The sexual assault allegation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is prompting members of Washington's private school community to look inward.
Big banks announce fees for debit cards. Will they push consumers towards “virtual” wallets? Amazon unveils the Kindle Fire, a newer, cheaper, smaller tablet computer. Will it knock the iPad off its throne? It’s the first Tuesday of the month, and the Computer Guys and Gal are back to answer your questions answered and explore the latest tech news.
- Allison Druin WAMU's Computer Gal; ADVANCE Professor and Associate Dean for Research at the College of Information Studies, University of Maryland
- Bill Harlow WAMU Computer Guy; and Hardware & Software Technician for MACs & PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc.
- John Gilroy WAMU Resident Computer Guy; and Director of Business Development, Armature Corporation
Items Heard on Today’s Show
Tweeting Moods by Season?
- How does the change of season affect our tweets?
The New Kindle
Comcast Offers Discounts for Low-Income Families
- Discounts on Internet services for families with a child who qualifies for free or reduced lunch
Moving Toward a Wallet-less World
What’s Behind Slow Load Times?
- The Washington Post addresses slow load times
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5, at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show." Connecting your neighborhood with the world. It's The Computer Guys and Gal. Never stop playing that song. I just love it.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIIt's the first Tuesday of the month, and one thing is -- do you have to keep playing it just because I asked?
PROF. ALLISON DRUINPower, power.
NNAMDIThe power of Andrew Chadwick, that's all this is. It's the first Tuesday of the month, and one thing is certain in our little corner of the tech world. The Computer Guys and Gal are back. The rest of the tech world is grappling with knowns and unknowns and known, unknowns to paraphrase the great technologist, Donald Rumsfeld.
NNAMDIWe know Amazon's new Kindle Fire will be smaller and cheaper than the iPad. Could this be the Android gadget that shakes up the tablet-computing world? We know Bank of America wants to charge its customers $5.00 a month for the privilege of spending of their own money with a debit card. Will this create an opening for mobile money, a Google wallet or maybe even a Google bank?
NNAMDIAnd, finally, we know that Apple was nice enough to schedule its big iPhone 5 announcement for after this broadcast. Thanks, by the way.
MR. BILL HARLOWI made some phone calls.
MR. JOHN GILROYHe knows people in high places.
NNAMDIBut what will it look like? In times of such uncertainty we called upon the wisest, most connected techies we know. But they're busy following the Apple announcement. So instead we got The Computer Guys and Gal. They join us in studio. Allison Druin is WAMU's Computer Gal. She's an advance professor and associate dean for research at the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland. Allison, always a pleasure.
DRUINAlways a pleasure, Kojo.
NNAMDIAlso with us is John Gilroy. He is director of business development at Armature Corporation. John, not so always a pleasure.
GILROYRarely a pleasure. It's a pleasure when I leave.
NNAMDIAnd Bill Harlow, he is a hardware and software technician for Macs & PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting. Bill, often a pleasure.
HARLOWOften. I'll take that. I will take that.
GILROYYou're slipping. You're slipping.
NNAMDIIt's always a pleasure to have you join the conversation by calling...
GILROYThe listeners are always a pleasure.
NNAMDI…800-433-8850. That's 800-433-8850. Or you can go to our website, kojoshow.org. Join the conversation there. Send email to email@example.com. For some the arrival of October heralds the arrival of football, apple cider and crisper weather. People of a more pessimistic persuasion might gripe about the rain and the shorter days.
NNAMDIEither way it turns out that our weather and our seasons end up influencing the way we communicate online. According to new research, our Twitter accounts follow seasonal rhythms. Allison, please explain.
DRUINYes, this is amazing. Social scientists unite, woo hoo, all right. More than 2 million people, they were -- social scientists at Cornell University were able to analyze the Twitter streams, and, basically, they realized that it had very little to do with, you know, major events and so on in people's lives. They really -- they saw that the ebb and flow of the morning people, slow -- they haven't had their coffee -- to the evening, or there's night owls.
DRUINThey analyzed what was a night owl and so on, and even from week to week, and so what's amazing about social media is that it's giving scientists the ability to really better understand people because it's all out there.
GILROYA small subgroup of human beings.
DRUINWell, you know, 2 million people are not exactly a small subgroup. And, in fact, actually, that's one of the interesting things is that, traditionally, social science research, they don't -- you know, if they get a few thousand people, that's amazing. But we're dealing with 2 million. That's amazing. That's -- the numbers -- the scales, it's total...
GILROYTwo million nerds, you know. What kind of conclusions can you draw?
NNAMDIDo you have -- is that all the comment that you have on this?
GILROYI got a lot of comment on...
NNAMDII'm actually surprised. The world is a big place with a mind-boggling amount of culture and political diversity, but these researchers are finding that, no matter where we live, we demonstrate common emotional characteristics?
NNAMDIDoes it really matter?
DRUINYeah, well, I mean, and so what your -- what your -- they're talking about is that -- actually, it's talking about biological rhythms, and so, you know, Bill, every time he wakes up is always going to be in this grump mood until a certain time in the morning.
GILROYYou really need a scientist to figure that out?
HARLOWYes, we need a $10,000 study.
DRUINWell, I won't even go to John, so, anyway -- but, yeah...
DRUIN...it's something to think about folks.
NNAMDIIt's become a ritual of the iPhone rollout. Every new moon, it seems tech writers and Apple fan boys congregate and whip each other up in a lather over the newest...
GILROYYes, they do Bill.
NNAMDI…newest iteration of Apple smartphone. Will it have a better camera or quicker processor? Will it be flatter, smarter? Will it be a chance for new CEO Tim Cook to don a turtleneck?
GILROYAnd not shave for a week.
NNAMDILike most members of the media, I am completely in the dark on this question. But I do have one gripe. Why do they have to announce it right after the show? Bill, you said you made a phone call. Did it work?
HARLOWI did 'cause I wanted -- you know, I figured we're the lead-in, you know. They need us to get the crowd excited. Now that they're all pumped up, now -- they're ready. Now, they can have their announcements.
