Facebook is venturing into virtual reality with its $2 billion purchase of start-up Oculus — to the dismay of some who supported the young company through Kickstarter. Microsoft is crossing the line into Apple territory with its new Office for iPad. And techies prove to be some of the best April Fool’s Day pranksters around. The Computer Guys and Gal are here to explain.
- John Gilroy WAMU Computer Guy; Director for Business Development for BLT Global Ventures
- 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
- Bill Harlow WAMU Computer Guy; and Hardware & Software Technician for MACs & PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc.
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MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. They showed up anyway, even though it's April Fools. Yes, the Computer Guys and Gal. They're here. John Gilroy, he is director of business development for BLT Global Ventures. That's a cloud-based systems integration company. John Gilroy, thank you for -- well, maybe...
MR. JOHN GILROYWe have new toys, new toys.
NNAMDIOh, yeah, we do. 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, always a pleasure.
MS. ALLISON DRUINA pleasure.
NNAMDIAnd Bill Harlow, he's a hardware and software technician for Macs and PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc. Bill brought a show and tell today.
MR. BILL HARLOWI'm not actually here. This is a virtual representation of me.
NNAMDIThis is what we'll be talking about first. Facebook shocked the gaming world last week when it paid $2 billion to buy a young company called Oculus that makes virtual reality headsets. They're not on the market yet, but somehow one is here in this room. But they promise to transform the experience of playing video games.
NNAMDIGive us a call. Are you a gamer? Will Facebook's resources help make virtual reality reality? 800-433-8850. Facebook says it will let Oculus run independently the way it's done with Instagram. Will that model work? Have you seen any difference in Instagram since Facebook bought it? 800-433-8850.
NNAMDISend email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or send us a tweet, @kojoshow, using the #TechTuesday. Bill, why is the Oculus virtual reality headset such a big deal? What is its potential outside the video game world? We have all -- everybody in this building has had the opportunity to try these things on today.
HARLOWAren't they? And this is a development version. This is still essentially a beta, an alpha, really, the one you're seeing. It's low res. It's kind of blurry. It's not that responsive. And the effect is still pretty amazing. So, as you can see from being in Jerry Seinfeld's apartment, it can take you places. I think just being able to explore and see things you couldn't normally see is a pretty fascinating way to use virtual reality.
GILROYI think there' some pictures of Kojo on the Twitter world that you can see and take a...
HARLOWThey're very flattering. They're very flattering.
NNAMDII can't wait for Kramer to slide through the door. It was so close up. What did you think, Allison?
DRUINWhat is actually amazing about that is how cheap that is.
DRUINOK? Because I remember a few years ago, when I would put these things on, you know, things for the Army, that they were going to try and turn into things for kids to learn with. And I thought, my neck is going to snap because it's so heavy. But that's pretty light. It's pretty accessible. What's missing is sound for me, OK?
HARLOWYeah, there are no headphones built in. Sony actually has one that they showed off in development at GDC, Game Developers Conference, and theirs, I think, actually has an integrated headphone.
NNAMDICould you explain, exactly what it is the Oculus Rift Virtual Reality Headset does?
HARLOWSo virtual reality just means that, as people mostly understand it, it's 3-D. You put it on, and everything has depth to it. Shapes feel like they actually exist in space around you. And there's head tracking, which means that, when you look up, you see up, and when you look down, you see down. And it maps out really well. So, when you're looking around the room, it really feels like there's an object over there.
HARLOWAnd, as you turn your head, it is still present and you continue to look past it. They're expanding that even more to -- in addition to just head tracking, head positioning tracking, which means that it can detect when you're actually leaning forward or back. Or your entire body's moving, and that small change really makes it feel a lot more natural.
DRUINNow, a lot of people have asked, what's the difference between VR, or virtual reality, from Google Glass? OK. Google Glass is, in a way, augments what's in your physical reality. But these virtual reality kinds of glasses really shut out the physical world, OK? And it's putting you -- it's like putting your nose right up to the screen, and you really aren't able to see anything out there. And, now, the resolution of the things is pretty low res. And it started -- a lot of it started in the gaming community, as well as in the military community. But now, people are going, what else can we do with it?
GILROYI think a good way to think about it is Google Glass is like the Terminator would have. And Oculus is like Holodeck. That's the difference.
DRUINGosh darn, that was technical. OK.
NNAMDII think a good way to think about it is that it covers most of your face, which makes John Gilroy look much handsomer.
DRUINHe looks like a bug.
NNAMDIWhat is the potential of this, outside of gaming?
HARLOWThere are a lot of things people are saying about being present elsewhere. I think it'd be really cool, myself, to see some sort of setup where maybe you've got a live stereo camera rig set up very similar to the way a human's head would be set up. And you can actually be looking through that somewhere else and essentially being transported in real time. I think that would be one possible, really cool application.
DRUINThe big app, the killer apps for this, is really is virtual learning. OK? So, virtual -- I mean, what are the things you don't want to kill yourself on when you're trying to learn it? So, flying airplanes, you know, doing surgery. You don't want to kill people. Even driving cars, I have to say, Dana, wherever you are, I would really prefer you doing some virtual driving first. So that's the kind of stuff that actually virtual reality is really good for. But the sky's the limit, really.
HARLOWIf you want Dana to learn how to drive, I'll set her up with my steering wheel in iRace. She can learn for real.
DRUINOh. OK. There you go. Dana, hear that?
NNAMDIOr we can set her up with Gilroy so she can learn how to crash.
NNAMDIHere is Chris in Burke, Va. Chris, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
CHRISHi, Kojo. Can you hear me?
NNAMDIYes, we can.
