This Week in Tech 453 (Transcript)
It's time for a Twit, This Week in Tech. And we’ve got a great show. Harry McCracken from Time magazine, Dwight Silverman from the Houston Chronicle. We’re going to kick things off with security expert Bruce Schneier, he originally said Heartbleed on a scale of 1 to 10 was an 11. He says it’s not as bad as he thought. The details of Heartbleed and all the tech news coming up next on Twit.
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This is Twit. This Week in Tech, episode 453, recorded April 13, 2014
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Leo Laporte: It’s time for Twit, This Week in Tech. Every week we get together with some of the best journalists in the business to talk about the latest tech news. Welcoming Harry McCracken. He’s been knocking it out of the park with Time magazine. I loved your Google 10th Anniversary story. That was fabulous.
Harry McCracken: Thank you that was a lot of fun.
Leo: It’s good to have you. Also here from the Houston Chronicle our good friend Dwight Silverman. blog.chron/tech.com and he is in the offices today. Covering, no doubt, Heartbleed.
Dwight Silverman: No, I’m here for you Leo. I just don’t have the wonderful setup that I used to have. So I'm deep in the bowels of the Houston Chronicle in a conference room.
Leo: I’m sorry we made you to come to work on a Sunday. Also with us, probably one of the best-known security experts in America, he’s a cryptographer. You may remember, I think he helped with the crypto in Cryptonomicon. A perfect guy to have on during Heartbleed week, Bruce Schneier. Thank you, Bruce great to have you. So at the beginning of the week you said and a scale of 1 to 10, heart bleed is an 11. A very serious philosophy. It’s funny we thought this would be the week we would be talking about XP exploits. No.
Bruce Schneier: What turns out, you never know. These things happen kind of at random. Heartbleed, what was really interesting for a whole lot of reasons is that wine, it was catastrophic. It affected an enormous number of servers out there. And you can recognize it with like three lines of shell scripts. So I had colleagues who were up and running in scanning and attacking systems within 10 minutes of learning about it. So it was a big deal. It still is a big deal.
Leo: You were able to send the packet using this Heartbeat technique built into Open SSL a couple of years ago. You were able to send a malformed packet that requests data up to 64K from memory of the server right? You can’t be specific, it is whatever is there.
Bruce: Yeah it has to do with how the heap is working. It is kind of random what you get. But you can query 64K multiple times and you get different data, you don’t always get the same. So if you’re looking to get everything on the computer you just do it again and again. It turns out you can’t actually get everything, there are some weird reasons why some data comes in and some doesn’t. We are exploring that. But potentially, we heard about this you can basically grab everything and it left no trace. There is nothing in the audit log that said you were attacked. Which made it really scary. And we had to fix it quick.
Leo: The fact that this is been around for two years it’s conceivable that somebody knew about it two years ago. And has been just pinging servers, how rapidly can you do this? I guess every second or faster?
Bruce: You can do this fast as you can. You can ping the entire Internet and see who is full of horrible weaknesses in about 15 or 20 minutes depending on your setup. So a bunch of reasons I’ve been doing that so we could watch the decay of sites that are vulnerable. We do know that, we have good evidence that before the announcement, nobody was doing a sweep of the Internet looking to see who was vulnerable. So we have data from servers, from honeypots that we were able to comb through and have seen no one use heartbleed at a global basis before that. We have no idea if there were targeted attacks.
Leo: But that is very good news. That means that it seems it is likely that this is a vulnerability known in the hacker community, they’d be scanning sites looking for vulnerabilities. A targeted attack, at least it is unlikely that you and I were a target.
Bruce: The good news is that the hacker community did not know about this it seems. We started seeing scans within minutes of the announcement. But before that we saw nothing. So that is the good news. The other good news is that such good research over the week has shown that while it is possible in theory, and has been done in practice, to retrieve the private SSL key, the master key, it’s actually a lot harder than we originally thought.
Leo: That is very good news. Because the concern was that all of these secure server certificates had been compromised allowing massive man in the middle attacks. But you are saying that seems unlikely.
Bruce: That seems unlikely. Certainly possible. Cloud Player, a company that has been leading this research, has put up challenges and one of the challenges was met so someone did manage to extract the keys but it is not easy. It is not a slam dunk.
Leo: So for the most part what do you get? Passwords logins? What are you getting in the 64K chunks?
Bruce: You get the random cruft of what the server is doing. So yes you get password changes, you’d get webpages served. If there are credentials in the URLs, you get those. You get random stuff. You get a lot of nothing and occasionally you get something good. What we are seeing, the obvious tactic from a criminal who would be using this is that you just scan everything constantly hoping that you get lucky. Now there is some good news on our side, some of this stuff is hard to parse. So it is sort of interesting to watch and we don’t know really what the effects are in terms of enabling crime. Of course it is now being patched. A lot of the sites are no longer vulnerable. Now, vulnerable to the ping. There are any number of universities who are basically auditing the net every hour and watching as sites patch their open SSL. Now that doesn’t mean if they were compromised before the patch, they are not still vulnerable. They had to change their key and their certificate. There is no way to check that. No easy way to check that.
Leo: So the initial estimate was about to thirds of the servers would be vulnerable to this. Is that accurate and what is the number now?
Bruce: That is accurate. The number is probably 10% that but it is skewed because all of the big popular, well run servers have updated. I see a top 1000 sites that are vulnerable list. And the sites are getting more obscure every hour, that are still vulnerable.
Leo: Are there any big companies still that should’ve fixed it and have it?
Bruce: I didn’t see any, but I’m not going to guarantee there aren’t.
Leo: It’s an easy fix.
Bruce: Like all of these patches, it is an easy fix. Clearing the vulnerabilities is a multi-step process. This is one of the reasons this was so nasty. Installing the patches is just step one, regenerating your public-private keys is step two, revoking your old key is step three, getting a new key is step four. And then, every user on that site who could’ve had their credentials exposed needs to update their password which is steps five through 1 million. All those things have to happen in sequence. I updated my own website and had to go through all those steps, but for me it was pretty easy. If you are a banking site at a minimum any customer that logged on between when the vulnerability became public and when the site was patched needs to update their password. It might be nothing but it’s just prudent.
Leo: It’s just prudent. And it’s not a bad thing to do anyway.
Bruce: It isn’t. You know we all have passwords that we rarely use and that we remember. We don’t like doing this. But I think it is safe that if you didn’t login to the server between when the vulnerability was announced on Monday and when your server patched a few days later you are okay. So those obscure sites that you haven’t been to in a week or two I think you’re fine at this point.
Leo: And a second factor authentication hasn’t been compromised, is that right?
Bruce: No, what has been compromised is the public key potentially, although it seems unlikely. And stuff that happened on the server when someone did the ping. So if you got unlucky and your data was in the heap at the time the bad guys did the scan, it was potentially compromised.
Leo: It’s pretty random though and it seems like unlikely that there would have been mass compromises as a result.
Bruce: Is extraordinarily random, mass compromise is definitely unlikely. I haven’t seen any estimates yet on what sorts of crime has been as a result. We know the hackers started pinging this vulnerability as soon as it was published. So they didn’t waste any time. What is interesting is that some of these other vulnerabilities they had to have a computer to write to with arbitrary code, this one you can’t. This one you can really recognize within a couple minutes of learning about it which was so easy.
Leo: Bloomberg says that two sources told them this was an NSA bug, or that the NSA knew about it and had been using it for two years. Given its utility that seems highly unlikely.
Bruce: You know, we are all debating this right now. There is a Bloomberg article it says to anonymous sources of the NSA said they were using this for two years. NSA came out with a very strong denial, that this was untrue. The answer is, we don’t know. It seems unlikely. This vulnerability was so big and so nasty, and the United States and other Democratic countries I think are so vulnerable that it would make a lot of sense in the NSA if they found this to alert the community and get this closed. It is a bigger risk to us than it is value. Certainly the NSA probably got an advance notice of a week or so of some of the big companies. I hope they took it and ran with it and attacked everybody they could during that week! But that that’s what you do right? Like the Microsoft bugs that are being fixed the next patch Tuesday. And they just run with them for the week or two. That makes perfect sense.
Leo: I’m curious, I saw Google said that one version of Android was vulnerable, 411. How could Android be vulnerable at all? It is not a server.
Bruce: Well anybody that is using open SSL and responding to pings is vulnerable. What I'm worried about right now is some of the hardware devices. The un-patchable routers and switches and modems where upgrading involves the trashcan, a credit card and a trip to Best Buy. That is not going to be fun.