NNAMDIOh, I see.
HARLOWAs for Tim Cook, I don't think they had the ceremonial passing of the turtlenecks yet, so I'll let you know when that happens.
GILROYThere's just one black turtleneck.
HARLOWExactly. So some of the things they've talked about, the new IOS version of 5's coming out. It's -- they announced that quite a while ago, I think, at the World Wide Developer's Conference, so they're expecting -- the most obvious thing is going to be an iPhone 4S. We're expecting it to look and feel a lot like the existing iPhone 4, but using the faster A5 processor inside it, like the new iPad.
HARLOWSo, you know, just faster at everything, much faster graphics, you know, both for gaming and for -- well, mostly gaming -- let's be honest -- and probably a better camera, you know, higher mega pixel. Hopefully, that means it'll -- it will take good pictures overall and not sacrifice low-life performance for mega pixels. But we'll see. The other thing, too, is that there are rumors of a new iPhone 5 that's something else, a different form factor...
DRUINA budget phone.
HARLOWA budget phone, too. Well, if it's like past events or -- I guess that the previous iPhone would probably be scaled down and sold as a budget phone. So maybe the current iPhone 4 will have reduced memory and be sold for, like, 50 or 100 bucks.
GILROYMaybe the new one will have voice recognition. That's what I'd like to see.
HARLOWThat's what they're saying, too, some sort of voice assistant that you can actually...
GILROYSo that's where -- they were fudging the words there.
HARLOWWell, no, I mean, seriously, it's interactive. You actually ask it a question. It will return responses. You can then drill down and isolate what you're looking for and have it pull the information for you. So it could be really sophisticated.
NNAMDIYou, too, can tell us what you want or you expect from the new iPhone. You can send us a tweet, @kojoshow. Simply put in hashtag Tech Tuesday. Allison Druin, what are you expecting?
DRUINWell, I'm expecting a big response to this phone because, first of all, people are talking about the increase in trade-ins of old phones by five, by a factor of five, okay. And people are talking about -- because this is the last iPhone that Steve Jobs oversaw, there's also sort of a bit of a, you know, sort of a tech whimsy, you know, and, oh, well, I want one of those, you know, for collector's items.
DRUINBut I actually think that the thinner, the smaller footprint, the metal back, you know, new processor, it's also been a longer time between the last time that they announced a new phone to this time, so more people are probably ready to chuck those phones. So I -- you know, of course, needless to say Ben's waiting for his, and, you know, my husband is, like, Mr. I-Have-To-Have-That-The-Next-Day so...
GILROYI just think the secret's going to be moving to the Cloud 2. I think this is something we'll see in many organizations. You know, Kindle and Amazon's pushing people that way, pushing them to the iCloud.
HARLOWYeah, well, no secret. They've been having the Cloud iPad going for a while now so...
NNAMDISpeaking of secrecy, part of the reason why this Apple ritual works is because everything Apple does is shrouded in secrecy. Even the companies it contracts with for components are sworn to secrecy, which is why some people were alarmed when a Chinese environmental NGO came out with a report accusing Apple of maltreating its employees and polluting the environment. Strange story, isn't it?
GILROYBlack eye for the Apple Company.
HARLOWYeah, I mean, almost every tech company these days, they get their stuff manufactured in China. And, you know, different suppliers have different standards, and generally the standards in China are a lot looser than you're going to find, say, here. It's interesting they're targeting Apple, but not that surprising. I mean, they're a huge company.
HARLOWAnd, you know, I think the angle, too, is that, you know, they are so influential that if, you know, they -- people go after Apple, and they have to respond that they have a good chance of actually enabling some change.
NNAMDIOn to the telephones. Here is Will in Arlington, Va. Will, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
WILLHi. Actually, I just had a comment, and I was actually -- I woke up this morning, and I was reading the specs over the new iPhone 5. And, you know, it said that -- I have a Nexus S, which is a Google phone, and the specs said that the new iPhone 5 was going to have a 4-inch screen, and I'm like, hold on, my phone already has a 4-inch screen.
WILLBut it said that Nexus -- the new iPhone's going to have a faster processor. And I said that, well, my phone already has a one-gigahertz processor, and then my phone has near field communication, which I don't even think the iPhone is going to have. So my question is, it doesn't look like Apple's being very inventive. They're just sort of catching up with Google right now.
GILROYYeah, I guess. Although I -- I bet if you polled everybody who has an iPhone, they couldn't tell you what the specs of the phone are in the first place. They have no idea. I mean, Apple doesn't sell the iPhone on hard specs. I think what they say is, it's going to be faster than the old one. It's going to have more storage, and that storage equates to, let's say, this many songs or videos or that sort of thing.
GILROYI mean, it's about the usability of it, too. I mean, the big selling point of the iPhone has always been the operating system. I mean, the various Google Android devices, some are, I think, really bad. Some are quite nice, but I think even the nicest ones don't really compare to the polish that Apple provides in their products.
DRUINThe design, the interface, you're going to see at least one announcement about something that's really cool design-wise that people go, I need one of those. You know, last time it was the -- it was between the two -- it was Face Time so that people could talk between iPhones. You're going to see something that says, I want that design-wise.
HARLOWYou know, faster processors, I mean, easier to use doesn't, you know...
NNAMDIWill, thank you very much for your call. You, too, can call us at 800-433-8850. Send us a tweet, @kojoshow, or email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You may know John Gilroy as The Computer Guy. He's also a college professor, and in that context...
DRUINThat scares me.
NNAMDI...he is posing a question to Allison, of whom he's clearly jealous.
GILROYVery jealous, I admit it.
NNAMDIHe's posing an interesting existential question. Which is better for the environment, using a tablet computer to take notes and burning energy or using old-fashioned paper and killing trees, Allison?
GILROYYou can give her two hours to answer this question. This is a tough one.
GILROYSo what is it? What's more environmental-friendly?
DRUINWell, you know, it also depends on how that tablet is made, you know, and because -- just the previous thing we just talked about is that if you're killing people and you're killing the environment, well, gosh darn, killing a few trees may be okay. So you're right. It's all about, what is that footprint that we're talking about?
