Sorting political fact from fiction, and having fun while we're at it. Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
A half-dozen tech companies blast the NSA for tapping into their data centers overseas. A reporter eavesdrops on a former intelligence official and live-tweets the conversation from an Acela train. And tablet wars heat up with new models from Apple and competitors. The Computer Guys and Gal join Kojo in studio.
- 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
- Bill Harlow WAMU Computer Guy; and Hardware & Software Technician for MACs & PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc.
- John Gilroy WAMU Computer Guy; and Director of Business Development, Armature Corporation
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MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. That music in the background means you know what. The computer guys and gal are here. That's right. They're here. We moved, but they found us, anyway. John Gilroy is Director of Business Development at Armature Corporation. John Gilroy, good to see you.
MR. JOHN GILROYGreetings.
NNAMDIAllison 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. Allison, always a pleasure.
MS. ALLISON DRUINAlways a pleasure.
NNAMDIAnd Bill Harlow is Hardware and Software Technician for MACs and PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc. Hi Bill. How's it going?
MR. BILL HARLOWGoing very well.
NNAMDIYou, too, can join us at 800-433-8850. First, it was your phone records, now it's your email. Turns out, the National Security Agency has tapped the fiber optic cables connecting overseas servers for Google and Yahoo, and snooped on their users. So, there's fresh anger at the NSA. New efforts to halt its ability to watch unsuspecting Americans, but some people say that tech companies themselves are partly to blame for collecting so much data on their users in the first place, presumably to use for targeted advertising.
NNAMDIWho do you think is at fault here? Give us a call. 800-433-8850. Have you become more careful with your personal data since the NSA story broke? You can send us a tweet at kojoshow using the hashtag techtuesday. Or email to email@example.com. Allison, the NSA is apparently intercepting the electronic traffic of big tech companies like Google and Yahoo, when it bounces among data centers overseas. How surprising is that and should we be outraged?
DRUINWell, here's the -- I think the interesting thing about this story is that finally the tech companies have become outraged. You know, for a while there, they kept saying, let's just make things more transparent, more transparent. And now, they're jumping on the bandwagon with, in fact, they sent a letter to...
NNAMDIYes. To the Senate.
DRUINYeah. To some Senators. Facebook, Google, Apple, Yahoo, Microsoft, AOL. All the big players we know, and basically, said look, enough is enough. End the bulk collection of phone records, and let's create a privacy advocate. And, you know what they're doing behind the scenes? Each one of them is strengthening their networks now. So, you know, they are not sitting around, and I think, they're not sitting around, and, you know, the American public shouldn't sit around either.
NNAMDIOf course, there are those who observe, John Gilroy, that these very same companies have also lobbied against laws that would limit data collection.
GILROYThis is the John Gilroy argument, are on both sides of the issue, and try to argue both convincingly, you know?
GILROYI don't think there's a real easy answer here. I think if we look at the last ten -- I don't wanna get serious here, but if we look at the last ten years, there haven't been any major incidents. I think if there's an incident and something bad happens, this argument may switch drastically. And I think a lot of Americans let their guard down after 9/11, and they allowed this stuff for good reason. So, I think it's really just a -- it's early stages of all this.
GILROYYou know, I was talking to some students last night, and I said, you know, if you look at the late '90s, a lot of personal computers were exploding, and now it's mobile devices exploding, and I think the next wave is gonna be this whole identity management and what you release and what you don't release. I think this is just another trend and there's no easy answers. I know people in the NSA, and they're fine folks, but, you know, there's no easy answer.
NNAMDIBill Harlow, the big tech companies are pointing the finger at the NSA, and some critics are pointing the finger at the big tech companies, both saying, you're just collecting way too much data.
HARLOWYeah, I think that, you know, as a user, I would want less data collected from me. But, that said, I expect that Google will do very different things with my data than, say, the NSA would. And I've kind of implicitly allowed Google to use that data because, look, I know they're an ad company. I know that I am their product and I use their services with that understanding. And that's a little different than knowing that the NSA is collecting their data, potentially a lot of data from a lot of other companies and putting it into one giant pool.
GILROYYou know, it was interesting. Yesterday, I follow this guy named Gene Weingarten. And he sent this tweet out about, you know, this is an interesting site, and it went to some site with some Arabic characters in it. And I went, oh no. Now I'm really in trouble. I backed up real quickly. It's like, oh no, now the NSA know exactly -- I spent three seconds at this bad site, so I guess this is a reaction maybe other human beings are having is that being more wary of things like that. It's just...
NNAMDIWould this be the humor writer and comic strip columnist Gene Weingarten?
GILROYYes. Yes. The guy.
NNAMDIYou know, he's probably gonna get a whole column out of your remarks right here. But go ahead.
DRUINBut, you know, the Vice President For Security and Engineering at Google, I loved his quote. It's an arms race. This is all about who's gonna be secure, who's not gonna be secure, and it's dealing with other governments, it's dealing with our own government. It's dealing with industry. It's a mess out there.
NNAMDIA former NSA Director Bobby Inman has proposed a seemingly radical approach to dealing with the trickle of leaks coming from Edward Snowden. He said the agency itself should just release everything it thinks that Snowden has, because, to quote him, bad news doesn't get better with age. What do you say, Allison?
DRUINWell, you know, there is some merit to this in the fact that you get it out and you put it behind you, you know? And a lot of branding folks, marketing people, would say you spread out the good news and you dump the bad news all at once. And that's the way people can hear these kinds of things. On the other hand, apparently, according to many of the experts out there, Snowden has basically the keys to the kingdom. And if you dump all of that out there, what's left?
