What happens when government aid doesn't go where it's supposed to?
A government shutdown means federal employees can’t use work-issued laptops and phones or check their office email. The Computer Guys and Gal explore the tech implications of telling federal workers to stay home and power down their devices. But Apple is working overtime to meet demand for its new iPhone 5s and 5c, released this month along with the new iOS 7 operating system.
- Allison Druin WAMU Computer Gal; Chief Futurist at the University of Maryland Division of Research; 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.
Apps Of The Month
SupperKing is a variation on “couch surfing.” The iPhone app allows you to share your next home cooked meal by selling seats at your dinner table to complete strangers.
Cookie Clicker is a game where you make virtual cookies and, if you earn enough cookies, hire grandma bakers, build factories and even use a time machine.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. The Computer Guys and Gal, well, they found us. They're here. As of midnight, much of the U.S. government is closed for business. That means roughly 800,000 federal employees staying home until Congress agrees on how to pay the bills. In the meantime, government employees are being told not to do any work.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIThat means no checking emails or using government issued Blackberries or laptops. Are you a government employee? How will you handle the forced tech holiday? What tech steps did you take to prepare for the shutdown? Call us at 800-433-8850. Send us email to firstname.lastname@example.org or a Tweet @kojoshow using the hashtag "Tech Tuesday," because, well, they are here. The Computer Guys and Gal have discovered us at our new location. And so Allison Druin joins us in studio. She is chief futurist at the University of Maryland Division of Research, co-director of The Future of Information Alliance at the University of Maryland, and to my surprise, she has been in this building before.
MS. ALLISON DRUINIt's awesome. This is an amazing building. I'm so excited to be here.
NNAMDIDid you come here when they threw you out of the liquor store across the street?
DRUINNo, that would -- you're confusing me with John. It's terrible, yeah.
NNAMDIThat would be John Gilroy, director of Business Development at Armature Corporation, who probably knows this neighborhood very well.
MR. JOHN GILROYYes. At least the liquor store.
NNAMDIWell, we're happy to have you here, as we do Bill Harlow, Hardware and Software Technician for MACs and PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting Inc. Do you approve of our new location?
MR. BILL HARLOWI love what you've done with the place.
NNAMDIThank you very much. 800...
GILROYSame old bad music, new building, though, you know?
NNAMDI433-8850. Allison, the last time the federal government shut down was the year 1996, 17 years ago in people years, but eons ago in tech years. Blackberries didn't exist, let alone iPhones, Google didn't exist. What are some other technology differences between then and now and how will they affect employees who cannot go to work at their government jobs?
DRUINWell, all right. First of all, nobody back then had to hand in their cell phones because most of them weren't on those Blackberries looking at their email, okay?
NNAMDIThey didn't have smart phones.
DRUINYou know, the vast majority of them were feature phones and they maybe had PDAs.
NNAMDII had a Palm Pilot myself.
DRUINRight. They had Palm Pilots. So maybe they handed in their Palm Pilots, okay? Today...
NNAMDII also had a beeper. Yes.
DRUINYes. They had beepers. Yeah. I would have given up my beeper happily...
DRUIN...if I were in government. Also, the web was in its infancy then. Okay? So it's likely that the government didn't have to worry about shutting down its public websites, but we've been seeing tweets all morning long from various different sources in the government saying we will not be tweeting anymore until the government comes back.
DRUINSo a lot of the government information that we take for granted, that we get through tweets, through Facebook, through websites, none of that was there back in 1996. It's pretty likely that most people got their information from the mainstream press.
DRUINThe mainstream press, yeah.
NNAMDIThe mainstream media. That's an obscure concept.
DRUINIsn't that bizarre? Like, no social media?
NNAMDIIt used to around in the old days.
HARLOWA newspaper? Is that right?
DRUINI know. I know.
HARLOWI just wanted to clarify.
DRUINYeah. So maybe, you know, nobody, nobody figuring out what personal email addresses that they should be having and so on, so probably a little less preparation on the tech side, you know, the last shutdown, than now.
NNAMDIAn obscure law from the 1800s says federal workers cannot work during a shutdown. That means they cannot take home or use any government issued device and can't even check their office email from home. Federal workers this morning, some of them read to me their instructions that they got when they got to work about this. Are there any workarounds for people who want to stay connected, Bill?
HARLOWWell, you can always follow other people on Twitter, like the pop group 'N Sync, who tweeted about the Affordable Care Act today and got a lot of responses. You can certainly do that.
NNAMDIYes, I guess.
GILROYYou know, I think the lesson since 1995, 1996 was 9/11, Katrina, and bad things have happened, and so many agencies have this thing called COOP, which is Continuous Operation Plan. And they have fall-over sites. And what I'm telling people is that, you know, a day or two, I mean, they're almost designed to operate in trouble. But you go much beyond two or three days, then systems don't get patched and then security vulnerabilities and bad things happen. So I think a little burp, maybe two or three days, you might be able -- but after, you know, after three days, I think then we got some troubles here.
NNAMDIWho will maintain the servers and secure the data centers during this shutdown?
GILROYYeah, that's the, you know, that's the issue. You know? I mean, if there's a skeleton staff there, they can maintain a lot of service remotely, you know? VMware sells all kinds of ritualized servers out there and there's virtual desktops out there with Citrix and so one person can actually be a force multiplier in a data center. But if there's a physical problem in data center, you have to walk down the hall and find the server and replace the hard drive.
GILROYSo software patches, virtualization can really amplify the skills of federal people, the skeleton crew that's there. But, it's gonna get to the point where these people are gonna be like, you know, 18 hour days, falling asleep in the hallway.
HARLOWSet up a cot and just hang out.
