Kojo talks with author Colson Whitehead about his new novel "The Underground Railroad" and its resonance at this particular moment in history.
Guest Host: Marc Fisher
A new year is underway, and it’s time to take stock of which tech-related resolutions we’re most likely to break. Is this the year that social media companies up their game on privacy issues? Is it the year you “cut the cord” from your cable company to consume all your video content over the Internet? The Computer Guys & Gal are back in the studio to ponder what’s likely to change and what’s likely to stay the same in 2013.
- 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
Technology issues and gadgets that will be making news in 2013, a nod to the best headlines of 2012 and tech resolutions for the new year.
Best Headline Award 2012: “Nefarious Apps Easily Slip Past Jelly Bean Security”
Second Best Headline Award 2012: “Is that a phone in your pants or are you glad to see me?”
Who knew? At the end of 2012, English is the language of 26 percent of Internet users. It will soon be overtaken by Chinese (already 24 percent).
Microsoft, fallen hero? Windows8 slower to adopt than Vista, really?
Kojo’s part time job for 2013: Ransomware
The forgotten vote: Power play >> U.N. shouldn’t control the Internet
It’s all about the rage: Droid rage vs. Windows rage
Let’s repeat one more time: If the product is free, you are the product. See: LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram.
Top tech stories to follow in 2013:
Tablets and e-reader devices are now owned by one-third of the U.S. population 16 and older, according to a study released Thursday by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
Tech stories that shouldn’t be kept private:####
Instagram is Instant Scary! This crisis of privacy is only after: Instagram announced in mid-December its decision to amend its advertising policy to allow advertisers to use data and content from its users for ads.
The Computer Gal’s tech resolutions for 2013:
Break out of my tech indecision and make some decisions. My tech is getting up there in years: my laptop is 3-years-old and starting to have hiccups, my iPhone isn’t what it used to be and while I love my iPad3 to read with, I wonder if an iPad mini is easier for nighttime reading. So my new year’s resolution is to make some tech decisions! Get the iPhone 5? Or wait ’til the Spring for the newest?. Keep the iPad 3? Or go to iPad Mini? MacBook Air? Or go to the Retina Macbook Pro?
MR. MARC FISHERFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your community with the world. I'm Marc Fisher sitting in for Kojo on this Tech Tuesday. And it's the time of year we make resolutions about all the things we swear we're going to do differently, the kinds of resolutions we're likely to break by the end of January or more likely by tomorrow about 2 o'clock.
MR. MARC FISHERThis year, many New Year's resolutions include some big tech-related promises. Maybe this is the year social media companies get serious about raising their game on privacy, or is that no more likely than the rest of us finally hitting the treadmill three times a week? Maybe this is the year government agencies do better defending against data breaches, or is that no better bet than all of us defeating our chocolate addictions? We're joined this hour, as we are the first Tuesday of every month, by three people who never caved on their resolutions.
MR. MARC FISHERIt's time for The Computer Guys & Gal. Bill Harlow is a WAMU computer guy, hardware and software technician for Macs and PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting. John Gilroy is a WAMU computer guy and director of business development at Armature Corp., and Allison Druin is WAMU's computer gal, and she is co-director of the Future of Information Alliance at the University of Maryland. And so let's start off with those resolutions. What are the New Year's resolutions you would like to see tech companies make in 2013? Allison, want to start us off?
MS. ALLISON DRUINOh, in 2013, privacy, privacy, privacy. It's amazing. I mean, the whole thing that happened with Instagram first by saying, here, we're going to change our advertising policy, and, oh, by the way, we're just going to give out 100-million-plus users' information to advertisers. And then they say, oops, sorry. You got mad, so we're going to change that. And then these bright children -- I call them children because I can't get over that the -- they are junior faculty at Rutgers University, at the School of Communication and Information, so my equivalent at the University of Maryland iSchool.
MS. ALLISON DRUINThey created something called the beat, which actually puts together Instagram pictures with essentially the location information from Google Street Views. And they put that together, and it says, oh, John, you just got a house-load of Christmas gifts, and you took a picture of those things. And guess what?
MS. ALLISON DRUINNow, everyone can see the outside of your house where you have those Christmas gifts, so they can come and get you. So, anyway, they have since updated their website and say that, today, they say it's entirely public information available, but we'll tell you -- we'll give you a privacy guide to Instagram. But I have to tell you, folks, this stuff is scary.
MR. JOHN GILROYNow, Marc, my resolution is to let all the listeners know -- maybe tattoo on their arms that if a product is free...
GILROY...you are the product.
FISHERYou beat me to it
GILROYThat's what it is. I mean tattoo it on your left arm and say because, hey, Facebook is free. Well, they're going to monetize it somehow, and they're just going to soak up -- they're going to be like a vacuum thing, huh, Bill?
MR. BILL HARLOWI was just thinking -- no, don't be afraid of using for-pay services if they're good. You know, the Flickr Pro account, you know, you get away from stuff like that. You retain some control when you actually become the customer and not the product.
FISHERIs that true, though? Is it generally the case that when you pay for a product online that you do have vastly greater privacy protection?
HARLOWI think so, but I would not assume that. I would definitely say, in all cases, read those terms of services very carefully, if you're concerned about privacy, concerned about ownership of your content.
DRUINBut look at...
FISHERIf you want to give up a little bit of your privacy, you can call us at 1-800-433-8850.
GILROYThat's a good one.
FISHER...or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions about privacy, your resolutions about what you want to do with tech this year. Do you want to get more tech savvy? Do you want to push away from the tech gadgets and programs that have taken over your life? What are some things that you're going to swear off in the year 2013? Give us a call at 1-800-433-8850. And, Bill, what are some of the things that tech companies may have resolved to do, but you think they're almost surely going to break those?
