George Hawkins is stepping down as head of DC Water, but he leaves at a moment when the agency is facing criticism over how they bill consumers for stormwater runoff.
A British woman receives death treats via Twitter after lobbying to put Jane Austen on a 10-pound bank note. New revelations surface about how the government monitors our online interactions. And the latest smart phones emphasize the cameras and a connection to Google. The Computer Guys and Gal join Kojo to talk about 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
The Farmers’ Market Recipe Generator inspires more than 50 combinations of produce you’re likely to find in a market or C.S.A. basket.
Knee Pro III helps explain knee injuries by giving users an in-depth look of the joint. Developed in collaboration with Stanford University’s School of Medicine, users can cut, zoom and rotate a knee.
Manage your weight loss with Weight Watchers Mobile. Track your food, weight and activity to stay on plan.
Gadgets Of The Month
There’s a new Google phone called Moto X. The product is getting good reviews, and some people are calling it the “iPhone of the Android phones.”
The hardware in Nokia’s Lumia 1020 is exciting for serious photographers: 41MP, optical stabilization, fast lens.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. That weird music you hear means, yes, they're here...
MR. JOHN GILROYThe weirdoes.
NNAMDI...the Computer Guys and Gal. We have to start with the big news of the day, the sale of The Washington Post to a West Coast technology titan, so allow me to introduce the guys and gal. Allison Druin is chief futurist at the University of Maryland Division of Research. She is co-director of the Future of Information Alliance at the University of Maryland. Allison, welcome back.
MS. ALLISON DRUINThank you.
NNAMDIAlso with us is Bill Harlow. He is a hardware and software technician for Macs and PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting Inc. Hi, Bill.
MR. BILL HARLOWHello, Kojo.
NNAMDIAnd we have created an app to take the place of John Gilroy.
DRUINOh, thank goodness.
NNAMDIThe Gilroy app is here. Its advantage is that it sounds exactly like John Gilroy...
HARLOWSounds like malware to me.
NNAMDI...director of business development at Armature Corp. Say hi, app, so they'll know that it's you.
GILROYHi, app. I tell bad jokes.
NNAMDISiri sounds exactly like John Gilroy, much better than Siri. After four generations at the helm, the Graham family is selling its flagship newspaper to the founder and CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos. He is going to own the paper by himself. It will not be a part of Amazon. How do you think Bezos will bring his tech acumen to bear at this paper, Bill Harlow?
HARLOWTo be honest, I don't know. It's going to be kind of fascinating 'cause my understanding is he's going to be somewhat hands-off, right? I mean...
HARLOW...he's not going to be doing the day-to-day operation, and Allison actually made a comparison to Steve Jobs buying Pixar earlier, which I think is a very interesting angle.
GILROYI think it's a good parallel.
DRUINYeah, because when -- actually, when Steve Jobs did buy Pixar, he never intended to be anything but the outsider, to be the sounding board, to be the consultant. And he really created Pixar to be Pixar. And ideally, Jeff Bezos is going to do the same kind of thing with The Washington Post. But now, of course, you know, is he going to say, whoo, let's scale up print?
DRUINWell, that's doubtful based on where he lives and based on where he comes from. You know, could he leverage the Kindle distribution channel? Could he, you know, bring in the content of the Post? Could he create the next iTune for news? He could do so many things...
HARLOWYeah, I know.
DRUIN...but he -- he's a strategist. He sits. He waits. He's certainly not above losing a bit of money...
DRUIN...to get to his goal, right?
HARLOWThe thing, too, is that when I think of Amazon, you know, we think of them as an online shopping company. I think of them more as an infrastructure company. That's what they excel at, you know, finding ways to get your products to you quickly, helping you find your products as quickly as possible, satisfying you as quickly as possible, and they seem to be pretty fanatical about customer service. So, in that sense, what could they do with that to, you know, make Washington Post a leaner, meaner kind of company?
NNAMDISpeaking of sitting and waiting, our Gilroy app would like to speak.
GILROYI was just downtown when I heard Terry Halvorsen speak. He's the CIO of the Navy. And he went to his vendors, and he said, well, you guys got a five-year plan? And they said, yeah. And he said, well, how do your other five-year plans work? And they said, they were -- no one could predict what could happen. He said, you know, you can't. You have to have flexibility and be agile and see what happens.
GILROYAnd if you ask Bezos what he's doing, he says he doesn't have a plan. He has to have some general idea, but I think he's going to be, one, he's just going to be agile and moving and see what happens. Who could have predicted that The Washington Post would have -- be worth $250 million and Instagram is worth $1 billion?
GILROYI mean, no one could have predicted that five years ago. I mean, nobody in the planning could have predicted it. So what's going to happen? I don't know. I think he's -- maybe he doesn't have a five-year plan. If I'm going to spend $250 million, I'm probably going to have a plan. But maybe he's just going to be loose and flexible and pivot before it happens.
NNAMDIWell, Jeff Bezos is clearly interested in exploring new technology. He's invested in a private space flight company. He's helping with an effort to build a clock that will run for 10,000 years. More relevant to his new acquisition, he has said that he only reads newspapers in digital form and that the industry's survival depends on its transition to new media. How do you think he'll help promote that transition now that he'll own the newspaper himself?
DRUINWell, you know, he bought content. He bought quality brand content, all right? Now, the sad thing about The Washington Post is they've been laying off content, quality content providers...
GILROYWe can name names.
DRUINOK, but we're not going to. For quite a while. That model didn't work. It's clear. It -- you know, they've been losing money, you know, every single quarter for a while. And, you know, I really look up to the owners to -- for them to say, it's not working. So what did he do? He bought a fixer-upper here, OK? He's going to rehab, and it's just a question of looking at the bones. What do you got? He's got brand right now, so the question is, what is he going to do with the brand?
