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.
As the annual Consumer Electronics Show opens in Las Vegas, we explore the new gadgets and gizmos that 2014 will bring. Will this be the year ultra-high-def, 4K resolution TV goes mainstream? Will you buy a smart watch to manage your texts and emails and leave your phone in your pocket? Will passwords finally become obsolete, thanks to new online security measures? The Computer Guys and Gal examine tech innovations and answer your questions.
- Bill Harlow WAMU Computer Guy; and Hardware & Software Technician for MACs & PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc.
- 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
App Of The Month
Dashlane bills itself as the “world’s best password manager and secure digital wallet.” This app seems to be part of trend away from passwords.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIYou know what that music means. It means that from WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world and The Computer Guys and Gal. That's what that music means. They are here. Bill Harlow, Hardware and Software Technician for MACs and PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc. This is 2014. This gamer has some new moves which he will probably display today. Happy New Year.
MR. BILL HARLOWHappy New Year to you, too.
NNAMDIJohn Gilroy is Director of Business Development at Armature Corporation. He has two New Year's resolutions. One of them is to, well, keep breathing.
MR. JOHN GILROYYes. I'm such a geezer.
NNAMDIThe other is to stay awake during Allison Druin's job description.
GILROYThat is a challenge. That takes up half the show.
HARLOWThere she is.
NNAMDIAnd it's going to be even longer today, because...
NNAMDIAllison Druin, Chief Futurist at the University of Maryland, Division of Research, is joining us today from the National Park Services Stephen T. Mather Training Center in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. What the heck she's doing there, we don't know.
GILROYAnd we're out of time. Next month, we'll talk about viruses.
NNAMDIIf it's for a meeting with John Brown, you're 155 years too late, Allison. So, why are you there now?
MS. ALLISON DRUINActually, a bunch of us are thinking about the future, John. I know you're missing it all, but we're actually thinking about the future of technology and the National Park Service. So, and they were kind enough to say, sure, everyone eat while Allison works. And so, I'm on a lunch break right now, which I'm excited about.
NNAMDIAnd what is the Stephen T. Mather Training Center in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia? Obviously, is a place at the National Park Service.
DRUINThis, actually, this training center's really interesting. It was named after the first, actually, the first director of the National Park Service. But it actually is on the grounds of the former Storer College. And it is, was one of the first educational institutions to offer education to free African American Civil War -- to freed African Americans after the Civil War. And it's a wonderful center where there is a design center today where people think about learning and training for the National Park Service when you're either a interpreter in a National Park or whatever.
DRUINSo, it's just a wonderful place. They also design a lot of the cool new technologies that are actually in National Parks now.
NNAMDIOh, it sounds wonderful. The kind of place that John Gilroy is probably banned from.
GILROYThat's not the only place I'm banned from.
DRUINWe haven't banned you yet.
NNAMDIThe annual Consumer Electronics Show opened last night in Las Vegas. It runs through Friday. This is where companies, large and small, tried out their new gadgets and gizmos, tried to generate some buzz for their products. One of the technologies getting a lot of attention this year is ultra high definition television sets, what are known as 4K displays is what they have on them. Are you ready for a quantum leap in television technology, one that would give you a picture resolution twice as good as what you've got now?
NNAMDIGive us a call. 800-433-8850, or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can send us a tweet at kojoshow or paste a comment -- post a comment on our Facebook page. You can also go to our website, kojoshow.org, and make a comment there. Let's start with Bill with the television upgrades. The headline grabber. 4K TV. How does this ultra high definition display work, and how will it improve my viewing experience?
HARLOWWell, if you have a really big TV, or you have a smaller TV and want to sit with your nose pressed right up against the glass, 4K resolution can be quite nice. I think right now, all the people I know who have a TV that haven't spent crazy amounts of money, have one that's reasonably sized and sit a reasonable distance away. So, I think the short answer is, while it is a high resolution TV, and I think more pixels are going to happen. It's just the nature of technology. For most people, it won't be a huge benefit. They'll probably be really nice TVs. But your current 1080p TV, which is basically 2K, I mean, I just bought a new TV for the basement, and it is 1080p. It's not 4K, which means it's affordable, and for my viewing distance, it's gonna be just fine.
HARLOWSo, I think resolution is just one metric to define a TV, and while it's a nice selling point, and a lot of content will eventually probably be in that resolution, if you're buying a TV today, it doesn't really matter.
GILROYI think it focuses the conversation on televisions, and guess what. TVs are making a big comeback.
HARLOWYeah. They can't sell 3D cause no one's buying that, so let's sell 4K.
GILROYYeah, no one's buying it, and so if you look at just the sales, you know, in 2012, about 84 million TVs were sold. 2014, they're predicting 123 million sold, so I think what people are saying is, well, we got a smart phone, and Kojo's saying, well, maybe put this in the TV, make a smart TV. Maybe this is the transition, and CES is talking about it.
NNAMDIIs this what you want? Give us a call. 800-433-8850. Allison, sounds like the kind of thing for guys who are inviting 25 people over to watch the Super Bowl.
NNAMDIYeah, you sound real interested. Yeah.
DRUINYou boys. Anyway, but you know, I have to ask myself, unless there's text on that TV, you're not necessarily gonna need, you know, as much resolution as 4D is gonna give you. But as more and more of our content shifts into one place or multiple places that we wanna see the same content, text is going to be an important issue on those TVs. And so I think maybe not now, but in the next few years, yes, having higher definition and higher resolution is going to be an important thing.
