In both its spoken and written forms, the English language is constantly evolving. Grammar - the system and structure that underpin communications - and linguistics - the science of its study - can help us make sense of these shifts and changes. We talk with experts in each field about the quirks, foibles, understanding and glory of the written and spoken word.
Michael’s craft store and Yahoo join the list of companies whose customer data has been hacked. Apple celebrates 30 years of making computers and more. And your router or “smart” refrigerator could be linked to a malicious botnet sending out spam. The Computer Guys and Gal are here to explore the latest news in technology.
- Allison Druin WAMU Computer Gal; Chief Futurist at the University of Maryland Division of Research; Co-Director of the Future of Information Alliance, University of Maryland
- John Gilroy Director for Business Development for BLT Global Ventures, a cloud-based systems integration company with a focus on Salesforce
- Bill Harlow WAMU Computer Guy; and Hardware & Software Technician for MACs & PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc.
Apps Of The Month
Dark Sky is a weather app that predicts when it will rain or snow —- down to the minute —- at your exact location. It provides visualizations to illustrate evolving weather patterns. Computer Guy Bill Harlow says, “It’s prompted me to grab an umbrella at the last minute, accurately predicting rain around me.”
For local and global travelers, the JiWire Wi-Fi Finder app helps you to quickly and easily find free or paid Wi-Fi.
In time for Valentine’s Day, it’s a zombie e-card maker from AMC’s “The Walking Dead.” Computer Gal Allison Druin notes, “Nothing says romance like the undead apocalypse!”
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. That sound you hear? They're here. The Computer Guys and Gal. 10 years ago today, a Harvard student named Mark Zuckerberg launched what he called the Facebook.com, to help people share information about themselves. Today, his ubiquitous social network has one billion users around the world, and is the gold standard for internet success.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIBut some people say at a mere 10 years old, Facebook is already passed its prime, with young people moving on to other platforms. Do you post regularly on Facebook? Or do you just stalk your friends and family? Do you worry about privacy on Facebook? Give us a call. 800-433-8850. You can send email to email@example.com. Send us a tweet at kojoshow, using the hashtag techtuesday. Because here with us, in studio, is Bill Harlow, Hardware and Software Technician for MACs and PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc. Bill, good to see you.
MR. BILL HARLOWLikewise.
NNAMDIAlso with us is John Gilroy. He is Director for Business Development for BLT Global Ventures. That's a cloud-based systems integration company, and a part of his undying, never ending mission to have a longer title than Allison Druin.
MR. JOHN GILROYYes. The only reason I switched. I want that longer title. I want to be Director of the Future for that company one day.
NNAMDIAllison Druin, she of the long title, 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, and that's the short version. Allison Druin.
MS. ALLISON DRUINThank you.
NNAMDIThank you so much for joining us. You can call with your comments about Facebook, but we just learned this morning that Microsoft has picked the inside candidate to be its new CEO. Satya Nadella has been at Microsoft for 22 years, takes over from departing CEO Steve Ballmer. With the successor now picked, Bill Gates is stepping down as Chairman of the company. His new title? Founder and Technology Advisor. The new CEO said, make no mistake. We are headed for greater places. What are his biggest challenges, starting with you, John Gilroy, as he takes the helm at Microsoft?
GILROYIt's called Amazon Web Services, and IBM. I mean, I see everyone moving towards a cloud. And they looked at their staff, looked at their bench, and they said, who's the cloud guy? And I think this is what they picked. And this has been very -- this is almost as secretive as an Apple move. No one had any hint of this guy. And he was a guy sitting on the bench. He'd had a lot of success on the cloud, it's movement, cause they view their competition now as AWS, Amazon Web Services, and the big boys at IBM.
NNAMDIJohn Gilroy should know. He's now in the cloud himself.
GILROYYes. I'm in the cloud.
NNAMDIOf course, his head was always in the clouds, but that's another story. Allison?
DRUINWell, to me, what was interesting is they didn't pick a consumer guy, OK? This is not a person that is into consumer technologies. And really thinking about how to combat that next Apple product. So, John is absolutely right, scary, scary as it may seem. This guy is an enterprise guy. And this guy is really thinking about cloud computing. And this guy is a guy. Let's just point out, he's not a woman.
NNAMDIThat's important. Bill Harlow?
HARLOWWell, actually, I want to piggyback on what you said about him not being a consumer guy, because I do think that's interesting. And I wonder, going forward, I mean, cloud is not something that you take lightly. It is a big deal. It is where everything seems to be going. But that said, a lot of this stuff is still going to face consumers, I'd imagine, so what does that mean for Microsoft going forward? Are they going to abandon the consumer angle? Or is this just -- we're gonna have this no nonsense guy. He's gonna try to make our cloud services more robust, and that's a foundation for bigger and better things we haven't heard about yet.
GILROYTo quote the famous computer guy, Tom Cruise, show me the money. I mean, they're looking at the money and the enterprise, and that's what they're going after.
NNAMDIOn to Facebook, which has clearly convinced people to share their entire lives online, but is it also partly responsible for the increasing lack of privacy today, Allison?
DRUINAbsolutely. In fact, if you look at the Zuckerberg files, this is a fascinating compilation that a professor at the University of Wisconsin put together. Michael Zimmer. He actually is analyzing all of Zuckerberg's words over the last, like, 10 years or so.
DRUINAnd he said, and he basically showed that Zuckerberg sees privacy as something that must be overcome. It is a hurdle. It is a hurdle to getting information to be shared. And that actually, end quotes, control, is the new privacy. OK? And so basically, every time Zuckerberg is asked about privacy, he talks about new controls that users can have.
HARLOWWell, it's funny. It's a good point, because, yeah, obviously they're in the business of getting our information, but, you know, we all voluntarily went there, so clearly, the privacy issue isn't strictly, you know, Facebook's fault. It's we all went there and shared all our information with the rest of the world. So, I think, yeah, he's right about that. Control is important. And once we're on there, voluntarily, then it's up to us to figure out how we want to restrict what people can see, and also, it's important for Facebook to give us the tools to do that.
