Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies, and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
Amazon opened a 3D printing store last week that lets shoppers customize items ranging from cell phone cases to toys. Apple and IBM are teaming up to develop business apps that are as user-friendly as consumer apps. And a security expert warns that USB devices are the latest way hackers may be targeting your machines. The Computer Guys and Gal are here to explain.
- Bill Harlow WAMU Computer Guy; and Hardware & Software Technician for MACs & PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc.
- John Gilroy WAMU Computer Guy; Director for Business Development for BLT Global Ventures
- 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
Apps Of The Month###
Thyme If you are a word famous chef like me, ya got five burners going! This timer should help you out. -John Gilroy
Air Stylus for iPad
If you have an iPad 3 or newer (and ideally a full size model) and a stylus (precise, pressure-sensitive model recommended) you can use this $20 app to turn your iPad into a pen display for your Mac. Photoshop, SketchBook Pro and Painter users may want to give it a serious look.-Bill Harlow
Gain Fitness This free iPhone app comes loaded with workout exercises- it costs a bit to add Yoga to it, but it can be done and helped by this app. Gives you a warm-up and exercise strengthening. Fun!-Allison Druin
Tech In The News
- The Next Big Thing In Hardware: Smart Garbage?
- When Free is Not Free (the difference between “free to download” and “free” to play).
- Bla Bla Bla … no, that’s not just Kojo talking. A startup called BlaBlaCar has raised $100 million to launch its free matching service for drivers.
- Time for consumers to get scared. Friend-of-the-show Brian Krebs writes about thin and mini ATM skimmers.
- Robot journalists . . . robot radio show hosts? . We could get one to be John’s replacement!
- Microsoft cuts jobs: Satya Nadella takes a PR hit.
- New wearables
- Technology news for the “foodie”: Custom toasters can now toast a selfie on bread, so now we can get Kojo on our toast!
- Show me the money: Twitter did
- Twitter making more news: back up to 173 million quarterly users, but questions about accounting practices
- Our Relationship With Physical Media Is About to Change: Patrick Klepek talks about buying physical media specifically for things that feel special to him. Digital and streaming are fine for most things, but every so often he wants something to take physical space and feel real. That’s an honor bestowed upon worthy content.
- All Power to the Pack Rats:
Ian Svenonius argues against minimalism (and how minimal is it when you replace physical objects with digital hoarding?)
- Inside Citizen Lab: “When you think about hacking as a civic ethic—this idea of lifting the lid and seeing what’s beneath the surface—this all comes together,” Deibert says. “The idea of hacking and hacktivism seemed to me a really powerful way of motivating people; not hacking and breaking the law, but hacking as the spirit of curiosity about technological systems.”
- Nefarious malware that can compromise the USB controllers in computers, devices: The key here is it’s not simply data stored in a USB stick’s memory, but in the firmware itself, which therefore can stay hidden and spread to other USB controllers.
Other big news this month:
Apple and IBM’s seemingly unlikely partnership: Apple and IBM are partnering to sell iOS hardware and custom apps to enterprise customers.
Microsoft to lay off a Verizon Center’s worth of employees: The majority are redundancies due to Microsoft’s purchase of Nokia. It’s the largest number of layoffs in Microsoft’s history.
OS X Yosemite is now in public beta. Anyone using it yet?
AOL’s Ryan Block recorded the very strange interaction he had when attempting to cancel his Comcast broadband internet: This isn’t “customer retention”. This is psychological warfare.
- The Physical World Goes Virtual: It used to be there was software and there was hardware— and it had little to do with the “real world.” Now our tech is creeping into everything! For example- the big news that Amazon is jumping into the 3D-Printing market. Amazon has gotten together a group of vendors who will dole out the “on-demand” requests for 3D printed objects. Users can customize their designs with software and then the vendor prints it out and sends it back via mail.
- Stanford Med students are learning how to use Google Glass to do operations. They will be streaming their views of the operation to instructors. This is not the first time tech has been a part of surgery— today many surgeons use robotic devices so that they can more accurately move devices inside people’s bodies.
- Tech is even coming to traditional instruments thanks to researchers in the UK. Researchers in the UK have created a unique guitar that can capture tell its own history. Its does this with hidden digital codes within a decorative pattern on the guitar. It’s sort of like QR codes where you can point a mobile phone or tablet at it and get access to more information. However these codes look like a traditional guitar decoration.
Decoupling … software:
Google and Facebook are now making their products less dependent on other products.
1. You can now use Google Hangouts (similar to Skype) without having a Google+ account (Google’s answer to Facebook/twitter). You just need to have a Google Apps account.
2. Facebook is decoupling it’s messaging feature from the rest of Facebook so the company can expand the features and make it a better free-standing product.
3. The “Messaging App” will now have to be downloaded separately from the Facebook app— this will not be the case for the desktop versions, but for mobile versions.
So why are they doing this? Google and Facebook see dollar signs. They want to expand their customer base and to do this they need to expand their product lines and this is one way to do it.
Hacking For A Cause
It used to be when people thought about volunteering to help people in need or to help a cause— they would do it by building houses, serving food in soup kitchens, running races to collect money. But now it’s become common place to “hack” or code software for a cause. For example, this weekend, the hacking and scientific community are coming together for a weekend on the Chesapeake Bay to create software that can help the public learn more about the Bay or change their behavior towards helping the environment around the Bay.
The Maryland Department of the Environment, the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, Hack Baltimore and the Future of Information Alliance have come together to award prizes for the best software created by teams. DISCLAIMER- FIA is one of the organizers, so technically WAMU is involved, but not really.
Another example, is Code4Africa– a non-profit group that is developing an African technical community by teaching them the latest professional tools and given them infrastructure (server space) to code on. On Aug. 9 they will be hosting an African Coders Conference (Free Coders) in DC to show the variety of tech that Africans have been developing in new tech hubs in African countries.
Coming in a few months the 2014 #WIThack, a series of hackathons across the country that is looking for women entrepreneurs to lead teams of women and men in developing new tech. This will come Oct. 10 to the DC area as a Mobile App Hackathon for Women in Technology Other locations will be in Palo Alto, Seattle, Atlanta, Portland, and more.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIYep. That's it. That music. They're here. From WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world and the Computer Guys and Gal. They are John Gilroy, Director for Business Development for BLT Global Ventures. He joins us, regrettably, in studio.