HARLOWOh, geez, well, I think -- I mean, privacy I get the feeling that there will be a lot of lip service paid to it, but I'd say in the grand scheme of things, you're not going to see a whole lot in the way of change. I'd say the same with security, unfortunately, as well. Probably just because with a lot of security, I mean, the whole reason you have security holes, people just don't know the holes are there in many cases, and someone, you know, finds a way to exploit them, so I think that's going to continue to happen.
HARLOWAnd I think the other thing that I would like to see more from tech companies in general is less vaporware. CES is right around the corner. Actually, it's happening right now. It starts today and...
FISHERThe big convention in Vegas.
HARLOWYeah, Consumer Electronics Show. And you're going to see so much whiz bang stuff there that never sees the light of day. It's going to be a big splashy show. It will be fun to see a year from now all the stuff that -- as far as I can tell -- more like a movie prop than an actual product.
FISHERAnd, John, what's your big New Year's resolution for tech? And what do you see tech companies as their -- having as their resolutions? What's the big changes?
GILROYWell, I'm going to go positive here for a change.
DRUINYeah. No way.
GILROYYeah. You know, there are some large organizations...
HARLOWPositive is boring.
GILROY...that are succeeding in the area of privacy and securing data. And I'm going to turn around and be -- I'm really going to be a complete idiot 'cause I'm going to talk about the federal government and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Four-hundred thousand people working over there. Many, many have laptop computers. Every one of those laptops are encrypted.
GILROYThat's a good security practice, and I think other organizations Exxon, Mobil, Ford, all these commercial companies that are worried about security and privacy, they should take, you know, a lesson from the VA. And I know some people over there. I heard about that, and I was astounded that an organization that large could move the people. So a win for security, a win for privacy and information assurance -- the govies, (sic) of all people.
FISHERWow. Bill, a lot of us may have resolved this year to limit our own technology use or somehow pull back from this sort of frantic sense of what social media has done to us or do a better job monitoring how much screen time our kids are logging. You were taken I understand by how far one Chinese man apparently went to limit his son's online gaming time.
HARLOWYes. Apparently, his son was playing a lot of this multiplayer online game, and he decided to take out a hit on his son virtually.
HARLOWHe actually enlisted a number of other players to gang up on his son, essentially make his online experience so miserable that he's going to stop playing anyway.
FISHERDid it work?
HARLOWWell, you know, I don't know. It was such a brief article. I didn't get a good feel on it. I have a feeling, though, with any kid, I mean, he's going to win that battle. You know, it doesn't matter how hard his dad tries to get those people to gang up in that manner. The kid is going to find a way to either make another character, you know, go under the radar incognito and do it again. So I think at the end of day, it's a neat story, but, I mean, like all parenting, it's going to have to be like much more hands-on or personal than something like this and run to have other players take him out.
GILROYA virtual hitman.
FISHERBut seriously, in the wake of the Newtown shootings, there was -- as there always is in these cases, a lot of discussion about the shooter's obsession with violent computer games and whether he spent endless hours in the basement locked up doing nothing but living in that world and then recreating that world in real life.
FISHERI mean, you know, they should immediately have the caveat that it's not entirely clear that that is indeed what his life was like. But given the discussion that develops after each of these incidents, are there things that parents can do that really are effective? Or is this just a cultural shift and change that parents have to figure out a way to live with?
HARLOWWell, gee, it's a tough question. I mean, a lot of newer parents, of course, are going to play videogames, so it may be a very different case. And we're more cognizant of how rough the online world can be as far as the way, you know, other kids treat you. I mean, it's sort of like, you know, the worst of gym class all in one environment. So I think, with that in mind, it's -- you're aware of, you know, how addictive these games can be, what -- more aware of what the content is in various games, is in how to actually read up on that content, read the ratings, that sort of thing, and also play with kids.
HARLOWI mean, I think, if I was a parent, I'd probably would have -- would take time to play these things with -- you know, and in addition to playing ball, doing other things, you know, play the games with your kids, too, so you know what they're playing. You know how they work.
GILROYThis has got to be a raw nerve for Dr. Druin here, huh? I mean, wow, kids and games, and that's your specialty, isn't it? How kids learn?
DRUINWell, maybe a specialty. Anyway, making pizza, whatever.
DRUINBut -- no. Let me...
HARLOWRenaissance mom, that's what you are.
DRUIN...just say that the research on violent games and kids shows that, yes, there is an impact. Is the impact that every kid is going to go out and get a gun and shoot up the world? No, absolutely not. But there is an impact in the way that they perceive their control on the world. And so it is really important for parents to have these impactful conversations with their kids so that they can mediate that impact. And so you have to talk about, what does it mean to be in control? Can you be in control without something being violent?
FISHERAnd speaking of teenagers, here's Laura in Leesburg. What's your question?
LAURAHi. My question is -- I have a 15-year-old and a 14-year-old children that are not currently on Facebook. They have no Instagram, no Facebook, nothing like that. They are clamoring to have social media, and the 15-year-old is about to get his license and to face with that sort of responsibility. I kind of think that he might be ready for the responsibility of social media.
LAURABut, you know, we have the conversations about privacy and about anything you put on the Internet is a public -- is there forever. Is there one -- is there something better than Facebook? Is there something that would be an acceptable alternative, something that I could pay for, for instance?
DRUINLaura, you asked some good questions. OK? One of the things parents are doing is having these conversations like you are, but then saying, it's totally fine, get yourself on Facebook, but realize that I'm going to be -- you're going to need to have me be your friend as well.
DRUINAnd so, just like you live in this house, I'm going to have to live in your Facebook world as well until I understand what you're doing. And then we have a relationship, and then I'm not going to worry so much. And so most parents are on their kids' Facebook accounts for a certain amount of time. Obviously, kids can get around those things.
FISHERReally, you think that's true? Most parents are?
DRUINTo some extent, and at certain ages, yes, they are.
FISHERIn younger ages.
