The Computer Guys & Gal have spring fever over the latest iPad, Google’s new privacy policy, and the latest robot technology. They’re also pondering mobile malware, the end of the DVD, and whether computer glasses are the best or worst idea ever. We explore the latest tech news and take your questions.


  • Allison Druin Associate Dean for Research, University of Maryland's iSchool; Co-Director, Future of Information Alliance
  • 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

Heard On Today’s Show

On Allison’s Radar

  1. Public or Private – it’s getting hard to tell!
    There’s Google new “Privacy Policy.” Then there’s Twitter who sold a huge archive of tweets to a data broker amounting to a treasure trove of behavioral, location, and social connection data that nearly 1,000 companies are lining up to license. And who can forget we don’t trust Facebook or sneaky mobile apps that are sending back our address books and more to the mothership. Is there a “Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights” on the horizon? Can the Federal Trade Commission help? Consumer beware!

  2. Random House Triples ebook prices, and triples mad libraries!
    Random House books sells their ebook versions of books to libraries across the country. Just this past week the company decided to “adjust” its pricing. Nothing is offered below $25, and some common titles are going for above $100. As Kathy Petlewski, a librarian in Plymouth, puts it: “The first thing that popped into my mind was that Random House must really hate libraries.” And despite the obvious ugliness of charging obscene amounts for the purpose of making books available to the public, these companies are faced with the prospect of selling one book and having it lent to a hundred people at once, never get stolen or damaged, be easily duplicated, and so on. In a way, the idea of having e-books “expire” or selling them at a significant markup is easily understood. HarperCollins’ e-books “expire” after 26 uses, Hachette and Macmillan only make part of their list available, and others like Penguin and Simon & Schuster don’t allow library lending at all. So Random House, in a way, looks good in comparison.

  3. Occupy Obama
    Chinese are flooding a Web page of President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign on Google Inc.’s social networking service with comments, after China seemingly lifted long-standing blocks. What some are calling “Occupy Obama” began early last week when Chinese Internet surfers noticed that Google’s Plus service was widely accessible. Most of the comments seemed purely for fun; some asked for green cards. Many were overtly political, calling for the end of Communist Party rule. “We have no chance to occupy our president Hu,” said a posting in English referring to China’s leader Hu Jintao. “He hates internet and has no account on any sns website, so we can just occupy Obama, forgive us …”

  4. Meet and Seat!
    This month, the Dutch carrier KLM began testing a program it calls Meet and Seat, allowing ticket-holders to upload details from their Facebook or LinkedIn profiles and use the data to choose seatmates. KLM’s service is available only to travelers with confirmed reservations who are willing to connect their social profiles to their booking. After selecting the amount of personal information they wish to share, passengers are presented with seat maps that show where others who have also shared their profiles are seated. Satisfly, based in Hong Kong, allows users to submit profile information as well as their flight “moods” — whether they would prefer to talk shop or chat casually — and other details like languages spoken and preferences about potential seatmates.

  5. Card-sized Computer
    The Raspberry Pi is a bare-bones, low-cost computer created by volunteers mostly drawn from academia and the UK tech industry. Sold uncased without keyboard or monitor, the Pi has drawn interest from educators and enthusiasts. Massive demand for the computer has caused the website of one supplier, Leeds-based Premier Farnell, to crash under the weight of heavy traffic. The device’s launch comes as the UK Department for Ed considers changes to the teaching of computing in schools, with the aim of placing greater emphasis on skills like programming. The machine, which runs on open-source operating system Linux, can be hooked up to a typical computer monitor – with additional ports used to attach a keyboard, mouse and other peripherals.($35)

  6. Kindle eBooks coming to a Barnes & Noble near you?
    Barnes & Noble and other booksellers recently pulled print editions of Amazon Publishing books from their store shelves because the ebook versions were only sold in the Kindle Store, a stance that B&N said “undermined the industry as a whole.” Now, Amazon has confirmed that its latest addition to the Amazon Publishing roster, a series of short biographies edited by James Atlas, will indeed be sold outside of the Amazon ecosystem in both print and ebook form. Is this the start of a new business strategy?

  7. Do you have the Luck of the Irish? iPhone (free)
    This calculator seems to add years to your age. It asks you for your age and then calculates what your “Irish age” would be. So it’s rough being Irish?

  8. St. Pat’s Easter Bunny Wall Paper- Android App ($1)
    Tired of spending your hard earned money on holiday live wallpapers every month? Well we got you covered in this one. This is the St Patrick’s day easter bunny LWP. Once Saint Patty day is over, no need to trash or delete since this will last longer into easter for a good 2 months. Perfect for those who are on a tight budget.

  9. Need a Leprechaun friend? iPhone ($1
    For those of you with too much time on your hands – Shake the phone left and right to make a rainbow appear, or front and back to make a pot o’ gold grow! The sky changes according to the time of the day, or you can swipe through to change it. You’ll get fiddle music and a little green guy wandering your screen.

On Bill’s Radar

  1. Mac OS 10.8 Mountain Lion announced with Gatekeeper application security. What does it mean?
    Gatekeeper will allow application developers who distribute software outside the Mac App Store ecosystem to sign their applications. By default in Mountain Lion, when a user tries to run an unsigned application, he is warned not to. Also, should a signed application become revealed as malware, Gatekeeper gives Apple the ability to quarantine the malware even after it’s distributed.

  2. Use the anti-virus software the security pros use… none?!I’m not suggesting everyone ditch their AV software tomorrow, but it does illustrate that for end users security is often not a pure “technology” issue, and that organizations need to take a better look at other attack vectors (for example keeping web servers, databases, mail servers, etc patched and up to date). 

  3. Houston, we have a problem (yes, I pulled out that old chestnut) NASA hacked 13 times last year
    Hackers working from China were able to breach the systems at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Labs. It seems they pretty much had full access to sensitive documents and user accounts. 

  4. Today’s internet users can’t bear to wait more than 1/4 of a second
    Google researchers have determined that if your web site takes 250 milliseconds longer than a competing web site, you could lose visitors. Consider all the ways we use the web and it starts to make sense: checking the web from smartphones (and over 3G), streaming audio and video. Web developers: keep it mean and lean, and don’t overburden your site with ads!

  5. We be (GPS) jammin:’GPS jamming and spoofing systems are threatening infrastructure. GPS signals are often used to keep cell phone towers the electrical grid in time sync. GPS spoofers can falsify location information. “There have been incidents where trucks carrying high value goods have been hijacked,” he said, “where GPS and cell phones have been blocked.”

  6. Sexual harassment in competitive gaming:
    This article focuses on a fighting game tournament broadcast as a web series. You’ll need thick skin to watch some of the videos—the epithets thrown around can get pretty ugly. The reason I think this can be a challenging, fascinating, and deeper story stems from gaming culture in several ways. You’ve got a community built around off-color humor, dominated by posturing male teens (and man-children). Online gaming in particular can be incredibly competitive and aggressive, and grants a degree of anonymity mixed with a wide audience. It’s almost like taking part in a massive, online, co-ed locker room occupied by both teams. In this case, with the Cross Assault tournament, it was especially painful, since these gamers weren’t faceless and online, but on site and face to face. We’re at a crossroads. Gaming is mainstream, especially for the younger generation, and it’s not just boys playing. As gamers become parents, they’re facing challenges raising kids to be good “gaming citizens” too.