NNAMDIGive us a call. Do you post regularly on Facebook? 800-433-8850. Do you worry about privacy on Facebook? You can also send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Now on to the Gilroy files.
GILROYThe Gilroy files. I've seen pictures of this guy. He's the type of kid that was picked on in high school and bullied. And I think, now...
HARLOWNot that you'd know anything about that.
GILROYHe's got some money in his pocket. Now he's becoming a bully. And he's becoming a bully for the little company called Paper out on the west coast. And I just think he's kind of feeling his oats, as they say, and I think he's just trying to push his way into some areas he shouldn't.
NNAMDIPrivacy is an obstacle to be overcome. Sounds like the code of the NSA.
DRUINFeeling your oats, OK, with one billion active users, is a little different than feeling your oats, you know, with thousands. I mean, they get 4.5 billion likes a day. I mean, that is, that's shocking. That's not even a city. That's, you know, 16. Anyway, but I mean, privacy is one of those things that isn't going to go away, in terms of discussions. And the other problem is, too, is that we don't understand what privacy means today. Because 10 years ago...
NNAMDIIf 4.5 billion of us are giving up this information.
HARLOWThis is post privacy world is what you're saying.
DRUINYeah. Exactly. Privacy's the new normal. I mean, non-normal.
NNAMDIAnother tech giant celebrating an anniversary, too. In 1984, two friends in Silicon Valley started a small company called Apple that made a user friendly computer.
NNAMDIThey named them Macintosh. Now, the global powerhouse is celebrating its 30th birthday, having given birth to Bill Harlow and others. Do you have a MAC, an iPhone, an iPad? What's your feeling about Apple's growth over the last 30 years? Give us a call. 800-433-8850. In the run up to Sunday's Super Bowl, there was speculation about whether we'd see another iconic Apple commercial, like the one that launched the brand in 1984. Instead, the company made a 90 second movie filmed entirely on iPhones, edited on MACs, and posted only online.
NNAMDIHow does that reflect the transformation of the company and the industry since Apple's early days, Bill?
HARLOWWell, I do think it's kind of funny that they just sidestepped the Super Bowl completely, which is sort of how Apple does things, right? I mean, they don't wait for CES, or any events, they just, when we have something to say, we'll say it on our terms. So, that seems very much like Apple these days. But, yeah, I think that's really cool that they shot it on iPhones. I mean, let's face it. That's how most of us take pictures and shoot movies these days.
NNAMDIIn case you didn't see it or don't remember it, we do have a link to Apple's 1984 Super Bowl commercial on our website, kojoshow.org. What do you say, Allison?
DRUINWell, you know, actually, what was fascinating to me was looking at the 1984 review, in the New York Times, OK, by somebody that basically, you know, reviewed that machine and it was fascinating. First of all, they were surprised by the nine inch screen, how small it was. So, tablets anyone? And they were, you know, the mouse was, end quotes, revolutionary, which, now, we're all happy with our, you know, touch screens and touch pads and so on. But the graphical user interface, you know, sparked, completely, a change in metaphor, which was amazing.
HARLOWWhat's funny is I remember very vividly what my dad's reaction was to the -- first seeing a MAC at a show in Boston. And it's very different from what this very sensible review was, which is, he came back and told me about it and said, yeah, I don't know why anybody's going to use computers other than this now. This is so obviously better, and he bought a whole bunch for his business, like within the same month.
DRUINWow. And the price point, though? 2500 dollars a pop.
HARLOWYeah. Not cheap.
GILROYAnd those machines lasted for 10, 15 years. I mean, those were all machines. If you look at what was going on in 1984, I mean, Apple was counterintuitive. They were -- spent all kinds of money on this ad on the football game, and no one had thought of doing that before. Now, if you look at the last five years, you see tech companies going into Super Bowl ads, and now we see them doing another counterintuitive. No. We're just online.
NNAMDIAllison, all people of a certain age remember their first Macintosh, while others entered the Apple universe with an iPod or an iPhone. But the Apple world lost its original visionary with the death of Steve Jobs, two years ago. How would you say it's been doing under the new leadership, and will its future be as bright as its past?
DRUINI think it definitely depends on the bench.
HARLOWI mean, you direct the future. You should know.
GILROYYes, you definitely should know.
DRUINNo, I don't direct the future. No, I don't direct the future. I prepare for it. Anyway, but it depends on its bench. In fact, you're seeing a more collaborative community design experience that's going on in Apple. It's not necessarily Steve Jobs centric, as it obviously was. And by doing that, you've got more innovation, but more, in some sense, less of a single vision, which, honestly, was a really great and pointed good vision for the world. But, on the other hand, who knows? Maybe what we'll get is a few more surprises when we haven't seen a few lately.
NNAMDIFrom Apple back to Facebook with Gail, in Arlington, Virginia. Gail, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
GAILI just wanted to respond to your question about how people use Facebook, and if you use it.
GAILSo, I was an early user of Facebook, even though I was, at the time, older than most Facebook users. That was back in the day when they were very young, and I was already in my 50s. I use Facebook both personally, a lot, and I also use it as a business tool. I'm a realtor, and so I have both a business page and a personal page. So, the question comes up a lot in my business about how do you separate the two? And that absolutely is with privacy settings. But I use both my personal page to connect with people I know and friends. And then I use my business page to, you know, connect with new, potential buyers, old buyers and sellers.
NNAMDIAnd you're happy with the privacy settings?
GAILI'm pretty happy with the privacy settings. I think the problem is most people don't know how to use them. I very often find myself, when I go on someone's page to friend them, and I can comment and do things before we're even friends, I'll just send them a little message and say, you might wanna check your privacy settings. I think you just need to keep up with what the privacy settings are. And some people use the tool without understanding how to use those settings.
NNAMDIWhat do you say, Bill Harlow?