MR. JOHN GILROYI got by the security guard again.
MS. ALLISON DRUINYes.
MR. BILL HARLOWNicely done.
NNAMDIAlso with us is Allison Druin, Chief Futurist at the University of Maryland Division of Research and Co-Director of the Future of Information Alliance at The University of Maryland. She joins us beautifully, in studio.
DRUINHi there, Kojo.
NNAMDIFlattery gets me everywhere.
DRUINEverywhere. Everywhere and everything. Yes.
NNAMDIBill Harlow is a Hardware and Software technician for MACs and PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting Incorporated. The smartest person in the room, or so he thinks. Bill Harlow, good to have you aboard.
HARLOWI guess I'll take that. I'll take what I can get.
NNAMDIYou really are the smartest person in this conversation. Those of you who call, 800-433-8850. You can send email to email@example.com or shoot us a tweet @kojoshow. To talk about what? Well, let's try this. Last week, Facebook told users they cannot send messages to friends inside their smartphone app anymore. Now, if you want to message your friends on the go, you need to install Facebook Separate Messenger app. And Apple and IBM teamed up to produce new apps for business.
NNAMDIWhat business related app would you like to see? Give us a call. 800-433-8850. What messaging apps do you use? You can also send us email to firstname.lastname@example.org or shoot us a tweet @kojoshow. Allison, last week, Facebook told its users, well, what I just said. They can't chat through the Facebook mobile phone app anymore. What's the business reason for the shift and what does it mean for Facebook users?
DRUINWell, Facebook has figured out that they can make more money. They can expand their user base. Essentially, they're not changing anything on the desktop. So, those of you that are using it through the web, it's gonna stay the same. But those of you that are using a mobile app, and using Facebook with the mobile app, you're gonna see there's no ability to message in the mobile app now. It's going to be -- you have to download a separate app. They're doing this -- they tested it in Europe.
DRUINAnd they realized that they can add many more features to the messaging, to the messaging capability and they can go at the competition with this, and they, potentially, could make a little bit of more money that they haven't already been collecting. Yes.
GILROYAnd the competition is Google, cause Google's doing lots of mobile advertising as well. So, that's the big fight. Google versus Facebook, and it's gonna be vicious.
NNAMDIHow convenient or inconvenient is it likely to be for smartphone users, once you download the app.
DRUINOnce you download the app, honestly, it's just remembering to go to one place verses the other. But to be honest with you, I actually, I've so gotten used to the messaging being in the app that it's gonna take me a while. So I think those of you that have used Facebook for a while, you're gonna have a hard time. You're gonna go to press something and go whoop. No, I have to go switch. And that's the problem. However, for those of you that want cheap messaging, this is a great way to go.
NNAMDIGoogle is making it easier to use its Hangouts Video Conference software. You don't need a Google Plus account anymore. You just need a Google apps account. Why the change? What does this mean for people who use Google Hangouts?
DRUINWell again, they're going after trying to expand their market. What they realize is, guess what? Skype is -- everybody's using Skype these days for meetings. For...
HARLOWAnd on top of that, nobody's using Google Plus. So you combine those two.
DRUINThat's right. And so you don't want to -- you basically are burying the Hangouts in a product that a lot of people aren't using. So, they're decoupling it and they're going after Skype. Because it is -- you know, actually, the problem with Skype is if you have too many people that want to get on a video conference at once, that's a problem. However, with Hangouts, you can have many more people together in one place.
NNAMDIBill, Apple and IBM announced a partnership to develop apps designed for business. Why did these former rivals decide to team up and what will their new apps look like?
HARLOWWell, the new apps -- it's gonna be more or less customed for whoever their customers are going to be, right? It's just another way to really expand their dominance in enterprise. I mean, the iPhone kind of snuck in, because, you know, everybody was based around things like Blackberries, and here's this great consumer device that, guess what, you know, consumers still work at companies, or in some cases, run them, and they're like, you know what, I've got an iPhone now, forces in here to figure it out. And because of that, Apple, over time, has kind of expanded what it can do and how it can better fit into an enterprise environment.
HARLOWAnd now, I think, this partnership with IBM is a way to say hey, we're actually serious about this. How often does Apple get serious, publicly, about enterprise? I mean, it's not that often, so it's a pretty big deal.
GILROYYeah, and they call IBM Big Iron because it is big iron and hard to move. And my experience with IBM has been very, very rigid structured and maybe this is just, like, a little bit of hot sauce to get those guys in suits and ties. And it's a very difficult organization to understand. I still don't get it.
HARLOWWell, I think Apple needs them, because this is not the way that Apple typically operates. So they really needed expertise.
DRUINWell, absolutely, because IBM now can say, look, we'll give you a support package, and we'll take care of your 60 devices for you, and we'll also create custom apps that are particular to the market we know. And so, we're not gonna depend on the open Apple market for this, and so that's actually, that's a big deal.
NNAMDIWhat business related app would you like to see? Give us a call. 800-433-8850. Or, if you'd like to talk about messaging apps, you can also send us an email to email@example.com. Bill, last month, Microsoft said it will lay off 18,000 employees. About 14 percent of its work force. Most of those jobs coming from Nokia, the mobile phone company Microsoft bought this year. Why the bloodletting? What does Microsoft hope to accomplish as a result?
HARLOWWell, they acquired Nokia, or I should say Bomber acquired Nokia.
GILROYBefore or after the basketball team. Maybe. Before the basketball team.
HARLOWSo, I think the way I look at it was that's about Verizon Center's capacity crowd worth of employees. So, it's about half of Nokia. I think about 12,000 people, roughly, from Nokia. And it makes sense. Now they're kind of getting back to where they should be from an employee head count standpoint. I'm just wondering how, honestly, the Nokia deal's gonna shake out long term. I mean, I know that it didn't really work out too well for Google when they bought Motorola. Nokia does have hard (word?) in mobile.
HARLOWWill that translate into really outstanding Windows phone products going forward? I don't know. I mean, I think there are great Windows phone products out there now, but no one's just buying them. So, I don't know what it's going to be long term.
