This Week in Tech 463 (Transcript)
Leo Laporte: It’s time for TWIT, This Week In Tech. Got a great panel for you, Father Robert Ballecer, Jason Hiner and Jerry Pournelle join us to preview Google IO. Let’s talk about the Firephone, Amazon’s new smartphone and a new bill in congress to save Net Neutrality. It’s all coming up next on TWIT. Goooooooo!
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Leo: This is TWiT, This Week in Tech, Epiode 463 recorded June 22nd, 2014
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It’s time for TWIT, This Week in Tech, the show where we talk about the week’s tech news. And we've got a great panel and we also have a box of tissues because Father Robert Ballecer is here and we may be watching the US lose at soccer. We don't know. In case, it’ll either be tears of sadness or tears of joy.
Fr. Robert Ballecer: I live in hope.
Leo: Father Robert is the host of This Week in Enterprise Tech and Coding 101 and Know How. He’s one of the busiest guys on the network. And it’s so nice to have you here for This Week in Tech. You'll be hosting 2 weeks.
Fr. Robert: Yes I will be.
Leo: Surprise, surprise.
Fr. Robert: I'm very much looking forward to that.
Leo: Can’t wait, I'm going to be in Hawaii in a couple of weeks. Also what is—
Jason Hiner: Wait a second, the US is playing soccer right now?
Leo: Jason Hiner’s going to stay right there, do not move. From CBS Interactive, Tech Republic, you know this was a very hard panel to put together because as it turns out apparently the World Cup is going on right now.
Fr. Robert: It’s kind of a big deal.
Leo: And the United States is playing Portugal as we speak. But we’ll give you play by play every once in a while and if I leap up and say goal and yell GOL. That's why I'm hoarse, I've been practicing all day.
Fr. Robert: I thought you we're playing your Vuvuzela.
Leo: Bring me the Vuvuzela.
Fr. Robert: Which thank goodness they banned in Brazil.
Leo: They banned in Brazil. That's wise.
Jason: They start doing airplane, like every time there's a goal you just start doing the airplane.
Leo: GOOOL! Also with us, it’s so good to have him back, Jerry Pournelle. A long time columnist at Bite Magazine, Chaos Manor. He still writes on the web, JerryPournelle.com and of course you might be familiar with a few science fiction novels he’s written over the years. It’s great to have you Jerry, thanks for joining us.
Jerry Pournelle: Thank you.
Leo: Just back from Hilton Head Island, where I guess you were at a Nanotech Conference?
Jerry: The thirtieth anniversary of the conference. I think the formal name of it is Censors Activators and Probes or something of the sort.
Leo: [Laughter], I'm going to the Probe Conference.
Jerry: It started before nanotech was a word one used and most of what they were working on in those days was Microns which as far as I'm concerned, a Micron’s pretty damn small to begin with.
Leo: I'm going to read the official title, The Solid State Censors, Actuators and Microsystems Workshop.
Leo: Hahaha, wow.
Jerry: And that is the thirtieth anniversary of it and this one in 1994, the Conference Theme was what will happen when censors and microsystem and actuators and censors take over the world. And in 2014 it was well we've kind of taken over the world, where do we go from here. Which is why they invited a fiction writer, namely me.
Leo: Well, how cool. So I'm familiar with MEMS, Micro Electric Mechanical Systems. And these are not quite nanotech, these are kind of micro-tech.
Jerry: Some of it is nanotech, some of it is not. Some of the people, the probe people and some of the others are actually down in nanometers. Most of it is in Microns.
Jerry: Which is still pretty small.
Leo: Yeah, not, a millionth of a meter is tiny.
Jerry: It’s a millionth of a meter and the nanotech is a billionth. And to get a picture of it, a tenth of a nanometer is an angstrom unit.
Leo: Now I think its Dvorak who’s—
Jerry: Ten angstroms is a nanometer so that gives – and atoms are typically about ten angstroms across.
Leo: Right, atomic scale. I think it was Dvorak who schooled me in MAMS and said you know they're in everything now. Scales, everywhere.
Jerry: Everywhere, you're right. And they are doing them and they're very small and it’s amazing what, I mean they were showing stuff that you wouldn't believe could be done. Only they're doing it with bitty stuff that turned out to be not too hard to fabricate. So, do you want your TV screen lithographed on your arm?
Leo: Hahaha, I guess you could do that now huh. That's how we’ll get flexible screens.
Jerry: They're approaching it, being able to do a flexible screen with lithography and you know you have it lithographed on your arm if you want to.
Leo: Was there anything there that surprised you?
Jerry: A lot of stuff but most – but understand, this is practical stuff. This is stuff that's working, they're making products out of it, they're selling them as opposed to the things that if you go to one of Kurzweil’s conferences, it’s all going to be things that are happening 20 years from now.
Leo: A lot of blue sky, yeah.
Jerry: Maybe, and maybe they won’t.
Leo: That's always bothered me when you have these conversations about nanotech, there seems to be a lot of sci-fi with all due regard to you Jerry. A lot of stuff like “In the future, there’ll be grey goo and things”.
Jerry: That's is the attitude of this conference towards that picture.
Fr. Robert: Wait the grey goo conference?
Leo: The grey goo conference, no not going to that.
Jerry: For last 30 years of commercial fusion power was going to be online in 30 years.
Jerry: And every year, well not that [?] but 30 years from now.
Leo: Next year.
Jerry: And it’s still 30 years from now.
Leo: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Jerry: As best I can see. This is stuff you can buy today. There is a kid there who’s got a gizmo that you attach to your computer with a serial cable. It’s got a stage on it, you can then do electron microscoping and he’ll sell it for under – they're hoping to sell it for under a hundred dollars.
Leo: Wow, wow so our eight grade class will have an electron microscope.
Jerry: It’ll have an electron microscope.
Leo: Holy cow.
Jerry: There's another gizmo, you attach to your telephone and it’s got a little spring and a needle in it. You put your finger in the cup and you twist it and boink and doink, it stabs you and draws a drop of blood.
Leo: Well I have a question, what's a telephone?
Jerry: It does, well the phone is good enough to do a complete blood sugar analysis for Diabetics.
Leo: That's cool.
Jerry: But it does more than that. It looks at Ketones, it looks at various other things and if it thinks it needs to, it telephones your doctor.
Leo: So you have a – that's interesting.
Jerry: That's and app that you can buy for under a hundred bucks or at least they hope to be able to sell that shortly for under a hundred. And there's venture capitalists putting money into the company so.
Fr. Robert: You know at CES, we saw a company that, at I think Digital Experience, they were showing off what looked like a Tricorder. Obviously they used the inspiration from Star Trek to create a device that they were doing a Kickstarter for and they said “Well we've developed the technology that will allow you to hold it next to the skin and you can find everything from blood sugar to pulse rate to oxygen saturation”. And some of it sounded very plausible but then they were starting to say, and it scans for your blood for pathogens and then I started thinking “I think maybe you're heading a little bit too far into the sci-fi”. That's sort of technology, although it’s very cool, I don't think were anywhere near yet. The ability to wave a wand over someone’s skin and be able to tell all that sort of information simply by shining infrared light doesn't seem very science.
Jerry: By shining an infrared light but by ultrasound you can do a lot of things and that is getting down to becoming an app on your cellphone.
Leo: It feels like were headed that way with Apple announcing HealthKit and Health App. I think this week at Google IO we’ll see Google Android ware. There's rumors that LG and others will show Google watches, Google Androidware based watches that will have some health aspect. But I'm actually really glad Jerry’s here because I have a question. You mentioned Kickstarter, this has been going on in Kickstarter, it’s a Kickstarter project and I just want to ask you Jerry because I know you have enough background to answer this question, former professor of engineering and expert on this kind of stuff. It’s called iFind, the world’s first battery-free item locating tag. They were looking for $25,000, they still have a week to go. They've raised half a million dollars and I think there's a significant question of whether this is in fact a scam. Kickstarter is not responding to a lot of people. If you watch the comments who claim there's no way this could work. Now you tell me Jerry, it’s Bluetooth, it says it doesn't need a battery. They say they get, now this is the thing that worries me, they say it recycles electromagnetic energy and stores it in a unique power bank. So you don't have to have batteries for this Bluetooth design. I've heard of RFID, it doesn't need power.
Fr. Robert: …about that—
Leo: A Bluetooth is a radio transmitter.
Fr. Robert: Yeah.
Leo: Jerry does this seem possible?
Jerry: Well, if it doesn't need it’s – like RFID, it doesn't have to have a battery. If you were coming around with some gizmo that powers it, but I – you understand that a gadget that does recording of what's going on without having to have a battery is every spook’s dream.
Leo: It’s a perpetual motion machine, is what it is.
Jerry: Every intelligence officer in the world wants one of those and would be willing an awful lot for it because the batteries run out, you bug the guy’s office that's fun but unless you can connect it to his telephone, you have no power source and the batteries run out after a while which is by the way why there is no telephone in any clean room and if you go to a meeting at the agency they make you leave your cellphone outside.
Leo: Well a thousand—
Jason: He may be on to something, maybe this is a CIA budget cut thing, this is like one department of the CIA that's running a little Kickstarter.
Fr. Robert: So the CIA is Kickstarting their spying now?
Leo: It just doesn't seem possible. Now if it is really—
Jerry: It doesn't seem right to me.
Leo: If it’s really Bluetooth, it’s got to have a battery. If it’s RFID, I understand it doesn't have to have a battery but it wouldn’t be much use could you'd have to track something, you’d have to be standing on top of it.
Fr. Robert: Well they claim a 60 meter range so that even puts it beyond the range of Bluetooth.
Leo: I think this is bogus.
Fr. Robert: …higher power Bluetooth.
Leo: If you read the comments, a lot of people have asked questions. The company has not responded very well or thoroughly and yet Kickstarter has not pulled this down. The Kickstarter approved it I assume although I gather that they're not quite as careful now as they are about screening Kickstarter projects and then, you know Kickstarter did remember say we have to have a physical prototype, there’s no prototype. And they want you to do a fairly complete risks and challenges. If you read in the risks and challenges page it says the main risks are reliance on outside sources within the supply chain, the contractor has to order components from other vendors. If these vendors slip the complete production’s at risk. Seems like there's more risks than that, like it’s a physical possibility.
Jerry: I could build you a gizmo that you, I think it would be illegal to do it but use bluetooth’s frequencies that worked out to 50 or 60 that were powerful enough to activate an RFID Bluetooth receiver it 60 meters.
Leo: Is there enough energy?
Jerry: I don't think it’s illegal to do that.
Leo: Is there new electromagnetic energy in the air so that I wouldn’t need a battery. I could just collect the – the Hineline, didn't Hineline, what was the book where it had the little thing.
Leo: Yeah it would, they would collect power from the—
Jerry: That's was Tesla’s dream, you were going to be able to do it but the problem is the inverse [?] kind of ruins you. Actually it’s invert cube when you’re broadcasting power.
Leo: The farther away you get the amount of power you get decreases by the inverse of the cube. It’s huge.
Fr. Robert: Yeah.
Jason: I think this is possible. So if we give these guys the benefit of the doubt and we say okay they do, they say they've got patent pending technology, we give them the benefit of the doubt and assume this actually does work. It would be quite a breakthrough ultimately but I think we have to assume that this is pretty untested, you know nobody else that we know of is using this kind of thing or has successfully productized this kind of thing. And so even if it does work, if we assume that it does work I think we have to you know also assume that this is you know something that's going to have some hiccups and that is you know going to be untested.
Leo: You are way too kind Jason.
Leo: When I say patent pending they mean, you know I got the patent right here, I’m just going to, next time I go down that way I’ll file it.