CHRISSo one thing that I worry about with Oculus getting acquired is that Facebook has this history with pressing social sharing and micro-transactions and all kinds of stuff like that. And so I hope that those things don't end up being pressed on Oculus and interfering with the actual potential for the gaming experience.
NNAMDIWhat do you say, Bill?
HARLOWThat is actually a very popular sentiment that hit the Web as soon as the announcement was made. And it really does sound -- they're saying the right things right now with the deal. We'll see, as time goes on, what it means. But, Palmer Luckey, who's the founder of Oculus, and John Carmack, who's kind of a gaming development legend, they are both optimistic that they're going to be able to do their own thing and actually accelerate developments and that Facebook just kind of wants to let them do their thing. And they don't really see any major potential for pushing social or going down that aspect for at least a few more years.
NNAMDILet's talk about some of the other more controversial aspects of this. Early on, Oculus had raised $2 million from Kickstarter. That's the crowd funding platform that lets people donate money to a new venture in exchange for a small token of appreciation, a t-shirt, an autograph. Why did the news that Facebook bought Oculus create so much anger from Oculus's Kickstarter supporters?
HARLOWWell, it's funny 'cause they use the word investment at Kickstarter, which isn't really accurate. Donation's a better word.
NNAMDIIt's really a donation.
HARLOWYeah, you're helping get them off the ground. And I think they thought that if they bought into it, they still had ownership of it, to a degree, that they were, you know, helping fund the little guy, which is a great story.
NNAMDIThey kind of feel ownership of it without having ownership of it.
HARLOWYeah, you do.
DRUINWell, you also gave your money, and now, all of a sudden, they got $2 billion.
HARLOWWell, you funded the dev kit, the thing I brought in today. That's what they were funding.
DRUINYeah. That's true.
HARLOWAnd that happened. That exists. Here it is. And that led to this acquisition.
GILROYWell, right today, I'm going to start a Kickstarter for John Gilroy, Send Him to Rio De Janeiro. All the money you want to send me, I'm there.
NNAMDIAnd so when the rest of us don't get to go with you, we'll understand how it feels.
GILROYYes. I'll send you a postcard.
NNAMDIBut aside from instant wealth for the sellers, what are the advantages and disadvantages of being owned by Facebook or, for that matter, Google, or another Internet giant? Are the big companies after the talent, are they after the product, or are they after both?
HARLOWI think that Facebook is really trying to nurture this. I think that Zuckerberg can truly see this as these are the real deal guys. They've taken this from proof of concept to something that actually works. And, as, I think, everybody here is safe to say, it kind of converts you on contact, right? So, you try it out, and you immediately get it.
HARLOWIt's also, I think, John Carmack said that it was an obvious tech, that you don't have the luxury of sitting back and just noodling away at this to make it better, that Sony gets it. They're developing a headset. I'm pretty sure other heavily financially-backed firms are getting it, and they're working on something. So it's -- they need the money. They need to push forward to rapidly make this better and better and get it as a commercial product.
DRUINSo look at this as their advanced research team.
DRUINOK? Because, basically, they're doing such incremental changes to Facebook right now, so what do they have to do? They have to actually diversify, and this is part of their diversification. I mean, Google is so diversified, and it's so deep. And it's so many possibilities. And now they have to say, OK, what do we have, and where are we going?
HARLOWAnd VR isn't just a headset. They're treating it like an Oculus VR, themselves. They called it a platform. I think Facebook looks at it the same way. This is a platform and $2 billion is not a lot of money to get in on a potentially huge new platform.
NNAMDIWe got a tweet from Raymond that raises another question. Raymond tweets, "Great. Now my Facebook feed will be full of virtual reality replicas of my friends' newly redesigned baby room." Some critics say startups sell out their integrity when they agree to be bought by a giant like Facebook. What is Facebook's track record with its recent acquisitions? Instagram and Whatsapp, does it continue to let them do their own thing? Or do they become Facebook clones?
HARLOWI mean, Instagram feels like Instagram to me. So, at least from that aspect, I'm happy with that. I don't really use Whatsapp, so I can't comment on that.
DRUINI think it depends on the players. It depends on the time. It also depends on the pressure. You know, if they are seeing this as long range research, OK, they may back off. OK? But they're also looking at talent. They're also looking -- and the talent is saying, wow, now I have much more. Now I have many more resources to be able to explore the things I couldn't do if I were just having to do another Kickstarter campaign.
NNAMDISo that Raymond doesn't necessarily have to look forward to or to fear that all of his friends are going to be on Facebook with their kids' newly designed baby rooms?
GILROYWell, I think we have to look backwards to Winston Churchill. Was he the one that said that he said something like, no, I think...
NNAMDIWhen you look backwards, you look backwards.
GILROYI do. I do. It's Mark Twain. Someone said that if you're not a liberal when you're 19, you have no heart. If you're not a conservative when you're 21, you have no head. And I think what's happening here is that, as these entrepreneurs get older and older, like Zuckerberg is, I think when he hits his -- maybe 30, early 30s, he's going to want to say, show me the money. And he's going to want to monetize everything.
GILROYYou know, I think it's going to be monetization -- I mean, in five years, we're not going to realize we may be charged by what we look -- we may have an Oculus on. We may see something in the wall, and then we'll get advertisements for that thing in the wall because we showed interest in it because of eye tracking. I think this is going to be monetized. It's going to be lots of problems for our listeners.
NNAMDIIt's the Computer Guys and Gal. A number of new products have come online or are being unveiled, including new smart watches and a surprise device from Amazon. But let's start with Microsoft's long-awaited Office Suite for iPad. There are three apps, Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. You can download for free to read documents and spreadsheets. But to create or edit them, you have to subscribe to Office 365.