GILROYEvery summer, Microsoft has a partners conference. It's in Boston, it's in Las Vegas. And this year, it's in Washington, D.C. And so, they have all this hoopla and laser show and smoke. And I've been to them, and it's really, it's really like Las Vegas on the Potomac here. And next year, it's gonna be in Orlando. And he was, from a public relations perspective, he was at his peak right during that conference, and he was walking through the room. And then, a week later, he sends out the pink slips. And he plummets completely.
GILROYBut you know, what Microsoft is doing is maybe some of what IBM is doing. Is they're trying to be -- the phrase that pays is agile. Trying to move to cloud. And aggressively going after cloud based applications. And moving there, and they feel that getting away from a licensed based approach and moving to cloud is the way that -- the only way they're gonna survive. So, I view it as a strategic move, and good for Microsoft. You know, the Microsoft office is about four miles from here and I feel sorry for those folks, but they'll bounce back.
DRUINYeah, but you know, I don't get it. Let's combine two failing product groups into one. Oh, that makes sense. Yay. I mean, let's remember here. We've got me too products in mobile, search, internet and cloud. Okay, is this going to give them new focus? I don't know guys. Anyway, sorry, I just had to say that.
NNAMDIWell, the layoffs were a big step for Microsoft's new CEO, Satya Nadella. At first, the bold step boosted his approval ratings, but now current and former employees seem to be, well, less happy with him. What do the layoffs mean for him?
GILROYWell, less ability to lead. I think that position is a difficult one. I think it's a challenge and many times, when they stand up -- I mean, I was at the sales force conference and, you know, we can ran down -- Amazon web services have them and these leaders get up in front of thousands of people and they say, do this and everyone follows. And it's gonna maybe put some shackles on his ability to lead. But, you know, I disagree here with Allison. Microsoft is very aggressive with moving to the cloud and coming up with all kinds of new offerings for Windows Azure and hosting all kind of different applications.
GILROYAnd I think they're going to be a very strong player, because Microsoft, believe it or not, is into enterprise software very well. And they're like Microsoft. They're tied in very close to the enterprise, and they can make that adjustment very easily. Especially with a product like Surepoint, which is a big seller in the enterprise.
NNAMDIOkay. We got a tweet from Jeffrey, who wants to know, Allison, will the chat heads feature still work with the FB Messenger app?
DRUINDo you know what? I do not know that. That is a good question.
GILROYWell, we're chat heads. Maybe see if we would work.
DRUINYeah. Yeah, that's a great question.
HARLOWWe will test that out for you later, how's that?
GILROYWe'll test it out right now.
DRUINYeah. If anybody out there in radio land knows, call in and let us know, but I don't know that right now.
NNAMDII have another one that you may have to check. This is a tweet from Penelope who says, what about the paper app, which is the Facebook and news app for iPhone. No chat in there, either? That's what makes it great.
DRUINI know. That is true. I know about that, guys. Yeah, it's -- I mean, basically what they're trying to do is modularize their product offering so that obviously they can make more money and they can bring in more people. So, yeah, you're gonna start to see more and more where you have to switch between things.
NNAMDIOn to, speaking of Skype, here is Lenore in Arlington, Virginia. Lenore, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
LENOREThank you. I'm a psychologist, and one of the things that makes -- well, we can't really use Skype for, doing tele-therapy with people who are not able to come into the office. Because in the terms and agreements, it's listed there that it's discoverable by a court of law, which breaks our confidentiality agreement with our patients. And I'm wondering if anybody knows of any video conferencing app that are not discoverable and that can be used, and conform to HIPAA and are 100 percent confidential.
NNAMDIA video conferencing app. Bill Harlow, do you know of one?
HARLOWI'm just trying to think. It's a great question and it's something that would never even occur to me to even consider.
GILROYBecause total world domination. Everyone just assumes Skype...
HARLOWYeah, Skype or Google Hangouts or something. I'm gonna assume that those big ones like Skype, Google Hangouts, Apple Facetime -- I'm assuming those would fall under the same limitations.
GILROYI can tell you, we can probably find the answer to this. A group called Himss. H-I-M-S-S.
GILROYAnd they're healthcare informatics. And when they have annual meeting, this is 40,000 people show up. They have a local chapter, meets in Roslyn. And I would imagine if you went to himss.org, H-I-M-S-S, and asked that question, Lenore can't be the only person on the planet with this concern.
HARLOWI would think not. No.
GILROYAnd I'm sure that HIMSS has answers to that. Because they get plagued constantly with HIPAA questions, compliance questions, and I think it's a fair question.
DRUINActually, it's a good point, strangely enough, he has, that there are healthcare provider -- actually, developers that are providing -- that are providing turnkey solutions that are special to healthcare issues. And so, in fact, take a look at some of these, some of the more global healthcare providers that are doing this. But you're right. No. Skype. You can't Skype, you can't do a Google Hangout. That's not what's gonna do it.
NNAMDILenore, has this been of assistance to you?
LENOREI have -- you know, I'm a solo practitioner, so I'm guessing the larger healthcare companies can purchase ones that are, you know, encrypted on the way up and on the way down. And can do that, but for a solo practitioner who wants to be able to do a video conference with a patient that's away at college, I'm worried about the cost effectiveness.
GILROYThat's why you go to HIMSS. Because there's many people just like you at HIMSS. I've been to many of their meetings. There are independents, big companies, small companies, and I think they'll have the answer for you, Lenore.
NNAMDIAnd thank you very much for your call. While I have you on the line, will you be willing to consult with John Gilroy for me, please? Some behavior therapy, maybe.
GILROYBehavior therapy. Behavior alteration.
NNAMDILenore, thank you very much for your call. Good luck to you. We're gonna take a short break. When we come back, we'll continue our conversation with the Computer Guys and Gal. You can still call us. We'll be talking about security threats and hidden dangers when you go to the ATM and all you're looking for is money. Someone might be looking at you. 800-433-8850. You can send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. The Computer Guys and Gal join us in studio. Bill Harlow is a Hardware and Software Technician for MACs and PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc. Allison Druin is Chief Futurist at the University of Maryland Division of Research, and co-director of the Future of Information Alliance at the University of Maryland. And John Gilroy is Director for Business Development for BLT Global Ventures. Let's turn to security threats and hidden dangers online. Just when you thought it was safe to go to the bank, a report says a new variety of ATM skimmers may be grabbing your personal data while you grab some cash.