Jason: I’ll file that.
Jason: Fair enough.
Leo: They say it uses our patent pending EM harvesting technology. I can't wait to see that. That's going to change the world.
Jerry: That sure sounds, yeah that's Tesla’s dream and there have been a lot of people who are trying to do what Tesla claimed he knew how to do but never did. So who knows?
Jerry: But I don't think so.
Leo: You know I should really pursue this more. Pam O’Daly has been spending a lot of time on this. My point is you have seven days if you did give the money. You have seven days to take it back because in seven days they're going to cash the check and effect the Kickstarter will get funded and money will be withdrawn and at that point you have no recourse even if you never see anything. Although Kickstarter I think has some mechanism for getting your money back, I don't know how well that works.
Jason: I mean I might have somebody call these guys actually on Monday.
Leo: Would you get on that. Would you get it’s called We Tag, it’s on Kickstarter. iFind is the device, they've raised half a million dollars.
Jason: That's pretty staggering.
Jerry: And the problem is that if you've got a gadget that will do that, I think of so many things that are more interesting to do.
Leo: The Key finder. Yeah, haha. You could power my car.
Jerry: …speak from my own background but I can think of lots of things I would love to be able to do with a gadget that can do that.
Fr. Robert: Well we're talking about a ridiculously low amount of power. I mean this—
Leo: How low can Bluetooth go?
Fr. Robert: They're calling it Bluetoothlight, they're not calling it – Bluetooth like.
Leo: It’s LE. Well they don't say it’s Bluetooth, it’s Bluetooth like.
Fr. Robert: Bluetooth like, so I mean, you could get it down into technically maybe five one milliamp. Somewhere in that vicinity but you're still going to need a lot of power and you're going to have to beam energy straight out this device in order to give it enough juice to run on its special reservoir of power.
Leo: We will watch with interest. Jason get your Tech Republic news hounds on that one.
Jason: Yeah, we’ll try to get a hold of them, see what they could tell us.
Leo: I like it. All right, were going to take a break. When we come back, Amazon had a big party in which they announced a new phone. Interesting because we’d heard a lot about the phone but when we found out about the details there was a lot of stuff we hadn't heard about yet. And one of the rumors that proved only be semi-true is the notion this was a 3D phone. Not exactly, it’s dynamic perspective. We’ll talk about that and more. Jerry Pournelle is here from JerryPournelle.com, my hero, my inspiration and great to be able to call him a friend. Also with us, Jason Hiner, from Tech Republic, also my hero, and padre Father Robert Ballecer also my hero. You're all my heroes. You're the wind beneath my something.
Fr. Robert: Soccer ball.
Leo: My cushion. But first, a word from Citrix and the folks from GoToMeeting. If you are in business, you know that getting people together to hash out differences, to brainstorm, to plan is so important but nowadays with businesses all over the world it’s hard to get people together so that you can communicate. If you're pitching clients they could be in you know in Louisville and we could be in Petaluma, how are we going to make that work, how can we make that work? GoToMeeting, GoToMeeting is the most efficient way to meet with clients and customers right from your computer or you smartphone or your tablet. You can meet – one nice thing about GoToMeeting is you pay once a month, a flat rate, you don't have to count the minutes or the meetings. That means you can have it on all day if your team is spread out. You can meet as often as you like with anyone, anywhere in the world. GoToMeeting lets you share screens so you can review documents. I've actually used it rehearse presentation in real time. You can also use the built-in HD video conferencing so just like Jason and I, well we can see each other face to face we we're looking at those screens, cut out the wasted time and expensive travel without losing the personal touch of meeting in person. You could do it right now with GoToMeeting. We use it for every one of the meetings we do. Even if it’s just a conference call because it makes it so much easier if you want to fire up the camera, you want to fire up a screenshot. GoToMeeting.com, try it free for thirty day, just click the try it free button at GoToMeeting.com and use the promo code TWIT and you got 30 day free. GoToMeeting, we thank the folks from Citrix who have been such great supporter of the network. Practically since day one. So we knew when we went to the Amazon or watch the amazon. They didn't stream it, which frustrated me. Did you send anybody Jason?
Jason: We had Larry [?] there.
Leo: Oh Larry, I love Larry yeah.
Jason: Yup, he was there.
Leo: It was a small group, the auditorium at the Fremont Theatre in Seattle, I've seen different reports but it’s hundreds of people not thousands. Amazon said that several hundred people were there because they, from the public, because you remember from the front page of Amazon.com they said would you like to come to the event, post a video or ask for an invitation and several hundred of the I think they said 60,000 people who applied got invitations. There were about 200 press there. And Jeff Bazos did the whole thing. 90 minutes on stage showing off Amazon’s first phone, the Firephone. A phone that Bazos said later they have been working on for 4 years. That explains all the rumors we've been hearing for 4 years that Amazon would do a phone. One of the things that everybody thought that Amazon would do with the phone is offer it for free as part of a Prime subscription or make it really low cost. None of that happened. It wasn't, it’s not in fact cheaper than any of the other phone. And it is not carrier free. It requires AT&T in the US. 200 buck with a 2 year contract. 650 buck unsubsidized for the 32 gig version, 750 for the 64 gig version. I mean if you look at it, it seems like a fairly typical high-end smartphone, running a version of Android that Amazon calls Fire OS 3.5. And that was one thing I think that, one of my takeaways is there is now a fourth mobile OS. Along with Android and IOS and Microsoft’s Windows phone, I guess it could be 5th if you include Blackberry. This fork of Android is really a new mobile OS. I think that this is differentiated enough, it doesn't use Google services, the maps come from Nokia’s HERE division, their HERE maps. The store is Amazon’s own store, a quarter of a million apps in that store. Unfortunately, most designed for the Amazon tablets. I don't know how many will work well with the phone. But without Google services, it’s not an Android phone. Jason, is Fire OS a fully qualified operating system in its own right?
Jason: Yeah I mean I think it’s good enough, I think that it’s good enough to call it its own thing and not an Android Fork now. I guess the only thing that this phone really innovates is it’s a shoppers phone right. And they do some innovative things with—
Leo: Firefly feature.
Jason: …with Firefly, exactly. That's kind of a, that's the crux of the story I think for me is they're innovating with shopping. I don't know if they could get people to buy on that. I think that's a great feature, I don't know that that's a feature that somebody’s going to buy or somebody’s going to switch you know on. I think the 3D interface stuff is pretty gimmicky and I don't think it is potentially going to be even sort of confusing and not necessarily fantastic user experience.
Leo: Did Larry get to play with it at all?
Jason: Yeah, so we have some hands on over on ZDNet. We've got some hands on—
Leo: He said that the Firefly was amazingly accurate. That it picked up a lot of things he pointed it at.
Leo: It’s not just if you buy, it’s paintings, it’s—
Fr. Robert: Music, movies.
Leo: …music, movies. It could show it the TV screen and it’ll know what you're watching.
Fr. Robert: And that's why I think Jason’s right in that there's nothing in this phone that's going to cost people to switch. If you're a phone guy, if you're a geek, if you're looking for the hardware, this isn't it.
Leo: Well see that's the question, Microsoft is so late to the party and they're struggling, struggling with what is I would say a very good operating system, Windows phone 8 1 or it will soon to be 8 1. And it’s hard just because they're a couple of years late and everybody’s either invested in Android or IOS. It does feel like Amazon has at least paved the way better. They've been building this app store, but you think is it enough?
Fr. Robert: Is it in this sense, Bezos specifically said in his address that they wanted to build a phone for their most engaged customers. I mean he tells everyone—
Leo: It’s for Amazon Prime users.
Fr. Robert: Yeah, it’s not a cheat, he’s saying look if you're just looking for the best phone out there, this is probably not it because we don't care about the people who are looking for phones. We want the person who buys so much from Amazon, media and products and movies, entertainment, everything that it makes sense for them to have Amazon in their pocket. And it’s what they've been doing with their tablets, I mean you look at their tablets and they're decent device, nice screens, decent specs but people have always said well why would I buy that when I could buy a Nexus, why would I buy that when I could buy an Android tablet and the reason is because you've bought into Amazon. And people will say is that enough? And Bezos would say yeah there is, there's enough people who just like Amazon that they'll buy this phone and Amazon can take a loss on every phone as long as they get more people buying in to the Amazon ecosystem.
Leo: Bill in Michigan in our chat room says the only thing worse than a phone from an advertising company Google is a phone from a retailer, Amazon.
Jason: I think Robert’s right t they aim this at the Amazon customer, the Amazon ecosystem.
Leo: Well you get a hundred bucks off if you're a Prime customer. Then it’s less than an iPhone.
Jerry: Yeah, and worse for home. I mean Bezos is absolutely right. Remember how for years and years we had this joke, I used to have it on my column. Next year Amazon will make a profit.
Jerry: And it went on for years and we laughed like hell and suddenly they not only made profits, they made in spades with big casino.
Leo: You got to admire a guy who’s willing to not take a profit for ten years in order to build the fulfillment centers. I mean he controls the dials at any point that Amazon—
Jerry: …and he wanted, exactly, he wanted exactly that. He wanted a group of people who when he comes up with a telephone they're going to say yeah.
Leo: Well he got them.
Fr. Robert: Wait, there's something here, remember when you—
Jerry: And in fact they should, those are the kinds of people who ought to have that phone.
Fr. Robert: Exactly, that’s the Amazon crowd. Do you remember when you first stated buying Amazon. You bought it on Amazon because it was cheaper. You found the thing that was cheaper and that's why you went to Amazon.com. Now I buy everything we use for shows here. I buy from Amazon because Amazon’s cheaper.
Leo: Who here is Amazon Prime? I'm Amazon Prime, you're Amazon. Jason are you Amazon Prime? Jerry are you Amazon Prime?
Jerry: Yeah, yeah.
Leo: In the audience? Everybody, so you know what he said—
Jason: How many in the audience?
Leo: Pretty much everybody. He said, Jeff said tens of millions, they've never said how many Amazon Prime members there are so we know there’s 20 million or maybe more but at least 20 million. It’s a small group and yet every geek in this room is a member because it’s addictive isn't it? And we don't care about the price anymore.
Fr. Robert: Not anymore.
Leo: I don't do price comparison anymore. I'm going to get it in 2 days.
Fr. Robert: And you know what, if the shipping doesn't say prime, I’ll look at the product that's 10 dollars more expensive if it’s Prime.
Leo: Me too. They got that little check box that says it’s available under Prime and you check that box.
Fr. Robert: I'm a sucker.
Jason: …I think they're going to have a hard time converting us to the phone—
Leo: We're not going to buy the phone, exactly.
Jason: No, no, so I think this is – I do think that this is strategically a missed opportunity for them because I think what they could've done and probably should've done was they should've basically sold a phone, you know whatever less hardware, quit messing with this sort of 3D thing and you know sold a phone for 350 bucks off contract or 50 buck on contract, whatever. It includes Prime with it and then they give you this very simple value proposition, when you get our phone, you get Prime with it, not only do you get these benefits of you know free shipping on your Amazon stuff but you get free music streaming, you get free videos. You can get rid of these subscriptions that you have to these services and save you money and you know we’ll give you free storage.
Leo: That's tough to do, for instance Amazon has launched a Prime streaming music service but they only have a million songs. It’s hard for them to make the deals that Apple and Google make.
Fr. Robert: I've already all million to my playlist.
Leo: It’s nothing you want.
Jason: But it’s a good value prop, it’s a very simple value proposition to the user and say when you get our phone you also get all these services for free instead of having to pay ten bucks here, and ten bucks there, 7.99 here and for all these things and get nickeled and dimed. Get our phone, you get all the ecosystem with it and it’s free. I think that's simple.
