Kojo talks with author Colson Whitehead about his new novel "The Underground Railroad" and its resonance at this particular moment in history.
In the spirit of greater cooperation among its devices, Apple last week unveiled new operating systems for its computers, tablets and smart phones that will let users share calendars, documents, photos and even apps among their own devices and those of their family members. California set rules for testing driverless cars on public roads, beginning in September. And the new Surface Pro 3 further blurs the line between laptop and tablet. The Computer Guys and Gal are here with the latest tech news.
- Allison Druin WAMU Computer Gal; Chief Futurist at the University of Maryland Division of Research; Co-Director of the Future of Information Alliance, University of Maryland
- John Gilroy WAMU Computer Guy; Director for Business Development for BLT Global Ventures
- Bill Harlow WAMU Computer Guy; and Hardware & Software Technician for MACs & PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc.
Apps Of The Month
Travel recommendations are here. NARA is an app with smarts to help you find restaurants and hotels around the world. The platform uses computational neuroscience to analyze the structure of the web and personalize information based on preferences for each traveler.
PlayBounden is “one of the most inventive iPhone games I’ve ever seen,” Bill Harlow says. Two players hold one iPhone, so they’re linked at the center. The game then instructs you to perform a variety of “dance moves” in time with the music and display. Bounden uses the iPhone’s gyroscope, positioning sensors and compass to track your position while you play.
iPhone stolen? No problem: helps you find it.
Graduation and Father’s Day Gift Suggestions
Kwikset Kevo, powered by UniKey.: the first Bluetooth smart keyless entry system that can be integrated into just about any lock. With the Kevo smartlock, your smartphone becomes your convenient, universal electronic key (eKey). No more fumbling around for a keyring. Simply walk up to Kevo lock and without even having to remove your phone from your pocket or purse, you can touch to open access. It’s pricey, at $219, but is available at Best Buy, Amazon, Home Depot and Lowe’s, among others.
Giant robot slippers!: These look and sound like a robot. These boots are a hoot! Price: About $30
Build your own brick cup
Totally cool. Use legos to reconfigure your cup of java each morning. Price: About $20
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. The Computer Guys and Gal are here. It's "Tech Tuesday." They join us in studio 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. Hi, Allison.
MS. ALLISON DRUINHi there, Kojo.
NNAMDIAlso with us is Bill Harlow. He's a Hardware and Software Technician for MACs and PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting Inc. Hi, Bill. How's it going?
MR. BILL HARLOWIt's going well. Good to see you.
NNAMDIAnd here, too, is John Gilroy, Director of Business Development For BLT Global Ventures, and apparently you swam from the US to Cuba over the weekend?
MR. JOHN GILROYI was one of the 700 fools who jumped into the Chesapeake Bay on Sunday and somehow made it to the other side. I think a boat had to pull me the last hundred yards, but I made it somehow.
NNAMDIWell, you look like you've been swimming for a few hundred hours.
GILROYYeah. Yeah. It took three, but it wasn't a real good time. It wasn't a bad time. It was okay.
NNAMDIHad you done it before?
GILROYNo. First time. First time in a wet suit, first time just -- kinda, just did it.
NNAMDIHow'd it feel in the wetsuit?
NNAMDICould you have done it without the wetsuit?
GILROYYeah. A lot of people there without the wetsuit. It felt restrictive to me. I'm not used to breathing like that. It seemed like it was restrictive and limited my leg motion, but I'm alive. So, hey, no complaints.
NNAMDIAnd unfortunately, he's back here.
GILROYUnfortunately, he didn't drown.
DRUINHe swam here.
NNAMDIIf you are part of the Apple universe, you'll have another operating system update available in the fall that will let you better sync your various Apple devices. In a more geeky, but potentially pivotal announcement, the famously self-involved company introduced a new programming language called Swift, that will make it easier for outside developers to design apps for iPhones and iPads. You can call now. 800-433-8850. How would you like to improve the communication among your various devices? Would you like to share calendars, photos and apps with family members?
NNAMDIGive us a call. 800-433-8850 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Bill, can we start with the culture shift the new programming language Swift represents? Why has Apple decided to open itself more readily to outside developers, and what will be the results for Apple users?
HARLOWWell, I think the results for us, hopefully, is if people take to the language, that we'll see more and better and better performing apps. The big thing for Swift -- it's really your four programmers, so -- and I'm not a programmer, don't even pretend to be one, but essentially, what it allows a developer to do is use a language that's supposed to feel more current. A lot of people were complaining Objective C felt a little old school in some ways. So, it may be useful for people who have earned their programming chops in other languages, to be able to come over and learn Swift more quickly than say, Objective C.
HARLOWAnd also, it has this thing called interactive playground. So, as you're coding in Swift, you can see results immediately in this little window, rather than having to compile and wait for results.
NNAMDIIt's meant to offer a faster, easier way to build software for Apple's products than its existing programming language. Allison, Apple says that this fall, it will make available the new mobile operating system called the iOS 8 and the new computer operating system called Yosemite. They'll introduce a feature called Family Sharing. What will it do for your family?
DRUINOh, it will make it so that my husband does not own everything in the house.
NNAMDIIn other words, less harmonious relationships.
GILROYThe responded to your letter, huh?
DRUINYeah, well, basically. You know, look, imagine, you have a family. There's two kids, you know, there's two parents and they all want something different or they all want the same thing, and then you have to pay for it to get put on multiple devices. And people know full well that what's going on is that people have one Apple account, and they're putting it on their shared devices. Okay? So, basically, Family Sharing is gonna mean that this is a family unit and so up to six people can share purchases from iTunes, from the app stores, from iBooks. And what's really nice is you're gonna be able to put it on multiple devices and you're gonna be able to share your photo streams. And it's gonna be better integrated calendar.
DRUINAnd what's really nice is you're gonna be able to put it on multiple devices and you're gonna be able to share your photo streams. And it's gonna be better integrated calendar. I mean, right now, we're doing tons of work around, because basically, Ben owns everything. Okay?