DRUINAnd that's what people are very concerned about. So, I think there's no easy answers, but I think we're in a wait and see.
NNAMDIWell, even some of the major news media that have had access to those documents have withheld some of them because they have national security concerns. In case you're just joining us, it's the computer guys and gal. We're taking your calls at 800-433-8850. While NSA spying is sparking debate about online privacy at large, two other smaller incidents last month raise a different privacy issue associated with social media.
NNAMDIAn activist sitting near former NSA Chief Michael Hayden, on the Acela Train to New York, eavesdropped on Hayden's conversation and tweeted it in real time. And Maryland Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Doug Gansler apologized after a photo showed him at a beach week party, reportedly, with underage drinking. Was the former Director of MoveOn.org wrong to tweet about a conversation he overheard on a train? 800-433-8850. Tell us what you think. Should Doug Gansler be held accountable for a photo taken in a private home without his knowledge?
NNAMDIBoth the NSA and the Hayden case raise a 21st century question. Is it OK, John Gilroy, to snoop on people and report their actions, well, just because you can? I thought there was such a wonderful irony in the Hayden story. This is the former head of the NSA.
GILROYDid you see the photo of them smiling like they were best buddies forever? They're gonna have two beers together.
NNAMDIThat was after. Yes.
GILROYYou know, if he's foolish enough to talk in an open train like that, well, then, he deserves it. Come on now, he's a big boy.
DRUINWhat was he thinking?
NNAMDIYeah, that was my thinking.
GILROYHe's a big boy. If he's that stupid...
HARLOWYeah, eavesdropping applies that he was like, listening in on a door. It's like, no, it's a public train, you're sitting there talking to somebody in public.
DRUINYou know, I mean, what's new now is look, everybody always used to be able to eavesdrop on people. What's new now...
HARLOWIs you can broadcast it.
DRUINYou can broadcast it. YouTube, Twitter, Facebook. Thank you. And so you all have to be walking around, knowing that the next person could be snooping on you, so does this make us, you know, an informant society? You know, that we're all living in a totally different world. It's scary.
NNAMDINo, it just makes us credible. In the past days, when you told somebody something that you overheard on the train, they'd say, oh, you're just making that up. Not anymore.
HARLOWI've got the documents.
DRUINI have the documentation, the tweets. Yeah.
NNAMDIExactly right. Former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, in an op-ed in the Washington Post, recalled the days of the East German Stasi or the Maoist Red Guard. He said the biggest fear wasn't just government repression, but fellow citizens informing on one another. Does social media today present a similar threat to personal privacy? Are we constantly informing on our friends?
DRUINWell, I mean, that's a good point. I mean, it's a question of where you report it. If you report it out into the tweetsphere or the YouTube world, or whatever, you know, you're sort of throwing it out for whoever will take it verses well, I'm reporting it to the government, and I'm waiting for people to be taken away, which is pretty horrible.
NNAMDIBut, if you're putting it into the public sphere where the government doesn't even have to tap any phones...
DRUINIt's a good point, yeah.
NNAMDIThen you're still...
DRUINIt's pretty much the same thing, then. You could be.
NNAMDILet's hear what Bob in Bethesda, Maryland has to say. Bob, you are on the air. Go ahead, please.
BOBHello Kojo. Hi everybody. My concern is about technology and the fact that it appears that technology has overtaken the Constitution. And I don't hear our elected officials, who are sworn to protect the Constitution, speaking to that. The fact is, everything that we do can be monitored, whether it be by satellite or through the data that goes through the internet. But does the Constitution allow for it, and are the politicians focusing in on that?
NNAMDIAre elected officials essentially playing catch up here, because so many of them are frankly not digital natives and still trying to figure out exactly how far we have gone and what they can do to control it?
DRUINWell, that's the problem is is that without this knowledge of what you can do and what's possible, they don't understand what restrictions might be needed, in terms of policy.
HARLOWYeah, you see so many battles like that, where they're basically taking laws that were designed around technologies before the internet and trying to apply them to a post internet world, and it's just really tough to do. They're changing on the fly.
DRUINNo, you really can't retrofit laws. That's a problem.
GILROYI don't wanna disparage old geezers, but I was at an event and sitting next to an old geezer like me, and he said, let me show you my latest blog. And he had a photo copy piece of paper, and he handed it to me, and it's his latest blog. And I said, oh, I get what's going on on Capitol Hill. That's what they think's going on. That must be the mindset there. Let me show you my -- and hand a piece of paper. I was, you know, entertained.
NNAMDIWhat steps, if any can we take to guard against showing up on someone else's Twitter feed in an unflattering light? Is it time for a national debate over limiting social media? Bill Harlow?
HARLOWOh, I don't know. I mean, I suppose we can all talk about it, but I mean, is it, if we need a big national debate about it, I mean, I think a lot of it just boils down to your voice is amplified, and you have to respect that, and you have to appreciate the responsibility of that. But it's -- I'd like to think that with time, we'll sort of figure it out.
DRUINBut I think we need -- I do think we need a national debate. But I think we need it in a more structured way.
GILROYYeah, we'll just hash it out right now, right here.
DRUINRight here. Right here. No, but I think, you know, we should be having the media talk about this, the government talk about it, the industry talk about it, and then bring these issues together, because the problem is, we're not talking to each other.
GILROYThere's a company called Social Mention, and that's their job. You can hire Social Mention to watch for people, what are they saying about WAMU, or watch Kojo Nnamdi's name, and try to find out. And the whole idea of reputation management is becoming an increasing part of the -- in fact, most large organizations will hire a company like Cyveillance. I'll name the name. And, in fact, banks use companies like Cyveillance to do reputation management, to make sure bad things don't come.
