Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies, and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
For the kids on your gift list: racing cars and paper airplanes controlled by an iPhone. For the couch potatoes: a box that lets you stream video and watch on your TV. For everyone else: an all-purpose tablet, the hot-seller of the year. You can buy it all using your smart phone and then fantasize about same-day delivery by private drone. A day after Cyber Monday, the Computer Guys and Gal are here with tech gifts and trends for the holidays.
- 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
- 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
2014 Tech Holiday Gift Ideas
The Computer Guys and Gal pick the top holiday toys for the techie in your life, young and old.
If you combined an electronic project kit and Lego you’d get Snap Circuits! You can make all sorts of cool projects with these, like radios, controllable lights, electromagnets and doorbells.
Anki Drive is a racing set that consists of an enormous rollable track, two cars and a charger. You control everything with your iPhone (or iPad or iPod) and can race against other people or let the other cars control themselves, since they’re actually little robots.
PowerUp 3.0 “smart paper plane” kit is a Kickstarter, so the earliest you’ll get one of these is next February, with the final product expected in May. It’s a delayed gratification gift. That said, you fold your favorite paper airplane design, clip the PowerUp 3.0 to it and then remotely control it with the iPhone app.
ChargeCard and ChargeKey are emergency smartphone battery charging cables designed to fit on your wallet or on your key ring, so they’ll always be handy.
Roku 3 is an alternative to traditional cable programming. It’s a little device that helps you live stream video from everything from Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and other websites.
It’s the year of the tablet for gift-giving! The most expensive options land in the Apple camp. Then there’s the Nexus 7, the best bang for your buck at $230. And then there’s the cheapest tablet you can buy your kid without resenting you: Asus Memo Pad HD 7 for $150.
And there’s also a techy-gift for your cat: FroliCat Dart. For less than $30 you can keep your cats insane for hours following a little lazer dot.
Apps Of The Month
The Computer Guys and Gal share the latest and greatest in apps.
iFixit is a great site for DIYers to learn how to repair their Apple products and buy parts for them. They recently expanded into Samsung smartphones and game consoles. They also offer a fantastic free app for iOS and Android (tablets recommended) that allows you to look up all their repair guides in a gorgeous, easy to use format.
Shopular and other similar apps alert you about deals at nearby stores, allowing you to redeem coupons right at the register.
Red Laser app can help you make sure you’re getting the best price on a product. Take a pic of the barcode and you’re ready to comparison shop.
The Return Guru app will help you keep tabs on your return policy for any given purchase and alert you when the return is about to expire.
WhatsApp is among a growing set of messenger apps that’s steering teenagers away from Facebook.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. That odd sounding music means we have some odd people in the studio.
MR. JOHN GILROYStepped into that.
NNAMDIThe Computer Guys and Gal are here. I'm Kojo Nnamdi. What is that noise outside the house? It sounds like a helicopter buzzing right up to the front door. Don't worry. It's just Amazon's delivery drone, dropping off your order. Amazon has captured the country's imagination with the possibility of a fleet of mini drones that could make next day delivery seem old school. But how important is same hour delivery to you? Is drone delivery the way of the future, or just a publicity stunt?
NNAMDIYou can give us your point of view by calling 800-433-8850, or you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or tweet at kojoshow or post a comment on our website, kojoshow.org. Dropping in by drone today, Bill Harlow.
GILROYWe ordered them up.
NNAMDIHardware and Software Technician for MACs and PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc. Thank you for dropping in.
MR. BILL HARLOWOh, not a problem.
NNAMDIAllison Druin. She drove. 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. Allison Druin, thank you for joining us.
MS. ALLISON DRUINA pleasure, Kojo.
NNAMDIJohn Gilroy. He slept here.
GILROYSecurity didn't catch me.
NNAMDIHe is Director of Business Development for Armature Corporation. John Gilroy, thank you for joining us.
NNAMDIAmazon CEO Jeff Bezos made a splash on Sunday when he announced he's developing a small helicopter like -- or small -- he's developing small helicopter like delivery drones. His goal, 30 minutes after you buy an item on Amazon's website, a drone would deliver your package to your doorstep. Bill, how would these so-called octocopter drones work, and why are we hearing about it so long in advance of their availability?
HARLOWWell, what Jeff Bezos said was that he figures that everything gets disrupted. He'd like to not have his company disrupted before he dies, so I think this is a preemptive. He actually said that, and you know, make something that nobody else can catch up on now. And I think, why announce it now? Because he can. Because people will listen. Because it's just a neat story. The idea of a swarm of flying robots with GPS, finding your house and delivering your goods faster than you can order a pizza.
GILROYYou know, I teach a course in marketing at Georgetown, and if Jeff Bezos were in my class, I'd give him a A for public relations and an F for prognostication. I mean, this is a great PR scam. I mean, wow, he is a genius when it comes to public relations. I mean, look at all that time. I mean, how much would it cost Kojo Nnamdi to get, in 15 minutes, wow. What a scam he is. That's a great guy. Great scam.
NNAMDIAnd it has everybody talking about it, both in and out of the news media. Because, Allison Druin, it does seem to have some appeal for people, the notion that half an hour after you order something from Amazon, it can be dropping in front of your next door, of course, if the kid next door with a slingshot doesn't get it first.
DRUINIt's so true. Oh, my goodness, I'm imagining the people that are gonna try and shoot these things down. But, actually, okay, let's think about this. This is just a physical form of when we're on our kindles and we're ordering a book. Okay? And so we're trying to figure out the virtual method of dropping physical items. And there it is. There's the drone. And, actually, I was looking at the various discussions online about the drones, and this one person points out, is it scary that this drone has that weird, smiley Amazon smiley face on it?
DRUINI mean, can you imagine having a drone come at you with the smiley face? Anyway, but I think that the real question is, you know, how reliable is this thing gonna be? Are we gonna be driving these things into trees, power lines, windows, pets, you? So, and the batteries. You know, the batteries are gonna be the thing that they're gonna have to do in terms of R&D. But, at the end of the day, talking about R&D and talking about the future, guess what, brings buzz.