GILROYYou know, I think they're putting their apples in the wrong basket.
DRUINOh my God, too much (word?) .
GILROYNo. No, I mean the action now is not operating systems. The action's in the cloud. Two weeks ago, Sales Force was in town. Two weeks from now, AWS, Amazon's gonna be in town. Right now, Docker Con is going on in San Francisco, new technology. That Dockers (word?) for containers in the cloud. And I think, as long as this is associated and affiliated with the cloud, which it may make a nod to, this is not where it's at. I mean, it's shifting completely to billions of mobile devices interacting in the cloud, and let's hope this makes money for them.
HARLOWHistorically, they weren't -- the cloud wasn't one of Apple's strengths.
HARLOWAnd they were pushing that pretty hard at WWDC. You know, cloud, cloud, cloud. You know, more storage, more integration and more reliance on it.
DRUINBut this is actually -- the change in operating systems is supposed to actually address their problems with the cloud. So, you've got iCloud, which is gonna be a Dropbox like type folders and hopefully it'll be a little more reliable than last time.
DRUINBut, you know, even with photos, you can save it on every device. It's all because of the cloud, so -- and again, the Family Sharing, all because of the cloud. So, honestly, I think what they needed to do was rebuild their foundation, so that they could actually make better cloud -- or better applications that make use of the cloud.
NNAMDIIn case you're just joining us, it's the Computer Guys and Gal. We're taking your calls at 800-433-8850. How would you like to improve the communication among your various devices? Would you like to share calendars, photos and apps with family members? 800-433-8850. John, Apple has also introduced an app called Help, that's part of a system called Health Kit, probably to prevent you from drowning. Why is Apple getting into the health tracking realm, and how will that affect the market for wearable fitness trackers?
GILROYWell, as we learned last week, with Kojo and Datapalooza, which was outstanding. The listeners should also go online and listen to that, cause Kojo was hitting home run, home run, home run, home run. Just sit down. Oh, he was just great up there.
DRUINAll right, you just want job...
GILROYNo, I'm just -- I know a little about healthcare IT, and I know what's good. Healthcare IT is obviously a big world that's going on here. There are some predictions that in 2020, there's gonna be 75 billion devices out there, floating around and collecting information. And what kind of information can be collected? If it's healthcare, can it help people? Maybe the people who are halfway across the bay and getting a heart attack or something, but I think that's the whole idea behind Apple.
GILROYAnd Apple has teased this little product, and I think they're not gonna release anything until the fall. And we'll see with the operating system, and I think it's called a wearable device. We don't really know what it's going to be, but if there are wearable devices that can help diabetics, help heart patients. I mean, it'll be fine. And if Apple's true to form, it's gonna be easy to use. Also true to form -- they may not integrate real well with the large cloud vendors.
HARLOWThat we'll have to see. I am hopeful that it makes things really easy, because the Fitbit, I have one of those. It's great. I really end up using their app. There are a couple of other apps that can work with it. The idea of stuff like that, where it just -- it all integrates with Health Kit and it doesn't matter who made the device, what it does.
GILROYThat's the apples in the right basket. Usability.
HARLOWRight. You've got one dashboard for all your health data. I mean, I have one person I was helping with the glucose meter last week, and it was miserable. She had it plugged into a computer and had to use Java. You have to use a certain version of the OS and browser. And so, if you can make stuff like that thoughtfully easy to use on a popular device...
GILROYThen we'll have a big win.
NNAMDIOne problem, of course, Health can hook into your local doctor or hospital and send the data directly to whoever is able to save your life at the time of an emergency, assuming that your local E.R. or doctor supports this feature, which is going to be one day in the future, because most of them don't, obviously, have it now. Talk about the new Apple feature called Handoff. How will it make it easier for Apple users to move among different devices, Bill?
HARLOWWell, the idea is that you don't have to figure out what your next step is. When you start work, let's say, on your iPhone and then you go over to your computer. One example to use is sending an email. You might bang out a small draft on your iPhone with that little keyboard. And you can type some longer stuff too, if you, you know, if you pay attention. But generally, you're gonna want a proper keyboard. So the idea -- you can start there. You know, swipe out. Go over to your laptop, your desktop and just finish where you started.
HARLOWAnd they're going to integrate that with their other apps, too. Like, you know, Keynote, Pages. So that you have them almost like -- it doesn't really matter where you're working. That's not what's important. The data's the same. The interface just changes to fit the needs of the device. So, it's -- they're just trying to make that seamless.
DRUINNo, it's really, actually very important, because as more of us have more devices, we have to be able to swap between them outside of send ourselves an email, which is what I do all the time. And my email's a wreck, because of it. But it is -- you know, the interesting thing about a lot of these applications, or these apps, is that there's not something incredibly new here, it's just a lot of small, incremental changes that hopefully will fill in some of the cracks that had been forming in the last few years.
NNAMDIOn to the telephones. Here is Vincent in Arlington, Virginia. Vincent, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
VINCENTThank you, Kojo. I would like to see, across the platforms, that when I delete my email from one iPhone, it deletes from my iPad, and it deletes from my hard drive, or wherever it may be.
NNAMDIWhy is it not happening now? That's what mine does.
VINCENTMine doesn't. I keep deleting stuff, and I just keep getting it back.
HARLOWWell, there are a lot of methods for email. Generally, if you have a modernly activated email account, it would use something like iMac, which what you need to know about that, really, is it syncs. So, back in the day, when I had my first earthlink accounts, it was a POP account, and there was no synching. You download an email, it's on your device. If I had, you know, other -- not device. Computer. If I had other computers that were downloading that same email, they wouldn't really know what's going on. And they were all their own silos.
HARLOWBut, generally, these days, if you have a new email account, it does all that, so it may just be a case of your current email address might even support that. You might just need to talk to your email provider and say, hey, do I have this set up the right way? Do you support these new protocols?