GILROYI wouldn't be surprised if WAMU doesn't have some kind of a program to make sure that...
NNAMDIThat was it.
GILROYWhat people say about Kojo is accurate or not. Because there's a large audience here and bad things could happen if the wrong word gets out. I'm just surprised -- maybe they do.
NNAMDIOn to John in Baltimore, Maryland. John, you're turn.
JOHNHi. Yeah, I wanted to make a comment. I guess I'd first like to say that Jeremy Bentham's idea of the panopticon is alive and growing in our culture. But, what are the implications for many of us -- now, I'm in my 40's, so I'm probably on that line, but many of us choose not to engage in Facebook and Twitter and all these other social media. And we are increasingly being looked upon with suspicion, as if, well, why are you not on Facebook? What are you trying to hide? And I wonder if that's what the future holds for us, and the implications for that kind of environment is?
NNAMDIWell, some people consider you the lucky ones. Who are the ones who are saying that, suggesting that you have something to hide, John?
JOHNWell, I have a friend, for example, who recently went for a job and, you know, one of the things they asked him about was Facebook and things like that. And he said, well, I don't have a Facebook account.
BOBAnd, you know, the follow-up question was why not? And I think we're getting to the point where if you don't put yourself out there, in the public, the wider perception is there must be a reason why you're not doing that. Because that has now become quote, normal. And the desire to not do that is somehow, something's going on that is convincing you to not do that or making you want to not do that.
NNAMDIThank you for explaining that. You raise a fascinating question.
HARLOWIt's interesting that he feels that, because I guess maybe I just don't notice that, but it seems like a lot of people don't, that I deal with, don't really care one way or another. Or, at least, are -- that might say, oh, you're a luddite, but the idea of being suspicious of somebody for not being on Facebook -- I think that's more unusual. I hope it's more unusual than he's implying.
NNAMDIExcept in the case of where, as he seems to be suggesting, somebody's going looking for a job, and the prospective employer expects you to have an online trail...
HARLOWYeah, the employer just wants to get dirt on you.
NNAMDIAnd there's no online...
DRUINWell, it's true. It's true. I mean, look, nowadays, we have to say to ourselves, explicitly, not implicitly, explicitly, do I want to get this out to the world? Is this something that I'm gonna post? Is this something I'm not gonna post? And it's really interesting when I haven't posted for a few days, or even a week, I've got either relatives saying, what's wrong, are you sick? Or I've got work people going, are you bored? What's going on? I mean, so it's a fascinating thing, what's going on there.
NNAMDII mean, you have so much to hide.
DRUINIt's a good point.
GILROYI keep thinking of Dr. Teri Grudeitis. She's a woman with a PhD in Psychology. She was a profiler for the CIA for 10 years, and she wound up working for a company called Cyveillance. And she doesn't ever let her picture get taken.
GILROYAnd she's very careful. Because she knows a lot of bad things happen, and maybe they look at her go, well, she doesn't know anything about social media. Well, let me tell you something. She knows a lot about social media. And she earns a living as a consultant helping people protect themselves, especially people with means. And so, someone who's poor like me, what do I have? I mean, no one's gonna come after me. If I get on Four Square and say I'm having a bagel with Kojo, people are gonna go to my house and rob me of my old television set or something?
GILROYI don't know. What are they gonna -- I mean, I have really nothing to hide here. But I guess there are people who have means and I think that's what you have to be careful, and within miles of this studio, I would guess.
NNAMDIGotta take a short break. When we come back, if you've called, stay on the line. We will get to your calls. If you're thinking about calling, the number is 800-433-8850. When we come back, we'll be talking about what's new with cell phones. You can also send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. It's the computer guys and gal. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. We're talking with Bill Harlow. He's a Hardware and Software Technician for MACs and PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting Inc. He is one of our computer guys. The other is John Gilroy. He is Director of Business Development at Armature Corporation. Our computer gal is Allison Druin, Chief Futurist at the University of Maryland, Division of Research. And Co-Director of the Future of Information Alliance at the University of Maryland.
NNAMDIJust when it seems like the choice of cell phones is limitless, a whole new category of phones has arrived, ones you design yourself. Motorola is letting customers pick both hardware and software components, the same way you could pick the specs you wanted in a computer back in the day and have it built for you. But first, when is it time to buy a new phone? One New York Times writer asks whether Apple purposely builds phones that become obsolete just in time for the release of the next model.
NNAMDI800-433-8850. Do you think companies time their devices to last only until the next model is ready? The author of the piece in the New York Times Magazine says she noticed her iPhone phone was getting sluggish just as Apple began selling the new iPhone 5S and 5C. Was it a coincidence? Do Apple and its competitors use planned obsolescence to align the death of each phone with the release of its successor? Obviously, Bill Harlow, these are things we want to suspect. Are they true?
HARLOWThat article sounds kind of silly. I mean, has she used a computer in the last several years? I mean, that's what happens. You have it for a while, new programs come out, they take more resources, you fill up your computer with more stuff. In the case of a laptop, it's no magic. After a few years, your battery wears out. You have to replace it. As far as whether it's deliberate, I don't think so. And I actually think that modern smart phones are, in a lot of ways, better about that.
HARLOWI mean, back in the day, you'd buy a phone. That was it. You didn't update it. You just had a phone.
GILROYI think a better approach is, now you subscribe to Apple, and every three years, you gotta renew your subscription. I think this is a better approach than planned obsolescence, because they can't predict that. And I just think it's perceived obsolescence, too.
HARLOWRight, perceived (unintelligible) .