DRUINAnd okay, it's not just because I'm the futurist, but it really is important to think about the future, because it says where we wanna be today and tomorrow.
HARLOWWell, you mentioned reliability. I'm wondering, what's more reliable? A robot you can program, and let's say you get all the bugs out. It's light. The battery's good enough. It delivers in a radius. Or, what they do now for same day delivery, which is partnering with these couriers, who have to race around town and get stuff to you whenever they can. And, over time, it could be cheaper. They could be cutting out the middle man, so to speak, logistically, for same day shipping.
NNAMDIIn case you're looking for information and you haven't heard about it, these drones would depart from the, what the retailer calls their fulfillment centers, huge warehouses built near a lot of large population centers here in the US and elsewhere. They can carry about five pounds, a figure that Bezos says covers about 85 percent of Amazon's products. The delivery drones would apparently be particularly useful in densely populated urban areas. Again, that according to Jeff Bezos.
NNAMDIThey'd be powered by electricity. Their current range of operation is around 10 miles from the point of origin. How important is speedy delivery in the tech industry these days? Is drone delivery really worth the effort or is this more about Amazon branding itself?
GILROYSo, Kojo lives on the 12th floor. I live on the eight floor. We both order something from Amazon. And what does the little helicopter do? Crash into the window and deliver it? I mean, how are you gonna -- go up to the roof where it's all locked and you can't get up there?
HARLOWYou don't have a balcony?
GILROYThis is the craziest thing I've ever heard of. What is this scam?
DRUINOh, please. Have you heard of doorman buildings? Bill, please, they're gonna bring it to the doorman.
GILROYNot in the building Kojo and I live in.
HARLOWOne quick question. So, let's say this happens in a few years. Even if you think it's silly now, aren't you gonna do it just once?
DRUINOh, absolutely. Of course. It's what you're expectation is. I remember people talking about FedEx, and saying, what is the point of getting something instantly? And then it became, you didn't do anything without FedExing it, okay? And now, it's like, what? FedEx? Why would you FedEx it? Why don't you just email it? It's all about future. It's all about change. And let me just remind you, John, what you thought of Twitter, that you thought it was a fad. So, let me just discuss...
GILROYSpeaking of fads, I'm a lot older than Kojo, and I remember when FedEx was...
NNAMDINo, you're not.
GILROYStarted. And guess what their next innovation was. Same day delivery with faxes. They fizzled. They did.
NNAMDIThe one thing that John is permanently interested in is pizza.
NNAMDIAnd you should know that…
GILROYNow there we have an exception.
NNAMDIIn Britain, Domino's Pizza looked at flying hot pizzas to customers in Britain, and they posted a video of a successful test run, so it may not just be Amazon. It may be your nearby Domino's Pizza dealer. Here is Tony in Glen Burnie, Maryland. Tony, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
TONYYes, I actually wanted to make a couple of comments about the conversation you guys are having. First of all, I am a drone pilot, and I work on several of the open source projects that develop the control systems for these things. The whole issue with Amazon and Jeff Bezos, this is a very complex task, delivering something to your front door. I mean, how are you gonna account for power lines and all the rest of this kind of stuff? GPS can get you close, but the government intentionally puts error in there.
TONYSo, there's a lot of other support systems that have to be developed before this is even coming close to reality. And the point about the building. You'd have to, I don't know, everybody's gonna have a landing pad on their window?
NNAMDIAre you suggesting that Jeff Bezos is blowing smoke?
TONYNo. I think he's, he's, you know, he's doing what everybody in his position does is he's leaning forward, and he's actually seeing the future. And that's great, and we all need it, but, you know, in my neighborhood, anyway, and I fly something in the range of about a meter in diameter, and that's not including the props. I've got power lines, trees, and that's not assuming birds or anything else that's in the area. You know, the FAA is not making any comment on this, and the FCC, for that matter, are not making any comment on this stuff until 2015.
TONYAnd, so commercial applications are -- nobody's gonna do it. Right now, any of the guys that are doing this stuff for money are doing it for, quote unquote, donation.
NNAMDIYou raise a fascinating prospect, and that is since these agencies have not considered it, and Jeff Bezos has, in a way, gone directly to the consumer with this information, there's likely to be a great deal of pressure on all of these agencies when they do start to consider, coming from the public.
TONYBut I want to make one other comment. And this is the thing that kind of gets me. I've been flying remote control aircraft in one form or another since I was 10 years old, and I'm now 40. We're calling these drones. And I don't like that term, because I feel like it gives an erroneous indication of what it is that we're doing. Every time you mention the word drone, somebody's imagining a tomahawk missile dropping on their front door.
DRUINIt's a good point.
TONYAnd these are really robotic recreational aircraft that's being flown 75 to 90 percent of the time. And those need to be regulated completely differently than the commercial sector, which are gonna be much heavier, larger, much faster.
NNAMDII suspect that by the time this becomes a reality, if it does, that will not be the term that are applied to these devices that are bringing these items to your home. But thank you very much for your call. It's the Computer Guys and Gal in studio. Now that the turkey is done, time to shop on the day after Thanksgiving. Customers turned out in force to begin their holiday shopping, but apparently spent less than they did on Black Friday last year.
NNAMDIBut yesterday, Cyber Monday may set a record as the biggest online shopping day in history. To keep that momentum going, the Computer Guys and Gal have some gift ideas from the technology aisle. If you can tell us what's on your tech wish list this holiday season, give us a call. 800-433-8850. Are you contemplating a new gaming console? A tablet? A remote controlled paper airplane? 800-433-8850. You can send email to email@example.com. Bill Harlow, the new gaming consoles have been getting a lot of hype in the run up to the holidays.
NNAMDIWhat's your assessment of the Xbox One and the Playstation Four? Are they worth the steep price and the limited selection of games available for them?
