On this last episode, we look back on 23 years of joyous, difficult and always informative conversation.
With NSA leaker Edward Snowden still on the lam, businesses and agencies are exploring how to keep employees from going rogue and stealing sensitive data. In the world of consumer electronics, Barnes & Noble will stop selling its color Nook, while the new Ouya gaming console is selling out. And Instagram adds video sharing to compete with Twitter’s Vine. The Computer Guys and Gal discuss the latest tech trends.
- Allison Druin WAMU Computer Gal; Chief Futurist at the University of Maryland Division of Research; Co-Director of the Future of Information Alliance, University of Maryland
- John Gilroy WAMU Computer Guy; and Director of Business Development, Armature Corporation
- Bill Harlow WAMU Computer Guy; and Hardware & Software Technician for MACs & PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc.
Apps Of The Month
Wunderlist is a to-do list that allows seamless collaboration. It’s available free on all devices.
From smart phones to smart socks, now you can combine, and wear, haberdashery design with hardware design.
Make your summer road trips and commutes smarter with Automatic, plugs into the car’s data port. It monitors driving habits to help you drive more efficiently, and can even remember where you parked and call 911 in a crash.
Apps For Consuming Content
As Google Reader retires, Facebook announced it’s launching a news reader.
For those who prefer watching over reading, Discovery Channel is offering three new apps for streaming their content: Animal Planet, Discovery Channel and TLC.
And for kids, there’s the new LeapPad Ultra.
Apps For Taking And Printing Photos
Print your summer photos with a retro, Polaroid feel by using Printic for iPhone or Android.
And while every new photo gadget in the world seems to be emerging, Instagram still has the hearts of those who just want to seize the moment.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," and you know what that weird music means. The Computer Guys & Gal are here, connecting your neighborhood with the world. NSA leaker Edward Snowden seems to be in legal limbo at an airport in Russia, but here in the U.S., his disclosure of government secrets has agencies and businesses talking about how to flush out their own would-be leakers.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIWhat does your business or agency do to protect against insiders who might divulge sensitive data to the public or to competitors? Do we need better controls on who gets to see super-secret information? The Computer Guys & Gal are here to talk about online security and to look behind the headlines in the digital sphere. Are you mourning the loss of Google Reader? Are you excited about Instagram's adding video to its photo-sharing platform?
MR. KOJO NNAMDIWe'd like to hear from you. Call us at 800-433-8850. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org or send us a tweet, @kojoshow, using the hashtag #TechTuesday. Joining me in studio is Bill Harlow. He is hardware and software technician for Macs and PCs at Mid Atlantic Consulting, Inc. Bill, good to see you.
MR. BILL HARLOWGood to see you, too, Kojo.
NNAMDIAlso with us is John Gilroy. He is director of business development at Armature Corporation. John Gilroy, good to see you.
MR. JOHN GILROYGood morning.
NNAMDIGood afternoon. Allison Druin is not with us, leaving me in the studios with a gamer and a geezer.
GILROYWhich is which? Is she in the airport, too, within Russia there?
HARLOWSeeking asylum in the Berkshires, I hear.
GILROYShe's seeking asylum in the airport in the Berkshires.
NNAMDIShe is chief futurist at the University of Maryland Division of Research and co-director of the Future of Information Alliance at the University of Maryland. She joins us from where, oh, where, Allison Druin?
MS. ALLISON DRUINI'm in a farmhouse in the Berkshires.
GILROYOh, right. Na Zdorovie is what we say over there, right?
GILROYIt's Russian they're speaking around there.
NNAMDIIt's all about technology.
DRUINYeah. It's all about technology. My app of the month is all about record it live, and I'm sitting here with my cellphone...
DRUIN...in a high-speed network. Yay.
NNAMDIIn the home in the Berkshires, and that's why this is the technology show for you. With NSA leaker Edward Snowden still on the lam, there's lots of talk about protecting your business or agency from an insider who turns into a discloser of secrets. How do you make sure employees aren't stealing your company secrets? What does your company or office do? Give us a call at 800-433-8850.
NNAMDIAllison, last month, we talked about how to protect ourselves against the possibility that someone is following our actions online, including using a service like Tor to hide our digital tracks. Now comes the flip side. We find out that encryption may raise red flags for the NSA and make that agency more likely to take a look at our email traffic?
DRUINYeah. Isn't it amazing? No matter what we do, we can't win here, huh?
NNAMDIWhat's this about?
DRUINI mean -- but the -- you know, the bottom line is, is that when Tor does its business, OK, and encrypts, and encrypts what -- you know, the information, it's not letting you know -- it's not letting people know that you're a U.S. citizen. And so according to the law, if, you know, if the NSA can't figure out you're a U.S. citizen, then you're not, and they can basically observe your moves.
DRUINSo it's really a question of whether or not you want to just hide in plain sight and just keep on going, or if, you know, or if you, you know, take it on the lam and, you know, go for that encryption, and hopefully you're fine. I mean, the bottom line is who's holding us digitally hostage, OK? And is it -- you know, who's worse? The NSA, you know, and more? So you've got to decide which is the lesser of all evils.
NNAMDIWell, the NSA says that such a person using anonymity software from like the Tor Project, quoting here, "will not be treated as a United States person unless such person can be positively identified as such or the nature of -- or circumstances of the person's communications give rise to a reasonable belief that such person is a United States person." Bill Harlow.
HARLOWAnd then, of course, the other thing, too, is if you're actually encrypting the communication, then they're looking at it, well, you're taking steps to encrypt this. There could be something to what you're encrypting. Maybe you're -- there's a reasonable concern that there's some important secret data there. So they may hold on to that as long as they need to to cryptanalyze it.