NNAMDIAnything to add to that, anyone?
GILROYWe talked about earlier, I mean, if the circulation for The Washington Post in '93 was 800,000, now it's 400,000. You know, I mean, I can draw a line in a graph. I mean, you have to do something, and they had to cut bait or fish or do something here. And this is an interesting something for the family to do.
GILROYAnd, you know, I wrote a weekly column for The Washington Post for 10 years. I think I understand what's going on down there, and I see people like Rob Pegoraro being shown the door, Brian Krebs being shown the door, really bright, smart people. And you wonder why the circulation is down. That's part of the puzzle. Who knows what's going to happen?
DRUINBut, you know, this is not just a Washington-based story. That's the most important thing to think about. The industry is going to be watching...
DRUIN...because this is a man that actually knows how to deal with low-margin products, new business models, OK? Now, what do we have in the publishing industry? Pretty close. So the question is, how does he help to reinvent that? He's not going to do that on a day-to-day basis, but he's certainly going to do that in a big consulting way. So the question is, what is it? So I think to be -- what's so interesting about this is that the entire industry now is going, OK, Jeff, tell us the way.
NNAMDIYou know, Bill, more than 20 years ago, John Gilroy came to this station to ask us to do something called the Computer Guys, introducing the digital world to our listeners. Here we are. At that point, Amazon didn't even exist.
NNAMDIIt wasn't even a concept. Here we are, a little more than 20 years later, Amazon, a digital company, is now buying The Washington Post, which, when John Gilroy came here, was a very profitable enterprise. Does this make John Gilroy a visionary?
GILROYYes, yes, yes. Thank you.
HARLOWYes, yes. That was...
GILROYThe check is in the mail. The check is in the mail, Kojo.
HARLOW...exactly the word I was going to use. You took the word right out of my mouth.
DRUINWhat was the point of that?
GILROYThank you very much. Boy, it's a good lead-up to that.
NNAMDIHow visionary and pest can exchange in the -- can exist in the same body I don't know.
GILROYI think the mouse and the rabbit or the lion and the mouse. The mouse circled around and is -- you know, Washington Post was worth billions at one time. It's a fire sale, $250 million.
DRUINWell, let's hope they're not a fire sale soon. Yeah.
NNAMDIWell, on -- first, we find out the National Security Agency was scooping up data about our email exchanges and phone records in the name of fighting terrorism. Now, we learn they may also be reading those emails, and hackers may be entering our own devices and using them against us. NSA leaker Edward Snowden may have left the Moscow airport for a year of asylum in Russia, but now we're left to discuss the information he divulged and to debate who should be tracking us online and why. How do you feel about online government surveillance?
NNAMDIIs it OK for the government to watch all of our digital doings? Give us a call at 800-433-8850. Send email to kojoshow.org. If you're on Twitter, you can send us a tweet, @kojoshow, using the hashtag #TechTuesday. Last week, Allison, a Long Island family got a visit from six or more law enforcement agents after the husband apparently Googled pressure cooker bombs and backpacks on a work computer, and the company he worked for called the police. What happened? What does this tell us about where and how we're being watched online?
DRUINWell, this is, sadly enough, this is not new, folks, OK? We -- when we type our email in at work, who owns the equipment? Who owns the software? It is our workplace. And so -- but the paranoia is new. This paranoia about who's watching us is absolutely new. Suddenly it's, no, it's not just my employer snitched on me and told the police, which is what the -- which is really what happened.
DRUINIt wasn't the NSA going, we're here. We're going to take away everything. No. It was all about an employer absolutely freaking out. And, again, what is this about? This is about complete, you know, paranoia about what's going on with our government because, now, nobody has any idea what is possible, what, you know, what the government possibilities are for doing this.
DRUINBut end of the day, if you're typing an email to Kojo and you're saying pressure cookers and backpacks, you know, your employer, if they let you go -- and this is what happened. The guy was let go. They took the computer back. They analyzed the computer 'cause that's what you do before you wipe it out. And they found this and then freaked out and called the police. And so, no, this wasn't the FBI breaking down doors and, you know, and creating another national mess. This was...
NNAMDIAnd -- but the guy's wife wrote that they saw these six people...
NNAMDI...approaching from different directions...
NNAMDI…positioning themselves outside the house. The guy may have just forgotten the names of the alleged bombers and said, I want to look up this story. What's the easiest way to look it up?
NNAMDIWhy don't I just put pressure cooker bombs?
DRUINIt totally makes sense. It totally makes sense. The problem is the context of what we're going through now with privacy and security. It makes it so that everyone is on edge. Hopefully, we're not going to get into McCarthyism and back to the paranoia of communism.
NNAMDIJust sitting next to Gilroy is making me nervous.
DRUINHe's in a tie. That's why.
NNAMDIWhich is making me even more nervous. If the -- Bill, if the NSA's PRISM spying program wasn't enough, we now learn that another program called XKeyscore reportedly allows the NSA to monitor almost everything we do on the Internet.
NNAMDIWhat does this program do, and how is it used?
HARLOWWell, the how to use it, I think, is more interesting. What it does is basically capture a ton of traffic online as far as, like, what you're looking at, email communication, chat transcripts, that sort of thing. The how it's used is going to be the big question, right, because you get the feeling now that the NSA can pretty much -- has the capability of doing whatever it wants. So it's a matter of, you know, what laws are in place that are followed to make sure that they don't abuse that power.