NNAMDIHave you tried Office on your iPad? How does it blur the line between tablets and laptop computers? Give us a call. 800-433-8850 or shoot us an email to email@example.com. Bill, iPad users have been waiting for a long time for this ability to work seamlessly with Word documents and Excel spreadsheets on their iPad. Microsoft has finally introduced its Office Suite for the iPad. What does it mean for both Microsoft and Apple, and why did it take so long?
HARLOWWhy it took so long? I'm not 100 percent sure. I'm guessing that old school Microsoft thought if we can't own the experience 100 percent, we don't want in. Perhaps it's a new day with a new CEO. But, yeah, it seems like it's worth the wait. You've got the real deal Office Suite with a lot of the core features you would need to be productive. And it's a really, really nice suite of apps.
HARLOWThe only thing that rubs me the wrong way -- although I can't say I'm surprised -- is that you don't buy the apps outright. You subscribe. So, it's an ongoing cost. I guess, for a lot of apps, Adobe does the same thing with their Creative Suite for Computers -- I guess that's kind of the future for a lot of these bread and butter applications, where they know they've got you.
NNAMDIWhat does it mean for the future of tablets? Will Office come to Android tablets, too? And if I can use Word, Excel, Powerpoint on my iPad or some other tablet, do I still need a laptop computer anymore?
DRUINWell, this is an interesting model that has been played out before. I mean, look at Kindle, OK? Kindle, you put Kindle on all different devices. It's agnostic. And now they own the market, OK? Why? In terms of content. And so, if Microsoft is smart, they're looking at the Kindle model and saying, OK, all right, it's not -- the time has passed when I say I won't put my software on another person's PC or...
DRUINAny -- office everywhere. And guess what? They'll make a lot more money.
GILROYI talked earlier about maturity and maturing, and I think what's happening now is the cloud is maturing. And I think a lot of offices, in fact, we can go up and down Connecticut Avenue, what a lot of offices are doing is they're taking that server in the closet and throwing it out, and they're going online. And now, who cares? There are some companies that are banning laptops. You can have a laptop, you can have a tablet. All your stuff is in a cloud anyway, and I think Microsoft is taking advantage of this.
GILROYI think maybe five or six years ago, it was too early, but now prevalence of high speed everywhere, new guy on top at MSFT, and I think they're taking advantage, riding the wave. And it is a subscription -- and that's the bad news -- is that I think this is to prevent a lot of the copying of CDs that took place by scoundrels like Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIGot to take a short break. Kindle is agnostic. I thought they believed. We're going to take a short break.
GILROYThey believe in money.
NNAMDIWhen we come back, more of the Computer Guys and Gal and your calls at 800-433-8850. You can send email to firstname.lastname@example.org or shoot us a tweet, @kojoshow. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIBack to the Computer Guys and Gal. Bill Harlow is a hardware and software technician for Macs and PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting Inc. John Gilroy is director for business development at BLT Global Ventures. That's a cloud-based systems integration company. And 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.
NNAMDIBill, Amazon has invited reporters to a product launch in New York tomorrow, without saying what it's launching. But the expectation is that it's a video streaming device. Any ideas about how this mystery device will work?
HARLOWNot entirely. Based on what the rumors are saying, it sounds like it will be similar to Chromecast, a little innocuous stick that you plug in. I'm assuming that it's direct access to Amazon Instant Video. Based on their work with Kindle, it may be Fire OS/Android based. The other thing people are thinking is perhaps these will be content deals, too, more exclusive shows that are only available on Amazon Instant Video and maybe locking up some studios or certain movies that only show up there.
GILROYYeah, you would think that Amazon would compete with Walmart. They're competing with Netflix. That's where they view one of their competitors.
NNAMDIWell, it's competitors like Roku, Apple TV, and, for those of us who like to stream our TV shows and maybe even binge watch, would Amazon enter into the video streaming business? What would it mean for those products?
DRUINI mean, the bottom line is is that one of the biggest growth industries we have right now is in streaming. And it's because we finally have devices that can take the bandwidth, that can take the speed, and so now you've got the ability to say, OK, it's not about images and text. Now we can go with live streaming. It's awesome.
HARLOWAnd the one thing that both Amazon and Netflix did is these were streaming features that were added to an already existing service, so Amazon started out with their prime two day free delivery service. You pay, like, one flat fee for the year. And then they added instant video. Netflix, they started out just mailing you discs. And then, magically, you could start streaming stuff. And now that is how most people, I think, use Netflix.
NNAMDILet's look at another new product. Android is getting into the smart watch game with a wristwatch that takes voice commands and communicates with your smart phone. You can say, OK, Google, and then ask a question, and the device will search for your answer. Will this new entrant help smart watches finally catch on? They haven't really, so far.
HARLOWThey haven't. I mean, it's -- right now, it's solving a problem nobody really has. So, it's really going to take somebody to make something that demonstrates that, you know, wow, this is something that doesn't exist in my life, and I want in. And a lot of these are basically, here's a watch. No young people are wearing watches anymore when they've got eight other devices in their bag or on their person that can tell time. So what are you going to really do for me that benefits? I've got a Fit Bit. I wear that all the time. If you build that into a watch, maybe I'll wear a watch.
DRUINYeah, but I think it's about style, folks. OK? This is about how it looks, OK?
HARLOWYou don't think these are good looking? You think these are maybe a bit geeky looking, maybe bulky? Is that what you're trying to say?
DRUINYes. I'm trying to say that. Yes.
NNAMDIBut it seems like because a lot of people don't wear watches anymore. They don't look at watches anymore. It really annoys me when I get a new watch and nobody notices.
DRUINWell, it's a good watch.
HARLOWIt's a lovely watch.
NNAMDIThis is going to be one that people actually notice.
DRUINWell, yeah, they do notice it, but I'm not sure that you want to notice something like that.