NNAMDIBill, the company LG has unveiled a TV that's connected to the internet and runs on an operating system that got its start in the Palm Pilot many years ago. I love my old Palm. It's called Web OS. What will it do and why do I want my TV connected to the internet?
HARLOWSo the other thing that I think more people probably do use on their shiny new TVs is the apps. So, these smart TVs have all these apps. The big ones are things like Amazon Instant Video, Hulu, Netflix. But the interface can be pretty hit or miss. Some of them are really bad. On some TVs, there's a delay when you're working with it. So the idea behind this is let's take a proven, fairly lightweight OS, and build it into our TV so you have something that's pretty easy to use, Pretty slick, nice looking and I think it's a good differentiator.
HARLOWIf there was a TV with a really lousy interface, with 4K, or a 1080P TV with a really good interface and really well designed apps, I'd probably pick that one.
GILROYYou know, this reminds me of, you know, because I'm an old geezer, I remember something called a salesman sample. And so, Kojo Nnamdi would knock on your door and say, hey, buy one of these. And it's a salesman. Never looked like the real thing. And that's what I think this technology is. It's a salesman sample. Or it's an island, because, you know, you just can't go out and dial up Cox Communications and say, hey, let's plug in my fancy pants TV now. Because the bandwidth can't handle it.
NNAMDIPalm's Mobile Operating System has been resurrected as a TV interface that focuses on ease of use. We got a call from Kathy who could not stay on the line, who asked for a visually impaired person, will a 4K TV make viewing different? What do you think, Bill?
HARLOWI don't think so. Really. I mean, I guess it depends on what the impairment is, but it's, what you're getting is tinier, sharper pixels, and I think, if you're visually impaired, my guess is that really won't offer any benefit. What may offer benefit is if you can make the TV really bright and offer a greater dynamic range. Or, with those pixels, you're able to blow something up and still have it retain some quality.
NNAMDIIt's the Computer Guys and Gal. And another hot topic of the Consumer Electronics Show is wearable technologies. Maybe you already have a Pebble Smart Watch or a Fitbit Fitness Tracker or you're waiting for Google Glass to be available to the general public. If you are an early adopter of a smart watch, how do you use it? You don't have one yet? Are you looking? What are you hoping to see in wearable devices in the coming year? Call us. 800-433-8850 or send email to email@example.com. Allison, care to explain how smart watches work? How would a smart watch talk to my smart phone and how would it make me smarter?
DRUINWell, you know, actually, Kojo, you're so smart right now, and I don't know if anything's gonna make you smarter.
HARLOWOh, I disagree with that.
NNAMDIWhat did you expect?
DRUINAt the Consumer Electronics Show, they're actually having something called Wrist Revolution Tech Zone. And what they're doing is they're showing, actually, they're highlighting a whole variety of smart watches and these smart watches, you know, have some simple features, like, you can change the watch faces. You can answer phone calls. You can get internet connectivity and share information from your either cell phone or laptop. There are app based programs that give you the ability to use this as a GPS, as a music player, a heart rate monitor, just in case, you know, you're gonna pass out sitting next to John. It's amazing.
DRUINSo, actually, I have to tell you, I just saw the coolest Pebble, the new Pebble line.
DRUINIt is called Pebble Steel. And it really is so cool looking. It's very future. But, so you're gonna see things from Sony, from Qualcomm, from the original Pebble folks. Apple is gonna be jumping in here. People are just waiting for what that design's gonna be. They're not gonna be at the Wrist Revolution Tech Zone. But this is -- people are betting that this is the next area for the next tech explosion.
GILROYAnd I think, Allison, what people are doing is just saying, well, I'm doing all this stuff with my smart phone. What can this wrist device do that my smart phone can't? And I think what people are saying is, you hit on it, with health applications. And Fitbit. And saying, well, you're smart phone really can't measure your heart beat. And maybe this is an application for that, and there's everything from Google Glass to the smart phone. All kinds of different things. And I think this is the point is that what can it do beyond what my phone's doing now, and we don't really know.
NNAMDISo I can use my smart phone to tell the time and I can use my watch to take calls. This is just amazing.
GILROYIt's the opposite.
HARLOWI gotta say though, that I think that for these to take off, I mean, the only one that's really any good is the Pebble, right? And I think there's still a lot of -- a lot has to happen for people to think about what do we want to do on a wrist? I think you nailed it with health applications, cause things like -- the Fitbit's really cool. Doesn't do much, but it does that really well. And something like that built into a watch, that you're always gonna have anyway and has a good battery life. That might be the way to go.
NNAMDISeth in Arlington.
DRUINBut can I also point out something? That they actually did a bunch of studies, and they saw that the most use of your cell phone is people pulling out their cell phone to figure out what time it is. People did away with their watches now, and now they're pulling out their cell phones and they're dropping them and they're breaking them. And so, actually, some of the very ordinary uses of a watch -- actually, bringing that watch back may not be such a bad thing.
NNAMDIOn to Seth in Arlington, Virginia, who has a question about 4K TVs. Seth, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
SETHThank you. My question on the 4K TV is whether anybody has considered the bandwidth that this would use, whether you're an internet viewer or cable or satellite. There's a tremendous amount of bandwidth that could be required.
GILROYAnd they don't even have a standard yet. First thing, you have to come up with a standard. And then, try to find the cable for it.
HARLOWIt's a great point though, because even now, with the content that's already out there, you can use a bandwidth quickly, and because there isn't really a formal physical format for 4K, everybody's like, oh, streaming's the answer. So, you'd better have a really fast connection, and you'd better hope that with four times as many pixels to have on a screen at once, that you're gonna -- that they're not gonna compress it so it looks like garbage anyway. And you might as well have stuck with the low resolution format. So, a lot of questions need to be answered.