HARLOWSo that's -- I think it's less of a technology question, more of a legal question because that protection is what's going to be so important to all of this because, as far as I can tell, they can get just about anything about you if you do anything online, whether it's, you know, just simply browsing the Web or just emailing a few people.
NNAMDI800-433-8850. What concerns do you have about the growing revelations that there's not much privacy online? Have you taken precautions to cover your digital tracks as you correspond electronically and travel around the Internet? Give us a call, 800-433-8850. John Gilroy, apparently it's not just electronic mail that the government is tracking. The New York Times says the U.S. Postal Service can track snail mail, too, thanks to a major expansion of a century-old tracking program after 9/11. What's the significance of that program?
GILROYWell, the significance is, is that the last bastion? I thought sending a invitation in the U.S. mail to Allison would be kind of private. I guess it's not private anymore.
GILROY...we're in Washington, D.C., here. We all remember -- at least I remember 10 years ago when that post office up on Capitol Hill, people were dropping off bulk mail to do promotional things and all got, you know, frozen, shut down because of what was going through the mail up there. I just -- I read a lot of history books. When I think back on a guy like Thomas Jefferson, what would he say about all this?
GILROYHe would be screaming right now. And it's just a -- you know, it's a push and pull. I want the security, but I keep thinking on the principles this company was founded on and think what those guys wanted and how they set up the country. And it's just -- I think it's going a little further from what those folks with long hair back 250 years ago wanted.
NNAMDIThey send snapshots of every piece of mail that you have, so they can track it.
NNAMDIHere is Jim in College Park, Md. Jim, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JIMYeah. As far as I'm concerned, the NSA spying is just the tip of the iceberg compared to commercial tracking for marketing purposes.
NNAMDIWe're going to get to that in a minute, actually, about commercial tracking for marketing purposes. Let me get Allison Druin to get to it right now because some social media companies seem to be moving in the direction of offering users more privacy from online monitoring. Pinterest has added an opt-out feature if you don't wanted using cookies to collect personal information, which is what, I guess, Jim is talking about, or target you with advertising. Who else is doing this, and will more companies follow suit?
DRUINNot too many people are doing -- not too many companies are doing this. Twitter did this a while back, OK, and people thought, well, this is interesting. Well, those renegades. But, you know, and it doesn't surprise me that Pinterest is going the way that way. But, you know, Jim, your perception is right on. When we make technologies that can support people in customizing what they see, those are the same technologies that end up making it so that it's less secure. And we need more information about you to do this.
DRUINSo you have this option: Do you want more freedom to, you know, to be private, or do you want more customization to understand what you're doing? And the problem is as we make new tools, we have to always look at what can we do with this tool that's not so good, what can we do with it that is good. And just to point out, it's not NASA. It's NSA.
DRUINOK. So just the national...
NNAMDINational Security Agency.
DRUINYeah. Just so that you know that those people in space are not the people that are looking at your Internet. But anyway, but Pinterest basically, you know, has said their goal: provide users simple and usable ways to signal that they don't want third parties creating profiles on their -- of their online behavior. And, you know, look, this is what Facebook has been struggling with for years and not doing a good job. It's a big (unintelligible)...
NNAMDIBut here's the rub: If you go to Pinterest and you do not use that do-not-track option, apparently Pinterest will start watching you more closely than it has in the past.
DRUINThat's right. And it goes to the same tool. It's either you've got this tool that is great that can do these things or not.
NNAMDIWell, Bill Harlow, government agencies aren't the only ones that are spying on us. Hackers can dig up old Snapchats, turn an Internet link GoPro video camera into spycam, and listen in on cellphone calls. What are newest ways hackers hijack our devices remotely and turn them against us?
HARLOWWell, I think a lot of it is pointing out that the advent of smart devices, you know, is what allows hackers to get in there. I mean, you got -- you mention the GoPro, which, of course, has Internet connectivity, so they can get in there and use that a remote camera. We've got things like smart home devices. A really popular one is a Nest thermostat that, you know, could potentially be hacked, and people can get in there and control your AC system and…
DRUINThey make you sweat.
HARLOWThey make you sweat. Yeah, smoke you out of your house. Another thing that's getting more popular are smart locks. These are Wi-Fi-enabled devices that allow you to let people in remotely, you know, lock the house remotely in case you forgot, check the status of your lock. Some have little cameras that you can set up, so you can actually see who's at the door. So, yeah, if anybody wants to get into your house, all they need, you know, is some know-how and a good Wi-Fi signal, and they can get in there. And one of the more terrifying ones I saw that...
DRUINJust in case you were one of them.
HARLOWYeah. In case you weren't scared yet.
GILROYOh, here it comes. Oh, no.
HARLOWPacemakers can be hacked.
NNAMDIYou've destroyed John Gilroy and my future. Here is Rebecca in Washington, D.C. Rebecca, you're on air. Go ahead, please.
REBECCAHi. Yeah, thanks for having me on. Very interesting topic. I kind of just wanted to make a comment that I feel like in using the Internet, people are pretty naive with this, you know, whole NSA reveal. I mean, that type of tracking of people's Web behaviors has happened -- has been happening for years and years and years by corporations like Jeff Bezos on Amazon to provide and bubble up content.
REBECCASo I feel like, you know, it's kind of become this tracking trend. It's kind of become a term, sort of an accepted, you know, we-have-to-accept-it-if-we-want-to-use-the-Internet kind of condition, that if you want to use the Internet, you have to assume, and you kind of, you know, give up the right to then say, you know, oh, people can't track or watch what I'm doing.
NNAMDIWell, Rebecca, that brings me back to Pinterest, which has been allowing customers to have the do-not-track option. Allison, is there a pushback from advertisers who are worried about the spread of do-not-track options?