Fr. Robert: But couldn't they still do that, couldn't they still do that. Did you remember when they released the Kindle and they made a surprise for Kindle Prime users. The best customers, they gave free Kindles. What if they seeded the market with a million of these phones to their best Prime users. People start seeing, oh wow they can get their stuff much better, and they go to a retail store, they whip out their phone and it tells them the price of everything and they just click buy. They could still, if the sales aren't high enough, use that model. And that's actually what I like about it, because it’s—
Leo: You think they might turn that on?
Fr. Robert: They could, because it’s their platform they have the option.
Jerry: Of course they can.
Jason: They do have the eyeballs also. So the other thing with that, kind of what you're getting at Robert, I think that this is what they should led with not what they have led with instead you know in their announcement, it something stronger like this. But they also have the advantage of all these eyeballs that come to Amazon.com, every day and they can promote this phone to them and we also shouldn't underestimate that because the value of that is something that Apple has to pay a lot of money for. It’s something that Google has to pay a lot of money for. Obviously Google can do it a little bit but slapping a Nexus sort of text ad on Google pages is one thing, you know being able to put a flashy you know our phone for this much if they discount it or start giving it away or whatever on an Amazon page or on an Amazon checkout is something is super valuable to a lot of people.
Leo: I hear that argument a lot but I don't think that it’s pushed the Fire TV to the top of the heap or the Kindle Fire HDX to the top of the heap but I think they're probably selling okay. We don't know because Amazon doesn't break those figures out. And you know there is an interesting irony with the Firephone that Prime users, I guess its best target are among the most sophisticated internet users, I would think. And yet one of the main features of this phone that I think makes it very appealing to first time smart phone buyers is the mayday button. I think if my mom or somebody who’s never owned a smartphone came to me and said which smartphone should I get, if they shop on Amazon I would say get the Amazon phone because of the mayday button. That's a different audience. That's not the Prime audience.
Jason: So if they had that audience, again if they went with sort of a lower priced phone and were targeting more of these entry-level users, they could basically convert people to Amazon Prime users then if say at one point they get rid of their Amazon phone, they don't have it anymore and all of a sudden they don't have free shipping anymore, well all of a sudden they're addicted to it right? They're like this is a great service, I don't have free movies, I don't have you know free shipping on my Amazon stuff and now they're hooked in. I think they should've used it that way because I think they've got a much harder time converting you know technophiles and you know phone lovers and people who are already using Prime to buy this device and to go over to their ecosystem when you can do all of this stuff on your iPhone or your Android phone already.
Jerry: Are you at all convinced that that's the group that Bezos is after? I think he’s got a good portion of the geek community as big as he’s going to get. Most of them are not that happy with Amazon for other reasons anyway. What he is after it I think are people like my wife and your mother. People who shop on Amazon and who don't really know much about smartphones and don't care much about them and here's an easy way to do it and that panic button is a wonderful idea.
Leo: You know it really works too.
Jerry: I caution you to remember this is Jeff Bezos, this is the guy who built from what started out everybody thought was kind of joke into an enormous company with huge resources that’s essentially going to put Walmart out of business if it keeps it up.
Jason: No I agree with you Jerry.
Jerry: This is not a man who did not consider all the question you are asking.
Jason: I agree with you, I just think that their pitch hasn't been clear enough that that's who they're after and if they are after that crowd, and I guess well see, there's still time right? Try just launched the thing but it certainly wasn't clear to me that that's what they're after. I think—
Leo: What is the strategy?
Jason: …if they can win.
Leo: What is the strategy?
Jason: …what they're after, they can win.
Leo: Why does Amazon do a phone?
Jason: To innovate shopping, to innovate mobile shopping.
Fr. Robert: The question there then is how long before we start seeing Firefly offered on Android devices? How long before they port that service to other mobile devices?
Leo: Amazon has an SD case so if you're Best Buy and you're worried that people are going to use, by the way this is kind of cool because there's a dedicated Firefly button on the phone. Firefly launches within one second and you can take a picture of anything and then as the phone ships it’ll show you how to buy it on Amazon but there's nothing to stop Best Buy from creating an app that says press the Firefly button and here's how much it is on Best Buy.
Fr. Robert: Why not? Yeah.
Leo: Maybe they did that on purpose so that Best Buy can't sue them, I mean because it really is the ideal show rooming thing. I like this mayday button. Let me read you some stats, this comes from Amazon’s filing, financial filing. I think the 10k that they filed recently. The average response time on the mayday button, 9.75 seconds. He promised under fifteen, he means it. That's fast. They must have a huge customer service team to do this. Think of the cost of that. 75% of the questions from Kindle Fire customers come in through mayday. That's the first device that mayday supported. Questions from all around the world including Australia, Bolivia, Egypt, Kenya, Santa Lucia and Venezuela. But what's really interesting is what they support. So these are some of the things Bezos shared in the press release about how customers have been using mayday over the first eight months. This is before the Firephone. After being stuck on a specific Angry Birds level for a week, somebody pressed the mayday button and a tech adviser helped the customer beat the level.
Leo: A group of friends were trying to figure out how to make a perfect peanut butter and jelly sandwich, they asked the mayday adviser to judge which approach was the best, I don't know what the choices are.
Fr. Robert: Oh now I want it, just to ask them for a question.
Leo: Peanut butter first or jelly first, peanut butter on the outside, non starter. Tech adviser singing happy birthday somebody as they were receiving a Fire HDX from their boyfriend. He pressed the button and said okay I'm going to give it to her right now, sing happy birthday. And he did, they did. Customer have asked tech advisers to draw things because you know they have the ability to then manipulate the screen including happy faces, rainbows, unicorns, fire breathing dragons and aliens. They have received, I think 35 marriage proposals. A lot of people who for the woman who was in ad was not in fact a mayday adviser.
Fr. Robert: Some people in the chat room are making fun of this but that's a lot more fun than Siri.
Leo: Yeah, Siri wont’ help you with Angry Birds.
Fr. Robert: I would press the mayday button and say can you give my Homily for me, I'm just going to put you on the mic. I could think of anything last night.
Leo: I need something for the sermon, a bible verse, any one, just pick a bible verse. I think this is good marketing. I mean I don't know, and I think it actually is probably the first new way of helping people use technology that actually works.
Jason: Visual search, maybe there's an innovation here going on with visual search just in general. You know, sorry I know that's different then the mayday button but I'm going back to Firefly.
Leo: Yeah I'm sorry I derailed Firefly. Go ahead.
Jason: Sorry but Firefly, I mean I think that there is—
Leo: Firefly is probably more significant than mayday, I’ll grant you that.
Jason: Yeah, I think the visual search bit of this you know could be pretty significant if it’s the beginning of the visual search then that's a great thing and that's a great innovation. And I think—
Leo: I challenge Amazon to turn on facial recognition.
Fr. Robert: Ooh.
Leo: See you guys, nobody wants this but everybody wants this. And you're thinking about stalkers going hey she’s cute, what's her name and home address but wouldn't it be great when you're walking up to somebody I know this guy why do I know him, you take surreptitiously, you push, he goes that's your friend Jerry Pournelle, he’s been on TWIT 23 times. Oh hi Jerry! Wouldn't you want that Jerry?
Fr. Robert: I would want it, I would want no one else around me to have it.
Fr. Robert: Is that fair? Can we do that?
Jason: Very good.
Leo: I think Jerry you mic is muted, unmute your mic.
Jerry: Ooh, is it working now?
Leo: Yeah we hear you now.
Jerry: Okay I hit the button to when I was coughing, I'm sorry.
Leo: No it’s fine.
Jerry: I need that face recognition but then I'm 80 years old and I've signed a hell of a lot of books in the last 40 years and everybody I ever signed a book for and wrote a personalization from me expects me to know them again when I see them which is not always going to happen. I am getting worse memory every year. Fortunately, as bad as mine is, it’s still better then Nivens was when I first met him 40 years ago. So I know I can live.
Leo: Larry has no excuse, he was a young man with bad memory.
Jerry: Yeah, I need to give you one. Make sure we understand one thing. I have a certain predilection for being favorable to Amazon for the simple reason that a good, a significant part of my income comes from selling 40 year old books on Amazon on the ebooks.
Leo: That by the way is not significant and one of the things – where do you stand on this Amazon has Hachette argument? This happened a few weeks ago, people noticed some major Hachette books where you could either order them on Amazon or there was a 3 to 4 week wait even though these books according to Hachette had been supplied to Amazon. It was pretty clear Amazon had decided to do kind of slow play on Hachette.
Jerry: Are you going to tell me the bookstores never tried playing that game?
Leo: That was Amazon’s defense, hey you could still buy it on Amazon, yeah.
Jerry: I understand but what I'm getting at is traditional publishers have played the same game. They didn't do too well at it. Amazon may do better. But I have a different view of what's going on with Amazon than of the other. I wish Amazon had competition, doing misunderstand me, I would really hate to see them—
Leo: And they do. Here's the good news, they do. There are plenty of places you could buy books online.
Jerry: I would really hate to see them become the only game in town.
Jerry: But I will have to say, Bezos has said and said often that he wants to keep authors happy. And everything I have seen so far up to now bears out what he says. And you do understand every now and then he gets a group of Science Fiction writers together and flies them out to Seattle so he can have dinner with them.
Leo: Well that's neat.
Jerry: So he’s kind of sympathetic to the work I do. So I start off with a prejudice in his favor. I haven't seen too many at Hachette do that.
Jason: So I'm going to give the counter point to that since we're still talking about the story.
Leo: Good let’s hear it.
Jason: You know Mike Elgan published this actually great piece on computer world today where he called the Firephone the most effective device ever sold for harvesting the personal data from it’s owner. So this is another one of the things and Mike, you know who you guys obviously know well.
Leo: He’s our news director, yeah. He said you should not buy the Firephone.
Jason: He did, he did and so, just to bring some balance here, you know Mike’s point is that you know everytime you – Firefly, you know every time you use Firefly, it’s uploading images, audio and GPS ccordinates every time. And Amazon is storing that data and that also because they're looking at through this 3D feature, they're looking at your face you know all the time to judge you know if you're looking at facial angles and things like this. They're going to be able to do this amazing thing that we just talked about in that facial recognition potentially because of all the data they're collecting on that could be better then you know anybody has done before because of that database of sort of facial images if they were in fact you know storing those and connecting them to a profile on you. So all in all Mike’s just making it pretty strong argument then bringing in sort of the cloud storage and Soap browser and other things and saying that this thing is going to have so much data on you, you know Google and Facebook would be jealous you know in terms of what they're going to have because of some of these features.
Jerry: Isn't t inevitable?
Fr. Robert: But is it? I mean it is inevitable in a sense that this is where all the services are heading but we have such a freak out as a collective society anytime we think our privacy is being invaded, which is interesting because all of this information being collected by not just this device but Amazon’s entire existence. Why there hasn't been a complete freak out over what Amazon does with big data.
Leo: Well that's partly because we've going living with Google for so long right?
Fr. Robert: Yeah.
Jason: True, yup.
Jerry: What is it they're doing that Google doesn't do now?
Jason: Well it is inevitable but they're not there.
Leo: Mike’s point though is that this phone is even better than any other Android phone for doing this because of Firefly and because it has four cameras in the front face so it’s seeing you, it’s seeing where you are and seeing – in other words, it an even better data collector. But they're not doing anything different than Google’s doing.
Jason: But Google has been, to Google’s credit they have been getting more and more transparent about what they're doing.
Leo: And that's Mike’s complaint, yeah.