GILROYAnd even if it is encrypted, I mean, what do we know what kind of brains are up there in Fort Meade? I mean, maybe they can break a lot of encryption. In the community, the intelligence community today, they say that 90 percent of passwords can be broken, and that's just, you know, a rough guess. So we don't know what they can do, and it's good to hole up in the mountains in Berkshire and hide from them. I think it's a good idea.
HARLOWI will be reporting remotely next month as well.
NNAMDIWell, you know, John probably encrypts all the information about the still in his basement.
DRUINDoes that make sense?
NNAMDIAfter the NSA leak, people are talking about how to protect against insider theft. If you run a business or head up a government agency, how can you protect yourself against an insider who steals information and makes it public or gives it to a competitor? Bill, I'll start with you.
HARLOWWell, from my perspective, it's kind of interesting because, you know, I'm in the business of being essentially an IT gun for hire. So what ends up happening is that a lot of, you know, businesses depend on us for a lot of the stuff, and a lot of people would prefer things to be more convenient than more secure. You know, they'll frequently ask us, hey, I don't remember my password. Do you have that?
HARLOWYou know, I really don't want your password, so I don't keep them. So all I end up doing is resetting them. But there's a lot of, I think, implicit trust placed in IT personnel in general. And, you know, granted these are people who are not the NSA, and they don't, you know, have national security concerns as primary importance, but still, you know, you want to protect yourself. So I would personally like to see people take more steps and actually ask more questions and be willing to put in the work to keep themselves more secure even if it means it is a little more work.
NNAMDIJohn, the NSA director said his agency will institute a so-called two-man rule, requiring a second person to check any attempt to access sensitive information. It's something that a lot of industries do, but is it effective?
GILROYWell, I think it is an approach. You know, I think there's not going to be anything that's 100 percent. You know...
HARLOWNot as long as there are people involved.
GILROYYeah, yeah, yeah. He's the gamer. I'm the geezer. Because I'm a geezer, I remember Johnny Carson's show "Who Do You Trust?" And I think what companies are going to have to start asking, and organizations like the Red Cross and agencies are going to have to say, well, let's take a closer look at, you know, who we hire and what position. Now, I am still not convinced that the stuff that Snowden released wasn't available to the public five years ago.
GILROYI mean, I've heard all kinds of reports about, well, he really just had a good public relations on what he released. And what he really got into and what was really there, I think it's very mysterious, and no one's talking right now. So I -- maybe two factors is, you know, the way to go. I think it boils down to human beings up there in Fort Meade and who knows where. We don't know. Maybe the building across the street to gym, maybe that's where the NSA has headquarters. A lot of strange towers coming out of it.
NNAMDIAllison, what do you think...
DRUINBut, you know...
NNAMDI...about this so-called two-man -- I mean, two-person rule?
DRUINTwo-person, yeah. I appreciate that, Kojo. I actually think it's a question of -- yes. I mean, I think that will definitely help security. That's -- it's -- the two-person rule, the two-person key, if you will, so that no person has the ownership of all the information is actually a very good way of making sure that -- what do you call it -- that things don't go rogue. But on the other hand, you have to say to yourself, all right, if that person goes rogue, what do we lose?
DRUINIf that person holds us digitally hostage, what do we lose? And I think, sadly enough, we have to say, how much, you know, how much is too much for each person to know, and how much is too little for each person to know? Is it really going to take four people in a room to figure out something that we've, you know, encrypted or something that we're trying to keep secure?
NNAMDIIt's the Computer Guys & Gal. 800-433-8850 is the number to call if you have questions or comments. You can send email to email@example.com. John Gilroy, the Snowden case is pointing out the incredible access that some government IT workers have, and they're often contractors rather than government employees. Are we giving IT contractors too much access to sensitive data?
GILROYWell, the argument is that they can do it cheaper than a federal employee can, and many of these contractors were at one time federal employees. And I have -- I know a lot of people in that world, and this is a very difficult, sensitive issue, and I'm afraid the NSA are going to be knocking on my door here if I talk about it. No. I mean, it -- you know, I got to go back to what did he know and what did he show.
GILROYI mean, I'm still not convinced that he wasn't just a low-level person that stumbled on something and is releasing things he thinks important, and maybe there's a whole -- maybe it's tip of the iceberg that he just doesn't see. And I guess I have more confidence in the people I've met in the intelligence community to control someone like Snowden. And maybe this is not as big a problem as it's purported to be in the newspaper. So I'm -- I still have confidence in the system. How is that for a shock?
NNAMDIWell, you should know that...
GILROYI'm conservative, but I'm still -- real confidence, system working.
NNAMDII should know that as a hired gun, Bill Harlow may find himself in one of those jobs one day, so I'm particularly interested in what he thinks about it.
HARLOWYes. Just keep me in the studio where you can keep an eye on me, you'll be fine.
NNAMDIExactly right. What do you think?
HARLOWWell, as I said before, I think that...
HARLOWI mean, we're outside people, and I do think that, you know, if it's something really sensitive, I think you'd want someone internally, someone that you have direct control over, someone that ideally, you know, you can monitor their best practices, kind of instill it in them. And, you know, I know, you know, from my experience, if I was in that environment, there would be a lot of retraining I should have to go through to really make sure I do things the way they want to see them.
HARLOWAnd it's even possible NSA doesn't necessarily want to tell me what those requirements are until I'm one of their employees. So who knows? But I think that more control on their end and more oversight and dividing up duties is probably all a good thing.
NNAMDIHere is Jay in Urbana, Md. Jay, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JAYHey. Thanks for taking my call.
JAYI was wondering, what did Edward Snowden release, and what was so damaging about it?