GILROYWell, there's all kinds of numbers. I mean, I read an article in Slate about it, and they talked about...
NNAMDISee, he's reading now, too.
GILROYJust learned last week.
DRUINYou know, I'm a little worried about this. I really am.
GILROYThey say 60 percent of the damage done for environment is the manufacture of these devices. I just think, well, they always compare -- okay, Allison gets a Kindle. In five years she uses X amount of energy to use it. And compared to Bill, who uses paper, and he wastes all these trees -- but, actually, what happens is, Allison is going to buy her second Kindle or third Kindle and her fourth Kindle, fifth Kindles in five years.
GILROYAnd so the comparisons are very difficult. And I think the bottom line is, if you have a Kindle now, I guess, environmentally, keep it as long as you can. But people aren't going to do that. They're going to move up and upgrade so...
DRUINThe Kindle's on Fire now. You're not going to upgrade.
NNAMDIThank you. Thank you for that introduction because Amazon has unveiled its newest version of the Kindle.
GILROYYes, it has, very good transition.
NNAMDIIt's a project, indeed called Fire, and even though this might not be an iPad killer, most people feel that it could very well make the tablet computer space, if you will, more interesting. It's cheaper. It's smaller. It's built on Android.
HARLOWYeah, I mean, I think that, for a while now, people wanted, you know, a good tablet that was cheaper. And there have been cheap tablets, but they really haven't been good. And I don't really count that Palm Touch Pad that they threw out in a fire sale. There's that word again.
HARLOWBut this is...
GILROYWe call it the Ouch Pad, by the way.
HARLOWI mean, they're selling it as a Kindle first, and they're just trying to make it a great Kindle. And they're -- you know, it's got a beautiful 7-inch color screen, using the same -- in-plane switching technology the iPad uses, which means good color, good viewing angles, just a really gorgeous screen. The other thing, too, is magazines on this thing -- I mean, you figure that Amazon's got the infrastructure and the deals in place to get a lot of good content.
HARLOWThey've also put on, what I think is -- my favorite thing, at least, is the really cool Silk web browser. Web browsing on an Android device isn't that new, but what they're doing is they're using their web services, which, you know, Amazon has built out. And it's, you know, pretty popular and pretty huge to power this browser. So you pull down a web page. It gets sent out to Amazon's cloud, so to speak. It processes it.
HARLOWIt sends it back to your device as one stream, so it keeps things fast. You don't have to worry about plug-ins. That, to me, is a huge deal, not worrying about plug-ins.
DRUINYeah, well -- but, you know, there's a few things that are a huge deal to me for this thing, is that, first of all, this is cheaper than even the Nook, okay. And cheap -- I was just at Northwestern High School this morning, okay, and we were talking about, you know, what kind of technology purchases are they going to make? And you know what? A hundred bucks or 50 bucks makes a difference.
DRUINAnd this is a really great consumer platform, I mean, consumer in the sense of I'm going to consume information. It's -- you know, it's great media web, and it's free email, okay. And there's a lot of people in this world, including schools, that need a consuming platform.
HARLOWWhat's nice, too, is that Kindle really focused on making this -- I mean, Amazon focused on making this a Kindle, not trying to make an iPad killer. So, I think, if I had to make a prediction, like, iPad will hold on to the high end and that this may be the dominant device in the lower end.
DRUINI agree with you.
GILROYBut if you look at the numbers, this year, 60 million tablet devices are going to be sold. They predict, by 2015, 275 million of these devices are going to be sold. Apple can't sell all of them. I mean, there's got to be room for -- I mean, they can't -- maybe they can't crank up the machines in China to make them as quickly, so there's going to be other parts of the market.
DRUINThis is U.S. only, though.
NNAMDIThe coolest thing about the new Fire, far as I'm concerned, is that it runs on something called Silk. Would you, please, explain that, Allison?
GILROYYeah, that was the web browser we were just talking about.
NNAMDISilk, I love it.
DRUINYeah -- no, and it's actually -- I mean, and the other thing that's cool about this is it's also not only -- not only can you buy it through Amazon, but you'll be able to buy it through Best Buy and Radio Shack, which is a new way of Amazon saying, we've been bad about getting -- to distribute this.
GILROYWell, it's a touch device. You ought to be able to touch it first before buying, I think.
DRUINAnd that's really important. And so for all of you that are wondering, is this the right device for me? Please use it before you go and buy, money, you know, put it down.
NNAMDIYou may have already responded to Kevin's email, but I'll read it anyway. "I don't own an eReader but have seen them in use by fellow commuters on the MARC Train Penn line -- not the party train.
NNAMDI"From what I can see, the type face on the Kindle readers appear to be the same from user to user. Should I consider purchasing the new Kindle Fire? Will I have the ability to choose the fonts I prefer to read with different mediums on the new Kindle Fire? I think it would be useful from book to book, newspaper, magazines, etc. I also hope to use it to listen to your show while on the go."
HARLOWThat's a good use for it.
DRUINYeah. Yeah -- no, absolutely go and try these things out because, for one -- you know, for one user this maybe the absolute best thing in the universe. And, for others, they may say, wow, this form factor is just not right. You know, it's too small for me, 'cause it is 7 inches. Just remember, this is a smaller than the normal tablet.
DRUINAnd it's WiFi-only, and some -- for some people, that may be -- that may be a problem. But WiFi then will let you have really good streaming for -- to listen to Kojo and us and all that.
NNAMDI800-433-8850 is the number to call. We're going to be taking a short break from this conversation with The Computer Guys and Gal, even though they don't like it.
NNAMDI800-433-8850, and you can also send email to email@example.com. Send us a tweet, @kojoshow, or simply go to our website, kojoshow.org. Join the conversation there. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation with The Computer Guys and Gal. Bill Harlow is a hardware and software technician for Macs and PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting. Allison Druin is ADVANCE professor and associate dean for research at the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland. And John Gilroy is director of business development with Armature Corporation.
