are busy, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We are now going to Don in Reston, Va. Don, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DONThank you, Kojo. My question is a society one. My wife has had Lyme disease and unable to work. And so shopping online is a real boon for her, and we do probably, particularly on holidays and birthdays and stuff, about 50 percent, we're shopping online. But the question I want to raise is a societal question: What happens to our taxes? Because, you see, things are often cheaper because I don't have to pay three, five, $6 on taxes when I do online purchasing. And there's two parts to that. It's not only the sales tax aspect, but it's also the property tax for supporting schools and things, so...
NNAMDIWhat do you see, Don, as being the solution to that? Because many of our local and national elected officials have been grappling with this issue for some time. What do you think should happen?
DONWell, my personal view is it's so easy to calculate. What that is is when I buy something on Amazon and I buy for South Carolina, I should just pay the South Carolina tax. And they're so large that they can really be a major supporter of South Carolina.
DONI think the tax line is a hard one for me. I haven't -- don't have an answer.
NNAMDIThat is something that Don clearly would be willing to do. My own experience is that people will always go for the lower price -- the lowest price they can get for anything and that the social conscience about not paying taxes doesn't kick in 99 percent of the time.
DRUINWell, they are actually having a problem trying to collect these things because, in fact, actually, they just changed the laws here in Maryland to suggest -- not here in Maryland. I'm sitting in D.C., folks. I promise. Anyway -- but in Maryland, they've changed the law so that supposedly if you are paying online, you should be sending stuff in. But no one has any idea how to...
DRUIN...kind of follow people through to get it.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Don. We're going to take a short break. When we come back, more of your calls. If the lines are busy, send us an email to email@example.com. Shoot us a tweet, @kojoshow, using the #TechTuesday, or go to our website, kojoshow.org, and join the Computer Guys & Gal conversation there. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to the Computer Guys & Gal with Allison Druin, who was just telling us the story about how her hard drive crashed. She's ADVANCE professor of the STEM Senior Women's Council and co-director of the Future of Information Alliance at the University of Maryland. But did you get it back?
DRUINI had to do it through Dropbox. Not a single file was left on my laptop, OK? I'm in midair looking at a laptop with all of my file folders and not a single file there. And, sure enough, what -- it was through my USB key and Dropbox, I was able to survive two talks. It was not pretty, folks.
NNAMDIAnd that's why John Gilroy has been saying for years, back everything up. He is the director of business development...
GILROYIf you don't back up, you crack up.
NNAMDI...at Armature Corp....
HARLOWBack up your backups.
NNAMDI...and Bill Harlow is hardware and software technician for Macs and PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc. Bill, tell us about the Pogo Connect. What's that?
HARLOWSo I was talking about using the Surface Book earlier as an artistic device. And I know a lot of people use the iPad for that, but it's kind of limited as far as what you can do with the finger or conventional passive stylus. So the Pogo Connect, it looks like a lot of the other StyleLife for the iPad. It's got a rubber nub on the front, but it's actually battery-powered and talks to the iPad wirelessly over Bluetooth.
HARLOWSo if you use one of the more popular apps like SketchBook, Paper, Procreate, it actually compares with that and lets you press harder to make a thicker or darker line. It supports palm rejection so that if you rest your hand naturally on the surface of the tablet, you can still draw, and it doesn't accidentally pick up stray lines from your hand. So if you're someone who does a lot of serious sketching or drawing on an iPad, it might be worth a look.
NNAMDIOn to Christine in Silver Spring, Md. Christine, your turn. Hi, Christine. Are you there?
CHRISTINEHello. Yes. I was just getting off the speaker. My question has to do with touch screen typing, the keyboard versus the touch screen. I've just recently purchased a smartphone that's touch screen, and I find I just can't type on these things. And it's kind of keeping me out of tablets and things like that. So I'm just curious if there's any hope for those of us who learned how to type the kind of correct way going forward with any of these new technologies.
NNAMDIAnd is there any kind of diet that can give us thinner fingers?
NNAMDII don't know. What do you see as the future here, John Gilroy?
GILROYQWERTY keyboard has been around for 100 years...
GILROY...and they've tried to change it a couple of different times and failed every time. I think human beings are just locked into this old-fashioned tactile sense and...