GILROYLast year, my company hired a young gentleman, and he had all the iPhones and everything else. He had a watch. The watch never worked. And I go, why are you wearing it? Oh, it's just decoration.
HARLOWIt's a bracelet. It's a man bracelet.
GILROYShow people he's got money. It never worked. He didn't care.
NNAMDIBut at least you noticed the watch that he was wearing. But this watch will provide you with all kinds of conveniences, the ability to better monitor your health and fitness, your key to a multi-screen world -- oh, I mean information that moves with you.
GILROYI've read about this thing called a Mod Phone, where you get up in the morning and choose which module you want. Maybe you want the Fit Bit module, another module, or another health module on there. And I think it's a trendy item, much like those iPads were years ago, but I can't see any value to it.
DRUINYou never see value in anything until it hits you in the head.
NNAMDIOK then. Let's move on. The company called Mighty Cast has a different take on smart wristwear. Its next bend is modeled on a charm bracelet with single task modules that attach to a wristband that communicates with your phone. And you can trade them with friends and then track them electronically. How does this, John Gilroy, compare with other smart watches?
GILROYThese actually look good.
GILROYThese are the modular ones. I tell you what, if you had someone like LeBron James wearing one of these things, you think those would fly off the shelves? Boy, they would say, I want to know what's the (unintelligible) that LeBron's wearing for the next championship game? I think these could be fun, and we'll just have to see. I see a lot of people attempting physical fitness with these Fit Bits and others. And I think the bottom line is that I'll concede -- if that can help people lose weight and maybe reduce their need for diabetes medicine, that's fine.
NNAMDIOK. Let's move on to the phones. See if you can actually render some assistance to someone here. Yael in Hyattsville, Maryland. Yael, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
YAELHello, Kojo. It's Yael, your engineer's wife. Hi.
NNAMDIOh, sure. Hi, Yael. How are you? How are the twins?
YAELOh, they're great. And you're welcome for the little plug on the recent show. Anyway, I don't know if you ever have this with your twins, but my twins are saying, well -- well, first of all, it is true that their school is going to require everybody from fifth grade and up to have laptops.
YAELAnd they're saying, we don't want a used laptop, even though I'm like, we don't have money for new laptops for each of you. What can I tell them that will let them know that a used laptop is perfectly fine? And do I have to worry about security? And what should I get that can handle Hebrew and French and kind of grow with them from, now, hopefully until they graduate? And is that too much to even think about?
NNAMDIFirst, you can tell them I'm going to recommend a raise for their father, Jonathan. So upgrade. Here's the advice you can get from the people who really know. Computer Guys and Gal. John?
GILROYWell, I don't know anything about Hebrew and (unintelligible).
DRUINOK. First of all, how old are your twins?
DRUINOh, goodness. All right. Here's the thing. Whatever you get now, in two years, you're going to be replacing everything. OK? In terms of software, I'm sorry. Now, is the school giving you the used laptop, or are you getting the used laptop?
YAELI would have to buy these things.
DRUINAll right. So you buy it from the school. You buy it from somebody else?
YAELRight now, they're saying, you know, go buy whatever you want. Just be sure that it's going to keep working, and you can work with various different kinds of software.
DRUINOK, so here's my question. Does it have to be a laptop? Because my kid is really well served by an iPad tablet. I mean, if everyone's going to go with laptops, then you have to go with a laptop. But I tell you, everything, in terms of the apps, and everything that's going on, that's the place to be.
HARLOWI do have one other question, too. Have they given you any guidance on what software you're going to be running or any bare minimum requirements that they said to look for?
YAELYou know, they probably have somewhere in the million emails about this, you know, but it's kind of buried among all the parent protests.
DRUINYeah. Yeah, you definitely -- to Bill's point, you want to look at what is it that, at minimum, you have to run? And what is the, you know, and is it -- does it have to be a laptop? Because, I mean, certainly, tablets are cheaper, and you can get the most up to date software on them. And it's really easy to replace old software with new software. So it's a really good thing. And then you can just get keyboards for it.
YAELOK. So, that, potentially, they could be carrying around the same iPad from now until they graduate and just change the software?
DRUINWell, I can't say from now until they graduate.
HARLOWMaybe a year.
NNAMDIIf you took as long as John to graduate, that could be a while.
HARLOWOh, and there's a -- without knowing all the specs and everything, at least as a good starting point, there's a neat website called woot.com, and I noticed lately, there are often deals on refurbed laptops.
DRUINYes. That's true.
HARLOWOr cheap ones. They're not going to be top of the line, but they could be cheap enough that, you know, when they go through the abuse of what the child will likely put it through, you won't be crying when you have to replace it.
GILROYI think I will agree with Allison for once in my life.
DRUINOh, my gosh. Oh, goodness.
GILROYNo matter what you buy, no matter what you buy, in two years, these kids are going to have something else out there. Who knows what it's going to be? I mean, who could have predicted we could walk in here with an Oculus three years ago? It would have been $2,000. I mean, now it's 300. So, no matter what you buy -- and that's the strongest argument for youth, I think, is that, hey, in two years, another story. Another requirement's going to pop up.
DRUINYeah. Tell your kids it's really retro cool to have what is used. I mean, just like you're wearing really cool, used jeans, I mean, it's the same thing.
GILROYThey're hipster wannabes. That's what they are.
DRUINIt's vintage. It's vintage. Yeah.
NNAMDIYael, good luck with your shopping. Thank you so much for calling.
NNAMDIYou, too, can call us, 800-433-8850 if you have questions or comments for the Computer Guys and Gal. In the category of little known but malevolent activity, news reports say a no poaching agreement between Apple and Google grew to include other companies and suppressed wages for thousands of tech workers.