GILROYWhere if I take you back in a time machine and show you the iPhone, they'd go, whoa, I never even dreamed of anything like that, but now, oh, it's old fashioned. It's just...
HARLOWYeah, that was 2007. That wasn't that long ago.
GILROYWow. That's old school. Wow.
DRUINWell, but you have to ask yourself now. What should Apple do, OK, to make it so that people don't perceive this. What are they gonna do? Stop innovating? You know?
HARLOWStall all advancements.
BOBComplain about that.
DRUINRight. Or they're gonna future proof their phone and give you like, you know, a Mac Truck for what you could use for a shovel. Or do they make it more modular, so that you can replace things as you go along? But if you do that, you get back to the PC problem of sorry, too complex, too many options. So, they don't have a lot of different options that are gonna say, ooh, I win.
NNAMDIMotorola, Allison, is developing a free open hardware platform to create modular phones. The company says it wants customers to pick and choose what their phone does, how it looks, and how much it costs. Are customizable phones the way of the future?
DRUINI think that is a fabulous, fabulous way to go. I think part of it is to be able to understand what customers want, so that you can actually make a closed phone from that. That's how this all started was that they were actually, Motorola was actually looking for what the features were, and then they started saying, huh, maybe the customer should just always be doing this. I think that the challenge is is for customers that like a closed system, and really want it turnkey and make it easy, this is probably not the way to go.
DRUINOn the other hand, for those people that really know the kinds of specific things they want and don't want, this is fabulous. This is gonna be exciting. Releases, the Alpha release is gonna come this winter. I would suggest strongly, if you're not a tinkerer, do not be doing this in the winter. Do it in the summer, and after a few of the kinks have been worn out.
NNAMDISounds like the perfect kind of gift you'd wanna give to someone who has a birthday approaching.
GILROYThat would be a good gift. I don't know who that would -- your birthday was last Friday, Kojo, so we can't talk about your birthday.
NNAMDINo, Allison's got a birthday coming up this week. Is it not?
DRUINWell, actually, it was technically last week. I am a (unintelligible) ...
NNAMDIWhat we can say is coming up this week.
DRUINBut, but, you know, I did get my, see I didn't get my Motorola. I got my iPhone Gold, finally. Yes, folks. Yay. And I'm very excited. So, I'm waving around in front of Bill.
NNAMDINo Motorola for Bill. Bill, Samsung is getting into the customization world, as well, encouraging developers to create new apps that take full advantage of the Samsung phone's features. How will that help Samsung phones stand out even more in a crowded market?
HARLOWWell, you look at Samsung as a very popular phone that runs on Android, and there are a lot of Android phones, and they all need to differentiate themselves and they're all running basically the same OS. So, I think what Samsung's looking at is, hey, we can make some pretty cool hardware here, and we'd like people to actually take full advantage of that, so we're going to work with developers to make it easier for them to kind of make a (word?) experience on our Android phone.
HARLOWSo, it sounds to me like they just want to have a product that people don't look at as just another Android phone, but as a unique Samsung device.
DRUINYeah, makes sense.
NNAMDIOn to Rebecca in Washington, D.C. Rebecca, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
REBECCAYeah, I have a question for your previous topic. I recently deactivated my Facebook account, and I was wondering, you know, they allow you to download your data, but do they actually delete that data? And what happens to it on a variety of different networks if you choose to not participate? Are they actually gonna hold your data, and what are they gonna do with that?
HARLOWI would think that that data is gonna be in their server for a while. It probably won't be publicly accessible to anybody, but I'd be surprised if they delete it. Don't know what they're going to be doing with it exactly, though.
DRUINYeah, for a while there, they did have some issues with what they said was publicly deleted, which wasn't. So, to be honest with you, you don't have to worry, you know, your next door neighbor's not going to be getting at it, but obviously, we don't know about the NSA.
HARLOWFacebook may be emailing you saying, hey, your data is still here. You can come back anytime.
GILROYRebecca, you're gonna have to hire a lawyer to go back to your U Light, EULA, and find exactly what you agreed to when you checked that checkbox, because maybe you agreed to yes, in perpetuity, Zuckerberg can keep track of all my favorite sports teams. You may have signed over those rights. I mean, I think that's the issue. What do you agree to when you check that box? And believe me, a lot of sophisticated lawyers have designed those EULAs.
NNAMDIRebecca, thank you very much for your call. Back to our NSA conversation with Steve in Washington, D.C. Steve, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
STEVEThank you. I'd like to say, any attempt to compare the reasons why the tech companies and the NSA are gathering data is naive. The tech companies are trying to get my web surfing habits to be able to present me with Google ads. They don't necessarily even need my actual identity. With the NSA, their very purpose is to get my personal identity to ostensibly tie me to a crime. And those two -- there's no way they're anywhere close to the same. And to me, NSA is out of control, needs to be shut down.
NNAMDIOK, Steve, thank you very much for your call. Hopefully the NSA will never sell anything, because they'll have so much data on everybody. They'll be making a whole lot of money. If you're thinking about getting a tablet or upgrading the one you have, now may be a good time. Apple released a new iPad Air that's thinner and lighter than its predecessor. And a new iPad Mini with a retina display. Microsoft released its Surface Two which runs Windows RT and the Surface Pro Too which comes with a pressure sensitive pen for taking notes.
NNAMDIHave you bought a tablet recently? Which one did you choose? Give us a call. 800-433-8850. What tablet features are most important to you? You can send us email to email@example.com. Bill, Microsoft has introduced its new Surface Two tablet. Who will this tablet appeal to?