NNAMDIYou can call us, 800-433-8850. Indeed, let's talk with Nate, who has called from Fairfax, Va. Nate, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
NATEHi, Kojo, love your program. I had a question about the Kindle Silk browser. From what I understand, it somehow accelerates things by routing your sessions through Amazon. Now, what does that mean for privacy? Does that mean that this browser now -- that Amazon now has all my browsing sessions?
GILROYWell, Nate, if you want to look at it negatively, you can say that it's really a privatized merchant using a data aggregation network. How's that for a fancy phrase? What it is is they want to own you, and, as of right now, there's no opt-in, opt-out.
HARLOWThey want to own me, all of me?
GILROYThey want to own everything that you do. And from a marketing perspective, this is a gold mine. I'd love to know every single thing that Bill likes and doesn't like and that...
HARLOWYes, that's what -- access is the key word, though. They're claiming that they're not trying to get personal identifying...
HARLOWExactly. They're just trying to capture, like, trends, get an idea of what people are doing, but they're not trying to specifically invade your privacy.
DRUINAnd, Nate, they wouldn't be crazy enough to do -- that's -- see, the thing that's going to stop them...
HARLOWWhen you say that, you mean they can't get away with it.
DRUINExactly. They won't be able to get away with it, okay. And they really do need the aggregated data, not the personal data, because it's in the aggregated data that they're really actually learning something. By just knowing what Nate does -- even though I'm sure you're a really interesting person -- they're not going to be able to make product decisions, but, you know, again, you know, you can try it out -- actually, you can't try it out this exact moment.
DRUINLet me remind you that the Kindle comes out Nov. 15, okay. So, you know, but try it out, and see if it's something that makes you feel comfortable. If it doesn't, don't get it.
HARLOWAnother thing, too, is you can turn that off. You can actually have Silk appear, like, download-only mode where it doesn't go through Amazon's servers as well.
GILROYThat's the opt-in, opt-out, but it's difficult.
NNAMDINate, thank you for your call. While we're talking about new gadgets and our affection for them, we should talk about the words we associate with them. It is not uncommon to hear people say, they love their iPhone, like Ben. And now researchers are actually finding that certain brands, like Apple and Harley-Davidson, actually stimulate the parts of our brains that are commonly associated with the actual emotion of love. Who knew?
DRUINOkay, actually, researchers are...
NNAMDIDoes Ben love his iPhone as much as he loves you?
GILROYWow. We'll have to measure that, won't we?
DRUINI don't want to ask that, no, no. Actually, there's a lot of researchers that do research using MRIs to actually see what -- how the brain is being stimulated. And so there's been a few researchers actually comparing what the brain looks like when you see -- when somebody sees their girlfriend or their boyfriend or their family member...
NNAMDIOr their iPhone.
DRUIN...or in comparison to an iPhone, and, strangely enough, that imaging looks a lot the same. So...
GILROYI think the listeners should know Ben is not her boy-toy. Ben's her husband we're talking about here, so there's no, you know.
NNAMDIThank you. Ben Peterson is his name, actually. But, Allison, you've also noticed another interesting trend in the field of consumer devices, mash-ups -- Microsoft teaming up with Build-a-Bear, Disney pairing with iPad, like that?
DRUINYes. Actually, as we get more and more emotionally attached to our technologies, it seems that there are mash-ups of physical devices with the virtual devices. So, for example, those people that are in love with Build-a-Bears, if you buy one of four different bears, next week -- by next week -- you'll be able to take your Build-a-Bear into your X360 game of...
DRUINI know. You're so excited. This is like Webkins on steroids, folks. You're going to love this. High touch, you know, meets, you know, really touch sensitive. But, anyway, Disney is doing a mash-up with iPad, and so the "Cars," the Disney-Pixar "Cars" movie is -- you can buy these little cars and actually move them on a track on your iPad. Totally cool.
GILROYThese toys are getting expensive.
DRUINOh, yeah. Well, you get two cars for 20 bucks. Anyway, and then Lego, not to be outdone by Disney, of course, is doing "Life of George Game" -- how is exciting is that? -- and mashing it up with iPhones. And so what they're doing is you can get photos of George and, can you make it -- can you make the same image using LEGOs and looking at speed and...
HARLOWI hope this is George Washington. Which George are you referring to?
DRUINYou know, not really. A George -- the George LEGO likes, but anyway -- so it's -- so I think there is a trend that you're going to see over and over again of the physical with the virtual and getting kids excited.
NNAMDIWell, right after we wake up John Gilroy...
NNAMDIWe're going to wake him up with this. We got this email -- this was posted on our website. "I've been trying to decide whether to upgrade to the new Mac OS X Lion. However, the reviews are pretty mixed. For example, lots of crashes. I'm not looking for extra bells and whistles, just the best operating system with my Mac. Should I stick with Snow Leopard or upgrade?"
GILROYWell, Bill's the Mac guy.
HARLOWWell, I'll put it this way. I'm not running Lion in my machine yet. I've played around with it. It's neat. There are a few older programs. And I'd say, generally, what I've been saying to a lot of people is if you are a long time Mac user and you've kind of built of up this, you know, collection of apps and tools on your computer, there's a decent chance that you might have some older stuff you still rely on that won't run in Lion.
HARLOWOne of the things that they removed is a technology called Rosetta, which basically meant if you had older programs written for the older power PC Macs before Intel, they won't run at all on the new Lion. And I've heard mixed reviews as far as, you know, some unexpected bugs that cropped up. You know, obviously Apple's working on new patches to come out.
HARLOWSo you might want to hold off until the next Lion patch comes out, see what the word is on that. But, I mean, Snow Leopard runs great for me. I'm in no hurry.
GILROYOn the operating system front, Microsoft has quietly announced 450 million copies of Windows 7 have been installed with hardly a whimper. Nobody's calling and crying and screaming, suicidal. It is a very stable operating system. Maybe he should cast his eyes on the dark side.
HARLOWSwitching platforms is such an easy thing to do. Anybody should do it.
GILROYIt's so easy.
DRUINI could test you with an MRI and show you're not in love with it. Anyway, don't worry.