HARLOWIf you're buying a new TV, and it happens to be 4K, great. But you're not gonna get the most out of it for years. That's my guess.
NNAMDISeth, thank you very much for your call. Allison, another piece of wearable technology that sounds like it's getting a facelift is Google Glass, which is a tiny computer built into a futuristic looking cross between a headband and a pair of eyeglasses. It's not available to the public yet. It's probably too nerdy looking for the average user. But it's my understanding that may be changing.
DRUINYes. Well, in terms of Google Glass, it's sort of only limitedly available for 1500 bucks. And the interesting thing is is that yes, it looks like sort of really nerdy glasses kind of thing. But, in fact, what it's doing is it's projecting something very close to your eye so you can get some additional information. So you may be looking up something on the web. You might be taking video or what have you. The funny thing about it is I actually never was very interested in trying them on. And didn't realize that maybe the reason I wasn't interested is that I actually wear glasses all the time. And...
NNAMDIYou do? We never noticed.
DRUINAnd so, the people with glasses actually -- you know, go figure. I never noticed. Yeah, I wear glasses. So, it turns out that people that are actually challenged with their eyesight have a hard time using Google Glass. And so they're trying to rethink not only the geeky look, but also how can you have prescription eyeglasses that can clip into the existing Google Glass nose piece? And so, there is something called Wetley GGRX, so Wetley Google Glass prescription frames, and it's coming out for 99 bucks.
NNAMDIWell, I just noticed everybody on this broadcast is wearing glasses. How important is -- I didn't notice that before. How important is design in wearable technology? A lot of this stuff is still big and clunky looking.
HARLOWSuper, super important. If I have to have it on my person at all times, then it better look good. I mean, you look at headphones, right? So, a lot of the headphones you see on the street, they're often Beats, cause those are the ones with style. Not necessarily the best sounding or the cheapest, but if you're gonna wear it, it's gotta be fashionable. I think that's the bottom line.
GILROYI would just like to chime in here. Probably the coolest guys on the planet are NBA players. I mean, they're way cool. And I just remember seeing press conferences last year with Lebron James, and he'd wear these big fat thick, and I think he had a bow tie on and a short sleeve white shirt.
HARLOWSo, perfect for hiding Google Glass in.
GILROYI mean, this is, this is, maybe this is the look. I was just fascinated when I saw that. He was attempting to effect this nerd look. And maybe it's a full circle here or something.
HARLOWHe's a cool dude, though. He could wear anything and get away with it.
NNAMDINerd look is happening. We're gonna take a short break, but you can still join the conversation by calling 800-433-8850. When we come back, we'll be talking about the end of passwords. How important do you feel the memory of your password is? Would you like to get past the password stage of your life? 800-433-8850. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. It's the Computer Guys and Gal. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. It's the first Tuesday of the month, and John Gilroy is here. He is Director of Business Development at Armature Corporation. Allison Druin joins us from Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. She 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 a Hardware and Software Technician for MACs and PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting Inc. Together, they're the Computer Guys and Gal. Some tech writers are predicting that 2014 will be the year online passwords are replaced, either by biometric identification.
NNAMDILike fingerprints or eye scans or by other security protocols. Are you ready to say goodbye to all those hard to remember passwords? What would you like to see take their place? Call and share your ideas at 800-433-8850 or send email to email@example.com. John Gilroy, the future of passwords. Apple introduced the fingerprint ID to unlock its new iPhone 5S. And Samsung is reportedly working on an iris scanner for its new phones. Will this be the year biometrics replace the passwords we're always changing and forgetting?
GILROYWell, I don't know what's gonna happen. You know, the most popular password, of course, is 1-2-3-4-5-6. And, I mean, I have probably a hundred different user names and passwords. And this really focused my discussion last week. My wife went to Oklahoma, go Sooners, and she wanted to watch one of the games on television. And she said, oh John, what's your username and password for Cox? I said, I gotta get a spreadsheet. I say now, finally when my wife provokes me, I say, now, I'm gonna make a bold prediction that even the people at the University of Maryland, in charge of the future, may agree with me here.
GILROYSomething's gonna happen in 2014. Maybe it's gonna be some person in a basement in Pittsburgh coming up with a new way to do it. You know? We pick up the newspaper. You know, millions of passwords hacked. And I think it's gonna be the death of passwords, and the transition's gonna be to something. Is it gonna be biometric? I don't know. Is it gonna be two fact authentication? I don't know. But people like Google and Facebook and Twitter, they're all looking at two fact authentication, and it just seems to be -- we're in a canoe going down this river.
GILROYThere's no choice. I mean, you can't manage all the passwords everyone seems to have.
NNAMDIIs this a reality that we should look forward to in 2014, Bill Harlow, or is this a dream, and if so, what has John been smoking in that pipe?
HARLOWI think so. I think true security will always be a dream, to some extent, but yeah, as it stands right now, I don't think it's tenable. I think we have to be getting to a point, at some point, where passwords just aren't practical for the majority of things. I agree with you on two points, though. It has to happen, and don't know when it's gonna be.
NNAMDIWhat do you say, Allison?
DRUINOh, absolutely. I think the real thing that was holding a lot of this back was the question of whether or not the public would accept such a kind of password protection. And I think Apple proved with the button, even though people were concerned about security, that when you stick your finger on your iPhone 5 and it scans your finger and you don't have to type in a password, people, you know, people went for it. And people were happy with it. Yes, people still have questions. But I think it is -- I think people are now accepting -- wow, as more people get hacked and yes, this weekend, my iTunes account got hacked.