HARLOWI mean, the people who want them are gonna buy them, and that's fine. I mean, they're neat. And they're only gonna get better. I'm sure they have a long life ahead of them. But, if you're looking for something where you get a little more mileage, there are few games out there that really take advantage of them now. It's gonna be a while before they really make more sense. So, look to the so-called last generation systems. You can get the original Xbox 360. You can get the Playstation 3 for a couple hundred bucks. Tons of discounted games, a huge library.
HARLOWYou could easily spend the next five years playing through that library of excellent games before you even have a chance of getting sick of it and moving on to the next console. So, if you wanna save some bucks, look old.
NNAMDIJohn, what do we know about...
GILROYThank you. Look at me.
NNAMDIWhat do we know about how well the new Xbox One is selling so far?
GILROYI think they're doing pretty good. In fact, they're opening up some retail stores, and finally, Microsoft's got something to brag about. I mean, boy, talk about a dismal last couple years for Steve Ballmer.
HARLOWXbox always made great product, though.
GILROYYeah, but it's finally -- even the youngsters are talking about Xbox, and they're coming to the retail outlets and taking a look at them. And, by the way, it's not a paper airplane, Bill. It's a recreational flying vehicle.
HARLOWRecreational origami vehicle.
GILROYOr a recreational origami vehicle. OIR.
NNAMDIMore about that later. Allison, you have got a good gift for couch potatoes. A Roku box that lets you stream video on your television. How does it work? Is it better than my Apple TV?
GILROYAnswer that. Yes or no. Answer that.
DRUINOh my goodness. Look, who watches broadcast TV anymore?
HARLOWAnswer the question, Allison.
GILROYYes or no.
DRUINAll right, yes. Yes, yes, yes, yes.
DRUINLook, this is a basic appliance. Okay? This is an appliance by -- it's only 99 bucks. It live streams Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, all these various different live stream video boxes.
HARLOWAll the big ones. Yeah.
DRUINAll the big ones, okay?
HARLOWAnd you get sports. You can get like NHL and NBA and MobiTV on this thing.
DRUINOh yeah. It's great. And it's, you know, all, it's on all the top ten lists of tech to buy. It's got a great headphone jack remote so that I could be like laying in bed and doing my whole streaming and Ben would be like snoring away next to me. Wouldn't even notice, OK? And, look, cable companies are knowing they got a problem. They know that the 20-somethings and 30-somethings, they're streaming. And the kids are streaming. And it's all about On Demand.
DRUINSo, this is a really great -- this is appliance. This is stripped down. It's very simiple. It's really good. What do you think, fellows?
HARLOWI think it's awesome. Since the Roku, the original one came out, was called a Netflix player. I bought one for my sister-in-law years and years ago. Still uses it, still loves it. They keep adding features to even their old boxes.
DRUINThat's right. That's right.
HARLOWSo, they're great buys.
DRUINYeah. Great buy.
NNAMDIHave the networks heard about this death of live television that we're talking about it here?
GILROYAs you were talking about, that new live game's gonna be skeet shooting for drones. I think we're not gonna watch on TV tonight. Because, believe me, that's gonna happen.
NNAMDISpeaking of drones, that's what Caitlyn in Potomac, Maryland would like to talk about. Caitlyn, you're -- no, Caitlyn doesn't want to talk about drones. Caitlyn wants a suggestion. Caitlyn, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
CAITLYNHi. I'm trying to pick a laptop for my 10 year old, who would like to game and has shown a budding interest in programming. But I don't want to spend an enormous amount of money, especially since many laptops will be obsolete within a few years. I just don't know what kind of laptop to get her.
GILROYI got the answer.
GILROYFirst time in many years. 600 dollars. Is that in your budget?
CAITLYNYes, it is.
GILROYOkay. Acer's got one with an NVIDIA card on it, and an Intel I5. And it's 599, cyber Monday price yesterday. Keep shopping for it. It's V5, 572G6679. Next question.
CAITLYNYou made my shopping very easy.
NNAMDICaitlyn, I'll ask him to say that more slowly so you can actually write it down.
CAITLYNWell, I can always listen on playback, I think.
GILROYYeah, no. Acer has got some pretty good prices, and a lot of people yesterday were shopping around. And there was a good deal on some Acer boxes, and one was called the Aspire. And it was 599. Graphics card. It's a nice graphics card. It's the -- see, people like Bill sit home and they have their alienware 4,000 dollar desktops. Then they want to go use a notebook, and what do you get the notebook? So, this is a nice combination. It's got some speed. It's got a good video card, and it's cheap. So, 600 dollars is not bad.
HARLOWYou keep saying video card, and that's the important thing. Whatever you're shopping for, if it's for gaming, make sure it's got a video card in there and not just what they call integrated graphics, cause that really won't...
GILROYGeForce graphics, four gigs on it, so that's the answer.
DRUINAll right, but I'm gonna totally disagree.
DRUINTotally. Sorry. I'm wondering why you want a laptop. And I gotta point out...
DRUINOkay, so, but the programming, couldn't she be using a keyboard with an iPad and get almost as much bang for the buck?
HARLOWNo. You could do a lot with the iPad, but if you were trying to program and let's say, make PC games, make games to run on their MAC, it -- the iPad doesn't really make sense for that yet. If you were coding web pages, you probably could.
DRUINWell, that's the thing. I'm wondering about what's a 10 year old coding, my friend? Okay? So, how advanced, how advanced is your 10 year old, in terms of programming? That's what I wanna know.
CAITLYNShe's just started. The problem with the iPad, cause we have one that she uses, is that she can't use any of the internet based games that require...
DRUINOh, okay. All right, so no. You're right. I take it back, then. So, you're right. That's what's the problem.
NNAMDICaitlyn, you have not only started an argument here on this broadcast, you have established something historic. Allison Druin says, okay, I'm wrong. You're right. That's never happened before.
GILROYThat's the first mistake she's ever made. And Allison admitted your first mistake.
DRUINI'm so terrible. Oh, my goodness.