HARLOWWell, in my opinion, the Surface Two will appeal to a very small group of people, maybe people who want a cheaper tablet that can still run office. To me, the Surface Pro Two is the one to get. I mean, it's basically a laptop. You can get a really nice keyboard for it. It's got the same components you'd find in a high end Ultrabook. And you've got the pen, and you've got a really nice tablet form factor.
HARLOWSo, I think for something that's a flexible platform, that might be a very interesting proposition. The other one I think are pretty cool too are, obviously, the iPad is very good, very popular. It got the new Air. But Kindle HDX is really nice if you want more of an entertainment device. They're really cheap for what you get. And they're built well, and they've got a large ecosystem of Amazon stuff on there. And yesterday, to celebrate the FAA's relaxed rules, they were actually on sale for even cheaper.
DRUINI know. I saw that. I was like, ooh, maybe I have to get a few. Oh my goodness.
NNAMDIWell, please answer this question from Jim in Silver Spring. It's time to start thinking about holiday gifting. Surface or iPad? Any real difference other than Surface's keyboard?
HARLOWWell, the keyboard's a big difference, but you can get plenty for iPad too. So I would say on the true super light weight long battery life tablets, my favorite's the iPad. If you want something that is more of an all purpose work machine, I think the Surface Pro is really neat. If you want something that is a little different from the conventional laptop.
NNAMDII know we have some Apple fans at this table. What's your take on the new iPad Air and iPad Mini, Allison?
DRUINWhat I was really liking was the iPad Mini with the keyboard, the way it stands up in this case with the keyboard right there. Because it really, for the first time, says whoa, I can really just take this thing, do some work, and I can, and it can anywhere. So, I was loving that. I do agree. If I was gonna get rid of my laptop, I love the Surface. But the Pro. Not the...
HARLOWYeah, get the full fat version.
DRUINYou gotta get the full fat version.
GILROYI was thinking of Bill with iPad Air being on that train next to the NSA guy. You wouldn't be able to record the conversation, cause everyone would be stopping you going, hey, let me pick that up.
HARLOWThat's right. People would be like running a gauntlet.
NNAMDIWhat's the future of laptop computers, given the growing popularity of tablets?
DRUINWell, that's the real thing is that honestly, unless you need a real work horse for gaming, for computer graphics...
DRUINYou know, software devel...
HARLOWSoftware dev's a big one, John. You're right.
DRUINYeah, it's really true. And you need big screens and such. You know, then you're probably talking about a laptop with a plug-in for screens. But, you know, the everyday person that's doing email, you know, watching things, sending things back and forth, posting, maybe not so much.
HARLOWI mean, yeah, the iPad is my personal laptop. I have a MacBook Pro for work, and my personal device is an iPad.
GILROYI think the phrase that pays, cause we're on radio, I can say that, is content consumption. And if you're gonna consume content, the tablet seems to be the best way. But if you're gonna -- I'm thinking that if you're gonna create the content...
HARLOWIt depends on what you're creating, though. A lot of people are doing real work on an iPad. So, yeah, if you're doing like high end spreadsheets and formulas, probably not the best place to do it.
DRUINNot so much.
HARLOWBut, you know, if you're writing, if you're drawing, sketching, you're emailing all the time, you're keeping up on social media, you absolutely can do that on a tablet.
NNAMDIThis email we got from Catherine in Springfield, Virginia. One of your guests referred to relatives' concerns after several days of not posting. Do you realize how important that is for elderly housebound isolated or ill people? I forgot to get my mail one day, and the postman called the police because it was out of the ordinary for me. It wasn't necessary that time, but it might have been. The next day he asked if I was angry. He got a big hug from me in the middle of the street.
DRUINAwww, that's so true. You're absolutely right. And, in fact, there's a lot more fancy technologies out there for helping family members track each other and know that they're OK, but, you know, it's a simple as post something on Facebook each day, and that really helps.
NNAMDIHere is Susan in Washington, D.C. Susan, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
SUSANHi. I was just calling in about the planned obsolescence of Apple devices, like the iPhone. And I just wanted to say, I think it's not the device itself. It's that they make you upgrade to the newest operating system. I mean, they don't make you, but eventually, you have to, since as time goes by, all of your apps will start working. And it's the new operating system that the old phones can't handle, and then it gets significantly slower.
SUSANI read something online where someone tested the iPhone 4 with the iPhone 5S, I guess, the new one. And they get the new operating system, IOS7, and it was, you know, like one to two seconds slower to open and like load every app on the phone. And they actually confirmed it.
DRUINYeah, it is true. I mean, I just went from the 4 to the 5S, and it's -- I keep blinking, going wait, where did that go? I mean, it's really fast in the navigation. Changes is really different. But again, that goes to a combination of our perception as well as what the software is forcing onto the hardware.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. You, too, can call us at 800-433-8850 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Here is Dick in McLean, Virginia. Dick, you're on the air. Go ahead, please. Hi, Dick. Are you there? I think Dick may longer be with us. Here is Kirk in Germantown, Maryland. Hi, Kirk.
KIRKHey. I don't have a tablet, but I use my MacBook Air to browse Washington Post.com, and the only thing more annoying than the paywall is the desperate Microsoft Surface Tablet ads that they force you...
GILROYThat's a good point.
DRUINWell point. Oh my...
NNAMDIYeah, you make a good point. And what do you do about this, Kirk?
KIRKTurn down the volume.
NNAMDISounds like the best available solution. Thank you so very much for your call. We're gonna take a short break. When we come back, we'll continue our conversation with the computer guys and gal. When we come back, we'll be talking about your new air travel experience that you may be experiencing pretty soon. 800-433-8850. If you have any comments or insights about that, it's the computer guys and gal. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIIt's 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. John Gilroy is director of business development at Armature Corp. And Bill Harlow is a hardware and software technician for Macs & PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc.