DRUINOh, absolutely. I mean, this goes to, in fact, like TiVo, which was one of the first organizations to get rid of commercials, OK? And they actually had a technology to do that.
DRUINSo what they're now -- so what basically advertisers, companies are worried about is that, my goodness, when people say I'm opting out, I don't want to see your, you know, I don't want to see your "commercials, your advertisements, your special information," then where else is it that they can get in front of people's eyes? And it's actually -- again, it goes to what's the new business model of, you know, of point of purchase.
HARLOWI just want to get back to the whole angle of tracking what privacy we give up to private companies. And one thing I wanted to bring up was there is a documentary that actually is in limited release right now called "Terms And Conditions May Apply."
DRUINThat's right. That's right.
HARLOWIt's playing in Richmond, I think, till the 8th, and then it's going to be in Norfolk next week. And I believe it's going to open much broader -- in broader release as time goes on. But it's specifically about, you know, what we give up when we hit agree button and we sign in to all these websites. And the director's even said that he's pretty terrified, he's changed his behavior now. So I definitely wanted to seek that out and give that a watch 'cause, you know, it's pretty too fascinating.
GILROYNow, on the other hand, I like free Gmail. I like it a lot.
GILROYAnd I know I'm giving up every single word I type in there, and I could -- I'll probably type some silly word like green car and then the green car manufacturer is going to send me email or something. And -- but that's the tradeoff, and that's a fair tradeoff from my perspective. I like free. I mean, you know, I've had a lot -- I've paid for email in the past. And I think this is a good deal.
NNAMDIThat's why, Rebecca, I read every single word of every agreement before I hit...
GILROYYes, you sure do, the only human in the world.
NNAMDI...before I hit I agree. We're going to take a short break. When we come back, more with The Computer Guys & Gal. A new crop of cellphones is hitting store shelves and two themes seemed to emerging: bigger and better cameras and greater reliance on Google. You can call us now, 800-433-8850. Send us a tweet, @kojoshow, or post a comment on our Facebook page. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to The Computer Guys & Gal. The Gilroy app is director of business development at Armature Corp.
NNAMDIAllison Druin is chief futurist at the University of Maryland Division of Research and co-director of the Future of Information Alliance at the University of Maryland. And Bill Harlow is hardware and software technician for Macs and PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc. We're taking your calls at 800-433-8850. Have you bought a new cellphone recently? Which one did you choose and why?
NNAMDIHave you seen the Motorola Moto X phone? What about Nokia's bright yellow Lumina 1020? How do you feel about our ever increasing reliance on Google? 800-433-8850. Allison, the aforementioned new Motorola Moto X phone is getting good reviews and boosting Google's stand in the smartphone world. What's new about this phone?
DRUINWell, you know, Moto X is actually basically running stock Android, OK?
DRUINSo that's not the new part.
HARLOWIt's a big deal to me.
DRUINWell, it is a big deal, in that sense, OK, because they're not, you know, massively changing.
HARLOWWell, Google's, you know, going to support this. It means, if you buy...
HARLOW...this device, you have good chance...
HARLOW...of seeing regular software updates.
DRUINIt's -- exactly.
GILROYIn one of your photos.
DRUINExactly. But, no. But what's actually new about this is finally you've got, you know, an Android phone that they actually thought about the design. Go figure, guys. They're calling this the iPhone of the Android phones, OK? It's got a sleek, physical design. It's lighter. It's faster. It's actually got a pretty decent camera, and I'm sure that Bill can talk about that.
DRUINBut it also has customization, the most amount of customization for the physical thing. So you can choose between two front covers -- colors. You can get 18 different back colors. You can get seven accent colors on your buttons, around the camera. I mean, OK, so it's not such a big deal. But then they also did crazy little things, like realize that -- do you know that the average person presses their little -- presses their or accesses their cellphone 60 times a day because what are they usually doing?
DRUINThey're looking for the time or they're looking to see what messages they have. Well, they now have a low power display for this phone that makes it so that you never not -- you're never not able to see these kinds of things. They also thought about voice commands and how to actually make it useable as opposed to a cool thing that really doesn't work. So all together, you know, I'm actually impressed. This is a good...
NNAMDIBill, one headline calls the Moto X the phone that reveals why Google bought Motorola. Why does a purchase that, at first, seemed baffling, now become clear?
HARLOWWell, it's interesting, too, because this is, to me, is like a Google phone. It's called the Moto X.
HARLOWBut it's almost like Motorola is the branding. But, obviously, there are a lot of people in Motorola who know how to make a cellphone. So maybe -- this is something they're doing in the background all this time to really make what they felt was the ideal phone. And what I like about it is they're making genuine concessions for usability. I mean, the screen...
HARLOW...is good, not great. But that leads to up to what they're saying 24 hours of battery life, which...
DRUINOh, the battery life is wonderful.
HARLOW...for a modern smartphone, that's amazing. And the other thing I like, too, is that they bought a factory from Nokia in Texas. So these will be assembled in Texas.
DRUINYep. Yep. Exactly. Made in U.S.
NNAMDISpeaking of Nokia, Nokia has introduced a bright yellow Lumia phone that puts the camera out front. This will give Bill the opportunity to talk about camera. It's gotten great reviews. But the downside is that it's a Windows phone, and not everyone likes that platform. Bill.
HARLOWI mean, it's like a lot of these phones out there. They're all good hardware. It's a matter of -- if you're someone who really cares about the apps, you'll probably be looking at the iPhone and probably Android as well. If you're someone who is focused more on the hardware and you don't really care about the software -- you're happy with the software that's on that now and you grab a few of the big, popular apps -- a lot of interesting choices.