Leo: These things are laden with problems. So many problems on these inexpensive routers.
Bruce: The economics are different. Essentially they are like the computers were in the mid-90s. But they are very low-cost, very low engineering expertise, not built with the same care, not as robust. So they are built as throwaway devices yet they have these enormous vulnerabilities and in the mid-90s we had a whole community to embrace quick patching an open vulnerability disclosure, all these things that made us safer. It is really hard to imagine the same systems working on your refrigerator just because nobody cares very much.
Leo: Bruce do you think as some have said is an indictment of open source software that people can commit? The guy who did this is a German software developer. I mean we know who this is.
Bruce: And he’s been interviewed and I’m sure he is really embarrassed about this. It’s not an indictment of open source software. It’s an indictment of software that is not independently analyzed. This could have easily happened in a closed source software. It could’ve easily been thrown out there. The problem was, nobody was doing the analysis. Any software, open or closed, needs to be analyzed. Open software is more secure because it can be looked at by more people, because it is harder to slip in some bad event unnoticed. But open source does not magically mean some reason that all look at it. This seemed to have fallen through the cracks. It was an incredibly pivotal, important critical piece of code that was just being maintained by a few guys in their spare time. Now good for them! And I’m glad they’re doing it but they could use some backup.
Leo: Yeah. I feel bad for Robin Seggelmann, the German who introduced the flaw. He said I forgot to validate a variable containing a link. I missed it. And that happens all the time.
Bruce: And that happens all the time. Now something interesting to ask, if you were going to speculate about the NSA, they spend millions of dollars searching for vulnerabilities every year in critical software. If they didn’t find this one, maybe we should wonder how well our money is being spent.
Leo: This is like you can’t get any more critical than the open SSL library used by two thirds of all Internet servers.
Bruce: You would think somebody in the NSA would’ve looked at it. Would have checked for all of these sorts of checking problems. And would’ve noticed this. The fact that they didn’t, or at least claim they didn’t, is interesting.
Leo: It turns out President Obama has said, “If they find a flaw in software like this and there is a compelling security argument, a national security argument, for not exposing that flaw, then they can do that. In general they will, but they do have an out.”.
Bruce: And this is all the weasel wording. It is as long as the NSA mission is primarily to eavesdrop on the entire planet there will be a compelling reason to keep these vulnerabilities secret. We know the NSA purchases vulnerabilities on the open market. We know they’re keeping secrets. This is a fundamental problem in giving the NSA both hats. The same organization is in charge of security and insecurity. Which causes an interesting debate inside the NSA. This is called equity addition. And in this case, and looking at it I would hope the NSA would make the right decision and if they did learn about it would try to fix it because I think we are uniquely vulnerable. More than the Russians and Chinese because we use the SSL more than anybody else.
Dwight: Bruce can I ask a question about going back to the idea of nobody looking behind the creators of this code. Have you seen as a result of this a movement to create some kind of Q and A to do an analysis arising from this? Are there going to be changes as a result?
Bruce: I haven’t seen anything yet, but I think it is something that will be discussed at the open source community. Unfortunately a lot of the open source community are people working for altruistic reasons, not for pay. But as long as this stuff is being put in for-profit products, by big companies, then they should pick up some of the auditing functions. And hopefully that’ll happen. I haven’t seen any concerted discussion about this, it will certainly be something were going to talk about, because it is important.
Leo: I use LastPass, one of the things LastPass security check does now is go through the sites that I have passwords for and it does a couple of things. First it assesses whether that site was bit by Heartbleed, that I think is hard to do since sites often obfuscate what libraries and servers they are using.
Bruce: But the way you tell is you do the ping. If you do that and it comes back, you know they are using open SSL. You know they are vulnerable. So you can audit this.
Leo: You audited by hacking it. Isn’t that illegal?
Bruce: Well you do it at four bytes.
Leo: Okay. You take a small amount. That’s good. And then they also, of course check to see if the certificate has been updated. And there is no point in changing the password if the site was vulnerable and has an out of date certificate.
Bruce: Right. And we are trusting that they regenerated their keys.
Leo: And we don’t know. We can’t tell. That part we don’t know.
Bruce: Actually that's interesting. Think about this out loud. The public key would be the certificate, so you can’t tell. Never mind.
Leo: If the certificate has been revoked and a new one has been issued in this last five days, then you are all right.
Bruce: Right. Exactly. And then if you have logged in during the danger period, then you really should change a password.
Leo: It's just good hygiene anyway. Just do it. All right, so I was curious to how well we can assess if there is a problem. Sounds like we can do a pretty good job of that. So your advice to people?
Bruce: My advice to people is, we can calm down now. Do change your passwords. If the site you care about hasn’t corrected itself you need to bug them.
Bruce: I promise to get myself better lit next time.
Leo: If you agree to come on every once in a while I’m going to send you lights, I’m going to send you cameras, I’m going to send you microphones.
Bruce: Actually all I need is a backdrop. A little tarp will do.
Leo: I’ll get you a green screen Bruce, anything you want if you'll just come on every once in a while. We just love having you on.
Bruce: That’s the deal.
Leo: All right. Thank you, Bruce Schneier.
Dwight: I want to see the green screen. It would be fun to see that.
Leo: We’ll let you go now Bruce. When you hear him talk you know you are getting the authority. This guy knows what he’s talking about. And he really does have that reputation. I feel better now.
Harry McCracken: Sounds like it is no longer an 11. It’s only a nine!
Dwight: So you were talking earlier, there is no good test for it.
Leo: You have to do the hack.
Dwight: It is funny I had a debate with somebody online, they found the site was vulnerable but the test that I was doing showed it wasn’t. We were both working…
Leo: Well here is the issue. You can’t just query the server and say are you running Open SSL pre-1.0 the fix? Are you running and GenX or Apache because most servers will just not respond. Honestly. It is foolish to tell people what you’re doing. So if it is something at that level is not going to be useful. But obviously it is not so hard to write a little test that says let’s take advantage of hardly. So what you do is you say here’s an authentication word, cake, and send me back five letters. And if you get cake plus one back then it’s got heart bleed. If you get cake back then you know it’s been fixed.
Harry: The little sites are scary. Because Google is going to fix itself really quickly. But if you have or you are doing business with itty-bitty sites, some of these things don’t look like they've been updated in five or six years.
Leo: Because maybe nobody is home.
Dwight: Or hosting services where you share libraries for these kind of things. For example, I’m not saying they had it, but where essentially everybody uses the same set of libraries across the board. And there are literally billions of sites there.
Leo: Will that is the problem with XP, that is the problem with a lot of things. I’m sorry, I didn’t think to ask Bruce about XP. This was the week that XP ended its life. Again. We will talk about that and a lot more. Harry McCracken here, the tech knowledge eyes are from time magazine. From the Houston Chronicle, Dwight Silverman. A good time to have you both. Good time to talk about lots of things.
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Leo: Have either of you guys, I mean all three of us talk to real people from time to time, have any of you heard about problems with windows XP in the past week? Tuesday with the last update, April 8.
Harry: I have a friend who works for the court system in a large Eastern US state and they are still on XP.
Dwight: Here in Houston a lot of loyal companies still use XP.
Leo: And banks.
Dwight: Yes banks. One of our energy reporters last year did, with this deadline looming, did a big story on how it is so impacting the energy Institute because they have so many proprietary programs that have been written specifically to run on XP, and they can’t move to seven or eight. Essentially they have to wait until they get new proprietary software. here at the Houston Chronicle, most of our desktop systems are still windows XP.
Leo: But you're not surfing the net and opening emails on those or are you? Oh no!!!
Dwight: Our problem is that we are using a content management system for print, DTR. It runs on Adobe Suite. And so we simply haven’t updated it to run Windows 7 version, we are in the process of doing that now. But a lot of big companies are in that case. And you have smaller companies who can't afford new hardware and software and they are just kind of stuck on it. My wife runs windows XP to run the software that she uses for her medical accounting. She is a psychotherapist and she has to use the software. It is about $10,000 for her to upgrade new software. And she is not going to do it.
Harry: Microsoft does not get to decide when operating systems are not alive. In the last six months I’ve even seen businesses using DOS. And if it DOS is still with us than the old the last XP machine is not going to be shut off many many years from now.