NNAMDIWe got an email from Marian in Oakton, Va., who says, "My iPad has recently started going berserk. The homepage with all the apps suddenly begins to shift rapidly back and forth until I have to force quit. If I'm working an email, it sends the message before I'm done. If I'm doing The New York Times crossword, it suddenly starts filling in all the blanks with random letters."
HARLOWWhoa, it's possessed. It's -- William Peter Blatty, call him. He's exorcist on this one.
NNAMDI"Any suggestions?" I don't know. Sounds like you need more than a reset there.
HARLOWWow. If you've tried exorcisms, the next thing would be perhaps to try what they call a restore. So plug in your iPad and back it up to your computer first or back it up to iCloud, however you do it. And then restore basically wipes the whole thing. It makes it factory fresh. Then you can put your software back on there.
HARLOWIt also sounds like it might be a hardware issue because it's a touch screen. It sounds like the touch screen might be freaking out and putting random -- or is receiving random input. And that's probably why you're seeing the screen swipe around without your knowledge. So try the software fix first, but it might be unfortunately needing repair.
GILROYI want to see a video of it filling in the blanks. That's what I'd like to see and put that on YouTube.
HARLOWThere you go. Go viral with it, too. Maybe that can fund your new iPad.
NNAMDIAnd you notice, Marian, no one said it was planned obsolescence. The days are almost...
NNAMDIThe days are almost over when you have to power down your electronic devices on airplanes for takeoff and landing. In response to goring criticism from the traveling public, the FAA has finally agreed that small electronics can stay on for the whole flight as soon as each airline demonstrates that use of electronics is safe on its planes.
NNAMDIJetBlue and Delta airlines have already been approved, and other airlines are likely to follow soon. But there's still no transmitting. Devices must be on airplane mode during the flight. How will the new rule change your travel routine? 800-433-8850 or you can send email to email@example.com. Are you glad the FAA will you keep your tablet fired up for the whole flight? Allison, you all travel a fair amount for work. What's your reaction to the FAA's loosening of these rules?
DRUINIt's about time. Oh, my goodness. I mean, I'm sitting there thinking, just last week when I was in the airplane, I'm not transmitting Wi-Fi. I'm not looking for a cellphone tower. All I wanted to do was see what was on my phone on my Kindle book. And why are they making me buy magazines? I kept thinking, this is a deep plot of the airline industry that owns magazines to -- so that I should buy magazines.
DRUINThe interesting thing is that they're keeping -- you have to keep your tech under two pounds. And I think that's actually a reasonable rule, partially because if you -- if something happens, you don't want this stuff -- something that's like five pounds flying in the air and hitting people. So that is a -- you know, that's a safety thing.
GILROYBut how do they enforce that? That's the question to have.
DRUINWell, you know, I mean, actually, you can usually tell. But, no, the biggest problem is, how do you enforce airplane mode?
DRUINOkay. How do you -- what are you going to do, put your nose up to everybody's screen to figure it out? At least with the other rule, everybody had to put it away, so it was easy to tell if somebody had it or not.
NNAMDIJohn Gilroy does it the old-fashioned junior high school way. He picks up the airplane magazine and then hides his device inside it.
GILROYOh, there's a good trick. Yeah, that sounds like something's done this side of the table.
NNAMDIWhat do you think, Bill Harlow?
HARLOWWell, I'm -- it's too bad they said under two pounds 'cause it ruins my ideas of being able to bring my boom box for Thanksgiving.
NNAMDI800-433-8850. Let's go back to the phones. This time we will go with Tom in Rockville, Md. Tom, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
TOMHi. Thanks for taking my call. I have an iPhone 4S that I bought about a year ago, and it was great. But then I just recently got a notification to upgrade the operating system. And since then, video clips, also Facebook will not load, and Netflix -- I cannot even watch a movie anymore. It'll just sit and load for 10, 15, 20 minutes and then give me an error message. Is there any solution, other than buying a new 5? Or can I unload the new operating system and go back to the old operating system?
HARLOWSo the downside is you cannot roll back. They take that off the servers, and they deauthorize it. But I had a 4S for a while before I upgraded, and I had no trouble with those apps. I just had to make sure -- and there were a bunch. I had to make sure that all my apps were as up to date as they could be 'cause often they need to do that to improve their compatibility with a new operating system.
HARLOWSo I would go into the app store and make sure you have all those updates applied. If it's working after that, then, like I said to a previous caller, a restore might be the way to go. Go ahead and back it up, do a restore, and start fresh. Although I believe that the upgrade process kind of makes you do that, so I'm kind of leaning towards the app upgrades, individual app upgrades as a possible culprit.
NNAMDIOkay. Thank you.
TOMOkay. Great. Thanks a lot.
NNAMDIThank you for your call and good luck to you. On to Ravine in Reston, Va. Ravine, your turn.
RAVINEHi, Kojo. I love your show. And thanks for taking my call.
RAVINEI've been using iPad since the iPad2 came out for about two years. And then I moved on to the Surface Pro since that came out. And I'm an IT architect, so I kind of use all levels of the computers. And what I found is iPad is great up to the point with entertainment and little beyond entertainment for doing the basic task. However, what I found is even loading some of the complex websites, it always had that need to go to a laptop whereas the recent Surface, and with the updates A.1, I found that Surface can actually consolidate both the laptop and your entertainment piece as one device.