NNAMDIAnd the computer security expert warns that USB drives are the latest tool hackers are using to burrow into your machine. What safety precautions do you take at the cash machine? Give us a call. 800-433-8850. John, a new variety of ATM skimmers that record your pin number from unsuspecting customers at the ATM machine. What's going on and is it a threat here in the US?
GILROYI hereby nominate that for scam of the month. I mean, that's a really good scam. So, poor Bill's over in France somewhere, trying to get some money in the street. Little does he know, there's a skimmer inside there. Takes his pin and sends it to someone's buddy in Kansas or Chicago, and then they deplete his account. The next day, he comes home and he finds out all his money's gone. And it's happened constantly. And I think Allison talked about this last month, the different types of credit cards over there. And so, the scammers are not going after the French and the Germans. The scammers are going after people like Bill and tourists and hitting them back here in the United States.
GILROYSo, I think it's a -- it's just another concern -- the long list of problems with credit cards and I think this is gonna move the United States into being more secure credit card, like...
NNAMDIHow are people being advised to protect themselves when they withdraw cash at the ATM?
HARLOWWell, money in the mattress, right?
GILROYNo, what they're saying is go inside a bank. Cause in Europe, a lot of those machines are just out in the street. I think they recommend you go inside a bank. At least that will have the camera...
NNAMDIHow about inside a supermarket or drugstore?
GILROYYeah, or just walking around. Yeah, I wouldn't.
DRUINThere's also these little -- what they're doing too, besides sticking the skimmers in more deeply into the scanner, they're also, there's also these -- they're adding actual teeny little cameras that you can't see.
HARLOWYep. Exactly. That stare at the keypad.
DRUINSo, so actually, the best thing you can do is cover it with your I'm showing you, and this is radio. Cover it with your -- I'm losing it, cover it with your hands as you're typing in and so that you really cannot -- nobody can see it.
GILROYThen you're gonna go see Dr. Lenore if you start doing that all the time. People are watching me.
HARLOWI agree with that, though. I do try to be discreet about it. And the problem I have though is a lot of these keypads are really bad to try and be private, and you're mashing the same pin really obviously because the buttons don't work. It's just -- it's hard to do.
NNAMDIWell, you should know we got a tweet from Hanvi offering some assistance when we earlier talked about the Facebook Messenger app. And he says yes, you still have chat heads in the Facebook Messenger app. And here is Natalie...
HARLOWAre chat heads HIMSS compliant, though? I mean...
NNAMDISpeaking of compliant, here is Natalie in Warrenton, Virginia about what she understands might be HIPAA compliant. Natalie, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
NATALIEHi. Thank you. I had an opportunity to look into this. I think there's a product called etherapi. E-T-H-E-R-A-P-I. It's either an app or something. But it complies with HIPAA. It does something. It's compliant with insurance and it's a new process to get more therapy access to people who either, you know…
NNAMDINatalie, have you used it yourself? What's the source of your information?
NATALIEI saw it on a magazine. One of my health magazines. And I went online and looked at it quite a bit. Not yet, but I'm going to, because I'm disabled. I don't drive.
NATALIESo for me to get into therapy, I really have to make it inconvenient for a lot of people to drive me. So...
NNAMDIOkay. Thank you very much for your call.
NATALIEThank you. Thank you so much.
NNAMDIAnother person tweeted us to say they thought Facetime might be compliant. We did some quick research. It shows Facetime can be compliant and there seems to be other video conferencing programs you can use, but that you have to pay for. Facetime can apparently be made compliant, but with the right settings, so you want to look into that.
DRUINYeah, don't use plain vanilla Facetime, folks, or else you'll get in trouble.
NNAMDIExactly right. Bill, an internet security guru said last week that USB devices like thumb drives are the latest way hackers may be gaining access to your computer and spying on you. And leaving your machine with a mystery virus that anti-virus software can't detect. What's going on and again what can we do to protect ourselves?
HARLOWWell, I think that what makes this so interesting is that this isn't some malware that someone just copied to the memory on the thumb drive. This is actually a code that they can put in the firmware on the drive, which, you know, normally, that just, you know, is part of the USB controller. It's part of the chip. You just -- the computer would never even see that. But there's still ways they can execute a code there that would then compromise the computer and possibly spread the malware.
HARLOWSo they were demonstrating that this is a possible vector that could be used by ne'er do wells. As far as what you do to protect yourself, I think the obvious things are don't pick up a random, you know, memory stick off the street and plug it into your computer. I mean, don't -- you know, only plug it in when it's from a trusted person or yourself. I suppose if you're really paranoid and you're in an environment where that sort of thing could be an issue, you can do things like fill your -- they're suggesting fill your USB port to the poxy and just...
GILROYWell, there are government agencies that have a lot of crazy glue in their USB ports because of that.
GILROYAnd the classic story, of course, Kojo, is you go outside of an agency and you drop a lot of USB drives, someone takes them right inside, plugs them in and bang.
HARLOWYeah. And that's the thing. If someone's dying to know what's on that, so yeah. It's a great way to gain people.
NNAMDIWhy do you describe the people who do this as ne'er do wells? Seems to me that they're doing a lot better than
GILROYThey're always do wells.
NNAMDIJohn, the European commission is ramping up its threats against Apple for failing to make it more difficult for children to unwittingly rack up huge bills for in app purchases. Why hasn't Apple addressed the concerns about which apps are truly free and which ones can cost money once you start playing?
GILROYWell, this is just a little fun with words. It's Kojo Nnamdi, fun with words. And the four letter word here is free. Well, free to download or free to use? And some unassuming person would say well, it's free and just go ahead and start playing with it.
NNAMDIThe magic word.
GILROYYeah, especially little silly games like Smurfs Village. I mean, you would think that's free. Just some silly thing, and it turns out that, you know, Apple had to pay, I think, 32 million dollars for charging for this over in Europe. And it can be kind of deceptive. I saw -- now, I'm not a big gamer, but I guess if you had a four-year-old and they wanted to play Smurfs Village, you figure, how innocent is that? It's free.