GILROYSounds like a setting, doesn't it?
NNAMDIAnd good luck.
VINCENTI have talked to all these folks, and it doesn't seem to happen. I'm sorry.
NNAMDIWell, I don't know...
VINCENTI've spent hours on the phone talking to Apple. I've spent hours on the phone talking to Verizon. Who else can you talk to?
NNAMDIWhat kind of devices are you using?
VINCENTIPhone 5S. iPad.
HARLOWYeah, I mean there's a lot to get into that we can't really discuss on the radio, cause it takes forever, but I don't know offhand if Verizon supports iMap. I think they might, because I think their email is through Yahoo, if I remember correctly. But, it's probably a settings issue that you have to make sure is changed on all the devices for it to take action.
NNAMDIVincent, thank you very much for your call. Good luck to you. In a separate piece of news, Apple paid three billion dollars to buy a company called Beats. It makes popular, brightly colored headphones and has a music streaming device that could be seen as a competitor to the iTunes model of buying songs. Give us a call. Do you prefer to own or stream your music? 800-433-8850 or send email to email@example.com. You can send us a tweet @kojoshow, using the hashtag techtuesday. Bill, how does this purchase reflect the shift in the way people are paying for the music they listen to?
HARLOWActually, I have one quick question, just related to Beats headphones. When you walk around D.C. these days, do you see more ubiquitous white ear buds in ears, or do you see more Beats headphones on ears?
NNAMDII'm seeing about the same in both cases. I'm seeing an increasing number of the Beats big headphones.
HARLOWYeah, I notice that too. So, maybe people care more about getting better audio. But as far as streaming versus owning, that might be a generational thing. I think I’m just old enough that I really -- I want the comfort of that CD or that file on my hard drive. That said, I love streaming for finding new music, especially if I'm relinquishing some control for an algorithm or someone else to recommend songs I haven't heard before.
GILROYSounds like you're vying for my position as a computer geezer.
HARLOWYeah, I'm an audio geezer. I have a turntable.
GILROYAn audio geezer? I kind of like that.
DRUINYou know, I actually asked my daughter Dana what she thought of Beats. And didn't even really think...
NNAMDIYou have to ask an expert.
DRUIN...oh yeah, go figure. She didn't think of the streaming. She really just thought of the earphones. And she went, oh, mommy, you know, you could get those for me. But she, you know, she uses Rhapsody, and it's very similar to Rhapsody. I think it's a great strategy, in terms of Apple basically playing both sides against the middle. You know, they've got, you know, they're selling the stuff as well as streaming.
HARLOWAnd it's not becoming Apple music, either.
HARLOWIt's staying Beats, it's staying on other devices like Android. You can still have Beats music on Android, too.
DRUINRight. Well, I mean, and if you think about the transition between from old technology to new technology, let's think about how badly Netflix completely boggled -- you know, bumbled it all with going from sending CDs, okay, or DVDs, and then going to downloads. This is obviously a better strategy to be able to eventually, they say, okay, tipping point, now we move over.
GILROYThe founder of Netflix was just announced his net worth is now a billion dollars.
GILROYSo, he can't be that stupid.
DRUINYeah. Yeah. Well, they have to work hard for that, though.
NNAMDIWe've got to take short break. When we come back, we'll continue this conversation with The Computer Guys and Gal. You can call us at 800-433-8850 with your comments and questions. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. It's The Computer Guys and Gal. Allison Druin is Chief Futurist at the University of Maryland Division of Research and Co-Director of The Future of Information Alliance at The University of Maryland. Bill Harlow is Hardware and Software Technician For MACs and PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting Incorporated. And John Gilroy is Director of Business Development for BLT Global Ventures. We asked about how people preferred to listen to their music these days. Here is a response from Naz in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Naz, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
NAZHi, Kojo. I'm calling, basically, I wanted to let you guys know I love music. I love all kinds of music. I love everything from Metallica to country music. And for me to have to download my music would be incredibly expensive. And what I love about streaming is I discover, definitely, new artists, but better than that, I get surprised by the old songs that I used to love, whereas when I purchase them, I -- I could forget that I even own them sometimes. And it's kind of a letdown or a waste of money. So the value of streaming, and I do pay for a streaming subscription, I find is much better than actually purchasing the music. It's a much better model for me.
NNAMDIWorks for, apparently, a lot of people too, because you have the access to new music that you would not otherwise hear. Right, Naz?
NAZAbsolutely. I've discovered, and sometimes I actually purchase the new music. I'm more inclined to purchase that than the old songs or the old albums.
NNAMDIMakes sense to a lot of people. Naz, thank you for sharing that with us. While Apple is trying to let all of our devices talk to one another, Microsoft is trying to reduce the number of devices that we need. In a further blurring of the line between the laptop and the tablet, Microsoft introduced the new Surface Pro 3. Thin, lightweight attempt to combine the tablet with the Notebook computer. Do you both have a laptop and a tablet? Or do you have both a laptop and a tablet? How do you use each of them differently?
NNAMDIGive us a call. 800-433-8850. John, Microsoft unveiled its new Surface Pro 3 last week. How is it different from its predecessors?
GILROYWell, I was sitting with a guy last week. He's about 260 pounds. He had this very, very sleek. It's un-Microsoft. It's like what did they do? Did they hire designers or something? Very, very sleek and good battery life. It was easy to use. It had some software that specialized using some graphic work on it. And I was surprised that they could come up with a product that would compete with the Apple Mac Book Air. That's surprising.
HARLOWI like that they're going all in on the Pro model, which is where, I think, it makes sense for them. Because I don't think Windows RT is really gonna go anywhere in the tablet space. I think Android and iOS have that locked. So, you're pushing this, which still runs the full fad version of Windows as a pro level tablet, also can become an acceptable laptop for most people.
GILROYStarting at 799.
HARLOWYeah. Price is right, too.