RAVINEAnd if somebody's looking into that because that's one of the things really bugged me when I was using the iPad is I had to always carry two things. And whereas the Surface, I can actually just have one and do both. I thought that was really a big differentiator in terms of getting the Surface for...
HARLOWYeah, I mean, I agree. It's a case of a laptop versus a tablet essentially. I mean, Microsoft sells it as a tablet, but, really, fundamentally, it's, you know, full laptop hardware in there. And the only thing I would really say is, if they can get that -- to me, to make it really useful to me, if they can really just make that battery life as insane as it is on a modern tablet and get that weight down, that would be huge to me, too.
NNAMDIWell, we were talking about whether tablets would make -- what -- obsolescent laptops, obsolescent -- and we got this email from Anne, who said, "I recently updated my phone. And before I did so, I was beginning to think about tablets. My phone company was offering the Samsung Note II, so I got one. And I love it. It does everything I would use a tablet for, so, for now, I am out of the tablet market." So there are people getting out of the tablet market.
NNAMDIAnd a question: I can buy the new iPad Mini with retina display for $499 when it comes out later in November. I can also go to Target today and buy the iPad4 with retina display for the same price using a gift percent Target discount card on a $40 gift card. What should I buy?
DRUINYou know, it depends on what's most important to you. If it's the display, the retina display, then absolutely go get it now. But if it's the weight, the size, the form factor, then wait and then get the other one. It's -- again, I always tell people, you know, what is it that you most want in a device? Those are the things that will decide really what you get.
HARLOWYeah, I do think the weight's a big deal, and that's part of the reason why I think the Mini was so popular. Because the iPad, when it first came out, really was a game changer. But as time went on, it's like, you know, this is kind of heavy. I'm not going to read on this all the time. And the iPad Mini got it down to where you could hold it in one hand comfortably for a couple hours and just plow through a book. But I think that Apple made it kind of tough to decide now because the new full-size iPad Air is so much lighter that it's actually closer in weight to the Mini than it was to the old iPad.
HARLOWSo if you've kind of picked them up side by side, it might be tougher to gauge. If the price may be the deciding factor, get the full-size one. Or save a hundred bucks and get the smaller one 'cause, otherwise, the hardware's the same. You're getting the full experience on either one.
NNAMDILast month, we talked about Apple's new operating system for its iPhones and iPads. Now Apple has unveiled a new operating system for its computers. Also in the new product lineup, LinkedIn unveiled Intro, a feature that lets you use its functions inside emails from fellow LinkedIn users. And YouTube says certain video creators can now launch paid channels, meaning some YouTube videos will sit behind, yes, a paywall.
NNAMDIAre you inclined to install the new Apple operating system on your computer? Have you tried LinkedIn's new Intro? How much would you be willing to pay to view YouTube videos? Give us a call, 800-433-8850. Bill, Apple's new OS X Mavericks strays from the cat-related themes of prior operating systems. It's named for a popular surfing beach near San Francisco. How does Mavericks improve the Apple computer experience? What's your verdict on whether to install it?
HARLOWWell, it's an operating system, and that's a major installation. So I would say, if you're unsure, just wait, read any potential horror stories first and back up your data before you make a go of it. On the other hand, props to Apple for making it free. That's really cool. I think that will get a lot of people adopting it sooner rather than later. I've got it on my laptop 'cause I wanted to see what breaks. And so far, it's been pretty good although I had to tweak Mail to work better with Gmail, which is my biggest complaint.
HARLOWI think for most users, the big thing, especially since most people are on laptops these days, it's going to be the improved battery management, and it's going to be the improved memory management. And what that means for you is that your battery can go longer. When you're doing less on the computer, it can throttle down more aggressively. And the memory compression makes it so that when you've got a lot of things open, even on an older machine, you're seeing that beach ball a whole lot less. So I think that's pretty cool.
NNAMDIAnd it looks a lot like the OS X Mountain Lion?
HARLOWIt's pretty similar in look overall, yeah. They just cleaned it up. They got rid of the silly fake leather look in Contacts and Calendar, so those are much cleaner looking.
NNAMDIAnd my old friend who liked to say OS X. Remember that, John Gilroy?
NNAMDILinkedIn has a new product called Intro that injects LinkedIn functions into your email communication with other LinkedIn users. What are the privacy concerns? And do you recommend using Intro?
HARLOWI do not recommend this. It's -- I guess what it does is kind of neat, but the way it does it means that basically you are routing your email through LinkedIn, which to me sounds really dangerous. You're -- they're going to have access to your mail, incoming and outgoing, and you now have an additional third party dealing with your mail. And LinkedIn got hacked in the past, right? So if they get hacked in the future, what happens to the mail that gets routed through their servers potentially? I think it's a mess.
NNAMDIThat's too much linking in for Bill.
DRUINWell, I mean, if you think about it, OK, so imagine you have your Gmail account. Now you have your embedded LinkedIn thing.
DRUINSo now you've got multiple companies owning all of your data.
DRUINBut it is questionable. But, I mean, look, those are nice ideas for what to do with your mail. And LinkedIn's got a good idea.
HARLOWIt's a good idea, but I just want people who are active LinkedIn users to go in with their eyes fully open to this because...
DRUINThat's exactly right.
HARLOW…you know, it's more than just a neat feature that they add to your email.
NNAMDIJohn, YouTube is now allowing developers to launch new channels that require a paid subscription to view. Does this mean eventually we'll have to pay to watch most YouTube videos?
GILROYWell, you know, it's really stunning if you just look at -- since we've been on the air, in the last three or four years since we've been on the air, the number of people who are using YouTube with handheld devices has skyrocketed. It's gone from 6 percent to, I think, 20 -- to 40 percent now. So many people are using handheld devices on YouTube. And what YouTube is thinking, maybe we can -- and here's the big word -- monetize this.