NNAMDIHere is Amy, in Bethesda, Md. Amy, your turn.
NNAMDIYes, Amy, you're on the air.
AMYHi. I have a question. I have a 10-year-old son who's interested in learning computer programming, like, different languages. And we have two pretty old computer, like, seven to eight years old. And, so the question is, do we -- should we get a new computer for him to do this? Or can he just use the old ones? And if he destroys it, he destroys it.
DRUINYou know, I have to tell you that a 10-year-old -- a seven-year-old computer is absolutely ancient, and a lot of the programming languages that he might enjoy are not going to run very well on that computer. So I would suggest, even if you just get a netbook or something, that would actually be, you know, a heavier duty computer than you're using now.
GILROYNew operating system, too.
DRUINYeah, yeah, exactly, so...
NNAMDIAmy, good luck to you, and thank you for your call. You, too, can call at 800-433-8850. You can send us email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can send us a tweet, @kojoshow. Use the hashtag Tech Tuesday, or simply go to our website, kojoshow.org. Join the conversation there. John Gilroy, Bank of America caused a stir last week when it announced that it would begin charging its account holders $5.00 a month to use their debit card.
NNAMDIThis might prompt some of us to simply change our bank or put up with a new charge. But some tech savvy people think this could be a good kick in the pants to get us to abandon our wallets altogether?
GILROYYes. There's an acronym floating called NFC, Near Field Communication. I think someone talked about it earlier in the show and referenced it. You know, very, very few phones out there have these chips in them, and very, very few technology are able to take advantage of it. But maybe the way it's going to go is going to be away from MasterCard making millions and millions of dollars every year.
GILROYAnd, by the way, their stock is way up. They're making incredible amount of money. And maybe this will force people like me to think, well, instead of paying a small fee, I might be able to get away with it with a smartphone application or with NFC, near field communication. All the stuff I've read and studied about NFC means it's far off, but it may push it, getting closer and closer.
GILROYI mean, the phone has to have an actual chip in it to be able to do that. I don't know. Maybe at one o'clock today, we'll find out the new Apple phone has an NFC chip in it.
NNAMDIOur caller who talked earlier saying he has a Google Nexus S, is that what we're talking about here?
GILROYI think that might be one of the phones that has a chip in it. Now, I don't think the Apple's going to do that, but I think it's going to be a force in the future, what's going to be prevent the NFC folks to start charging their pound of flesh as well.
NNAMDIAnd, of course, Google's been already calling their Nexus S on spend the Google wallet. So that suggests to you that you probably don't need to be carrying your physical wallet anymore. While we're talking about big popular corporations, this weekend, there were reports that Bank of America's website was operating more slowly than usual. I certainly experienced that.
NNAMDIAnd some people speculated that the site was being attacked by hackers. No one has claimed responsibility as yet. But if they did, maybe they would log on to a new website called rankmyhack.com.
GILROYI work with a bunch of guys who are in football pools, and they all know all the power rankings every day and every team and the old uniforms and new ones and -- but now, it's not good enough to be in the NFL. You have to have your -- you go to rankmyhack.com, and you might find Bill or Kojo up there. And they -- what do you think of my exploit with the Bank of America? And you get certain points on it.
DRUINThis is so boy. Oh, give me a break.
GILROYRankmyhack.com, you got to -- it's a terrible looking, you know, page, but this is a -- instead of doing fantasy football, they do rank my hack.
DRUINIt's such a boy toy.
NNAMDII think I just got the signal to move on.
GILROYYeah, they're going to hack WAMU. That'd be bad news.
NNAMDIBill, when Comcast first proposed its merger with NBC, it pledged to expand access to affordable broadband internet to low-income families as a kind of condition. Last month, the company announced a new pricing scheme offering 1.5 megabits per second connections...
NNAMDI...for $10.00 a month, to families with children who qualify for free and reduced lunch. That's a pretty steep discount isn't it?
HARLOWI think so. I mean, that's -- I mean, 10 bucks a month, I'm not, you know...
DRUINIt's great. It's great.
HARLOWIf money's tight, you know, that might matter or something, but that's still pretty good. They're going beyond that, too. I think that the condition was access to keep computers for about 150 bucks, free training for the Internet and for the computers in general if you need it. And you don't have to rent any equipment.
HARLOWThey claim that you won't have any rental fees or equipment that you owe or anything like that and that they're committed to keeping that price at 10 bucks. It's not going to go up over time. So I think that's great. I mean, what they're -- what people have been saying is that the big thing is digital literacy, Internet literacy, being, you know -- 'cause everything needs computers now.
HARLOWI mean, even the most mundane tasks often require a computer, so this is a great step for a lot of people.
NNAMDIOn to Alex in Alexandria. Alex, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ALEXThanks, Kojo, great show. It's always enjoyable. I have a question about hard drive failures. I've bought two Dell computers, both desktop and laptops, in the last year, and I've had multiple hard drive failures on both units. When I spoke to Dell technical support, they told me that the newer versions of these hard drives, because they're spinning so much faster, are more prone to hard drive failure.
ALEXI wondered if your experts had any views on this. I was also told not to keep my computer on 24 hours a day, and I've gotten sort of mixed advice of experts about whether to leave the computer on or to turn it off every night. Thanks for the question.
GILROYWell, back in the day, they had something called mean times between failure. They didn't manufacture hard drives and predict how many hours or how long they'd last before they failed. And I've seen over the years hard drives have gotten more and more reliable, and they don't use mean time between failure anymore. But they talk about different methods to evaluate longevity of a hard drive.
GILROYI think there's something wrong with the hardware. It doesn't make sense. You may get a bad hard drive, and I've seen hard drives and servers fail that go 24 hours a day. And that happens, though, occasionally, but it doesn't happen consistently. I think if you were running a data warehouse and you saw one particular server with a hard drive that had to be replaced two or three times, you'd probably look at the hardware inside the machine itself.
GILROYSo I'm thinking you've got a short, or you've got some chip that's not performing correctly. Bill, what...