DRUINYes. Younger ages. And since your son is a little bit older than some of the actual -- the normal time that these kids will get into social media, it's probably a good idea for you to be around, to hang out and sort of see what's going on. But to have conversations, obviously, you have to have a separation from your son at a certain point, and he'll be able to make you know that. And you'll be able to make him know that as well.
GILROYWell, I've done raised three young ones, so I have three -- my youngest is 21, and all my kids have to drive a stick shift and be able to change a flat tire, and I teach them not to do stupid things. Don't go out drinking behind the wheel of a car. I mean, I think my kids are -- you know, they've heard that every day of their lives, I think.
GILROYAnd there are certain things you can teach your kid. Don't do stupid things. And I think if you raise your kids well and teach them not to -- I don't think they're going to put the wrong things that are going to come back to haunt them when they apply for a job when they're 30 years old, so...
FISHERWell, except that a lot of the mistakes that are made by kids on Facebook are not mistakes of intent but things that, you know, the kid can get carried away or someone else posts on their wall or someone else posts a picture of them. I mean, it's not all a question of things that you yourself can control.
HARLOWRight. But I think they need to be aware that they have an audience at all times.
GILROYYou can monitor your behavior. That's all I have to say.
DRUINYeah. And -- but you also be careful of certain kinds of features. I mean, there's this poke feature that's scary because, you know, they say that poke goes away after, you know, one to 10 seconds. But, actually, it's not deleted really from the system for 90 days because they're trying to keep, as a security -- to look at security breaches within Facebook. So be very...
FISHERExplain what that is.
DRUINOK. Poke is an instant messaging feature in Facebook. OK? Unfortunately, it's being used for really not so nice things because why would you want to instant message and have that message go away instantly? Hmm. Let me think about it. Well, because you don't want anyone tracing it. If you don't want anyone tracing it, it means it's not a very good thing. You can block certain features. You can block certain ways of doing things. So just be careful to take a look at the security features with your son as you go through it.
FISHERThanks for the call, Laura. John, it's been a while since Microsoft was the big, bad gorilla in the tech world. But last year, they were very aggressive in rolling out a very different Windows system and the new tablet device that runs on it. What do you think Microsoft needs to do if it's resolved to make 2013 a year when they regain their status among the tech giants?
GILROYWow. Remember there's one scene in "Seinfeld" where he had a devil in one side and an angel on the other, and they're both whispering different things in his ear? That's what Microsoft is. You know, on the one side, they're spending $9.6 billion in innovation more than Apple and Google combined. On the other side, they're trying to encourage people to use this operating system that doesn't look like it's very successful.
GILROYAnd if you just look at the numbers, you know, there is a bad operating system called Vista that never really caught on, and this new one, Windows 8, really isn't selling any better than Vista has. Now, XP...
FISHERDespite all those cool TV ads.
GILROYYeah, and they're trying hard. And, you know, I was in shopping for phones last week, and I went up to the person. I said, well, how many Windows phones have you sold in the last three months? One. And it's like, well, they're trying hard, but I think they're trying to find their way. They're spending a lot in innovation, with the cloud.
GILROYThey're spending a lot with touch technology. They're spending a lot with this holodeck technology. They're trying, but it just seems that they're not connecting in -- on the desktop anymore. The desktops, maybe because they're not selling very well, they can't make that connection with the consumers anymore.
FISHERAnd is that because the product isn't good or because there is so much experience that people have -- unhappy experience with Microsoft that that's a bias in the marketplace?
GILROYWell, speaking of security, it is a secure product. The Pentagon just spent $600 million on Microsoft products. So it's going to be a secure product. But I don't think it has the consumer connect. What they tried to do is they tried to put touch technology on the wrong device. It's like having a second baseman play middle linebacker.
GILROYThey just -- you know, you're not going to be very well. You're not going to be good at it. And so you can play second base well. So this touch technology seems to be good for a handheld device. They're trying to push it on to a desktop or a laptop, and it's having weak response.
DRUINAnd you know what it is? It's the connection between -- they have a very, very strong research group at Microsoft, one of the top research groups in the world. But it's that -- there is a chasm, a disconnect between these amazing ideas and this amazing research and getting this to the general public in a way that the public can consume it. And so it's -- if they can understand that distribution and really understand what the public wants there, I think that they're going to do a whole lot better.
HARLOWYeah. They problem they have is they don't become products. They're ideas, and they stay that way.
GILROYRight. And they just don't have that connection that Jobs had. I mean...
FISHERWhen we come back with the Computer Guys & Gal after a short break, we'll take a look at the innovations coming up in the year 2013. We'll continue after a short break. I'm Marc Fisher.
FISHERWelcome back. I'm Marc Fisher of The Washington Post, sitting in for Kojo Nnamdi. And we are talking with the Computer Guys & Gal: Allison Druin, John Gilroy and Bill Harlow. And you can join our conversation by calling 1-800-433-8850 or email us email@example.com. And we have an email from Joe, who says, "Hi, Computer Guys & Gal. Over Christmas, I updated the software to my first generation iPad. All of my apps still work normally, except one: Facebook. It crashes every time I try to start it."
FISHER"I went online to find fixes, tried everything short of reinstalling the operating software. I'm worried at this point that the developers of the app, including the Facebook one, don't care much for making sure they work on people who are running on devices that are a little bit older, if you consider the iPad that I got just two and a half years ago old. Any advice?"
HARLOWWell, I guess if he's tried everything, the one that's worked for me generally is you uninstall the app itself. I mean, you just hold your finger down on it. It shakes. There's an X button next to it. You tap that, and it goes away. And then you just re-download it. And, you know, it's a lot easier reinstalling software in a computer. It's something that's, you know, stupid-easy. So I'd say if you haven't tried that, definitely try that.
HARLOWAnd take a look as well and make sure you got every update available, installed for the iPad as far as the operating system goes because generally as a new iPad OS comes out, new versions come out with new features. Developers tend not to support the older version. So make you sure you can the run the latest one that the iPad supports as well.