HARLOWOkay, so let's take a note. 12:22 pm, December, 2013. Allison was wrong.
GILROYAllison was wrong.
DRUINOh my goodness. Oh.
GILROYRecord this. Record this.
NNAMDICaitlyn, thank you very much for your call.
CAITLYNThank you for your help.
NNAMDIAnd good luck with your shopping. We're gonna take a short break. When we come back, more of the Computer Guys and Gal. If you'd like to call, 800-433-8850 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. The Computer Guys and Gal are here. 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 Corporation. And Bill Harlow is a Hardware and Software Technician for MACs and PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc. Bill, first there were matchbox cars powered by gravity in chubby little hands. Then, remote control cars came along.
NNAMDINow, there's a racing set with cars you control with your iPhone. How does -- is that anki drive?
NNAMDIAnki. How does the anki drive work, and who's it appropriate for?
HARLOWI think it's appropriate for rich, big kids. But, it looks cool. I mean, my dad was really into stock cars when he was a kid. Slot cars, excuse me. And then I had a little cheap one when I was a kid. And they were cool, but they just kind of raced around in circles. These are actually robots. They're smart cars. You lay out this mat. It's got a huge track printed on it. You would take these robotic cars. You charge them up. And you control them with your iPod or iPhone. And you can play against friends, up to four cars at once.
HARLOWOr, you can race against robotic cars, and they've got -- they're aware. They follow the track, they match speed. It's actually like a video game, because there's actually a combat mechanic. You line up behind a car. You press a button on your phone. It disables them for a few seconds. You score points. It's really pretty cool to see in action. If you go online, check out some videos, cause it looks like a very futuristic, neat way to play with toy cars.
NNAMDIBack to the issue of drones. We got an email from Richard in Washington, D.C. who says, in the last year, my Washington Post was delivered 363 mornings with perfect aim, with one missed stoop and one missed day. I don't think either the CIA or Amazon can match that. You are unlike me, Richard, because apparently Stephen Strasburg is my delivery guy, and he's been throwing 93 mile an hour fast papers at my storm door and it's got dents all over it.
HARLOWThere you go. Amazon paper boys. There you go. They're probably out of work now, right? So...
NNAMDIHere is Gloria in Washington, D.C. Gloria, you are on the air. Go ahead, please.
GLORIAI have a question about the Amazon drone.
GLORIAThe yellow boxes that they're delivered in. Do we charged for recycling those boxes? What are you gonna do with them?
HARLOWI would keep it as a souvenir. It's too soon to say. I mean, 2015 at the absolute earliest, and I think that's very optimistic. I'm sure Apple has a plan. I mean, Amazon has a plan. It could be a case where maybe they can schedule a pickup if you keep it. And then next time, they come back and they drop off an order and grab the other box.
GILROYWell, forget about the box. I mean, someone like Kojo would have a net, and the net over the little helicopter and bring it in the house. He'd steal the box, the net, and everything. I mean, this is the concern. I mean, people'll be shooting these things down, they're gonna be crashing into buildings. It's gonna be...
HARLOWNo, I think the box is a big concern. I think the box is a big concern. That's the toughest problem they have to solve.
NNAMDISee what Jeff Bezos has started here. Vader in Reston, Virginia. Vader, you're on the air. Take us back to reality, please.
VADERWell, thank you, Kojo. So, in terms of quality of life issues, I just have images of these tiny little machines flying all over the sky. On a day like this, blocking the view of a beautiful, beautiful day. You can't see the sky, you can't see the sunset, sunrise. The moon, the stars. You just have these little Amazon boxes flying all through the air. I mean, it's just -- it's a nightmare.
HARLOWSo, it's basically like Terminator. Dark skies and flying robots.
GILROYSkynet likes it, though.
HARLOWActually, the quality of life thing's good, cause I mean, remote control powered vehicles, they are loud. Like, if you had a bunch of these flying around in the air, I mean, that, that, that buzzing, whirring sound could get really old.
DRUINSo, maybe they'll go in swarms, like bees, or something. It'll be horrible.
NNAMDIVader, Vader, Vader. I promised you would bring us back to reality.
NNAMDIMove on to your other question, please.
VADERSo that's it. So, my other question is can you give me comparisons with the Roku and Google Chromecast. We have cut the cable cord, thanks to my college age son. He came home and just blew me away with all this stuff on the internet, so we just hooked up the AGMI cord to the TV, and it's great. So I just saw this Google Chromecast thing in Best Buy the other day, and I thought that would be a nice idea. And just wanted your input on that.
HARLOWChromecast is neat, but, you know, spend the money on the Roku. It may not do quite the same thing that the Chromecast does. The Chromecast requires you to kind of send things through your phone, and there are some restrictions, right now. The Roku, you just plug it in. It just works. It's really easy to use. And I think they do a good job with it.
DRUINIt really is like a toaster oven. You just plug it in and it's just gonna work, okay?
HARLOWYeah, the Chromecast, you gotta kind of think about it when you use it, which gets old.
DRUINYeah, you don't want to think about it. Really.
VADEROkay. Well, thank you. Thank you.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. Bill, for the aeronautically inclined, there's a tip that lets you fold a paper airplane, attach a propeller, and a smart chip, and use your iPhone as a remote control device to fly it around.
HARLOWSo, I'm just gonna come clean here. I think my entire gift list is things I want.
GILROYI hope his wife's listening.
BOBSo, the downside with this is this is delayed gratification. It's a Kickstarter now. It won't ship until next spring. But, I've given the non remote control version as a gift, and it's really neat. You make a paper airplane, you clip this tiny, tiny prop and smart chip on there, sync up your phone, and you toss a plane and fly it around for minutes at a time. And if there's one thing I know about remote control flying is that it's expensive. You crash, and that's a lot of work and money down the drain. The idea of a cheap, disposable remote control plane is really cool.
DRUINNow, they really have it right. My eight year old, who is little miss robotics girl that loves to just put everything together, you know, anything she can put on a low tech thing with high tech sensors, oh, she's in love with it.