DRUINAnd so we had to change everything. So, I'm all for changing things. That's for sure.
NNAMDIJohn, even if passwords do not die out quite yet, it sounds like multi factor authentication is becoming more common. How does that work and how does it differ from password security, which seems increasingly easy to hack.
GILROYIt just goes through a different band. And I think what happens is, for example, Google used your telephone to send out a confirmation code. It's almost like you're on Star Trek and, try a different band, or a different way to approach. So, if, they assume they're gonna hack one account, the chance of hacking both are difficult. And so I think they send out and SMS text or something. I just think something's gonna have to change here. I mean, it's down to the point where it's front page news where millions of accounts are hacked.
GILROYAnd then you read in the Washington Post about these big computers that are parallel processing, and will be able to hack anything. It's gonna have to change, and I hope some entrepreneur out there comes up with something clever and easy and quick and they make a million bucks on it.
NNAMDIDo secure passwords even exist today, Bill Harlow? If somebody could hack all of Allison's Tiny Tim music, what's...
GILROY"Tiptoe Through the Tulips" with Allison.
HARLOWI think it's still considered a pretty good password if it's, let's say, 15 characters or more. A mix of upper, lower case, numbers, symbols, spaces, what have you. It's probably not gonna cracked. What's scary to me, though, is every time there is a large database of passwords that's been compromised and analyzed, then they can look at patterns. So, I think staying away from any sort of recognizable pattern is probably the first thing, which means totally random.
GILROYIt means 1-2-3-4-5-6, P-A-S-S-W-O-R-D. P-A-S-S-W-O-R-D-1-2-3. I mean, those...
HARLOWExactly. Like, well, it needs a number? I'll use my normal easy password, and I'll put 2014 at the end. That's secure. No, it's not. It's not secure.
NNAMDIWe've got a lot of comments by way of Tweet and email about 4K. Tweet from Reed. I bought a 60 inch 1080p plasma television around Thanksgiving, and everyone who saw it said, wow. In December, I saw a 4K TV in Sears and my jaw dropped. And we got an email from Constance in Silver Spring. For TV, we need better writers, not more pixels. I'll watch blurry black and white if the show is really well written and well acted. And an email from Ron. I'm interested in a 4K TV down the road.
NNAMDII currently have a smart TV and stream a lot of movies through Netflix and other apps. If Netflix and other companies eventually start offering streaming movies in 4K, would I need more bandwidth to stream those movies? What you were talking about earlier.
HARLOWI would, yeah, I'd say probably. But the thing is, there is some more efficient encoding on the horizon for compression that can maintain quality. I don't know if it's gonna require new decoding hardware built in to your set top boxes to do it. Again, a lot of questions. And, yeah, I know 4K's on the horizon for Netflix. I think even YouTube has some 4K content you can peruse right now.
GILROY20 years ago, Kojo, I was on this station, and I talked about (word?) modems, and said, I have no idea how they can get faster than that. There's just a certain limit to the tech -- and all of a sudden, the concept of software being able to manage speeds is just -- breakthroughs constantly. I can't even conceive of what's happening.
HARLOWI have Fios now, and not even the fastest plan, and there are times where I can pull down data faster than the servers can even push it to me. So, that's the other end of it, too. People who are providing this content, they are going to have to manage that traffic.
NNAMDIAnd, on smart watches, an email from Monica. I bought myself a Samsung Galaxy Gear smart watch and I love it. I've stopped missing calls, because my phone is in my purse. Or my blue tooth headset is in its case. No more fumbling. I can just answer the phone and talk to whomever without getting anything out at all. I highly recommend this for Galaxy Note 3 users. Moving on.
DRUINVery cool. It's like "Get Smart." It's so cool. I love it.
NNAMDI"Get Smart" was...
GILROYYou mean the phone in the shoe?
DRUINYeah. Phone in the shoe.
HARLOWWhy would we want this?
DRUINThe old TV show with that detective guy that had all those gadgets. That's what I feel like we have now.
HARLOWSo, Dick Tracy, right?
NNAMDIOh, Dick Tracy. That's a good one. A couple in Utah...
DRUINOh yeah. Dick Tracy.
NNAMDIA couple in Utah had a bad online shopping experience and did what a lot of people do. They wrote a negative review. Now, the company they ordered the merchandise from is trying to collect a 3,000 dollar fine unless they take down the review. The company says the fine print in its use agreement bars customers from harming the firm. Do you read the fine print before you buy something online? Have you ever worried about an online review you've posted?
NNAMDIShare your experiences. Call us at 800-433-8850 or shoot us a tweet at kojoshow. John, this Utah man ordered holiday gifts online for his wife. They never arrived. So, she posted a review on a website called Ripoffreport.com, saying it was impossible to reach a live human at the company to find out what happened. The company threatened to fine the couple unless they took down the review.
GILROYWhat's amazing about this story, it was three and a half years later. I mean, this is 2008, and so they said, take down the review. So she said, okay. And she called up ripoffreport, which, gotta wonder about that, and they said, nope. We won't take it down. You have to subject yourself to arbitration, and then, there's a 3,500 fine involved here. So, I guess I have to start reading my little fine print. Get out my magnifying glass and go through every single contract. And what's happened is other companies that have responded to this.
GILROYAnd it's like, well Kojo, you can buy anything you want from me. What if Amazon said that? And if you have any complaints at all, you agree not to complain about it.