DRUINBut this is actually brings up a larger issue about the I series in general, OK, the iOS stuff is that there's an awful lot of developers that you're having to have a relationship with. This is not just about an Apple device anymore, OK? It's -- yes, it's Apple hardware and yes, it's Apple operating system. But you've got a whole universe of people that you have to depend on now. And so what Bill suggests is anytime something's really going wrong, nuke the outside application first.
GILROYHere's a new word that I heard: They're called appers.
HARLOWOh, and the other thing, too, is, you know, if -- when in doubt, try the Facebook webpage. I mean, open up Safari in the iPad and just see if you can log in there. If it's a better experience, it very well may be. They recently redid the Facebook apps much faster on a lot of device, but maybe a consequence is that it doesn't run as well on the first generation iPad.
FISHERWell, as we sit here in Washington, out in Las Vegas, many of your colleagues are checking out all the innovations that are coming up at the CES Show there. And you are, I'm sure, on top of what's being shown out there. What are you most excited about that you see coming down the pike this year?
HARLOWOh, I think the most exciting thing at CES has to be a fork.
GILROYA -- what kind of fork are you talking about?
DRUINOh, it's totally cool.
FISHERBecause our good old fork is not good enough.
HARLOWNo, no, no. The...
DRUINOh, it's totally cool.
HARLOWIt's called the HAPIfork, the world's first smart fork.
HARLOWH-A-P-I, yes. And the idea behind it is actually kind of cool although it's such a silly thing to describe. It essentially monitors your eating habits, so it -- you could set a start and stop time for your meals, and it will actually monitor how quickly you're eating and save this data. And you actually have a meal telemetry of sorts that you could go back to view afterwards.
FISHERSo if you eat beyond the limit, it suddenly turns into a brick?
HARLOWExactly, exactly. No, it's -- it just has subtle vibrations built in the handle. So it's just like gentle feedback to remind you to, hey, slow down. Chew your food more. Take your time...
FISHERJust a small, high-powered electric shock delivered to your system.
HARLOWA powerful shock and a powerful heat generation device inside (unintelligible)...
GILROYIt should have like a collar. Like a dog collar thing, it jolts you.
HARLOWExactly. It vibrates so hard, the food falls off the fork. It keeps you on your diet.
FISHERAnd, Allison, I think you had a slightly less-intrusive idea for technology that would help us lose some weight.
DRUINOh, yes. This is -- my gift for the holidays was a walking desk from LifeSpan. OK, the desk doesn't walk, you do. So the idea is that basically it's a standing desk and then there's a treadmill under it. And so if you don't feel like walking all the time, you can just use it as a standing desk. But essentially, it's a treadmill that doesn't go faster than a few miles an hour.
DRUINBut you can -- I find that I can type on my laptop and walk at 0.7 to 0.9 miles an hour comfortably. And I tell you, it's already working. My lower back isn't bothering me. I'm -- I've got more energy to run up and downstairs. I tell you, it's a real different experience.
FISHERAnd you're so dizzy that you don't eat.
DRUINI know. It's wonderful.
DRUINI don't need the HAPIfork.
DRUINIt's a little expensive, though, so unless you...
HARLOWHAPIfork is a lot cheaper.
DRUINYeah. I was going to say unless you have a husband named Ben who is crazy about exercise, you may not, like, be wanting to look at the price tag on this thing.
FISHERAnd, John, any innovations you're seeing coming up that you're excited about?
GILROYI, you know, from the consumer perspective -- I hear it from most of my listeners or what, I just hope they listen every month, they listen every Tuesday and just try to be more careful. There's a lot of security scams that's going on now. There's -- these people in a country called Russia are starting to attack Americans. I mean, there's a -- we could do like one hour a week on the latest scam of the week of what's going on.
GILROYI think the listeners should just be wary that because of all these mobile devices that are out there, that makes you more vulnerable because if you're sitting at a desk and you get some email from Kojo, you might delete it. But if you're at your phone and it opens up real quick, bang, and you're at a bad site and there's malware placed on your device and you're in trouble. So just be very, very careful. And listen to "Kojo Show" and be careful. I just see -- there's millions of dollars being stolen every year by these nasty guys.
FISHERHere's a call from Fred in Frederick. Fred, you're on the air.
FREDYeah. Hi, guys. I heard you talking a few minutes ago about Microsoft and its position in the market and you mentioned Google at the same time.
FREDI think one of the things that got missed was to think about how old Microsoft is. Most of the guys in position of power there are like in their 50's and above. They're protecting their turf. That system within Microsoft -- and I've known people that work there -- they're not rewarding people for innovation, like people like Google are.
FREDSo I think what you're going to see until there's a flushing of the management at the top and some new thinkers move in, Microsoft, regardless what they put on the street, is not going to be an exciting company again. I think it's going to take a long time for them to change.
HARLOWIt's funny as in protecting your turf, too, because one thing I've been thinking about is Microsoft, as a company with products, they have a lot of turf to lose. I mean, a lot of ground that really all they can do is lose it, you know, in operating systems, in Office suites so, you know...
HARLOWYou've got some of that too. And a fast mover can come in there and shake things up. And if someone makes something that becomes a new Microsoft Office, that would really, really hurt them.
FREDWell, openoffice.org is free, and everybody I know uses that. And if you look back at how everybody freaked when Microsoft started buying up small companies, isn't that what they're saying about Google now? So that Google by itself, is not in, you know, impervious to destruction or self-destruction. I think it's just the way companies work now. They did big. They buy stuff. Things change. But that doesn't mean they're going to be around forever, and Microsoft is the best example of that.
FISHERHere's an email from Kenny also on the Microsoft theme. He says, "I thought of Microsoft last night while I was watching Notre Dame get utterly decimated in the college football (unintelligible)."
GILROYWhoa, boy, under the belt on that one, huh?