Leo: And medical systems, a doctor in our chat room a physician, was sending me pictures of x-ray machines, and all sorts of medical hardware and even desktops and hospitals using XP. Now the medical machines are not going online doing risky things. But nurses are using those XP machines to send emails and surf the Internet. And those are risky things. But stuff survives. And it is expensive to shift. I understand. You said it exactly right Harry. Microsoft doesn’t get to make the decision about who stops using XP. Users do.
Harry: It might be a terrible decision to keep using it. But it isn’t a decision that Microsoft can make for anybody else.
Leo: They can try.
Dwight: One of the stories you have on the lists Leo is about the fact that there are a lot of Web servers that have an underlying operating system that is using XP. and in that same story, they talk about the fact that there is still Windows NT 4.0 systems out there running websites.
Leo: At the point out that none of the systems have any problem with Heartbleed! Not one. It has it’s own SSL library. You both mentioned content management systems, that brought to mind an article this week in the New York Times where they were talking about Ezra Klein, he left the New York Times. I’m sorry, the Washington Post blog to go to work for Vox but the funny thing, and maybe you can speak to this a little bit Dwight, the funny thing is in this article they said many people go to Vox because of their fabulous content management system. They run something from scratch called Chorus and apparently this is a selling point. One of the reasons Ezra Klein left the Washington Post and went to the Vox is because of Chorus. You guys both work with content management systems that I’m sure are a bit antiquated…
Dwight: One of the problems in the newspaper industry is that we have multiple content management systems. So we use WordPress, a hosted version. We have a separate set of software products for creating stories in print. And we have pretty nice CMS for running our website, managing our website, that is fairly modern and up to date. We jump back and forth. But the holy Grail is one CMS that ends up handling both print and online. If you have both components. But I can see people who have grown up using a piece of software and suddenly you go to work for a company that has terrible CMS it can be really painful. So I can see that happening. I’m not sure I would jump to a company that had a great CMS, I jump for a company that is willing to overpay me.
Leo: There you go. I will suffer with your CMS if you give me enough money! Although, the whole point of Chorus was that it integrates social media, it is easy to update, you can do these multimedia things that these guys like to do. it is kind of funny, but apparently in their interview process they show people Chorus. They say how would you like to use this instead? Maybe there really is something.
Harry: And people really get excited over that?
Leo: I think the New York Times author started talking about as reclining and box and then fell in love with a content management system and article ends up being about Chorus. It just shows you, I’m sure the Times has something. Well I don’t know, we’ll have to ask.
Dwight: Maybe you could do the show this week at CMS.
Leo: This Week At CMS? No, maybe not.
Dwight: Get a bunch of these tech writers at CMS. Call it Show Us Your CMS.
Leo: Show us your CMS. I like it. All right chat room with you like that? Show us your CMS.
Harry: They are all falling asleep.
Leo: Apparently on Tuesday the Canadian revenue agency that collects income taxes shut down because of Heartbleed. They were so afraid of what Heartbleed might bring that they blocked access to their online tax filing services as a preventative measure to “safeguard the integrity of the information we hold”. Wow. That may be taking it a little too seriously. The filing services will be down until further notice.
Dwight: That’s a great traffic for that too.
Leo: Heartbleed is really the first bug with a great logo.
Kerry: Great name great logo. And that is the Canadian flag two.
Leo: Give them credit for mashing those two up. That’s great.
Harry: How do Canadians pay their taxes anyway?
Leo: Ours is coming up April 15. Which is an interesting thing, that is Tuesday. Somehow I think Canadians is a month later, I think it’s May 15. Maybe because it’s cold in the winter and they move slower.
Harry: April 30 apparently.
Leo: According to PC guide they just re-enabled the net file on e-file today. April 15 interestingly enough, is also an important day today and has built one day anybody, anybody, can by Google glass for $1500. Are you going to run out and buy it?
Harry: I already ran out some months ago and bought it.
Leo: You already did it. How about you Dwight? You going to get some glass?
Dwight: I'm going to wait for the production version. I want the production version.
Leo: Harry would you go buy it again?
Harry: As the guy who writes about this stuff, yes. As a consumer? I would say wait until the consumer version comes out. Unless unless I was really really well off and then I might consider it. If $1500 means nothing to you, then buy it. If it sounds like a large chunk of change than wait.
Leo: I don’t think it is $1500 useful. That is my issue with it. In fact, I did buy it. I don’t use it, long story I never was that interested in it. I have my glass explorer number from Google and I gave it to Jason. He has a newborn and I thought it would be more appropriate for him. It just never really attracted me. According to Google, we are opening a limited number of spots in the Explorer program at 9 AM Eastern time on April 15. So get on in their if you want Google glass. Do you think there will be a rush for it?
Harry: I think a lot of the people that wanted know somebody that has invites. And therefore, has already had that opportunity. But maybe not.
Leo: One thing you should not do, is where it in downtown San Francisco. Some guy, he tweeted it, I saw the tweet and now it is a big story, he was wearing his glass in the Mission district. If you know San Francisco. He got off Bart and was walking through the Mission District and somebody ran up, tore the glass off of his face. Is it a little glass holy getting off in the Mission District wearing your Google glass, especially given the the sensitivity right now? He was a reporter, ironically covering the protests going on in San Francisco about housing prices and even actions. So he should have been somewhat desensitized. I think he was. A guy runs up to him and rips the glass off his face. They give chase, the guy takes the glass and smashes it on the ground and runs on. That is following a story from a few weeks ago a woman getting almost beat up in a bar for wearing glass. I think you should know where your glass in San Francisco. It is a mugging, they did call the police and they took a report. He took the pieces of his glass with him. Kyle Russell is his name, he is a journalist with business insider. He was covering those protests. I don’t know I guess Google in general, but glass specifically, is a hot point for all of this upset.
Harry: I wonder if Google anticipated that you would become an object of fascination and not entirely positive fascination.
Leo: They now have training videos how not to be a glass hole. They are aware of the issue.
Dwight: When Google glass was first announced, and even when it leaked, almost immediately there was speculation about about how I would have been treated in the same period. The etiquette around it, came almost immediately. I would be surprised if Google didn’t have an inkling on how having a camera pointed at someone while you’re talking to them with a little light on it is not going to cause…
Leo: Is kind of cause to get your glass kicked.
Dwight: Right. The other day I saw somebody in a furniture store, shopping for furniture and he was wearing Google glass.
Leo: Doesn’t your mind just go “A-Hole”?
Dwight: But what he was doing, was he was taking pictures of the furniture and sending it to somebody.
Leo: You could use that with a camera phone’s not that hard.
Dwight: And it’s better pictures to with a camera phone.
Leo: I don’t find myself tempted at all. I understand why Google is doing this. In fact I don’t think they are going to ever productize it. It is my belief that what Google is really doing is gathering information to help people use wearables. they understand this isn’t the perfect form factor. But they want the information. As we know they are doing SDK for wearables, it is more in their interest to support people who want to make wearables in whatever form they want to make them and get Google on it. This was the debate over the Google phone. The book of dogfight talks about Google not really being sure whether they wanted to put Google apps on the iPhone, did they really want to compete with it? Wouldn’t it just make more sense from Google’s point of view to just support iPhones, than make them? They ended up deciding to make them. But I wonder if they’re really going to make wearables, or just support them?
Harry: I mean the battery life is still an entirely unsolved conundrum. It does not make sense as a consumer product until it has way better battery life than it does.
Leo: And it won’t it is too small. Nobody wants to wear a battery pack.
Harry: You're going to make a phone larger and thicker, but there is a real limit to what you can do with something that is strapped to your head.
Dwight: So has there been any discussion to using solar power to power were recharge Google glass?
Leo: It’s not a big enough area. You would have to wear a special hat with a big brim With your glass! And then you’d really be a target.
Dwight: I mean on top of your Prius.
Leo: Battery life is bad. To me it is kind of a headache experience to look over my brow.
Harry: If I had the prescription eyeglasses model I might be a little more excited. because I prop it on top of my glasses, and and I have to have it just so.
Leo: You are riding around on his Segway and you look like a dork. You where Google glass you look like a dork. It’s the same thing.
Harry: Originally if you used a cell phone in public you look like a dork.
Leo: True. We’ve gotten used to it.
Harry: When you did data on your smart phone in public 10 years ago you looked like a dork. It’s stuff people get used to overtime.
Leo: Now I find myself unusual if I am looking up. Everybody is looking at their things.