Jason: And Mike’s point, and I think he’s right on, is that you know Amazon is not – they need to be far more transparent and detailed about what they are collecting, what they are saving and what their practices are on anonymizing the things or allowing you to opt-out in those kind of things which they currently do not. And if they're going to do these kind of things they have to do it and we should hold their feet to the fire.
Fr. Robert: But do they, do they? Because Google sells you. You're Google’s product. You're the thing, the data point that they're offering to the advertisers. For Amazon, they're really honest. I mean, even if we don't know exactly what they're doing with it, we know the purpose. The entire purpose of Amazon’s existence of all their data collection is to sell you stuff. That's it and they're very open about that. I mean they're not pretending like they're not selling you that book or that gizmo. So maybe that's why we cut them more slack because even if we don't know the minutiae of what they're doing with that information, we know the final product.
Jason: I think that internet citizens though our expectation is becoming and should be that if you are using my data, if you are taking data on me that you should be transparent about that, you should let me know that. Especially on the scale of places like Google and Facebook and Amazon and Apple are doing. And so that I think that is a fair point. It’s not something that's out there, it’s not something that should be mandated by law but I think it should be an expectation and I think it’s something as journalists and something that we can do to sort of hold people’s feet to the fire on it.
Jerry: Jason, do you use your CVS membership card or your Von’s or Safeway or Ralph’s grocery store cards to get that little discount they give for being a member?
Jason: Sometimes, some of them I do.
Fr. Robert: I buy everything from—
Jerry: And so they know everything you've bought and how much it cost and when you bought it and where you bought it. Do you think that Walmart doesn't have cameras that see your face while you're buying stuff?
Leo: But should we accept that Jerry? I mean—
Jerry: It’s a little late to stop it.
Leo: By the way that's kind of Mike’s point. He said, see we've never had to think about Amazon in that regard but all of a sudden with this phone we do. And he says, this is quoting Mike’s article, one can imagine 3 years hence when users are more jaded and worn down by massive and constant privacy invasions that Amazon might choose to turn on some killer future face recognition algorithm using those pictures that they've been uploading, remember they're giving you free unlimited storage for all of your photos in order to compete more effectively against other data harvesting companies. If Amazon, and this is what he asked, he says if Amazon doesn't promise to never do this then they're leaving that option open and potential buyers, and I think this is fair, should be aware of this. You may make the choice, you may make the deal with the devil, if you'll forgive me father but you should understand that Amazon has this potential and if they don't promise to never do it then we assume they might.
Jason: And I am playing devil’s advocate here Jerry but still I'm just saying that this is reaching a level where it’s getting so far you know down the tracks on some of these thing. I just think before it gets too far down the tracks where you know consumers have completely no and you know the regular folks have no awareness of this and it could be used you know against them in ways that you know they don't appreciate. You know it’s part of our job to advocate on their behalf.
Leo: Amazon has a browser of course in Fire, the Silk browser. And he points out, I should've has Mike on the show today actually, he points out that the browser is governed by Amazon’s privacy policies which are pretty upfront saying “We receive and store any information you enter on our website or give us in any other way” and they say if you don't like it exit the browser and do not install user access Amazon Silk. In other words, we're going to keep track of everything you do and that's the way it is. If you don't like it don't use this browser.
Fr. Robert: That's pretty transparent.
Leo: I don't—
Jerry: You think Google doesn't do that?
Leo: No of course Google does.
Jerry: And hasn't been doing it for years?
Leo: Yeah of course Google has its own browser, Chrome. Why, well guess why.
Jerry: And I doubt that Apple is throwing much data away about what you do.
Leo: We now understand why Apple made Safari, hahaha. It wasn't because we didn't have a good experience.
Fr. Robert: It’s a different society. 20 years ago, if someone had had a case where they said look, I have a right to have all these companies erase their data about me. We would probably say oh yeah yeah that makes sense. You know it’s your personal data, they have no right to it. We just had that right to be forgotten case and people are looking at it going you don't have that right. You know if you're on the internet, you're in a public space you don't have the right to tell companies to get rid of the data that you left behind. And it just shows you we are will accept this. As long as you give me something, something shiny, Gmail, a better shopping experience I will take invasion of privacy as long as I don't think it’s too invasive. And that too part shifts. What’s too invasive will shift over the years.
Leo: It’s funny because we have this conversation on nearly every TWIT. No matter who the panelists are, there's this clear sense that privacy does no longer exist. Scott McNealy was right, he said privacy is over, there is no privacy get over it. And yet there is also this strong feeling we should try to fight for some semblance of privacy. And I don't know what the answer is. I generally come down to the side of I don't care, so what if Google or Amazon knows everything I do? What’s the harm in that?
Jerry: Depends on what kind of porn you watch.
Leo: You know what, everybody watches porn. What so what?
Fr. Robert: I only watch Christian porn.
Leo: Okay, good man. I'm sorry, not everybody. Many of us, I think we're going to head to an age thanks to—
Jerry: I'm sure father’s done his research into the sinfulness of mankind.
Fr. Robert: You have to research to know. I mean seriously, this is groundbreaking stuff.
Leo: This is so bad. I don't want to go this way. But I do have to point out that one of the – in the Facebook world, the Post-Facebook world, notice we have a president who admitted to inhaling, that the standards are changing. You're not going to be able to elect a president who hasn't smoked pot, of hasn't surfed porn. You're not going to be able to hire an employee who hasn't got pictures of him drinking heavily on Facebook because everybody, what will become apparent is everybody with the exception of Father Robert Ballecer—
Fr. Robert: I don't do any of that.
Leo: …everybody does this. So is that a bad thing? Maybe, you know Dvorak always brings up the I think it’s the Boogeyman of insurance companies finding out I'm eating too many doughnuts and refusing to insure me. I don't really worry about that so much.
Jerry: Well not only that but under Obamacare, that's a pre-existing condition anyway isn't it?
Leo: So I'm safe. I'm protected, thank you President Obama.
Jason: Well I think that part of it is the idea that you know we haven't seen it yet. The insurance company, I don't think this is necessarily the Boogeyman thing. I think it’s something to be concerned about, seriously.
Leo: Well I think that if that starts happening then in fact legislation will probably do something about it.
Jason: It could, it could but it certainly could come in to play.
Leo: Let’s not assume there's going to be harm until it happens.
Jason: I agree, that's fair enough. I think it’s just anticipating you know that this could affect you getting a job.
Leo: Well the point is it is too late. Jerry is that your position? It’s already too late.
Jerry: I think that the time to have done this is 20 years ago when I wrote some columns about it, nobody paid a damn bit of attention to it.
Leo: You've given up. What was the threat 20 years ago?
Leo: So this was the early days of the internet, you could see it coming?
Jerry: Well before the internet. Remember back in 1980, what made me famous if you could use that word was that I said that by the year 2000 anybody in Western civilization would be able to get the answer to any question that actually had an answer.
Leo: That's true, that happened.
Jerry: And lo and behold it happened by 1995.
Leo: Thanks to Google.
Jason: Nicely done.
Jerry: And Western civilization changed then in 1990, about 1990 when the wall came down.
Jerry: So it’s now except for China and North Korea and a few places that don't have any internet. Anybody in the world can get almost any answer to almost any question that has an answer. Well, questions like when was Leo born and what did he have for dinner last night are questions that have an answer.
Leo: But when did Leo—
Jerry: And anybody who want to know what you had for dinner last night could find out if they really wanted to know it.
Leo: Should we worry though? And this is the right to be forgotten in Europe but should we worry if somebody queries you know how long was Leo’s jail term for that rape conviction and they find an incorrect answer. Then what is my recourse. I mean not all the information is accurate Jerry as well know.
Jerry: I understand thoroughly.
Fr. Robert: We cover big data all the time on my network show, sure. And it’s always you know the nightmare scenario is when big data goes wrong because those correlations that it draws isn't always right.
Leo: Which it does inevitably.
Leo: So now what? We're screwed.
Jason: It’s not too late. I think it’s just expectations.
Jerry: No that's what legislatures are for is to determine who is responsible when false data is disseminated. You can still collect for being libeled you know.
Fr. Robert: But see that's the problem. False—
Jerry: Now it’s true that many of the people libel don't have enough money to make it worth going after them.
Fr. Robert: But Jerry that's the problem with false data and big data because you're not disseminating any falsehoods. Big data is based on disparate sets of information that are put through some sort of database so there is no individual, there's no corporation that’s making the assumption. They're just giving you a percentage of possibility based on the information it has.
Jerry: Well I'm not harmed by that. I am harmed if it comes up and says that I served five years for poisoning children when I was 35 years old or something.
Leo: Right. What about this—
Jerry: That's just a libelous statement.
Leo: Okay so I’ll give you an example.
Jerry: If it says that people my age and with my background have a four percent probability of having molested a kid at some point in time there's nothing I can do about that. That may or may not be a true statement.
Jerry: But if it says that I did it, that's an accusation and a lie and I can do something about that.
Leo: Great quote from our chat room from Bruce Schneier. Web7 says, Bruce Schneier in 2006 wrote “Patterns we leave behind will be brought back to implicate us by whatever authority is now been focused upon our once private and it’s next. We lose our individuality because everything we do is observable and recordable.” I mean I understand both sides of this argument. I really do. I've decided because I'm too lazy to do anything else just to buy the Amazon phone you know because it’s cool and I want it. Now what about the judge in Ottawa who has the Supreme Court –actually it wasn't in Ottawa, the Supreme Court of British Columbia was ruling on a case in which a company Equi=tech sued because another company they claimed was making programs, data link that stole Equi=tech’s ideas and designs and in effect violated their patents. The judge has ruled yes in fact this company Data Link did steal their designs and has informed Google that it must pull down all links to Data Link’s site not just in Canada but they have to kill all the search results on all their servers worldwide. Now the judge obviously doesn't have jurisdiction worldwide. But this is the first time I've ever heard a national court telling Google you've got to get all the addresses, all the references out, not just Google CA. The judge wrote websites can be generated automatically resulting in an endless game of whack-a-mole with the plaintiffs indentifying new urls and Google deleting them so as a result Google must kill all Data Link search results worldwide. Not just any particular webpage, but anytime you search for Google on Google for Data Link.
Fr. Robert: So that's not just silly, that's unenforceable.
Jerry: Now that was Canadian did you say?
Jerry: So it won’t affect the United States.
Leo: It will because—
Fr. Robert: Yeah because they're saying that it could be on all domains. Not just Google.ca.
Leo: Yeah. And I don't know how they could have this jurisdiction. Google said if we follow this order it will put us in conflict with laws in other countries. Google is most likely going to appeal and Michael Geist who is a really excellent constitutional scholar in Canada said it seems likely that's will be thrown out. He writes based on earlier Canadian cross border internet cases the global order will probably be struck down “This judge is decided she’s going to decide for the rest of the world”. He says adding that it appears that the judge seeing the size and power of Google may have decided that “Judges need powers that equally large if they're going to deal with it”.
Jerry: I’d rather see Google have some of it than – depends on the judge, I don't find judges always react in my interest.
Leo: That's right. I think we are in a really interesting and I don't – it’s a conundrum. I don't know what the answer is. And I want that phone so I'm just going to buy it.
Fr. Robert: Look all of this discussion leads to what you said which is it’s cool I want it. And it doesn't matter how much we talk about this, eventually people will say it’s cool I want it.
Leo: We're children, I want it it’s shiny. Ooh it’s shiny.
Fr. Robert: It’s new.