NNAMDIYou know, Allison Druin, a lot of people have difficulty understanding exactly what that is. The fact that the NSA is -- does have access to all of our -- to records of our emails and our phone calls, some people think that's a -- an invasion of privacy, to say the least. Other people, like our caller, seem to say what's the big deal? Of course, later...
NNAMDI...today, we'll be talking about how our European allies feel about that.
GILROYYeah. We know how they feel. Yeah, they're mad.
NNAMDIIt's another whole story. But your turn, Allison.
DRUINWell, I mean, here's the thing, is that essentially we give a lot of trust to a lot of different organizations, OK? We give our trust to the phone company, to -- that they're going to -- they're -- that they're not going to be, you know, messing with our telephone numbers and handing them off to people that shouldn't have them. We give, you know, we give access to Google every time we do a search. They are aggregating those searches and, you know, and certainly our emails and where those are going and so on.
DRUINSo the bottom line is, is that according to the law, if there is some -- you know, if they have some suspect that they're looking for to try and understand what their emotions are in terms of a terrorist suspect and they're not a U.S. citizen, it's OK to follow that person. Now, if you want to follow this person digitally, unfortunately you're -- this -- the person is wallowing in United States citizens, OK, and actually the information of United States citizens is mixing with potential suspects.
DRUINAnd so what there was an agreement on in terms of the law, it said it's OK to look at these, to look at the United States citizens if it's in the context of looking at this terrorist suspect. There's a lot more detail I could go into, and obviously you can have six more shows on this. But the bottom line is, is that some people say, well, it's the cost of doing business online.
DRUINIt's the cost of having digital footprints. Other people say, that is absolutely not OK. I didn't know that the government was allowed to do this. Even if the government made it more explicit to say, this is what we do, folks, you should know this, OK, it probably would have cut off a lot of the discussion that's going on.
HARLOWThat I agree with, for sure.
NNAMDIAnd here are people who are concerned about their own personal security. Here's Mary in Gaithersburg, Md. Mary, your turn.
MARYYeah. Hi. I just wanted to say that I find what the NSA is doing really troubling for our country. I think it's wrong. But as an individual, it doesn't bother me if some autonomous person is monitoring my Internet traffic. But it doesn't -- I have nothing to hide. But I think it's wrong for the country. But I do have a personal hacker and that really bothers me because this is somebody that I know.
MARYAnd there seems to be no way to get a subpoena to get information about who's hacking into your email account without evidence, and there's no way to get evidence without subpoena. And I'm just wondering how -- what are specific laws against individuals hacking into other people's computers and how do you know if...
NNAMDIAnd you say you know who the individual is?
MARYI'm sorry. What was that?
NNAMDIDid you say you know who the individual is?
MARYCan you say that -- can you repeat that one more time?
NNAMDIOh, well, we're both breaking up apparently, but I got -- I did get the impression that she says she knows who the individual is.
GILROYYeah. There's a woman named Andrea Weckerle. She's an attorney. She lives in Minnesota. And just two months ago, she released a book called, I think, "CiviliNation" and "Civility in the Digital World." And she has chapters in there that get very precise step-by-step things to do.
GILROYIf this happens, this is what you can do. If this happens, that's what you can do. And she's very, very careful about saying, well, this is where you draw the line between one thing -- I think, you know, I have two daughters. I mean, if someone's stalking my daughters, I'm going to get Andrea's book and find exactly what I can do legally and pursue everything it possibly can. And, believe me, there are laws out there that I'm not aware of because I've never been -- encountered in this kind of situation. But there are people who are experts in this, and I would get that book.
HARLOWYeah. It's kind of interesting because I hear about, like, hacking without hearing what these -- what eventually actually going on. But I think we are coming from this -- like things like harassment and cyberbullying and cyberstalking, those areas -- where those are factors for getting law enforcement law...
GILROYTeenage commit suicide for these sort of things. So...
GILROYI mean, I think that's the first step.
NNAMDIMary, thank you very much for your call. Good luck to you. Allison, just to remind us that even our friends can cause problems. Facebook sent emails to some users last week, saying their personal information was compromised by a security bug. What's the lesson there?
DRUINOh, the lesson is that they -- that our own companies can give away information without being forced to. This is very impressive. Essentially, Facebook made public 6 million users information, OK? And it was both emails and telephone numbers. They didn't just publish a list just so that nobody goes running looking for this, OK? What they did was they collect all this information when, you know, people set up their accounts, OK?
DRUINThis is to make sure that nobody is some rogue, bizarre human being that's creating fake Facebook accounts. But they keep this private if that's what you want, private. But they use this data to create friend recommendations. And so, in other words, when you're on Facebook, you -- every once in a while, you may say, hmm, I wonder who else I should friends, and they'll have recommendations for you based on a whole bunch of different criteria. And some of it is based on your email and your telephone numbers. And what they managed to do...
DRUINYeah, isn't that nice? What they managed to do was to expose those telephone numbers and those emails to people when they were looking up these recommendations, OK? And so suddenly, somebody that said their email and their phone number is private was made public when somebody went and looked at that person's record.
DRUINSo what Facebook to their credit did was they sent out an email to each of the people that had this happened to them, you know, that their information was exposed. And they not only told them that it was exposed and so on, but they actually told them how many people they believe saw that information. And that was actually very good of them.
NNAMDIAnd are we likely to seeing lawsuits any time soon about this?
DRUINWell, and that's -- the question is, is what is this information -- how is that information having been used by other people?
NNAMDIYou gave that scumbag from high school my phone number?
HARLOWAnd then the other question, too, is what's in the terms of service when you sign up for Facebook? I have a feeling, lawsuit? Probably not likely.
GILROYI just wrote on user agreement. I mean...
NNAMDIThat is true.