HARLOWWell, I think that that's absolutely smart. And that's actually one of the problems with some of these tools, that they're not static applications, these websites. They are fluid, and the settings can change, so you really do have to stay on top and keep an eye on things. Especially with some things like Google's been doing lately, where you have to pay attention, and then, by default, it tends to share more and you have to opt out.
DRUINIt's those defaults that are gonna come get you.
GILROYHere's a tweet from a guy named Tim Berners-Lee, who had something to do with the internet. And what he says is that Facebook's click through policy statement is longer than Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet." So, maybe Gail's got the patience to read through these policies, but most humans don't.
NNAMDI"Romeo and Juliet" is not that long.
HARLOWIt's also more interesting.
DRUINIt's good literature. Come on.
NNAMDIIt took me a few weeks to read through it. Thank you for your call, Gail. Here is Ben in Berryville, Virginia. Ben, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
BENThank you very much for taking my call. Two thoughts. Number one, I just find it ironic we're talking about internet privacy, and Apple's founding was in 1984. That's just a little amusing right there. But, really, I guess my question is if there is no difference in how companies share, you know, respect privacy between, you know, Apple or Android or Verizon or T-Mobile, or AT&T or Sprint, and the customer really has no choice, then what's the consequence to the company for violating privacy issues?
BENI mean, there is nothing legislative that I've ever seen enforced, and there's nowhere else for the customers to go. So really, what's the consequence to the company? I can't see any.
NNAMDIWhat do you say, John Gilroy?
GILROYWell, I've been studying the policies from Google real carefully, in the last couple of weeks. I've been going through their ad words policy, and they recommend that you inform visitors to your page that you're gonna place a cookie on their browser to remarket information to them. And they have very careful ways of phrasing it. I think what's gonna have to happen is people like Kojo Nnamdi is gonna have to broadcast shows talking about privacy and the different ways cookies are placed on machines and how they can track you, in order to make typical listeners, like our gentleman here, find out what's going on.
GILROYBecause think people just don't know, and I think the younger generation just doesn't care. I think old geezers like me, maybe, are more sensitive to it, because we've read 1984 and have some idea of what went on in some civilizations in Europe in the last 100 years.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. We move on to Kez in Silver Spring, Maryland, who talks about the social pressures to use Facebook. Kez, your turn.
KEZThanks for taking my call, Kojo. Yes, people do it. People who seem to (unintelligible) . I think that's a cultural inducement, if not coercion. So go there is the new frontier of sociability. And once you are there, (unintelligible) they shame you if you haven't given up more information your friends have given up. OK. They tell you some other things your friends have said about them, where they live, where they went to school, et cetera. And so it's like, you are...
NNAMDIIt's a kind of online peer pressure.
KEZYes. And so if you are very suggestive, OK, very amenable to that kind of idea, they get duped, if you don't mind using that language.
NNAMDINobody wants to be left out, Allison Druin. So, is there social pressure, peer pressure, friends and relatives, to do it?
DRUINWell, you know, I was, the other day, I was on Facebook, and there was this story that someone had posted, but you couldn't get to end of it until you hit like. And that was so maddening.
DRUINIt was terrible. And then a bunch of us started commenting, back and forth, about how terrible it was. But, of course, we'd all been duped. So, and we are in the computer business, so, really, you're right. There is this social pressure, and we all are curious. So, yes.
HARLOWThere's a factor of defaults, too, which is that even if people aren't saying, hey, you have to get on Facebook, maybe there's an invite that went out, and if you weren't on Facebook, oh, you didn't know? I put it on the Facebook calendar. You didn't see it? So, there's like an underlying current of we just assumed everybody's on there, and if you're not, you're left out.
NNAMDITakes the place of a bar in John Gilroy's life.
GILROYNothing takes the place of a bar.
NNAMDIWe'll take a short break. When we come back, we'll continue our conversation with the Computer Guys and Gal. Talking about refrigerators being discovered by, well, hackers. If you know anything about that, give us a call. 800-433-8850 or send email to email@example.com. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIComputer Guys and Gal are with us. Allison Druin is Chief Futurist at the University of Maryland, Division of Research, and Co-Director of the Future of Information Alliance at the University of Maryland. Bill Harlow is Hardware and Software Technician for MACs and PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc. And the brand new John Gilroy is Director for Business Development for BLT Global Ventures. That's a cloud-based systems integration company. Give us a call. 800-433-8850.
NNAMDIJust when you thought it was safe to open your refrigerator, we discovered that hackers are starting to use smart appliances connected to the internet, including refrigerators, routers and burglar alarms, to spam us with fishing emails. Has your refrigerator or router been hanging out with hackers? How many devices in your home are connected to the internet? Give us a call. 800-433-8850 or send us a tweet at kojoshow using the hashtag techtuesday. John, are our appliances being recruited as soldiers in the cyber war against us?
GILROYFor the last 20 years, you'd go to a system administrator, and they'd say, maintaining a router's like maintaining a refrigerator. It just sits there. It's an appliance. You don't have to worry about anything. What's happened is they're becoming software based. And we combine that with IP addressable appliances, you get a situation where they can be compromised, and the last thing you worry about is security on a router that's in your house.
GILROYOr an internet...
HARLOWWell, especially a fridge or a burglar alarm, or a smart thermostat, where it's running an embedded system. It might be Java, it might be Android. It might be something proprietary. And maybe after a year or two, it's like, well, this is last year's model. I'm not gonna support it anymore. So, all this maintenance they should be doing to keep it secure is gone. But guess what? It's in your home and on the internet, so if someone wanted to badly enough, and it was a popular enough product, there might be an incentive to hack it and take control of it.
DRUINWell, I mean, the more distributed your access control is to those appliances, actually, the less secure it is, or the more places for penetration, so you have to remember, isn't it great that you can set your thermostat from your smart phone? Well, just remember. That's a place that somebody could...
GILROYSomeone else can too.
DRUINYeah, exactly. Not that they're gonna try and sweat you out of your house or something, but, you know, you gotta think about it.