Jason: Yeah a lot of what we're talking about is kind of future proofing against scenarios in the future that worry us and you know ultimately I think that the thing is just to – if you want it and you understand you know what you're giving up to do it then by all means. And I think our job is just to you know push them for more transparency and make sure that—
Leo: I know I guess I'm looking at Jerry for – you're the wise, the elder, the wise leader. You're the chief of our tribe Jerry. Old wise Satchem, please advise us.
Jerry: I think that Jason is absolutely right. It is our job to warn people that there are consequences to having all the pretty things that you want. But I must say that having been the guy who did that for 30 years and seeing how much result I got from doing it, I'm not dead sure it’s going to do Jason much more good than it did me.
Leo: No fun being Paul Revere. Is that what you're saying?
Jason: Fair enough.
Jerry: Does this by the way lead us into Net Neutrality?
Leo: Lead us not into evil but deliver us from Net Neutrality. We’ll talk about that when we come back. Thank you Jerry.
Jason: I'm just was too carrying the flag Jerry, I was too carrying the flag.
Leo: Hahaha, I know Jerry’s take on this but I'm going to give him a chance to say it and everybody else to. We got a lots to talk about. This is a great show. So nice to have Jerry Pournelle here. I mean it when I say he is the elder of our tribe. Our fearless leader. Also, Father Robert Ballecer, great to have you. Host of This Week in Enterprise Tech, Know How and Coding 101, the digital Jesuit. And we got them because the pope doesn't, that’s all I'm going to say.
Fr. Robert: Shhh.
Leo: Sorry Francis, he’s mine. Anytime Francis wants you, he can have you because you know he’s great.
Fr. Robert: Yup, yup.
Leo: He’s great.
Fr. Robert: He may not be alive much longer but—
Leo: Really, is he ill?
Fr. Robert: He took on the mafia.
Leo: Oh dear. That's why we love him.
Jerry: He took on the mafia just after he discarded the bulletproof Pope Mobile.
Leo: Doh, doh. This is a fearless man of God and you got to love him. And I'm talking about you.
Fr. Robert: I wouldn't take on the mafia.
Jerry: In Father Ballecer’s case in mind, yes we've got to love him but—
Leo: Well that's my point. Here I am.
Fr. Robert: It’s contractual.
Leo: An atheist heading straight for damnation and I still love him. Jason Hiner is also here from Lousiville, Kentucky. Our show, it’s great to have you, Jason. He's the guy who got me elected president of the internet, by the way, so props to him.
Fr. Robert: Well done.
Leo: Well done, Jason. And I'm just going to tell you that Alexis Ohanian who is running as mayor of the internet … the president trumps mayor. I just want to say that, Alexis. Although, given Alexis founded Reddit, he has a certain claim to that.
Fr. Robert: He's the mayor of New York City on the internet.
Leo: I'll give him the biggest city on the internet.
Fr. Robert: There you go.
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Fr. Robert: I think so.
Leo: Net neutrality, right Jerry?
Fr. Robert: We're watching everyone, so it's all good.
Fr. Robert: And it makes sense, because Nest is a home automation company. They make the thermostat; they make the smoke detector. This is a natural part of any automation solution.
Leo: And it's very smart of Google to say that we're going to set this up as a subsidiary that has its own rules and doesn't share data back with us.
Fr. Robert: Yeah, that is smart.
Leo: At least it's sensitive to the issue.
Jason: I'm going with Jerry on the inevitability of all these kinds of things. But still, I agree that – not playing devil's advocate any longer on some of the privacy stuff – I agree it's a smart move. It's going to be an important part … I think this is an important aspect of the smart home and if Google wants to do that and go you know full out with it, and obviously they do with the Nest purchase, then that's gotta be part of the equation too. So I think it's a smart buy. I think getting them before somebody else did helps Google. Helps Nest.
Fr. Robert: I want to see Amazon buy a company like this and combine it with Firefly so they can tell you what you can buy from around your house. We notice you don't have a tablet!
Leo: You like that flatware? We could get you more.
Fr. Robert: That's a really ugly dress.
Leo: Your kid just dropped a plate. Let's go to some more.
Jason: When you call that tech support number and you tell them and they say, You know, we need you to restart your computer, and you say, OK, it's done now, and they say, You know, we just saw you on your camera …
Leo: Good move.
Fr. Robert: Liar! Liar!
Leo: You know, Google IO is coming up this week and we will cover it live by the way. And I think home automation was clearly a big part of Apple's announcement at its developer conference a couple weeks ago. It's clearly going to be a big part of Google's announcement.
Jason: It will be. I think wearables may steal a lot of the oxygen out of the air at Google IO this week and everything seems to be leading up to the fact that they're going to try to go big on wearables. They know iWatch is coming and …
Leo: It's kind of the last chance. Is that what you're saying, the last chance?
Jason: It is their chance to try to put a stake in the ground and really get people to realize that they're in this game too and they're really going to be big into it. So I think we're going to see a lot of wearables. We have somebody there – Conner Forest. One of our reporters is going to be there all week, and of course CNet and ZDNet will be covering it as well, but wearables is going to be huge.
Leo: You know Father, somebody in the chat room made a very good point. Given that Google will have a camera in the bedroom – now those Viagra ads have new meaning.
Fr. Robert: Chad was saying, We notice you're low on toilet paper.
Leo: Our camera is in your bathroom … we noticed you were having a little trouble last night and we have a solution.
Fr. Robert: Combine that with Amazon drones and now they can just drop cameras everywhere. Our share cam noticed that you need some more shampoo.
Leo: From now on, you're stuck in the toilet and with no toilet paper, you just go, A little help, Google. A little help here! Then in a few minutes, bzzzzzzzzzzzz.
Fr. Robert: Bzzzzzzzzzzzz. We noticed you have nothing to read while you're on the toilet.
Jerry: Google flies into your bathroom with a roll of toilet paper. Yeah.
Leo: See, there is a benefit to this. I'm just saying.
Jerry: And meanwhile the gizmo has looked into your bedroom cabinet drawer and decided that you need to take a trip to the drugstore because you're running out of those things.
Jason: So it may automatically order it for you. Like when it sees, once you notice that my toilet paper is down to a certain number of rolls, just automatically ship it to me.
Leo: How many years have we been talking about that? This goes back to Comdex, the refrigerator that orders more milk automatically for you because it sees you're out. I don't know if we're ready, if the world's ready for that. Let's talk wearables, because you brought it up, Jason. It's a very interesting subject. Apple has never said it's doing an iWatch. Never said it. And yet the entire world is gearing up for Apple and it's iWatch.
Jason: How long were we waiting for a tablet though, right? How many years did we conjecture and talk about it? At least two years, pretty heavily, before the iPad was released, don't you agree?
Leo: And then you know you're analogy's actually pretty apt, because ten years before the iPad Microsoft was pushing tablets. Ten years before the iWatch Microsoft's been pushing this. Remember the Spot Watch?
Jason: The Spot Watch. I had one. It was this big.
Leo: Of course, that was long enough ago that people still wore watches. I don't know if … well, let me see … I see a watch … okay, one person, two watches …
Jason: Yeah it's … see, Jerry's got one. At CES, one of the dinners at CES that I was at, I was sitting next to the CEO of Pebble, really smart great guy, and he said to me, Our biggest competitor isn't Sony or Samsung, who have been doing a lot of smart watches too and really trying to compete with them … he said, Our biggest competitor is people not wearing watches. And I think he's exactly right. Exactly right.
Leo: I've tried every one. In fact I'm wearing a Galaxy Gear 2 – they don't call it Galaxy – the Samsung Gear 2 … I think I'm going to review it before you can buy it on Tuesday … And I've tried them all. The Basis, the Fitbit, the Flex, the Fuelband. Every one of them, and none of them are quite there … The Pebble. Chad's got my Pebble. There's two categories, two ways to go. One is health and one is phone extension. Pebble's all phone extension. Fitbit's all health. I can imagine Apple might unify the two. But I think this is a tough category. Jerry, what do you think from your perspective? I mean you've watched categories come and go and it's pretty clear now with tech companies, it's gotten to the point now where they're just trying to predict what's next, because they want to be there before we get there, right?
Jerry: Well, fold in the nanotech people who could lithograph your watch onto your wrist if they wanted to …
Leo: How close are we to something like that?
Jerry: Whether they can make it waterproof and stay on there … I'm not so sure, but powered by your body chemistry heat … they could do that now.
Jerry: Yeah, it would cost something right now, but if they thought there was a big market for them, they'd probably … I would tell you that within 20 years you'll be able to buy that as an app for your phone.
Leo: It strikes me that with wearables, that's part of the challenge. That anything we talk about, whether its glasses, a watch, they're cumbersome, they're uncomfortable. We want the functionality but we don't want to give up the … we don't want to look like dorks and we don't want to have to wear stuff.
Fr. Robert: That's why I only use the sundial. That thing is cooool.
Leo: I mean, I don't know. Maybe if it's subcutaneous and shines through my skin then I can keep it dry.
Fr. Robert: Now, the special sauce …
Jerry: Nevon has been writing stories in which without there being part of the plot they're just there, people have their watches tattooed on their wrist for 30 years.
Leo: Yeah. That seems sensible. Wearables. Clearly we would love to be more intimately connected. The thing is that I think we can't forget is that the computer has basically become the device in your pocket. I mean, we are pretty intimately connected with our computer now. It's more personal than it ever was.
Jason: The most personal computer ever released. I mean, it is.
Leo: So are these companies trying to move us too fast? In their desperation to find out what's next?
Leo: Are they overthinking this?
Jason: No. I think they're trying to make technology … the whole thing about wearables is making technology disappear into the background more, or making technology become more human.
Leo: Yes, that makes sense.
Jason: Making it become less of you staring at a screen all the time, and I think that's an admirable goal. I just think that the execution has never been right yet.
Jason: And hopefully between Google and its wearable API and this stuff it's going to talk about next week, and Apple most likely in the fall, when we could hear about iWatch, uh, if the product is ready yet, you know, hopefully we're a step closer. It's still going to be pretty rudimentary, but I think we're ready for the next step. I think certainly all of us are ready. We'll see if more of the masses are ready to sort of try some of these things and see if they can take some of this technology to make it fade into the background and be more human and less of people staring at little pieces of screens or bigger screens …
Fr. Robert: Jason, I'm sorry, I don't want to interrupt.
Fr. Robert and Leo: Gooooooaaal!
Fr. Robert: Okay, I'm sorry. We had to get that (World Cup cheer) out.
Leo: Yeah. The Spaniards love that.
Fr. Robert: That sounds not good at all. That's bad.
Leo: Amazon drones are going to take you out, dude.
Jason: That was my best material. They had to screw up my best material …
Leo: Rewind. Rewind. Okay. So Google has already announced Android Wear. Motorola said, Yeah, we're going to do a watch. LG, I think the thinking is that LG is going to have a watch at the IO this week. And they'll probably give it to everybody who's at IO. But I've got to say, this stuff is crap. I cannot get excited about it. I've worn every watch. Every time I wear a watch it's disappointing.
Fr. Robert: Well doesn't it feel like it's a step backwards?
Fr. Robert: I want to remove stuff from my wrist; I don't want to clamp something back on.
Leo: Yes. But Jerry remembers that's how tablets were when Microsoft was pitching them to us way back when. Actually Jerry, you liked yours. You always talked about your HP tablet.
Jerry: I liked mine.
Jason: I didn't like it. I had …
Jerry: It understood my handwriting. It didn't understand yours.
Leo: Yeah. Jerry's told this story before, but the … how did that happen?
Jerry: Well, I went to Moscow in the late 80s when it was still the Soviet Union and Stephan Penovich of Paragraph was writing the handwriting recognition software that eventually went into the Microsoft tablets. And he didn't have any examples of American handwriting. So I took out my log book and I showed him.