GILROYYeah, set up a cot and just -- it's gonna decreasing amount of productivity for the skeleton crew that's there, so I give it a couple of days before, you know, bad things start to happen.
DRUINBut, you know, just think about this. If this were a hurricane that hit us, okay, we'd be distributing batteries and water, all right? So now what we've gotta -- we've got a man-made disaster, all right? And we need to actually support -- you know, million, you know, there are so many people in this area that are affected by this. This is terrible. You know, we need to give people help, not just, you know, what do you do about your -- what do you do about being able to look at email?
DRUINBut even what do you do about your financial, being able to look at your financial records and being able to think about financial planning and things like that? I mean, this is really a very difficult time.
NNAMDI800-433-8850. Let us go to Lisa in Purcellville, Virginia. Lisa, you are on the air. Go ahead, please.
LISAOh, great. It might as well be 1996 in Purcellville, Loudon County, Virginia, because we are still not connected to the internet via broadband. And even if we were able to get into a virtual network or VM or whatever, we wouldn't be able to do it because we're dealing with the equivalent of dial up with the poor quality of satellite internet that's available. And I've investigated everything. Verizon, all the cell phone companies, other types of -- there's no way to really connect to downtown Washington.
NNAMDIIs that in any part of Purcellville or just...
LISAWell, most of it, unless it's a large subdivision that when it was put in, Verizon came in and put in, you know, pipes in the road and infrastructure, everyone else is still dealing with over the air, you better be able to see a tower, kind of line of sight stuff, which would -- I was in facilities in 1999 and we were talking about it then.
NNAMDIAnd Allison Druin, Lisa says there it might as well be 1995 or 1996 in Purcellville, Virginia. They're experiencing what a lot of people were experiencing in the government almost 20 years ago. Why is there not broadband in places as close to Washington as that?
DRUINUnfortunately, we believe that a lot of it has to do with the companies, you know, we're giving power to companies to make so-called good decisions. We're also giving power to our local governments to make decisions and, unfortunately, you know, many local areas said, we don't want those unsightly towers. We don't want those things in our way. And so many people, many different districts outlawed those kinds of things. I mean, unfortunately, one of the things you may wanna think about is, maybe this is a tech free day.
DRUINAnd maybe you say to yourself, okay, I'm gonna go take my water colors and do something. I mean, it's really bad.
NNAMDIIt's not a tech free day for James in Arlington, Virginia. He is gonna tell us what's happening with FEMA workers. James, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JAMESHey Kojo. How's it going?
JAMESI just walked in the door myself and I wanted to note an exception. As a FEMA employee, we actually will be passively monitoring our cell phones and email because we could go from zero to 60 in the blink of an eye. We could go from sitting on our couch and catching up on "Breaking Bad" to being deployed to a Sandy-like event in a matter of 24 hours. So, you know, I just wanted that point that we're still...
NNAMDISo you have to stay in touch, but you're not in the office?
NNAMDIYou have to...
JAMESWe're not allowed to actually respond to any emails, but we are supposed to monitor for a potential deployment.
GILROYJames, Information Week's got an article and they said, you know, all but 150 out of roughly 2,000 IT employees at FEMA aren't working so does that mean you're not working, but you can still monitor? Is that what it says?
JAMESRight. Yeah, I'm not an IT employee. I'm just a general program manager, but since every employee is an emergency manager at FEMA, we do need to monitor for that kind of stuff.
NNAMDIWell, how does that effect your compensation? Do you get paid for monitoring?
JAMESNo. I don't know. I guess we're not getting paid for anything, and neither are those that are actually sitting at their desk today. So...
NNAMDIYou're just on-call all the time...
GILROYFor four hours. That's the rule, isn't it? Four hours to allow a shutdown. Is that right, James? You went in for four hours today, I assume.
JAMESThose that are getting an IOU, the essential personnel, are sitting at their desks and I could be home for the next two weeks while they're going in every day doing work and both of us are getting -- well, I guess the assumption is an IOU.
NNAMDIOkay. James, thank you very much for your call, and good luck to you, and frankly hundreds of thousands of others. After many months of speculation and anticipation, Apple's new iPhone hit the stores this month with its newly designed operating system that can also be loaded into existing iPhones and iPads. Apple's iPhone 5s and 5C have already proved to be hot sellers and the company says more than 200 million devices are now running its new operating system, making it the fastest software upgrade in history.
NNAMDIDid you make the change to the new Apple operating system on your existing iPhone? If so, give us a call. What do you think about the new look of iOS7? 800-433-8850. You can put it on your existing iPhone and iPad. It comes installed on the new iPhone models. Bill Harlow, you made the switch to iO7, as did I this past Sunday. What are your first impressions? What do you like best and least?
HARLOWWell, I gotta say that when I saw screen shots of it, initially I was not too impressed with it. But seeing it in motion and seeing how clean it feels and seeing the amount of open space it gives you in the interface, I quite like it. And you actually touched upon that number. 200 million people have already installed it on their devices and I think that's really important because a lot of devices out there, they don't really give you that option.
GILROYYeah, this is like 60 percent of the installed base in one week. This is phenomenal.
HARLOWI mean, this is great for programmers, too. If you're making an IOS app, you know that a large number of people are already adopting, will continue to adopt the new operating system so, you know, you can program for that. And it's great, too, that Apple is really good about supporting "older" -- and I say older in quotes because reality is there are some devices that it doesn't support. But in the cell phone world, what they do support is already considered pretty exceptional so I think it's really great that there's that adoption.
HARLOWI think that iOS7, besides the look, I like some the really nice, long -- I feel things that we should have had a long time ago like that control center.
DRUINOh, the control center is totally huge.