NNAMDIAre you wearing new glasses?
NNAMDIAre those Google glasses? Are you spying on us?
GILROYYes it is. Yes it is.
DRUINOh no. No. No.
HARLOWThere goes the privacy.
NNAMDIIs there anything we can do to keep hackers out of home appliances if they're linked to the internet?
HARLOWWell, I guess the short answer would be, you know, have a good router/firewall on your network, and make sure that you've the security settings enabled. Nothing's fool proof, of course, but at least then, you're kind of stopping it at the choke point, so to speak.
NNAMDIHackers who are after credit card information and customers' passwords appear to have struck again. This time at Yahoo and the craft store Michael's. They join Target and Neiman Marcus, also recent hacking victims. Will these heists move the US any closer to the credit card technology that's common around the world? Encodes data in a smart chip rather than a magnetic strip.
HARLOWWe shall see. I mean, I don't know if one more card's the answer. I guess if it requires additional authentication and simply having the thing present, swiping it and putting in a number, then I suppose that's a good thing. But I don't know what the answer...
GILROYYou know what my wife said? She said, if these bozos can't figure it out, I'm just gonna write in checks. That will be the -- that's really gonna drive them crazy.
HARLOWI'm digging the gold out of the back yard.
DRUINBut you know, the real thing is, take a look at when each company tells you when they might have been hacked. OK? When they might have been penetrated. So, Michael's actually even told us that they're investigating, that they're not sure how much, you know, security penetration they had. But look, it took Target how long, potentially, since December this has been a problem.
HARLOWThat's right. It's on the news, but Target doesn't contact you directly for months.
DRUINThat's right. That's right. So, I mean, so, it's really critical that, in fact, actually, our companies also think about transparency. I mean, obviously, look, December. What was going on in December that Target didn't want you knowing that they might have been penetrated? Well, OK, then they would have had John Gilroy's wife writing checks to them and then going crazy with everything during the Christmas holidays. So, you know, even Yahoo Mail users have been hacked, but from a third party that may have sold database information.
DRUINSo, you know, you've gotta decide, OK, the more you give out, the more they're gonna come back, that, potentially, they can collect information on you. And it may not be the company's fault entirely. It's just, there are bad people out there.
NNAMDIAny advice for shoppers, protecting themselves and their credit card information, apart from writing checks? John?
GILROYWell, you know, there's organizations that...
GILROYNo, they can...
DRUINThere it is.
GILROYYou can monitor your -- you know, there's organizations out there that are dedicated to helping consumers monitor. I think you have just to monitor your account much more closer than before. You almost have to have, you know, back in the day, you'd get a monthly checking account, and that's laughable, I know. You had a monthly checking account statement, and you'd balance it. I think, today, you almost have, every three or four days, check to see what's going on in your accounts. Because if you don't act quickly, you're gonna get duped.
NNAMDIHere is Mike in Herndon, Virginia. Back to the issue of privacy, Mike. You're on the air. Go ahead, please.
MIKEThanks for taking my call. I have a quick question and a comment. I'd like to have your guests (unintelligible). Honest question about privacy, maybe a little background of where it came from and why it's so important because other than my identity being stolen and my bank account being raided, I don't mind sharing info. So, perhaps, the answer to it is if we can find a way to eliminate identity theft, then privacy may not be a big issue. I'd like to hear comments.
GILROYI think that if -- I've been talking to people, doctors, lately, about privacy and security of medical information. You may have a medical condition. Let's say Bill here has a medical condition of -- he's a diabetic, I don't know. And he applies for a job as a Washington Redskin, and he doesn't want them to know that. And he may have his chance of being employed compromised by private medical information. I think this is a big concern that many, many people have, and it could be -- remember that Vice Presidential candidate who had the depression incident or something?
GILROYHe was bounced out of there because some silly little thing like that, and so people are -- this is a dollar and cents thing where you might get a job making a reasonable amount of money, but they find, oh, he had a depression incident 20 years ago, or something, when something happened...
HARLOWOr think about the protest in Ukraine, when people in the proximity of where things are going on were getting messages on their phone saying they're essentially now being watched. I mean, stuff, you know, location data, I think, is pretty interesting, too. There's a lot you can find out about someone, whether it's something's nefarious or just coincidental, that maybe you don't want out there.
NNAMDIMike, have you given any thought to that kind of stuff?
MIKEWell, I find it interesting, because in the context of social media, nobody's gonna say, I have diabetes or what have you. It's, you know, sharing pictures about yourself, events like weddings and whatever and getting together. And that's what I...
NNAMDIOh no. I've seen on social media, people talking about illnesses that they have, that they're sharing with their friends, and asking for information.
HARLOWAnd even if they weren't sharing it, maybe they're on Web MD looking it up, and next thing you know, that cookie gets, you know, gets saved on your computer. Other sites can read it, and stuff's getting targeted, and who knows what people have about you now.
DRUINWell, it's how much information is too much information. It's how much is too little. And, obviously, we don't want to limit, you know, our personal brand, as to who we are and what we can be out in the world, because connections are important, but the question is, how much does it impact our, not necessarily our privacy, but the world in which we live that we feel secure?
NNAMDIExactly that. Thank you so much for your call, Mike. Two years ago, Google bought Motorola Mobility for 12 billion dollars. Now Google selling off the hand set business for 3 billion dollars. You do the math. But that's not to say mobile phones are not selling well. New research shows that for the first time, a majority of Americans owns a smart phone, and the number of ordinary cell phones is dropping fast. What role do you think Google should play in the smart phone business? Do you still use a cell phone only to make calls and send texts?
NNAMDIWhat's keeping you from a smart phone that puts the internet in your pocket? 800-433-8850 or send us email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Bill Harlow, after only two years, Google is selling off the Motorola hand set business. It's been a money loser. Google said at the outset it was mostly interested in Motorola's patents, but those have not been very helpful either. What does this all mean for Google?