DRUINAnd so I, you know, I saw this and went, oh, I need it now for her birthday. It's not gonna work.
GILROYI just wanna jump in here. If you're just tuning in, Allison made a mistake in the first part of the program.
DRUINThank you, John.
HARLOWThey're keeping score -- they're keeping score at home.
NNAMDIAllison, here's a makeup. Let's talk tablets. Let's talk tablets. They're one of the most popular electronic devices out there, but the choices can be confusing. For instance, we got an email from Lorie. I'm in the market for a new tablet, and I've been going back and forth between the iPad Mini and the Nexus 7. I'll basically be using the tablet as an alternative computer. Considering the cost of both devices, which one would be the better buy? What advice, Allison, do you have for figuring out which features and price point are the best fit?
DRUINAll right, well, here's something to know about, OK? First of all, right now, in terms of iPads, the Mini actually outsells the regular sized iPad two to one. All right? That's to begin with. And the Mini is 400 bucks. And now, you have the Nexus 7, which is 230 dollars. It's the best buy for the money. However, look, Nexus 7 is on the Android platform. So, you have to say to yourself, what library of stuff do I want? What apps do I want? Most apps that are really top selling apps are gonna be in both stores now. Both in the iPads and in the Androids.
DRUINBut, you have to say to yourself now, do I care about display? The iPad Mini with the retina -- there is nothing better. I actually have retina display on a larger thing, and I would never give it up. And, so it's a question of do you care about display? Do you care about the money? If you care about the money, the Nexus 7 is great. It's fast. It's good. And, you know, and for the most part, you'll have your Android apps will be just about the same with your iPad ones. But, now, if it's for a kid, the best apps are still on the Apple side of the fence.
DRUINAnd many of them are only for Apple versus Android. But if it's for an adult, you know what, the Nexus 7's a great deal too.
NNAMDIGentlemen, any tablet preferences?
GILROYI think the Nexus is a poor man's iPad.
HARLOWI disagree. I think you could do a lot worse. I mean, for 200 bucks, you're getting something that feels like it's way better than that.
DRUINYou guys flipped. I would have expected, like, here's the Apple guy and here's the...
HARLOWNo, I would say, I would say, I think, I think the Mini is worth the price difference. However, if you're on a tight budget, the Nexus 7 is a great tablet.
NNAMDIOn to the telephones again. We go to Eileen in Brunswick, Maryland. Eileen, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
EILEENThank you. This is a little bit off topic, but I have a small business where I go out to peoples' houses, to adults, and teach computers to adults. And I teach them basic computer literacy. You know, I teach them Word and Excel, but I also teach them how to download pictures from their camera onto their computer and then up into an email or onto Facebook. How to use Facebook, and things like that. I also help them with hooking up printers and so forth.
NNAMDII'm glad you said printers.
GILROYKojo was taking down your telephone number.
EILEENAnd what I'm wondering is, I'm interested in taking some classes at my local community college, because most of what I've picked up, I've picked up over the past 25 years through osmosis, through reading. I worked for several software companies and picked a lot up. But, you know, I'm 46, so I had a huge learning curve myself, but now that I've picked it up, I know what it's like to learn, and I can teach it to people in their 50's and 60's and 70's. You know what I'm saying?
NNAMDISo, your question is, where can you get what?
EILEENWhat kinds of classes would you recommend that I take at my local community college? Should I take some classes on networking? On, you know, I'm just, I'm sort of wondering how I can further my knowledge base to help my clients.
NNAMDIAllison Druin exists in the academic environment, so I'll put this to her.
DRUINOh my goodness. Well, the community college world is the right place for you, for looking for this kind of, for these kinds of classes. Because what you're really looking for are tech classes, OK? As opposed to more problem based or programming kinds of classes.
DRUINAnd so, yeah, you're gonna look for graphics kinds of classes. So, classes that will, you know, further your understanding of how to create graphics or upload/download. What's the best kinds of things? But you're also -- networking is gonna be an issue, and it's always gonna continue to be an issue, as long as people are dealing with wifi and the craziness of...
DRUINOf their home environment. So, I think actually taking a networking class, as dull as it may seem, is probably a really good thing for you.
HARLOWI'd say mobile platforms too. Learning about Android and IOS.
DRUINMobile platforms, as well.
GILROYReed Overfelt owns a company called Full Quota. He tells me that three out of five searches on Google are mobile. And I think this is really gonna, this is gonna be the new frontiers. And then the next step's gonna video. So, I think, I think she should learn, if you're still listening, Eileen, as much as you can about mobile. And then, make that transition to videos, because this is -- most companies now are looking at video marketing and -- but, three out of five searches. That's a lot.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call.
EILEENOkay. Thank you.
NNAMDIAnd good luck to you. Speaking of mobile, Bill, cell phones are everywhere. We use them for everything. But all the online shopping and video streaming can put a strain and be a drain on the battery. You found two devices that lets us charge our phones from any computer or USB port. Talk about charge card and charge key.
HARLOWYeah, so, I mean, at the end of the day, they're just USB cables, or USB to lightning cables, but they are designed in a way that, they'll just naturally be with you, so when you're in an emergency, you'll be able to plug in. The charge card is the shape of a credit card to stick in your wallet. And you unfold it, plug it in when you need to top off. And the charge key, same idea, but you just put it on your key ring. It's about the size of a house key, and you never have to go without your charging cable again.
NNAMDIWe got an email from Jeff in Burkittsville. Please ask Allison whether Roku can now stream with subtitles. My earlier Roku XD cannot.
DRUINNo, I don't actually think it can, this one either. But we'll have to check.
HARLOWYeah, we'll have to check. I'm entirely sure myself, but I would like to think that if it's something that's in demand, it's something they will add in the future via software updates, since they tend to be good about adding features.
DRUINYes, that's true. That's true, but it hasn't been announced in any of the stuff I've seen, and I haven't played with that kind of -- with the subtitles.