HARLOWI mean, that's huge. I can walk in the studio, and in one flick, turn off all the radios on my phone so it doesn't bug me during this broadcast, which is very important. And the other thing, too, is there's a lot of under the hood stuff that I think will be interesting for people developing for it. Games are a huge business on iOS and there's now built in support for developers to program for game controllers and because of this, because it's actually baked in, you're gonna see a lot of controllers, you know, traditional game controls, like you might see on a consol coming out for the iPhone, for iPads.
HARLOWThat sort of thing. And the other thing I really, really like about it is the little things, too. Like, the new Safari, I think, is awesome. On a small screen, any bit of real estate you can get helps.
DRUINYes. Yes. Yes.
HARLOWAnd having that much extra free space is pretty huge.
DRUINWell, the navigation and zooming on it, Kojo, did you play with, you know, when you go from one thing to the next, how it just smoothly zooms from...
NNAMDIYes. I did that. I do like the new control center, too.
DRUINWhat's amazing is that it just feels like it's just so easy to do it. And then you go back to an Android phone and you go, that was clunking along, you know? And, so it's really, it is subtle differences. You're exactly right. These are not enormous, but they, you know, like even the flashlight. I mean, how cool is that, to have a flashlight?
NNAMDI800-433-8850. What do you think about the new look of the iOS7, John Gilroy?
GILROYYou know, I hate to say that Apple's a leader in this, but just the idea of having a fingerprint identification system. You know, in two weeks, NISS is gonna have a big conference and they're gonna focus on multi factor authentication. It's like people have finally decided that, you know, passwords can be broken real easily. How about face recognition? How about voice recognition? How about location recognition? So, I mean, you know, it almost seems like Apple is almost instigating this whole debate and people are really trying to put together standards on and how you can identify yourself in the cloud, how you identify yourself with the phone.
GILROYAnd so, I think this -- it's interesting. Now, as far as -- it looks like, you know, you got a faster process or a camera and a fingertip reader.
NNAMDIWell, the new fingerprint scanner on the iPhone 5S is getting a lot of attention. Critics worry about security based on biometric identification, saying, now Apple and who knows else has your fingerprint. At the same time, hackers have already managed to forge a fingerprint and post a video on YouTube showing how they did it.
GILROYA how-to video.
DRUINBut, you know, the coolest thing was when -- there was a video on there with like a little kid getting their parent, who was asleep, their fingerprint to press on the phone. Oh my God, that was so cute. But, we should make the distinction between upgrading to the new iOS verses, verses the new phones, okay? So, you can get the new iOS without buying a new phone.
NNAMDIYes. That's what I did.
DRUINOkay? And, so, and that's, you know, but your phone's gotta be 4S, 4, you know, or higher.
HARLOWYeah, 4 or later.
DRUINYeah, really. Because, otherwise, and even the 4 -- it's gonna be, you know, chunking along. And actually, I had...
NNAMDIWe got a Tweet from David who said, "I have an iPhone 4. Should I install iOS7 or not?
DRUINWell, it's a little slow. It's a little slow, and I actually, I have a 4, and I decided I'm going after a new phone because it's just at a point where it needs...
HARLOWI can say the 4S runs it pretty well. That's what I'm using right now.
DRUINYeah, the 4S is different from the 4.
HARLOWThe 4S is pretty nice.
DRUINYeah, so I would hold off, David, for just a little bit.
NNAMDIHere is Ed in Rockville, Maryland. Ed, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
EDOh. Good morning. Yeah, I'm one that really, absolutely hates iOS system, the 7. I will give you the control center is a nice feature, but I'm an older guy, and I hate reading on the screen now with the light gray fonts and the light gray background. And the tiny little icons that they put on there to show you whether your battery's charging. All those things. I just, I find it terribly annoying and a lot of the good features that I liked on each individual page has disappeared.
EDAnd if I didn't have another year on my plan, I would switch over to Samsung, at this point. And I've been using Macintosh since 1985, when they first came out. I'm a loyal Apple fan, at least up until the day Steve Jobs died.
HARLOWWell, I guess if Steve Jobs was alive, we'd never have an iOS7. That's the take home point here. One thing I would say is poke around a bit in the settings, cause there, they've added a lot of little things in there that -- actually, I don't even think you had some of this before. One of them is, some of it is to remove some of the stuff that makes iOS7 a lower contrast for some people. And I'd say that if you're having trouble seeing the stuff, definitely look at that.
HARLOWOne is actually called, I think, increase contrast, so some of these blur effects go away and it makes the text pop more. There's another one that actually says, I think it's change motion. It's something about the motion, so some of these parallax effects can be removed. And then there are also ways to make the text bolder. And there's a feature called dynamic text, so...
EDCould you tell me where that is?
HARLOWIt's all in the settings. I think some of it's under general accessibility. Just poke around and look for that. There are three different settings. The dynamic text is a big one, too, because there's a slider where you can actually make the text bigger. And if you're someone who actually, let's say, has degenerative sight, you can actually expand that to make it huge, if you need to. So, they have a lot of flexibility there.
DRUINBut Bill, couldn't he change the background color, too? Wouldn't that help the contrast?
HARLOWIt could, but the contrast extends everywhere, like the keyboard...
DRUINOh, yes. You're right. You're right. You're right. Yep.
EDI did change the contrast, at least on the opening page, and that made a little difference, easier to see the icons on the page.
EDHowever, the accessibility gives you an exact opposite contrast, I guess, for people who are visually impaired.
HARLOWYeah, it actually reverses.
DRUINThat's right. That's right.
EDBut that's not much of an improvement. It goes too far in the other direction.
EDI don't know. It just…
DRUINWell, good points, though.
EDI liked the old one, and then they took the old system 6 down about a week ago, so you can't even go back to it if you...
HARLOWThat is true. Yeah, you're stuck with iOS7 once you switch over. They disabled the other one pretty quickly.