HARLOWWell, I guess they're getting out of this device business, and they're keeping the patents, is my understanding. But yeah, those patents have not very been useful in court so far. So, Lenovo's gonna take over Motorola, and we'll see what they do with that, cause they've apparently had good success in mainland China selling phones. Selling Android phones. So, now having a premium brand to make these could be interesting. But what I also find interesting is that Google sold these guys and they bought Nest. So, I'm guessing that maybe, to them, the home somehow is where they wanna focus.
GILROYThe internet of things instead of the internet of phones.
NNAMDISo this means Lenovo will become a bigger player in the smart phone business, and if so, what would that mean for the industry?
HARLOWVery well could be. They want to be a big number three is what they said, right?
HARLOWAlthough I'm sure they wanna be a big number one, but they wanna start with being a big number three first.
NNAMDIJohn, research shows that the number of Americans who have a basic cell phone, but not a smart phone, is declining, while overall smart phone ownership is rising. Talk about those things.
GILROYThis is from a caller from last month.
GILROYIf your listeners remember, he called in and said, well, I don't need no stinking smart phone. That's what he said.
NNAMDIHe came to our community event this past Saturday.
GILROYDid he really?
HARLOWHe was looking for you, John. He was looking for you.
NNAMDIAnd he was talking about that.
GILROYAnd I think this is the question that people have, and I just think it's gonna be at the point where you can't buy feature phone anymore.
GILROYIn spite of the fact that, as my student from Kenya said, everyone in Kenya's got a feature phone, and that's how they communicate back and forth. It's simple. It's -- I think it's gonna be almost a standard piece of equipment that people are gonna be expected to have. My concern is what age in school -- are fifth graders gonna be expected to have a smart phone? Are kindergartners? I mean, at what point in time -- it's a matter of age now, the ubiquity of the smart phone.
HARLOWWhat's your policy on that, Allison?
GILROYOh yeah, you got kids. Never thought of that.
DRUINWell, it's interesting. My kid just switched schools, OK? And she went from a school that, literally, you deposited your cell phone at the door. OK? And every kid in middle school has got a cell phone of some sort so that they can call their parents and say, you forgot me at the bus stop. All right. That's fine. But, so she's now in a new school, and they're walking around with their cell phones all day, and I'm getting texts from my kid, going, hey look Mommy, look what I just made in art.
DRUINAnd I'm like, oh my God, I'm there. This is crazy. So, it's a very different feeling of how insular their learning is, and they're using those cell phones every day, you know, for taking pictures and bringing, you know, and collecting data, and using them as calculators and so on. So, I don't know. I go back and forth as to how distracting and how wonderful it is.
NNAMDISpeaking of the use of smart phones, here is Josh in Washington, D.C. Josh, your turn. Hi, Josh. Are you there?
JOSHYeah. Hi, I'm here. I'm actually one of the few people I know, in my age group, who doesn't use a smart phone. I'm still using a flip phone.
JOSHMy reasoning for that is, one, just cost. The extra cost of a data plan.
HARLOWYep. That's a big one.
JOSHAnd just all the time wasted. You know, it's something that when people get, they don't go back from. They're glued to it. They're always looking down, you know, when I'm on the Metro. You know, in line for a sandwich, or whatever, there's always people just glued right to it, and, you know, I can understand why. I see the appeal on the usefulness, but I'm not quite ready to get there myself, yet.
NNAMDISo, you figure that once you buy a smart phone, you won't go back.
HARLOWSo, you're just buying time. It's inevitable. You're just buying time, borrowing time here.
JOSHI mean, pretty much. It's the convenience factor, I guess, you don't wanna get rid of it. As a matter of fact, when I got this phone, they pretty much had to go to the back of the Verizon store and blow the dust off it. Not many left.
NNAMDIIt's funny. We've been talking about addiction, following the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, as a result of heroin. One is beginning to wonder, Josh, do you think smart phones are addictive?
JOSHI think the technology and the convenience is addictive. I think once people get any kind of convenience in their life, they're not gonna let it go.
NNAMDIOK. Thank you very much for your call. We got an email from Peter in Silver Spring, who has a very simple question, Bill Harlow. How the heck do I get off Facebook?
HARLOWWell, I can't give you a short answer, but I'm sure if you go into your account settings, there's a pretty easy way to do it. The only thing I'm not 100 percent sure on is where your data goes. I think they hold onto it. But I'm not 100 percent sure on that.
DRUINYeah, that's the problem is that once you're there, they -- the backups.
HARLOWYeah. You can quit, but they'll remind you, hey, you know, we still have your data. Come back anytime. We miss you.
GILROYYeah. On page 47 of the EULA, paragraph six, sentence 18, Zuckerberg owns everything.
NNAMDIWhen it comes to international calling, John Gilroy, the big winner seems now to be Skype. Why is the internet based app that lets you talk and video chat growing faster than ordinary telecom for international calls?
GILROYWell, cause my predictions are kind of weak, when I saw that Microsoft took over Skype years ago, I thought people would say, Skype, oh, poo poo. It's not cool. It's not Apple.
HARLOWIt works, though. It works.
GILROYBut, it's practical. It works. And it's taking business away from traditional...
HARLOWI bought a new plasma TV. It came with Skype built in and a little camera.
DRUINYeah. There you go.
GILROYIt's been an untold story that I don't think people are talking about, how it's just kind of taken over so many aspects of technology. But it's an unlikely winner, cause no one would have bet on Skype. When it first came out, I thought it was kind of interesting, and then when Microsoft -- I just thought that was the death nail for Skype. But no, it's come back from nowhere, and now it's dominating. It's the Super Bowl champion of the wireless world.
NNAMDIReuben in Greenville, Maryland wants to take us somewhere else. Reuben, go ahead, please.
REUBENYeah, good morning, Kojo. First time caller, long time listener.
REUBENYeah, I wanted to ask about the Google TV and internet service. They're saying that if you -- eventually the service is a thousand megabytes per second download and upload, for 70 dollars a month. In three US cities, currently. My main question is why aren't companies like Verizon or Comcast providing that type of speed, and why their service is a little bit too expensive, I guess is what I want to know. You guys can talk about that, if you know anything.