HARLOWWell, that's the thing. You can't touch-type on a -- on an iPad.
GILROYThat's the problem.
HARLOWAs soon as you put your fingers on there, you're getting stray input.
HARLOWI mean, if you have a tablet, pretty much any one you buy these days, you're going to find a compatible keyboard that gives you, you know, the classic home row and everything else, and you'll be able to function just fine.
DRUINYeah. Just get yourself a wireless keyboard...
DRUIN...and go with it that way. Now, if you really, you know, if you're really having a problem with your phone, what you should do is -- I've seen this -- some of my dad's friends, OK, the senior citizens, that is. They're using these little styluses, OK, and it's just...
DRUINAnd just use -- and you can attach it to your phone, so you don't lose the stylus, and then tap away using the stylus, and then you're good for, you know, fingers that don't want to go the right way.
HARLOWYeah. Keep practicing, though. Some of it could just be a trust issue. It took me a while, when I first got my iPhone, to just trust that what I was going to type out was going to come out correctly and know that even though I'm covering what looked like, you know, three letters at once with my, you know, fat thumb, that I'm still hitting the correct letter, you know, nine times out of 10.
NNAMDIThank you very much...
NNAMDI...for your call, Christine. We move on to Roger, Roger in Alexandria, Va. Roger, thank you for waiting. You're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ROGERYeah. Hi. Thanks for taking my call. My wife wants to get for her parents, who are both 80 years old, a hand-held device, not a phone -- it'll be too small -- mainly a portal to the Internet, but, more importantly, a way to, like, Skype with their great granddaughter. Any suggestions for something, you know, that's not overly complicated that would function for them?
DRUINHow about that?
HARLOWWell, I guess bigger than phone. Probably if I had to pick an Apple one, it would be the iPad Mini. You said, you know, phones are probably a bit too small, so that rules out the Touch. And the iPad Mini gives you the -- gives you a camera in the front and a built-in mic and the ability to use FaceTime or Skype for video chat. It's got such a robust ecosystem that it's -- you know, you can really customize the way it works with all sorts of third-party apps, and you've got good support from the Apple Stores.
GILROYWould this be an application for the Surface because Microsoft and Skype, same company? Maybe this is a good application for the Surface.
HARLOWIt could be. I just -- I played with them relatively briefly. And from what I've read and reviewed, it sounds like it's something that still has a bit of a learning curve and a few rough edges. So I think something more established like, you know, one of the bigger-named, Android-based devices like, let's say, maybe Kindle or, you know, like the Nexus or, in this case, you know, an iPad and the iOS ecosystem.
ROGERWould this work OK with an Android phone if -- would they have to have an Apple product?
HARLOWNo. As long as they've got Skype, you know, the latest version of Skype, you know, you can go across devices. So you could do...
HARLOW...you know, tablet to computer, tablet to other brand of tablet.
NNAMDIThat works for you. Thank you very much for your call. We got an email from Tom, who says, "Your panel has spoken of using the iPad Touch as a way to give youthful users Web access, but not telephone access. Should I be able to easily do the same thing with an old iPhone that no longer has an active telephone contract?" I don't know.
HARLOWWell, geez, it's been a while since I've done that. I think these days if you go and wipe an iPhone SIM card, you can still use it as a Wi-Fi device. I know in the past you had to, I think, jailbreak them or unlock them in order to do that. I'm a bit fuzzy on that. I apologize I don't have a straight answer, but I'd say it's possible and probable. Just do a quick Google and see what you find out.
NNAMDIHow did you jailbreak them?
HARLOWI can't tell you. Shh.
DRUINYou're not going to put that on the air.
GILROYHere comes the FBI. Here comes the FBI.
HARLOWI'm not falling into that trap.
GILROYHe just got bailed out of jail an hour ago, Kojo. Come on.
NNAMDIOh, I see. If I tell you that, I'll have to kill you. Many...
NNAMDIMany people use their smartphones as their primary camera these days. But, Bill, you found an interesting new product that allows you to link your DSLR to your iPhone or Android. Please explain.
HARLOWYeah. Actually, you know, it's interesting because a lot of people use, you know, their smartphones or just phones in general as cameras, and they're great. But it's almost been like a gateway drug for some people into getting back into using more robust cameras. You know, they reached the limitations, and they're excited about taking better photos so they upgrade. So if you've got a really nice DSLR, digital SLR camera, there's something called a Triggertrap Mobile.