DRUINYeah, but here's the thing. With the European Union, they are very, very protective of children. In fact, much more so than -- we don't do as good a job in supporting parents and families and so on as the European Union does. And so they have been taking this very, very seriously. And I say, good for them, and hopefully we'll learn from it.
HARLOWYeah, the big phrase is free to play. So, you know, an app that you can download for free, but all the functionality and stuff you can really do is these little modules you buy. Some of them are consumable, some are permanent and unlock the game. And Google has gone so far as to even, I believe, no longer allow those games to tout themselves as free at all. That they make it clear that there is a purchase involved on the Google Play store.
NNAMDIThis is like walking along in the supermarket with a pile of all the things that you don't need, but your children love on the bottom shelf.
NNAMDIAnd they put them on the bottom of the cart, and the next thing you know, you're paying for them.
GILROYIt's free to look at.
NNAMDIA couple of tech giants are testing new products and reporting new successes -- Apple's Yosemite Operating System is in beta testing and Twitter exceeded expectations with its latest earnings report. Question for you, what changes would you like to see in Apple's next operating system? Give us a call, 800-433-8850. What trends are you seeing in your own Twitter use and that of the people you follow? You can also send email to us at email@example.com. Shoot us a tweet @kojoshow or go to our website, kojoshow.org. Ask a question or make a comment there.
NNAMDIBill, the first one million people who sign up can test Apple's new operating system. OS10 or OS Yosemite and send Apple their feedback. You have tried it.
NNAMDIWhat do you think?
HARLOWRight now, a lot of the stuff that -- and keep in mind, they just released a few more features that I haven't tried out yet. They're always updating. It's still in beta. It looks a little nicer. I mean, it's flatter. I like the dark mode view. But to me, the real interesting stuff is functional that I haven't really played with yet. The integration with iOS8, the way that you can get the MAC and the iPads and iPhones to more seamlessly blend, so you can share work, you can share resources of a phone as far as like relaying SMS. That sort of thing.
HARLOWThat's the stuff I'm really excited about. And that stuff, even if it was in there now, it would be pretty broken. So...
GILROYYou know, what's amazing is that Kojo and I are the geezers here. Remember, years -- back when Windows 95 was released, people would line up outside of the stores all night long in order to get the new operating system. It was a big hoopla and people talked about it.
HARLOWAnd didn't the Rolling Stones, like, perform for that?
GILROYYeah. Yeah. "Start Me Up." And it was a -- it was a really, a really, really big deal. And now, here it is, a short 19 years later, people talk about actual hardware again. It's a cyclical thing. Now they're talking about the internet of things. And hardware and detectors and smart watches. And it's just a -- it's fascinating where this is like a side note. Oh, by the way, a new operating system, where it should have been like, you know, sky writing and the end of the world here.
HARLOWSide note and free. I mean, they're not even selling this.
GILROYYes. There's been a change.
DRUINShort 19 years?
GILROYA short 19 years.
DRUINJohn, are we talking, like, Stone Age is here. Oh my goodness. No. Operating systems should be absolutely transparent to the user.
GILROYYou and Bill were in diapers back then. Come on.
HARLOWIf I was in diapers at that time, it would have been pretty scary.
GILROYWe're not talking Saturday night now.
DRUINOr enough, guys.
NNAMDIDiapers at 12-years-old. Imagine taking photos that you could refocus later, Bill. Or play around with, after the fact, to see the image from a different perspective. Light-field Photography does all that and a new camera called the Lytro Illum could be the way of the future. What is Light-field Photography and where is it headed?
HARLOWWell, I hope it heads towards continued development. Because right now, it's still -- I haven't used the Illum, by the way. I've played with the earlier one, just known as, I think, the Lytro Light-field camera. Which almost looked like a kaleidoscope. But it's really cool, because a traditional camera, you focus on a scene, you take a static image, and that's that. And with a Light-field, it actually, it's capturing where all the light rays are coming from in a scene. And the end result is you have a product that is actually adjustable after the fact.
HARLOWIf you want to -- if I took a photo of you in the studio right now, I could actually, after the fact, with the Light-field photo, focus on your eyes, or focus on your mic, or focus on the scene behind you, and it would actually dynamically change. I could even perspective shift a bit. And I think it's really cool. If they can continue to develop this, and really add even more depth to scene, where you're actually starting to starting to capture some 3-D data in more concrete ways.
HARLOWBecause right now, it's really subtle. But I just the idea that it's so cutting edge -- it almost looks like magic and if something feels like magic to me, I want to see it through and I want to see what they can do when they really refine it.
DRUINThe idea behind the cameras is that we're talking about really grabbing big data for images, okay? And so the idea is that you've got much more visual information to play with. And so, once you have that, then the real challenge is, for developers, is how do you give this power to the user to be able to manipulate it? And so, this is a very powerful paradigm for many, many things that are going to happen.
HARLOWThat is very well put, but all I can think about is that scene in "Bladerunner" where Decker is sitting there perusing a scene after the fact and he's shifting focus around. That's what I think is cool about it. It's kind of like "Bladerunner" tech today.
DRUINOh, you're such a boy. Anyway, yes.
NNAMDISpeaking of the skimmers on the ATM, John, we got a tweet from Jeffrey, who said, what are the banks doing to combat that problem? We always hear about what consumers need to do.
GILROYWell, I have...
NNAMDIWhen they're telling you about it.
GILROYYes. I have a colleague who worked for a security organization, remain unnamed, and she'll remain unnamed, and her job was to work with banks. And there's a lot of bad stuff going on in banks that no one ever knows about and no one's ever going to talk about. And...
HARLOWDon't worry about it, John. That's the answer. Don't worry about it.
GILROYDon't worry about it. Just don't worry about it. And then, and I know there are requirements on releasing information -- I don't want to say sunlight, but it's not in their interest to let people know bad things are happening. And so they're gonna release as much as they legally have to. But I think, I think the change is gonna be what Allison talked about last month is switching to the better type of credit cards that have the security built in. I think what the banks are doing is shutting up.
NNAMDIWe had a caller, who couldn't stay on the line, who says he has a credit card and a debit card, but he uses neither, because he's concerned about hackers. John, since we talked on this program about Twitter's struggle to attract new users, it's only fair that we mention its upbeat earnings report last month. The social media company exceeded analysts' expectations, but some point out that it's still in the red. What's going on?