HARLOWI totally agree with that. It could be bad power from the power supply, too. I've seen that cause hard drive failures. As far as these go, too, it's not necessarily the speed they're spinning. I mean, there are a lot of firmware failures, too, on these drives. So there are all sorts of reasons why they may fail, but I think you're on to something, John.
GILROYBut two in a row, you know, if it happened once, well, maybe. But two in a row, there's got to be something that -- maybe it's not cooling down. Maybe the fan -- you know, just 'cause the fan's working doesn't mean it's actually cooling it down enough. You can measure that fan. And just because the power supply is there doesn't mean its producing power efficiently. So I would -- I'd get some diagnostics and look at both those two.
NNAMDIBut, Alex, then there's this. According to a New York Times article last week, at least half the time, computer technicians say when our hard drive is on the fritz, we are the culprit.
HARLOWAlex, it's your fault.
NNAMDIAmong the common faux pas, never use a laptop on your lap. It can disrupt airflow to the hard drive and lead to overheating. This, in turn, can lead to big problems. Never walk around with a laptop while the hard drive is active. Its actuator arm could bump into the magnetic memory and damage the computer. And, Allison, another common error is keeping the laptop plugged in all the time.
NNAMDIWe actually had a listener email last month about this very question.
DRUINThat's right. Well, I mean, it...
NNAMDIOf course, I keep mine plugged in all the time.
DRUINSee -- and, actually, it's interesting. The difference between desktop hard drives versus laptop hard drives are very different and how we actually beat them up is very different as well. But the plugging in thing has to do with the batteries, and this is very -- this is sort of strange. Batteries need to be exercised, just like people. And so if you're leaving it plugged in all the time, it's going to atrophy, okay.
DRUINIt's actually -- you're going to reduce the lifelong, you know, hours that you're actually going to be able use that battery for. So, yeah, so exercise your batteries. Pull it out. But you've got to be very careful. When you're closing up your laptops, remember to make sure you hear that that hard drive has whirred down, okay, that it goes (word?) and it's down, okay.
DRUINBecause if it's still going, you could overheat it, just like John was talking about, or you could end up -- you could end up scratching what's going on there 'cause it's still working. So be careful as you drag these things around.
NNAMDIWhen John Gilroy told me where to get my new laptop last year, he didn't tell me any of that stuff -- none.
GILROYYou see? Quick question by the way. I mean, I think a lot of us know that you're not supposed to use your laptop on your lap. Who in this room still does that, though?
NNAMDINo, I don't.
DRUINI do. I do, I do it.
GILROYYeah, I don't follow my own advice sometimes, and that's one of those times.
DRUINI have to tell you. I love it in mine.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Alex. We're going to take...
GILROYEspecially as the weather gets colder.
NNAMDI...a short break. When we come back, we'll continue our conversation with The Computer Guys and Gal. You can still call us, 800-433-8850. Send us a tweet, @kojoshow, using the hashtag Tech Tuesday, or email to email@example.com. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIIt's the first Tuesday of the month. The Computer Guys and Gal are here. Allison Druin is ADVANCE professor and associate dean for research at the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland. John Gilroy is director of business development with Armature Corporation. And Bill Harlow is a hardware and software technician for Macs and PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting Inc.
NNAMDIAllison, this year WAMU is celebrating its 50th anniversary. And later this month, we'll be holding a gala event featuring radio icons anyone would love to meet, like Carl Castle and some radio icons you'd probably want to studiously avoid, like Tom Sherwood. Hopefully, he's not listening. But...
DRUINI thought you were talking about us, Kojo.
NNAMDIBut you're excited for new mobile apps that allow you to make the right sartorial statements for black tie events.
DRUINYes, I'm very excited. I'm going. You know, I got my dress, you know, the whole thing. And there is an iPhone, iPad touch app called "I Frock Up."
DRUINYes, thank you very much. And it's a countdown tracker, all right, as well as -- so, you know, a list of all the things, how are you getting ready. Now, John, okay, when you get your...
GILROYSounds like you're at the senior prom, doesn't it?
DRUINI'm so excited, okay. When you get your bow tie and you're trying to figure out how to tie your bow tie, there's an Android app, okay. There's an app for that -- there's an app for everything. But the best one...
NNAMDII used to have to go to the tie store, have the guy show me how to tie the bow tie and then go home and tie it again, and then the next year do the same thing all over again.
HARLOWHuman interaction's overrated, Kojo.
DRUINIt's so true.
GILROYWell, you enjoyed your job as a weeder.
NNAMDIYou also flagged an Australian company called iClothing. (sp?)
DRUINIt's totally cool. Now, so you say I cannot leave my iPad alone for 10 seconds because I love it so much, and so you want to carry it with you. There is a -- there's this clothing company called iClothing that gives you a kangaroo pouch to carry your hands-free iPad wherever you go. So I'm thinking, Bill, this could be good for table hosting, right? I'm ready.
HARLOWFor a divorce, too. You were being carried away to the funny farm.
DRUINI'm so ready for the gala. I can't wait, oh, my gosh...
NNAMDIOn to the telephones again. Here is Rob, in Washington D.C. Rob, your turn.
ROBYes, hi. I heard it recommended that a seven-year-old computer was not adequate for learning computer programming.
ROBAnd I would actually disagree with that completely. I'm a fan of Linux and FreeBSD, and both of them would be more than adequate to learn any modern programming language. And they would run perfectly well on an old PC.
HARLOWI don't necessarily disagree, but I'm wondering if that seven year-old knows how to install Linux (unintelligible) on an old PC, or if his mom does.
GILROYHe'll just download it tonight.
DRUINYeah, I mean, I agree that, in fact, these old PCs are awesome in terms of really being able to see the innards and how they all work and being able to run some of the basic things. But for the 10-year-old or the 7-year-old -- I don't remember if it was 10 or seven.
DRUINA seven year-old, things like...
NNAMDIOh, no, the computer was seven years old. The kid -- the child is 10.
DRUINThe kid was 10.
NNAMDII get confused.