FISHER"Both Microsoft and Notre Dame used to be great, but both of those brands mean nothing to me now. A lot of people may desperately want Microsoft and Notre Dame to return to greatness. The TV networks certainly want the Irish to be great 'cause they need the ratings. But the modern reality is this: Other people do their job better right now. They're being outclassed, and they won't change that until their products are good enough to compete."
GILROYWell, I think that there may be some consumers that will agree with that. But I think in the enterprise, in different levels, there's this product called SharePoint that's very, very popular and secure. Microsoft has made very, very solid inroads in the area of enterprise computing and large-scale computing.
GILROYI think from a consumer's perspective, you may look at it that way. But they're not going away. And this guy Steve Ballmer is a fighter. And talking about Steve Ballmer, the last photo I saw of him was jumping up and down screaming about the Xbox being the future of Microsoft. And it's hard to believe, but they're aggressively moving to the cloud.
GILROYAnd I view Microsoft's real competitor here is companies like Amazon Web Services, AWS, and Google, and I think that's where the competition is. And I think the big dollar is going to come from large organizations investing in the cloud and comparing AWS, Amazon Web Services, with Google and Microsoft and see who comes out best in the big-guy world, you know, the big money.
FISHERIf you have New Year's resolutions about technology that you'd like to share with us or questions for the Computer Guys & Gal, give us a ring at 1-800-433-8850, or email us at kojo -- K-O-J-O -- @wamu.org. And, Allison, you mentioned walking while you work. But are there other gadgets that you have in your inbox that you're excited about? I know there's one you mentioned about archiving your notes.
DRUINYes. I'm sitting here using it right now, in fact. It's Livescribe Sky Wi-Fi pen. OK. So I...
GILROYIt's like a Laddie pencil from the 1950s.
DRUINOK. All right. So it's a really big pen but -- and it works on a special pad with dots. But here's the thing, I'm one of these -- yes, I'm an old-timer like...
GILROYWatch it. Watch it. Watch it.
DRUIN...John. I like to write on paper when I'm making my notes because I focus -- because it helps me focus, because if I start seeing that I have a message or an email or whatever, I -- ADHD. So anyway, and so I've been looking in a way to try and archive my notes that are all -- I mean, I have pounds of notebooks -- lab notebooks and such. So -- and it -- I realized, wow, this works with Evernote. This is awesome.
DRUINSo basically I can also turn this things on and I can record, audio record and connect a piece of audio recording too when I'm writing. So a combination of things. I can search my old notes. I can audio record. I'm very excited, so I'm working on trying to use this and see how it works. But, yes, it is the thickness of what the old Crayola crayons were...
HARLOWYeah, the ones for the 2-year-olds. Yeah.
FISHERIt's a big one, that's right.
GILROYIt's just ergonomic. That's all.
DRUINYeah. There you go. So...
FISHERAnd so you write with it and it shows up on your...
DRUINI write with it and then I have to press a little button that says -- that syncs it to my computer when I'm near my computer. I won't do this now for fear of what it will do to the radio station, but -- and essentially, I can also turn it on and audio record at any time. I won't do this for copyright reasons. Anyway...
DRUINSo I'm pretty into it. I'm a total tech woman these days.
FISHERAnd, Bill, any new toys in your arsenal?
HARLOWWell, speaking of toys, one thing that seems kind of cool and I hope this actually see the light of day because it's pretty neat, Nvidia, who's a big name in computer graphics.
GILROYFor years. Yeah.
HARLOWOne of the big guys, probably the biggest right now because AMD purchased ATI and they're kind of second fiddle, it seems, these days, unfortunately. They have this thing called Project Shield. It looks like an Xbox controller. It's got a powerful Tegra 4 chipset in there, which is Nvidia's low-power chipset for things like tablets and phones, and it runs Android. So you can play games on it. It's got a little flip-up screen. And that's all well and good. I mean, it's a proper controller so great for that.
HARLOWBut the thing that I think is kind of cool is the way you can sort of do local play shifting with it. You can hook it up to your PC. You can play powerful PC game and have it stream the content to this controller. You can walk around the house, get away from the computer and not be tethered to that. Play it like a little game system and actually be running full PC games in the palm of your hand -- sort of like what Nintendo offers with the Wii U. You can turn off the TV and keep playing.
FISHERWell. And, John, what's your latest favorite toy?
GILROYI'm not one of these gamers like certain people in the studio here. No, I'm very, very conservative and resistant to change, and I'm very -- I guess I'm more focused on the larger applications like cloud security, notebook security. And games, I think that's for youngsters like Bill. It's not for old geezers like me.
HARLOWI'll be an old geezer, and I will still be playing games. I just have a feeling.
HARLOWYou don't know about that.
DRUINYawn. Yawn. Yawn.
HARLOWDon't know about being an old geezer -- will make it that far, is that a threat, John?
GILROY...you may burn out.
FISHERAll right. Well, some people need your help. Email from Jessica about Netflix. "Like so many other families," she says, "I sat down with my husband and my kids over Christmas to watch a streaming movie on Netflix. Nope, don't pass go. Netflix was down. This outage was a big enough deal to me that I'm considering cutting off my Netflix. Do the Computer Guys & Gal think the Netflix Christmas outage is a big enough deal that others will also say bye-bye?"
GILROYI just said AWS, didn't I?
HARLOWYeah, that was Amazon, wasn't it?
GILROYI just said the big boys playing up. This is where the fight's going to be. The fight's going to be in the cloud. If Microsoft go to Netflix and say, hey, Netflix, we're going to give you the five nines -- 9.9999 -- then -- and this is where the battle is going to be won, I think.
HARLOWThe thing I wonder, too, is, I mean, outages are going to happen. I mean, nobody's going to have 100 percent uptime. I think that's virtually impossible. I mean, there's just too many variables that you have to keep track of to do that, but you want to obviously, you know, have uptime when it matters, like during Christmas. And I think it's tough too 'cause I'm sure a lot of engineers in Amazon who were, you know, running their (word?) service. You know, it might've been a skeleton crew that day 'cause, you know, it's Christmas.