Leo: And you still do that. You log everything.
Jerry: And I still do it.
Fr. Robert: So that's what paper looks like?
Jerry: He Xeroxed about 50 pages of that, so if it's gonna understand anybody's handwriting, it's gonna understand mine.
Leo: I love it. I love it.
Jerry: So that's why I liked them. I want to point out something to you that you seem to have forgotten.
Leo: Uh oh.
Jerry: Moore's Law is inexorable.
Jerry: The micro-probe people are up to something like a couple thousand channels of information on a probe to your head.
Jerry: They have a doubling time of under seven years and I suspect that's going to go down more and more. When you get to the point where it's ten to the tenth channels of information that they can do unobtrusively, with maybe one little blump in your head, why do you need to wear anything? Why doesn't the computer just talk to your brain?
Leo: So is this all a rehearsal for jacking in?
Jerry: Something of that sort. I have been writing about that, where the human thinks as a computer, for many years, and sitting there in that nanotech conference last year I came to the conclusion that by gum gollies, it's coming. I probably won't live to see it, but you may.
Leo: I love that idea. I do. I want that to happen. And every science fiction novel that I love the most has some feature of that kind of thing.
Jerry: Good. You'd love Starswarm then.
Leo: Now this is your young adult one, right?
Jerry: Yes, well it's young adult characters. The story is probably adult, but yes.
Leo: I want to read it.
Jerry: And of course Oath of Fealty was an early attempt at what happens if you have a human man-machine interface that works. So …
Leo: The fact that so much science fiction talks about that, does that say that this is what we secretly hope and desire? You know more intimately than anybody the process of science fiction. When you start seeing something turn up all the time in science fiction, what does that mean?
Jerry: It means it's selling. It means the general populace likes stories that have that in it.
Fr. Robert: Yeah.
Leo: Okay. That's fair.
Jerry: Samuel Johnson said it very well. No one but a blockhead ever wrote for anything but money.
Fr. Robert: It's too arduous.
Jerry: After years of making a living at it I guarantee you that's the way I feel about it.
Leo: I love it. And yet, I do feel like – aw, I don't want to get too airy fairy – so I'm going to use the word zeitgeist, but there's something in the air that you start … and maybe it is that feedback loop between an audience and a writer, where the audience says, Yeah, we like that, more of that, but there's definitely this desire for a human-machine interface.
Jerry: But until the 90s it was just fiction. No one realistically expected it to happen very soon. When we wrote Oath of Fealty in the 70s and 80s, I had people thinking that they're machines and people thought that was kind of goofy.
Jerry: Nowadays nobody thinks that's goofy. They think it isn't here yet, but they don't think it's goofy. And when you're storing about ten to the tenth channels of information going from your head to outside and from outside into your head, then you are now talking about a fair amount of capability and simulating your brain as a computer. I don't think I can think at you and have you understand it. I think you and I, or all four billion of us on this earth, have our own internal language. But I think we are getting to the point where a computer can read and write Leo, so to speak, and it can read and write Jerry, and it can have those two talk to one another within it, if you see what I'm getting at.
Leo: Yes. That would look like telepathy.
Jerry: It would look very much like telepathy. It wouldn't be telepathy but it would look like telepathy. It would require the hardware intervention. On the other hand, I point out to you something I said to the nanotech conference a couple weeks ago. They say, What's going to be going on in 2034? One thing that's going to be going on in 2034 is that whatever you're carrying around with you for a telephone will be more powerful than the most powerful computer on this earth right now. And that includes Watson and Big Blue.
Leo: Yeah, imagine that.
Jerry: And it will have terabytes of information on it, internal to it, as well as connected to the cloud. But you'll have Watson in your pocket. And you'll be the most formidable competitor on Jeopardy there ever was. Except that the other people will have them too.
Fr. Robert: Okay, I love that, but I go the other way with the zeitgeist. When I was growing up, the dream of sci fi was this idea of being connected to a massive network where you could instantly call up any information that you needed whatsoever.
Jerry: We're living it.
Fr. Robert: We're there right now.
Jerry: That's what I said would happen in 1980.
Fr. Robert: Exactly. But I mean if we look at the trend right now the trend is not to crazy more powerful machines in our pockets. We've already got that. The trend is going back to the old mainframe days. We are now living with ubiquitous connectivity, able to tap into a central repository of data, a central repository of computing power.
Jerry: It doesn't matter. It's going to be free. It's inevitable. Moore's Law is inexorable and it's going to continue.
Fr. Robert: Well, even Moore said it wasn't going to continue forever.
Jerry: I don't mean necessarily that … you understand, Moore's Law had to do with how many transistors you could get on a chip.
Jerry: And that's not really what it is. But the information technology has for years been basically that every two years it either gets twice as powerful or half as expensive, and sometimes both.
Jerry: And it's been going that way and it has very little to do with the number of transistors you can put on a chip. A lot of other things happened.
Jason: It's a principle. The principle of Moore's Law rather than the actual chip numbers.
Jerry: We just say Moore's Law as shorthand.
Jason: Yeah. I would have been skeptical … It's funny, I would have been skeptical about this interface thing a little bit more if I hadn't over the past few weeks been working on this story about some of the early people working some of the early days at Apple. It's a long form story that's coming out next month.
Leo: Good, I can't wait. That's great.
Jason: Yeah, it's fun stuff. But the cool thing, the realization that I've come to, is talking to them about some of the early work they did and the things they were working on and the problems they were trying to solve and accomplish, and then comparing that with what we're doing now, 35 years later, almost 40 years later, it's staggering how far we've come. I mean I look at this stuff and I'm so blown away in talking to even people who were working on technology in the 70s, and even they're blown away you know and the stuff they're working on they are so excited about, and you know we're looking at how far we've come in such a, what is relatively a short time, it really is quite staggering, so because of that, and if we can come that far and what we're doing is essentially accelerating and building upon what we're doing, I don't know, I think there's going to be a lot of things that we're going to solve in the next 30 to 40 years that are going to blow us away.
Leo: And that's why I don't care about giving them my personal information. It's worth it. Because we're going to get to all this cool stuff.
Fr. Robert: Because it's shiny.
Leo: I have to say, the more I talk to people, and I see more and more people talking about this, the more I worry about artificial intelligence and the machines taking over. But that's conversation for another time.
Jerry: Well, artificial intelligence is not a natural outcome of the system. Somebody has to want that to happen. If you are talking about building self replicating machines that were then allowed to evolve on the market rather than Mendelian evolution …
Leo: But aren't we kind of doing that right now? Elon Musk says, and I think he's not alone because we've interviewed a number of people on triangulation and elsewhere, he's very concerned that we are creating machines that are smarter than us.
Jerry: Oh, it hasn't happened. It could be … it well could be. But I'd like to think that we're still smart enough not to do that.
Leo: If we could figure out a way not to, yeah.
Jerry: Well it's not that hard not to do. Your computer has to stay plugged into the wall.
Leo: Yes, right. No batteries. And no collecting power from the air.
Jerry: More than that, self replicating machinery is a fairly dangerous thing to do.
Leo: That's what Jeff Hawkins said to me. That's exactly what he said. He said, You can do anything you want, just don't let it replicate.
Jerry: You know NASA had this conference on …
Leo: Jerry, you're breaking up. We're gonna do an ad. I'm going to call Jerry right back, we're going to get him on while we do the ad. Hold that thought. Our show brought to you by Squarespace.com – the best place to go for your next web site. Squarespace is both the best hosting out there and software to give you an experience and your users an experience that is second to none. For one thing, you can never bring a Squarespace site down, so you're never going to disappoint your users when they come to visit you. You will be there. You'll look great on every screen, whether they come on a 30 inch 4K display or a four inch iPhone, your site will automatically size itself. It's not a separate mobile site. It will look great. Squarespace has the best engineering, the best people, the best designers, and they're all there for one purpose: to give you a great looking web site, whether it's your blog, whether it's your business, whether it's your portfolio. I want you to go to Squarespace.com. Click the Get Started button and you can start using Squarespace right now. Choose from 25 designer templates. You might say, 25, that's not enough, but let me tell you, as soon as you go to the template you'll see other sites that are using it. Each is unique and is its own special little snowflake, because Squarespace gives you the tools, without knowing coding, to create a unique site that fits your needs. Add your social media. Use their blog or metric apps to post. Their metric apps are great because it lets you … This guy does beautiful furniture. So this is a portfolio. What a gorgeous looking site. Visit Squarespace.com and you can see how people are using Squarespace right now. Real sites, real people, doing amazing things. Try it for two weeks. You do not need to give them a credit card. If you visit Squarespace.com just click the Get Started button. You don't have to give them any personal information – just the name of your site, your email address, your password and you're going. You can import all the content from your existing site too so you can really get a sense for what it looks like. And as you change – here's a book: Love Letters from New Orleans – as you change the templates, the content stays the same. They've separated it beautifully. Eight dollars a month for the basic plan, and that includes a free domain name when you register for a year. Fully covered for 24 bucks a month. Unlimited bandwidth, so you never have to worry about becoming a hit. All you have to do is create great content, and the world will beat a path to your door. Squarespace. Hosting. Software. Great support and service from their office there in New York City. Twenty four-seven. I'm just a fan, I want you to try it today. Again, you don't need to use our offer code to try it. Just go to Squarespace.com and click the Get Started button. But, if you decide to buy it then use the offer code, TWIT. You get 10 percent off on your new account. Squarespace.com. We've called Jerry back. Looks good.
Leo: I think we just had a bandwidth degradation or something; I don't know what happened. Anyway, you were saying something about NASA.
Jerry: Well they had a conference at Pajaro Dunes. It was run by the University of Santa Clara. And it was on self-replicating machinery in space. The notion was that you send something up to space and it makes a factory and the factory makes robots and the robots make more factories and factories make more robots. Could you do that, you could either harvest factories or harvest robots. And could you do that? And with the technology of the time you couldn't do it. I'm not sure you can now either. You can't quite close that loop. But one of the things to observe was that if you could do it, then how many years would it take before every star in the universe, which is billions, of course, will have been visited, and that turns out to be only a few million years. Which is a pretty short period of time, given the number of years since the universe was formed. It's kind of like Fermi's question: Where are they? Well, where are all the probes? And Menske came up with this: He said, Maybe that's the one rule in the galactic civilization. If you build a self replicating machine and send it out we come in and blow your plant up.
Leo: That is the one thing that thou shalt not do!
Jerry: Yes. Marvin and I were roommates at that conference and we had a lot of fun there.
Leo: Oh, I would like to have been a fly on the wall for that.
Fr. Robert: Then we send Amazon at them and it's all over.
Leo: Yes. Thou shalt not build a phone that can gather all the information in the universe or we're going to have to destroy your planet. So, we see the Google IO is coming up. We're going to cover their keynote live; it starts at 9 a.m. Actually, Mike Elgan has the details on the week ahead. Mike, what is that event?
Mike: Coming up this week, Google's big event. The Google IO. Kicking off Wednesday, June 25. Both Jason and I will be at the event. Leo is going to host a special Tech News Today Wednesday, at 9 a.m. Pacific, noon Eastern, and cover the keynote live. Also, we're expecting Microsoft to roll out its first ever Android phone, the next generation Nokia X, on Tuesday June 24. That's what's coming up this week. Back to you, Leo.
Leo: Thank you, Mike. Mike Elgan, news director and host of Tech News Tonight, Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. Pacific, 1 p.m. Eastern time, 1,700 UTC for your morning tech news on TWiT. Uh, wait a minute … should I, do we need to … are they gonna call it back? Are they gonna call it back? It seems that it's time to say:
Leo and Fr. Robert: (World Cup) Gooooal!