NNAMDIEd, thank you very much for your call, and good luck. We're gonna take a short break. When we come back, we'll continue our conversation with The Computer Guys and Gal. You can join it by calling 800-433-8850 or sending email to email@example.com. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. The Computer Guys and Gal join us in studio. John Gilroy is Director of Business Development at Armature Corporation. Bill Harlow is a Hardware and Software Technician For MACs and PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc. And Allison Druin is Chief Futurist at the University of Maryland Division of Research and co-director of the Future of Information Alliance at the University of Maryland.
NNAMDIWe got an email from Katherine who said, "hey, don't disrespect the Palm products. Two weeks ago, I finally replaced my Palm Tungston TX with an iPod Touch. The iPod does pretty well, but it can't hold a candle to my 57 Dodge or my Palm. And we got a tweet from Marsha who said, "I love the iOS update. I agree completely with your guests." Got an email from a federal worker who says, "I work for a federal agency. I keep a lot of my personal calendar on my work Outlook and Blackberry. Instead of turning off my Blackberry, I just shut the phone connections and use it as a dumb schedule device."
NNAMDIAn email from Susan, John Gilroy, "Why do government websites have to go dark? I understand they're not being monitored for comments, questions, and so forth, but are they actually coming off the web, and if so, why?"
GILROYI think it goes back to the strange law from the 19th century. It may be implied that they're providing a service by having different websites available. And there's plenty of generic, you know, vaccines.gov is a site that provides information about vaccines. I mean, we can go right on down the line. However, I went to healthcare.gov this morning, and it's up. And I would like to say that healthcare.gov is up, and the government's down. I mean, that's what's going on here, and so it's not true for all the sites.
GILROYAnd, by the way, this is the big day when people have to find out more information about ACA and this really is the stress day for a lot of systems out there, where all these people from all across the country are going to healthcare.gov and trying to get more information on what plan they want, where they fit in and the call centers...
DRUINBut that's working. That's working.
GILROYAnd that's working. Which is, you know, so healthcare.gov is working, and all the agencies aren't. So, I think that's why some agencies are down, because it may be implied, part of them work.
NNAMDIBill Harlow, I read complaints that it's hard to use Facebook on the new Apple operating system. I haven't tried it. Have you?
HARLOWI have. It seems to work fine. They've updated Facebook, the app itself, so that could be part of the reason maybe some people are having issues with it. If they're using it via Safari, I personally have not tried the Facebook webpage via Safari on the new iOS. So, not sure if that's an issue, but there is a native app. It's free, so that may be the best way to do it.
NNAMDIAnd Sean in National Harbor seems to be another dissatisfied iOS7 customer. Sean, your turn.
SEANHi Kojo. Thanks for having me on the air. You know, I was listening a moment ago about the comment that so many people have switched over so quickly to the new operating system, and that it was touched on that they've turned 6 off. And I think it would be interesting to know how many people who did switch over would switch back, and I've just found it extremely difficult to use. You know, I'm not, I'm not really comfortable with the way that there's so much white on the page now, and I find it hard to read in the sun.
SEANI have bolded my text. I have increased the font size. But I do find it actually operates a bit slower when you try to use apps within the system, that they take a little longer to come up. And I've also had my phone turn off and turn back on, and do some weird things. I spent three hours with Apple on the phone yesterday trying to figure this out. And their only advice was for me to keep trying to reinstall the new iOS7, so, you know, just a thought on my end. My comment is that I really don't like it, and if I could switch back, I would switch back immediately.
GILROY, Sean, what device are you using?
NNAMDIUnless Sean wants back his three hours, but go ahead.
GILROYSean, what device are you using?
SEANI'm using an Apple 5. It's a factor unlocked, because I use T-Mobile on it.
GILROYGot it. So, a pretty recent device, though. One you'd expect would work pretty well with that.
SEANYeah, absolutely. They even told me, look, if it's a software glitch, bring it in to the Apple Store and we'll replace it. But, I realized that T-Mobile wasn't native to this and T-Mobile was sort of a slap on, but, still, it should, you know, it should have been very seamless like every other Apple transition, and I just find this unwieldy.
DRUINI actually tend to, with older devices, even with 5's, I tend to wait. I'm usually not the first person to change. I actually let my husband do it and suffer through it all, so I learned from the Google debacle, because I was so upset when I lost my Google Maps that I, I am not the first person to switch over. Just to let you know.
HARLOWI find the iPhone 5 interesting, though, because if you go and buy the new iPhone 5C, it's basically an iPhone 5 in a plastic shell. So, it should run it really well.
SEANWell, here's the thing. I mean, you know, an iPhone, an iPhone, if you go buy one factor unlocked, is a significant amount of money. I mean, as the 5C may not be, but, you know, when you go to get a 32 gig or a 64 gig iPhone, you're slapping down some serious money, and I realize now that if the operating system is installed natively, that's one thing. As we say, this is not that old a phone, and I just, if I could switch back in an absolute heartbeat. Thanks for taking my call, Kojo.
DRUINOh. So sorry.
NNAMDISean, thank you very much for your call. You should know that Allison is waiting in line for a new gold iPhone 5S. As she mentioned, she always experiments with her husband's phone first, so she had a chance to play with his silver 5S.
GILROYOh, he just has a silver? Wow.
DRUINHe only has a silver. Yes. He says to me, you know, you don't have to wait. You could just get a silver, like me. I said, no. Women want gold. Anyway, no. I have decided I waited this long to get a new phone. I'm sitting on an iPhone 4. My battery's dying right and left. I didn't even try an upgrade. I just used the iOS on his stuff. But I got a bit of Apple frenzy, and, you know, the second day it was out, I went over to the store, and, of course, they were already out of everything.