DRUINWell, it turns out that, actually, one of my PhD students just graduated and she spent the last six months with what looked like something she cobbled together that looked exactly like what this is. And she brought, to me, her tablet and we were working on a piece of her revision, and I'm like, how can you work on this thing? And she says, I totally love it. I can do this everywhere. And I said, you wrote a dissertation on this thing? And she's like, yeah, I totally loved it. So, go figure.
NNAMDIWhat does this new device say about Microsoft's strategy in a crowded market? Some people say this new device focuses more on productivity, a la writing the dissertation than on consumption. And is therefore competing more with computer makers than with tablet makers?
HARLOWI think that's a fair thing to say. I mean, their marketing schpeal is that things like Android and iOS tablets, whether they're only for consumption. You can't do work on these. Which, which is a little disingenuous. But the bottom line is, when you start getting deeper into the work and you don't want to run into a show stopping missing feature, it's nice to have the full version of Windows on there.
DRUINWell, the other thing, too, is take a look at the educational market. They are whole heartedly embracing tablets. I mean, there are one to one tablet programs in so many schools across the country. And this is what our kids are using, so, you know, no shock there.
GILROYThe teachers at my wife's school, they usually have two tablets. And a Notebook. I mean, it's everywhere.
NNAMDIHere now is Joseph in Fort Belvoir, Maryland. Joseph, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JOSEPHI'm a person who likes to share and like to look at a lot of my friends' pictures or videos or music. Now, there's a certain file type that's been coming to prominence called the Web M. And I was just wondering what your opinions are on that.
NNAMDIIs anyone here familiar with that? When it comes to file sharing and -- you like to share what? You like to share music. What else do you like to share? Did you say money, Joseph? Oh, I'm sorry.
HARLOWSorry. I had to look this up. Again, I apologize. But now, now I'm looking up, and yeah, it's an open, royalty free video compression algorithm. And stuff like this is great -- oh yeah, it looks like it's also a container for VPA and other things. And a lot of open source stuff here as an alternative to things like MP3 or MP4, which has consortiums that own that and license it out. The downside of stuff like this, I think, is for some portable devices. If you're running like a MAC or a Windows PC, you could very easily find a browser or install a plug that will play these. But, the portable devices like the iPad and the iPhone, they have custom chips in there that are specifically for efficiently decoding MPEG 4, H264, that kind of thing.
HARLOWAnd if they don't, if they don't support those natively, there's less incentive for companies like Apple to support those in software, because there ends up being a lot more CPU overhead to decode that stuff and play it back. It would be nice if this stuff gains traction and companies like Apple are forced to adopt that and imbed the chips to do that, but I'm just wondering if it's going to make these...
GILROYPaint themselves in a corner.
HARLOWYeah, I don't know if there's gonna be a common format for most people.
NNAMDIOkay. Thank you very much for your call. You too can call us at 800-433-8850. Last week, the tech world was focused on the Apple conference in San Francisco. This week, action moves south to Los Angeles where video gamers, developers and consul makers are gathered for the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, that begins today. That event is focusing this year on new games, because last year, Xbox One and Playstation 4 had their coming out. So this year, the focus is on the games you can -- new games you can play on each of them and on the Wii U.
NNAMDISo, do you have an Xbox One, a Playstation 4 or a Wii U? Why did you pick the one that you have and are you happy with it? 800-433-8850. Bill, why is the Playstation 4 outselling the Xbox One and what about the Wii?
HARLOWWell, the Wii, unfortunately, is struggling, which is a shame, because I think out of those three systems, it has the most interesting and unique games available.
DRUINTotally agree. Totally agree.
HARLOWBut, when it comes to the sexy specs of power, performance, video, fidelity, the PS4 is probably the strongest of the three. It's also cheaper than the Xbox One, which is probably a big contributor to why it's outselling the XBox. There was a lot of negativity in the positioning of it as an all-purpose entertainment hub, including a Connect that a lot of hardcore gamers don't really care about. Although, I know you're a fan of it yourself.
HARLOWYou think the Connect is a really cool device. And from what I've seen, it's a lot of fun.
GILROYYou know, a friend of the show, Rob Pegoraro, had a great tweet about this. He said, you know you're old when the game you used in high school just hit the 30th anniversary. So, it's resonating with a lot of listeners, you know? They have emotional ties to these games.
HARLOWYeah. Yeah. Yeah.
GILROYCome home from school and play Tetris and (unintelligible).
DRUINWell, if you take a look though at the different games that -- that they stress, that they focus on, there's a lot of shoot 'em up, okay? And...
HARLOWThe big titles, for sure. And they're really impressive looking, and I have nothing against them. But what I like is that, especially at Sony and Microsoft as well, they're courting smaller, so-called independent developers who have -- they're the ones taking chances and making interesting looking games.
HARLOWAnd there's a lot of great stuff there, too.
NNAMDIWith all the games we can play on our phones and tablets now, who is the target audience for gaming consuls and how does the release of new games drive that market?
HARLOWWell, I think that there's definitely some combination of the two, in that a lot of the games you can play on a portable. They're more byte size, in many cases. But you do see some that have aspirations of being bigger titles. So, there could be some blurring of lines. We're seeing simpler independent titles on the consuls and on computers. And we're seeing deeper games on mobile. I guess what I'd like to see is there's no reason a lot of these can't be in both places. It would be really great to see you be able to take your game from one place and, I don't know, hand it off to a consul.
DRUINGo figure. Well, the other thing too, is that what is the most common place that the average person is playing games? It's on your cell phone, it's on your tablet. And this is what the game makers are up against, at this point, because they're saying, well, oh my goodness, what makes us different enough so that we can capture the market.
HARLOWIt also makes you wonder if dedicated gaming systems are long for this world. The 3DS is selling pretty well, but will there be a successor to that?
NNAMDIOn to the telephones again. Here, now, is James in Alexandria, Virginia. James, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JAMESHi Kojo. Yeah, this is James. Yeah, I'm calling because I'm using a Chrome Book right now that has come out pretty recently. I also just graduated from college, and I found it to be the sort of stripped down system that Chrome provides, to be hugely accessible and very, very useful for just sort of a student's lifestyle.