HARLOWAnd this one, they're really focusing on the camera sensor, 41 megapixels. It's a big sensor. And they can do a lot with it. And, oh, also optical stabilization. So these are little things that, you know, anybody can appreciate when they take a photo 'cause if you're some place where there's minimal light and you've got to hold that camera steady, that can make all the difference between a sharp and blurry shot.
GILROYI should've bounced back to Microsoft.
NNAMDIFor John, all do -- what do these and other popular new phones from Samsung and HTC mean for the industry standard bureau Apple? Will we be talking about a new iPhone, oh, next week?
GILROYWell, I've heard about that, but what I think is really interesting, to bounce off of Bill's remarks, is that once a year, Microsoft has developer's conference. And you go there and you find about dot net and everything. And so Steve Ballmer is so desperate, he's giving away phones. He's giving away service -- he doesn't call them a tablet. He calls them something. And he's giving this stuff away in order to plant seeds and get people. And I know personally he's actively recruiting people and paying them big dollars to move to Seattle and work on this phone.
GILROYAnd I think this is an interesting battle of the old Microsoft versus Apple, but who's going to go start developing for this camera? Who's going to start developing for Steve Ballmer? The battle here is a fascinating one because I think that they're battling the eyes and the talent that's out there. So they're doing so many interesting things. I mean, Microsoft is aggressively going after app developers and Apple is aggressively going after fashion designers. It sounds like, where's this whole market heading now? I don't know. It's great.
DRUINThe, you know, the Apple phone, which they're talking about the 5S, OK, and who knows if it'll really be 5S. But it really does seem very incremental. And so what's interesting is that here you have a new generation of Android phones that are less incremental, OK, and they're really trying to push design. And there's Apple with, you know, better battery life, wireless charging, you know, it's not necessarily the design side of things.
DRUINNow, on the other hand, I, you know, I was on a phone call for an hour and a half yesterday and literally lost the last 10 minutes of my phone conversation because my battery died, all right. And, you know, and I'm actually thinking about upgrading to the next Apple phone because I really want the battery life. I need the wireless charging. So there is that push-pull between functionality to usability and design. And I think that's where the market is pushing and pulling.
NNAMDIOnto the telephone. Here is Ken in Waldorf, Md. Ken, you're on the air. Go ahead, please. Ken, are you there? Go ahead.
KENYes. I'm here. I'm here. Can you hear me?
NNAMDIYes, we can.
KENOK. I was upgrading my phone in my AT&T store and the salesman showed me a gadget they have now where you can replace your business phone or your landline phone with basically an Internet phone for like $20 a month. And have they heard of this? Because it's really -- it's whooping, like I'm paying like $120 a month for my business phone, and that for $20 seems like a great deal.
NNAMDIBefore we get a response to that, Ken, allow me to introduce Jennifer in Kensington, Md., who wants to say that, well, you're crazy. Jennifer. Jennifer, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JENNIFERHi. I don't know. The young lady I was speaking to earlier actually had no idea when I said Ma Bell. I actually think...
NNAMDIYes. Yes. That would be Natalie Yuravlivker. She wasn't alive when Ma Bell was around. Go ahead, please.
JENNIFERWell, here's the thing. There's no such thing as a smartphone. It's just a bunch of gadgets put together. And with this phone, then these Internets have done is actually allowed children not to study, not to learn, not to acquire information. I've actually gone on the Internet and finding information they put on there. It's totally incorrect. And that's through Google. So, I mean, this whole concept of going digital, it's basically ruining the minds and brains of kids to actually...
NNAMDIHold on a second please, Jennifer. Ken, did you hear that?
KENYeah. Yeah. I heard that.
NNAMDIOK. Now, we'll get a response from Allison and Bill to the phone companies offering to replace landlines with Internet phones. Bill Harlow.
HARLOWWell, as far as the Internet phones goes, I mean, it's just Voice Over IP. It's -- as long as you had a good connection, it's pretty reliable.
GILROYIt's been around for a long time.
HARLOWYeah. A lot of businesses use it. Just, you know, look into the fine print. Find out, you know, if there are any hidden charges, you know. Sometimes there are issues as far as, like, you know, 911 support. That could be important. Look into that. But, yeah, it's certainly a very viable option. It could save you a lot of money.
DRUINYeah. The only thing is, is make sure that you have some backup because...
DRUIN...when your Internet goes down, then you not only...
HARLOWAll your eggs are in one basket.
DRUINIf all your eggs are in one basket, that's a problem. Going to Jennifer's...
NNAMDIKen, thank you for your call. Back to Jennifer. Go ahead.
DRUINI'm sorry. Back to Jennifer. Going to Jennifer's discussion, I have to say that, Jennifer, you know, there's a lot of research going on in how the digital world is actually supporting learning in lots of different ways. And I would suggest that, sometimes, you know, we all land in bad places and see bad, horrible things.
DRUINBut I would suggest that, at other times, you can actually see wonderful things going on and really making a difference in not just the places that are endowed with a lot of technology, but places that are actually with low-income kids that don't have access to books, but it's actually easier to get to the Internet than it is to get to some books.
DRUINSo what I would suggest to you is that there's a lot of different things to think about and take a look at some of the projects that some of the various different companies are doing. Even Sesame Street is -- got a lot of digital experiences for kids, and they're showing that it really does support not only better learning but also better relationships between kids and parents.
NNAMDIThank you, Jennifer. The digital world is here. It walked in the door with John Gilroy more than 20 years ago. And like John Gilroy, it apparently is not going away.
GILROYNo, it's not.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Jennifer.
GILROYHey, let's talk about Al Gore's Internet, too. He came also somewhere along the way there.
NNAMDIOh, yeah, somewhere along the way.