GILROY...when you check I agree. I know there's about 30 pages of fine print.
HARLOWThat nobody reads.
NNAMDI...each company deals with security threats in different ways for years. Microsoft refused to offer the so-called bug bounties, rewards for hackers or researchers who point out security flaws in Microsoft products. Now, Microsoft has reversed the strategy and is offering as much as $100,000 for information about bugs that can outsmart Windows. Why the change of heart?
GILROYI guess, a lot of nerds out there need to deposit for a house. I mean, $100,000 bill, you should quit your job and just full time trying to find a bug and Windows 8.1 coming out. I mean, they traditionally -- they're a little, let's say -- I use the word arrogant, and they didn't want to play this game. Now, we see Facebook giving 500 bucks and Mozilla's 3,000 bucks, Google's $20,000 and Microsoft is saying, oh, yeah? Watch this, you know, $100,000. And if you show us the fix, we'll bump up another 50.
GILROYSo I think that's a beach house for Kojo and maybe a next car for Bill because the kind of cars he drives, fancy cars and…
HARLOWFancy Europe, if I get 100 grand.
NNAMDI...we'll be all coming to you from the Berkshire.
NNAMDIWe got take a short...
DRUINBut it's about crowdsourcing, folks. I mean, that's the most important thing, is that now, it's not about how much I know as a person. It's about how we crowdsource all that information together and get the best information possible. And that's what these companies are doing.
NNAMDIGot to take a short break. When we come back, we'll be continuing our conversation with The Computer Guys & Gal. You can call us, 800-433-8850. We'll be looking at the passing of some electronic favorites. Tell us if some of your favorites have passed. 800-433-8850. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. We are talking with the Computer Guys & Gal. Bill Harlow is a hardware and software technician for Macs & PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc. Allison Druin is chief futurist at the University of Maryland Division of Research and co-director of Future of Information Alliance at the University of Maryland. And John Gilroy is director of business development at Armature Corp. We're looking at the passing of some electronic favors, the popular RSS feed.
NNAMDIGoogle Reader went dark last night, and some people are mourning the loss. How do you aggregate the news and blogs and tweets you read, and what do you read on them? Barnes & Noble won't be making its color tablets anymore because, well, they're not selling well enough. Give us a call, 800-433-850, and join the conversation. Allison, let's look at the future of RSS feeds.
NNAMDILast night, Google pulled the plug on Google Reader, but want to be replacements are rushing to fill that void. There's Digg and Feedly and AOL Reader. What does this say about the popularity of news and blog aggregators?
DRUINWell, it's an interesting thing because some people are saying, heck, thanks to social media, we don't need these readers anymore. That's actually why Google pulled the plug on this thing. You know, Google was the top one, and has been around for many years, but they felt like, you know, Google Plus put the nail in the coffin. But there's a lot of people that really don't want to read a million sites and try and figure out what, you know, what's the, you know, what's a clip, if you will, in terms of article clipping.
DRUINAnd these various different readers that are coming up -- and in fact, actually, Facebook's jumping in as well -- are saying, OK, Google, you missed your chance. We're going to, you know, we're going to do one better. And so a lot of them all the features that will allow to import your Google Reader blog news selections. OK? And -- but, you know, a lot of them are in their infancy compared to the -- all the full features that Google had.
DRUINWe just have to be careful with these news readers because this is like reading your news in a bubble, some people calling the filter bubble because you're only seeing what other people -- what this news reader is aggregating for yourself. So you have to think about, you know, what are you losing, what do you gain by using this RSS feeds.
NNAMDIWhat do you say, Bill?
HARLOWWell, actually, I think RSS is interesting because it was kind of geeky in some ways. I mean it's -- in a way, they like, you know, follow stories that are syndicated to this feed that you can then kind of curate. What I see as kind of the trend now, of course, is like social news. And I remember when Digg first came out, that was part of the big deal, is people could upvote what they find to be the most interesting topics that people are posting.
HARLOWAnd now I use a program like Flipboard, which is an iPad, iPhone app, and it kind of curates what people are talking about via Twitter, via Facebook. You put in that info as well as curate it -- maybe channel is the wrong word, but I'll go with that word -- for things that are specific topics that they kind of pull together for you now.
HARLOWBut it's something that is fed from, I think, something more powerful, which is what other people are talking about. If you mix that in with traditional news outlets like, you know, AP News or Reuters or New York Times or whatever, other apps and new sites you use, you've got a pretty good selection of content that's more personalized.
GILROYYou know, it used to be you'd sit down and open a newspaper on Sunday morning and page through it and you'd have a wide range there. And I think there's something to be said for being exposed to a wide range of topics. I'm reading a book right now called "A Peace to End All Peace," published in 1983. It's about the settlement war, one affecting the Middle East, right, today. Now, I never would have -- normally, it's not in my strike zone.
GILROYI'd normally read about maybe technical subjects, but I was reading something and I stumble on it. It's a wonderful book. I mean, it's printed before 9/11. It has a great prospective on what's going on today. So I think that the concept of readers, I never liked them because I -- it limited your exposure to new topics.
HARLOWThat's probably the social ones because you kind of get recommendations you don't normally expect to see.
NNAMDII just like to wander around and read Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, added video sharing to its photo-sharing app. Now you can use Instagram to shoot and post 15-second videos. Presumably the goal here: to compete with Twitter's six-second Vine videos. Why, in general, are videos so popular, he stupidly asked?
HARLOWBecause we call all take them, honestly. I mean, any decent smartphone now can take great pictures and pretty good videos. So I think what I like about this -- I really like the enforcement of these really tight restrictions because I do not want to see five minutes of poorly-edited, jumpy footage. It causes someone to think, OK, I've got six seconds to work with. This better be good. What am I going to grab?