NNAMDIWell, Allison, for the do it yourselfer, there are three companies that will execute your design on their 3-D printer. It is my understanding that your family has already tried this.
DRUINOh, it was so much fun. So, my kid and my husband decide they're gonna enter a Hanukkah menorah contest, okay, because they were -- this year, Hanukkah's on Thanksgiving, and so everyone's gonna make a turkey menorah. So, that's the contest.
GILROYPretty serious goal here.
DRUINA pretty serious goal. And, you know, our temple, it was a very creative process. Okay, so they decide they're gonna do something with the computer, and so what they have is a cad like program where they're drawing pieces of the turkey and they're gonna put it together. They used wood and they used the pieces from the 3D printer. And so, basically, they draw these cad like drawings, and then they feed it into, essentially, a 3D printer.
DRUINAnd the idea is that these plastic parts come out.
NNAMDIThe 3D printer will spit out the parts.
DRUINAnd it's just amazing. Now, we were using something from our lab, all right? And, obviously, at the University of Maryland, we have these wonderful nice machines and so on, and we can use that, but, you know, you too can actually get access to these wonderful amazing machines now. I was telling John before the broadcast, I remember when laser printers got to be at 2,000 dollars. That's when people wanted them in their houses. That's when desktop printing became a service item, not a luxury item. And it was wonderful.
DRUINSo now, you too can basically draw your designs with some of these cad programs. And you can go to a local company -- to online companies like imaterialize.com or you can find local people that actually have these 3D printers in their basements and in their homes. And you can - and actually, so there's makexyz.com, and they'll tell you, in your local area, all the people that are doing this. And then you could buy, you could buy a Makerbot Replicator 2 desktop 3D printer and it would be 2,200 dollars. All that and more for your holiday shopping.
DRUINBut it's wonderful, because you can actually produce, not just plastic, things out of plastic, but, you know, anything from steel, titanium, ceramics. It's amazing what can be done.
HARLOWThat's really cool.
NNAMDIYou can make John Gilroy yourself in 3D.
NNAMDIPut any brains in that.
HARLOWSome quick poking around about that Roku question. It sounds like if you've got the LT or later, Netflix supports subtitling. And it seems like a lot of the newer devices also support closed captioning and Hulu Plus and Amazon for those titles that actually have that.
DRUINRight. So it's not actually in the Roku. It's in the software.
DRUINYeah, that's what -- okay. That makes more sense, yeah.
NNAMDIBill, for the kids who like to build things and to tinker with electronics, there's a project set called Snap Circuits.
NNAMDIWhat can you make with it, and why do you like it?
DRUINOh, those are great.
HARLOWHave you messed with them, Allison?
DRUINYes. Yes. We got that last year. And it was awesome, and -- but it really needs -- this is a parent and kid tool.
HARLOWOh, that's fine. That's even better. I think that's a great combo.
DRUINIt's totally great. Anyway, you go explain again.
HARLOWSo, yeah, when I was a kid -- and, you know, this dates me -- but I had this, like, little electronic project kit...
NNAMDIWhat? Did you say was, when I was?
HARLOWOkay. When I was younger...
DRUINOkay. Thank you. That's much better.
HARLOWWhen I couldn't legally drive...
HARLOW...I had a project kit, and it came with all these wires, and you had a, like, little jumper between these little spring clips and everything. It was kind of neat. Snap Circuits is like the same idea, but it's, like, as easy to use as a Lego in many ways. So you just grab these pieces, pop them together, follow the instructions to make all kinds of interesting electronics kits.
HARLOWLooks really neat, and they come in various price points and various sizes, so the bigger more expensive ones, you can do a lot more. And it looks like they make ones for education, too, which come with, I guess, what, a project book to go along with it?
DRUINYeah, the project books are fun. But I have to say they get old quick.
DRUINAnd so then you start making all these whacko things yourselves. And, you know, they were trying to electrocute the cats at one point. But...
NNAMDISpeaking of whacko fun. Speaking of whacko things and speaking of cats, this one will force John Gilroy to leave the room, Allison, for the...
DRUINOh, really? Then I'm definitely going to talk about it.
NNAMDIFor the household pet who has everything, you have found a tech toy for the cat.
DRUINYes. It's called FroliCat Dart. It's -- okay. So you know how cats love to, you know, run after anything that moves really quickly and so on?
DRUINAnd it's those of you who have little laser pointers for your PowerPoint slides, if you've ever used a laser pointer, and you've, you know, played around with that light -- the cats go completely nuts -- well, if you get bored quickly, you can get, for less than $30, you can keep your cats insane for hours because this is an automated laser dot thing. Oh, go away. He's got a laser dot thing in here. John, stop it.
NNAMDINow, all he has to get is a cat.
DRUINAll he's got to get -- we don't have any cats in here, John. Anyway, but they go completely nuts, and this laser thing just keeps going around in circles and is really...
HARLOWThe PETA is going to come knocking on your door, young lady. You're in really big trouble abusing cats like that. Wow.
NNAMDIWhat is this device called?
DRUINIt -- well, it's FroliCat Dart. OK. That's what it's strangely called. But, anyway, it's -- but we'll put it up on the website. It's...
NNAMDIThe FroliCat Dart, automatic rotating laser pet toy for you and your cat. We're going to take a short break. When we come back, if you have called, stay on the line. If you haven't yet and you'd like to, the number's 800-433-8850. Or you can send email to email@example.com, can send us a tweet @kojoshow. It's the Computer Guys and Gal. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. The Computer Guys and Gal are on hand with tips for your holiday gift giving. Bill Harlow is a hardware and software technician for MACs & PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc. 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.
NNAMDIAnd John Gilroy is director of business development with the Armature Corp. John, yesterday was Cyber Monday, which appears to be headed for the record books in terms of sales numbers, but even more remarkable is how many of those sales were made on mobile devices, cell phones and tablets. How do you explain the growth of mobile shopping?