On John’s Radar

  1. One-quarter of work devices are Smartphones and tablets

  2. A map to find the elusive Twitterati

  3. Android Malware Increased 3,325 Percent in Seven Months, Says Juniper Networks

  4. The number of mobile devices will exceed world’s population by 2012

  5. A sad day for WiFi sniffers…Twitter & HTTPS

  6. Suggested pickup line for single listeners: “Hey, would you like to type on my keyboard?

  7. Apple is worth more than Google and Microsoft combined

  8. I come not to praise DVDs, but to bury them

  9. Windows 8: best-kept secret or move away from the personal computer?


  • 12:06:42

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. The computer guys and gal are here. Of course, you knew that when you heard that old-school electronica. That only means one thing: The March winds have blown them in again. It's March Madness, even for non-sports fans. There's a frenzy building over the unveiling of the new iPad while everyone's going crazy trying to navigate Google's new privacy policies.

  • 12:07:27

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIAnd what's with our favorite programs on Twitter, Facebook, and even the apps in our phones, tapping into our private information? Maybe you're one of those who's not concerned about privacy. You might want to choose your seatmate on your next flight by sharing your Facebook information. Meanwhile, nasty programs that attack our mobile devices are being created at a dizzying rate.

  • 12:07:49

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIJoining us to help us stop the madness is Bill Harlow. He is also a hardware and software technician for Macs and PCs at Mid Atlantic Consulting, in addition to being our computer guy. Bill Harlow, welcome.

  • 12:08:02

    MR. BILL HARLOWNice. Nice to be first for once.

  • 12:08:06

    NNAMDIOur other computer guy is John Gilroy. He is director of business development at the Armature Corporation. John Gilroy, welcome.

  • 12:08:15

    MR. JOHN GILROYGreetings, my Rick Santorum supporter.

  • 12:08:20

    HARLOWIt's a lovely sweater vest.

  • 12:08:20

    GILROYShould we tell the audience that you're wearing a sweater vest? Shall we tell the audience this? OK.

  • 12:08:23

    MS. ALLISON DRUINHe looks like a leprechaun. He's fine. Leave him alone.

  • 12:08:25

    NNAMDII'm out of here. Allison Druin is the associate dean for research at the University of Maryland's iSchool. She's also the co-director of the Future of Information Alliance and the only computer individual who will be allowed to speak on the show.

  • 12:08:42

    GILROYMy 22-year-old son says that sweater vests protect you against pretty girls.

  • 12:08:47


  • 12:08:47

    GILROYSo this is -- you don't have to worry about that.

  • 12:08:48


  • 12:08:50

    NNAMDISecurity. Do we have security around here?

  • 12:08:52

    GILROYOh, we got the door locked. They can't come in, so...

  • 12:08:54


  • 12:08:54

    DRUINWe can't get rid of him? Is that what you're saying?

  • 12:08:56

    NNAMDIAllison is the only one I'm speaking to today. I'll start with you. The big news last week, of course, was Google, rolling out its new privacy policy. What are people's concerns about the changes?

  • 12:09:08

    DRUINWell, this is an ongoing story, OK? Google is essentially saying to folks, look, we're going to be a little bit more transparent. Now that we have all of these different applications, areas -- you know, Google Maps, Calendar, Docs -- we're going to be comparing what you're doing between these different services. And, you know, we're going to try and figure out what you're doing to be able to bring up more appropriate ads, to be able to support you in "personalizing your applications" and so on. But what does this mean?

  • 12:09:45

    NNAMDIHow will this policy affect someone who uses more than Google services, like Google search, Gmail or YouTube, which is, well, pretty much everyone?

  • 12:09:54

    DRUINYeah. It's Google across the board. The challenge is, the more Google services you use, the more people at Google or the more the applications at Google know about you. And so if Google remains away from the dark side, that's OK. But you've got an awful lot of, how would I say, examples of many different companies going to the dark side, you know, and selling the information that -- about what you do, how you do it, when you do it. And, boy, don't advertisers and other companies want to know about this.

  • 12:10:36


  • 12:10:37

    NNAMDIOK. Well, you pushed me. Let's go to the dark side. Let's start with Bill Harlow.

  • 12:10:40

    HARLOWWell, I was about to say that, you know, as the company focuses on advertising, they're on the dark side. They can only get less dark. So that's the spectrum of what you're looking at: less dark and very dark. And, right now, they're somewhere between the two.

  • 12:10:50

    DRUINYeah. Well, I mean -- and so the policy -- the privacy policy, which I can actually say is basically saying, folks, we're letting you know about this. But there's a lot of people that are, you know, suddenly waking up, smelling the coffee and saying, oh. Oh, my goodness. Do they really know all that about me? Isn't that amazing? So, I mean, even the French are saying that this policy actually violates European -- the European Union laws on privacy.

  • 12:11:22

    DRUINGoogle has special lawyers that they call privacy counsel that are -- just do nothing and thinking about policy. But, look, you've got Twitter and Facebook and tons of mobile apps that are all, you know, sucking out the information and doing something with it. And yet, I got to tell you, the academic community is really mad right now because they won't give us the information so that maybe we could actually help people understand things for the good of humanity. No, no, no. We're going to sell it so that we can make sure that we make more money.

  • 12:11:56

    NNAMDIAllison Druin, here for the good of humanity.

  • 12:11:59

    DRUINOh, come on. Now, I have to say, though, Google hasn't done it yet, but Twitter, boy, sold a huge archive of their tweets to a data broker. And now, you know, there are companies boasting that they have every tweet since, you know, January 2010, and people are going to be able to analyze them, now, not the average user. God forbid that we should be able to access our own stuff. No, we can't get at that. But Twitter's made it so that you can get it to the companies.

  • 12:12:31

    NNAMDIReturning to the dark side, here is John Gilroy.

  • 12:12:34

    DRUINSpeaking of dark villain.

  • 12:12:35

    NNAMDIGoogle -- you know, there was an article recently about people talking about how you can get around this. Tech experts are suggesting workarounds to protect your privacy. Any suggestions from you, John Gilroy?

  • 12:12:47

    GILROYWell, I think that's why Bing is searching. I think Bing is -- a lot of people are switching to Bing, using other ways. You know, I think there's -- I think people are just being naive if they think that if I start a company and say my motto is to do no evil, and they believe me, I mean, you know? I tell you, the people I know at Google -- most of the people work with what they call big data, this huge moving information back and forth.

  • 12:13:10

    GILROYAnd they -- they're so wrapped up in the technology, I don't think they think about it from an ethical perspective. I think human beings just have to wise up and understand what they're doing. Whenever you put a photograph online, it's going to be there for eternity, whether it's one of Bill's fraternity pictures or -- it's just going to be there forever. I think listeners are going to be naive if they don't assume someone is going to take advantage of it. No one outside of Allison is doing it for mankind.

  • 12:13:34

    NNAMDILet's ask some real human beings what they think. 800-433-8850.

  • 12:13:37


  • 12:13:37

    HARLOWThere's no one in this room.

  • 12:13:40

    NNAMDIWhat do you think of Google's new privacy policy? 800-433-8850. You can send email to Send us a tweet at #TechTuesday, or go to our website, Join the conversation there. Bill, there was a surprising article in Wired recently, talking about the antivirus protection that computer experts use, and it was rather surprising.

  • 12:14:03

    HARLOWYeah. So a lot of the security experts in the industry, and a large proportion -- I'm not sure if it's the majority -- choose not to run security software on their own computers. And they stop short of saying, hey, everybody should just go ahead and ditch their security software tomorrow, but they're saying that, you know, it's not going to catch everything. A lot of the attacks that are getting out there, they're bypassing the existing security software.