HARLOWAnd it's a dongle and a cable, and they've got a bunch of different cables for different cameras. So go their website, triggertrap.com, and check out if yours is supported. And it has an app for your iPhone that lets you do all kind of things to trigger the shutter on your camera. So it might be based on face detection or a motion or time lapse or all kinds of things. So you can really do some creative things if you want explore what your camera can do and want to go beyond just holding it up to your face and taking a picture.
NNAMDIWe got an email from Elizabeth, who says, "I disagree with the man who called in saying he was of the generation that is technically challenged. That is not a generational problem. I'm a 72-year-old female who knows how to use my iPhone and my two computers. I no longer have a landline. Don't generalize that this is a general -- generational problem. It's an individual problem," as, I guess, Allison's dad can testify.
NNAMDIIt really is a matter of how much interest one takes, right?
DRUINIt's very true. It's very true. You got it -- it's a cultural immersion, and you have to decide that's something you want to do. And, you know, yes, people have various talents and various strengths that lead them more towards one thing or another. And the other thing, too, is that, you know, your own physical body, you know, you have larger hands or you have shaky hands or whatever it is, also can make you more prone to or not prone to technology.
DRUINBut you're absolutely right. You can't generalize. But on average, it is people that do have to work forward a little bit of a certain generation that end up, you know, either having more to do with technology or less.
NNAMDIAnd you'll find that much of what you think is difficult is not as difficult as it turned out to be, unless like one fundament, you happened to think that the digital environment and the Internet is, well, a fad. Here...
GILROYIt is a fad.
HARLOWAny day now it's going away.
GILROYGet off my lawn.
DRUINYeah. Oh my goodness.
NNAMDIExactly. Here is Kaye in Vienna, Va. Kaye, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
KAYEHi. Thanks for taking my call. I'm looking for something lightweight that would be on Wi-Fi, and I could do emails and look up stuff online when I leave the country on vacation.
HARLOWWell, I think you just described...
KAYEOf course, I'm thinking -- I think I'm talking about a tablet, right?
HARLOWProbably in most cases. I mean, I'd say if you're looking for something lightweight -- I don't know what your weight limit is. I have a full-size iPad, and it's a pound and a half. Now that I've held things like the Nexus 7 or the iPad Mini, I really like the weight of those, too, if you're comfortable with the screen size.
HARLOWSo, you know, maybe check out a Nexus 7 or an iPad Mini or the Kindle Fire HD. They've got some in smaller sizes, and they're all Wi-Fi-based. And they run iOS or Androids, so you get a pretty robust Web browsing experience. You can set up email on them and do all kinds of activities that don't require a full laptop.
NNAMDIIs that something that the iPad touch might also be able to do?
HARLOWI think so.
DRUINYeah. In fact, my -- oh...
NNAMDIOh, oh, you're beeping. You're beeping at us, Kaye. It's Kaye.
HARLOWIt wasn't me.
DRUINIt wasn't me. It wasn't me. But -- no, my mother-in-law, who's 81 or so, she swears by the touch. She goes everywhere with her touch, and she -- for a year, you know, for years has been communicating with everybody and so on but all Wi-Fi.
KAYEDo you use a stylus with that?
KAYEI'm not very good at, you know, when I don't have...
HARLOWYeah. Oh, you can. They make them for them.
DRUINYes. Absolutely. You can use the same stylus that I was talking about for the phone, certainly, for the iPod touch as well.
NNAMDIOK. Thank you very much, Kaye, for your call. We can, therefore, move on to Jenny in Takoma Park, Md. Jenny, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JENNYHi. Thanks. I've been thinking about getting an Xbox for our family for the holidays. And one of my sons is asking for Xbox Live so that he could play computer games with his friends. And when I was reading up on it, it looked like it could maybe also take the place of my cable subscription, you know, that you get Netflix and Hulu and a bunch of other things on it. And I'm just trying to figure that out.
HARLOWIt's pretty robust. Yeah, they've added a ton of entertainment applications. But you do need an Xbox Live subscription to have access to them. So if you have an active Netflix account, you can stream a ton of movies to your Xbox. They've got Voodoo. They got Hulu. I think they got Voodoo. I could -- I have to double-check on that. And Amazon Instant Video as well. So you if you have an Amazon membership or an Amazon Prime membership, that's even more stuff you can add to it.