DRUINSo, my question to you is how do you like reading on it?
JAMESReading? Like a, like a PDF or something like that?
DRUINLike, reading, yeah, reading on the screen?
JAMESIt's perfectly all right. I mean, the brightness controls are pretty good and I really like it because it's got great battery life, as well.
HARLOWThat was my next question. How is that?
JAMESYeah, I'm traveling. So, if I'm traveling from place to place, I can use it very easily.
DRUINMy husband loves the Chrome Book for reading. He got given one at a faculty summit at Google and -- but, it quickly sort of was the in between machine. He actually ended up putting it to the side, eventually, and he really likes his tablet and he likes his Mac Book. And it was -- but it's a great reading machine, as I understand from him.
JAMESYeah, it's a really great reading machine. I'm personally not a very tech savvy person. I use a not so smart phone, and I don't have a tablet, and I basically rely completely on my Chrome Book.
DRUINOh, there you go.
HARLOWJames, are you all in on Google services?
HARLOWAre you all in on Google services? Do you use a Google account and all their apps?
JAMESI use Google Docks. I use Google Powerslides, I think they call it.
DRUINPerfect. You're the perfect…
JAMESYeah, I'm all about Google. It makes sharing very easy.
HARLOWThat's the profile.
GILROYThat's the profile. Yep.
DRUINYeah. No, as long as you want to work in the cloud and you do a lot of reading and you're not highly into the tech building, this is exactly the right kind of machine for you.
NNAMDIJames, thank you very much for your call. You too can call us at 800-433-8850. And since we're talking games, the iconic video game Tetris marked its 30th birthday last week.
NNAMDIMaking Rob Pegoraro and a lot of other gamers feel really old.
NNAMDIAnd it's prompting a lot of reminiscing about real life and video game life back in the 1980s. Why was Tetris such a big deal and how was it a precursor to games like Candy Crush Saga and Bejeweled today?
HARLOWWell, it has mass appeal. I mean, it wasn't just for gamers. My little sister, back in the day, when the Gameboy came out, she got one for her birthday. And it wasn't long -- 'cause the packing game for that was Tetris, and it wasn't long before my Mom was stealing that every chance she could and she played it more than my sister did. And I remember, I loved it. I played it on the MAC. You could find -- Atari licensed it and actually had it in arcades.
HARLOWAnd just -- I guarantee anybody that heard that music, a large chunk of you were playing Tetris in your brains just then.
NNAMDIJohn? Tell him. He's all grown up now.
GILROYWell, back when I was in high school with Abraham Lincoln, we had like this hoop and wheel and that was my first game.
NNAMDIYes. The time comes and then the time passes. It's no secret that Google has been working for years on driverless cars, that use sophisticated radars and computers to steer themselves. Now those cars are one step closer to reality. After the California Department of Motor Vehicles gave the green light to tests on public streets, beginning in September. 800-433-8850. How would you feel about sharing the road with a self-driving car? Would you ride in a car that's driven by a computer rather than a human? 800-433-8850. John, starting in September, companies like Google or Audi, that are developing these so-called autonomous vehicles can obtain a permit to test them on public streets in California.
NNAMDIBritain also working on new rules to allow tests of driver-less cars. What will it take to get a permit in California?
GILROYWell, first of all, I just wanted to say I'm thanking you for not calling it a designated driver 'cause it's a self-driving car.
NNAMDIIt's a slightly different thing.
GILROYI'm sure people are looking at this.
NNAMDIAlthough, I'm sure you'll be able to use the self-driving car in much the same way you use the designated driver.
GILROYWhere's my designated driver? He's in the parking lot. The way I read it is that the driver person has to be in the car right now when they're testing it out.
GILROYAnd of course, it's gonna be in Google heaven, which is California where they've got all the streets mapped out and everything else. And Allison thinks it's just like the Jetsons. I don't know what to think. I'm kind of wary of that. If I'm driving in a car and I hit a tree, I go, okay, I'm an idiot. I hit a tree. But if I'm driving the car and the computer program hits a tree, then I'm really mad. And I'm going, who wrote this code? I'm gonna go find them. It just doesn't -- it's unsettling for me.
NNAMDIThe phenomenon of the tree stepping into the middle of the street can become part of your virtual world.
GILROYOh yeah. And they're not virtual. They're real trees.
DRUINWell, I was actually in Silicon Valley just a few weeks ago, visiting with friends, working on some projects, and actually Dan Russell from Google.
DRUINYeah. Director of User Happiness. Anyway, so I'm driving around and one of my colleagues from Yahoo says, hey, look around. You're surrounded by Google cars. I went, ahhhhhh.
GILROYIt is like the Jetsons.
DRUINAnd it was so cool. I'm like sitting there thinking, I have no control whatsoever if anything's coming. But seriously folks, you know, I think that with the rise of GPS, the rise of what we know about our city streets and...
GILROYThe rise of the robots.
DRUINWell, and the importance of our sensors and our robotic technologies. Yeah, this is not only possible. It -- I was driving among them so I know it can happen. They're not driving at top speeds, let me just tell you.
DRUINI was driving in, you know, 25-mile-an hour local streets around. And that's why I was, you know, I was seeing them. And the other thing too is that they're trying to decide whether or not to go -- to allow to have human intervention or not. And so, there's this whole thing going back and forth about, you know, which is more accurate, actually? A human to stop the car or the car to stop the car?
NNAMDIAccording to The Atlantic, though, Google has programmed its cars with a highly detailed virtual map of Mountain View California, where it teaches its cars to maneuver. That means you couldn't just plop the car down in Annapolis and find the same success. How do these cars find their way around, and how complicated is it?