HARLOW(unintelligible) that no one would use them.
NNAMDIWait a minute. A company is not a court of law. How can it fine me?
GILROYWell, if you agree to it, if you sign, in effect, sign the contract stating that I'll never say anything bad about you.
NNAMDISo, do they send me a bill for 3,000 dollars saying this is the fine.
GILROYThat's what they did.
HARLOWIs the couple fighting it?
GILROYThey said, okay, if you don't pull this review, we're gonna bill you 3,500 dollars, as you agreed to on your and user license agreement. And I'm kind of fascinated. I'm sure there's more lawyers than you shake a stick at in this town, and I'm sure they're just salivating at this. But this is -- I'm thinking a lot of people bought stuff over the holidays. And so, by the way, three and a half years, I mean, three and a half year from now, you could be getting a letter from, you know, kojonnamdi.com saying, hey, you said something bad about my shoes. Then you're in trouble.
HARLOWI guess if you put it in the TOS, you can at least try to enforce it, but I think it's up to a -- if they sued, it's up to a judge to decide if it's really legal.
NNAMDIIf you don't like something, Allison, watch your mouth or your keyboard.
DRUINWell, you know, if you take a look at tweets, OK, the trending is that if somebody has something good to say, they're generally going to say it faster than if they have something bad to say. But if they feel really passionate about something, then it just comes out, you know, all over the place. So, you know, so it's actually -- people do self check by inclination, but to be perfectly honest with you, man, if I were those people, I'd take them to the highest courts. Because it's gonna make them look bad. It's gonna make that company look bad in the end.
DRUINAnd that company's got a lot more to lose than they do.
HARLOWI'll say if I won that case against them, I would then disparage them until the cows came home, personally. I have carte blanche to really go to town on them.
NNAMDICreated a disparagement website.
GILROYFor the record, if you're listening, computer guys and gal, you can't say anything bad about us ever or we'll send you a bill for 3,000 dollars.
DRUINI like that.
HARLOWI want a personal calling card with terms of service like that in the back. That's what I need.
NNAMDISteve in Falls Church, Virginia. Steve, you got a new TV. How do you like it?
STEVEGood. I just had a question about this whole high depth thing. I'm just wondering if there's a possibility of having too much depth because we recently got one in our family, and I popped in -- the first thing we were gonna watch on our new high definition television was gonna be "Star Wars," of course, for my boys. And when it started playing, it actually looked odd, because it was so clear. It looked like a home video, almost.
HARLOWI think what you're talking about is something different, actually, Steve.
HARLOWIt might be. Well, there could be several things. So, the "Star Wars" disc, is it on DVD? Is it Blu-Ray?
STEVENo. No. It's just a regular DVD.
HARLOWAll right, so you've got two things going on there. They're both related to processing. So, that DVD is standard definition, but it still can look really good. So, that TV has to take that and stretch it. And the quality of that can vary, depending on the TV itself, the processor in there, how high end it is. And the other thing you're talking about, a lot of them have this thing called motion smoothing, or motion interpolation. That's probably enabled. If that's on, yeah, you're getting -- it almost looks like what they call the soap opera effect.
HARLOWEverything's running at 60 frames per second. It looks like home video. But if you turn that off or dig around in the menus to turn that off, it's going to have that same original frame rate of movies, which is actually a lot slower and actually less clear. But it's what we consider a film. And that's, you know, it feels like a film to us. So, dig through the manual, turn that off, and I bet that's what's related to what you're seeing.
STEVEYeah. My buddy actually did that for me. But we didn't understand what was going on with the technology. But that's a good explanation. Thank you.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Steve. We move on to Joe in Rockville, Maryland. Joe, your turn.
JOEThank you for taking my call. My question is about Bitcoin. There was an interesting article in Time Magazine that said, in essence, that Bitcoin was a vehicle for drug dealers and government agencies for developing nefarious activity. But eventually, people are getting into it. Now, could you please explain the ultimate reward for someone that has Bitcoin? Somewhere along the line, someone's going to have to contribute cash, because the only thing Bitcoins are good for are buying other things offered in Bitcoins.
NNAMDIExactly what is Bitcoin?
HARLOWThey call it a crypto currency. So, the idea is that you can run programs on your computer to basically do what they so call mining, where you've got something encrypted. And if you're able to decrypt it, you earn a bitcoin. And it's pretty tough to do. It takes some doing, takes some work, so, yeah, right now, I mean, you're right. The value is sort of arbitrary. People are fascinated by it, and because of the work invested, you know, there's value to it. I have no idea how this sort of virtual currency is gonna play out in the grand scheme of things. But it is pretty fascinating to see in action.
GILROYYou know, something I read about it. I also read history books, and I remember what Castro's worth in 1920s in Germany. It was nothing. I mean, value is what, you know, a human's willing -- you know, humans determine what value is.
HARLOWYeah, it's a bit of a game of faith.
GILROYIt's a game of faith. And, if that's gonna be a new currency, who knows? I mean, you know, in 1964, Rod Steiger's film, "The Pawnbroker," he said, you know, gold is worth what someone's willing to pay for it. Or, what's the value of a Bitcoin? I don't know. I'm gonna watch it carefully, because I think the United States may be in a key position to tell people what this is worth or not.
HARLOWI don't really trust it yet. But the fact that there are slowly more and more reputable people accepting it as a valid form of currency, it will get to the point where, you know, when that happens, and if there's a sea change, and it's just sort of something that's accepted, then it'll just be a normal currency.
NNAMDIIn what other tech broadcast can you hear names like Tiny Tim and Rod Steiger? It's amazing.