NNAMDIAnd a new report says the huge majority of mobile malware strikes Android devices. Are you selective about the apps you download? How do you avoid loading malware onto your phone? Call us at 800-433-8850. Bill, what's the significance of the news that what started as an agreement between Apple and Google not to raid each other's employees turned into a much bigger wage fixing arrangement that involved multiple tech companies?
HARLOWIt just -- it sounds pretty slimy, doesn't it? I mean, you're someone who works in this industry, and you want to move up, and a great way to move up is to move to other firms and to find out, oh, they're just never going to recruit me because they've got this gentleman's agreement, so to speak, where I don't get poached, so it's great for them. They keep my wages down and they don't have to worry about ramping up a new employee. It just -- it sounds like a...
GILROYWhat's the motto for Google again?
HARLOWDon't be evil.
GILROYDon't be evil. I think that's what it is. This harks back to 80 years ago with rich people controlling all the industries and blocking out the unions. I mean, that's what they're doing.
DRUINWell, this is almost 10 years ago that they started doing this, and this is really, really upsetting, because, I mean, as a professor who sends their students out into the world, I want to know that my kids are going to places that they can go and...
GILROYGet fair market value for their talent.
DRUINExactly. I mean, what are we doing, training these people so that they -- their wages can be suppressed and that they can't move and actually go off and start companies like Google and Apple?
NNAMDIYou tell them to go out, and you want them to be competitive. And then you find out that there's a suppression of competition taking place in which companies have made agreements that keep the wages of their employees down.
HARLOWAnd, last time I checked, these companies weren't broke either.
DRUINYeah. That's true. I mean, it's very sad.
NNAMDIThere is a settlement that has been reached, of sorts, with confidential internal Google and Apple memos buried within piles of court documents and reviewed by publication (unintelligible) clearly show that what began as a secret cartel agreement between Apple's Steve Jobs and Google's Eric Schmidt to illegally fix the labor market for high tech workers expanded within a few years to include companies ranging from Dell, IBM, Ebay and Microsoft, to Comcast, Clear Channel, Dreamworks -- oh God -- and London-based public relations behemoth WPP. All told, the combined workforces of the companies involved totals well over a million employees.
DRUINBut you know what this also does is it suggests that it suppressed creativity. Because when I leave to go to a new place, I have a new perspective in a new context. And I'm actually able to bring a new way of doing something to a new place. And it is so sad that that did not happen as much, and maybe the reason that we've only had incremental changes in our technology in the last few years, could have to do with this. So I'm very upset about this.
HARLOWJust a bunch of engineers waking up every morning. Time to make the doughnuts.
DRUINOh. It's terrible. It's very terrible. Yeah.
NNAMDIOK, time to help somebody else. Here is Hilary in Arlington, Va. Hilary, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
HILARYHi there. Hi. OK, so love the show, really informative, and I appreciate you guys a lot. I have -- kind of along the lines of the previous caller, I have an old laptop, and I'm ready to make the jump to either a new laptop or a tablet. I'm open to a tablet as well. However, I haven't made the jump to storing everything on the cloud.
HILARYI still have old external hard drives that I'm using for pictures and music and things like that. So, if I am (unintelligible) external hard drives on a fairly regular basis, is a tablet the way to go? Or should I stick with the laptop? I don't know if a tablet can support external hard drives.
NNAMDILet's do this again. Bill Harlow.
HARLOWWell, traditionally, like, an Android or -- tablet, or an iPad is not going to cut it for you. If you like to plug in those typical external devices, you're looking at something that is Windows or Mac OS based. If you want something that's kind of a hybrid, the Microsoft Surface Pro -- it's priced like a premium laptop -- 'cause that's basically what it is.
HARLOWBut it also has a lot of really slick tablet-like features and pen-based input. But it kind of depends on, do you want a tablet for that reason, or were you looking at getting one because they were so light and cheap, in which case the Surface wouldn't make much sense.
GILROYAnd they're not mutually exclusive, Hilary. I mean, you can have both. I mean, you can use one for the right application...
GILROY...And one when you're more mobile, one when you are stationary, one when you want to code -- might want that keyboard. So it's not mutually exclusive, and you can some stuff in the cloud, not in the cloud. Dropbox is easy. It's all so easy now. It gives you all kinds of choices.
DRUINScary. I agree with both of them.
HARLOWThat's all you have to say?
HARLOWYour work's done.
HILARYThank you so much.
NNAMDIHilary, thank you very much for your call. But Matthew in Columbia, Md. has a bit of a warning for us. Matthew, it is your turn. You are on the air. Go ahead, please.
MATTHEWHi. Thanks for taking my call. I just wanted to say that you should be careful with refurbished laptops, as the manufacturer doesn't usually support them or warranty them for more than 30 or 90 days. So if they were to break again, you would be on the hook for the cost of that laptop.
NNAMDIOK. Thank you very much for reminding us about that, Matthew. You, too, can call us, 800-433-8850. John, a new report says that 97 percent of mobile malware is on Android devices. Why is that actually good news for Google's Play Store? What's the best way to keep our Android phones malware free?
GILROYWell, when I saw that headline, I jumped on it. I said, wow, this is everything I always thought. And then if you read between the lines, you realize that -- well, there this company called F-Secure did the study. They said, well, really, if you take a look at it carefully, you know, underneath the headline, paragraph six, paragraph eight, you find out that most of this malicious software comes from third party app stores in the Middle East and Asia.
GILROYAnd so -- but if you keep to the main, the plain sites, if you keep to the Google app store, then you're going to probably be pretty safe. In fact, what they're talking about, the Google Play has about 0.1 percent of malware on there. Now, it's probably more than the Apple, but it's a small percentage.
HARLOWBut still, it's a vetted store.