DRUINBut, yeah, it was just, it's -- I did play with him a bit. I agree the backgrounds are a little bit weird. I actually would change the color of the background to being a dark background. That's my thing. But yeah, I'm waiting out for the gold. Apparently, there's no gold to be had in Virginia, Maryland or D.C., at least until mid-October.
HARLOWSo, who knew everybody wanted a phone the color of a 1994 Camry?
DRUINIt's so true.
NNAMDIShe's going for the gold. Apple grabbed the headlines this month with its new phones and operating system, but other big device makers also made news. Amazon unveiled two new color tablets, and Blackberry agreed to be bought in a last ditch effort to retrench and find its way in a crowded phone market. What tablet do you use? Give us a call. 800-433-8850. Is it a seven or nine inch tablet? Is that appealing to you? Are you a fan of the Kindle Fire? Are you ready to upgrade? 800-433-8850 or send us a Tweet @kojoshow or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
NNAMDIAmazon has upgraded its color tablet, Bill, introducing the new Kindle Fire HDX in seven inch and nine inch sizes. What's new and improved here?
HARLOWSo, they, well, first of all, they're pretty affordable for the specs they offer. That's part of the appeal. They're based on Android, but they're kind of Amazon's own design. It runs Fire OS. And, of course, Amazon has a really good ecosystem, too. I mean, they sell a ton of books via the Kindle Store. They carry a lot of music and movies, as well, so a lot of support for the media you want to consume. And the other thing, too, really, really high resolution screens. They're all basically, similar to Apple's Retina screens.
HARLOWBut the thing I find the coolest is what they're calling May Day. Their goal here is that if you hit this button, you're having issues with this device, you can be connected to a customer service representative within 15 seconds. You'll have a little chat window. You can see the person, and they can actually highlight elements on the screen to guide you through using the device. And they can even take control and help you along that way, too.
GILROYI like the rumors about Amazon. The rumor is that they're gonna give away a smart phone for free and all they want is your soul. I mean, this is the rumor is that someone's gonna come up with a plan, I think, (unintelligible) wants to do this.
HARLOWI think Amazon themselves has said that rumor's false.
GILROYI know they said it. So what?
HARLOWUntil they release it.
GILROYYeah, until they release it. And so, yeah, I don't trust those folks. But, this is very, very interesting, you know? I mean, there are -- we could look out the window here, and we're at street level here on lovely downtown Connecticut Avenue, and there are lots of people walking by here who will gladly give up everything for a smart phone. Location, their social security number, birth date, everything, and I think that's, that's what's interesting about human beings, and I think that's a characteristic of the youngsters, you know, those people under 60.
HARLOWAll those people younger than you. They're the problem here.
GILROYYeah. They're the problem here.
DRUINBut do you know what's interesting, Kojo?
DRUINWhen they can keep releasing these new Kindle Fires, okay, they don't make these big hurrah kind of events. They just let it be known on their website. And then, you know, and so here's, you know, all these other manufacturers that have all these new, big events and announcements and so on, and Amazon just puts it out there. And that's it.
HARLOWYeah, but they also put it on their front page of their store, which tons of people use. So, that's a lot of free press right there.
NNAMDIBlackberry agreed this month to be bought by its largest shareholder, Fairfax Financial. What does this mean for everyone who still uses one of these once ubiquitous smart phones, John?
GILROYPut a fork in. It's done. Get rid of your Blackberry. There are a lot of agencies in this town, and large organizations, that have a little server with Blackberry software on it, and they're just -- and it's almost like locked in. It's like, you buy the razor and you gotta buy all the blades from Gilette. And, you know, you have that server there, and then while the software people are used to it and they're comfortable with it, and they like it, and I've heard reports in the federal government, you know, when they go back to work, of like 400,000 people with Blackberries.
GILROYI mean, thousands of people have them, and I think it's time to go away from that company and look at something new. Whatever you want, whatever flavor you want. Maybe the free one from Amazon. But they gotta go away.
HARLOWYou make a good point, though. There are tons of people who rely on this infrastructure, and those aren't going to go away overnight.
HARLOWSo the question is, how do they maintain that? What's the support look like going forward?
GILROYAnd why did this, why is this company rumored to buy them? What's gonna happen? I mean, anytime, if I'm dealing with a vendor, and a large part of my enterprise is invested in a vendor, and they get bought out, what's gonna happen to me? I mean, are they gonna flip it, and then what's happened to my support?
NNAMDIWell, is there any chance, some possibility that a privately held Blackberry can, well, reinvent itself and find a niche in the crowded smart phone market, Allison?
DRUINYou know, I think it's all gonna depend on the software that they, the interface, how would I say, that way, is that if they make a good user experience, then yes. But they can't be a me too anymore. You know, they came out, you know, back in 1999, and they just blew away everybody because their experience was better than anything else. They haven't done that since, so they need to work on that.
HARLOWSo, here's my last quick question about Blackberry. There's a lot of people who I know who still hold on to Blackberry's. They love the keyboard.
HARLOWAnd, yeah, you can get an Android phone with a keyboard, but I think the reality is, Android is basically a full touch screen OS. That really seems to be where it works best. iOS obviously is. Is there room in the market for people who rely on these keyboards and just are never going to use a screen to type?
NNAMDIBack to the iOS7. We go to Kat in Washington, D.C. Kat, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
KATHi, Kojo. I listen to your show all the time. My name is Pat P-A-T.
NNAMDIPat. Hi, Pat.
KATAnd, hey. And I'm listening to this. I have a iPhone. I'm ready for an upgrade, and as one of your guests had mentioned, she doesn't usually take the upgrade in the settings early on. I never do either, except that I was ready for a new upgrade, so I thought I'd see what it's all about. I absolutely detest the setting. I can't see it. I'm an older person, trying to use. There's no contrast or no dimension on the display. It's very difficult. I've done all the things your other caller said. Bolding, contrast, and so forth.