GILROYYeah, times being crushed. I was at an event last week sitting at the back of the room, and this guy, Costolo from -- CEO of Twitter is talking, and he must have had, I don't know, 80 questions thrown at him. No one asked this question 'cause, of course, video is fun. Yeah. They never asked, why did you buy Vine? Why are there 13 million videos on Vine as of July 1? He knows it's fun. He had a lot other bigger fish to fry in that event. But (unintelligible).
HARLOWI think these moving pictures are going to take off.
GILROYYeah, these moving pictures, yeah.
DRUINOh, you guys.
NNAMDIAllison, let's talk about summer readings and...
GILROYAllison, that's starting to sound the airport in Russia. Are you in the airport in Russia? Where exactly are you?
DRUINYeah, yeah, you wish.
NNAMDIWho knows? Many of us read on tablets, but on of the major players that's pulling out of that market, Barnes & Noble, will stop making its color NOOK tablets because NOOK sales are way down, and it's just too expensive a venture says Barnes & Noble. But the company will still make black-and-white reader like the NOOK Simple Touch. Is this a surprise to you?
DRUINYou know, it's not terribly a surprise because they, you know, Barnes & Noble has been struggling for a while, not just as, you know, in terms of their readers but as a company. They're closing stores. And they're trying to figure out who they are. Amazon absolutely has, you know, has cornered the market. Part of it is that they don't have bricks-and-mortars stores to keep up.
DRUINAnd so, you know, they put a lot of money into Kindles and in the Kindle Fires and all these other stuff, and they have an enormous library, an enormous library of books for people to access. And so they haven't had to keep the doors open on -- at the same time as, you know, feeding the beast digitally. So I think that the Kindle definitely has been winning. Now, you know, they -- Barnes & Noble is keeping the NOOK Simple Touch and -- because they do know that, you know, 20 percent of their book sales is in e-books.
DRUINSo they absolutely have to feed the beast somehow. They have, you know, they do have partnerships or, you know, ownership stakes in this game from Microsoft and Pearson, but, you know, anybody's guess is as good as anybody else's as to where this is going to go. But look, e-books are getting bigger and bigger, and it's just a question of how do you feed this beast.
HARLOWI'll tell you how I feed that beast personally, is that -- I mean I don't own anything that says Kindle on it, but I have an iPad. I read -- I can read stuff from Apple on that via iBooks. I can read Kindle books on that. You can get a NOOK for that as well. So I can see why they're getting out of the high-end tablet game because no one was buying them. I mean, there's no reason for me to buy one of their Android tablets versus another good Android tablet from Samsung or Asus or whoever or get an iPad. So...
HARLOW...the Simple Touch: great little product, cheap enough. You know, it needs to exist. NOOK itself needs to exist as a software and service. And that's why Kindle is really successful. They were really aggressive about getting out everywhere. You didn't have to buy a Kindle for too long to be able to read Kindle content. You could do that on other devices. And that's why it's so powerful.
NNAMDIBarnes & Noble is planning to close up to 20 of its brick-and-mortar stores. So even though the NOOK tablet is not a big seller, a lot of people are still, as you pointed out, Allison, choosing tablets. And also, Bill pointed, they're choosing tablets and e-readers over hardcover books. I know I've gone in that direction over the course of the past few years. And just yesterday, somebody who lives in my house also went in that direction.
GILROYI was talking to a guy last week. He has 10 tablets at home. I mean, I'm just amazed.
HARLOWYou know what, that still takes up less space in my library, so you know what, whatever. I get that. I have a small house.
DRUINBut I still actually feel guilty now when I don't buy a book every once in a while...
DRUIN...cause I sort of feel like, you know, there's something that I -- there's something about feeling that book. On the other hand, most of my library in the last few years has all been, you know, bought, you know, in terms of for -- I read on my iPad with my Kindle reader, and I love it.
NNAMDIBut browsing in bookstores still beats all as far as I'm concerned.
DRUINIt's so true. There is something about browsing that can't be beat.
HARLOWThe smell too.
NNAMDIIt's summer, and that means a little more time to kick back and watch TV. But if you stream your shows through Hulu, beware. Hulu is up for sale. How do you consume television shows, and what services or apps do you use to do it? Give us a call, 800-433-8850. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or send us a tweet, @kojoshow using the #TechTuesday.
NNAMDILet's talk about how people watch TV. Hulu is for sale, and some people are saying it could mean either the expansion of online streaming as an alternative to cable television or the decline. What do you think, John?
GILROYI think it's an age thing. You know, I don't know how many people under 30 even know who the news broadcasters are anymore. I, you know, from the people I meet through my kids and my students, you know, I asked my students at class last fall, who watches evening news? Nobody who watches news, nobody who watches television, nobody. It's changing drastically, and I think it's -- you could probably graph it. I mean -- and Bills probably right at the crossover there of...
HARLOWI've got my feet in both sides, yeah.
GILROYFeet in both sides. So it's, you know, I think it's going to go away.
HARLOWIt's utterly classic versus modern distribution, too. And this Hulu argument is -- or the story is kind of interesting because classic distributors want to restrict it. They want to tie you to these classic models like having a cable subscription, and Hulu just says, hey, data is, you know, you can send almost anything over fat data pipe, so we can do TV, we can do movies, you know, what have you. We don't have to tie you to a classic subscription. And a lot of people who are on that younger side don't want to be tethered that way.
HARLOWThey just say, listen, I just would love to be able to watch HBO GO. That's another big one. For example, if people want to just -- I don't want cable and I don't want HBO, but I want HBO shows. I will pay for them. Why do I need to have cable plus this? And that's the struggle. I think we're going to eventually get on the side of a la carte viewing, and I think the classic bundles are going to slowly die off.