HARLOWI think it's very complicated. But I think it's smart to have this virtual, very accurate, to the inches map of areas they're gonna be driving, because there are all sorts of things that -- cause a lot of what makes driving work is decision making. So, if you've taken the time to make these decisions as simple as possible, you're gonna get better results. And being on an actual street and realizing, okay, the practical speed limit here is actually X speed. Or that curb, if you slammed into that, that would destroy this car versus something that's a little safer to run in to.
HARLOWAnd I'm sure all this factors in to, you know, how to program these cars to be really smart in that environment.
GILROYI'm wondering if these cars are going to be ground zero for hackers. It's like, oh boy, I'm gonna have Kojo, I'm gonna have him drive right to Baltimore instead of going home tonight, just for fun.
GILROYI mean, this is gonna be ground zero for hackers.
HARLOWWhat? Door to door kidnapping is how we're going with this?
GILROYYes. Just someplace he doesn't want to go, you know?
DRUINYeah, but you know what? It can't be any less safe than getting in a taxi today.
HARLOWRight, right, right.
NNAMDIDo not try to dampen the enthusiasm for this of Jason in Washington, D.C. Jason, your turn.
GILROYOkay, Jason, what have you got?
JASONHey guys, I'm glad to be on this show. I got really annoyed when I first got uber-integrated with Google Maps. But when it all came together with the fact that they're moving toward cars and they'll have a system where you could order a car right to you, I think that this kind of innovation is why I love Google much more than Apple 'cause I see things like cars with Google compared to maybe a smart blender or iHome Cloud where your blender can talk to your thermostat to your dishwasher.
JASONThat's much less interesting than something like this where the app suite is connected to a driverless humanless, hopefully green, rideshare service that can get you somewhere the fastest way possible, possibly the safest way possible, and the easiest way possible.
NNAMDIOkay. Let's take it up a notch, Jason, because Google is also designing a self-driving car with no steering wheel or brakes.
NNAMDIWhy take the human out of the equation entirely, Allison? What are some potential uses for these autonomous cars?
DRUINWell, what's fascinating about taking the human out of the equation is that, in fact, we are inaccurate beings. Okay?
GILROYSpeak for yourself, young lady.
DRUINOh, God bless you. Anyway, I mean, think about it. When you drive around a place you've never driven before, how distracted are you? How lost are you? In fact, most of the time I've ever run into problems on the street, it's been in places I've never been.
NNAMDIDistraction, lost, panic, they all go together.
DRUINAnd they all go together, and, you know what, and so if the car is actually well-programmed -- now, this is a big if. But, you know, we send people to the moon and back, so, you know, maybe it's possible.
HARLOWI mean, if anybody can do it, it's probably Google. I think the fact that the mountain view shows that it's not just some -- like I said earlier, you can't plop it in anywhere. But, at the same time, Google's the type of company where, if they really believe in this, they would put in the effort to make those maps in a lot of areas around the country and around the world.
DRUINYeah. And they're -- it's not like they're throwing this out in Beta to the entire world to try it out and see who crashes. This is -- you know, they're actually doing something extremely conservative for Google, which is they're only allowing, you know, certified people that are test drivers and blah, blah, blah, you know, so it's a very (unintelligible) sort of thing.
HARLOWAnd also, I do have one thing -- one critique, Jason. How come I can't have a world where I have a Google driverless car and an Apple blender? Why do I have to choose?
GILROYYeah, they don't compete. It's like a green shirt and a red shirt. What's that?
NNAMDIAnd, Jason, you should know, when John Gilroy is asked when he's expecting to drive in a self-driving car with no steering wheel or brakes, his answer is never.
NNAMDIIs never good for you?
GILROYOn the other hand, a designated driver sounds awful attractive in the parking lot.
DRUINI like limos. You know, go for it. You know, it...
NNAMDIGot to take a short break. When we come back, you can still call us at 800-433-8850 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. It's the Computer Guys and Gal. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. The Computer Guys and Gal are here. John Gilroy, who dogpaddled four miles across the Chesapeake Bay is director for business development for BLT Global Ventures. 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. And Bill Harlow is hardware and software technician for Macs and PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc. We got an email from Gina in Annapolis who said, "I wish you hadn't left your caller who had the email deleting problem on multiple devices. I have the exact same problem. I have 13,000 emails on my phone."
NNAMDIAnd we got a tweet from Suzanne who says, "I like streaming music through Pandora, but that requires a Wi-Fi connection. On the other hand, my MP3 with a 15 gig memory card, I can listen to anywhere." As always in the cyber world, there are dangers lurking in places you might not expect, thieves who swipe your phone, companies that want to listen through your phone to figure out where you are and what you're doing. John, one in 10 Smartphone users has his or her phone stolen. And what makes it worse is that some of those phones are used for both home and work. So they may contain confidential business information. How big a problem is this for the business community?
GILROYWell, I was surprised at one in 10. I thought that was high. In the business world, there's something called MDM, mobile device management, and this a huge, huge part of businesses where, if I work for Kojo Industries and I have information on my phone and I lose it, there should be a policy where it can get wiped out remotely.
GILROYAnd I can have pictures of my dog Fluffy or something on there, too, and I won't be impacted on that. But the whole world of mobile device -- Symantec just bought a company that's dedicated to that. I see many, many companies getting involved in that. The answer is mobile device management for large companies, for individuals, I think just on your own, I think it's a Wild West for individuals. And that's all I can say. I mean, it's...
HARLOWLock your phones, people. Make sure you assign a passcode at the very least.
GILROYYeah. Lock your phones. I mean, one out of 10 -- out of -- there's probably statistics for Washington, D.C. about phones actually stolen in the Metro. I'm sure there's statistics that will just shock people. But one out of 10, that's a lot to me.
NNAMDIBill, Facebook has added a new optional feature to its mobile app that resembles Shazam. It listens through the phone's microphone to the ambient noise and tries to guess where you are or what you're listening to, then lets you include that information in your status update. Is that cool, or is that creepy?
HARLOWIt's both. But I'm going to err on creep.
GILROYYes. That's the correct answer.