KATAnd what this all amounts to for, I went back to the Apple Store yesterday and asked them to remove it. They refused. We cannot do that. We're not gonna do it. I confirmed that the new phone, the iPhone 5 and so forth, 5S or whatever the newest ones are, will have the same operating system. And I'm walking away. I will no longer be a customer. This phone is almost useless to me, because I can't see what's going on on it. It's very, very disconcerting, and that there's no -- and even any opportunity to go back to the other operating system. It's not even possible. So, my daughter who's a teacher, many years, Apple fan forever, she's already turned away.
KATAnd I just wonder, sometimes, how many other people? And thanks for taking my call.
NNAMDIWhere are you going now, Kat? Now that you've turned away from Apple.
KATWell, I'm gonna have to find a new device and I'm not even sure. I was formerly a Blackberry user, relating to business, and I'm just gonna have to look at what's out there. I've taken a look at some of the other phones, and I'm not too sure I'm pleased with those so actually, honestly, I'm not sure what I'm gonna do. And I'm very disappointed in this turn of events. I was so pleased to be a Apple customer, but the tide is turning here for me. As far as I'm concerned, if the customer can't have what they want, what's the point? So...
NNAMDIWell, thank you very much for your call, Kat. Bill Harlow, it would seem that some people find this system, just for their own purposes, inoperable?
HARLOWYeah. I mean, it's one of those things where I can only appreciate what they're saying because it's not been my experience. But I'm fortunate to have good sight as long as I have my glasses on. The thing that I find really interesting here, and actually I think is a cause for concern, there's a lot of people who are saying that the contrast is a real showstopper -- or the lack of contrast is a real showstopper, are turning away. The question I have, though, is, do the other devices out there, other OSes provide the software that allow them to see things clearly?
HARLOW'Cause one thing that Apple has had is a history of being really good from an accessibility standpoint. And I know those features are still in there, but as one of the other callers mentioned, there's a difference between increasing the contrast, then going the full other extreme, which is inverting all the colors so everything really pops, but then of course makes everything look kind of weird. So I think it's something Apple should look at and consider the accessibility options as far as the mainstream user experience of this device.
DRUINHave you played with the color of your phone? Because there is -- I've seen color combinations that seem more readable than others.
NNAMDINo. I haven't played with my color combinations at all. No.
DRUINNo? Oh, okay.
NNAMDIWe got an email from Don who says, "Any suggestions to help battery life on my iPhone 4S? I upgraded last night, and my battery life is nil. I already changed location services, other settings, et cetera, so it's bad." And this email from Seaver: (sp?) "Ever since I upgraded my iPhone 5 to iOS7, it runs out of batteries sooner and keeps disconnecting calls." Any assistance with battery life?
HARLOWThe battery life issue could be related to a new feature that they have called -- I think it's a background refresh. So basically they've expanded the multitasking in iOS7, so you can have apps that, in the background, will pull the Internet for information and pull it down. If it's doing it a lot, it might drain your battery faster, and there are switches built in to settings where you can go in and turn that off or turn it off individually.
GILROYIt's also more powerful processor, so that could be one of the causes, too.
HARLOWWell, on the new phones, sure.
HARLOWBut I think even those are pretty efficient.
NNAMDIGot to take a short break. When we come back, if you have called, stay on the line. We will get to your calls. If you'd like to call, the number's 800-433-8850. When we come back, we'll be talking about saving kids from online embarrassment. If you have a question or comment related to that, 800-433-8850. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation with the Computer Guys & Gal. Allison Druin is chief futurist at the University of Maryland Division of Research and co-director of the Future of Information Alliance at the University of Maryland. Bill Harlow is a hardware and software technician from Macs & PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc. And John Gilroy is director of business development at Armature Corp.
NNAMDIKids in California are getting some protection from their own, well, youthful folly. Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law last week that requires Internet companies and websites to let anyone under 18 delete a post they have second thoughts about. The law takes effect in 2015. You think it's a good idea, Bill? Will other states follow California's lead? And can anything ever be permanently deleted?
HARLOWWell, obviously, if it's online, you know, it can be saved for posterity. But I think if you get rid of the dumb decisions in the more prominent locations, then that's a definite bonus. So when I was reading about this law, it seemed to imply that it was based on sites directed towards minors. So my question is -- it's something I think is worth thinking about -- what's it mean for Twitter and Facebook?
HARLOWThese are mainstream general use very popular social media sites, but they're kind of directed at everybody. So is that enough? Does that fall under the law? And I'm also wondering -- Allison is someone who has kids and is very much up on technology -- how do you feel about this?
DRUINWell, couldn't the companies just change their use law and say their use rules and basically say, our site is for 18 and older, and therefore the law doesn't refer to them. So, I mean, 'cause I think that's what Twitter and Facebook would probably come out and say.
GILROYI love when that 55-year-old Congressman talked about his youthful indiscretions the previous week.
GILROYThe phrase here is youthful indiscretion and, tell you the truth, I don't know how they're going to pull anything back. You know, I tell my students, tell my kids that. Be careful about getting photographs taken at certain social events. And your future employer may be looking at Kojo's profile going, well, we don't want to hire this bozo.
DRUINBecause you've got, like, the WayBack Machine. You've got all of these things that actually capture...
GILROYArchive.org, it's a WayBack Machine.
DRUINExactly. You capture all of these things, so it's actually -- even if you take it off the site, it's still going to be there. People will have seen it.
HARLOWI look at places like Reddit, for example, where something can blow up there. And if you were able to take that off the main page, that would essentially defuse a situation.