GILROYIt's Christmas, and everyone's off.
HARLOWYeah. So, you know, so it's tough. I mean, I don't know if it's -- if you want to cancel, that's fine. But I just have a feeling that you could go to another streaming service and run into similar issues.
GILROYAnd doing predictive analytics on that type of an application, it's got to be really hard because I don't think you have a history of number of movie downloads. I mean, you just don't have a history of that, so you can't project out. Even a liberal prediction can't account for what's going to happen over Christmas holiday.
DRUINBut you personally need a backup. OK? It's not just -- don't, you know, depend on the big boys, OK?
HARLOWSo you have a DVD player. Is that your backup?
GILROYThat's the backup.
DRUINHave a DVD player.
GILROYHave a Parcheesi game?
DRUINHave a, you know...
GILROYIs that the backup?
DRUINYeah, exactly. So, I mean, I know what you're feeling because I have two kids that basically breathe Netflix.
HARLOWI can understand your pain, is what you're saying.
DRUINOh, it's so painful. Oh, my goodness. But, you know, have some downloaded media. Make sure that you've got some backup.
GILROYHow old-fashioned you are. Wow. Downloaded media.
DRUINI know it's really shocking.
FISHERWell, speaking of big outages and glitches that embarrass big companies, one company that may be looking for a tech do-over to start the new year is Ticketmaster, which inadvertently sold all of the public tickets to President Obama's second inaugural ball and parade...
FISHER...after a computer glitch made them available well before they were supposed to go on sale. I mean, there's always outrage about Ticketmaster, but this is a new and fresh wave of them. What do you think went wrong there and what can Ticketmaster do to salvage whatever tiny shred of good publicity reputation they ever had?
DRUINThey really messed up. I mean, essentially, what they were doing was testing their messaging system, and instead of sending it to just a few people, they sent it out to everyone. And so, yeah, it was ready, and it -- well, it was a good thing it was ready. Can you imagine if it wasn't ready, and they were testing the messaging system? That would've sent people completely crazy. But really what they should be doing is making good on anybody that tried to get through on Monday.
DRUINThey should have been giving them some sort of discount on -- for their tickets. It does say that when you're working on, you know, when you're working on these big systems, you've got to really think about not just your distribution system, but your testing systems because, boy, what a mess they made.
GILROYI worked with software developers all day long every day for years, and the absolute lowest job in the totem pole is testing.
GILROYWell, Bill's the new guy. We'll have him test the stuff, and Allison can do the fun things, and Marc can do the really creative things. And, oh, you're the new guy. You have a master's degree in computer? You'll still be the testing guy, and no one wants to do it. It's the most boring thing.
HARLOWHow close is the deadline? Yeah, I'm not going to fix that, but...
GILROYYeah, yeah. I don't care.
FISHERBut, you know, it's hard for them to make it up to people. I mean, you know, you didn't get to go to the inauguration that you'd planned or you campaigned for the guy or whatever. So, instead, we're going to give you Wizards tickets? I mean, I don't think so.
DRUINI know. It's totally wrong.
HARLOWWell, it's Ticketmaster. They specialize in, like, you know, high demand, low supply, so not everybody is going to get to go, and that's just kind of how it is.
DRUINWell, they also should be working with the inaugural committee to figure out what they could do. I mean, like even send up free -- like buy up all these pins and send a free pin to everybody or something. I don't know.
FISHERWhen we come back after a short break, we'll take a look at a new survey that found that the share of Americans reading e-books is up significantly this year when we continue with the Computer Guys & Gal. I'm Marc Fisher, sitting in for Kojo.
FISHERWelcome back. I'm Marc Fisher of The Washington Post, sitting in for Kojo Nnamdi, and we are with the Computer Guys & Gal. Allison Druin is co-director of the Future of Information Alliance at the University of Maryland. John Gilroy is director of business development at Armature Corporation. And Bill Harlow is hardware and software technician at Mid Atlantic Consulting. And here is Anne in Alexandria. You're on the air.
ANNEHi. Thank you, all. Listen, I'm calling because I'm legally blind, and I really jumped up and down with the Samsung Galaxy III. But it is kind of expensive. I love the text size, which is huge. When I saw it, I cried. But I guess my question is, are there other less expensive that provides voice recognition and large text?
DRUINWell, voice recognition and large text, Anne, are the, in some sense, are the magic duo. And to be honest with you, voice recognition, you really need something that's not cheap, OK?
DRUINThat's the problem. If you're legally blind and you need voice recognition, I would go -- honestly, I would go with the -- an Apple product because of the quality of the Retina screen, the Retina Display screens. And so I wouldn't go with an iPad mini, which is cheaper. I know it sounds terrible, but get the best possible display you can...
DRUIN...with the size of font. And then certainly, thankfully, some of the voice recognition now is actually almost -- is almost good on these devices. But again, voice recognition is sort of the last frontier in terms of really good technology right now.
HARLOWYeah. There are so many gaps in there too. You'll find you can do a lot with it than you'll be surprised of things that it just doesn't respond to.
ANNEDoes the iPad -- do they -- I mean, the iPad, do they offer more than Samsung?
HARLOWIt's more totally integrated into the operating system. I mean, Siri is a big feature that Apple is pushing. So with iOS 6, which is what they're all shipping with now, it offers more control. You can do things like launch apps with voice control. And the dictation, I think, is always going to get better the more people use it and the more they improve the algorithms that they run on the servers.
HARLOWThe other thing, too, is on the Apple products, I know that they have a pretty good assistive mode, and one of the options is you have the ability to expand the whole screen. You can use a gesture to zoom in everything on the screen, and then you can actually -- so it's almost like you're looking through a magnifying glass and you use your fingers to slide around and slowly navigate the screen with everything enlarged. So...
DRUINRight. So look at an iPad 3, OK, and not an iPad mini because the iPad 3 has the Retina Display, OK?
ANNEI want a phone.