  • 12:14:24

    HARLOWThere are actually tools out there for criminals so they can actually test their malware and make sure it gets by the most popular application. So, you know, they're -- you know, it's tested and sent out in the wild. The other thing I'm trying to point out, too, is that a lot of it isn't necessarily a technology problem. You know, smarter computing, which, admittedly, not everybody is going to engage in -- and for a lot of people, it's going to keep that software on the computers. You might be in an industry where you're required to run security software. So, obviously, you can't remove it there.

  • 12:14:49

    HARLOWBut they're also saying that you need to look at how you're being attacked and, you know, check, for example, the logs in your network, see where the attacks are coming from. Obviously...

  • 12:14:57

    NNAMDIDoes this mean we can all let our antivirus contracts...

  • 12:15:00

    GILROYNo, no, no, no, no, no.

  • 12:15:00

    HARLOWNo, no, no, no, no, no.

  • 12:15:01


  • 12:15:01


  • 12:15:02

    HARLOWNo, no, no, no.

  • 12:15:02

    GILROYNo, I think it's not -- it's more like distracted computing. So if Allison's at lunch with friends and something comes in on her iPhone, it's a message, she may click on it quicker than if she's sitting at home with a larger screen in front of her, and she figures this. So I think a lot of people...

  • 12:15:14

    DRUINOh. Yeah.

  • 12:15:16

    GILROYA lot of these attacks are social engineering attacks or -- you know, what they're doing with some of the Android attacks is they're selling you free applications. They're saying, hey, Bill, you get this application for a dollar, and he'll buy. But he didn't know it was free. People are being very naive in here. I think they have to listen to more Tech Tuesday and find out about what's going on.

  • 12:15:32

    DRUINLook, I got to tell you. All right. How many years have I been in this computer business? I fell for it two weeks ago, OK? I got a direct message on my Twitter account that said -- from a person I knew, OK, and basically said, did you see what horrible thing they're saying about you or something like that?

  • 12:15:50

    GILROYOh, ho ho.

  • 12:15:51

    DRUINOK. And I fell for it. And so, of course, I clicked the link, OK. So it was absolutely -- it got -- it had nothing to do with my virus ware or anything else. So I clicked the link and it said, you know, log in here. And I didn't think 'cause it was ten o'clock at night, just like John said, right?

  • 12:16:07

    NNAMDIMm hmm.

  • 12:16:08

    DRUINAnd I -- and so I put in my password and everything else, and then, sure enough, oh my goodness, everybody in my -- that was following me, 800-plus people got this ridiculous thing, you know, from me, basically, saying the same thing. So I was so embarrassed. You know, one of my faculty members is working at Twitter emailing me saying, Allison, what did you do? I'm like, oh. So...

  • 12:16:31

    GILROYBut, just for the record, there are some geezers listening, and 20 years ago, the Michelangelo virus hit in Australia.

  • 12:16:36


  • 12:16:37

    GILROYThe anniversary, I think, today is the Australia hit. So it was back in the day with boot sector viruses. You two young'uns don't remember that. But you put a floppy drive in a machine and boot it up, and it would erase everything in the hard drive. So it was a great virus.

  • 12:16:47

    DRUINSo it's also -- it's just about logic, sadly enough.

  • 12:16:50

    HARLOWAnd not trusting anybody, ever.

  • 12:16:50

    NNAMDI800-433-8850. Do you think antivirus software is still useful? 800-433-8850. Bill Harlow, there's one agency that might be in the market for new security software. NASA apparently was hacked some 13 times last year...

  • 12:17:06


  • 12:17:07


  • 12:17:07

    GILROYThat's a oops moment.

  • 12:17:08


  • 12:17:09

    NNAMDI...including breaches of mission-critical projects.

  • 12:17:11

    HARLOWYeah. So...

  • 12:17:12

    NNAMDIWhat's wrong with NASA's security protocol?

  • 12:17:14

    HARLOWWell, I don't know for sure. But the first thing was apparently the jet propulsion labs were hacked by an IT based out of China. He got access to the system, compromised some of the most private accounts in the network and could see a whole ton of stuff, including data that related to active space craft that are on active mission. So, you know, that's kind of a big deal, I would think.

  • 12:17:36

    GILROYWell, Kojo, you should have Linda Cureton on the air -- she's a CIO over there -- and have her explain it. I think it's a great topic. A lot of listeners want to know.

  • 12:17:41


  • 12:17:42

    GILROYInquiring minds want to know.

  • 12:17:43

    HARLOWAnd there's another thing, too, that's, I think, you know, probably more common, which is missing laptops, and the data was unencrypted. And that's -- you know, that's not hacking. That's, you know, being a little careless with data, and that's -- you know, it's an important thing to consider that these devices are portable.

  • 12:17:54


  • 12:17:54

    HARLOWThey're getting more portable. And, you know, the data on it -- that's on there is pretty easy to get if you take the time to protect it somehow.

  • 12:18:02

    NNAMDIAnd in another attack last year, an intruder stole credentials for accessing NASA's systems for more than 100 -- from more than 150 employees.

  • 12:18:11

    HARLOWMm hmm.

  • 12:18:11

    NNAMDIAnd the office has identified thousands of computer security lapses at the agency in 2010 and 2011. John, speaking of security, Malware on mobile devices is increasing rapidly at a rate of some, what, 3,000 percent at mobile devices?

  • 12:18:27

    GILROYWell, I read this number, and I had to reread it. And I wrote it down. I couldn't believe it. So Juniper does a study, and they looked at, you know, increases in Androids -- they're selling a whole lot of them -- parallel. All this malware's starting to pop up with the Android devices. And some companies are starting to respond, companies like F-Secure -- I guess companies in Europe more than anyone -- F-Secure is responding to this.

  • 12:18:48

    GILROYAnd it's just a -- I think if you have an Android -- I would be the number one flipped-out person in the world about any app I put in my machine. I mean, they're everywhere.

  • 12:18:55

    DRUINYou are the number one flipped-out person.

  • 12:18:57

    GILROYOh, I'd say about -- it's true. But, anyway, you have to -- you know, five years ago, we were speculating about hand-held devices and malware. Now, we have it, and it's, you know, the social instrument...

  • 12:19:06

    NNAMDIThey're coming after our mobile devices. And Twitter recently announced that it's keeping users' accounts secure with something called...

  • 12:19:13

    GILROYThat's HTTPS, and I love it.

  • 12:19:14


  • 12:19:15


  • 12:19:16

    NNAMDIWhat's -- what does HTTPS mean?

  • 12:19:16

    GILROYSo, now, when you got to the, let's say, the Starbucks and check your mail, Kojo can't sit in the next room and try to sniff that little password that you're using or whatever your bank account information. So it's a little bit more secure. There's -- you know, I haven't heard many attacks that have gone around the VP and virtual private network, but they can happen. But it's much more sophisticated than just a sniffer in the next room, trying to snag some information from your machine.

  • 12:19:37

    GILROYSo it's -- Lady Gaga has got 20 million Twitter followers, and Twitter's good and bad. And, at least, they're at least doing something with security.

  • 12:19:47

    NNAMDISpeaking of security, here is Andrew in Takoma Park, Md. Andrew, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:19:53

    ANDREWYeah, thanks for taking the call, Kojo. I had a couple of questions. Then I'll hang up. Do VPNs offer additional security? And if so, are there any drawbacks to using one?

  • 12:20:06

    GILROYNo drawbacks I can see. I've been there since the early VPN started up, and they take -- they create what they call a tunnel. And there have been very, very few compromised situations. The VPNs, I've heard, can -- it's possible and if you get some of the luminaries in the security community, like Alan Paller and Ron Ross and these characters, they can probably cite you chapter and verse where it's happened. But for 99 percent of us, I think VPNs are awful safe. Would you agree, Bill?