GILROYWell, maybe Kojo can monetize his little cameras in the studio here, and maybe people will be willing to pay. Now, there's a caveat here. You have to have at least 10,000 subscribers, and then you can charge a certain amount of money, starting at, I think, 99 cents. And then you split that revenue with Google.
GILROYAnd so maybe this is going to be a good money maker for "The Kojo Nnamdi Show" here where you can have people paying 99 cents to see a show. And then they get 50 -- he gets 50 cents, and, you know, WAMU gets 50 cents and -- I don't know. I mean, there's a person in the studio with a Google hat on. Perhaps she should chime in.
NNAMDIWell, you know, free is the word tends to attract people more than anything else.
GILROYYes. Free more than pay.
NNAMDIExactly. So pay might drive customers away. You never know.
DRUINWell, I mean, I think the other thing, too, is that -- I mean, when you have that kind of things going back and forth, you have to ask yourself, is this worth it? Really, come on.
HARLOWWell, the way I look at it, too, is my understanding is that you can't take an existing channel and make it suddenly for pay. So you can't yank the rug out from your subscribers. You have to start a premium one, so it might be a case of pay and get no ads or watch traditional one, you have to watch a 30-second ad over and over before each show.
GILROYOr if they're aggressively going after children, saying, well, little Billy's over there watching Sesame Street, maybe I'll pay in order to subscribe to Sesame Channel so he can sit in his room with his sister and brother and watch it on an -- I'm just thinking this may be an approach they're trying to use rather than -- they're trying to draw people away from television obviously.
DRUINMore -- you know, more of the traditional networks are probably going to see this as, yay, okay, now I can get a little bit of a...
HARLOWI can put my stuff on YouTube and get paid for it.
DRUINYeah. I can get some entry into YouTube, so I can see that with the Sesame Workshop folks as well. But, look, dumb cat videos are always going to be free. Let's face it, folks. Okay. You know...
HARLOWIt's the American way.
DRUINExactly. So I can't see that free's ever going to really go away.
NNAMDIOn now to our app of the month. John Gilroy, I have never heard of Text Neck, but being a practicing hypochondriac, the minute I heard of it, I immediately start to get it. So you can help me. You have apparently picked an app that can help prevent text neck. What is text neck?
GILROYWell, I just -- I went into a time machine and went back 10 years and talked to Allison. I'm sure she was complaining about carpal tunnel syndrome back then, and now she must be complaining about, you know, sitting down there, reading all her little important messages on her smartphone. And there is a physician in Florida, a chiropractor, I think, came up with this thing called a text neck indicator.
GILROYAnd, anyway, this is a -- so what you can do is you load this app onto your machine, and it guides you as the correct angle for reading your smartphone, which is probably a good scam of the month club nominee as much as app of the month. It's a product that -- we'll put this online, see if it -- and maybe it helps people like Allison who are constantly checking for updates. I don't know. What's your app of the month, Al?
NNAMDIWait a minute. No, wait a minute. Have you ever heard of text neck, Allison?
GILROYWow. Wait a few weeks. You added a new phone. You haven't put that phone down in an hour here, you know.
DRUINMaybe when I'm 55. I don't know...
NNAMDIGilroy made that up.
GILROYText neck syndrome, no, it's in the old medical textbooks.
NNAMDIDo you use an app called f.lux that adjusts the brightness of your computer screen depending on the time of day? It can probably help with text neck, too. How does it help?
HARLOWSo it doesn't actually adjust the brightness. It actually adjusts the color temperature. So, you know, when the sun's out, it's kind of a bluer kind of white. And that's normally what your screens are kind of like, too. They tend to be a lot bluer than you're used to. But at night, that can kind of be harsh. So what f.lux does is it actually will -- I've got mine set, so it's gradual. So when sundown starts hitting, it slowly warms up the screen. And it's really nice because, you know, it gets dark out. I turn the lights on.
HARLOWThe room light and my screen light is consistent. My eyes are actually less fatigued. It's small and free. It sounds dumb 'cause Allison's laughing at me. But...
GILROYIt sounds like a flux capacitor is what it sounds like.
HARLOWMy prediction is if she installs it, she'll like it.
NNAMDIThat and the text neck app should go together.
DRUINIt's just such a nerd app...
GILROYYeah, it's a flux capacitor is what it sounds like.
NNAMDIAllison has an app for anyone who is hosting a Thanksgiving dinner this year.
DRUINYeah. Bon Appétit has just released their Thanksgiving app. Come on. We're in November now, folks. So, you know, you're looking for the recipe, the kitchen tips, the meal scheduling so that you know a week before you should be labeling all of your serving dishes. I mean, this is it. This has got it. Lots of videos. It only works on iPads right now. It will eventually come out for iPhones. And, yes, they are dissing Androids for the moment, so my apologies to the entire audience.
GILROYBad dinner at my house then, I guess, huh?
DRUINI think so.
NNAMDIWhat happened to the old granddad app?
GILROYWhere you call one of your kids to make the dinner.
DRUINThe burping app is next. Yeah, I agree.
NNAMDIAllison Druin, she 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. Belated birthday greetings.
NNAMDIBill Harlow is a hardware and software technician for Macs & PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc. Bill, thank you for joining us.
HARLOWThanks for having me.
NNAMDIAnd John Gilroy is director of business development at Armature Corp. John Gilroy, always a pleasure.
GILROYPresident of the text neck foundation, thank you.
NNAMDIAnd thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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