DRUINIt would going forward, but then people can certainly find it later.
DRUINI mean, I think kids are notorious at not reflecting very well. How would I say?
GILROYThat's a discreet statement, isn't it?
HARLOWThat's pretty good. He did what? He climbed up that building? He what?
NNAMDIWell, the point that John made earlier about the 55-year-old member of Congress, why should the ability to delete your post be limited to young people?
DRUINYeah. That's a point.
NNAMDIIs there any chance this self-editing capability could be extended to adults? I've got a lifetime of mistakes I'd like to forget.
HARLOWThose weren't mistakes. Those were opportunities for learning.
NNAMDIOh, I see.
GILROYTake back that thing I said to Tom Sherwood last week. No.
NNAMDIOpportunities for learning is what you call them when you can't delete them.
NNAMDIHere is Jim in Washington, D.C. Take us back, Jim. You're on the air. Go ahead, please. Jim, are you there?
JIMYes, I am. I'm talking to you on my two-year-old Samsung flip phone. It doesn't say what model it is. And just listening to this over the past several minutes, I am reconsidering my decision to buy a smartphone. I like this not-so-smartphone. It sends text. It sends pictures. I just discovered the other day it has automatic messages. I don't even have to punch them out.
HARLOWFlip phones, it's great.
JIMSo I'm reconsidering.
NNAMDIBack in the 2000s. Thank you very much for your call, Jim.
NNAMDI800-433-8850 is the number to call. We got an email from Tim in College Park who says, "For those with visual issues, ditch the screen protector. I was having issues a few months ago with touch response. And when I took the screen protector off to help with that, I was amazed at how much crisper the screen was. The glass Apple uses is more scratch-resistant than you might think." Well, I guess there's a thought.
NNAMDIFrom "Words with Friends" to "Angry Birds," inexpensive or free cellphone games are cutting into the video market. But diehard gamers are still opening their wallets for their favorite titles. The new version of "Grand Theft Auto" released two weeks ago sold like it was a holiday blockbuster. What's the last video game you bought? Give us a call at 800-433-8850. Do you spend more time on cellphone games? Yes.
NNAMDIAnd less time on video consoles like PlayStation and Xbox? Yes. 800-433-8850. Bill, sales of "Grand Theft Auto" reached -- "Auto V," that is, reached a billion dollars in only three days.
HARLOWYes. Well, that's important when you spend hundreds of millions of dollars over several years making one video game.
GILROYYeah, $115 to develop it, $150 million to promote it, and look what happened. I'm the new game guy. No more computer guy for me. I'm the game guy. That just money, it's incredible.
HARLOWSo the thing, though, is, I mean, this is turning the business of mainstream games into, like, blockbusters or else specifically.
GILROYA business, right. Right. A billion dollars is like a big movie.
HARLOWThis is an industry where you can sell 3 million copies of a game, and it didn't meet targets, and that's a huge issue for the developer. That's a little scary, too, in a lot of ways. And that's one of the reasons why I'm also fascinated by the independent games developers, the ones who, yeah, they're not making a billion dollars in three days, but they're making a good living. And they're getting the word out, and they're selling directly to people without having to go through a publisher.
GILROYToday, they just released an online version, too, is that right, for "Grand Theft Auto," multiple players?
HARLOWYeah, that's coming out today. So everybody who was furloughed, if you need something to do...
GILROY"Grand Theft Auto" today online. What a great suggestion.
NNAMDIAnd, Allison, when will your girls be getting "Grand Theft Auto"?
GILROYI know, the first of never.
DRUINI think we're going to wait a little. I'm not going to be a first adopter.
NNAMDIHere is Seland (sp?) in New Carrollton, Md. Seland, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
SELANDHi. Thanks for taking my call.
SELANDYou have so many topics that you got to while I was holding.
NNAMDIPlease go ahead and talk about your iPhone 4, Seland. We're happy to hear about it.
SELANDThe iPhone -- iOS7 is not very good for people who have difficulty reading. And I thought maybe they could -- they should roll back, give you an option to go back to the old screen. The new screen is beautiful. I love it. But it's potentially faint to people who have visual problems. The other topic I wanted to touch on was the game "Grand Theft Auto." I thought somehow that Congress would get together, the Republicans and the Democrats, and say, oh, this is too violent. Let's pass a law and get rid of this.
DRUINThey can't pass any laws. What makes you think they can do that?
NNAMDIYou might have a better chance with that than with the federal budget.
HARLOWYeah. Then what if it's going on there now?
SELANDThanks for taking my call. I'll get over the air.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Seland. Bill, back to the games, PlayStation 4, Xbox One due out in November just in time for the holiday shopping season. What are the projections on how well they'll sell?
HARLOWWell, basically, Microsoft repeatedly shot themselves in the foot in the process of unveiling the new Xbox One. They've reversed course in some things, so I think, in a lot of ways, there's now more parity with the PlayStation 4. But the damage is done. And from what I'm hearing, a lot of people are preordering the PlayStation 4 relative to the Xbox One.
HARLOWSo at least initially, the launch might be in Sony's favor. Grand scheme of things, I'm not sure how much it's going to make a big difference. The reality is these are going to be very expensive consoles, I mean, 500 bucks for a PlayStation 4, 600 bucks for an Xbox One to play what'll likely be a handful of games at launch.
HARLOWSo it's neat. It's big news. I think next year's going to be, of course, a lot more interesting like any console launch because that's when developers really get to dig in their heels and make something cool. And it's when there are enough devices out there that they actually want to support it, and they start seeing more interesting things happen. So I think right now it's just more of a business story. Me, personally, I am not looking at either because there's just nothing for me until it's been out for a while.
NNAMDIHow about an alternative to the traditional gaming consoles?