GILROYWell, I'll take off with this change in perspective here we talked about two minutes ago, well, you know, all the news lines, oh, geez, the stock way up, 30 percent, everyone's happy, and then you read the fine print, you find out that there's some subtle accounting changes in order to make Twitter look as good as it did. Now, I'm not a CPA, I don't understand it, but they've been cooking the books and yeah, I think there's some questions about that.
GILROYHowever, Twitter has changed. I think they finally figured out how to monetize Twitter. They're coming up with this new thing called Twitter cards, which I think more and more companies are using, especially the beer companies. In marketing, the principle is, you don't tell them verbally what you can tell them visually. And so what Twitter card is, is an image of something, whether it's shoes you're selling or a new service, a new television show, a new movie, and they're monetizing this and many, many companies are jumping on it, and it's a good way to brand, promote your brand, or specific product.
GILROYSo I think Twitter is figuring it out. I don't think this is -- I think this is a neutral type event where they're figuring out how to monetize it, like Zuckerberg is with Facebook, and other friends, and so it's a good sign but not as good as you might think.
DRUINThe thing is, what they're looking at is the monthly active number, OK? And we're talking, you know, over 270 million monthly active folks, OK? And that's increasing. Now, is it increasing because everyone says, well, folks, you can't promote your products anymore without being on social media. So is it because of promotion, or is it because of the average user being on social media? I don't think that people are understand that very well, but Twitter is understanding how to monetize what it has, better.
DRUINAnd so you see that in fact actually they're licensing more of their, you know, big data, their -- they've got much better at -- in terms of advertising, but then compared to Facebook, Facebook's in the billions, folks, and we're talking millions.
NNAMDIWell, we didn't have much of a response when Richard said that he doesn't use either his credit or debit card because he's concerned about hackers, so Richard decided to call back himself this time. Richard, you're on the air, go ahead, please.
RICHARDWell, I appreciate it there very much, because I listen to your show every day. We keep a farm out in Frederick County. I do want to let you know again I keep a credit card, keep a debit card, but I'll be honest with you, with all the infiltration nowadays, it's very hard to trust. I hate to say it, we're very old school, I'm only 63 years of age, still use checks and cash.
NNAMDIChecks and cash is all you use. Have you ever had an experience of an account of yours being hacked?
RICHARDYes, we did. Actually, we had somebody who tried to get into our computer, I believe it was around eight months ago, and they were trying to access our account, and of course, we had to have it all redone by the Geek Boys, over at the company. And no, very bad experience.
NNAMDIOK. Well, Richard is operating under the basis of past experience, and I guess in that situation, who can blame him? Good luck to you in the future, Richard. Let's look at some novel mergers of the virtual and physical worlds. Amazon launched a 3D printing store last week that will let you design your own cell phone case or jewelry or toy, then Amazon will have it 3D printed and delivered to your doorstep. And medical students at Stanford and other universities are finding a novel use for Google Glass.
NNAMDIThey're taking the high tech specs into the operating room and streaming procedures back to their professors for evaluation. Question for you, have you ever used a 3D printer or seen something produced by one? How would you use Google Glass, if you had one? Give us a call, 800-433-8850. Allison, what does this say about the popularity of 3D printing? Amazon offering customizable items from jewelry to toys, will it discourage people from buying their own 3D printers?
DRUINWell, I mean, this is very similar to the way the laser printer changed as a technology. It was, you know, when the laser printer first came out, it was in these storefronts and people went in there to try and get things laser printed and so on, and you know, we had Kinko's and so on. And then as things -- as the price went down, then people brought it into their homes and so on. But there are moments that you still go in for the larger projects and so on.
DRUINI think it's gonna be the same exact trajectory in terms of tech acceptance and the cost going down. Right now, these little figures are, you know, these little things that you can make, $40 for something that's really teeny is, you know, is hard to swallow.
HARLOWKeep in mind, too, that the current 3D printers, I mean you need to -- they aren't just set and forget. I mean they are high maintenance items.
HARLOWThere's a lot of trial and error. So that's why, at least right now, these on-demand services are really appealing. I mean, I live in Falls Church. Our library has a 3D printer now that we can use. So I think it's fun for experimenting with one-offs. I think there are other tiers of 3D printers that are -- that, you know, the things that Amazon is going to use, those are going to be probably enclosed and handle a wider variety of plastics and makes stuff that's more robust. But maybe, you know, with time, they can really get these to be stupid simple, where I can just go down to Staples or wherever and buy one, throw it in my office and print something out immediately.
DRUINBut right now even Amazon is not doing it themselves. This is -- basically, they're bringing together a marketplace of different vendors to actually do this. So this is -- that's how specialized this is. You have to actually have, you know, the right software, the right hardware, and also the right support to do this.
HARLOWAnd even if you want to make something, you still need to have some degree of knowledge on how to design something in 3D, which is -- it's a great skill set, but it's a new way of thinking.
GILROYWell, on "Mission Impossible" they did those heads. And that was great 3D printing. They do it in the movies. They should be able to do it in the real world, right Kojo?
NNAMDIWell, what Allison is saying is that there used to be software and then there was hardware and it had little to do with the real world. But all of that's changing. Does this -- an indication that someday we'll all have 3D printers at home at some point in the future?
DRUINYeah. I mean the whole notion of, you know, what is -- what is virtual and what is physical. It's all the same. It's sort of like we used to have the computer guy that was the Mac specialist and the computer guy that was the PC specialist. And now we have to talk about everything under the sun because it's not just about one platform or just about -- I mean, we have to be tech agnostic in some sense. And because, honestly, it's also about our real world.
NNAMDIGot to take a short break. When we come back, we'll take your calls. If you've called, stay on the line. If you'd like to call, the number is 800-433-8850. Our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can send us a tweet @kojoshow. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to the Computer Guys and Gal. John Gilroy, Allison Druin and Bill Harlow are with us. We're taking your calls at 800-433-8850. Let's go to Tony in Bethesda, Md. Tony, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
TONYHi. I'm driving from one restaurant to another, so I'll try to be brief. I'm in the restaurant business and the one thing, I've been hit -- as a small businessman -- with all sorts of ideas trying to make money off my customers and my business. But the idea of me connecting with my customers on a local level, you know, is intriguing to me. And I don't know if anybody's going to be smart enough to figure out how to do it. And the Google Glass, you know, idea of getting to know who my customers are. I have a terrible memory. But I talk to all of my customers. And I forget most of their names. But I like to know who's there and how often do they come?