GILROYIt's less than 1 percent, so it's all vetted. So if you stick to the main and the plain places, go the regular, standard stores, you're going to be fine. But if you find some strange corner in the middle of nowhere, you're going to get in big trouble.
HARLOWThere's probably a reason why it's not on the play store.
GILROYRight. That's probably why. It got kicked out.
GILROYBaidu, by the way, 8 percent.
NNAMDIAddy in Washington, your turn. Hi, Addy. Are you there?
ADDYThank you very much. Yes. Thank you very much.
NNAMDIGo right ahead, please. Mm hmm.
ADDYJust wanted to make a comment about the computers for the kids.
ADDYWe are an Apple family, and we, of course, purchase computers for the kids from Apple. But we have had to install Windows operating systems for the machines as well because not every software was compatible. So some of the products of the kids we'll need to be using were only Windows -- that will only work with the Windows system. So just a comment about that for the mother that was interested in purchasing the computers for the kids.
NNAMDISo you're advertising yourself as an Apple family, but you're really a hybrid family, aren't you?
ADDYUnfortunately, yes. We were not able to go all the way Apple as we wanted.
ADDYBut, well, we have to be.
NNAMDIOK. Thank you very much for your call. Alice. (sic)
DRUINWe actually -- for a number of years, we were a hybrid family. And somehow, over the last few years, we've managed to go Apple only. But that's only by sheer luck because of the schools that my kids have been in. So you're absolutely right. Whatever the school is requiring, you know, it's what it is that you're going to have to get. And so if you have to, you can have -- you can run the Windows operating system on a Mac, and it works.
HARLOWYeah, I would just say that that's why it's important to find out what the school requires because if it's -- if so much of it is Windows-exclusive software, just buy a Windows machine. Otherwise, you're supporting two different operating systems on one box, and it gets kind of messy.
NNAMDIGot to take a short break. When we come back, what are some of the best April Fools' Day pranks that you have been aware of out here today? You can give us a call, 800-433-8850. The Computer Guy and Gals (sic) will be sharing some of their favorites. You can also send us a tweet, @kojoshow, or email to email@example.com. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. The usual suspects are here. Allison Druin is chief futurist at the University of Maryland Division of Research. She's co-director of the Future of Information Alliance at the University of Maryland. John Gilroy is director for business development for BLT Global Ventures, a cloud-based systems integration company. And Bill Harlow is hardware and software technician for Macs and PCs at Mid-Atlantic Consulting, Inc.
NNAMDITogether, they are the Computer Guys and Gal tell us -- about to tell us about their favorite April Fools' Day pranks. You can also share yours with us by calling 800-433-8850. We got an email though from Mike who says, "Allison is right on the money about style being key for smart watches. I think a watch that looks like a watch makes the most sense."
NNAMDIYes, thank you for that revelation.
NNAMDI"Design is important, but there needs to be a common standard, too." Allison.
DRUINWell, yes, there needs to be standards. But there needs to be something that says, look at me, I'm cool, I'm happening. I mean, that's what started...
GILROYAllison, wait a minute. Can you describe for the audience what you're wearing around your neck right now? Just describe for the audience what that is.
GILROYIt is a gold diamond-encrusted phone holder.
NNAMDILook at me. I'm cool. I'm happening.
HARLOWIt definitely says, look at me.
GILROYIt does. It's all black, and it's got the bling on it. It's black and bling. Come on.
DRUINAll right. First of all, it's falling apart. It's a little fake, little crystal-y (sic) things.
DRUINI keep losing my iPhone, so I had to hang it around my neck. I'm getting old.
GILROYAnd you're going to comment on fashion? You're going to make a comment wearing that thing around? Oh, my goodness.
NNAMDIShe is also a fan -- Allison Druin is -- of April Fools' Day pranks. Why are they so popular in the tech community, Allison? And what are some of the best pranks out there today?
DRUINOK. Well, you know, as I was looking at all the pranks in the last few days, past and current, I started realizing that April Fools' Day is about prototyping your next idea. I have to say I was looking at these ideas, going, I'm ready for it. Why not -- why isn't this happening? And...
HARLOWIt's genius 'cause if it's a horrible idea, April Fools.
DRUINThat's right. But you know what?
GILROYYeah. He wasn't serious about it.
DRUINSome of these things can catch on, and I would not be surprised at all if they say, oh, I guess we're going to make it now. I mean, it's like, you know, the Volkswagen Bug that, you know, was only there to be designed for a car show and turned into the next generation. So, OK, so my favorite is actually today's thing from Google, which is it's Google Maps Challenge.
DRUINThey combined forces with Nintendo and Pokemon. And you, too, can be a Pokemon master. All right? I mean, I love it. Basically, for those of you that don't know, if you go and try and get hired at Google, they will put you through a whole series of tests that -- to try and prove your brainwaves, that you should be hired by Google. You're smart enough to be hired by Google.
DRUINAnd now what they're doing is they're putting it out there that you can go and collect these Pokemons, and then potentially one person can be hired by Google. This is a prank, but you can go on your phone right now. Go to Google Maps, hit on the search area, and then there's a little -- there's a new little button that's probably going to go away in 24 hours. But it does say, you know, press start, and you can go find strange little Pokemons all over the world.
NNAMDIIt's a prank?
DRUINIt's a prank. But I love it.
NNAMDIThat job offer I got from Google is not real?
GILROYOh, it's not real?
DRUINI'm sorry, Kojo. You really can't go be a Googler. No.
DRUINBut I've already gotten a Dragonite, Bulbasaur, Luxor. (sp?) Anyway, I've gotten six of them. And then I couldn't find any more in California, and so I was wandering off to someplace else. But -- so that's great. But, you know, Google has been at the forefront of this -- at the April Fools' pranks for years.