Dwight: The problem with Google glass is that it is not where you are looking, well it is, that you are looking out at them. That is the difference. It is that blinking eye. I think if 1984 and Brave New World had never been written we wouldn’t be so freaky about it. But they were.
Leo: As Bleeding Heart points out I do ride a tricycle, and people have thrown things at me out of their cars, so I guess I’m not exempt from that. The dork factor. It’s not a tricycle it is a three wheel bicycle. How many times do I have to say that?
Harry: Yet, that’s impressive.
Dwight: Do we have pictures of you Leo? And your three wheel bicycle?
Leo: When we first moved to this building, and the basement was empty it was great because I could go take rides around the basement. But now it is so crowded and cluttered you can barely walk down there.
Dwight: If it was recumbent tricycle that would be cool.
Leo: It is.
Dwight: It’s recumbent?
Leo: Well yes! What you think I’m sitting high like, pedaling as fast as I can ever go around? The paddles on the wheels? Harry McCracken standing on the back holding onto my shoulders? No! It's a recumbent bike.
Dwight: Well, if it’s recumbent then never mind.
Leo: It has one wheel in front two in the back. I still look like a dork. I don’t care whether it is recumbent or not. At least your feet are going around. I want to take a break now. Need to get this image out of my head. Tricycles are very hipster I’m told.
Dwight: Especially the ones with the big wheels in the front.
Leo: I still see people going around on their segues and I think, dork. I mean they are cool. I love segues. They are really cool but that you are 8 feet tall on them. You look just weird. Am I wrong?
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Leo: Hand held quantum key generators. According to Ars Technica, it is just around the corner. This is actually a security issue because one of the issues is getting good random numbers. At QKD, a quantum key distribution. While it has been very difficult to do in practice, Siri has really helped us create great security and now apparently QKD is on its way. I don’t think there’s anything to say about this, but it is a good article. Highly recommended. From Ars Technica.
Dwight: Other than that, we need to get away in some form or fashion from the traditional password.
Leo: Absolutely. I got my Amazon Fire TV. I reviewed it on Before You Buy. Have you played with it a little?
Harry: I have.
Leo: What you think?
Harry: I think if you are already a big fan of Amazon, it is a good experience. Netflix and who are off to the side and nowhere near as well done. The speech worked accurately well.
Leo: Except it only searches Amazon.
Harry: Right. It only searches Amazon. Also the other thing, which is interesting is on Roku they neatly divide the stuff you have to pay for from the stuff which is free. And on Fire TV the free stuff in this stuff you have to pay for all intermingled and and therefore you are more likely to find something you need to pay for.
Leo: I noticed that with the TiVo too. I used to have this Amazon prime streaming. And on the TiVo there is no entry for that. It is almost together. That must be the new way with Amazon.
Dwight: Harry, if you have a Roku, is there any reason to get Fire TV? They seem to be essentially the same types of content.
Harry: If I had already invested money in a Roku, I wouldn’t invest any more money in Fire TV. There may be some other differences, Fire TV is more serious about games. Only the high-end Roku has games.
Leo: The games are pretty good on the Fire TV. It is android. It is very much like playing a game on a smart phone.
Harry: Roku has far more content overall. I think it has over 1000 channels.
Leo: Actually, there are two weird gaps on the Fire TV. No HBO Go, and oddly enough no Amazon music.
Harry: Amazon music is coming. Next month I think.
Leo: That is their own service.
Harry: They have other music. They have a number of streaming music services.
Leo: It seems so strange.
Harry: It’s only Amazon, when they have new hardware they tend to really set the scene with two or three things that you really want and they come along pretty quickly thereafter.
Leo: You know it is just a me too product. Except for that voice search, which works very well.
Dwight: Is there an AP guide from the search? In other words are they eventually going to open that up to other apps? or is it always going to be Amazon?
Harry: I’m not sure if they’ve said.
Leo: It is android. In that, Coach was able to make his all cast, which is his chrome cast app for android work with the fire TV almost immediately. He said is kind of a generic dial. A standard system DN L system. So it is open in the sense that it is an android device. Of course you have to get on the Amazon store, it doesn’t work with the play store.
Harry: Generally speaking I think we have enough boxes of this type now. Unless something comes out that is truly transcendent and a radically better than Roku, Apple TV, or fire TV. There is not a lot of need for a new one. Especially given that there are so many TVs, game consoles, etc. We don’t need more things that are roughly comparable to what we already have.
Leo: You see if you look at the controller it looks pretty much like a pancake Xbox controller. Same exact thing. Exact buttons and everything. That is $40. The fire TV is $99. You don’t need it if you’ve already got an Apple or Roku.
Harry: If you have no way to do this stuff already, I actually think Amazon is a pretty strong competitor.
Dwight: With this, and with Roku, which has a lot more content than Apple TV, is Apple kind of in trouble here? Apple TV doesn’t really wow people.
Leo: I think Apple is betting the farm, they are all in the idea of making this up deal with Comcast. They have been negotiating for years with Time Warner and they had to shift gears with Comcast. If they could get live TV on there, but I don’t think Comcast is going to make a deal with just one company. We had Peter coughed up on our coverage of the Amazon announcement and he said everybody has learned their lesson from the music industry’s experience with Apple. You give Apple too much power in you are in trouble. So, if anything, if Comcast ever makes it till it will be with all. I think that is why Amazon did this so that they would at least be in the hunt. But you want the perfect cord cutter device. So…
Dwight: I have Apple TV and Roku. I should be getting a fire TV shortly. What is interesting is I find myself these days using the Roku more than the Apple TV, mainly because we have Aereo here. And the place I moved to has very bad signal for HDTV so I use Aereo, and Aereo was only on the Roku. It works quite well Over a very fast connection. At the moment it looks like the Roku 3 is probably going to be the ultimate cord cutter. So I am very curious to see if Amazon comes up with something like an Aereo app. Particularly if Aereo wins its second go round at the Supreme Court.
Leo: We are all on hold. Including Aereo. Because the Supreme Court has agreed to review the lawsuit, networks saying that area was stealing that copyrighted content. Aereo is saying, hey you're just renting an antenna! That’s all.
Dwight: So Aereo has a Houston facility and I got a tour of it. I got to interview Chat and see the facility. It is incredibly efficient. It is two cabinets on the roof of the data center, there are a series of circuit boards with little antennas inside and a fiber connection that takes it down to about three or four servers in the data center down below. And then out to the Internet. It is something they can expand quickly and easily. There are are no Houston employees. Everything is remote. They are already profitable here and in most of the cities that they are in.
Leo: They did have to shut down in Denver and Salt Lake because they lost a court case and those districts.
Dwight: They have won two out of three court battles that they had faced.
Leo: What have we got on the Supreme Court’s decision? Remember the Supreme Court decided on the lawsuit by the motion picture Association of America to try to stop video recorders. And the Supreme Court ruled that you could record for personal use. It wasn’t a violation of copyright law. They created an interest, which I might point out the motion picture immediately benefited to the tune of billions of dollars. So I think that at least there is some history of the Supreme Court supporting new technology like this.
Harry: That was a long time ago though.
Leo: That was in 1984.
Dwight: You can bet that the defendants in the case will bring that up, that ground breaking event.That one of the interesting side effects on this is that there was a 2008 case involving Cablevision cloud DVR’s. One of which never went to the Supreme Court. It never went to the court. The current case laws are such that it allows that and that is why you have. Essentially what Aereo was doing was they were grafting the concept of outsourcing and antenna to cloud DVR which is legal. It is putting those two together. They are both copyright issues, the carriage fees, and whether they should be paying carriage fees on that. But it is such a complex thing, both sides trying to tainted as black and white and it is actually very complex. I can see the supreme court going either way on this.
Harry: Aereo is doing us a favor though, they are doing everybody a favor just by forcing the issue. And before too long we will know one way or the other.
Leo: The oral arguments are April 22, a week from Tuesday. By the way you can hear those, which is great, I don’t know if you can hear them live but you can hear them after-the-fact like within a day. So I’m sure it will be very interesting to listen to. ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox and others are all trying to get the court to say Aereo is a violation of copyright. Aereo, which was started by Barry Dillard, it is obvious it is the trick. It was a clever trick. You are just renting an antenna. There are hundreds of them in Iraq. But it is an antenna! You are renting their particular antenna. And the fact that they are DVR-ing it for you. But everybody knows it is kind of a wink wink nudge nudge clever idea.