DRUINI mean, some of the programming languages, like Scratch and like Logo and so on, they have some really new wonderful features that may actually benefit from a newer operating system.
HARLOWAnd, Rob, I just want to let you know for the record, Kojo has a picture we can probably post on the website of him sitting here with a big old penguin. Remember that picture?
HARLOWSo we're not biased against Linux...
GILROYMaybe that's a good first test. You know, here you go, kid, install Linux on this. If you can do that, you're ready to get in front of a regular program.
NNAMDIWhat resources would you recommend for someone who has a 10-year-old child who is interested in learning programming?
GILROYMe, I would recommend they take logic, and that's the first start. I think if you can learn programming, you have to -- logic has to be done very, very -- and I think then a couple math courses, and I think when they get to be about 11 or 12, then, and only then, I'd say introduce them to some of the more...
DRUINOh, my goodness, you are so last century, John.
GILROYI definitely am.
NNAMDINow, Rob, you tell us -- how did you learn programming?
ROBWell, I learned it quite a while ago, back in the early 90's, at the University of Delaware. So I learned it in class.
NNAMDIOkay. Thank you very much...
ROBOn SunOS, specifically.
DRUINI love it.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. We got an email from Nancy in Vienna, Va. "Any advice on how a non-computer savvy person can erase all info on the hard drive of a PC so that it can be donated to charity?
HARLOWThere's a great utility you can get. You go down to the hardware store, buy a 20-pound sledge, and you beat that thing. That certainly will make for -- that data is unrecoverable.
GILROYFind a big magnet somewhere and slap it near it. No, I think, there's -- disc wipe. There's utilities all over the Internet for that. I mean, this is the easy part.
HARLOWIt's called Derrick's Boot and Nuke, which is a little CD you can burn. And once you do that, you pop it into the CD drive, boot off that. And it's, you know, got simple on-screen menus and just wipes the entire drive.
GILROYThat's a good one. There's so many of them, but that's a good one.
NNAMDIDid Netflix just set the gold standard for how to alienate your friends and lose customers, too? First they changed the pricing scheme for people who stream videos or get them in the mail. Then in one email Netflix apologized and announced that it was creating a separate company called Qwikster. All that bad press aside, some people are actually making the counterintuitive argument that this might mean -- or this might have been a solid business move, and they are raising the specter of AOL.
GILROYWell, you know, the specter that needs to be raised is by this guy named Clayton Christiansen who wrote a book, "The Innovator's Dilemma." And he looked at hard drives, as a matter of fact, and he looked a lot of different industries, but hard drives in particular, and said, well, how can these hard drives grow? And the best way he found is to take a company -- it's not designed to be flexible enough to take advantage of new technology.
GILROYYou have to have a split off or a separate division to run that company in order to keep up with technology. I think that's happening with these guys. They're deciding that the company was founded with the idea of streaming movies, and they happened to do the backup plan -- was the mail. The mail happens to be successful, and so I think what they're trying to do, they're trying to do the innovative dilemma thing and go back to the future, go back to the original model and see if they can make it and see if they can just take one vertical market. And, now, when I initially saw this, I thought they were stupid but if you try to think about it from a business perspective...
HARLOWIt makes total sense.
GILROY...maybe in five to seven years, I'll be the fool, for once in my life.
GILROY(laugh) But maybe this is what he's trying to do.
NNAMDIBecause it's going to be difficult to compete in the streaming video market for very long.
GILROYBecause you can't compete -- the question is, what about the reviews that are up there now? So all the reviews for "Toy Story 3" are going to be different from Toy, you know, for the U.S. Mail "Toy Story 3." I mean it's -- those are some details that have to be worked but I think he's forcing himself to challenge.
HARLOWYeah, people are saying that it wasn't a bad idea so much as just, you know, the way they handled it. And the other thing too is...
HARLOW...you know, they gave us free streaming when we had our DVD plans and now it's, like, we're getting something free taken away from us.
NNAMDIOne of the things we always love to do here, is to start an argument on the Computer Guys and Gals.
NNAMDISo, Dwayne in Frederick, Md., help us, please.
DWAYNEYeah, I'm a little bit concerned about your statements about the batteries because, yeah, I agree with you, if you're talking about NiCd batteries. But all these new laptops are being made with lithium ion batteries which don't have a memory. So you can keep them plugged in as long as you like to. They don't need to be exercised because the lithium ion is going to run down as much as it runs down. You plug it back in, it charges up, you can run it all the way down a third of the way, a quarter of the way, it's not going to have any difference, whatsoever.
NNAMDIThem's fighting words, buddy. Here's Bill Harlow.
HARLOWI am not a chemist so I can't say specifically what's going on with the battery. I'm just following my own experiences and what the manufacturers state. And that is that if you have -- and even Apple with their newer computers that use lithium polymer batteries, they say, you know, don't, you know, fully discharge them over and over and over again. You know, don't, sort of, leave it plugged in all the time. You know, that your life will decrease more rapidly if you do that.
HARLOWAnd I've seen that firsthand where someone basically has a glorified desktop in their laptop. It's always plugged in and then, you know, nine months later, they go to unplug it and 15 minutes of battery life. And we see that a lot and they're replacing the batteries prematurely in those cases.
GILROYAnd I've seen these batteries evolve over the years and I've heard this argument, I've read the argument...
GILROY...but then I bought notebook computers that the batteries have failed. Then I heard -- I read the argument and go, well, there's a discrepancy here between what is represented chemically and what actually happens in the real world." And I know they're not supposed to, you're not supposed to have to train them, but, I say you have to.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. Allison, last month Washington Post Ombudsman Patrick Pexton wrote an interesting piece about the loading time for content on WashingtonPost.com. Apparently he's been receiving complaints that the site takes longer to load than, well, some porn sites. On this...
HARLOWLet's sweep that out.
NNAMDIBut he said...
DRUIN...know that, yeah.
NNAMDIOn this broadcast, we've talked about how social networks are changing the way we read and share news. We've talked about how our movements are tracked by advertisers. Turns out that all of those developments may be partly to blame for slow load times on some websites.