NNAMDIThe new year brings a slew of new products to the marketplace, from the high powered but pricey new Mac Pro to a keyboard case that lets you type on your iPhone like you would on a Blackberry. What's your favorite new tech toy this year? Give us a call. 800-433-8850. Bill, the updated Mac Pro computer is here with big computing power and a big price tag. What does this upgraded Mac desktop computer do and who's gonna buy it?
HARLOWWell, I think it's one of those things where if you have to ask what it costs, you probably can't afford it. And it's probably not for you. I mean, I think it's a pretty specialized computer. Let's say you're doing 4K video editing and rendering. Then, you absolutely need something as powerful as a loaded up Mac Pro. You're the type of person where most of the time, you can't spend too much on a computer. You buy the fastest thing they make because it's still not good enough.
GILROYHow many bitcoins is it?
HARLOWHow many bitcoins can you mine with this? So, it is a massively parallel computer. You can get up to 12 cores of processing power. It's a tiny little black cylinder. You can put in on your desk. What, to me, is cool about this, though, is that it's not really internally upgradeable. You can easily disassemble it if you know how to turn a screwdriver, which is -- it's very modular, which is cool. But it's got Thunderbolt 2, which is very fast for connecting fast devices and 4K monitors.
HARLOWIt's got a lot of memory inside. But everything's designed to be external, and it's designed to be quiet. I think that's really cool. You went from something that took up the vast majority of your under-desk or on-desk space and made noise when you pushed to something that can sit on your desk and sit there without making a peep.
NNAMDIAnd, John, Apple rolling out new technology called iBeacon. It will allow the company to push out notifications to iPhone users when we enter an Apple store. Will we see more of this kind of location-based marketing in the coming years?
GILROYYeah. The concept here is contextually-aware marketing. And it's in all the Apple stores now as of Dec. 6, all 454 of them or something. And I -- you know, I'm not a big fan of it. I mean, let's say Kojo and I were at a Nationals game.
GILROYAnd all of a sudden, I get an alert, and it says, beer guy coming, three minutes.
HARLOWThis sounds like a great thing.
NNAMDII was about to say, what's...
GILROYNow maybe it's a great thing. Now, Kojo may want that.
NNAMDIWhat's to complain about?
GILROY(unintelligible) about that. I just -- I'm -- the term that my kids use is creepy. And I don't know. It's just, you know what, if I'm walking through a mall, I don't want some app to come up and say, hey, sweaters on sale because...
HARLOWHere's the dark genius of this, though, right? Do you guys remember the movie "Minority Report" where...
HARLOW...Tom Cruise would walk around, and then the billboards would sense him coming? Well, this is worse because I paid for the billboard, and it's in my pocket. And it follows me everywhere.
NNAMDIWhat do you say, Allison?
DRUINWell, here's the thing, is that sometimes less is more. And less information that you share with other people that you don't necessarily know or want to know about you is probably more or better. But, on the other hand, if this kind of information can actually make it to the -- you can get more, how would I say, customized help when you walk into a store or when you are actually in a place -- like, if it knows that every time I got to a ball game, my kids are going to need to get hotdogs, then they're going to point out where the next hotdog vendor is.
DRUINThat actually works for me. So I think it's about context and about how they do it 'cause it, yes, it can be very, very creepy. John's -- strangely enough, John is absolutely right.
HARLOWNow, one benefit I can see, since it does indoor positioning, it's -- let's say it's Christmas Eve. You put off all your shopping. You're in the mall. Where is this stuff? Maybe you can look it up, and it can guide you there. That could be pretty cool.
NNAMDIOn now to Tom who is in Bloomery, W.Va. Tom, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
TOMYes. Thanks for taking my call. A few questions. I've heard that 4K is not the end. It may be 6K, 8K, 16K, 32K is on the horizon. And I'm not sure what the timeframe for that -- a realistic timeframe for that is. And, two, are the broadcasters going to be mandated to shoot in 4K? Are we going to actually -- I mean, when are all these cameras going to be in the field to supply these televisions?
HARLOWWell, there are 4K cameras out there. A lot of -- when you go to the movie theaters, for example, there's a very good chance that the movie -- the feature film you're watching was rendered out at 4K or shot in 4K 'cause a lot of stuff is shot digitally now and shown on a 4K projector. But, you know, that makes sense given the sheer scale of that. As far as government mandate, I guess it would be more a market mandate, right? Is everybody buying 4K TVs and instant content? If so, you may see that being the big push.
NNAMDIGot to take a short break. Thank you very much for your call. When we come back, we will return to our conversation with the Computer Guys and Gal. We'll be talking about gaming and game apps. Another big techie convention took place last week at National Harbor in Maryland, MAGFest, the Music and Gaming Festival. What do you think we'll see in the gaming world in the new year, both in consoles and apps? Give us a call, 800-433-8850. Or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation with the Computer Guys and Gal. 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. Bill Harlow is a hardware and software technician for Macs & PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc. And John Gilroy is director of business development at Armature Corp. Before we go to gaming, Allison, iPhone users with cracked screens or other broken parts, are you listening to me, Allison? Well...
DRUINYou know, so I...
NNAMDI...you may be in luck. Apple stores are reportedly going to expand their in-store hardware repairs making it cheaper and quicker to replace broken parts rather than having to replace the whole phone. As our resident expert on this issue, what say you?
DRUINSo I waited forever to get my nice iPhone gold, OK? And then I couldn't bear the thought of putting a -- what do you call -- a case on it 'cause I love what it looked like and it felt like. And then I promptly, within a week, dropped it, and it broke. Okay?