Dwight: The dissents in the Boston case, the judge called it a contrivance. And that is what it is. But again, I think that all technology is like this where they graft two things together, it is a contrivance. And if it becomes legal it is not a contrivance, it is an advantage.
Leo: And the reason these networks don’t want it, it is also a contrivance in a way. Because the networks have been offering free, over the air television for as long as there has been television. And they support it with ads. And those ads, and free over the air television, is just being sucked in the dime size antennas and sent out to my iPad. I’m still seeing all the ads, it is no different than if I literally were in Houston. But what they don’t like about it is they have very lucrative transmission agreements with the cable companies. In a way I think you could also look at that as a contrivance. In a way that the television networks have figured out a way to make more money for the product they’ve been offering for free and they do want to do it for free anymore
Dwight: There is a law that essentially created the transmission free system where it made the capture of the over the air broadcast legal by the carriers, the cable companies. And they said you can do this but you have to pay them for it. They designated them a certain type of business. One of the arguments that was made by broadcasters is if Aereo succeeds with this then what is to keep Comcast and Cablevision and so forth from saying we will just set up antennas. And there is a law that says you have to pay this type of carrier. But since Aereo is over the Internet it is not that type of carrier.
Leo: That is how cable started, They put an antenna up downtown and then they had a long wire and it went to Petaluma from that antenna downtown so I could watch TV. As if I had an antenna downtown. That’s all it was!
Dwight: And that still exists in some communities. It is in places where you simply cannot get a signal. Nonprofits are allowed to set up antennas and then beam them back into those homes in those cases where they cannot get a signal at all.
Leo: Is Dario out of business if they lose?
Dwight: They have said yes. Chat told me there is no plan B, he is not thinking about Plan B. He says if you are thinking about plan B, you are not thinking about plan A. That is his approach to it.
Harry: It will be interesting to see if any of the networks say that if the area oh does when that they will take their network off the air. If any of them will ask to go through with that or if that is just a threat.
Leo: Fox says we are going to take down FX and you’re not going to build a watch over the broadcast.
Dwight: There has been a light of posturing on that and a lot of the people I talked to, a lot of the analysts I have talked to in the story have said this is something that the broadcast network have wanted for a long time is to take their stuff off. This is something of an excuse for that. If you have a broadcast license, there are certain expectations from the public and if they try to take that off, I guarantee you Congress is not going to be happy about it.
Leo: Well, Congress had hearings this week on Comcast’s bid to merge with Time Warner we’ll talk about that in just a second, Dwight Silverman is here from the Huston Chronicle. Blog.chron.com/techblog and your fabulous Pacifica radio show called technology bites.
Dwight: Well, Leo, I’m not doing that one either.
Dwight: I switched from that one in January.
Leo: It’s the end of the world as we know it!
Dwight: I decided I’ve done that for 10 years…..
Leo: The all new Dwight Silverman!
Dwight: Yes, lighter and breezier.
Leo: Lighter & breezier. Well it’s a lot easier for me not to have to plug but you know, one more thing I don’t have to plug. I don’t mind!
Dwight: Well Technology bites is still on the air, it’s still a great show, I actually will be a guest host when they are down a man or two I’ll be on it.
Leo: Well, let’s be honest, they have 34 hosts, they don’t really need you! There are more hosts on that show.
Dwight: There were five, and now there are four.
Leo: All right, there feels like there’s more than five! It’s like hamnation we have the ham show. How many hosts are on Hamnation? It’s like 20 it just gets bigger and bigger! So how many? Eight? The problem with Hams, nobody stops talking! They are trained talkers like me! Harry McCracken is also here, the Technologizer; It’s so good to have Harry at Time magazine. You’ve been doing so many great stories. Everyone should read them we talked about that a couple weeks ago. The 10th anniversary of a g-mail story, you really dug deep, talked to Paul Buchheit and really got the inside story. It was such a surprise, all the details.
Harry: I learn an awfully a lot doing it. Sometimes I do a story like that and I just have to write down what I know and that one I knew almost nothing until I started.
Leo: Well, no one knew anything, In fact, many of the things you said, and Google was for instance so ambivalent about the whole thing. They were a search engine,
Harry: They were a search engine. That was at the time when all the things that used to do only search started branching out becoming portals and people loved Google because it did not want to be a portal. G-mail was the start of the google portal era.
Leo: techland.time.com, is that the best place to go for this?
Harry: You can go to time.com and click on the tech section – but yes, techland.com is the quickest way to do it.
Leo: Oh now your interviewing Sid Meyers; Civilization beyond Earth! Wow. You know, I keep buying Civ—I’ve bought Civ 3, 4, 5 –I keep buying it thinking I’m going to like this game, and I try, I really do because everybody loves it but it’s turn based, you know ; you do a lot of stuff and then you go ok, your turn. I should like it, I play Chess—that’s turn based. Are you a Civ player Harry?
Harry: I am not. I admire Sid.
Leo: I love Sid because he’s creating a universe in a game. Maybe I’ll like this one. You’re in Space now right? Let’s continue. By the way, Five Billion dollars for Tinder? ICC says it isn’t true. Five billion, so you can meet your true love on your phone. Wow! So, moving on, we’ll talk about the hearings, & the Comcast’s very week justification for why they should buy Time Warner. It’s good for you—just take our word for it! But first a word from our friends at stamps.com.
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So I watched a little C-span this week watching the testimony Comcast in congress explaining why they should become the largest broadband provider in the U.S. the largest cable company in the U.S; taken over Time Warner, Do you think that congress was moved by the testimony, either one of you, watching any of this?
Dwight: Well in the weight of the failed AT&T mobile merge, I think regulators may be more emboldened just to say no. That was fairly rare until that. However the argument that they don’t compete in that same space, they make it harder for them. Huston is an interesting case because we’re one of the few markets that had Time Warner and then it switched to Comcast. They traded territory’s and so I’ve seen both of them, started out the year with Time Warner and Roadrunner, became Comcast and it was two different eras And on one level, Comcast is much better than Time Warner at least from the era that I saw Time Warner. But on another one it’s just meet the new boss same as the old boss.
Leo: Ryan Roberts the CEO of Comcast says, “We want to be like Apple and we want to invest money in RND and we want to be innovative and meanwhile according to consumers, Comcast is now the worst company in America. Consumers have an annual competition. It’s only the second company to take this title twice. Comcast defeated Monsanto….I guess they do it like in brackets, I don’t know where you’d go head to head, and then you advance. “In the consumers annual bowl to find the worst company, Comcast has emerged, bloody and victorious” Send that to the Senate judiciary committee! Comcast says “even though we turned a profit of 6 million dollars last year, even though Time Warner earned 2 billion dollars last year, (So they’re pretty successful companies) they want to get together so they can spend money on research and development to make them-selves a better company.
Dwight: They don’t do any RD now?
Leo: Very little. According to the LA Times, neither company spend enough on RD to even disclose its figure in the annual report. So why Comcast will suddenly do RD because they merged with Time Warner is beyond me.
Harry: And Apple doesn’t spend that much on R&D anyhow compared to a lot of other companies.
Leo: Yes, isn’t that interesting. You’d think they spent a lot more, but I guess they get a lot of money that way.
Dwight: AT&T does, I know they do a lot of R&D’s. So perhaps looking at it competitively that way--- Does Time Warner own any broadcast licenses?
Leo: Ah, that’s an interesting question.
Dwight: Podcast owns NBC. If I were a regulator looking at that, I would almost be tempted to say “You know what? We might consider this if you divest NBC.
Leo: I would expect, and it’s fairly typical in these things, something like that where “We don’t want you to control all media everywhere in every form so maybe you could just get some of that stuff off your table” NBC & Universal , they make TV, they distribute TV, they do it all. Comcast and Time Warner say: “We’re locked in a do or die competitive fight with Google, Apple , Amazon & Netflix” That may be true, we’re seeing these companies come up—Netflix has done a very good job of offering content and certainly the distributing films is as well or better than the Comcast does.
Harry: But, Comcast has its fingers in all of that too because those are the pipes that all those companies use.
Leo: I really sincerely hope that the merger is not approved, but one does not know.
Harry: I’m running against them too.
Leo: Forty billion dollar merger. It would not help in competition, in innovation—
Harry: There’s just not a lot of evidence that companies getting huge like that and monopolistic improves the situation for consumers. It tends to hurt them.
Leo: The worst company in America, congratulations Comcast on your victory.