  • 12:20:31

    HARLOWI would. And, I mean, the only drawbacks I've seen are in some, like, you know, especially if you're, like, running a small security applying to yourself with VPN, it just might be a bit slower than if you're doing thing unencrypted. And it's a little more complicated to set up, so there are extra steps. But I think that the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.

  • 12:20:45

    GILROYThat's why Twitter is HTTPS. That's why it's got the VPN built in.

  • 12:20:49

    NNAMDIAndrew, thank you very much for your call. We're going to take a short break. Then we'll return with The Computer Guys & Gal, but you can still call, offering your opinion of Google's new privacy policy at 800-433-8850. Do you think we need a consumer privacy bill of rights to address privacy issues when you use Facebook, Twitter and Google? 800-433-8850. Send us a tweet at #TechTuesday or email to I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 12:23:02

    NNAMDIIt's the first Tuesday in March. The Computer Guys are back. Allison Druin is the associate dean for research at the University of Maryland's iSchool. She's also the co-director of the Future of Information Alliance and our computer gal. John Gilroy is a director of business development at the Armature Corporation. And Bill Harlow is a hardware and software technician for Macs and PCs at Mid Atlantic Consulting.

  • 12:23:25

    NNAMDIWe're taking your calls at 800-433-8850. Do you think antivirus software is useful? Allison, this may be a privacy issue for some people. This month, the Dutch airline KLM started testing a program it calls Meet & Seat.

  • 12:23:45

    DRUINI think it's cool.

  • 12:23:47

    NNAMDIFrom John Gilroy's reaction, I don't know.

  • 12:23:49

    GILROYNo one would ever get on that plane if I was on that plane.

  • 12:23:50

    NNAMDII can tell he will not be meeting and seating. Please explain what Meet & Seat is.

  • 12:23:53


  • 12:23:54

    HARLOWGet a load of yourself though, John.

  • 12:23:56

    DRUINThe Dutch airline KLM has this special option for ticket holders. You can upload your details, OK, from Facebook or LinkedIn profiles. But you choose to do it, not they do this and don't tell you, OK? And then you can use that data to choose your seatmates, all right? So now you can select how much personal information you want to share, and then you're presented with seat maps to show where there are other people that share your profiles and your seating. Now, I think this is a fascinating way of sitting next to people. And, in fact, other airlines and other...

  • 12:24:40

    NNAMDIOr not sitting next to people.

  • 12:24:41

    DRUINWell, that's exactly -- other airline programs, one called SATISFLY -- it's based in Hong Kong -- looks at your flight mood, OK, and whether or not you would prefer to talk, shop or chat about potentially casual things and, you know, and find out what languages are spoken and so on. So, I mean, this is a big, new thing, social networking on the airlines. This is awesome.

  • 12:25:04

    NNAMDIEither that or sky dating, I don't know...

  • 12:25:06

    HARLOWDating, that's what it sounds like to me.

  • 12:25:08

    GILROYThe more I think about this, the more I like to get into the system. Just like we were saying earlier, it's like make myself the most -- least interesting, smelliest, nastiest, foul individual...

  • 12:25:14

    HARLOWJust tell people you're John Gilroy.

  • 12:25:16

    GILROYExactly. Get the entire to row to myself, sprawl out.

  • 12:25:19

    HARLOWYes. Yes.

  • 12:25:20

    GILROYBut -- no, but in all seriousness, for a longer flight, it would be cool if knew that, hey, the guy next to me, he wants to chat about things I, you know, enjoy talking about, too.

  • 12:25:27

    NNAMDIThat's true.

  • 12:25:27

    GILROYIt won't be a completely boring flight where I'm, you know, buried in my iPhone, listening to music or reading a book.

  • 12:25:31

    DRUINYeah, yeah. But the key to this, though, is the user chooses amount of data, so that's the privacy then.

  • 12:25:38

    NNAMDISpeaking of traveling, here is Marty in Washington, D.C. Marty, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:25:45

    MARTYHi, Kojo. How are you today?

  • 12:25:46

    NNAMDII'm well.

  • 12:25:48

    MARTYGreat. And another great show. I have a small computer consulting firm, and one of my clients is going to be traveling to China for a couple of weeks. And I'm wondering what...

  • 12:25:58

    NNAMDILooking for a seatmate?

  • 12:26:03

    NNAMDIJust checking.

  • 12:26:04

    NNAMDIGo ahead, please, Marty.

  • 12:26:07

    MARTYThat's pretty good. No, but, basically, what we're suggesting is to take like a, you know, a small netbook that's basically been restored to factory configuration, and their connectivity back to their office. They have a VPN, which is something we've had in place for a number of years. But just in terms of casual, you know, Internet use and also some business Internet use, what do you recommend for, you know, for people traveling in China?

  • 12:26:37

    HARLOWWell, that's not a bad way to go as far as, like, having a clean system. I mean, just generally, especially from flying internationally -- and, you know, I'd be kind of uncomfortable flying anywhere with a lot of sensitive data on my laptop if I didn't need to. So, yeah, just be the bare minimum, maybe, you know, just, you know, in the case of these more appliance-like device, I'd like a tablet or an iPad, you know? I'd feel more comfortable with that for light use, and it also keep my activity there probably to a minimum or the bare essentials.

  • 12:27:02

    GILROYAnd when you come back, you know, take that notebook and put it in the trash.

  • 12:27:06

    GILROYI mean, I was talking to a guy in California, a security consultant. And I said, are you on the line? He said, yeah, just me and the Chinese people listening in.

  • 12:27:15

    GILROYI mean, I would take and burn that notebook computer. I mean, there's a lot of bad, bad things going on over there. All I'm going to say, and I limit it to that.

  • 12:27:23

    NNAMDIWell, Marty, you'd want to know that President Obama's re-election campaign page saw a lot of activity recently going on from an unexpected source. Allison, could you tell us where that source is?

  • 12:27:34

    DRUINYeah, speaking of China, the Chinese, OK, are flooding this webpage from -- his Google Plus, basically, re-election campaign page. Somehow, some way, some reason why, the Chinese actually lifted the long-standing block on this, and some people are calling it Occupy Obama. There was a quote on there in English that said, "We have no chance to occupy our President Hu." That's referring to their leader there. "He hates Internet and has no account on any SNS websites, so we just occupy Obama. Forgive us."

  • 12:28:15

    NNAMDIWe got to find some place to occupy.

  • 12:28:17

    DRUINIt was amazing. So people are just using this as a place to, you know, talk about -- I want a green card, you know, down with Communism and so on. They, you know, there are rumors that this was -- the ban was lifted when one of their leaders from China came to the United States.

  • 12:28:32

    NNAMDIWell, the president has a practice of responding to a few letters or emails per day.

  • 12:28:36

    DRUINYou never know.

  • 12:28:36

    NNAMDIDoes this mean that they're not going to make it into the loop? They'll get responses -- yes, you will get your green card in time for the election.

  • 12:28:44


  • 12:28:45

    MARTYCan I ask one other question?

  • 12:28:46

    NNAMDIYes, Please.

  • 12:28:47

    MARTYWell, since my client doesn't have the financial wherewithal to just burn the laptop…

  • 12:28:55

    GILROYBurn after reading.

  • 12:28:55

    MARTY...would it be OK to -- right. Would it be OK to wipe it, you know, and sort of go back to factory reset? And also, I'll just make one statement. And I'll get off the air for the next guy, and I'll listen in for my answer. That is, I think antivirus software is really useful. I mean, you guys, you tend to forget how well-versed and, you know, the kinds of habits that you and me -- that we do this for a living.