DRUINOh, but you want a phone. OK. So look at one of the...
HARLOWLike you said, the iPhone 5, it's got the bigger screen.
DRUINYeah, it's got the bigger screen. Now, you could wait till the spring, and they're potentially coming out with bigger phones, bigger screened phones and may also be good for you as well.
HARLOWYeah. It's a tough choice 'cause a lot of the Android phones have awesome huge screens, but the voice control might be more limited, and then the assistive options are really limited. So Apple, I think, overall, offers the best package.
FISHERThanks, Anne, for the call. If you got a shiny, new tablet, phone or mobile device for Christmas that you're still trying to figure out how to use, you can give us a call at 1-800-433-8850. What kind of advice will help you make sure that you get the most out of it? And speaking of tablets, this year we have -- what are your expectations for the tablet market? If Samsung's Galaxy phones are eating into the market share of Apple's iPhone, what can competitors do to make up ground against Apple's iPad?
DRUINWell, you know, it's interesting. I've been reading a lot about this as well as doing some research on tablets. And one of the missed things that people don't realize is that, essentially, all the e-book sales are being dominated by one company: Amazon. And Amazon did one extraordinarily smart thing: They were agnostic. They said, our e-book reader, you can read -- yes, you can read on Kindle, and you'll have a wonderful life if you do that.
HARLOWYeah. To put it simply, buy Kindle or not. We don't care.
DRUINWe don't care. We want you to take your reader, our reader on your iPad, on your phone, on your whatever. And you know what? They are making money hand and fist. It's also about the software experience, and I think people are forgetting that. And so if you really want to own the world, it's also owning the content and that software experience.
FISHERAnd so what -- how does this play out in the long run? Will the dedicated e-book readers be a thing of the past at some point or...
DRUINWell, right now, already the tablets have surpassed the e-book readers in terms of what people are actually reading on today are tablets. In fact, one out of every four e-books is being read off a tablet, and that's up from last year when one out of every 10 was being read. So it's a very different world. I mean, essentially the e-book readers are super. They're light. They're, you know, they're really ergonomically wonderful. But you've got the tablets which are really catching up and being used for many, many things.
FISHERA survey released last month by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that the share of Americans reading e-books shot up significantly over the past year. Is this boom being driven basically by tablet sales?
DRUINI believe it may be, and the tablet particularly that's really been -- that's totally changed the market or started the market was the Apple iPad. But interestingly enough, where is the most reading being done? Sixteen and older of people is -- are reading online. And a third -- basically, we're talking about a third of U.S. consumers, 16 and older -- are actually reading online -- with the e-books on tablets.
HARLOWNow it -- now is this -- I imagine that these people are not -- is the research saying that people are reading mostly on tablets or in addition to paper? Does it not specify? Does it get into the granularity of that?
DRUINThere -- it does get into granularity, but for the most part, it's saying that the tablets have surpassed e-book readers.
HARLOWThat's where most of the reading is going on.
FISHERSo does that -- well, but do you think that means that people are converting whole hog and, you know, not looking back at ink on paper or do they coexist somehow?
DRUINI believe they coexist for the moment. I think that you're showing a steady, steady increase in e-book reading, OK, by the entire American public. But you're also seeing a decline of paper reading in terms of books.
HARLOWYou know, what's interesting too is one thing that I think that I'm starting to outgrow is that I no longer want to acquire media as far as I don't need like shelves of books and, you know, and shelves of CDs and DVDs. I just, you know, it's about the content more than the actual media. So...
FISHERThere was an interesting piece, I forgot exactly where last week, a profile of a library director at a university who goes out to people's houses after they've have died and examines, you know, particularly scholars, looks at their collections of books and finds the appropriate university library to give them to, that kind of thing. And that, from what you're saying, that would become a lost art.
HARLOWThat or you just grab a USB drive and download it all and go like, OK, we'll give it to everybody. I don't know how that would work exactly.
DRUINIt's -- well, no. It's really looking at what are we doing in terms of being archivists. OK. We're -- in terms of personally archiving your world, you're going to have to be electronically archiving your world as well.
GILROYIn the world of big data and petabytes information, there's a strange discipline that's suddenly very popular. It's called master degree in library science.
DRUINOh, I've heard of that.
GILROYI know people who are working for large consulting organizations like Deloitte, like the big -- and they actively, aggressively seek out library science majors because, all of a sudden, they understand categories, and they can categorize big data. And they're not intimidated by petabytes 'cause they've seen huge libraries -- that's just spotted everywhere, and so...
HARLOWI have nightmares about petabytes, John.
GILROYIt's a -- and what a switch. Whoever thought that that...
FISHERThat that would come roaring back.
GILROYYeah. It's coming back strongly.
FISHERVery interesting. Let's hear from Leanne in Frederick. Leanne, you're on the air.
LEANNEHi. My question is -- I bought an iPad at Christmas, and I have a MiFi. And when I'm finished with the iPad, I still have the effect that the MiFi is still streaming where it's eating up my data bytes, and I'm not understanding why that's happening.
HARLOWThere's still stuff going on in the background on an iPad even when you're done with it. It could be things like downloading email. It could be checking for updates periodically, that sort of thing, shouldn't be anything too aggressive. But it could add up over time. I think it's important that when you're done with the MiFi, just go ahead and make sure you just power it off.
HARLOWThen you don't have to worry about eating in of the data.
LEANNEOK. And the same thing, I guess, with the iPad, to turn them both off or just the MiFi?
HARLOWOh, if the MiFi is off and the iPad is not connected to a network, then there is nothing it can download. So I think it's fine to just leave the iPad asleep in that case.
FISHERThanks, Leanne. Here's an email from Allison about Surface Pro. "What do you think about the Surface Pro? And I'm replacing my laptop. Can you please suggest alternatives?" What is Surface Pro?