Harry: This is why AT&T was broken up in the first place 30 years ago.
Leo: By the way, AT&T, they’re back.
Harry: They’re back, I think it did pretty clearly benefit consumers that we had many phone companies instead of one enormous one. And I don’t want an enormous cable company .
Dwight: Or one enormous internet provider.
Harry: Yes, Cable, internet and TV service.
Leo: Actually I love how the consumerist does this, and I think it’s somewhat just for fun, but they do have a bracket. So AT&T faced Microsoft, AT&T won for worst company, Verizon faced e-bay and Verizon won for worst company. Then Verizon faced AT&T and Verizon won, then Verizon faced Comcast and Comcast won. You have to work your way up, it’s much like March madness. EA, which I think for a long time was considered one of the worst companies in America, lost immediately, right ahead of an upset victory for Time Warner Cable, which is woop-de-a, right out of the box. Then Time Warner Cable faced Koch Industries and beat them. Beat the Koch brothers, so there you go. And then finally Monsanto beat Time Warner Cable. It’s really exciting. Next year we should have some brackets, we could really have some fun, we could have a little pool. Sea World was in there by the way! Sea World beat Johnson & Johnson and Ticket master and Chase. Sea World got to the final four. I think that has to be because of the documentary Blackfish, right?; and of the killer whales & all that. Sea world faced Com Cast and finally met their match. It’s pretty hard to beat Com Cast in this game. Those guys are tough. Long time competitors. The worst company in America. Facebook immediately by the way was eliminated the first round. Surprisingly; anything you could say about Facebook this week? Not really, they were kind of quiet. They had to digest after swallowing that learch.
Dwight: There is that story about removing chat from there.
Leo: So what are they doing? I keep getting this message on my Facebook saying download chat, download chat. I never did download chat because it’s in the Facebook page.
Harry: They’re going to take it out. If you have it installed already they are going to jump back & forth and they’re going to force that decision for you by taking it out of the app.
Dwight: I don’t have messenger installed and I very seldom use chat on the phone app but yes, I’ve been seeing that message and that’s going to I think irritate a lot of people. I think that’s not a smart move on their part. I’m not sure why they would do that.
Harry: They have the strategy of thinking you should have different apps for different purposes. So you have Facebook and you have Instagram and you have Messenger.
Leo: I think that’s the wrong direction. Wouldn’t you want to consolidate all of that?
Harry: I think their argument is, it’s easier to do a great chat experience if that’s all an app is doing. I find it disjointed because I’m in Facebook and it boots me out of Facebook into chat into messenger.
Leo: It feels like they’re trying to turn Facebook itself into a news app. Which is ironic, like Twitter—?
Harry: Like Paper—
Leo: Then Twitter’s trying to turn into Facebook.
Harry: Dropbox is also following this because Dropbox just announced Carousal. If you’re doing photos in your Dropbox, they think you should be doing a stand-alone photo’s app rather than doing it within Dropbox. And then Mailbox, which is a stand-alone e-mail plan.
Dwight: So is anyone still using what is called Paper – that app?
Leo: I like it.
Dwight: I found it hard to stay up with the things that I wanted to stay up with. It looked like pretty overtook the stuff I actually wanted to see. It’s still there; every now and then I go & open it.
Leo: What is it you wanted to see? Because Facebook thinks what you want is news. But I’ve always thought that people joined Facebook because they wanted to see their friends and family.
Harry: I like groups, Groups are really hitting in Paper.
Leo: You use Groups?
Harry: Yes, all the time and they are hard to find in Paper, which I like despite that.
Leo: What are you looking for Dwight?
Dwight: I’m looking for what my friends are doing and what they think is interesting. I run our Facebook page, so I want our readers to find our news in there, but my personal use of Facebook is not news. There was a news story a couple weeks ago about the ways people use social media and that most people don’t use Facebook to look for news, but if it comes to them, they are interested. They see Facebook as a way to keep up with their friends and family not necessarily as a way to look at the news. Twitter on the other hand is a news feed. It’s everyone’s personal AP wire.
Leo: I just saw a study, which in Twitter denies but that 44% of Twitter accounts have never tweeted. So, people joined Twitter to read, not to post, which surprises me a little bit.
Dwight: They read it to keep up with the news. That’s how my wife uses it, first thing in the morning she reaches over & grabs her phone and starts reading Twitter. It drives me crazy, because you know one of the joys about being in the news business; you get to know everything first, but I can’t tell her anything anymore! She knows it all!
Leo: Right! That’s good, that’s what she wants. Is this new alga rhythm, what is Facebook up to? They’re up to something what is their evil plan? They make money from showing you ads, right? So everything is around making it a product that you will want to look at more. The more you spend using Facebook, the more money they make. Is that right? Is that what they care about?
Dwight: So it could be that they want to sell different kinds of ads in chat, versus a regular app that essentially gives them another avenue to sell to advertisers. Hey, you can do it in Chat, it may be a different kind of ad, it may have different results, in Chat versus the main app.
Leo: That would make sense.
Harry: In some instances it’s totally logical like Instagram. I don’t want Instagram to be part of Facebook and it makes sense for it to stand alone. I think the difference is right now, if you’re on Facebook messenger, you want to talk to your Facebook friends and it’s not a separate thing from getting their updates and so forth and that’s why you ‘re into this loop where you’re jumping back & forth between them which does not happen with Instagram . With Instagram you’re looking at other people’s photos and it’s not the same group.
Leo: That does make sense. Somebody in the chat room said that the Unix tool model, you know where you want to do small tools that do some things well but on Unix you can chain them together to make a bigger thing that does different things to do bigger things. There’s no piping yet in Facebook apps.
Harry: Facebook does have this challenge that it does so many things & it’s a real danger for it to become bloated and you won’t be able to find stuff—which is already an issue there. There are all kinds of things you can do on Facebook that I don’t know about simply because they are three menus down.
Leo: The irony though is that they don’t have a great track record of introducing new apps that take off. Poten was a flop, the Facebook home was a flop, I think it might well sound like Paper will be a flop, and Paper is gorgeous! They did everything right with Paper. But people just kind of want the Facebook experience.
Harry: It’s the Windows XP factor, people understand Facebook in its original form and they don’t want necessarily to give it up, even for something that’s theoretically better.
Dwight: I think part of it has to do with just the overall form factor and the design of smart phones the way they interact with the operating factor, you know in iOS when you switch to an app there is a visual swapping of the apps and that’s jarring. With the Android it’s less so, but if you chained it so that you didn’t realize you were leaving the messenger app to go look at something that someone linked to your Facebook page and then when you went back to the messenger app it would seem seamless, that might make more sense. But the way that smart phone interfaces work, it just kind of makes you blink and you don’t like it.
Leo: It ‘strikes me there’s a risk in separating messenger out, that people just won’t use it. It’ll be just like taking a chunk out of face book and throwing it away. I’m not going to download messenger, no one messages me. I don’t need it.
Dwight: And I use other things. People already have all kinds of messenger apps coming at you, there’s WhatsApp, there’s iMessage if you use that, there’s the messenger built into Android, you already have many ways in which you can get notifications and to separate that out and get just one more seems to me like overload.
Leo: So this is an interesting question. How do you think people like to use stuff? Do they rather have an Omni-bus app that does it all or would they rather separate all these functions out? Which maybe would allow them to choose best in class, maybe its Facebook messenger, but maybe it’s not. I’m going to use the messenger that’s best in class.
Harry: Remember two or three years ago Facebook gave everyone their own e-mail address?
Leo: Yeah, and nobody used it!
Harry: They kind of envisioned becoming a primary e-mail provider, which never happened as far as I know. I think they see messenger as getting people to think of it not as where you go to message Facebook users, but where you go first for messaging period.
Leo: OK, now I’m thinking I can’t remember any big successes recently in the last three years from Facebook. Any apps that took off; anything they’ve done that’s been significant.
Harry: They’ve done a good job at keeping Instagram strong but…
Leo: By keeping their hands off of it! No question they’ve got growth, they’re well over a billion, what is it; 1.2 billion users
Harry: Their big success is that their Facebook mobile app has done really well, probably better than it necessarily would have because I think they’ve done generally speaking a good job, a good mobile experience.
Leo: They’ve been able to move revenue off the desktop to mobile and that’s the transition everyone was wondering if they could make. People are using Facebook; in fact most of their revenue is now mobile like 54%.