NNAMDIHow do you consume television? Give us a call, 800-433-8850. What services or apps do you use to do it? Allison Druin, I haven't heard from you on this one.
DRUINWell, it's very interesting. I travel with my kids. I go into hotel rooms. And the kids don't get that they just can't get what they want whenever they want it (unintelligible).
GILROYIsn't that amazing?
HARLOWI know. It's...
DRUINYeah. It's amazing.
DRUINThey truly think that everything is streamed, everything is whenever they want it. And, oh, yeah, will you stop the TV for a second? I have to go to the bathroom. No.
HARLOWOh, and -- that's true. They don't care about the lie either. You know, it doesn't matter to them. They don't care about the business deals behind the scenes. They just don't get why they can't do this and in other places they could.
DRUINBut it totally makes sense. If you think about it, just stand back from a kid's perspective, why would you have to wait for somebody to put something on your screen?
HARLOWRight. The kids are right.
DRUINI mean, they are. It's absolutely -- it makes total sense. And honestly, most of these channels are going to become content providers, and it's going to be all about when people want to buy a la carte suggestions. So yeah, I'm all about, you know, we've had TiVo for a billion years, and my poor kids don't really get broadcast TV. And they, you know, yell at the screen if it's not...
DRUIN...you know, what they expect, you know, that kind of stuff. So...
NNAMDIStop it. We got to go to the bathroom. If you like Discovery Channel, shows like "MythBusters" and "Cake Boss," you're in luck. The company has launched three apps that let you stream Discovery shows on your Windows Phone 8. Allison, is that where you plan on watching these shows?
DRUINYes. Now, that's an interesting thing. I was really surprised that they limited it to the Windows 8 because this is a model -- I mean, this goes against why, for example, Kindle is winning, Amazon is winning in the, you know, in the e-book reader area is because they're agnostic. They don't care about the platform. Even though they make a good platform, they're distributing across all platforms.
DRUINFor Discovery to go, you know, to get into bed with, you know, Windows only and, obviously, we know why Microsoft is doing this, to promote their Windows phone and saying, hey, if you want Discovery, come to us, you know, but businesswise, this doesn't make sense. This is an old business model. So I...
HARLOWYeah, hopefully it's temporary (unintelligible).
DRUINI hope it will be because to be honest with you, I don't see it being good for anybody it being only on a Windows phone. Not that I don't...
HARLOWWell, Microsoft has their -- they have the really popular sacks of cash technology I'm sure they are using for this deal.
DRUINYeah, I think so, totally.
NNAMDIHere's Greg in Washington, D.C. Greg, you're on the air. Go ahead please.
GREGHow are you guys doing today?
GREGSo I'm a 45-year-old guy. I live in D.C. A few years ago, I got sick of the game with my cable box turning into -- every time I turned around, after a few months of not paying attention to the bill, the bill was $25 more, $30 more. It was up to, like, $140 with cable, phone and Internet. So I pulled the plug. I went out and got myself Clearwire wireless. So I didn't have to get my Internet through a wire but through an antenna.
GREGAnd I just live on Netflix and that. And I reduced my cost to, like, you know, $48 a month for my Internet, my phone. I also have a Google -- I also have a device called an OBi 1 which was, like, $35 and allows me to connect it to my Internet. And I have three telephones with a 202 number. It literally costs me $0 to operate. People can call me, it's a regular phone. And so it's kind of a mindbender.
GREGAnd when I try to describe it to people my age, they kind of give me a weird look, like, well, I don't want to give up this, and I don't want to give up that. And then I mention, well, won't you want to give up that $100 cable bill...
GILROYThat's I'll give up.
HARLOWYeah, they'll go with the money, right.
GREG...Internet bill. And that, you know, even to have Vonage. I was a big Vonage user in the early years when it first came out 10 years ago. And I went back to consider it as an option as well as the regular telephone service. And they wanted like 26 bucks a month just to have a regular phone line. So I found a way to do it for zero.
GREGAnd I just think that this is the future. We're a bunch of crusty, old dinosaurs. We need to get off it and pay attention to where young people are going because this is really it. And this is the world we're going to live in. And I think it's great. I think it's great. And the main thing is also...
GREG...my kids don't -- they don't have to absorb any commercials. When we go to my -- a friend's house and my kids are like, you know, fascinated by commercials...
GREG...because they don't know what they are, you know?
NNAMDISo it's not costing Greg a lot of money. His kids are not watching any commercials. He sees this is the future. But what's the business model that's going to make money in this future, Bill Harlow?
HARLOWWell, I mean, Netflix is making money.
HARLOWSo in that sense, I mean, if that's where he's getting his primary content, that's where it's going to be. And any free content on the Web will still have ads and potentially like there's some premium content in YouTube. There are some other streaming channels where you can watch stuff but there'll be, like, a one minute commercial in the beginning. The free Hulu stuff is the same way.
HARLOWSo, ultimately, what I see happening is that you -- hopefully to me, we'll be paying the distributors or the content providers more directly for what we really want to watch. And maybe we can really (unintelligible).
NNAMDIThat grinding sound you hear is the teeth of cable company executives.
HARLOWExactly. Oh, well.
NNAMDINot liking this conversation.
HARLOWWorld's tiniest violin time is what this is.
NNAMDIIf you've called, stay on the line. We have to take a short break. And a lot of you have indeed called. Greg, thank you very much for your call. The number is 800-433-8850. We're talking with The Computer Guys & Gal. If the lines are busy, shoot us an email to email@example.com. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDITalking with The Computer Guys & Gal. Allison Druin, chief futurist at the University of Maryland Division of Research and co-director of the Future of Information Alliance at the University of Maryland. John Gilroy, director of business development at Armature Corp., and Bill Harlow, hardware and software technician for Macs and PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc.