GILROYHere's the magic numbers. Two billion dollars in one day, and the estimates are around 25 percent. Some were higher. Some were lower. But think about that. One-fourth of the sales from mobile devices. And I'm pretty sure if someone like Bill goes to a store, looks at something, gets out his mobile device, goes, hey, what's the real price for this and does a shopping comparison there, now, I think some stores were intimidated by that years ago.
GILROYBut I think now they're embracing it and going, sure, bring it on, bring it on. I think everyone wins with showrooming, so it's amazing, the 25 percent figure.
NNAMDI800 -- How often do you use your phone or tablet to shop online? And how often do you shop online as opposed to going to the store in person? 800-433-8850. But there's this, even as mobile shopping expands, the big tech companies are still staking out physical space in shopping malls. Google is opening temporary stores in half a dozen cities nationwide. Why do some electronics companies want their own retail outlets as opposed to just letting Target or Best Buy sell their products?
HARLOWWell, I think in many cases, these are pretty high tech, and you want someone who's knowledgeable to really, you know, showcase the product as best you can. In a lot of cases for me as well, if it's a mobile product, I really want to see it. I really want to hold it. Is it heavy? Is it built well? Is it comfortable? And these are things you can't really tell from a product listing on Amazon.
DRUINYeah, it's the physicality of them. I mean, the real important thing is, you know, it's just not about the software, stupid. It's absolutely about the whole product. It's what it looks like. It's how it feels. It's how -- it's what the screen -- what you can see in terms of the screen. And, yes, it is product help. I mean, I sent my dad, years ago, to Apple stores because, for $100, he can go and nudge an Apple, you know, genius once a week if he wants.
HARLOWAnd you get a different experience. I mean, back in the day when you had a lot more general computing stores, I mean, you'd often go in and the guy would be like, yeah, I guess you could buy an Apple, and he wouldn't know anything about it. And he'd point you towards the stack of Compaqs, so...
HARLOWYou want to showcase them the best way you can.
NNAMDIAs John and I can tell you, there are no virtual bartenders, right?
NNAMDIYou have to actually go into the establishment.
GILROYNow we have an application for those remote (unintelligible)...
HARLOWAmazon bartender, there you go.
GILROYYeah, send out for a six-pack.
NNAMDIJoe in Leesburg, Va., you're on the air. Joe, go ahead, please.
JOEHi there. I'd like to make one additional suggestion for those that are interested in learning the programming and the MAKE robot community.
JOEThere are organizations throughout the United States -- actually, throughout the world, they're called Hackerspaces.
DRUINOh, yes, yes, yes. We have one at University of Maryland. You're absolutely right. I forgot to say that. Very good. Thank you.
JOEYeah. I would suggest membership to these. Many times, you can go in and not only learn from, you know, novices but also citizen scientists and even experts on how to do -- create 3-D printing, learn how to program. The one here, the one close to us in Reston has a robotics weekend for girls under 14. Many of these hackerspaces teach many the basic skills on, again, robotics and maker and programming and many other things. So it's, again, a membership is relatively inexpensive, depends on which one, but it's something as a very cool gift for somebody.
DRUINAnd, you know, Joe, have you gone to any of the Maker Faires and such?
JOEYes. New York, a lot of fun.
DRUINYeah. And did you go to the Silver Spring one?
JOEHaven't been to that one. I was busy on another project.
DRUINOh, it was a great experience. And so, yeah, as more of these faires happen, more people will be introduced to Maker and hacker type things. It is so important, especially to try and drag in people that are non-traditionally into tech.
NNAMDIHey, thank you very much for your call.
NNAMDIWe move on to Peter in Alexandria, Va. Peter, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
PETERThank you. My question is, when will -- or is it how can we get the folks who make all these wonderful smartphones to include a radio? I would happily buy the best smartphone out there with Wi-Fi because I do not want a 4G, 3G whatever telephone connection, but I sure would like to have a radio like my old Samsung media player has, which also does everything else a smartphone does, except it isn't a phone. Have the manufacturers completely gone away from radio? And what does that do for folks like you who broadcast on the radio? Do we have to get streaming media in the future to listen to you?
HARLOWWell, it's funny 'cause I've had off and on products that had radio built in, and it's one of those things where I didn't buy them for that. But when it was baked in, I liked it, and I used it. My iPod Nano has one. You plug in the headphones. It works like that. I had an old Sony phone that did that. I got imagine the demand isn't there, and if it adds cost or adds bulk or decreases battery life, they're going to decide to compromise and leave that out to make a product that's better for more people.
HARLOWAnd I think that for a lot of people -- not everywhere, but for a lot of people, wireless data is ubiquitous, and so many radio stations stream their radio via apps or via the Web that they're still options available for most people.
DRUINYeah, and most -- it's interesting. Because most kids, 20-somethings, 30-somethings, they're used to on demand streaming, and so the notion that you can't just repeat what just happened on "The Kojo Show," you know, in a podcast is surprising to a lot of these people. So I think that, unfortunately, that may be something of the past.
GILROYRemember, the woman earlier in the show, she said, I'll just listen on the podcast (unintelligible).
HARLOWBut he can't call in to a prerecorded podcast, so there's that, too.
DRUINThat's a point, yeah.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. We got an email from Kola in Bowie, Md. "What do your panelists think about ASUS T100 and other two-in-one computers?"
HARLOWWell, I think that, out of the ones out there -- what were some of those? Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga, which looks really cool, haven't seen the ones that they mentioned. But for the most part, they kind of make me nervous 'cause they seem kind of like they're not quite the best of both worlds. And you're adding some complexity to the design and possibly a failure point.
GILROYYeah, ASUS is a classic motherboard manufacturer, been around for many years. And I think they're pushing it here. I think it's maybe pushing it, you know, your car at 110 is fine, 150 miles an hour, you start shaking. I think they're pushing it here, and I think that...
HARLOWThe ThinkPad at least look -- bless you. The ThinkPad looks like it's at least, you know, a pretty simplistic design, so it looks like it should be more robust.