Dwight: Well the reason why is it duplicates or replicates the desktop look. It’s familiar. You know when you’re looking at it, there’s no question. Oh, I’m looking at Facebook. It looks like this on the desktop too. They kept the familiarity. Remember the early Facebook apps, because they were using HD5, were slow and irritating to use and once they got away from it, that’s what sped it up. I think one of the big reasons people used it, is that it looks like Facebook!
Leo: Well, that’s funny. I don’t use the iPhone version, I use the android version. I don’t know if you guys are iPhone users, but they’ve really changed the Android one now. It’s got these columns; it isn’t like the old Facebook App. And they moved the Hamburger for absolutely no reason that I can understand. Remember the settings used to be over on the left, now they are on the right. I don’t really understand—they’ve changed everything kind of randomly. Does it look like that on iOS?
Harry: Well, I do confess I have an issue with it, there’s like two hamburgers, my main hamburger & my messenger hamburger. That is kind of confusing.
Leo: It’s very confusing.
Harry: It does feel a little like two worlds, the main world of Facebook and the messenger world of Facebook.
Dwight: Well, when you look at the newsfeed, it does look like Facebook on the desktop; the Newsfeed.
Leo: It does, yes. It’s unchanged; it’s exactly like Facebook on the desktop. So it’s interesting here’s a company, talk about spending a lot of money on R&D, talk being innovative, forward thinking and yet can you think of a big hit that they’ve had lately? Chatfaces? Chatheads? Whatever that’s called.
Leo: Chatheads, Whatever that’s called! I mean really what have you done for me lately? Maybe we’re not going to see companies on top anymore; it’s just going to be a constant churn of companies going thru the cycle. Although I have to say, I’ve been very impressed, we talked about this a little last week on Windows Weekly; Satya Nadella seems to have brought Microsoft back from the dead in some ways. I like the new Microsoft. They open sourcing some of their code dot net code, they’ve reduced the price of Windows on 9 inch screens or less to zero, unheard of, it’s a kinder gentler Microsoft and I think that Windows phone 81 looks pretty darn good. Would you ever consider a Windows phone?
Harry: Yes, again my advice to myself is I someone writes about this stuff I jump back and forth, between iPhone and Android and Windows I think should be in that mix.
Leo: Yes it should. I’m thinking I’m going to wait until the end of the month and then there’ll be some Windows phones I want, although you could buy one today and it will be updated.
Harry: I would recommend a Windows in some cases like for civilians who are looking for something.
Leo: What’s the Cricket metaphor for Satya Nadella? He’s apparently a big Cricket fan. We don’t know here in the states.
Dwight: Because it’s a sticky wicket.
Leo: It’s a sticky wicket, that’s a bad thing. What’s he doing hitting a home run in Cricket? It’s a 3 bagger. I don’t know, there’s a name, it’s a word, come on help me out here, I don’t know. Blackberry CEO, speaking of not hitting a home run, he says that he is going to kill of Black Berry phones if they don’t start making money. Forgive me, but what else do they Black Berry messenger, is that the business?
Harry: The Server stuff.
Leo: UNX and BES?
Harry: The enterprise stuff, yes.
Leo: But if you don’t have a BlackBerry phone do you need BlackBerry enterprise server?
Harry: I think their general philosophy is that they will sell you a lot of enterprise software and hopefully you’ll have some BlackBerry phones, but if you also have iPhones and Android phones that’s OK too. And then he said he was kind of mis-quoted and that ---
Leo: In his blog he said “I assure you I have no intention of selling off or abandoning this business anytime soon.
Harry: This happens every time any CEO of BlackBerry ever says anything, they have to clarify everything.
Leo: Come on chat room; so a home run is a sixer, so Satya Nadella has hit a sixer. It just doesn’t have the ring to it! He’s bold and googley.
Dwight: It’s too early to say
Leo: You don’t think he’s bold and googley?
Dwight: I think he’s still at bat.
Harry: Is there a word for googley that doesn’t have google in it?
Leo: I do believe in cricket that you can be at bat for days.
Dwight: Well, that’s what it will take.
Leo: Yes days. Weev is off the hook, but only because of a technicality. Weev really became a cause celeb for a lot of the hacker community. He himself bills himself as a hacker troll, but what Weev did which got him in so much trouble, he discovered a flaw in AT&T ‘s system and used it to download the names and e-mail addresses of iPad users. He says, “I told AT&T” He downloaded a hundred and forty thousand owners from an AT&T IPad website. He maybe went a little far by publishing it. He passed along the e-mail addresses to Gawker although they didn’t publish it without redacting some of the information. He was convicted in a New Jersey federal court of felony for conspiracy of accessing AT&T server s. But the three judge Federal Repellant panel turned the conviction over on appeal saying “well, as it turned out, none of the servers were in New Jersey”. So AT&T wanted to have the trial in New Jersey for some reason. Or maybe the government wanted to have it. The addresses were obtained from residents in New Jersey but it turns out that the servers themselves, not a one of them was in New Jersey. So, purely on a technicality, he’s off the hook. The justice department has not decided to appeal.
Dwight: There’s some issue doing the trial with double jeopardy.
Harry: It’s amazing that they only figured out that now, so long after all this happened.
Leo: Yeah, it seems like it’s—If it was a venue technicality that it’s fairly obvious. Maybe they didn’t know at the time. The real issue is the computer fraud and abuse act which is so broad that it really is possible to prosecute people for almost anything. And so I think that’s really the issue that ultimately needs to be addressed. The third court of appeals say that Weev was charged in the wrong federal court. So; celebration, but for all the wrong reasons. Hewlett -Packard is going to pay a hundred and eight million dollars for bribing public officials in Poland, Russia and Mexico. An international investigation found corruption in those three countries and HP is going to have to pay $108M in fines. HP seems to really have some bad business practices all around.
Dwight: Yes, this was the board that spied on the Porters.
Leo: Right, texting stuff, right? All right. We had a pretty good week this week, some interesting stuff, We did a new show; Marketing mavericks on the network with Tanya Hall. We’re very happy with Tanya Hall. In fact Tanya interviewed chief officer of Taco Bell, talked about their social Media and a lot of good stuff, let’s take a look. If you missed anything this week, here’s kind of a quick summery of some of the things that happened on Twit.
Leo: Actually you know, we didn’t have any huge stories, but we had some great coverage, thanks to Scott Wilkerson and Father Robert Ballecer and if you didn’t see our NAB coverage , it’s in the specials feed, right? twittv./specials. One of the things they did announce at NAB that we were very interested in, Skype announced you know cuts down on Microsoft product, Microsoft had acquired a company called CatMouse, is that it? and they are going to do a new media product.
Leo: SKYTEX, yes, have you heard about that?
Dwight: It looks interesting, particularly for broadcasters, it’s almost like a virtual tri-caster.
Leo: I’m not completely sure what they are doing but we did talk to them and they knew who we were, they know that we use Skype like crazy, so we think they’re going to get us a Skype TX pretty quick.
Dwight: Will that change what we do here?
Leo: I don’t think from your point of view it will, I think you’ll just use Skype as you are using it, but we will have a Skype TX box here that will give us all sorts of capability’s in terms of settings, things under the hood that we haven’t been able-dials that we haven’t been able to twiddle on Skype. Plus it will be interrogated better into our hardware. The set up will have STI video and all that. You should get better video back, better audio back. There are all sorts of issues with screen sizes and stuff, weird things happening there, we should be able to get better results. To me that was the big story. I know enough of you care because they got a lot of tweets from people, and e-mails flying back and forth; “What did they announce”? So we’re excited about that. So that’s good news. So do you have a week ahead with Mr. Mike Elgan, let’s see what’s coming up in the week ahead.
Mike: Coming up this week, Intel reports Earnings on Tuesday, April 15th, Google and IBM do the same on the 16th. Also Google is selling Google Glass to the public for one day only starting at 9 a.m. Pacific on Tuesday. The Twitter Music App has already been pulled from the iTunes App store, but if you still have the app, the service that powers it will be terminated on Friday April 18. That’s the week coming up. Back to you, Leo.
Leo: Actually I was really pleased, that’s the kind of plug that I wanted to mention anyway because Sonos just added Google play music to the Sonos player. And that’s it, I’m done. I’m so happy about that, Not only can I play all my music on that, but everything in the Google store I think- Twenty million songs. All right, we’re going to take a break and come back for more, Dwight Silverman from the Chronicle, Huston Chronicle, from Time Magazine Technologizer, Harry McCracken, I always call you Technologizer, is that OK? Is that your title?