DRUINThe only good news is that at least the screen has only got one crack in it -- actually can work. But my nice husband, who felt so sorry for me 'cause I was such a loser, OK, actually went and, you know, called the Apple store and figured out, how easy is it to replace and so on? And, you know, and he had seen the same kind of information.
DRUINOh, yeah, they're working on getting the screens cheaper and easier to replace. But this Apple store in Bethesda basically said, sorry, you're out of luck. You either replace your iPhone or whatever. And they wouldn't even tell us when this change is going to happen. So...
NNAMDIOkay. Look out, you may be fined by that store. But go ahead.
HARLOWYes. Few thousand dollars.
DRUINI know. I know. It's terrible. So in the meantime, what I realized is that I had to have something that basically I could carry around my now-cracked-screen iPhone with. And so the moral of the story is to make sure that you put a case around it of some sort. I decided I'd get my -- a glittery gold case to put around it, so it made me feel better. But then, of course, the glittery gold case broke within a day. So I'm really not doing very well, guys.
DRUINI'm cursed is what I'm telling you.
NNAMDIAnd you should understand John Gilroy's stories have morals, OK?
GILROYI don't, but the stories do.
NNAMDIBill Harlow, what are your favorite picks in the gaming world for this year, especially in the realm of consoles?
HARLOWWell, I am still fascinated by Valve's Steam Machines initiative here, the idea of bringing consolized PCs into the living room, mainly because the Xbox One and the PS4 are quite expensive, and I'm really curious to see if a Steam Machine at around that price point can offer a compelling or more compelling experience. There's some really cool games...
GILROYSteam Machine, nothing to do with cleaning your carpet.
HARLOWNo, no, no, no. Do not try to clean your carpet with this, not recommended. But, yeah, the idea of having this box that can play all sorts of games on this PC and also because Steam is a great source of a lot of really interesting independent games, too. A lot of people self-publish on that. So I think combined indie games and Steam Machine, you have something really interesting to look out for this year.
NNAMDIWhat's Oculus Rift VR?
HARLOWOculus Rift VR is a virtual reality headset that is still in development. A friend of mine who is a developer bought one and messed with it. It is amazing. I mean, even this low-res development unit, you put it on. It gives you -- it's like having, like, an IMAX screen in your face that's fully 3D. You can't even see the edges. It takes over your field of view. You feel like you were actually transported.
NNAMDIHere's Nick in Laurel, Md. about this. Nick, your turn.
NICKOh, hi. My name's Nick. And I'm with MAGFest. I just heard you guys mention us just a few minutes ago. And I was...
NICK...totally flattered to hear us be brought up on "The Kojo Nnamdi Show."
NNAMDIWhat's your favorite pick in the gaming world this year, Nick?
NICKI'd have to say I'm really a fan of the new initiatives that Sony has in its online community for PlayStation 4. With Microsoft's Xbox Live being so prevalent as a way for people -- for console gamers at least -- to communicate, and Sony's PS3 always left behind, it's cool to finally see them getting their stuff together and giving away for PlayStation guests...
GILROYDoes anyone sleep at that MAGFest? Do they just keep awake for 48, 72 hours? I mean, it's a crazy place, isn't it?
NICKYou know, I just woke up after about (unintelligible)...
NICKYeah. I'm actually -- I unloaded six trucks of stuff yesterday from that event. And I'm finally now going back into my day job. And I appreciate your concern actually. After all, we're only human.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Nick. Good luck to you. John, a lot of people play games using apps on their phones and tablets. Many of those games are free to download, free to play. Many -- they're called Freemium games, and then they offer in-game purchases. Now, Apple is quietly pushing a different model, apps for which users pay a flat fee and then play without any further charges. Which one do you think will prevail?
GILROYWell, this is one to get a gamer's opinion on. I mean, most of the gamers don't participate much in the Apple world. And Apple's trying to weasel in on this business. I mean, WWSD -- what would Steve do?
GILROYAnd increasingly, people are asking about Apple. What would Steve do in this situation?
HARLOWWell, here's my opinion, though. I think I'm on the cusp of being, like, an old-school gamer because I don't like free-to-play at all. But that is a model that can be a very profitable, and it's quite popular, especially if the game isn't gated where you really can't progress without shelling out some money, which feels kind of dirty.
HARLOWWhat's also trending -- and I hope it doesn't really sustain this trend -- there's some Xbox One games, for example, where they've actually -- you're paying the 60 bucks for a full game, and you can play to get the experience. But there's a lot of additional stuff you can unlock, and it's kind of a combination of a premium game with free-to-play elements, which feels a little shady as well.
GILROYAny gamers up there in Harpers Ferry, Allison?
DRUINWell, actually, people are trying to figure out how to take the lessons of, you know, the passion of gaming and bringing it to learning, so a lot of interest in gaming.
NNAMDIHere's Brian in Alexandria, Va. Brian, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
BRIANThanks for taking my call. I always enjoy listening to the show even though I don't understand about 98 percent of it. I'm a mid-50s-year-old guy. I've got a flip phone. And I'm just wondering how long I'm going to be able to last before I have to get a smartphone 'cause it seems like every merchant, every business now is set up that you have to scan that special little square code thing with your phone and all these other things. Again, 98 percent of what you talked about today doesn't apply to me. But it just seems like, more and more, I'm wondering -- I mean, how much longer do you think a guy like me can last before he's going to be forced to get -- which I don't want to do.