DRUINYeah. That's a good point.
NNAMDITweet from Isabelle: "The D.C. Public Library has a 3-D printer that everyone can use."
GILROYWell, that's good enough, yeah, good.
DRUINAll right. That's right.
NNAMDIAnd now we're moving on to our apps of the month. John, your pick for app of the month offers text messaging without a texting plan. How does the popular WhatsApp work? By the way, I got it.
GILROYWell, you know, Kojo, during the show, he's texting all his friends on Facebook, saying he's bored, and he's talking about, you know, the latest concert coming up. But the real popular kids are now using SMS texting and back and forth is WhatsApp. And I think that's the new thing, and some people are saying the big growth in Facebook is with old geezers like me, I mean, people over 50 and over 60. And the youngsters say, (unintelligible) and SMS texting.
GILROYAnd, you know, it's interesting. I got one of my students in class last night is from Kenya. He said 99 percent of the Internet's accessed through mobile devices in Kenya. He said, people, this is the SMS. This is the application. If you can get that down, you've got it. And I -- 99 percent really stunned me. But...
NNAMDII had reason to be down in the Caribbean recently in Guyana, and my nephew made me download the WhatsApp on my phone. And yesterday when we tested it out, he said, you finally got it, uncle.
NNAMDIApparently it's being very widely used in a lot of third world countries 'cause it costs absolutely nothing.
HARLOWIn people in -- yeah.
NNAMDIAllison, you have picked three apps this month that all help with holiday shopping. Why do you like Shopular, Red Laser, and Return Guru?
DRUINBecause I'm a point of purchase ninja shopper. OK. And basically it is essentially taking coupon clipping and putting it online with Shopular so, you know, it gives you today's, you know, picks on coupons. And you can tell it which stores to alert you to coupons -- awesome for Shopular. Red Laser, it's all about showing you where the best prices are.
DRUINAnd so, you know, you take a -- you scan that barcode, and then you comparison shop. And, you know, what could be better? And it's going to show you locally or online. OK. What is he doing?
GILROYThis is a red laser.
NNAMDIThere's no cat in here.
DRUINGo away. And then the Return Guru, so if you screw up with Red Laser and Shopular and you really have to return something back, this keeps tabs on your return policies. And so you take a picture of your receipt, and it reminds you of the different return policies. It's awesome.
HARLOWI am getting that app. That sounds awesome.
DRUINIt's a great app.
GILROYI've got the red laser already.
NNAMDIWell, Bill is going to have that in addition to iFixit, a wide-ranging repair manual that tells people how to repair their Apple and now Android devices.
HARLOWYes. So if you've got a tablet, especially install this app because if you're not intimidated to turn a screwdriver, pop something open, fix it yourself, you can buy parts for all things Apple from iFixit. You can get parts for Samsung phones, game consoles. But the app, they've got repair manuals for almost anything -- GPSes, cameras, Macs, PCs. And they're really easy to follow, illustrated with really clear photographs. It's a free app. I highly recommend it.
NNAMDIOn therefore to Emmanuel in Martinsburg, W.Va. Emmanuel, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
EMMANUELThank you, Kojo, for taking my call. I am trying to -- I'm looking for a tablet, but I'd like one that has a database and web processor applications on it. I've checked, and it looks like only Surface and Galaxy have these features. I don't think they -- are there any other ones that have them? And the second question is, for Galaxy, how does that compare with Microsoft's software?
HARLOWWell, when you're saying Galaxy, I think you're talking about the Galaxy tab, and for the most part, it's a high end Android tablet. So it's going to run the Android devices. The Surface -- and I'm assuming you're talking about the Surface running Windows RT, which, in my opinion, is sort of like fake Windows 8. So really the big selling point for that is that Microsoft made Office for it, which is, you know, of course a very popular, very robust app.
HARLOWIf you're talking about other things, like databases, I know for iOS, they've got FileMaker, for example. So that's a very easy to use, very popular database as well. And while you don't get Office for the iOS, you do get a lot of other word processing apps. And I believe there are a ton out there for Android as well. As far as databases for things like Android or in your case the Galaxy, I'm not sure what's out there really. I'm sure there's something. But whether it's any good, I just don't know.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. And good luck to you. We got an email from Jen who says, "I teach yoga and meditation and would like to upload some MP3s of guided meditations. I'm looking for a USB microphone to plug into my MacBook for recording the tracks. There's a wide range, and I don't want to spend too much money. What would you recommend? And is GarageBand the best app for this kind of project?" Do you know? Do you know?
HARLOWAs far as GarageBand, it could be the best because it's really inexpensive.
DRUINYeah. Yeah, that's true.
HARLOWAs far as mics that are not too expensive and are highly recommended, the one I keep hearing is by a company called Blue. It's called a Yeti. And doing a quick Google here, it's about 190 bucks. And for something that's good, I think that's worth the money.
GILROYGarageBand's used by everybody, oh, everyone...
DRUINYeah. And you probably want to look for something that's wireless so that you can do whatever positioning you want to do.
HARLOWThat might be true, too. This one is wired. It's a wired USB mic.
DRUINYeah, oh, okay.
NNAMDIStan in Ellicott City wants to know, "Can you compare Google Nexus 7 tablet to the Samsung 8" Galaxy tablet 3? Can you?"
DRUINThe -- well, interesting, I would go with the Galaxy Note 8 because if you want a pen-based tablet, that's a really cool tablet. Otherwise, I would stick with the Nexus because the Nexus really is a fast -- it's a fast machine, and it's gives you the most bang for your buck.
NNAMDIAnd I'm afraid, ladies and gentlemen, that's all the time we have. Allison Druin is chief futurist of the University of Maryland Division of Research, 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. I guess you'll all be back here but not until next year, huh?
DRUINSee you next year.
NNAMDISeems like such a long time.
HARLOWHappy New Year.
NNAMDICome on visit in between.
GILROYAn answer to your prayers, at least until next year.
NNAMDIWe'll have security escort you out. Thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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