Harry: It’s flattering.
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Harry: I always assumed it was.
Harry: Yeah, I’m on an airplane.
Leo: It should be public, right? Christa (Price?) was in the iCLU tweeted a link to a letter submitted from an GoGo attorney for the FCC which said “The commissions air to ground rules do not require licensees to implement capabilities to support law enforcement beyond those outlined in CALEA. Nevertheless, GoGo worked with federal agencies to reach agreement regarding a set of additional capabilities to accommodate law enforcement interests”. Do you think terrorists in the air like Tweet “I’m going to take over the plane” before? Is that what you think because they are in the air…..
Harry: I sort of assume, yeah the government would be worried about that. GoGo also said that the only reason there’s a captcha when you pay for GoGo in the air is because the government insisted on it being there, which I always wondered about, because I never could understand how people could spam---
Leo: I’m on a flight to Newark, and I’m going to spam all -----
Harry: I sort of wondered whether anyone was worried sort of about someone building some sort of device which they could plant on the plane, which would log into GoGo and then send information to the ground, or be triggered from the ground or something.
Leo: That’s bizarre. GoGo says its primary concession to law enforcement was to impose a captcha to thwart spammers and other network abusers. So Captcha only finds bots. Doesn’t do a very good job of it by the way. In fact nobody should be using Captcha ever. It’s terrible. Besides annoying your user s it doesn’t provide you with any additional security in fact we know what bad guys do, they just make a porn site and they feed the Captcha’s into the porn site and say if you want to see porn, tell us what this means, and then they take the results back, and there’s so many people that hit the site they can unlock any captcha right away. So Captcha’s are completely useless.
Harry: They keep out people, which is the primary thing.
Leo: They keep out people, they don’t keep out robots. And what robots are there at ten thousand, thirty thousand feet? Who’s writing spam robots? You’re right it must be like we’ve unfiltered in the air.
Harry: It would be like if somebody put like a bomb on a plane in the cargo space and it was someone with a log on---
Leo: Wouldn’t it be great if the captcha would thwart that?
Harry: I sort of wondered if that was the reason it was there because the stories I saw didn’t really explain why the government would care why there was a captcha on GoGo.
Leo: So Google says that’s the kind of stuff we did, we didn’t help them monitor traffic at all.
Harry: Essentially what if you could like communicate with a bomb via GoGo…..
Leo: Oh! I see what you’re saying, that’s interesting. Hmm, OK; I can’t quite figure out but I’m sure the NSA knows what it’s doing. Sir David Attenborough, famous creator of documentaries like Planet Earth and Life is doing a new documentary, Conquest on the skies, they are filming with an eight camera rig because they want to deliver a 360 degree video for wearers of the Oculus Rift. Imagine. Now this to me is kind of intriguing, you imagine watching a movie when the Rift hits it and you see something going on over there to the left, you see something going on over there, you look to the right and --that’s wild. The film will also be released in the normal 3-D.
Dwight: So which of the eight camera angles does he decide is going to be the---
Leo: The middle. It has to be the middle because you have to have something on the left and right to look at.
Dwight: But you see everything all around you, it’s 360.
Leo: Oh yeah, it’s 360. That’d be wild!
Dwight: That would be weird.
Leo: I think one of the problems with Oculus Rift is that you are standing with a thing on your head, that means you can’t see or hear anything that’s going on around you. Someone could just come knock you on the head and steal your glass.
Dwight: So there’s a company I think it’s called Virtuix Omni -----or something like that, they just developed a treadmill for use with headsets with like the Oculus Rift. It allows you to walk around the world, it has like a little platform with guard rails around it and it allows you to move around in this world, I think they just went up on kick stock. Virtuix Omni is what it’s called. It’s based here.
Leo: It’s only $500.00. Wow. But you have to be harnessed because you could get excited and accidently run off of it and fall down.
Dwight: Right. In the early days of virtual reality it was this pterodactyl game that was going around. Remember that?
Leo: Yes! I played it. Sea graft.
Dwight: Guaranteed to make you throw up.
Leo: So we did a little demo of someone in a virtual reality suit that you would play the game, like you would physically aim the gun and they put the Omni Rift on me, and I was beating zombies with a stick but then I got sick and it wasn’t fun. But we did get an e-mail from someone saying if you put a cool damp washcloth on the back of your neck you’ll feel better. But I didn’t get that until about three days later.
Dwight: That’s right. The high end version of the Oculus Rift comes with the cool damp washcloth.
Leo: Really. Apparently It works every time. I don’t know, I love the idea of immersive virtual reality but at the same time it’s like there’s an uncanny value with VR , like if it’s not perfect it’s nauseating. Did I do everything? So I can play the worst social media marketing song you’ve ever heard. You want to hear it? It’s called “Let’s get Social”
Harry: No. Oh no!
Leo: Let’s see if I can find the video, it’s on uTube, here we go. This is it; Social media Marketing World. I always wanted in my keynotes to do rap. I wanted to start talking and then have a big loud beat to come out, an explosion and fireworks, and do a rap, but this is not quite that. Just think of all the money you could’ve saved, you didn’t really have to go to social media marketing world.
Dwight: This may cause me to resign my current job.
Leo: This is what you do for a living
Dwight: No, no it’s not! I promise you it’s not.
Leo: This poor woman is wondering WHY I agreed to do this. Maybe not, maybe she’s actually enjoying doing it.
Harry: It’s not a joke.
Dwight: Yes it is.
Leo: This is why Social media marketing has a bad name; Dwight. OK, that’s enough of that.
Dwight: fortunately the song isn’t even good enough to get stuck in your head.
Leo: All right, I think we have now done everything we can to annoy our audience; it’s time for us to go on.
Dwight: We have no audience now.
Leo: You’ll be watching with interest, we’ll get you back after the Arial oral arguments. I didn’t realize you could get it in Huston, and you need it, so this is a big deal.
Dwight: Yes, it’s in thirteen cities, two of them are off line at the moment.
Leo: Right. They say they’ll have fifty more cities if they win. Zero cities if they lose.
Harry: They’ve steered clear of the West Coast so far.
Leo: Are they afraid of the ninth circuit court or what?
Harry: It’s because of what was the other service that had the name Aereokiller in Denver.
Dwight: Oh, Aereokiller.
Harry: Yes, apparently that is a bad president for them.
Leo: There’s a service called the Aereokiller?
Dwight: It came out just after Aereo announced what it was going to do and they claimed to have similar technology but I don’t think that it was exactly the same kind of similar technology. If you talked to them they say it really isn’t relevant but clearly they’re avoiding the West Coast like the plague.
Leo: That’s also the home of Filmon
Dwight: Filmon may be what it started as, but this is Aereokiller.
Leo: Yes, because this basically is just blatant. They were even on; they’re even selling access to Twit on this. There are no dime sized antennas or anything. We’ll just steal any content we can and put it on the air. All right, it’s great to have you back with us, Mr. Dwight Silverman, his new home is in progress, you can read him at blog.chron.com/techblog.
Dwight: You can also find me on @dsilverman and occasionally I will be on technology bites, I like it, it’s still a great show.
Leo: You’re in the Huston area
Dwight: It’s on a podcast, it’s on iTunes.
Leo: Oh, they have podcasts, that’s a clever idea, I should try that. We thank also the Technologizer, Harry McCracken from Time magazine for stopping by today, great to have you.
Leo: Thank you all for joining us, we do this show every Sunday afternoon 3pm Pacific, 6 pm Eastern time, 2200UTC on Twit.tv, if you can watch live, we appreciate, we love having you, but if you can’t we do on demand version of every show on the network, audio and video on Twit.tv or wherever you can subscribe to net casts. Like iTunes, the Xbox music. Places like that. Is there anything else? Are we selling the hoodies? The hoodies have started to arrive, we’ve got new t-shirts coming. So we actually have a real viewer now, Jennifer, wearing the hoodie now. Look at this. Jennifer is a middle school teacher in New Jersey. And she looks good, doesn’t she in that beautiful new Twit hoodie. Just as the weather starts to warm up we’re sending people hoodies! Marketing Mavericks, 8:30 a.m. Tuesdays. The T-shirts go on sale on Wednesday at tspring.com/twit. We’ll do the same thing where it’s a limited time. Because that way not so many people wear them and you feel special. Thanks everyone for joining us, we’ll see you next time, on another TWIT!