TONYAnd, you know, how do they buy from me? And how can I talk to them? And how can I create my own local database to where I can reach out to them and say, I know you've come for lunch. Here's a 50 percent off next week for you to visit my store again.
NNAMDICan Tony, when walking up to a table, use Google Glass in some way to identify his customers and have enough information about them so that by the time he takes those next ten steps to the table, he knows exactly who he's talking to and what their habits at his restaurant have been?
DRUINThat is a great app that should be created. I do think pieces of it exist in different parts of Google Glass. But I do not believe there is the restaurant name app yet. But on the other hand, I think that as more people realize what is available in terms of, you know, what hands-free, active, experiential use of tech, this is exactly the right thing.
GILROYIt's dancing with facial recognition, isn't it?
NNAMDIYes, it is.
HARLOWIt would have to, yes.
GILROYOh, yeah, he always orders a Budweiser and a hamburger every day. It's just -- I would be very wary of that. I think that's moving in an area that might make your customers a little uncomfortable.
HARLOWWell, you know, as a customer it would make me feel a little uncomfortable.
NNAMDIWhat happens when the restaurant owner just simply recognizes your face with his natural eyes and remembers what you have bought there previously?
HARLOWIt feels like a personal connection at that point, not a database lookup.
GILROYThat's wonderful, yeah.
NNAMDIAh, yeah, yeah. Tony, I guess we should say good luck with that. You should know that tomorrow at 1:00 on Food Wednesday, we're exploring the etiquette of dinner-table photography when you're dining out.
GILROYIt falls right in there, yeah.
NNAMDIWe'd love to hear your thoughts on snapping pictures of your food at restaurants. What's acceptable and what's disruptive, what's rude? Send us an email today to kojoshow.org or send us a tweet @kojoshow and let us know how to reach you, if you're willing to be interviewed about your experience. You can send those emails to email@example.com. You can also take a poll on our website, kojoshow.org. Do you photograph your food every time you go to a restaurant?
NNAMDIAnd Tony, thank you very much for your call.
NNAMDIBill, the use of technology in new places raises an interesting question about when we want to use something virtual and when still prefer to hold an object in our hands. Talk about the quandary of hard-copy or virtual version in the gaming world. When do you choose to order a new game on a disc, that tangible, storable, relic of the past -- and when do you opt to simply play online?
HARLOWWell, I think with -- in my case, my relationship with games has changed somewhat. You know, growing up, you'd have a cartridge you put into a box and you'd play that. And when you were done, you'd take the cartridge out of the box and you would put in a new one. And these days, with the latest game systems, with PCs, with Macs, it's much more common to -- even if you buy a game on disc, you install it and it's permanently on the hard drive. So I think in that sense, you know, a lot of people are really comfortable with buying a game and never actually seeing a physical thing.
HARLOWWhere it gets interesting though is that gamers, you know, we're a bunch of geeks. And sometimes some release is a special edition which has, honestly, junk inside, but, you know, usually like an action figure or more interestingly an art book or something. And in those cases, if it's something that really speaks to you, maybe you want to have that relic. Something you can put on your shelf and show people. You know, something you'd put on the coffee table. And the other thing that I think about that kind of concerns me with the virtual is compatibility, right?
HARLOWI mean, a song's always going to be a song. It's pretty easy to record. But a PlayStation game, really only works on PlayStations. And as time goes on and these systems are retired, what happens to that history? I know that a lot of people are thinking about how to preserve this stuff. But the technical limitations and the compatibility issues that arise are kind of going to be a big deal going forward.
NNAMDIWill we ever see a Netflix for gaming? And will games on a disc for purchase eventually disappear?
HARLOWI think eventually games on disc will disappear except in areas where that's the only practical delivery model. But the Netflix for games is more interesting because they're trying -- it has to be on demand. And games are huge. So the only way they're really doing this is, Sony has something called PlayStation Now. There is a service I think still kicking around called OnLive. And the idea behind these was you don't install the game. There is essentially a server farm where the game is being played and they're speeding the video to you and you're interacting with the controller on your end and sending the control inputs back showing the video coming back to you.
HARLOWAnd that requires so much overhead to get the latency down and the video quality good. That may eventually be the way to do it. But right now it's very much a -- if you're in the right place at the right time, it works great. Otherwise, it's not really viable.
DRUINBut remember, who owns movies, books or music now? I mean, really, what's the physical -- what's the physicality of those things even? So now it really says, when is our content physical? And that's -- and it may be the more precious the content, maybe the more you're willing to allow some physical space for it.
HARLOWMaybe with streaming, we're realizing how much we can sort of disposable versus stuff we really want to keep.
NNAMDISome questions about 3D printing. First, from Pam in Bethesda, Md. Pam, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
PAMHi. How are you?
PAMYes. You're always a great host. Thank you very much. I wanted to talk about the 3D printer. I had a problem earlier this year with my sewing machine breaking. And everything was fine on it except for one small piece. It was a hard plastic. And they told me that they could fix it easy if they had that piece. But of course, the age of the machine, there are no pieces anymore. And I'm sure there would be applications for this kind of -- producing parts for machinery that breaks and...
NNAMDIUsing a 3D printer.
PAMYes. Even things like car restoration. You know, people are always looking for parts. And I actually did look at a 3D printer. But I thought the plastic was, you know, too flimsy and stuff. But, who knows?
NNAMDIWell, before we get responses to that, I'll put you on hold. Because Mark in Upper Marlboro, Md., has another question about 3D printing that really has to do with the materials involved. You're talking about plastic. Mark is talking about, well, something heavier. Mark, you're turn.
MARKYour shows are wonderful, Kojo. Thank you.
MARKI sell paper to printing companies for 35 years. And the printed product is ink on paper. Now with 3D printing, what if the end product needs to have the strength of metal? Or like the car part, as the previous caller commented?
MARKHow could a 3D printer, you know, output metal?