NNAMDIIt's going back to at least 2000.
HARLOWThey put in the work. I will say that.
NNAMDIThey did what?
HARLOWThey put in the work when they prank.
NNAMDIYeah. They certainly do.
HARLOWThis must have been, like, an engineering feat that took some time.
NNAMDIBill, your April Fools' Day focus is on funny new video games. Tell us about Goat Simulator and Octodad.
HARLOWSo Goat Simulator, if...
GILROYWait, is it anything to do with Oculus here, the Goat Simulator thing?
HARLOWUnfortunately, I don't think there's Oculus Rift support in that. But that...
HARLOWBut I really would like -- actually, there was a Chicken Walk. If you want to live the life of a chicken in virtual reality, you can actually do that. That is real.
GILROYThat is real. It's real. It's virtual, but it's real. Can I quote you on that?
HARLOWBut, yeah, so Goat Simulator lets you simulate (unintelligible) goat where you can just wreak havoc on a city. You can trip people. You can just cause total mayhem. Octodad: Dadliest Catch for Windows and PlayStation 4, you are an octopus in a suit. And apparently, your family and nobody else knows you're an octopus. And you have to do your best to maintain the illusion and just try to live a normal life. And it's kind of a great perspective on imposter syndrome, and it's also a lot of fun and very inventive.
NNAMDIAnd depending on how sane your family members are.
DRUINMm, yeah. No, I mean, but here -- but it is the year of the glove. OK? The pranks, the April Fools' prank of HTC, Samsung, and Toshiba...
NNAMDIOh, yeah. Yeah, the gloves.
DRUIN...all came out with, you know, fake gloves.
DRUINNow, is there some conversation back and forth between them? Maybe they're trying to...
DRUIN...collusion, you know, I mean, some kind of hoax there. But it is -- what's the odds? But, to be honest with you, a few of them -- OK. One of them looks like a Michael Jackson glove, but it...
HARLOWIt would go with your iPhone case though.
GILROYIt would. It would go with your bling.
DRUINOK. It would go with my bling, but it's not really what I'm into. But I have to tell you, those things can be real. The technologies exist. And I really wouldn't be surprised if some of this stuff is coming out soon.
NNAMDIJohn in Olney, Md. wants to share an April Fools' joke with us. John, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JOHNYeah. The best one I've read about -- there's two. One is the baseball guy that the Sports Illustrated came out with a pitcher that could throw 110 miles an hour on April Fools' Day and strike out everybody. And it was highly believable. Fitch was his name.
JOHNAnd it was Scientific American came out with an April Fools' issue one time, some years ago, with a -- the -- chess has been solved, and black wins.
NNAMDIChess has been -- so black wins.
JOHNHas been solved. Black wins. (laughs)
NNAMDIOK. John, thank you very much for your call. I think...
NNAMDII think David in Sterling, Va. has one that is a little more satirical than that. David, your turn.
DAVIDYeah. The best April Fools' joke in the country is the Maryland Health Insurance Exchange.
NNAMDISee? I told you one was a little more satirical.
GILROYOK. OK. This is, you know...
DAVID(unintelligible) $125 million for a system that doesn't work. It is being discarded. That's a perfect April Fool joke.
NNAMDIExcept that it wasn't initiated on April 1. It's been going on for a while. And one must say that it is at the center of the gubernatorial campaign currently being waged in Maryland. But I suspect that there are thousands of Marylanders who don't think of it as a joke at all. Either they couldn't get on, or they have now gotten on and have their health insurance and take both very seriously. John, you tell us about a couple of ideas that seem like April Fools' Day jokes, but are not. The Alert Shirt that pokes and squeezes the wearer so he or she -- well, you explain it.
GILROYWell, you know, when I was in college, I was in the swim team. And I was recruited to play rugby. And I played one game, and, you know, the whole idea of getting crushed in the ground, it's not a pleasant experience. Yet young men apparently seek out these experiences. You can get this Alert Shirt which reproduces these terrible experiences from...
HARLOWIt's a rugby shirt, isn't it? It's got the stripes?
GILROYI don't know what it is. But, you know, I'm thinking, well, maybe every male between 18 and 25 (unintelligible) will buy one of these, and they could play games online with someone else and feel the experience of getting slammed to the ground. I mean...
HARLOWI can get that for free.
GILROYYou get that free. It's like, well, that's too much pain for me.
NNAMDIWell, talk about another one that's not an April Fools' Day joke. But it's a company that apparently attempted -- I won't laugh -- attempted to use drones to deliver beer.
GILROYRight. So these guys in Minnesota...
GILROYThey're in Minnesota. They're ice fishing. And they want to order beers and have a drone deliver it.
GILROYRight on "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," I mean, this is really. But Kojo would be at a cricket match, and he'd want his Red Stripe delivered by a drone.
NNAMDIYes. That's correct.
GILROYAnd yet the -- let's complain to the FAA. They say, no, this isn't a good idea.
GILROYThey're saying, well, first of all, you know, there are certain height limitations for drones. And there are certain weight limitations. And basically Bill's walking down the street. Kojo's ordered his beer. And a beer hits him on the head. I mean, just...
HARLOWWell, I've solved this.
HARLOWOK. Cans, bottles, those are projectiles waiting to kill somebody. A flying keg.
GILROYA flying keg?
DRUINOh, that won't kill someone.
HARLOWHold out your glass...
NNAMDIAnd you thought he was going to say...
HARLOWThe worst thing that happens, you get rained on by delicious beer. Is that so bad? That's a good day.
NNAMDII thought he was going to recommend balloon beer or something like that.
DRUINAre you -- please.
NNAMDIOn to Judd in Annapolis, Md. Judd, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JUDDHi there, guys. Thank you for taking my call. I -- back to the computer stuff real quick a second.