  • 12:29:20

    HARLOWNot with my ego. I definitely remember this.

  • 12:29:22

    GILROYOh, yeah. You're right.

  • 12:29:23


  • 12:29:24

    MARTYYou know, so, you know, the number of people -- yet, still, accidents will happen. People will answer stuff that they -- that, you know, when they -- as soon as they click the OK button, they'll smack their forehead. But it really, really -- you know, for the other 98 percent, it's really, really useful, and in my experience, it has prevented a lot of really bad stuff from happening.

  • 12:29:47

    NNAMDIMarty, you're absolutely correct. Thank you very much for sharing that. Here's Bill.

  • 12:29:51

    HARLOWYeah, the one thing I'd add to that, too, is that don't have a false sense of security if you do have a software on your computer. You still want to be careful because, you know, it is not a panacea.

  • 12:29:59

    DRUINYes. Yeah.

  • 12:30:00

    NNAMDIHow about Bill's advice -- Marty's advice for his client, Bill, about wiping his computer clean?

  • 12:30:03

    HARLOWIt's probably fine. Now, there are some cases where some malicious code has locked into the BIOS. But that's so …

  • 12:30:09

    GILROYI said probably.

  • 12:30:10

    HARLOWIt's just not -- or yes. The answer is yes, except for one-one millionth of the human kind that can...

  • 12:30:16

    NNAMDIMarty, thank you very much for your call. You, too, can call us at 800-433-8850. John, a lot of people are eagerly awaiting the new iPad 3. Apple is expected to unveil it, I think, maybe tomorrow in San Francisco or...

  • 12:30:31

    GILROYI think they're very considerate to wait after our show.

  • 12:30:35

    NNAMDIThey've scheduled a press conference tomorrow. Can we assume that's to reveal the new iPad 3?

  • 12:30:39

    GILROYWell, what else could it be? I mean, every spring, they come up with something, and it looks like they're going to sell 100 million iPads by the end of the year.

  • 12:30:44


  • 12:30:45

    GILROYI mean, the success of this company, I mean, everyone's seen the news -- 25 billion downloads and 25 billion downloads from a guy in China. And they -- I think they sold, like, 40 million last year. They may sell 60 million this year. So that's just coming out. And I'll let these two folks here, the experts, say what's going to be in there. I don't know what a retinal -- what is a retinal scan?

  • 12:31:05

    HARLOWRetinal -- retina screen is what they call it.

  • 12:31:07

    GILROYRetina screen. What is that anyway?

  • 12:31:08

    NNAMDIThere won't be any sleeping at the Bederson-Druin household tonight. I'm sure of that.

  • 12:31:12

    DRUINAre you kidding? I'm waiting for mine. Yeah.

  • 12:31:14

    GILROYDid he take the day off, pre-scheduled to wait in line?

  • 12:31:17

    DRUINYeah, totally. Oh, my gosh.

  • 12:31:18

    GILROYSo the retina display, they're saying that because it's going to be so high resolution, like the iPhone4, at a typical viewing distance, the human retina can't discern individual pixels. It just looks razor sharp.

  • 12:31:27


  • 12:31:28

    GILROYSo on an iPad especially, which is very popular as a reading consumption device, I think it's going to -- if they get a screen like that on there, it's going to be pretty amazing.

  • 12:31:36

    DRUINNow, they're talking about having a camera on there.

  • 12:31:39

    HARLOWYeah, a better one than what's on there now.

  • 12:31:40

    DRUINA better one that's on there now. And, of course, since I'm getting my delayed gift for Valentine's Day for an iPad 3...

  • 12:31:50

    GILROYSo you think that the lunch tray-form factor is the best way to take pictures?

  • 12:31:53

    DRUINI am trying to figure it out. I don't know. I'm going to have to let you know about that. But I'm psyched about it being faster and -- but it's not supposed to be that much thicker. So it's not supposed to be too much -- I was picturing this lead thing that I was going to try and lift to pick pictures with. So, anyway -- but I'm excited. Oh, my goodness.

  • 12:32:10

    NNAMDIBen, do you realize she's told the entire listening audience what she's expecting for her Valentine's gift?

  • 12:32:16

    DRUINDelayed Valentine's Day. It's important.

  • 12:32:18

    GILROY(unintelligible) gifts, right?

  • 12:32:19

    NNAMDIIf you don't come through, you're in serious trouble with thousands of people, pal.

  • 12:32:23

    DRUINThat's right.

  • 12:32:24

    NNAMDIWell, a lot of people are concerned about the privacy issues. We got an email from Marcus, who said, "What do your guests recommend as a good non-privacy invading substitute for Gmail?" We got an email from Jessica in Laurel, Md., who said, "Can you, please, ask your guests to expound on just how dark the dark side really is? At first, I was concerned about data mining by Google, Facebook and other companies, including my grocery store. But now I'm failing to see the harm in it. Now, when I shop, I'm mailed coupons for things I actually buy, and I see online adverts with things I may need."

  • 12:32:55

    NNAMDI"My suffered from colic, and after I did a Google search for natural remedies, I started seeing an ad on several sites for an over-the-counter product. I researched it, tried it, and it works wonders. I never would have known about this product otherwise because they only advertise online. So, now, tell me why should I be afraid?"

  • 12:33:13

    HARLOWOh, that's the beauty of opt-in. There may be people who want to opt-in.

  • 12:33:14

    DRUINThat's right. And it's, in fact -- it's also generational. They -- what we've been seeing in terms of research is that, by a certain age, people stop worrying about it. They say that's the price for what we want, OK? And, in fact, many universities across the country were trying to decide whether or not to go with Gmail as their provider. And when asked, many college students replied, I don't care. I use Gmail. That's my thing. You know, that's it. So, yeah, what the listener talks about is exactly right.

  • 12:33:53

    DRUINThose are the -- that's the up side. And, yeah, there's always going to be a downside to this privacy problem. But, look, as our lawmakers start to think about, you know, creating policy, hopefully, to combat the worst of it, maybe it's not going to be so bad.

  • 12:34:11

    HARLOWYeah, I think it's personal bias. I mean, I personally really -- I'm sick of getting inundated with advertising from all -- you know, all angles. So anything I can do to minimize that's good. But I think one of the questions was, you know, alternatives to Gmail. And I think, generally, if you're willing to pay for your mail, you know, that's how you can get around that.

  • 12:34:25


  • 12:34:26

    DRUINThat's true. That's true. Well, you know, and then you can go back to Outlook, you know? And I hate to say this, but it's a pretty, you know, just good thing.

  • 12:34:34

    NNAMDIWell, as I said, a lot of people are concerned about this, so we'll go now to Andrew in Charlottesville, Va. Andrew, your turn.

  • 12:34:41

    ANDREWHi there, Kojo. Thanks for the show. It's a great one. I guess my -- so my story is, about four years ago, I was a student at the University of Virginia. And a friend of mine who graduated and was working for Google sent me a call. And he said -- or he gave me a call. He said to go on to Facebook, click in the search box at the top left and then press the down arrow. So he explained that what -- that there had been some issue with Facebook, some bizarre window of opportunity.

  • 12:35:13

    ANDREWAnd if you did this and clicked down, the six names that would appear -- it would be six names -- and it would be the six names that your profile has had the highest interaction with, either because you have been going to their page or, more scarily, because they have been looking at your page. And it absolutely was. I pulled down the six, and a few of them were sort of explicable. Two of them were my -- may be my closest friends. One of them a little more unnervingly was an ex of mine.