BRIANI mean, I have my little flip phone. I don't even use it most of the day since I'm at my office or at home, and then people call me there. I don't do games. I'm not downloading apps and songs. And, again, 98 percent of the things that you talked about, I don't do.
BRIANI don't need to. I don't see a reason to. But it seems like I'm being forced -- a friend of mine just a few months ago finally got an iPhone IC, and he's been fiddling with it for months now, trying to get the -- you know, get it set up. And I'm like -- and he was the, what I felt was the last hold-out. So...
NNAMDIWell, Brian, you 2-percenter, you. How much longer you have, 10, 9, 8, 7...
GILROYYou got till one o'clock, buddy.
BRIANWell, can you tell me why do I have to get that phone? I mean, again...
HARLOWOh, you don't. You don't have to get one. I mean...
NNAMDIYou really don't.
HARLOWEverything you described, I mean, yeah, it's popular, but it's still optional. I mean...
BRIANOn that point...
HARLOW…if you go into a store and you see that they're accepting, you know, iPhones -- you know, using iPhones for payment of there's a QR code, that's all optional. They'll still gladly take your cash. So I don't think it...
GILROYYes. A QR code is not legal tender, as of today.
DRUINNo. But, you know, I think it's going to happen when the rest of your friends are texting each other, and you're sort of left out socially.
NNAMDIOut of the loop.
BRIANMost of mine don't. Again, people my age, I -- nobody texts me. I don't text anybody. Again, only people I know -- the parents that do that are doing it with their kids. My kid's not into it there. So I have no reason to do it. Nobody I know does Facebook. Nobody that I -- my actual friends, real, honest to goodness friends, not, you know, Facebook friends...
BRIAN...but, you know, nobody that I know is on that. A few people I know are on LinkedIn, but, you know -- but we're -- I'm not socially stunted or recluse.
BRIANI have a normal active life with all these things. And other people, we sit down, and we talk. And all -- not everybody is as disconnected as me.
BRIANBut we all sit down -- and who is doing all this stuff? 'Cause it's not us.
NNAMDIWell, just wait till they stop selling flip phones.
HARLOWExactly. That's what we -- maybe in a couple years, you know, it breaks or dies, and then you go in the store. And the only thing they have, 'cause it's so commoditized, is smartphones.
BRIANWell, they still had -- when I just got this a year and a half ago, they still had a flip phone to choose from, except there was very few of them. So...
NNAMDIYes. And there'll be fewer with each passing year.
DRUINWell, you live in a very special world, and I think it's a -- it sounds like a wonderful world. It's just going to be -- it's question of how long...
HARLOWHe longs for simpler times.
DRUINYeah. How long it can -- and can it hold out before your kid...
GILROYThese newfangled typewriters.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Brian.
DRUINYeah, well, go figure.
NNAMDIAnd good luck to you. Bill, a company called Typo and founded by "American Idol" host Ryan Seacrest is making a keyboard case that lets you type on your iPhone like you would on a classic Blackberry. But Blackberry is suing for patent infringement. This raises the question: Is there a big demand for physical keyboards for smartphones? Or are thumbs getting more intelligent?
HARLOWI guess they must be. I'm kind of backwards in that. Like, I never got comfortable typing on a physical keyboard. Like, I never bought a Blackberry 'cause I found them really cumbersome. It wasn't until the iPhone and predictive text when I could actually do that efficiently. But I know a lot of people who are clinging to their Blackberries are hold-outs because they are so fast with these things, faster than I ever could be on a Blackberry.
GILROYNo. There are tablets that you can only use in a portrait manner, and so you need the keyboard for those. And so there are some apps are maybe app-dependent. I don't know if any smartphones are app-dependent or not.
HARLOWRight. But, yeah, this Typo keyboard looks like it's pretty well-designed. It's a keyboard case for your iPhone. It does look an awful lot like a Blackberry keyboard, so there might be something to that. But, yeah, I guess if you're one of those people who's like, I'd buy an iPhone, but -- this might be for you if they don't get sued out of existence.
NNAMDIAnd, Allison, Kelly in Baltimore, Md. has a question for you. Kelly, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
KELLYHi, Kojo. Thanks for taking my call.
KELLYMy son spends a lot of time on Steam and instead of doing homework. So I'm wondering if your guests have any recommendations on software to block sites from kids.
DRUINWell, I mean, yes, you can definitely get some -- there's a whole range of things out there for you. But to be perfectly honest with you, as soon as your kid leaves your house, it's not going to work. So part of what parents tend to do it have a homework sort of contractual agreement with their kids that says, you know, here's what I expect from you, and if the homework doesn't get done before the Steam comes out, then suddenly Steam is going to disappear off all of your devices.
DRUINAnd then if that doesn't work, then suddenly your devices will start leaving the premises. And that seems to be a possibly more effective way than going with the -- than blocking, software-wise.
NNAMDIKelly, thank you very much for you call. Good luck to you.
NNAMDIAnd I'm afraid that's about all the time we have. John Gilroy is director of business development at Armature Corp. He kept his entire New Year's resolution throughout the show -- still breathing.
GILROYStill breathing. And I'm going to send you a bill for that, by the way, Kojo, for a thousand dollars.
NNAMDIUnfortunately. Bill Harlow is a hardware and software technician for Macs & PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc. Bill, it was a pleasure.
HARLOWAlways a pleasure, too.
NNAMDIAnd 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. She joined us today from the National Park Services Stephen T. Mather Training Center in Harpers Ferry, W.Va. Safe trip home, Allison.
DRUINThank you. (unintelligible) next month.
NNAMDIAnd thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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