Leo: Nine minutes left, and we're winning, two to one. Not that I care about football. Not that I care. Let's see. If you missed anything this week on TWiT, this is it. You've missed a lot. Let's take a look.
Announcer: Previously on TWiT. TWiT Live Specials.
(Video montage plays, showing previous TWiT broadcast outtakes).
Leo: We have Jeff Denos, our newest employee, apparently beating up on Chad. I think you were the two youngest people in the building though, right?
Chad: Possibly, yeah. Better the interns.
Leo: Yeah, aside from the interns.
Leo: Did you slug him back?
Chad: Well, we have extra footage that was compiled by Anthony.
(Screen shows previous broadcast of TWiT employees boxing playfully).
Leo: That's a good hit. That's like Ali-Norton. The Thrilla in Manilla. Okay. I don't think Jeff likes you, Chad.
Chad: Yes. Okay, he's a …
Leo: Chad's wearing a helmet. By the way, that's a helmet from the Los Angeles Tactical Squad.
Chad: Bullet proof.
Leo: Bullet proof, but he hit you in the jaw.
Chad: I'm not quite sucker-proof.
Leo: Yeah. Unbelievable. Don't miss the Giz Wiz. That's a great show. Chad Johnson, and of course our good friend, Dick DeBartolo. You're going to do that on Thursdays, starting …
Chad: I'm not sure. We don't know yet. Who knows?
Leo: What? Oh, I'm sorry. The first rule about Giz Wiz is that we don't talk about Giz Wiz. So Patrick Leahy and Congresswoman Matsui have introduced landmark net neutrality legislation. I'm opening the door, here for Jerry Pournell. As you know, the Federal Communications Commission is debating this whole thing, and they've been told by the courts that they don't have the jurisdiction to ensure net neutrality, so a lot of us are calling for them to enforce Section 2 of the Telecommunications Act, which would declare, basically, broadband providers to be telecommunications companies and be regulatable by the FCC. Maybe the solution is this bill – the Online Competition and Consumer Choice Act – which would do the most important thing, the thing that we're most worried that the FCC will approve. Paid prioritization deals. The internet service providers would go to companies like Netflix or Google or YouTube or TWiT and say, If you would like to have high speed internet delivered to your customers you will give us extra money so you can have a faster connection. And they want to make this illegal. The Online Competition and Consumer Choice Act would prevent, they say, the creation of a two-tiered internet system. Al Franken is a co sponsor. Henry Waxman of California. Anna Eshoo of California – all original co sponsors. Waxman and Eshoo both have constituencies in Silicon Valley, so they obviously have some interest in this.
Jerry: Waxman's not in Silicon Valley.
Leo: Oh, he's in LA. He's your guy. That's right.
Jerry: He's in Los Angeles.
Leo: Eshoo is in Silicon Valley. So what do you think? Is this the right way to go? Hold on, Jerry, we'll let Jason say something, and then Jerry you can weigh in.
Jason: Good, because I'm not necessarily going to take a side here. I'm just going to set the scene a little bit. And this net neutrality thing, it is really starting to line up, kind of like healthcare and immigration. In that most of us agree in the principles of what needs to happen. The thing that we can't agree on is, how do we get there? Because when … and how do we accomplish the goals. In the case of net neutrality, the goal being sort of the free and open internet, right? Or at least a sort of free-fare, open internet. The problem is in enacting legislation or legislating it and trying to legislate those solutions. There are going to be winners and there are going to be losers and there are going to be unintended consequences, and that's what everybody is scared of, and can't necessarily see what the results of all of those things are going to be. And that's why we can't come to consensus about what we should do. Not so much what we should do, but how we should do it. How we accomplish it. And that's the challenge you know with net neutrality, and I think it's one of those things, I don't know, this doesn't feel any closer than anything else that we have talked about over the last couple years.
Fr. Robert: You know, one of the things I've seen over the last couple of weeks talking about net neutrality is, essentially, what is boiling down for the telcos is that they'd like us to trust them. We saw this when AT&T put forth the proposal to buy Dish – I'm sorry, Direct TV. Where they basically told the FCC, Look look look, We promise – though we're not going to give you any actual written promise – but we promise that this is going to be good for the consumer.
Leo: Don't hold us to it!
Fr. Robert: Yeah. We won't tell you how, but this is going to be good. And they've got no store. They've got no reservoir of trust.
Leo: Yeah. All right. Jerry, you and I agree on one thing. A deep abiding fear of government regulation on the internet. The internet has grown without government interference and my fear is that if we don't protect it, the telcoms and the broadband providers are going to screw us. How do we solve this?
Jerry: If I don't require … if I get to subsidize your porn downloads, is that basically it? You don't have to pay extra because your (unintelligible).
Leo: I'm already paying. I'm already paying. I'm paying for my access.
Jerry: So do I.
Leo: Yes, so do you. But why should the porn company have to ...
Jerry: I mean, if you want to solve the problem, I'll give it to you quickly. Enforce the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.
Jerry: Against all of these dang companies. There is, you should not have any companies that are buying eachother out at the levels that they are at.
Leo: And I'd agree with you. The lack of competition is what put us in this position.
Jerry: The lack of competition is the only thing you have to worry about, and if you give the government a monopoly, it's still a bloody monopoly.
Leo: And that's a good point too.
Jerry: So you're worried about something that isn't a problem yet and doesn't look like it's going to be because bandwidth keeps getting developed a lot faster than the ability to use it, to begin with. I mean, I used to get net slowdowns a heck of a lot more a few years ago than I do now. You just have to turn me off and recall me because we've had a slowdown on Skype, but it was all free, and it happened quickly. I just don't see why it is you want to give the FCC geniuses the power to tell you what you can and can't have.
Leo: I've actually come around to the idea that enforcing Section 2 is a bad idea because that just gives the FCC a lot more to regulate. But do you think this bill is a good idea?
Jerry: I think the bill is a horrible idea. What I want to see is a revision of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act that makes it very clear that we are not going to have companies that are too big to fail.
Jason: Yeah. It's exactly true. I think that any legislation, almost always in the U.S., is much more on the side of businesses, especially big businesses, than it is on the side of consumers, typically, so my concern is that any legislation that gets enacted, the unintended consequences is that it helps the Comcasts and the Verizons and the Time-Warners of the world.
Leo: Well if Comcast merges with Time-Warner they come preciously close to being a monopoly.
Jerry: Jason, it's not an unintended consequence that it keeps people from entering into the competitive field. Adam Smith said it a very long time ago. Whenever two capitalists get together, they plot to see how government can keep somebody else from competing with the two of them.
Jason: Fair enough. True.
Jerry: You have enough regulations, and nobody can start a startup, because he has to have nine compliance officers on staff before he can make a product.
Jerry: And he ain't got that … capitalists don't want to pay for compliance officers, so you don't get startups. I mean, really, all of this stuff you're talking about, net neutrality, is really a conspiracy against startups.
Leo: I'm going to have to think about that. Yeah.
Fr. Robert: I love that quote.
Leo: I'm not convinced of that, Jerry. I mean I do agree if you ...
Jerry: Oh it will be an inevitable so-called unintended consequence. What I'm telling you is that it isn't unintended.
Jason: Yeah. Fair enough.
Leo: The Supreme Court has done something for us in the battle against patent trolls. On Thursday morning they ruled unanimously to dismiss a patent awarded to an Australian company for business software.
Leo: Yeah. Hoorah. The court wrote, We conclude that the method claims which merely required generic computer implementation, failed to turn that abstract idea into a patent-eligible invention, just as Clarence Thomas wrote in the majority opinion. A unanimous opinion. Now this is important because software patents … the door was open to software patents when the court ruled that a process, a computer program used to vulcanize rubber, was patentable. First time ever, because it controlled a machine. And they said, Well that is an implementation because it's controlling a machine. That did open the door for software patents, and of course we see a lot of very generic patents that control no physical machine. There are things like patenting the slide-to-unlock. Things that in the past would have been copyrighted or trademarked, but not patented. So ...
Jerry: Double click.
Leo: Double click. Yeah.
Jerry: That's ridiculous.
Leo: Yeah, or the single-click patent.
Jerry: Single click. Buy with one click. That's not a patentable idea. That didn't take any bloody genius to figure that one out.
Leo: It's not over. Patent trolls are not over because of course as is often happens with a decision like this, now the lower courts are going to have to decide, well, what is a generic computer implementation and what is a physical implementation. What is, you know, and there's going to be a lot of question marks. Judge Sotomayor wrote a concurring opinion that said no business method should ever be patentable. That is getting a little closer to the idea. But the question is still open about whether software itself can be patented. But this I think is a good step in the right direction. I don't know what the upshot will be with the U.S. PTO, but we thought we'd mention that.
Fr. Robert: Yeah, but on the other side you still have the U.S. PTO handing out a copyright for pi in January of this year.
Leo: Is that apple pie?
Fr. Robert: No, just pi. They were able to get a copyright on pi, the symbol for pi, because obviously there's no prior art for that.
Leo: What? Oh my God.
Fr. Robert: You still have Oracle, who is … they've got a new wind in their lawsuit against Google's use of their …
Leo: Their APIs.
Fr. Robert: Their APIs. So this is one little ruling. But I don't know. I don't see it propagating.
(Jerry tries to speak and cuts out.)
Leo: Poor Jerry. I think Comcast decided that he shouldn't be able to use Skype anymore.
Fr. Robert: No no. I think that was the nanotech.
Jason: Hmmm. It might have been a conspiracy between the two.
Leo: Let's take a beak, and when we come back we hope Jerry will as well. Our show … huh? They just tied it (World Cup) up?
Fr. Robert: I think they just equalized it.
Leo: There's only 30 seconds left in the game. They tied it up.
Fr. Robert: Oh! I think they just tied it up.
Leo: They tied it up. There's only 30 seconds left in the game. That's a terrible thing. Terrible thing. Actually, I'm glad, because we have many Portuguese viewers, and this way everybody wins.
Fr. Robert: No.
Fr. Robert: So, now you suck on the bubazilla?
Leo: Yeah. Can I inhale? Well it doesn’t really produce a sound.
Fr. Robert: It doesn't, no.
Leo: Our show today … thank God, there's backup. In fact, can we back up this game? Carbonite Online Backup. Whether you have one computer at home or several at your business, the worst thing that can happen is you lose data. I had a guy call me, he said, My hard drive fell off a table. On the radio show today, he said, My hard drive fell off a table and now I can't get into it. He said, I've priced this and it's going to cost me thousands of dollars to get the data off this drive. I said, Did you have a backup? He said, That was the backup. I said, But if that's the only copy, it's not a backup. Just because you put stuff on your backup drive does not mean you have a backup. If you have just one copy of your data, you're going to lose your data eventually. Carbonite does it exactly right. If you're a business and you're letting Jerry in the stock room back up your computers whenever he remembers to do it, and he's backing it up on a hard drive he keeps in the stock room, what if the whole thing burns down? You've lost everything, including Jerry. Why don't you use Carbonite Online Backup? Then you're not depending on any employee. Once you install Carbonite on your network or on your individual computer it starts backing up and for the next year you can go to sleep. You can take it easy. You can relax because Carbonite's backing up all your files. You can access those files at any time. Just log on to your Carbonite account on any computer or use their free apps. You'll see your stuff. These are very affordable flat rate plans, no matter how many computers you have, no matter where they're located, it's very affordable. You only pay once a year and you don't have to really think about it. Start your free trial today at Carbonite.com. We're going to get you two weeks. No credit card required. You can use the offer code TWIT. And you'll get two free bonus months when you buy. And that is a good deal. Please. Peace of mind and protection awaits at Carbonite.com. We thank them so much for their support of This Week in Tech. So it's a tie. So Portugal goes on and we go on ...