HARLOWESPN partnerships, so you can watch a lot of sports you wouldn't normally find on cable TV as well. And I think Epix if you have a supporter and provider. And there's always more stuff coming, too. There's a ton of stuff there. And I think it'll continue to grow as well.
GILROYXbox sales over Thanksgiving, 750,000 units. It's just exploding.
NNAMDIJenny, thank you very much for your call. Bill, if someone does not want to spend the money on a new game system, maybe they should consider a product that lets them play their old video games.
HARLOWYep, old school.
HARLOWSo the Retrode is a really geeky product, which, of course, is why I like it. And the idea is that if you want to play emulated games -- and emulation means that you use a computer to basically act as an old game console and is able to run the old software. So a lot of people would pirate this software. So the Retrode is a USB device.
HARLOWLike, you take your Sega Genesis or Mega Drive or Super Nintendo games and just plug them physically into your computer, plug in your old controller and just play them that way and do it legally. I think it's a pretty wild device. I'm actually really impressed somebody made it.
NNAMDIThank you for your call. We got an email from Donna, who said, "Hello. My grandson wants a small video camera that he can attach to his snowboard. What do you suggest?" Well, this show was -- used a GoPro HD camera on location. We use it to shoot street view videos from Haiti, so that's one that you might want to use. Any other recommendation?
HARLOWThere are couple other brands out there that are very similar. But the GoPro is the one I remember by name.
DRUINYeah. The GoPro is the one.
NNAMDIAllison, you and Bill flag products that can help us keep the power on our devices when we're on the go. Care to mention what those might be?
DRUINOh, yeah. There's actually the iPower Case, which is interesting to me because, you know, you're always looking for a place to plug in, you know, your iPhone or your iPod touch or whatever cellphone. Well, it turns out that you can -- there's actually a case that you can just put your cellphone into so, you know, power that case up, you know, at home and then you can use that case and put it around. It just looks like any other case that you put around your cellphone.
HARLOWYeah. Those are cool 'cause they're getting smaller and smaller, too.
HARLOWThe other one that I like is -- it's the Anker Astro3. And it's pretty beefy, but the idea behind it is that you don't need to tie it to any one device. If you've got something that charges over USB or has other low-power requirements, they've got all these adapters for this thing, too. So it's basically a battery pack you take with you, and you could charge your smartphones several times over before having to recharge this particular device. Plug in maybe your camera, your game system, your portable game system, all sorts of other things as well.
GILROYPractical for travelers, isn't it?
NNAMDIAnd we got this email, John, from Jill, who says, "Speaking of backups, my Time Capsule just died, and there is no way to access my backed up files. Do I need to have a backup for my backups?"
GILROYWell, most of folks I know, no, I know some people have NAS systems in their homes. But most people -- I think a typical listener here should probably use a service like Dropbox or something like that and have stuff on a thumb drive.
HARLOWThey have both.
GILROYAnd there's nothing wrong with belts and suspenders. So I would think you want to have stuff on thumb drives as well as online. And my daughter, by the way, when she dropped her notebook computer, she said, no big deal. I'm in a cloud anyway. And she could just throw it away and get another one because it never even dawned on her to have anything on her hard drive. It is not even a consideration.
NNAMDISpeaking of daughters, Allison has a teenage daughter, and one of her products comes from a clothing retailer, American Eagle. Why are you so excited about the gloves that they sell? You got 20 -- 30 seconds.
DRUINBecause normally, you've got to put your finger on a tablet or a cellphone and you've got to take off your gloves just -- or have to have a hole in your glove. These gloves, you can actually just use them, and you don't have to take anything off. It's got a special tip. There's a lot of different makers of them. REI makes them, as well as other (word?).
GILROYWe call those defects, but that's OK.
DRUINNo. They're fabulous.
NNAMDIJohn Gilroy finds this very exciting. He is the director...
GILROYHoles in the glove.
NNAMDI...of business development at Armature Corp. Happy holidays. Try to stay upright during the season, John.
GILROYBe the first one if I am.
NNAMDIBill 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. Happy holidays, all. And thank you for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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