NNAMDIOn to the telephones. There are number of people who've been waiting quite a while to talk about stuff that we have been talking about. So here is Charlie in Washington, D.C. Charlie, you're on the air. Go ahead please.
CHARLIEYes, sir. Thank you, Kojo. I would like to turn your attention back to an article in PC Magazine dated 2001. The cover story was "They Know." It covered two programs that NSA had enacted called Carnivore and Echelon which were to monitor cell phone conversations and Internet activity. This goes back to 2001, and, in fact, I have the article. I showed it my children often, and at that time, they were teenagers. And I showed it to them and explained to them that if they go on unusual or weird that they could be subject to scrutiny by NSA or the federal government.
NNAMDISo the revelations by Edward Snowden are absolutely no surprise to you and your kids.
CHARLIEAbsolutely not. And in 2001, they made this very public in the magazine.
NNAMDIAs Charlie said, you read PC Magazine, you learn something.
GILROYAnd now they're called PC Mag, by the way. But I remember talking about Carnivore in this studio in 2001, and I kind of shrugged my shoulders. And it wasn't -- it was like, oh, it's raining in Iowa, and there's Carnivore. There wasn't a very big concern. And like I said, I think a lot of this information that he's released, people have known about it like -- Charlie's known about it. And it's just that Snowden has got some good public relations going. It's a slow news day.
HARLOWYeah. It's for attraction issue maybe.
HARLOWJust people paid attention this time.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Charlie. Go ahead, Allison.
DRUINI think part of it though is that in some sense, it's almost like Snowden pulled together a lot of different things that had been going on. Separately, people have been doing talking about. But in putting it all together, people went, whoa. Look at that. That's a lot of surveillance. And I think that it was the aggregation of all of the kinds of thinks they're doing that actually really took people's imagination by storm.
HARLOWWell, it's funny, too. Before these facts really became crystal clear, there's a lot of talk of all this partnership with companies like Apple and Google and Facebook over this as well, and I think that's why it initially blew up because people are thinking that they had direct access to content from these corporations.
NNAMDIWe got an email from Laird, (sp?) who said, "What now for Nook owners? I've been happy with my Nook tablets since getting it to 18 months ago. I liked it over to Kindle because there were brick and mortar places I could get the support. Now that Barnes & Noble is withdrawing from the tablet world, what is in store for me and others who own Nook tablets?" Allison.
DRUINI think you're going to have to ask that to Barnes & Noble, and I think that's -- in fact, when I was hearing about this announcement, that was the first thing that went through my mind, oh, what a tech support nightmare they're going to have because they have to keep people around that understand these things because they're going to have very unhappy customers in general. So absolutely, you know, storm those stores and demand that you get proper service and support.
GILROYI think it's going to fall in the lap of a relatively unknown company called Microsoft. I think they're going to absorb. That's what I think is going to happen. So we'll have to see how this plays out.
NNAMDIJohn, when it comes to downloading apps, a new study warns that Android users should stay away from third party app stores because they're a growing source of mobile malware. What's the bottom line here?
GILROYWell, I, you know, I think the best practices is to get your apps from reasonable, respectable places, and it's easy with Apple. And, you know, if you go to Google Play, it's probably safe there. And there's a security company that has come up with a report talking about mobile threats. Now, I, you know, I believe this mobile threat. Now, they talk about, you know, 70 percent of the app market has malicious software built into it.
GILROYYou know, I want to -- I don't want to believe that, but I think it's a good warning. And I think maybe it'll motivate the audience to be more careful about what apps they put in their phone. And, you know, maybe it's just 30 percent. Maybe it's 20 percent. But even if it's 20 percent, I'd be wary. And what kind of apps do you have? So you download an app and you figure, this is great. And all the sudden, you find out that it's making text messages to some place that's charging your phone you don't even know about it. So you have to be wary of that.
HARLOWYeah. And don't put this to just your Android phones either. I mean, this is a good practice on your own Windows or Macintosh computers as well to, you know, get your software from trusted sources.
GILROYAnd those trusted sources normally aren't in Russia and China, but I'm not going to say anything about those countries.
NNAMDIWhen is the last time you both a desktop computer? Chances are it's been a while. That's because computers aren't changing very quickly anymore. The action is in the software and in tablets. What new software have you loaded to energize your old computer? 800-433-8850. Bill, sales of personal computers have been stagnant for a while. And one hypothesis is that the innovation in the industry has turned to software and battery life. Why are computers not getting much faster, and do we need them to be?
HARLOWWell, they're getting more portable, and I think we've got a lot of computational power, and that's not to say there aren't people who need, you know, like Dual Xeon workstation to do some really powerful things. But for the most of us, computational power is there. And the big news, for example, when Apple updated the MacBook Air, they're using a new Intel chipset under the name Haswell.
HARLOWAnd they're not much faster than the previous ones, but they're really efficient. They idle more efficiently. And the big selling point for new MacBook Air is 12 hours of battery life and a very slim and light laptop, and that's real world. I mean, people are reviewing this and saying, yeah, I'm getting in some cases more than that, maybe getting 11. But that's beyond...
HARLOW...a typical work day. And that's what is exciting people, ways that you can actually benefit from an -- that makes sense in real world use. I mean, do you care that you open a Web browser, you know, five seconds faster, or do you care that you can use your computer for four hours longer?
GILROYYeah. You know, I was -- I went to the Micro Center to buy some stuff last week, and I just kind of waltzed over to the desktop section. And it was like a desert. I thought Bill and I could maybe put up a volleyball net or something and play volleyball and...