HARLOWHow about it?
NNAMDISteam is already a popular game distribution service for Windows. Now a new Steam operating system is due out later this year. It's built on Linux and is therefore free to users. What will that mean for gamers?
HARLOWThis is interesting because Steam is by far the most popular digital game distributor for PC. And they're also available for Mac and for Linux. And, I mean, I think for a lot of PC gamers, it is the way they buy games. For me, other than buying directly from some indies, it's the only way I buy games on the PC. And this is trying to bring it into your living room. I mean, a PC is expensive. A good gaming PC costs a lot of money.
HARLOWMaybe you have one, but maybe you don't want to haul it into your living room. So the idea behind this is they're going to partner with hardware vendors to actually have them freely license Steam OS, put it in a box, and I guess there'll be a variety of price points. There might be a low end one that just streams content from your PC. There might be a higher end one that might be capable of actually playing the full fat games directly.
HARLOWAnd the other thing they've announced is they've got this really funky-looking controller. One of the problems with PC games is they don't all lend themselves to a classic controller. They're made for a mouse and a keyboard. So the idea behind this is you've now got something where you can get -- you can mimic a lot of the sensitivity and accuracy of a mouse but in a little handheld device. And a lot of the initial reports about that are very promising.
NNAMDIBack to the ubiquitous iOS 7 conversation. Here is Matthew in Annapolis, Md. Matthew, how can we help your marriage?
MATTHEWOh, my goodness. You know, I thought I was going to do my wife a big favor the day that the iOS 7 came out. I snuck over, and I got her a phone. And I upgraded it.
HARLOWWhy would you do this?
GILROYOh, no. Bad days for Anthony. (sic)
HARLOWMatthew, what were you thinking?
NNAMDIKeep going, Matthew.
MATTHEWObviously, I wasn't thinking very hard. And so now my wife is ready to kill me because the thing that she really used was the calendar function. And the old calendar, you could have a month view, and then you could click on the day. And there's this little window at the bottom that would show you what was going to go on that day.
MATTHEWAnd the iOS 7 calendar is a mess. That little function is gone. And now she can't see anything. And she's ready to kill me.
HARLOWI know what you're talking about. Yeah, you had that month view with that little agenda panel below it. Yeah.
HARLOWI guess they've rolled some of that agenda-style stuff into the notification center when you pull that down from the top. I know it's not quite the same thing. Maybe it's something you can show her that might prevent her from kicking you out of the house. But this is also, I think, a reminder to people that...
NNAMDIBeing kicked out of the house is not Matthew's problem. Matthew, plastic cutlery from now on for the next several...
HARLOWI just want to say one thing. iOS 7 is out. You can download it. You don't have to. If you have a phone with iOS 6, it will continue to function. So if you're on the fence, please, by all means, you know, listen to all the complainers and wait and see.
MATTHEWMaybe I should have done flowers instead.
NNAMDII was about to say, Matthew, think flowers, lots of them. And thank you very much for your call.
MATTHEWThank you, guys.
NNAMDIApp of the month time. John Gilroy, your favorite app this month is called SupperKing. It's like air BNB for dinner. How do you...
GILROYI had a friend whose son went through Europe couch surfing, and he would just stay at different places. And he rode I don't know how many thousands of miles doing that. This is a variation on couch surfing. So let's say Bill's trying to save up enough money to get a new iPhone or maybe, you know, Kojo. And so what you can do -- you load this app, and you can invite perfect strangers over to your house and charge them for dinner. And the app allows you to choose cuisine and location, and I think this is a great variation on couch surfing.
GILROYI mean, hey, got to save up for your next game, got to save up for your next, you know, "Grand Theft Auto," you know, bring perfect stranger -- I'm sure our guy in Annapolis would love to do that next for his wife.
GILROYHe'd really be kicked out of the house.
NNAMDIAllison, the app you like best this month merges paper post-it notes with Evernote's new iOS 7 app.
DRUINYeah. The app is Evernote's app, so -- but I like this feature which basically you can take pictures of your sticky notes -- 'cause I'm a sticky note obsessive queen. And then it can put it into the Evernote environment so that your content's searchable. You can add reminders, due dates. It's really very cool. So it merges the physical and the virtual. Totally look at it.
NNAMDIBill's app of the month is called Cookie Clicker. It's silly, but it involves a very tasty-looking chocolate chip cookie.
DRUINWhat is this with food and you guys?
HARLOWSo this is a super dumb game you can play in your web browser. And, again, it's really dumb, but that's part of the appeal.
GILROYThe federal workers should find this game then.
HARLOWIt's a distillation of the dumb feedback loops in video games. You click on a virtual cookie. You make more cookies. You can hire grandmas. You can go as far as have time machines where you can go back in time and get all the uneaten cookies, bring them back to the future, have more cookies. Go play it. It's really dumb but a lot of fun.
NNAMDIBill Harlow is a hardware and software technician from Macs & PCs at Mid-Atlantic, Inc.
GILROYIt's really dumb, but a lot of fun.
NNAMDIIn other words, enough said. Allison Druin is chief futurist of the University of Maryland Division of Research and co-director of the Future of Information Alliance at the University of Maryland. And John Gilroy is director of business development at Armature Corp. Thank you all for being here. And thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
Most Recent Shows
Montgomery County Public Schools recently denied a local girl admission to a language immersion program, and her father now says discrimination is to blame.
The Supreme Court today unanimously ruled in favor of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell on appeal of his corruption case. The conviction was vacated, setting the stage for a retrial. We consider the implications of the ruling - in and beyond the Commonwealth.
It's hot, humid and officially summer, which means mosquito season is upon us. Kojo discusses local prevention efforts and the ways to keep yourself and your family safe from the viruses they can carry.