  • 12:35:41

    ANDREWThen the other two -- or, I guess, the other three made some amount of sense. But, to this day, I've always sort of looked at those people a little unusually because...

  • 12:35:49


  • 12:35:49

    ANDREW...I can't totally understand why that was the case. And, within 25 minutes -- I told a few of my other friends about this, and it continued to be uncannily accurate. And within about 25 minutes, it no longer was working. And I talked to my friends from Google. He said that, you know, Facebook had quickly become apprised of the situation and had taken steps to resolve it. I guess my question is, you know, I assume that there was some sort of change made, some sort of update to the interface or to Facebook and that it provided this window of opportunity.

  • 12:36:23

    ANDREWBut I'm very surprised that there wasn't more sort of off-the-server testing. I'm also surprised by the sort of vital nature of the information that was, you know, made public to whoever -- however many people were aware of the situation. And, I guess, I'm just wondering, you know, what -- that was -- to be fair, that was about four years ago. But how often do situations like this occur? How sort of volatile, still, are the securities...

  • 12:36:54

    NNAMDIAndrew, I have an email from Anne that I'll read after we get an answer from one of our panelists for you.

  • 12:36:59

    DRUINOK. You know, it's very possible that they were using that as a test mechanism, and that internal test mechanism just didn't get turned off on one of the newer releases. And that's what happened. But what you point is really important, that information visualization, being able to see interaction, is really important for you to decide what to do about your interactions. And so one of the things -- you know, now that we're been bashing Google all day here -- is that Google's dashboard is really good at showing you your interactions on all of your Google services.

  • 12:37:40

    DRUINAnd you can decide -- oh, my goodness, did I leave my phone numbers up there? Oh, my goodness, let's take that down. And so it shows you all of your information that you've made public, partially public, and how much you're interacting with it and so on. So, you know, Google's dashboard is a good example of using that kind of -- actually, what was probably a test feature for Facebook and using it for public good.

  • 12:38:07

    GILROYFacebook is not the only the game in town. I mean, there's no gun to anyone's head forcing him to go to Facebook. I mean, it's not the only way to interact with.

  • 12:38:12

    HARLOWWell, the gun is that all your friends and colleagues are on Facebook.

  • 12:38:15

    NNAMDIAndrew, here's this email we got from Anne, "I'm not sure if you're talking about this today, but Facebook is ticking me off. I don't necessarily want to associate with the companies Facebook is partnering with. For instance, I don't like Bing, never use it. Yet it showed up under my Facebook apps along with Yelp and others that I don't use. I had to delete them. In addition, last year I must have looked at birthday cards, and today I just realized that this app has been sending greetings to Facebook friends without my knowledge."

  • 12:38:42

    NNAMDI"Such apps defaults are set to do this, and I must go in and change or deactivate or delete every one of them. Facebook started out to be a pleasant way to connect with people I don't often see, but it's really become intrusive."

  • 12:38:54

    GILROYWell, Microsoft owns part of Facebook, so we can connect the dots there. I mean, it's pretty obvious. And, I mean, I would -- you know, I personally don't have anything to do with Facebook. But I'm more afraid of Facebook than with LinkedIn. I'll do LinkedIn, but at least LinkedIn, you can find out exactly who's connecting. It's a business-type of relationship and not as informal as Facebook is.

  • 12:39:13

    DRUINYeah. Facebook has been flopping around on how much information they're giving away, how much -- you know, who their partners are and so on. So, yeah, it is a little bit more scary, but the enormous, you know, population that is on Facebook says, well, do you want to be left out? That's the question.

  • 12:39:29

    NNAMDIAnd now back to Google. We got an email from Scott. "I'm not technologically unsophisticated, but I am confused. I don't have a Gmail account. I use YouTube, but rarely log in. Of course, I use Google to search either on my iPhone or desktop PC. When I logged in to Google, it seemed to indicate I had no history to clear because I had not enabled it. So what do I have to be concerned about in all this hoopla? And, more basically, if I'm not logged in to a Google service, how do they even know who I am?"

  • 12:39:59

    HARLOWWell, generally, they might have -- they have something basic as far as cookies on your computer, so they can track that -- a person at that IP address on that browser, and the computer is doing something. And there is some sort of history. In my case, since I do use a lot of different Google products, there was a search history. So I had to go in there and -- the actually had a little blog post about how you can go in there and pause and reset your search history.

  • 12:40:16

    GILROYHow to reset the last (unintelligible), yeah.

  • 12:40:19

    HARLOWYeah. So worth doing.

  • 12:40:20

    NNAMDIThe EFF being the Electronic Frontier Foundation?

  • 12:40:22

    HARLOWYes, yes. So, in my case, that was good to do. And the big privacy policy thing you're seeing -- and he mentioned the YouTube account, I believe -- it's starting to unify all this stuff. So, you know, if you are using the other products and you do log in from time to time, it's still a good idea to check your privacy settings 'cause they go across all the services now. And, luckily, Google's been really good about making that obvious. I mean, they nag you incessantly to, please, read and understand the new policy.

  • 12:40:46

    NNAMDIAnd the indication of so many calls and emails and tweets we've been getting on these is an indication of just how many people are using these social networks and are using Google.

  • 12:40:57

    NNAMDIWe're going to take a short break. When we come back, we'll tell you how many people are now using tablets. 800-433-8850. You can send email to or send us a tweet at #TechTuesday. Would you like to choose your seatmate on your next flight, or do you find that idea a little creepy? I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 12:43:02

    NNAMDIWe're talking with The Computer Guys & Gal. Bill Harlow is a hardware and software technician for Macs and PCs at Mid Atlantic Consulting. Allison Druin is the associate dean for research at the University of Maryland's iSchool and the co-director of the Future of Information Alliance, and John Gilroy is director of business development at the Armature Corporation.

  • 12:43:22

    NNAMDIJohn, perhaps the bigger news than the new iPad coming out tomorrow is just, in general, how hot tablets are. Some analysts predict they could outsell PCs as early as next year. I guess the big question is whether we are now shifting into a post-PC era?

  • 12:43:40

    GILROYWell, it's fascinating. What I see human beings doing is they work all day at a computer, let's say, writing code. And instead of going home with a notebook, they'll take home an iPad. And this is a transition here. (word?) did a study. They studied 10,000 people all over the world, information workers, 17 countries, and then one-fourth of them use electronic devices for collecting data, which is so crucial. It's just -- it's not a transition. It's almost like a wave coming through and a wave of change.

  • 12:44:06

    GILROYSo, I think, it's a matter of understanding. And what's critical about this study is that about half of the people paid for the devices themselves because they thought it was of value to them. They didn't expect their companies to pay for them, but they paid for them themselves. So it's a change from many, many years.

  • 12:44:21

    DRUINWell, part of it is the whole e-book revolution. And, I mean, I know -- I go home, and, at night, I read on my iPad. That's what I do.

  • 12:44:28


  • 12:44:29

    DRUINYou know, and I -- and it's -- at first, I sort of -- you know, I sort of said, that Kindle thing is for Ben, OK? It's for my husband. It's not for me. But I really gravitated to the -- reading on the iPad. And I really like it, so I'm addicted now, so...

  • 12:44:46

    NNAMDIWell, the stunner for me -- and each of you can offer your own explanation for this -- is that a recent article notes that the number of mobile devices will exceed the world's population this year.

  • 12:45:00


  • 12:45:00

    NNAMDICan you, please, explain that? How can there be more mobile devices?

  • 12:45:02

    HARLOWI think Allison could explain that. How many do you have yourself?

  • 12:45:04

    DRUINOh, my goodness.

  • 12:45:05

    GILROYThat's the explanation right here. Allison and Ben, they have half of them in the world.