HARLOWIt is going to be Microsoft's non-hobbled, non-crippled, not -- in my opinion, fake Windows 8 tablet. It's going to be full Windows 8 around a full laptop-grade processor. And I guess a way I could describe it is take a laptop and kind of reverse what it is rather than have, like, all the base being the keyboard and everything and the screen being something you flip up. The screen is the star of the show. It's a touch panel. You get a little dinky flip-down keyboard. So it's prioritized as a tablet first and a laptop second, I would say.
FISHERIt's very, very hard to describe. You did a great job, though. I think I've been trying to figure how to describe it as well, but that's a really good summary what the Surface is.
HARLOWIt's a backwards laptop.
FISHERYeah. And that's -- Microsoft Office, by the way, is two miles up the road. And years ago, they had this desktop thing called a Surface, and you don't know what they're going to do with it.
HARLOWYeah. A table.
FISHERRight. It was a table, and it came up with this device. And the promise, it runs a very peculiar operating system on a certain type of chip that doesn't really fit in. It's almost like five different people designed a kitchen and they have three sinks and one -- it's just doesn't make sense.
HARLOWCould the Surface program be good? I don't know. It's supposed to be out really soon, if not already, right? So it's definitely kind of a thing where you really need to play with it and see if it's for you. I can't answer that. Only you can go touch it. Pick it up. Hold on it. Type on it. See what it can do.
FISHERGood description, right.
DRUINIt's going to be about the software, OK, and it's going to be about the kinds of things you can do with it. And so, I mean, one of the reasons that the iPad became -- had such a splash was because there was already apps they could use. The question is, what kinds of things can you do with this tablet?
HARLOWWell, what's nice about it is it's a full laptop. So you can run any Windows app on it.
FISHERAnd, John, an hour with the Computer Guys & Gal wouldn't be complete if we didn't spread a little fear. So over the past...
FISHEROver the past...
GILROYSo we're going to be fearmongers.
FISHEROver the past year, more and more people have been reporting themselves to be victims of ransomware, which are schemes where their computers were essentially held hostage by hackers demanding payment. How widespread is this, and should people actually fear it or know about it at least?
GILROYWell, actually, I recommend this for Kojo Nnamdi as a part-time job.
GILROYHe can make millions of dollars on this. So what happens is this: so let's say old Bill goes to a dangerous website, and he gets a software that loaded in his machine that says, hey, you pay up or we're not going to let you into your machine. And so it's been found out that 15 percent of the people who get these attacks, they pay up.
GILROYAnd the way they pay up is they go to, like, a drugstore and get a debit card and turn the debit card into these malicious code writers, and they're making millions of dollars on this. And the ransom is, like, 400 bucks. And the problem is, I mean, just because you pay the ransom doesn't mean you're going to get the…
HARLOWRight. And the maker also gets a fine like, you know, you've got illegal data on your computer, you pirated software through the claiming...
GILROYMarc Fisher, this is the FBI.
HARLOWRight. FBI warning on your screen.
GILROYYou've been at kojoshow.org. And you're going to have to pay us $400, or we'll lock up your computer.
HARLOWYeah, as a fine, as a legal fine.
GILROYAs a fine, and they believe it. And it started in Russia, and I think people are getting away from this Nigerian scam -- meet me in London with some money -- to this new ransomware. And, wow, I just -- I hope people are aware that these things are taking place.
FISHERSpeaking of Nigerian scams, Irene in Silver Spring emails to say that she thought Nigerian email scams were, like, so 2003. And then in the past few months, her work email has been assaulted by dozens of people trying to scam her with Nigerian scam knockoffs. Where are these phishing scams coming from, and is there anything she can do to block them?
GILROYI named the country earlier, but I might get in trouble. The Russian embassy's going to come down and beat up on us here. But that's -- generally speaking, we see them coming from Eastern Europe. Would you agree, Bill? I mean, all the people involved in the intelligence community in town that I know, that's where they say. And there's another large country in Asia that some originate from. But really the nasty, I think, consumer-oriented stuff is from Russia, and I think large enterprise attacks come...
HARLOWKeep up on the spam filters, really.
DRUINYeah. That's important.
HARLOWKeep up on your spam filters both on your desktop. And if the server you're using, you know, like Exchange, for example, supports it, make sure you filter it there too before it even gets to your inbox.
DRUINYeah. You can block these things manually as well as automatically. And -- but the problem is when you start doing that, I start losing email right and left from people that are not actually...
DRUIN... people that I don't want.
FISHERQuickly, here's Tom in Columbia. Tom, you're on the air.
TOMI'm a very infrequent user of Facebook, maybe once every six months. And I slimmed my profile down to almost nothing, but am I still vulnerable?
DRUINIt depends on your privacy settings, Tom.
HARLOWIf you give them a whole lot information, they're going to vacuum it up. So you can have four friends. You can have 400. And if you give all kinds of personal information in Facebook, they're going to vacuum it up, and you're going to get special, you know, you happen to have an LG 3 Refrigerator and here's a special filter on the back in there something. So whatever information you put in there, you don't own it. They own it.
TOMI have mostly just my name, no birthday, nothing.
HARLOWI like it so far, nice and safe.
FISHERThank you, Tom. And very quickly, the Google Maps situation. Apple took a ton of heat in the fall when an update made Apple Maps the default. Is everything settled now, or are we going to see Apple come back very quickly with another version of the maps?
DRUINIt's interesting. Right now, people are very happy with, I mean, you know, millions of people downloaded this thing within a few days of the new Google Maps coming out. It's got voice. It's got a better user interface. People are thrilled. The real challenge is that, you know, when you actually see an address on your thing, you can't click on it. So that's the problem. But hopefully, it'll work.
FISHERAllison Druin is co-director of the Future of Information Alliance at the University of Maryland, John Gilroy from Armature Corporation and Bill Harlow from Mid-Atlantic Consulting. They're the Computer Guys & Gal. And I'm Marc Fisher, sitting in for Kojo Nnamdi. Thanks for joining us.
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