NNAMDIThat was after you, too.
NNAMDIAllison, for the first time, smartphone users downloaded more apps from Google's Play Store than from Apple's iTunes in the second quarter of this year. But it seems to reflect the growing use of affordable Android phones in emerging markets. What does that mean for our growing reliance on Google?
DRUINWell, again, that's all the eggs in one basket. We've got to ask ourselves, you know, are we feeling comfortable with the fact that these are the same folks that we searched with and that they know all about what we're looking for. These are the same people that are, you know, supporting us with maps and helping us get around with GPS. These are, I mean, these are -- this an enormous company with really smart people doing amazing things.
DRUINAnd, you know, and they did something that was a little bit risky when they started the whole Android movement, and now it's paying off. In fact, you know, for the first few years, everyone looked at them and said, are you nuts? This is crazy. But actually in low-income areas, that's where you going to see low-income phones, lower cost phones, and that's obviously where you're going to see more Androids. And so it doesn't surprise me that the Play Store is getting some play.
HARLOWYeah. The thing about Android is there are so many different types of phones anywhere from like really high and premium to ones you can get for free with a contract or even cheap ones off-contract.
HARLOWAnd when you look at the numbers as far as revenue, I mean, most of the mobile revenue is going to Apple. So what that tells me is a lot of people are buying apps or doing in-app purchases on the iOS. And in Android, there are so many apps being downloaded, but if there's not a lot of revenue there, that means there's a lot of stuff being used for free, which generally means ad supported. So also, of course, you're alluding to with the privacy concern, that means that you're giving up something probably in the way of privacy to use those apps and services.
NNAMDIJane in Fairfax, Va., wants to talk about the Moto X phone. Jane, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JANEYes. Hi. Thank you very much. I have just a couple of questions about this phone. I'm a blind woman, and I travel a lot internationally. With respect to this phone, does the voice activation also respond voice-wise? Does it have a keyboard, you know, a real keyboard, as in a tactile keyboard? And does it work internationally? If you would happen to know answers to any of those questions.
DRUINGreat questions. Right now, they're talking about that the voice commands are about -- are actually about telling the phone to do something visually, OK, so looking something up, making a call, sending a text or email, that kind of thing. I would suggest that it is in its earliest stages, and so I would be careful having to do with that voice interface, especially if you are very dependent on the need for an output in terms of voice.
HARLOWYeah. At this point, an iPhone's probably going to be better for voice navigation of the user interface because they've got a mode where it'll actually respond to you. You can move -- it's -- by the way, neither of these do have a physical keyboard, so keep that in mind. I know what the iPhone does, though, is as you move your finger over the screen, it'll actually tell you what you're hovering over so you can actually navigate blind. But if you need a physical keyboard, then neither of these might be the best choice for you.
DRUINYeah, the physical keyboard you could get with an iPad Mini or connect into an iPad because that is pretty mobile kind of thing. And international, I do not know if the Moto X is...
DRUINIt's -- I would be shocked if it weren't. However, again, this is first generation, so you're going to be the beta tester for what they're doing.
NNAMDIJane, thank you...
JANEActually, just for your...
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Jane. We're going to take a short break. When we come back, Twitter in the news after a British woman was barraged with threatening tweets for leading the crusade to put Jane Austen on the 10-pound note, that incident raising questions about civility in the digital age. What do you think? Do social media companies have a responsibility to patrol their users and make sure everyone behaves well? Give us a call, 800-433-8850. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWe've got The Computer Guys & Gal in studio. Bill Harlow is a hardware and software technician for Macs and PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc. Allison Druin is chief futurist at the University of Maryland Division of Research and co-director of the Future of Information Alliance at the University of Maryland. And John Gilroy is director of business development at Armature Corp. We're taking your calls at 800-433-8850.
NNAMDIWhat companies can and should do to keep discourse appropriate without actually censoring anyone in the wake of the British woman who was threatened after she suggested -- after her crusade to put Jane Austen on a 10-pound note? You can tell us what you think. Bill, Twitter says it will make it easier to report threatening tweets after a British woman received rape and death threats. What happened, and how did Twitter respond?
HARLOWWell, what happened is a woman who's on the Internet, apparently -- so this woman, miss -- I'm sorry, I blank out of the name now, but she helped the campaign to get Jane Austen in a 10-pound note. And...
GILROYThat's pretty innocuous, doesn't it? I mean, how much -- what strong opinion can you have on that?
HARLOWI know, but, you know, I guess because, you know, you can hide behind an online identity, you can...
HARLOW...just come out there and just sling verbal abuse in ways that you presumably hopefully would not do in person. But, you know, some of these threats, I think, are pretty serious, and they should be taken seriously even if the person on the other end is kidding. You have no idea.
HARLOWSo, apparently, Twitter's going to -- you know, because of this backlash, presumably, is going to be taking actions to make -- to take these threats more seriously and make it easier to report these and get results because before that, it felt like you could do stuff like these all day and not get called out. But if you -- if there was, let's say, a copyright infringement, they probably crack down on that pretty quickly.
DRUINYeah, you know what's interesting is Twitter has always been sort of left in liberal kind of thing in terms of free speech and so on. And you have Facebook where it's been a little bit not left, and they really do crack down pretty quickly. And you see people's profiles just disappear, you know, very quickly, maybe too quickly. So it really depends on the -- who's, you know, running the show in each of these places.
HARLOWYeah, I'm not suggesting that Twitter actively police it but...
HARLOW...they should take a complaint seriously.