HARLOWYeah. Yeah. We should. Let's go play volleyball.
GILROYThere's no one in. There's, like, cobwebs on everything. Used to go in there and buy memory, go in there and buy video cards.
HARLOWI still love the place though.
HARLOWOne area where there's a niche that seems to be doing well is in the DIY, build your own computer enthusiast world, and they've got a good selection there for that. But I think, yeah, most people, if they're buying a new computer, the average person, it's going to be a laptop or maybe a tablet.
NNAMDIAre people increasingly using tablets as computers?
HARLOWI mean, I travel with my tablet exclusively unless I can think of some very specific use case for my laptop. I find reasons not to bring my laptop.
NNAMDIWell, that also seems to be the case for a lot of people. Allison, for the younger techies among us, the kid-friendly company LeapFrog is introducing a new tablet, the LeapPad Ultra, with a touch screen, front and rear-facing cameras and apps from companies like Pixar and Sesame Street. Talk about that.
DRUINWell, Pixar -- that's not Pixar -- LeapPad is obviously a kid company. And so what they've done is they've taken an Android, you know, seven inch, and they've made it rugged. They've -- they figured out what kids are doing with the regular -- with your regular tablets, and they're making it more kid-friendly and more kid-proof. So it's a lot of -- there's a lot of security in there for parents so that there's only "approved apps." And it can -- and, you know, they have a chat.
DRUINThey have ability to chat just like big kids do, but it's called Pet Chat. And you could only, you know, have approved little phrases back and forth. So it's -- in some sense, it's your first iPad, it's your first Android, and it's $150. So it's no small change. So if you're going to do this, you got to do it because you want the security, you want the closed environment, and you think that this is something that's useable.
DRUINPersonally, if you have a parent and an iPad together, you're going to get pretty much the same environment. It's not going to be as rugged though, so you're not going to be able to drop your iPad from, you know, a certain floor side...
HARLOWOf course, iPads are way more expensive so there's that too.
DRUINYeah. Exactly. So, anyway.
NNAMDIWell, on to Susan in Alexandria. Susan, thank you for waiting. You're on the air. Go ahead, please.
SUSANYes. After all these talk about espionage, I have a boring question. I...
GILROYYou like boring too?
NNAMDINo question is boring here, except John Gilroy.
SUSANWell, I have a spreadsheet that has usernames, passwords, account numbers, history. I mean, you name it. And it is obviously a huge security risk. I have it password protected, but I know that that's not really help going to help that much if someone gets into my computer. Is there anything that you would recommend that would keep track of those things securely and more than just the username and the password?
HARLOWWell, there is -- there are bunch of programs out there. The one I like because I have it for my Mac, my Windows PC and iOS devices is called 1Password. And what it does is you can keep your logins for various websites in there, you can keep whatever notes you want in there and then keeps it in a file that it then encrypts, and you then want to secure that, of course, with a really powerful password. So the idea is if someone gets their hands on it, at the thing is totally encrypted as well.
HARLOWSo unless they can figure out your password, which is why I stressed make it tough, they shouldn't be able to see anything other than gibberish. And the other thing I like, too, that I rely on is its ability to generate strong passwords. So when I go and set up new accounts, it creates a really lengthy as -- like, 16 characters, I think, for most of mine.
HARLOWThey use numbers. They use upper case, lower case. They use symbols. And it's something that if you would torture me, I could not tell you the password. That's how bizarre and random they are. So I consider that a pretty robust way of doing things.
SUSANAnd that's not a challenge to torture you, right? You're just saying.
GILROYOh, I would, you know, you could just bribe me with a cup coffee, let's be honest.
NNAMDIPlease don't give John Gilroy any ideas here. Susan, thank you very much for your call. We move on to Joel. Joel, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JOELHi. Earlier on your show, you had a couple callers, and you're talking about, you know, the growth of data over the Internet and how it's coming to encompass television and phones, as well as all the traditional websites. And I think it's really fascinating how everything is going towards this one data delivery method and how flexible it is. But every time it comes up, I'm constantly reminded in every day of this that I live in a data black hole where I do not have access to broadband. And on Stafford County, it's not that far out there. The only...
NNAMDIYou are in Aquia, Va.?
NNAMDIWhat part of Virginia are you in?
JOELAnd even in my neighborhood, there's Comcast and other methods. But my particular location, if I want broadband, I've got to pay by the gigabyte.
HARLOWWhoa. Yeah, that's up there. And you raised a really good point. I mean, there's a reason why -- like, I think last month, we're talking about Xbox One and how they wanted to go fully digital for their distribution. And I think it's something we have to figure out because it -- that is the trend, and it doesn't make sense to put in a wired infrastructure, especially if, let's say, the area isn't too developed. So hopefully, wireless will continue to expand and get to the point where it can be relied upon for more and more of our home data needs.
GILROYYou know, Joel, real estate listings now are starting to list out walkability factor, which is kind of interesting, never had that before. I think it's going to have to list, you know, broadband access as well. Then before you move in, you know, before you walk in.
HARLOWAll my moves have been based on broadband availability.
NNAMDIAnd that's because that's the way Bill Harlow rolls. Unfortunately, we don't have much...
HARLOWExactly. Lots of crime but great broadband.
NNAMDI...time to roll in this hour. Bill Harlow is hardware and software technician for Macs and PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc., John Gilroy is the director of business development at Armature Corp., and Allison Druin is chief futurist at the University of Maryland Division of Research, co-director of the Future of Information Alliance at the University of Maryland. When are you coming back this way, Allison?
DRUINOh, I'll be back in the studio next month. Don't miss me too much.
HARLOWGreat. We miss you.
NNAMDIWe certainly do. Indeed. And thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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