NNAMDIDo you know anything, Bill Harlow?
HARLOWPeople ask me that all the time, and I say no. But, the answer is, that they don't have to. That's why they don't. I mean, I have Verizon fios in my neighborhood, and I like it. It's very fast, but it is very expensive. It is not even close to what Google's offering in these select cities. That said, you know, running that sort of fiber is really expensive. I mean, it's not trivial, and I think that's part of the reason why Verizon has halted any expansion. They probably went to the areas where it made the most sense to invest the money, cause they see that revenue come back to them.
HARLOWAnd my take on it is they probably decided that until they find more areas where people are clamoring for this, they got guaranteed sales and guaranteed revenue, they're not gonna bother.
NNAMDIWe're hooked, okay? Google is reportedly negotiating with Samsung to be sure that new android phones use Google apps and services to stem the rise of android smart phones that don't come loaded with the Google Play Store and other Google products. What's going on there, Bill?
HARLOWI like how you use the word negotiating. That was great. What I'm hearing is that Google is pressuring Samsung to say, "Look, stop customizing android and making it look and feel so different."
GILROYIt sounds like the Godfather. They're going to wind up with a horse's head in someone's bed, if they don't change. That's what it sounds like to me.
HARLOWThey made them an offer they couldn't refuse. They basically said, "Hey, look. All these bespoke apps that people associate with android, like YouTube and Maps, what if we just don't provide them to you anymore on your customized android phones. What do you think about that, Samsung?"
GILROYUnd, you vill like it. Yeah. It sounds like, you know, all these bullies. Zuckerberg's one of these guys, too.
NNAMDIWell, what does this mean both for app developers and for the people who use android phones?
DRUINWell, you know, they gave them a great line that, you know: It's open, you can customize it, you can do what you will.
GILROYExcept when you can't.
DRUINExcept when you can't. And so everyone thought, This is wonderful. We'll combat Apple's, you know, monolithic, you know, "You will do this." And now we have Google saying, "You will do this," but to a lot more people. So, I mean, I think that's a little scary.
GILROYI think it's good for the end users generally, though. But I'm pretty sure that's not why Google did this.
DRUINNo, I'm pretty sure not.
NNAMDIGot to take a short break. If you have calls, stay on the line. We will take your calls. The number is 800-433-8850. You can send email to Kojo@WAMU.org. Google is branching out into health care, developing contact lenses with tiny glucose sensors for diabetics. Amazon is hoping to read your mind and deliver things you want before you've even ordered them. And Hershey is getting into 3D printing. What tech innovation are you watching most closely? 800-433-8850. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. The computer guys and gal are in studio. Bill Harlow is hardware and software technician for MACs and PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Incorporated. John Gilroy is director for business development for BLT Global ventures, which is a cloud-based systems integration company. And Allison Druin is chief futurist at the University of Maryland Division of Research and co-director of the Future of Information Alliance at the University of Maryland. John, what would smart contact lenses mean for people who now measure glucose levels by pricking a finger?
NNAMDIAnd what would the development mean for Google?
GILROYYou know what's interesting is, if you read this story, it's kind of an interesting story in and of itself, but what kind of a company has the amount of money to put into developing something like this, where they had to be very creative and original and come up with new technology. Academic institutions might be interested in that, but they don't have the money that Google has to throw into something like this. And what they're trying to do is manage disease better than we're managing it now.
GILROYAnd the debate here is not about diabetes and type-2 diabetes and what's happening, but the technology involved in healthcare IT. It's immense. In fact, the O&T's got a big conference going on tomorrow downtown, talking about innovation and healthcare IT. And this is just another aspect of, some of these big companies are looking at healthcare IT and trying to come up with ways to leverage their skillset. And Google's one of the companies that's got that big checkbook. They really can do something like this.
NNAMDIAmazon -- oh, you wanted to say, Allison?
DRUINOh, I was just going to say, what's wonderful is that there's just new ways to measure things, okay? And so it's, you know, ideally, we'll stop having to prick and poke ourselves and, you know, and things just from the touch, we'll be able to collect data. So, yes, you can have big data on your eyeballs, but it will actually help you on your glucose levels. And that's important to know, that it's just not about typing on a keyboard anymore.
NNAMDIHere's Nate in Norton, Virginia. Nate, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
NATEHi. I've got a comment about billing with cellular phones. You know, whether it's voice, texting or Internet usage, it's all data. And so I'm wondering if your panel has any prospects on the future of billing, like cell phones might bill like utilities, where you pay for the actual number of bits or bytes that you use rather than overpaying or underpaying for a pre-packaged amount of data.
HARLOWWell, my take on that would be that there probably will be a change. I think that you're right, it is going to be more towards data. The thing that I would love to see -- it's not going to happen -- is that it'll be simpler and then maybe more affordable. I somehow will imagine that for a lot of people it'll work out to the point where they paying as much or more, maybe some people who use very little data are paying less, and the carriers are probably making more money in the long run.
GILROYWell, I know one thing, big insurance companies hire these people called actuaries who rejuggle numbers and they try to get down to the penny exactly how much money. GEICO, a couple miles from here, I'm sure they have tons of actuaries there. I'm sure people like Verizon, they're hiding the best mathematicians in town...
GILROY...and they're trying to find that exact price point to the penny.
HARLOWIt's just a game.
GILROYYeah, it's just a game. They're trying to figure out what to maximize revenue and maximize profit.
DRUINBut think about when did the price points go down on computer technology? It's when one or two innovators pushed it. And everyone went, "Well, how come they can make it, if you can't?" And now look at the cost of our technologies. I think the same thing's going to happen in...
HARLOWSome unknown player will swoop in?
DRUINSome unknown player that's got deep pockets will come up with a new business model and push the rest of the people -- the rest of the companies to do that. But it's going to take at least one or two really adventurous people to do it.