JUDDI was interested in something I heard when you guys were talking to the lady about the two twins and she was wondering about buying the, you know, tablets, and she couldn't afford a couple machines. And so the suggestion was made to maybe buy a couple year-old machine and then have them keep it basically till it died or it wasn't worth it and they needed to replace 'cause of speed or whatever. And...
JUDD...that's exactly the kind of thing I'm going through as far as -- like, I have a Droid phone, and I have a Mac desktop. It's the 24-inch from, like, 2008, -09, and I love it. It's a great machine. It's still working great. And I'm actually thinking about selling it now and getting the newer 27-inch because I'm worried that if I hang on to my 24-inch 2008, -09 machine any longer, or even another year or two, that I won't be able to get anything for it if I sell it.
JUDDI've never sold a computer before, so I'm actually leaning more towards just keep it till I got to replace it and then replacing it. So that's one as far as the desktop. Question two is, do you guys like anybody's tablet better than the iPad? Or would you just iPad, iPad, iPad? And third question is, as far as phones, I'm thinking about getting the 4S.
JUDDAnd this is closer to what that other person's question was. I'm thinking about getting a 4S, switching my Droid out for the old iPhone because you can get it for 99 cents -- and my wife has one, and she loves it -- versus buy the new 5S, which I know is faster, has a better camera, it's all up to date, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. But you're going to spend for it. So it's just it's hard in all this computer stuff these days to walk that line between do you buy a couple year-old one, keep it...
NNAMDIOK. Allow me to get some responses for you. You're over thinking this whole thing here.
NNAMDIHold on a second.
HARLOWI'll try to bash out some quick summaries here. I would say the 4S is kind of the bare minimum. If you can swing for the 5C, that gets you a lot of the newer technologies, the bigger screen, 4G LTE, which is significant. I'm going to say iPad is a safe bet. There are other good tablets out there as well, but that's my stock answer. It's got the best support. They're really, really slickly built.
HARLOWAnd as far as keeping that laptop versus selling it, if you can maybe find a way -- find a local vendor who can put a solid state drive in there for you, you can get a lot of mileage out of an old machine by swapping out the storage 'cause that is, by far, the part that's slowing the majority of people down. But if you do sell it now, you could get quite a bit for it. And I would also say that whatever you buy next, make sure that -- especially if it's an iMac, where they're not really easy to service, get one with solid state already built in.
DRUINYeah. And, now, you also want to think about whether or not you go with a tablet or a tablet mini because there are people that swear by the smaller size. It's something that's very personal, so you just have to try it out.
HARLOWI think most people seem to like the smaller ones better.
DRUINYeah. They seem to.
HARLOWI'm kind of an exception.
DRUINYeah, you are exception, but we know that about you, Bill.
NNAMDIJudd, thank you very much for your call, and good luck to you. It's now time for our App of the Month feature. Bill, there's a new number puzzle game that's getting a lot of attention called 2048. But your App of the Month is the original, a game called Threes!
HARLOWYeah, and to be fair to 2048, they acknowledge that Threes exist, but a lot of people writing about success of 2048 didn't. Threes is a great app that you have to pay for, and it's just a really simple sliding number puzzle where you just add the numbers together. And if they line up, you combine them, and they add to the sum. And when you run out of spaces, you lose. It's also a very endearing game. There's actually a lot of personality to it.
NNAMDIAllison, it's finally starting to feel like spring, and you have an app that helps you plan your garden.
DRUINYeah. It's amazing. All you need to do, OK -- and I just lost the name of it, OK.
DRUINI can't find it. All right. But I'll find it. Anyway, but, essentially, it helps you design -- I think it's iGarden. You design your garden with a grid. And then there's essentially information on when to water or fertilize it. And it reminds you when you planted it and how many days to harvest. And what I like the best feature about it is, how many pounds of eggplant are you going to get after you plant this much? Because I always wonder, if I put, you know, this much carrots, really how many pounds of carrots am I going to get?
NNAMDIFor people who want to do some spring cleaning but don't want the hassle of a garage sale, tell us about the app called Rumgr.
DRUINYeah, this is also part of, you know, the spring thing. And Rumgr is essentially it's iPhone -- and it's Androids coming -- and the idea is that it's sort of like Craigslist, but it's only for, you know, garage sales kinds of stuff. You can browse by room, color, recently listed stuff. And basically for the person that just wants to post a picture, you don't give any more text about it. And essentially, then you do a public chat back and forth about more information, and then you do a private chat if you want to come pick it up. And you give the information or private information to come pick things up.
NNAMDIJohn Gilroy, your app this month helps people in sales.
GILROYRight. I'm in the real world. And my people go out and collect data, bring it back in, and they assemble it. And they make decisions based on that. And that seems like a strange world. But a lot of people in the businesses that I deal with do that. And Salesforce is a good way to collect data, and there's an app from Salesforce that (unintelligible). And so I know it's boring. It's not fun. But...
HARLOWAnd a lot of my clients use it and swear by it.
GILROYBut it's very, very practical and down-to-earth. And what we see is we see people like Kojo Nnamdi walking around with a tablet, collecting information. I'm sure your creditors at the University of Maryland show up there with tablets, and they collect a lot of information and make a decision based on the information that...
HARLOWSure you don't work for the NSA?
GILROYYeah. It's good. And I see Salesforce as a part of the cloud just kind of reworking a (unintelligible).
NNAMDIJohn Gilroy, he's director of business developments for BLT Global Ventures, a cloud-based systems integration company. Allison Druin is chief futurist at the University of Maryland Division of Research. And Bill Harlow is a hardware and software technician. I'm Kojo Nnamdi. Thank you all for listening.