GILROYI mean, the question is, if you look at it just from a legal perspective, just trying to figure out what's going on in 50 states is difficult. Now, Twitter has to worry about what the law is in Britain, what the law is in Brazil, what the law is in Egypt. I mean, I don't know how they can -- I can see why they held off on doing anything because I don't know if you can win this fight. This is a fight you can't win.
NNAMDIThere are two tales of prominent people here in the U.S. pulling out of public life or at least thinking about it because of online harassment. A top game developer says he'll quit, and television star Mary-Louise Parker says she can't take the vicious attacks from bloggers anymore. What does this say about civility online?
NNAMDIWell, we got a few tweets. One of them says, "Being harassed right now by a conservative troll who has called his band of bullies to track me on Twitter. Suddenly, I have a bunch of mentions and people I have to block that impugn my name, my body, my character, my intelligence." So charming. Another person says, "It's not like people are running up to your face and yelling in it. Block or don't log in. Simple."
NNAMDIThird person says, "I think you do not get a blank check to hate on people you don't agree with." And the fourth, "The thing with cyberbullying is that social networking is voluntary. Don't like it? Log off." What does this say about civility online to you, Allison?
DRUINWell, it's always been a case where people -- I mean, and in all the research shows that -- is that online, if people don't, you know, they feel sort of a safety kind of experience, just like Bill was saying is that they have these other personas, they, you know, it's not a face-to-face kind of thing. Actually, research shows that people are more likely to be civil and more responsive to people if they have a hybrid relationship where they are knowing the person in person as well as online. And those are the tightest connections that people have in social media.
DRUINSo, it's -- so you have to say to yourself, well, maybe, you know, let's say I'm going to have, you know, a bankruptcy, OK? I'm going to commit bankruptcy on my social media. I'm going to wipe everything clean and start again. You know, it's OK to change. It's OK not to log on. It's OK. You are in charge. But, on the other hand, it's not OK for people not to be nice. That's really horrible.
HARLOWYeah, I don't think that not logging in is a silly viable option. If you get a lot of value out of social media, I mean...
DRUINThat's right. Yeah.
HARLOW...I get the idea of taking the good with the bad, too. But, you know, it gets to what we shouldn't have to stand for.
DRUINNo, absolutely no.
HARLOWEspecially if you're someone who's a more public figure like a celebrity or someone out -- who has a lot of followers where you know you're going to get some of these -- some barbs or hopefully more constructive criticism but a lot of it just turns into personal attacks. And I can get that, yeah, these are people you don't know, but if you're getting bombarded or harassed all at once, it can't win a person. I can get when people do say, you know what, I'm out.
DRUINWell, Xbox is trying to quantify online civility by creating a scale to rate people who behave well in a live online game where you can talk with the other players and those who don't. How does it work, and is it weeding out the gamers who don't play nice?
HARLOWI think, it's going to really take shape when the Xbox One comes out in the fall. As it stands right now, I don't think there's a lot of success because I've stopped playing on Xbox online with people I don't know...
HARLOW...because it's -- it just does not work for me. So, you know, you're going to carry a reputation on the Xbox One on Xbox Live. So the idea is that if you are a jerk, then you will have a jerk score go up, and they will presumably not allow you to play with the non-jerks. And at least people can kind of see, you know, quickly by looking at your profile, OK, this is person not to be trusted. I'm going to go find someone else to game against.
DRUINMm hmm. Yeah.
GILROYYou can sign on as anyone though. I mean, this is cat and mouse. And don't like the heat, stay out of the kitchen, you know.
HARLOWWell, it is a bit different in that Xbox Live and a for-pay-service, right? So if...
GILROYI say I didn't realize it's for pay.
HARLOWYes. So if they've got your credit card number and your billing address, it's going to be a little tougher to make a fake profile.
NNAMDIJohn, while there's been lots of bad behavior on Twitter and other social media, the Catholic Church decided to reward good behavior involving Twitter. In the run-up to last month's World Youth Day, the Vatican said those who could not make it to see the pope in Brazil could have their sins forgiven if they follow the pope on Twitter or other social networks. The pope has already has 7 million Twitter followers.
GILROYWhat -- I'd love to get 7 million -- no, it's obvious. I joke about this, but the Catholic Church has a formula for what happens after you die. Anyway, I think it's entertaining that the pope would dive -- I'd rather talk about the pope's red shoes and about this. But this is interesting, the power of Twitter. I mean, how would someone who's -- you know, if you look back at 2,000 years of history, dive into Twitter all of a sudden.
GILROYI mean, sometimes, you know, he's a real serious guy. I mean, I can't believe he would even bother with Twitter. But here he is. Twitter been around five or six years. Two-thousand-year-old institution is actually diving into something like this. I'm amazed that the change in society...
NNAMDIThey have to keep up. If we're banking online, we can get our sins forgiven online also.
HARLOWAnd get your sins forgiven online. It's...
DRUINBut he's not 2,000 years old. He only represents a church that's 2,000 years old.
DRUINLet's just remember that, OK?
NNAMDIJohn thinks of him as 2,000 years old. OK?
GILROYYeah. You know, if you go over there, you look at -- if you look to Vatican, you realize, hey, it's been around for 2,000 years. I mean, this is a significant kind -- and he's worried about Twitter? I mean, come on now.
NNAMDIHere is Nicole in Wyndhurst -- Windsorville, Md. Nicole, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
NICOLEHello, Kojo Nnamdi. I've been listening to WAMU for years. And I wanted to thank you for your program. It's absolutely fabulous.
NNAMDIWell, we're out of time, Nicole. Thank you -- no.
GILROYIt must be another Kojo.
NNAMDINicole, go right...
NNAMDIGo right ahead, please.
NICOLEAnd I wanted to know, you know, I never really called into WAMU, but I wanted to explain how it is like using Twitter and other apps for the blind and visually impaired.