DRUINWell, it -- certainly the way you architecture your website is going to affect your load times, all right. I think the Washington Post is struggling because of the way they've structured their advertising. It's something that you, you know, that you may not see on a WAMU site, for example, because you don't have a lot of the same kind of advertising issues.
DRUINBut to be honest with you, it is that interplay between content, between branded content and non-branded content and they're making design decisions, fully well knowing that they're slowing things down. They've even said that.
HARLOWYou got to keep the lights on and that's the balance.
NNAMDIThough this is a kind of backend versus front end story.
NNAMDI...who build websites...
NNAMDI...now, have so many bells and whistles they're expected to include that it can cause all kinds of data bottlenecks.
HARLOWYeah, and it's really funny too because if you -- sometimes if you have the status bar opening the browser, you'll see -- you might see, like, I don't know, waiting for a response from add.doubleclick.net or whatever.
HARLOWAnd it -- and my computers, I've even, over various times used different ad blockers and I've noticed some sites, wow, when I actually block the ads, I'm not loading those, the page comes right up.
DRUINOh yeah, flies in.
HARLOWAnd, you know, it's tough because, yeah, you do have to pay the bills but you also want to make sure that the user doesn't feel like, you know, your website's being hostile to them.
GILROYYeah, I think they're trying to avoid setting up a pay wall and they're figuring, well, maybe, if we can do contextual advertising, that will at least delay us having to put up a pay wall because everyone's going to complain about the pay wall.
GILROYAnd so maybe this is the trade off and I think it's a -- you know, no one really knows, with a site that gets that many hits, where they're going to wind up. New York Times, now is thinking if they set up...
GILROY...a pay wall here in the last couple of months. And I think the people at the Washington Post, they're getting rid of all the good writers. And they're trying to figure out, they're throwing everything overboard, what is the model to make money in this?
GILROY...and I don't think they've figured it out yet.
DRUIN...they could architecture this more smartly. And -- because they don't have to always slow things down. They could do sometimes it's slower and then other times and so on. So I think there are creative ways of doing it but you got to think about your users first for people. Otherwise that's a problem.
NNAMDISpeaking of slowness and loading, here is Douglas in Arlington, Va. Douglas, you have a question along that line.
DOUGLASYes, as a matter of fact, one of your guests mentioned somebody being in the last century. Well...
DOUGLAS...I'm -- at any rate, so when it says loading and everything slows down and I huff and puff a lot, I guess something is being loaded in and I just should just stop huffing and puffing, there's nothing I can do about that, is that right?
GILROYThat's right. What they're doing is contextual advertising. So if Bill goes to the Washington Post, clicks on the Redskins, it may be Allison's Sports Shoes ad that's going to be pulled up so you can see that. Or if Kojo goes to the style section, maybe some restaurant ads are going to be searched and pulled up for that. So it's not already there, they have to look for it and it's called contextual advertising. Google does that very, very well.
GILROYAnd they figured out on their website, so if you type in shoes, on the right-hand side you get all kinds of ads for Tony's shoes, Bill's shoes, Allison's shoes. And so what they're doing is they're trying to attract the right audience with demographics or, I guess, with...
HARLOWYou're also relinquishing some control when you do that as a website designer because, you know, these aren’t your servers, these aren't, you know, your services. And, you know, not only is it effective for slowness but it's been effective for malware in the past as well.
HARLOWYeah, someone in, you know, hacks the ad servers and malware gets into a flash ad on the New York Times.
NNAMDIHere -- and Douglas, thank you for your call. Here is Bernard in Reston, Va. You're on the air, Bernard, go ahead, please.
BERNARDHello, I have a lot of programs that I wrote myself. I used to take courses in coding as a hobby. And I just recently purchased a computer that has Windows 7. And it will not handle any of the old DOS programs. What can I do to get Windows 7 to handle DOS?
GILROYMultiple boot. I think there are utilities out there allow you to boot in different environments, aren't there Bill?
HARLOWProbably. Are there any good virtualization programs?
GILROYThat's what I'm thinking. Something...
DRUINVirtual machine, yeah.
GILROY...in the virtualized, yeah. I think parallels might have something like that. But I don't know, I haven't tried it. Most of the coding that I've seen done has been done in the real...
GILROY...in fact, mobile stuff.
HARLOWBut, you know, do some Googling on, let's say, DOS virtualization. I'm sure you may even find some free tools that allow you to do that. I'm pretty sure they're out there. I just -- I'm not as up to speed on them as I should be.
NNAMDIBernard, good look to you. And you mentioned Windows 7, Bill, Microsoft is previewing Windows 8, which is noteworthy because it will now have one platform for both tablets and computers. But some people think this is too little, too late.
HARLOWWell, I don't think it's too little, too late. It's just, my biggest concern is just, you know, that's always the dream, right? You make the one solution that does everything and the touch interface up is called Metro which is what they had on the Windows phones.
HARLOWIt looks really cool. I think that is a very unique implementation. It's really sharp looking, really clean, but what they're saying is you can have a tablet with a touch screen and still have full Windows underneath that with the Windows desktop and, you know, the classic icons and (unintelligible) and everything. I'm just not sure that blending of the two environments are going to work.
GILROYIt's almost like a bus that can get 30 miles to a gallon.
GILROYI mean, Apple doesn't do it. It has two separate operating systems.
GILROYI mean, this is...
HARLOWOptimizers user a (unintelligible) task at hand
GILROYDo you want big and a lot of power or you want small and good mileage. I mean, you have to pick something.
GILROYI don't think this bodes well for Windows.
DRUINNo, it doesn't.
NNAMDIAnd I'm afraid that's all the time we have. Computer Gals and Gal, Allison Druin is advanced professor and associate dean for research at the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland. John Gilroy is director of business development at Armature Corporation. He also teaches at Georgetown University.
DRUINOh my goodness.
NNAMDI...at least now they found out about it.
GILROYNow, all the students are going to leave.
NNAMDIBill Harlow is a hardware and software technician for MACs and PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc. Together they're the Computer Guys and Gal. Thank you all for listening, I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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