HARLOWOkay, every time I look at phone bill I'll think about that and I'll cross my fingers.
DRUINThere you go.
NNAMDIAll of that, Nate, is what I meant by, yes. John Gilroy, Amazon has taken out a patent that will allow it to ship an item to you before you order it. What's the appeal of so-called anticipatory shopping?
HARLOWWell, we talk about big data and actuaries and big numbers and people juggling things. And if you want to impress people at lunch tomorrow, you can talk about predictive analytics, where they look at numbers and trends and, when you go to order a book on Amazon, they'd say, "Well other people have ordered books about tap-dancing under water, similar to this one," or something. And so what Amazon is trying to do here is try to predict from your previous purchases what you might want to purchase in the future.
HARLOWIf you -- every summer, you buy a new pair of tennis shoes, I guess, they're trying to predict that and ship it ahead of time. I just -- it's a matter of collecting enough data, which would suck. But we're just trying to find out exact and find trends and predict what's going to happen. I'm creeped out by it, to use a young-person term. But I...
GILROYWell, it depends. If they start simple with something obvious like consumables. Like, Hey, you know, every few months, I need to buy a bunch of motor oil for my car or buy new Chemex coffee filters or whatever.
HARLOWOr ink for your HP printer in the basement. Oh, by the way...
HARLOW...every three months, you order. It's about time.
NNAMDII could see George Pelecanos right now, sitting down to write his next novel knowing, Oh, Kojo will buy this even before I'm finished writing.
NNAMDISo they'll know in advance how many copies of the book they'll be selling, because it'll be just there waiting for you. Terry in Takoma Park, Maryland, you're on the air. Terry, go ahead, please.
TERRYHi. I had a comment based on what Allison was just talking about with her daughter and the picture in the art class was full.
TERRYAs very sweet and loving as it would be to have my child want to text me something during the day, that kind of interaction and use of technology during the school day would worry me, developmentally speaking, for the child. Thinking about, you know, how about being patient and not having the instant gratification of contacting your parents and telling your parents at the end of the day about this great project I'm going to bring home for you in a few days.
TERRYOr, I also, the whole -- I think that when my kids are at school, I want them to be differentiated from me, you know, and not use technology to touch base with me, because they should be thinking about how to be independent and how to make the right decisions on their own and all of those things. So it made me think about that kind of technology in schools and the slippery slope.
DRUINHow old are your kids?
NNAMDIOh, wait a minute. I've got to get back to...
DRUINOh, I'm sorry.
NNAMDI...Terry in Takoma Park. Terry, how old are your kids?
TERRYMy kids are almost 9 and almost 11. So my older one's going to middle school next year. And she doesn't have a phone yet. She sure wants one, but she doesn't have one yet. So I'm not -- haven't dealt with having kids with a phone yet.
DRUINOkay. The reason I ask is that my kid is -- my kid will be 15 next week, okay? And somewhere around 12 to 13, boy did she separate, you know? Okay? So she became a teen. And, honestly, any communication that's voluntary from her to me, I'm thrilled at, because generally it's, she comes home and I say, So how was school? Good. Bye. And, okay?
GILROYIt's just funny you went there. I was thinking the same thing, just from when I was that age. Like, yeah, you'll be lucky if you hear from me at that age.
DRUINSo that's why, to be honest with you, the fact that she even sent me something was awesome. But, no, I agree with you in terms of separating between your kids and yourself. But, in the younger ages, it's very, very important to have that happen. In the older ages, it's really great to have that connection.
TERRY(unintelligible) with that.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. We got an email from someone who said, "I just figured out where Amazon is going with this," what we just described, being able to have products before you order them. "We will just subscribe and they will just send us stuff that they think we'll like and bill us for it."
HARLOWHey, so Amazon's going to be Columbia House. That's what's going to happen. It's coming full circle.
GILROYI like your shirt, Kojo. Yeah, Amazon sent it to me. I'm supposed to like this color. They know better than I do. I just trust their taste.
DRUINOh, it's so true.
NNAMDIFacebook seems to be poaching the name of a popular app called Paper and releasing its own version on its social media site. What's at stake here? Is this a David and Goliath story?
HARLOWThat's what it sounds like. I mean, Paper is by a company called 53. And it was -- it made a splash when it came out. I believe it was by developers who worked on the Microsoft Courier concept a few years ago. And it's just a really, really nice sketching app, note taking app for the iPad. And it's gotten a lot of very happy users. And so along comes Facebook with another app that's also called just Paper. 53 contacted Facebook letting them know they don't think it's cool. And Facebook kind of said, "Yeah, tough."
DRUINIt's really surprising, to be honest with you. But especially because Paper won so many awards. And Paper is, you know, has been in the news and so on...
GILROYWas it app of the year from Apple or something?
HARLOWYeah, they're known. They're well known.
DRUINNo, they're well known. So normally this kind of thing can happen with a large company and a little company that -- but certainly, you know, let's face it, they have more lawyers than god over there. And they could have figured that this -- there was another...
NNAMDIGod has lawyers?
DRUINWell, you know. But this shouldn't have happened. It is surprising. I think it's quite, I don't know, naïve to think that this little company is going to sit by and let it go.
GILROYWell, here's what I have to say about Facebook is that they are in the business of having people share info. So you would think that they could look at this as an opportunity to say, "Hey, you know, it's not too hard to pick another name and look like the good guys here." Instead, they're going to get vilified. That's my guess.
HARLOWYou can't fight...
NNAMDII know a guy nicknamed Paper. He's suing.
HARLOWYou can't fight City Hall. And you can't fight someone with deep pockets. And even if they're right, can they afford the legal team that's going to be even able to approach Facebook and defend themselves? Now, I hope they do, because this is America and this is the traditional, you know, little guy going up to the big guy. And let's hope they can win.
NNAMDIOn to Brianna in Washington D.C. who wants to know what Amazon has up its sleeve. Brianna, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
BRIANNAHi, Kojo. I've listened forever, calling for the first time.