NICOLEAnd I am blind from birth, and I'm also autistic. And so as the results of having that, you know, there are all different types of adaptive technology that a person needs.
NICOLEAnd so I'm sitting there. And it's like -- you know, if you don't -- what irritates me about social networking, if you don't remember your password, some places, you don't even have a link that says forgot password. And I don't -- you know, maybe someone else knows, but I don't think Twitter has that particular issue. You know, I don't know if Twitter has that link at all, but it would be nice to know 'cause I have been on Twitter for a few years. And there is also an accessible Twitter version, and I still don't remember my password.
NNAMDII thought that they would -- should have a link that can help you if you forgot your password. And if they don't, hopefully somebody is listening right now that will make them do something like that. Nicole, any other problems you've been having?
NICOLEThe other thing is that when I'm on my computer, you know, I do a lot of -- I'm a blind computer text adventure writer. And I've been using a site for years called -- what's it's called -- it's called...
NNAMDISo you're having the same memory problems I have.
NICOLEWell, you're as old as my dad. What do you expect?
NNAMDIYes. I know your dad. No. I'm just kidding, too, Nicole. Go ahead.
DRUINThis is turning into an NSA kind of moment here, folks.
GILROYLet's get back to civility in the digital age.
NNAMDIDid you remember, Nicole?
NICOLEDo I what?
NNAMDIDid you remember what you were trying to remember?
NICOLEYeah. It's called text adventure games dot -- oh, dear. I'd have to look at it up. It's in the favorites menu, but...
NNAMDIWell, OK. But what was the problem you were having?
NICOLEThe issue was that this -- the site, you know, like, there are not -- there is no one who actually has a tutorial to explain what certain things are. So I'm like, OK then.
NNAMDIOK. Care to comment, Allison?
DRUINYou should always feel free whenever you buy something from anybody or if you get a download, you know, you should be able to contact the vendor or the manufacturer or whoever the author of this program is. And you should be able to ask questions. You should be able to -- I know in the age of free everything or cheap everything, customer service has gone by the wayside. But if you have a question, there's no reason why you shouldn't be able to ask questions to the folks that you got the thing from.
DRUINThe other thing, too, is that -- are you in any kind of Apple products? Because sometimes if you just go to the Genius Bar and ask some of these questions, the Genius Bar may be able to help you. But if you're not, there, you know, there are maybe other support -- tech support kinds of things that might be able to support you.
NICOLEMay I speak, please?
NNAMDINicole, thank you very much for your call and good luck to you. We're running out of time fairly quickly. John Gilroy, CNET says that smart watches are the next big thing, that they'll redefine the consumer market the same way the iPad defined the tablets. How are the health and fitness craze driving demand for smart watches?
GILROYYou know, I tease Bill about his choice in watches occasionally. You know, this fascinates me. I'm an old geezer, so I'm -- I have lunch with 35 year olds all the time. And in the last six months, I sat down with three different 35 year olds. They all had watches, and the watches didn't work. They wore them just as a decorative piece, just as a fashion item.
GILROYAnd I just -- it's something that's really hard for me to believe that people are thinking about what their phone should do, what's it look like, and, I mean, I know a little bit about fitness. And I don't need any phone for any fitness apps. But I guess the whole idea of humans and decorating themselves with these things, I'm just fascinated by it. I can't believe that people would -- and, by the way, 5 million phones have been sold this year just for fashion reasons.
DRUINBut there is -- there's actually Pebble, which is one of the first ones out there on the market. Actually, it was a Kickstarter product and ended up, you know, asked for, you know, a small amount of money times a hundred. They got money to start this thing. And part of it, I think, goes to what I started talking about at the beginning, which is how often do we look at our cellphones when all we're trying to do is look at the time and look at a quick -- few quick messages.
NNAMDIYou said that earlier. Yes.
DRUINAnd so it's that display and that connection to your cellphone...
DRUIN...that actually is the critical thing. So what's that informal look?
NNAMDIThat's what I was telling John. If I got time on my iPhone, then my watch is just a decoration, excuse me, thank you.
HARLOWI mean, yeah, you look -- when you look at what people track...
HARLOW...outside of that, fitness tracking is another big one, too.
NNAMDIRunning out of time. John, your choice for app of the month is from Weight Watchers. What does it do?
GILROYWell, you type in a certain number of points, and it reminds you what you ate, what you had. And I have family members had a lot of success with that. I'm just amazed that I can't believe that with that personality type, you can use it, and you can lose weight and hit your target weight.
NNAMDIAllison, your app of the month for people with knee injuries and knee problems. Unfortunately, it's one that you've used yourself.
DRUINI fell off a rock while I was trying to take a picture of my husband for Facebook, and it really was terrible. Anyway, Knee Pro III, and it's got some great information. It's by Stanford University School of Medicine.
NNAMDIThat's how you know they love you, Ben. They'll fall off a rock for you.
NNAMDIBill, your favorite app of the month is actually a website. It's a farmers' market recipe generator.
HARLOWYep. From The New York Times. It's great. You put in the produce you bought, and it recommends a recipe. And it's pretty awesome.
GILROYI like it. I like it.
HARLOWIt's simple. It's awesome.
GILROYPut it online. I like it.
NNAMDIBill Harlow -- Billy may not be gaming anymore, but he's into recipes right now.
NNAMDIHe is hardware and software technician for Macs and PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc. Allison Druin is chief futurist at the University of Maryland Division of Research and co-director of the Future of Information Alliance at the University of Maryland. And John Gilroy is the director of business development at Armature Corp. Together, they are The Computer Guys & Gal. Thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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