HARLOWAnd one point I want to make that -- with a lot of these things is that, you know, right now, they're being cool about it and saying, look, you know, you don't have to do this. You know, you have control over this. But it's -- with, like, a lot of Facebook's policies, it's a yet kind of thing. They could change that anytime, keep your eyes peeled.
NNAMDIOn to the self-driving car again, here's Wesley in Arlington, Va. Wesley, your turn.
WESLEYHi, Kojo. Thanks for taking my call. I just wanted to bring up a point about the safety of the self-driving cars.
WESLEYI'm not entirely sure if it still holds true. But at one point, a couple months back, it was reported that the only accidents that the self-driving cars were involved in were due to other drivers driving into them. And I just wanted to bring out that it...
NNAMDINo reported accident of one self-driving car running into another.
WESLEYNot that I've seen at least. That may have changed in the past few months.
NNAMDILet us talk to a witness here. Allison Druin, what did you witness?
DRUINI -- in fact, I think those self-driving cars were driving more safely...
HARLOWThe running of the cars in Mountain View. That's what that was.
DRUIN...than the people. And I have to say my friend from Yahoo, that was driving me around, said, hey, it's better these self-driving cars than having drones driving around. So, you know, it's -- I agree with that.
GILROYIs that the choice in society we make?
DRUINThat's -- what kind of false choice is that?
HARLOWComputers are emotionless. They don't like to speed.
NNAMDIWesley, thank you very much for your call. We have a slightly different opinion from Vicki in Fairfax, Va. Vicki, what is your thinking?
VICKIHey. I'm curious about the car as well, the automatic car. As a person who stops for animals in the roadway and also likes to stop on a dime if I see something cool on the curb that, like, someone's put out, like a shelf or something, and you want to throw it in the back of the -- why would I want to give up that control? I would just have to run over animals and keep driving by cool things that I might want to pick up. I can't imagine -- I just haven't heard anything about that, any discussion on that. And what if a tree limb falls in the road? I mean, how good are these vehicles going to be with negotiating something like that?
NNAMDIJohn Gilroy thinks that Google might be in the business of creating self-driving animals, but that's another -- that's another development. I don't know. What you say, Bill?
HARLOWI mean, I don't know every detail of these cars. But there are so many sensors out there you can put in a vehicle that would detect things we would never even see. So I think there's at least the possibility you can make a driverless car...
GILROYA yard sale detector?
HARLOWWell, sure. Why don't have, you know, the yard sale cruise line, right?
GILROYThe yard sale detector.
HARLOWBut, no, but as far as, like, you know, infrared cameras or night vision cameras or things that can see things or detect things via heat in the brush before you would even have a chance to see them run into the road. So I think there's a potential to make a car actually safer for animals.
NNAMDII love the things people think of. Thank you very much for your call, Vicki. Here's Melissa who sent an email who says, "What happens if you reach the end of your data limit and you are in your car? Will your car just stop and you have to walk?"
GILROYYes, it just stops, and you're locked inside.
NNAMDIYes. And Jason says -- an email from Jason says, "Taking the human entirely out of the equation has been tried before. In the early space program, the astronauts were Spam in a can because they felt the computers would be superior. But it turned out human decision making and skills were superior. Do we believe that technology has improved so much that we can try and remove humans?"
HARLOWYou're going to get a loaf of bread around the corner, not go to the moon. And technology's improved drastically since then. So I think it's at least possible.
GILROYBow to your Google overlords. Bow to your Google overlords. That's what I say.
DRUINOh, I think it's going to be somewhere in the middle. I think that, you know, eventually -- Google's taking out those controls because basically they don't know how to deal with humans. Eventually, once they get more experience with the humans and with these self-driving cars, I think the humans are going to come back in the equation.
NNAMDIAs the school year winds down and summer vacations ramp up, we're not only using our tech gadgets to make travel plans. We're planning to take them along on our travels. But before you toss your devices into your suitcase, we have a few tips for how to stay digitally safe while you're on the road. Allison, starting with you, what are some of the precautions we should take if we're bringing our tablets, our laptops, and of course our phones on vacation with us?
DRUINWell, before you go, okay you have to prep. And you have to say, okay, is all my stuff backed up so if something happens -- okay. And back it up either on the Cloud and/or on your external drive. Also, how are your passwords doing? Okay. You know, are they strong enough? You know, is it some -- is it time to change them? Got to make that happen. Okay? Also, disable your auto-fill on your cookies. Good idea because if something -- if somebody takes this -- one of your devices, you're going to be sorry because you will have made it very easy for them to get into your things. All right. So once you're out there, okay, make sure that you're carrying things with padding.
DRUINYou're carrying your devices where it's not too hot, too cold, sunny 'cause, remember, you know, from 50 degrees to about 90 degrees, your cellphones, your laptops, they're okay. But you really need...
GILROYYes, Mom. Yes, Mom. That's what it sounds like, yes, Mom.
DRUINYeah. You really need to be careful.
HARLOWIf you're uncomfortable, your iPad's uncomfortable.
DRUINThat's exactly right. If you're uncomfortable...
GILROYYes, Mom. Yes, Mom. I'll do that, Mom.
NNAMDIIt was, like, 50 degrees in Chicago yesterday.
DRUINOh, my goodness. It's amazing. So -- and then the other thing, too, is make sure you have your make, your model, your serial number, okay. There are these really cool tracking programs that remote -- that give you remote access. And you could get one of them. You know, for the Mac, there's Undercover. For the PC, there's Pre-Project (sp?) and LoJack and so on. I don't know. It might be overkill unless you really -- unless you're one of those detective types. But just, you know, know that you can have your stuff stolen, and you have to know what to do if that happens.
NNAMDIMussa in Alexandria, Va. has a comment on the health app we discussed earlier coming from Apple. Mussa, your turn.