HARLOWWell, I am by no means an expert on printing metal. But there are two things. One is you can of course get a CNC machine, where you can get like a chunk of billet metal and you can just carve out almost whatever you want. But there -- I believe there are actually metal additive processes too that actually have some sort of bath where you fire, I think, a laser at it. And again, I'm -- this is my poor memory trying to remember these details. But I know that the process is available. I'm sure it's very, very expensive. But that could come down.
HARLOWBut as far as making repair parts out of let's say a higher-quality plastic like ABS, that definitely happens. In fact, there are people who buy 3D printers and they modify them using that very same 3D printer to make the parts. So that is a perfect application for it. And I think with time you'll see that become more and more common.
DRUINYou should be able to find a vendor that may be able to help you actually do this. But it is going to be more expensive. So you have to weigh, how expensive is that little part that you're willing to pay for versus maybe throwing that away and getting a new machine.
HARLOWNot just the part but actually like measuring it and recreating it...
HARLOW...and goofing up the first 10 times until you get one that fits.
NNAMDIMark, thank you very much for your call. Pam, thank you very much for your call. John, you came across a unique merger of technology and breakfast -- the kind of thing that only you come across -- a custom toaster that imprints a photo on to the bread. How does it work? And how many people on your holiday list are getting new toasters this Christmas?
GILROYWell, the first thing I thought of was Kojo Nnamdi, you know? Me and Tom Sherwood would love to have a toaster in the morning, top off a piece of bread with Kojo's face on it and slap some of that strawberry jam on it and go, what do you think of that, Kojo? And the next morning, it's apricot jam. It'd be great.
HARLOWI've got the perfect application.
HARLOWOkay, so you subscribe to your RSS News Feed. It prints them on your toast. So you've got your paper and your breakfast on your plate.
GILROYWell, I try to come up with interesting applications here. And there is a company in Vermont called the Vermont Novelty Toaster Corporation, where you buy a toaster for $75 and then -- and here's maybe an application for a 3-dimensional printer -- they, for $25, they come up with a metal plate of whatever you want -- your favorite football player, RG3, or Kojo Nnamdi or whoever...
DRUINSo wait a second. It's $25 per toast?
GILROYNo. It's for the -- just for the plate you put it in there.
NNAMDIOh, but you can have that -- you can have that put on as many slices of toast as you want.
GILROYRight. And then every morning, it's Kojo with his coffee and just slap that jam on there. It'd be great. I think they'd only sell two of them. Me and Sherwood, we'd both love it. We'd wear them out the first week.
NNAMDIGood grief. Hacker is normally a dirty word describing someone with malicious intent. But a growing number of do-gooder groups are enlisting white-hat hackers to help them promote their causes. Allison, talk about the coders who are trying to help preserve and promote the Chesapeake Bay?
DRUINYeah. I had the wonderful opportunity to work with some great people over the weekend, Coding for a Cause. Basically, the Chesapeake Bay needs people to understand we have to change the way we think about our environmental attitudes and what we do on an everyday basis -- from, you know, what we do to our lawns and so on. And so a whole bunch of hackers came together. Actually 80 people registered for this. It was something that actually was initiated by Governor O'Malley's office. But we came together with the Smithsonian as well as Hack Baltimore and Department of Environment, Department of Natural Resources, it was wonderful.
DRUINAnd my hat as one of the co-directors of the Future of Information Alliance, we actually pulled this all together. And these folks made apps and different kinds of software all weekend long. And they competed for prize money. And so now, in three weeks, they're going to go to the governor's office and they're going to compete again. And ideally some of this software will actually be out in the public domain to be able to get people to think every time you buy something and you have a plastic bag, do you really need the plastic bag? Do you really want to put fertilizer on your lawn? Do you really want to go fishing there? And so on.
NNAMDIAnd as the U.S.-Africa Summit takes place, there's a Coders for Africa event here in Washington.
GILROYThis week. Yeah, it's on right now.
DRUINYeah, it's free -- actually it's free code -- it's called Free Coders and it's part of Code for Africa, a nonprofit group that's been developing -- actually, it's been developing the African technical community by teaching them the latest professional tools. And they do this in a very practical way. They work on real projects. And they get real experience. And they're actually using real African needs to make sure this happens. So over 300 people are expected at the D.C. Startup Incubator, 1776, on this Saturday. So you should go an take a look. It's amazing what they're doing.
NNAMDIWe're down to our last two minutes. But, Bill, in 30 seconds or less, tell us about Citizen Lab. What does it do and how does it function as a sort of intelligence agency for people?
HARLOWWell, the idea is that they're looking at ways that data is being collected on the populace or the ways technology is being used against people who are reporting on this stuff. And they just try to, like, it's research and gathering information about this and figuring out the malware that's used to target these people and what it's actually doing.
NNAMDIAnd now it's time for our app of the month. John's is called Time. It's designed for cooks who have something going on every burner of the stove and need to know when each dish is done. How does it work?
GILROYSync all burners and you have five different timers. It's great. I think it's great. Of course, I'm a world-famous chef and I use these apps. But you know you have four or five things going...
NNAMDIA world-famous chef with a bad memory.
HARLOWWho never brings in any food, I might add.
GILROYYou know, you got four or five things going -- you're preparing one thing, you think about that, you forget about this. I only have two or three little timers in the clock there. So five is great. And it's a great little app. Time.
NNAMDIWhen the water is bubbling, it's boiling, John. Your app of the month, Allison, is called Gained Fitness. Does it turn your phone into a personal trainer?
DRUINYeah, that's the idea. You're not supposed to gain weight with it. It's gaining fitness. And you're -- actually you select your goals and you do your data tracking and sharing. So the general thing is a free iPhone app. But you can get different added exercise packs, you know, anywhere from three bucks to seven bucks. And so you can do everything from yoga to circus strength and basketball pro.
DRUINCome on. It's great.
NNAMDIBill, your favorite app this month is called Air Stylus. How does it work and who might want to try it? You've got 20 seconds.
HARLOWWell, if you already have an iPad, and you're an artist and you get yourself a nice pressure-sensitive stylus, you can turn your iPad into a drawing tablet for your computer. So, you know, use Photoshop on your computer, use this as the input device.
NNAMDIBill Harlow, Allison Druin and John Gilroy, together they're the Computer Guys and Gal. You know their titles. We'll announce them again the next time we come on. We don't have enough time left. Thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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