Fr. Robert: Well, no, because they've … well … no.
Leo: No? What happens now?
Fr. Robert: So they've got one point, Ghana has one point.
Leo: And Germany has four points.
Fr. Robert: And we have four points.
Leo: You wanted it. You wanted us to beat Germany to go in. We have to at least tie.
Fr. Robert: Oh, man.
Leo: Sorry, I didn't mean to hurt you. This is going to be an exciting week. We've got the Google IO coming up. I think we're going to see some interesting things. Maybe some smart watches. We've got, uh, that's it. Pretty much that's all.
Fr. Robert: The IO. That's the big thing. The IO is sucking the air out of the room.
Leo: Yeah. That's right. Oh, we were going to talk about the Surface Pro. I knew there was something … So, the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 is now available.
Fr. Robert: Uh huh.
Leo: Can I go to Microsoft's store and buy it and have it tomorrow?
Fr. Robert: You should be able to.
Leo: It's not a delay and a long line? They didn't sell out of stock?
Fr. Robert: Well there were people waiting in line overnight.
Fr. Robert: Many.
Leo: Several. Nationwide, dozens.
Jason: Adored by dozens.
Leo: We make fun. We mock. But actually I think this, uh, you've played with it a little.
Fr. Robert: I've played with it. It's a nice machine.
Leo: Yeah. You're using an Acer S7.
Fr. Robert: I'm using an Acer S7.
Leo: I use that too. I love it.
Fr. Robert: Which kind of leads me to … that this is what I would take over a Surface 3. I like the Surface 3. If I was going to use a Windows tablet that's definitely the tablet I would use. But I want my laptop.
Leo: There was a question, and I don't know if they've fixed this. There were some really ...
Jerry: What have you got there, Father?
Fr. Robert: This is an Acer S7.
Leo: Highly recommended, Jerry. I know you're looking for a … Who is this for? Your niece or granddaughter?
Jerry: Well, that. But also it's time to replace my old ThinkPad.
Leo: I think the ThinkPads are still pretty darn good. In fact the (unintelligable) is amazing.
Jerry: Yes, but this is a four year old one.
Leo: Uh huh. What do you like, Jason?
Jason: For a tablet?
Leo: For Windows.
Fr. Robert: He doesn't like tablets. He's like me.
Jason: Yeah, I just cannot … I wrote this article when the iPad first came out saying you know the iPad is only good for two things – you know, reading and scrabble.
Leo: It's really good for scrabble though, I've got to say.
Jason: It is excellent for scrabble.
Leo: I can remember when I was playing Words With Friends on the iPhone – the iPad hadn't come out yet – and I dreamed, I dreamed of having ten inches. I've been dreaming about that a lot. And the idea of being able to play scrabble … and it is really the Words With Friends machine.
Fr. Robert: Amazing.
Jason: But basically you can boil that down to gaming and viewing content, right? That's like the two things that tablets are good for.
Leo: I kind of thought that all along. I know people say, Oh, I know I can create content, blah blah blah.
Jason: I still feel that way. I just can't … I'm sort of with Robert. Like, give me a laptop. Give me a really good laptop. Thin, light, long battery life. And then you know I've got a great phone. And I'm a happy camper.
Leo: I do feel like we are … who was it that said we are in the post-post PC era, where the phone is really 90 percent of the computing I do.
Fr. Robert: That's the thing. I mean, my phone has a big enough screen where that's my tablet. I don't feel like I need a tablet in addition to my phone, and when I want to go one step up, it's my laptop.
Leo: Exactly. I don't need that in between device. By the way, I just want to point out that when Bezos talked about the Amazon Fire Phone he did not once mention making phone calls.
Fr. Robert: Right. We don't do that? Who makes a phone call anymore? People do that?
Leo: That … it's a phone in the name but that isn't really a big part of it, right? Or maybe it's just something you don't have to mention. Well, you can make phone calls, not that you'd ever want to. So let's get back to the Surface. The other thing that I was a little worried about, and I don't know if you know about this, Robert, but we were talking about this on Windows Weekly. Both Paul and Mary Jo had the pre-release Surface 3 that they got from Microsoft at the announcement, and they have had weird power problems.
Fr. Robert: Yes.
Leo: It would lose power. It would lose the time of day. You'd have to reset the machine. And there was some question about whether Microsoft was going to fix this with a patch when the Surface Pro 3 came out. Or if it would be forced when you downloaded. Did they fix it? What is the status? Maybe someone in the chat room knows. If you bought a Surface Pro 3 ...
Fr. Robert: Well it seems that the machines that they got, even though they said that these were preview machines, they were part of the manufacturing batch. They didn't manufacture a thousand prototypes and hand them out to the press. So those same machines are the ones that you're going to buy in the store. I wasn't able to duplicate the power problem because I didn't have it long enough. But I have read about it.
Leo: It's fairly serious, it sounds like.
Fr. Robert: I'm not convinced that it's a software problem. I think it might actually be a hardware problem.
Leo: Right. So that was part of the question. They believed that the software fix could fix it. So we don't know. But it's something you should probably ask before you buy.
Jerry: That's a matter of some concern, but what I want, I need two things: I need a production laptop, and frankly an Air would work very well for what I'm doing on that. I need something I can write on when I'm away. But I also need something where I can sit at the breakfast table and use OneNote to go through the newspapers, both online and the paper paper in my hands.
Leo: That's a perfect OneNote machine.
Jerry: That's what the Surface is going to be.
Leo: It's made for OneNote, because you take out the pen and you press the button and OneNote launches. It is like a dedicated … it would be a great dedicated OneNote machine. By the way, Mary Jo Foley did tweet that there was a firmware update that when you open the Surface Pro 3 and turn it on, it immediately applied, and they say it does fix that power problem.
Fr. Robert: Huh? All right.
Leo: Yeah. Apparently they have fixed it. Given that, if they've fixed that problem, and Jerry, given what you want to do, I think the Surface Pro 3 is exactly what you want.
Jerry: Understand that I'm going to get a laptop too, and that Acer looked interesting.
Leo: Love the Acer. That's what Mary Jo bought.
Fr. Robert: She did a lot of research and finally picked up one of these things. Less than three pounds, gets about ten hours of battery life. Crazy crazy fast, and of course, a touch screen.
Leo: If you can buy both, Jerry, that sounds like a great combination.
Fr. Robert: Yeah.
Jerry: Given what I do, I need both a laptop and a tablet. I did manage to do a couple of Comdexes with just that compact HP laptop, and it worked pretty good. And I can go into the press room and connect it to the internet with its built in Ethernet and file stories from it. But I've found by and large that tablets, few of them have a keyboard that I can write fast on.
Leo: Yeah. And I think you'd feel the same way with this touch … or type, I guess they only do the type cover now. Yes. Although, try the Acer keyboard though.
Jerry: I will. Acers are good.
Leo: Yeah, but like a lot of modern keyboards it has a very short throw, and you may find … I actually have trouble typing with it, and if that's the case you should stick with your Lenovo and the Carbonex One.
Fr. Robert: Oh, but you have the last version.
Leo: I know. I don't have this new one.
Fr. Robert: This is the new one.
Leo: Is it a little bit better? It's still a short throw.
Fr. Robert: A short throw, but it clicks a little bit.
Jerry: Oh, does it? I'll give it a try. I'm probably just going to end up with another ThinkPad. I've had good experience with them.
Leo: They're excellent. Jerry, it is always such a pleasure to have you on. Every time we have you on, I think, Gosh, why don't we have Jerry on every show? You're just great. I thank you for being here.
Jerry: Thank you.
Leo: What do you want to plug? JerryPornell.com. Buy his books on Amazon.
Jerry: Yes, jerrypournell.com. And if you're interested in man-machine interfaces look up Starswarm and Oath of Fealty. You'll love them both.
Leo: I'm going to read them both. I'm a big fan of Jerry's writing, including Lucifer's Hammer, which is a great … gosh is that a great book. So I've obviously got some catching up to do.
Jerry: Oh I've got some news on that, just really quick.
Leo: What's that?
Jerry: Nevin and I are doing a … we don't know if it'll be a novelette or a novella … maybe up to 50,000 words … as to what happened to the surfer in Lucifer's Hammer. He survived. And what happens to him in the years or couple of years that are following.
Leo: He was surfing the tidal wave caused by the asteroid.
Jerry: That's right. And we have figured a way whereby he survives this. And he gets … or maybe he survives it. You'll have to read it. You'll love it. We're working on it now.
Leo: How can he survive? John's pointing out that he surfs right into the wall of an apartment building.
Jerry: Well, but apartment buildings do have doors.
Fr. Robert: Whoooaaa!
Leo: I love it. I love it.
Jerry: Even on the 8th floor.
Fr. Robert: Don't spoil it for me, I just bought Lucifer's Hammer on Audible.
Leo: It's so good. And (unintelligible), which is phenomenal. So many great books. We thank you so much for your writing, Jerry. And just for being here. For being our Sachem.
Fr. Robert: Yeah.
Leo: Thank you for being here, Jerry. Thank you, Jason Hiner, TechRepublic.com. Always a pleasure to talk to you.
Jason: Always love it here.
Leo: Are you excited about that Google IO? You can't wait to get your hands on that watch?
Jason: No, not really. No. Not at all. No, I won't be there. Actually, I'll be in Detroit next week at an event that Ford holds there. It's kind of an event about innovation and some of the stuff that they're doing. But it's really not just about Ford … it's barely about Ford … it's really more about global innovation and the future of .. you know, the way innovation is going to impact society. So it's a good event that they do every year around the same time as Google IO.
Jason: So yeah, very cool.
Leo: Awesome. Thank you, Father Robert for driving up. It's always a pleasure to have you. And thank you also for hosting TWiT in two weeks because I'm going to be in Hawaii.
Fr. Robert: Thank you for reminding me.
Leo: Yeah, like you'd forgotten. So it's a good thing that I mentioned July 6. Be here.
Fr. Robert: July 6.
Leo: And we want to thank our great studio audience. Andreo Ebanyez, who bought a lovely bowl of chili, I see on your Twitter feed. He brought a bunch of people. And across the street. And engineers from Google and Google related companies are here from Spain for Google IO.
Fr. Robert: Oh, so that's, so this is Google Spain. Oh, wonderful.
Leo: Now you understand. The six people work for Google Spain. No, I think there's more. Great to have you guys. Everybody in the audience. What a lovely studio audience. Standing room only. What are you waving there? Are you just saying hi? Where are you from?
Voice from studio audience: Massachusetts, actually.
Leo: Oh, well that doesn't count. Uh, does Massachusetts have a team in the World Cup? I don't think so. All right, I'm just teasing. Anyway, thank you all for being here. We do TWiT on Sunday afternoons, 3 p.m. Pacific, 6 p.m. Eastern time, 2,200 UTC. You can watch live at live.twit.tv or get the On Demand audio and video after the fact. We put it out as quickly as we can, a couple hours after each show. The best thing to do is subscribe; you'll get it automatically on your smart phone or your tablet or your computer. There are apps for all the platforms you can get, so you can get the latest version of TWiT. Thanks for being here. Well, we tied. We tied.
Fr. Robert: That's okay.
Leo: Congratulations to our friends in Portugal. They're okay. They're good. Hey, we would have knocked them out and I would have felt bad because we have friends in Portugal. Now we can knock them out without them watching. Private, so to speak. Put your (unintelligible) aside. Thanks everybody! Another TWiT is in the can.