MUSSAHi, Kojo. Love your show. Big fan of Tech Tuesday. I -- you know, one of your guests briefly touched upon the pain points in managing chronic conditions like, you know, diabetes and how Apple Health could ease this. I thought it was interesting because I'm with Akebo (sp?) which is currently a startup backed by Tek-Star and Sprint. And, you know, we're the world's first all-in-one Smartphone case glucose meter, making managing diabetes on the go as easy and as discreet as checking your email on the go. We're doing this by combining, you know, the entire glucose kit, you know, like, the testing supplies, the meter and everything...
GILROYIs this a question or an advertisement? What's going on here, buddy?
MUSSAIt's a question. It's a question.
GILROYOh, I'm sure.
NNAMDIThere's a question in there somewhere.
MUSSAExactly. And so I wanted to see what you guys -- what your opinion was on this coming into maybe managing chronic conditions in the future of, like, managing healthcare?
NNAMDIIt's an ad with a question of whether or not you like the ad.
GILROYYes. I prefer diatribes to questions.
NNAMDIFather's Day is this Sunday. High school graduation's coming up. Allison, suggestion for gift shopping, procrastinators in our audience.
DRUINOkay. There is the giant robot slipper, totally cool from ThinkGeek.
NNAMDIPerfect for Gilroy.
DRUINOkay. These are such a hoot, these things. They look like robot feet, and they -- when you walk around, they make robot noises. And if you really don't like those, there's the Star Trek Tribble slippers that purr. Then there's also build your own brick cup.
HARLOWSo quick question...
NNAMDIBack to you, Mussa. Can we hear that ad again, Mussa?
HARLOWSo let's go back to the question about the Tribble slippers. Like, if I put them in my closet, come back the next day, are there going to be, like, 20 more?
DRUINThey swear that they don't multiply. And I thought it was...
HARLOWThey just sell one pair per zip code.
DRUINI love it. Okay. So then there's the build your own brick cup. You own -- there's only four -- you can only buy four per customer. They're apparently very, very popular. So, in other words, you can build Lego things on the outsides of your cups and totally into it for Lego geeks. And, OK, but the real -- honestly, the real thing for the total geek is for the smart home. It's UniKey. It's the Kwikset Kevo-powered UniKey. Now, this is, like, $200-and-something, but you can actually replace your locks and...
GILROYShopping with Allison.
DRUINI know. It's totally fun.
NNAMDIReplace your locks and what?
DRUINOkay. So you replace your locks with this smart lock, okay, and you program your cellphone so anytime you get near it -- so it's almost like a key fob that you have for your smart cars kind of thing. And it's awesome. Okay. I know...
NNAMDISee, Gilroy, when your eyes are glazed over after leaving the pub at night, you won't have to be looking for the keyhole.
GILROYI'll have my designated driver take me home. And if I lose my cellphone, I mean, who cares? Someone just walk into the house.
NNAMDIWhat's the app called?
DRUINIt is -- Okay. It's UniKey, and it's a Kwikset Kevo-powered, and it's -- the Kevo smartlock. And I...
DRUINYeah. It's K-E-V-O. We'll put it up on the site. But it's -- it actually got the CNET's number one choice for best new smart home thing.
GILROYAnd is sales representative Mussa representing this brand also?
DRUINNo. I actually think...
NNAMDIWait till you get your giant robot slippers. We'll...
DRUINThis goes with the future, John.
GILROYHey, if Mussa's not selling it, I'm not buying it.
NNAMDIBill, your favorite app this month is called Bounden?
NNAMDIIt's designed in collaboration with the Dutch National Ballet. What does it do?
GILROYWhy can't they...
HARLOWSo this app is great, and...
DRUINGive it up, John.
HARLOWIf you want to see how silly you can look or how much fun you can have, you can check out the Twitter for "The Kojo Nnamdi Show." But you take an iPhone...
DRUINYeah. We were doing this. It was great.
HARLOWYou can take an iPhone, and your partner also holds the other end. And they use all the sensors in the phone to actually get you to move your bodies in sync together to the music.
NNAMDIIt's called dancing, John.
GILROYYeah. It's called danger. We've got trouble right here in River City. So we'll be around...
HARLOWIt's not for John because you do need an iPhone and friends. But it's a really, really good app.
DRUINOh. Oh, that was...
HARLOWPlus a pulse. I need a pulse, too, don't you?
DRUINThat was so good, Bill. He totally got you.
NNAMDIAllison, John has friends, I'll have you know.
HARLOWYeah, he paid for them.
HARLOWMussa's my friend. Mussa's my best friend.
NNAMDIAllison, your app helps travelers or locals find restaurants and hotels they love based on their personal taste. How does Nara work?
DRUINOkay. Nara basically gets to know. So first it asks you the kinds of food you like, the kinds of beds you like to sleep in and so on. And it's very simple. And then what it does is do a scan based on the...
GILROYWhat, like, clean beds or dirty beds? I mean...
DRUINOh, you know, just 'cause -- just because you like bed bugs doesn't mean I have to.
GILROYDo you want a bed with or without bed bugs?
NNAMDINara's an app with smarts. It helps you find restaurants and hotels around the world. We're almost out of time. It's time for John's app. It puts a detective inside your phone to catch these -- how does iGotYa work in 15 seconds or less?
GILROYYou got a jailbreak your phone. You pop iGotYa on it, and then if Kojo steals your phone, it takes a picture of Kojo and sends it to you. And then you send out your automatic car, and it picks up your phone.
NNAMDIGotYa. John Gilroy is a director for business development for BLT Global Ventures. At least he has a job. Allison 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. She has a job with a title.
NNAMDIBill Harlow is hardware and software technicians for Macs and PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc. Bill, always a pleasure.
GILROYHey, what about me? It was a pleasure...
NNAMDIThank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
Most Recent Shows
Kojo explores what's next for Chinatown residents fighting against a developer who wants to demolish their building.
Is a meal for a special occasion worth hundreds of dollars?
Fairfax County residents will vote on whether to adopt a four percent meal tax ballot measure on November's ballot. We explore why the ballot question has become such a hot-button issue in the county.