  • 12:45:09

    DRUINI know. I mean, you know, we only have four people in our family and probably eight devices or -- you know, I don't know.

  • 12:45:14

    GILROYEight hundred?

  • 12:45:15

    DRUINMaybe. It's maybe closer to 10 now. But, anyway, you know, I mean, but it's like, you know, you got your cellphones. You got your tablets. You got your laptops. Yeah, it's true.

  • 12:45:24

    GILROYSo they're projecting that around 80 percent is going to be just feature phones and maybe whatever the number is less than that is going to be smartphones. But, still, consider that, I mean, the popularity of handheld devices. I mean, anyone who's in the marketing world has to respond, and now all the websites, like WAMU, have got to have information available for mobile devices because that's how people increasingly are evaluating. Hey, let's go to my handheld device and pull up and see (unintelligible).

  • 12:45:49

    HARLOWYeah, I wonder what the usage pattern is, like, at this point. If you look at how people -- or just, let's say, browsing the Web, is it more time spent at a the proper computer or at a mobile device? Like, what's the breakdown? I'd love to see that.

  • 12:45:57

    DRUINOh, that's an interesting question.

  • 12:45:58

    NNAMDIOf course, John Gilroy predicts the way for the future's mobile devices for our pets, of course.

  • 12:46:03

    GILROYThat's what I think. I think dogs will have mobile devices soon.

  • 12:46:04

    NNAMDIFor our companions, yes.

  • 12:46:06

    GILROYI mean, they'll be everywhere.

  • 12:46:07

    DRUINYeah. Well...

  • 12:46:07

    NNAMDIThey have to have something to do, too. On to the telephones, here now is Richard in College Park, Md. Richard, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:46:17

    RICHARDWell, thank you. So I was wondering, with respect to some images and/or contact books being sucked up, what precludes installing something like pretty good privacy and encrypting it and decrypting it on the fly or in the alternative (unintelligible) if people who get underneath the Android layer on Google just put all that down in a root so that the network couldn't get to it, I think?

  • 12:46:51

    GILROYI don't think that the concern is the device necessarily in the handheld, but it's the social information, I think, that everyone is concerned with, Richard. And there must be some information in handheld, but, mostly, the information we're talking about is your age, your location, your income.

  • 12:47:02

    HARLOWWell, I think he's talking about how there was this issue -- I think it infected Android as well as iOS, which was that...

  • 12:47:07


  • 12:47:08 was possible, initially, for an application that you install...

  • 12:47:12

    GILROYTo reside on the devices.

  • 12:47:14

    HARLOWThat resides on the device to actually take your address book and simply upload it to the servers, do whatever they want with it. And it was an oversight in Apple.

  • 12:47:18


  • 12:47:20

    HARLOWI mean, they said, look, we're fixing this. It's not how it's supposed to work. But they also found that there's another bug where, if you gave the OK to a program to access your location, like, let's say I open Google Maps on my phone, and it said, can I use your current location? I say yes. Not that it's doing it, but it then is possible for that app to grab my photos on the phone and take those as well. And there was a proof of concept commissioned by, I think, The New York Times to confirm that that was another bug.

  • 12:47:44

    HARLOWSo I don't know if necessarily hiding our stuff in another part of the phone's the answer. I think it's clearly a bug and that we need -- you know, we need the software to be better about this.

  • 12:47:52

    DRUINBut it's actually more than a bug, Richard. There was something called Path app, and they were having people opt-in to give them their information.

  • 12:48:03

    HARLOWWell, that still surprised a lot of people, too, didn't it?

  • 12:48:04

    DRUINAnd -- yeah, and what happened was the CEO of the company came out and apologized and said, we're sorry. We should have told you that -- what we were going to be doing with your information. And that was absolutely wrong. So, sadly enough, it's not like you can hide this anywhere. So if a user decides to give the information and not realize what they're going to do with it, hiding it is not going to help.

  • 12:48:30

    NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Richard. And, Bill, speaking of location, another concern is GPS-jamming devices that can block someone from tracking where you are by your mobile device. But, apparently, they can also interfere with air traffic control and cellphone systems.

  • 12:48:45

    HARLOWWell, as you can probably imagine, jamming GPS signal -- that kind of device is illegal. So these devices tend not to be built to really be confined to a very small bubble around your person or your car. And they found that some can extend as far as 100 yards or more. And a lot of things like the electrical grid and cellphone towers, they use GPS to sync time between towers -- very important step to make sure that network keeps working.

  • 12:49:10

    HARLOWSo you can imagine that if you had a jammer go in there and interrupt this signal, it could actually cause problems and, you know, cause an outage. And at the University of Texas, Prof. Todd Humphreys had a lab where they actually built a -- they claim, I think -- the most powerful GPS spoofer to see if they could actually break sync between cellphone towers and actually jam cellphone calls. And they've proved that it was actually possible.

  • 12:49:32

    MR. ALLISON DRUINOh, they're mean.

  • 12:49:32

    GILROYSounds like a man-in-the-middle attack, huh?

  • 12:49:34

    HARLOWYeah, sort of.

  • 12:49:35

    NNAMDISpeaking of cellphones, here's Chris in Arlington, Va. Chris, your turn.

  • 12:49:39

    CHRISYeah, thank you. I was thinking this morning in your mention of everybody having cellphones, going mobile with all their data -- I was thinking about the problem of the huge numbers of cellphones for which people are mugged on the subways and other public places. And I thought, gosh, my home phone, I can answer in any of three, four different rooms, and it all connects to the same line.

  • 12:50:03

    CHRISWouldn't it be possible to have a identically-coded chip in a $20 phone, similar to the one you have in your $500 phone, and when you're in a public place, have your $20 phone easily accessible, maybe even visible, so that the bad guys won't even think of mugging you?

  • 12:50:25

    DRUINIt's so sad. Isn't it horrible that we actually can't pull out our iPads or our cellphones because, basically, if you happen to sit in your door, someone's going to grab it and run? So buyer, beware. The dean of one our colleges had this happen. Two friends of mine on the subway had their cellphones taken. You're absolutely right. But the problem is the $20 cellphone is not going to give you all the kinds of things that you love, which is being able to, you know, access the Web and get at your apps. And that's the reason why it's not a $20 cellphone, so...

  • 12:51:01

    CHRISBut you would have both with you.

  • 12:51:02

    NNAMDIBut can you have several cellphones with the same SIM card essentially?

  • 12:51:05

    HARLOWWell, I don't know if you can have the same SIM card, but you could have the one SIM card -- maybe an unlocked cheap GSM phone, pull it out of your iPhone, and put it in there. It sounds like a lot of work. There is that step you have to do that. And maybe during the time you're fumbling with this, someone sees you're distracted, takes both. Who knows?

  • 12:51:20

    NNAMDIYou have to do that in private. But, as far as I know, Chris, you can't -- that's not very easy to do right now, have different cellphones with the same number that...

  • 12:51:28

    GILROYThis should be the opportunity for Kojo to try something like "Mission Impossible," where they take the phone, and it blows up on them as they're running away. Now, there would be an opportunity for one of our listeners, you know?

  • 12:51:37

    NNAMDIChris, I don't think that's going to be happening any time soon.

  • 12:51:39


  • 12:51:40

    CHRISWell, darn.

  • 12:51:42

    GILROYDarn, you see an opportunity for you, Kojo.

  • 12:51:44

    NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. Bill Harlow, speed has always been an issue with the Internet. Many of us can remember the days of old dial-up modems and long, long delays in searches, but, today...

  • 12:51:54

    HARLOWYeah, those were happy times.