BRIANNAI was curious about how Amazon intends to charge for its preemptive shipping. If they're shipping something they think you might want, but you haven't necessarily ordered it, does that get charged to your account? Or how are they going to work around that?
NNAMDIMy personal line to Jeff Bezos isn't working right now. But, here's John Gilroy.
GILROYYeah, I think they're just rumors and intimations right now. And I think Jeff Bezos thinks that his competition is the local storefront. And so, should Kojo stop on the way home and buy a shirt? Or should he just order from Amazon? And they view themselves as competing with storefronts. And they're trying to figure out, well how can we get a step up on that...
HARLOWPreempt brick-and-mortar, that's clever.
GILROY...yeah, on Bill's Shirt Store down the street. And this is how they're trying to do it. And maybe they'll win. I don't know. I mean, this is very hectic. I mean, how much time does Kojo have to buy this shirt for the event he's got to go to next week. And maybe it's going to be easier just for him to show up at home and it arrives.
HARLOWI'm sure, I mean, Amazon's a smart company and further look at it along the lines of "Hey, if you don't want it, you're not charged until you -- you keep it after a set amount of time or something." Send it back on their dime. I'm sure that they'll do that just so they can insinuate themselves into your lives a bit further.
NNAMDIBrianna, what do you think about this whole idea of anticipatory shipping?
BRIANNAOh, goodness. I don't know. It's something that I hadn't really considered before. I don't know...
NNAMDIWell, you'd better.
BRIANNA...I'd have to think about that. It sounds tempting. But there's so many parts of it that just sound kind of terrifying.
NNAMDIThings happen so quickly. Maybe it's time to start considering, Brianna. Thank you very much for your call.
BRIANNARight. Thank you.
NNAMDIJohn, the huge popularity of tablets is driving down sales of personal computers. Has the PC market bottomed out? Are we going to have to change our name to the tablet guys and gal?
HARLOWIt sure looks like it, you know?
GILROYTablets are still computers. The name works. Right. Pew Research says that only 3 percent of Americans owned a tablet less than four years ago. Today it's 42 percent. Look at that number. I mean some people couldn't have predicted that. Some people did.
DRUINSome people could.
GILROYYou know, because I deal with software developers all the time and I can't see them walking away from a keyboard and a big screen and a mouse. And so my world's with software developers arguing for hours over minute details.
DRUINThere's a lot more money in what you do anyway, John.
GILROYAnd so I can't see it. However, for convenience, for purposes, for battery life, for, you know, the screen itself is wonderful. So I think me and my software developers are always going to be in the game.
NNAMDIOn to your app of the month. We'll start with you, Bill. What is your app of the month?
HARLOWKind of topical with the way the weather's been. It's called Dark Sky. And it's just a really simple app that it's really good at predicting when it's about to precipitate. So have been times...
HARLOWExactly. Right, like, focused on me. So, as I'm walking out the door, Dark Sky says I should probably grab an umbrella. Well I guess I better grab one. And there it comes.
GILROYAmazon will sell you one ahead of time.
HARLOWExactly. I'll walk out the door. It's about to rain. And there's my Amazon umbrella waiting for me. Perfect.
GILROYAnd the helicopter -- octocopter coming to you.
HARLOWThis is your future, guys. Be ready.
NNAMDIWell, today being one of those kinds of days where all the people on the weather on television are saying we don't know exactly what's going to happen when.
NNAMDIFollowing your lead, I downloaded the app Dark Sky today and it's immediately telling me what's happening outside right now, what's likely to be happening in the next few minutes...
NNAMDI...to an hour. What's likely to be happening later. All very helpful. John, you like an app that helps you find free Wi-Fi.
GILROYWell, I think there's some people in this room who've done some traveling lately, if I'm not mistaken.
GILROYAnd a lot of people travel in the summer. And it would be nice to have a little Wi-Fi finder. I mean, I think it'd be a nice little app to have. And I think it's a great little tool to have. And I think it's from Apple or I don't know where it's at, but I think it would be fun. I don't do much traveling myself, but I think a lot of our listeners do. And I have friends that travel a lot. And so there's something to be said for finding a nice cheap way to get some telephone service, hum?
NNAMDIAllison, your app of the month is tied to Valentine's Day with a zombie twist.
DRUINYes. It's the Walking Dead Valentine eCard maker. Of course we all have to have that romance and zombie stuff at the same time.
HARLOWSo, Be My Valentine, I love your brains, huh?
DRUINYeah, take me -- let me take you out for a bite. You know, that kind of stuff. I mean, it's great. Anyway, it's a great promo for the Walking Dead TV show, which is premiering next week.
HARLOWI'm infected with love for you.
DRUINOh, my goodness. You could be writing all of their eCards. Romance with eCards and zombies. It's so cool. The undead apocalypse.
NNAMDIAnd finally there's this fond farewell from Facebook from Erin who said, "I've been off Facebook for three weeks now. And it took them no longer than three days to try and lure me back with emails.
HARLOWYep. Yep. That sounds right.
NNAMDIYou don't get away for long. Bill Harlow is a hardware and software technician for MACs and PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Incorporated. Bill, thank you so much.
HARLOWAnd thank you.
NNAMDIAllison Druin is chief futurist at the University of Maryland Division of Research, co-director of the Future of Information Alliance at the University of Maryland. Allison, always a pleasure.
DRUINAlways a pleasure, Kojo.
NNAMDIJohn Gilroy is director for business development for BLT Global Ventures, a cloud-based systems integration company. It's his new job. Good luck.
GILROYI'll see you in the Cloud.
NNAMDIThank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
Most Recent Shows
Journalist and author Sarah Wildman searches archives, history books and European capitals for her grandfather's "true love" -- a young doctor he left behind when he fled Nazi-occupied Vienna in 1938.
As the price of generic drugs has spiked, legislators and others are questioning the role of this multi-billion dollar industry in our health care system.
We chat with D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier about the city's strategy to combat the spike in violent crime taking place in the nation's capital.