  • 12:51:55

    GILROYHappy, happy times.

  • 12:51:56

    NNAMDI...even 400 milliseconds is too long.

  • 12:51:58

    HARLOWLess than that, actually. Two-fifty, they find, is the competitive advantage.

  • 12:52:02

    NNAMDIThat's too long for more -- for most people?

  • 12:52:03

    HARLOWApparently so, yeah, so a quarter of a second.

  • 12:52:05

    NNAMDIWhat's the story here?

  • 12:52:06

    HARLOWA quarter of a second, apparently, that's the amount of time that if you have a website and it -- if it takes that much longer than a competing website that's also popular, people tend to gravitate to that one because that really -- that's really just too long to get your information. And it kind of makes sense, too, because we were talking about this earlier. You look at a lot of stuff on your tablet or on your iPhone over 3G, and, you know, every second you spend waiting just -- it adds up.

  • 12:52:30

    HARLOWAnd the other thing, too, is we've got more and more stuff embedded in websites, you know, whether its ads or video or more ads, and that slows down the website.

  • 12:52:40

    HARLOWSo they're finding that, like, yeah, even if we have broadband and, you know, even though 3G is pretty fast and 4G is getting deployed in more and more places, you've got to have a fast website. And if you don't have a fast optimized website, people are going to leave and find something else.

  • 12:52:52

    NNAMDIBut people do make a distinction, apparently. They're more patient waiting for video.

  • 12:52:55

    HARLOWOh, yeah, if they're waiting for a video, although to a point. Like, if I go on YouTube and I'm looking for a video, if I see that spinning indicator more than a few times, like, it wasn't that important. I'm not going to watch that anyway. I'll check back later.

  • 12:53:05

    DRUINWell, you know, it's the multiple clickers, too, that also mess up the system because they think something's broken, so they -- or they didn't press it hard enough or something. So they're pressing it a million times, and it even makes it worse.

  • 12:53:15

    HARLOWOr they have 20 tabs open and downloading everything simultaneously.

  • 12:53:17

    DRUINWell, that's a point, yeah.

  • 12:53:18

    NNAMDIBut these tech companies are now working on speed, especially on mobile devices like tablets. Is there enough bandwidth to allow for all the downloading of maps and video clips and especially restaurant recommendations?

  • 12:53:30

    HARLOWIn fact, the restaurants are actually all made in Flash, too, kind of makes them move on a portable device, but it all adds up. And I think that is part of the problem. Everybody is on mobile devices. There's only so much spectrum to go around. So it's another reason why you need to make that site really tidy and efficient so that it loads quickly, and the next person in the queue can grab the data, too.

  • 12:53:49

    GILROYIt's the new gold.

  • 12:53:50

    NNAMDIHere's why we might need more bandwidth, John. We've seen the end of many technologies, like the eight-track tape that you refuse to give up and the...

  • 12:53:57


  • 12:53:59

    NNAMDI...and the VHS.

  • 12:54:00

    GILROYYes. I have...

  • 12:54:01

    HARLOWOpen reel, baby.

  • 12:54:03

    NNAMDINetflix is now spinning off its DVD mail service. Does this signal that the DVD is on its way out?

  • 12:54:09

    GILROYWell, it sure does. I mean, we saw the floppy drive go away. I mean, we saw those nice bubble -- 19-inch bubble monitors that weighed 100 pounds go away. And, you know, I think I may be crying myself to sleep this weekend because I think the DVDs are going to be gone. And it sure sounds like it's going to -- and now what's going to happen to those red boxes in front of all the food stores, I don't know. They'll have to make the transition like Netflix should have.

  • 12:54:30

    GILROYSo we'll just have to see. I mean, it's -- and usually Apple is leading the edge on --- Apple's the first one that comes up with computer with no floppy, remember, a few years back, and I was shocked.

  • 12:54:36

    GILROYOh, yeah. I mean, I think -- I mean, I'm sure Apple would -- I mean, that's a rumor, too, is that a new Apple TV will come out, and they're really pushing for content for this device. And Apple only has so much control over that. They have a technology side, but, guess what, the studios still have to say, oh, yeah, we'll gladly work out a deal that's good for both of us where you can re-sell or rent out our content on your device. And there's still some pushback there.

  • 12:54:58

    NNAMDISpeaking of security some more, here is Shay (sp?) in Columbia Heights, D.C. Shay, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:55:05

    SHAYHi, everyone. I wonder what you think of the security for using the cloud.

  • 12:55:12

    NNAMDISecurity and the cloud, John Gilroy.

  • 12:55:14

    GILROYBig transition. You know, the federal government has come up with some recommendations to allow agencies to use clouds securely, and I think we're right in the early stages of just trying to figure out what's secure and what's not secure. And I would say we have to sit and wait and find out what's going on, but it's just that the economic input is to switch everything to cloud-based computing is going to force it to get more secure. And so, I think, in the next few years, it's going to be there.

  • 12:55:39

    GILROYThere's a fellow named David Linthicum. He's a very well-known cloud expert. And he talks about some of the new issues with the federal government. I don't think there's going to be much choice. It's going to be there. I think it's going to be a while before I would be confident with a lot of cloud applications, especially for security information, especially for the folks like at NSA.

  • 12:55:57

    NNAMDIHey, Shay, thank you very much for your call. Back to books, Allison Druin, what's going on between Barnes & Noble and Amazon over e-books?

  • 12:56:05

    DRUINYeah. Well, Barnes & Noble, I think they got really mad finally, you know, at the fact that Amazon, really, was owning the area with their Kindle books. And they pulled print editions of the Amazon-published books from their store shelves because, basically, their e-versions of the books, OK, were only sold in the Kindle store.

  • 12:56:30

    NNAMDICouldn't get them at Barnes & Noble.

  • 12:56:31

    DRUINNo, no. And, you know, and they said, heck, you know, we -- we're done with this. And so, well, now, shockingly, now, Amazon has confirmed that it has added, as an experiment, OK, a series of short biographies edited by James Atlas that will absolutely be sold outside of the Amazon Kindle store. So they're trying it out. It's just a matter of time before those Kindle books are everywhere.

  • 12:57:00

    DRUINI mean, look, they're -- the Kindle books, you have the access to those things on all of your different appliances. They were very smart to create Kindle book readers on any book reader. They didn't care, and now it's coming -- it's -- now, it's helping them.

  • 12:57:14

    NNAMDIIn other e-book news, Random House tripled its e-book prices, which makes libraries, which acquire new books that come out, particularly unhappy. It seems the industry is still kind of sorting these questions about pricing out.

  • 12:57:28

    DRUINYeah. Well, if you think about it, OK, you know, traditionally, a book, a physical book, gets lent out to any number of people. Well, boy, when you have an e-book, that -- you know, that never has wear and tear. That can be sent out to a billion different people at the same time. And that certainly cuts into their profit. So Random House decided, yep, they were going to triple their -- the prices to libraries.

  • 12:57:52

    NNAMDIYou only got 10 seconds.

  • 12:57:53

    DRUINOK. And, you know, it's rough, but you got to do it.

  • 12:57:57

    NNAMDIAllison Druin is the associate dean for research at the University of Maryland's iSchool, looking forward to her Valentine's Day gift.

  • 12:58:04

    NNAMDIShe's also the co-director of the Future of Information Alliance.

  • 12:58:07

    GILROYOf the future.

  • 12:58:08

    NNAMDIBill Harlow is a hardware and software technician for Macs and PCs at Mid Atlantic Consulting, and John Gilroy is director of business development at the Armature Corp. Together, they are the Computer Guys & Gal. Thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

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