This Week in Tech 488 (Transcript)
Leo Laporte: It's time for TWIT: This Week in Tech. Christina Warren, Dwight Silverman, and John C. Dvorak are here. We're going to talk about the Sony hack and Christina's amazing story about what really happened to the Jobs movie. Plus Supreme Court decisions that could change the way you use Facebook and a whole lot more. It's coming up. This Week in Tech is next.
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This is TWIT, This Week in Tech, Episode 488, recorded December 14, 2014.
Second Life Wife
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Justine Ezarik: Hello! How are you?
Leo: I just wanted to talk about this a little bit before we got into the news portion of the show. I was so blown away by this.
Justine: Every year, they do such a good job, and this year they actually over 120 creators in this video. They went all around the world to get creators, not only just from the US, but they tried to incorporate as many as they could. It's awesome. They did such a good job.
Leo: And they used the YouTube space in New York, LA, London, and Tokyo. In fact, I think there's 8 locations on this. Five shooting days. Did they ever tell you how much they spent on this?
Justine: They didn't. But knowing how much production costs, definitely was a pretty penny.
Leo: This is millions of dollars in this.
Justine: And the crazy thing is all of these YouTube people, a lot of them are my friends too and I know how busy they are, so for them to be able to get all of these people in one video is amazing. It's so impressive.
Leo: This, where you're blowing the dust, the fairy dust, looks like it's in the mountains in the Swiss Alps or something, but I'm guessing they didn't fly all of you to the Swiss Alps to do this Frozen thing.
Justine: Nope. We were in a parking lot in downtown Los Angeles. It was 100 degrees; everybody was sweating in that clothing.
Leo: Oh no! It was hot?
Justine: It was so hot. Everyone was dying.
Leo: So they made you wear a knit hat, a sweater, a scarf, and it's 100 degrees out.
Justine: Yeah, but it ended up turning out really awesome. It's just crazy because we spent almost half a day, and I know previously people have spent days on these and you have a two second cameo, but you guys know how production works. It's a whole hurry up and wait.
Leo: Everybody's in this. Conan O'Brien, John Oliver is in this. Why does YouTube do these rewinds?
Justine: That's a good question. I think they really like to show the community in YouTube, and this is such a good way to pull the trends together from the past year. It's just a really fun video. I think it shows that they're willing to invest in creators and they're doing a much better job of that in the past couple of years. It's great, although last year was my favorite because of "What Does the Fox Say."
Leo: Right. Were you in that one too?
Justine: I was. I forget what I was doing. I think I was riding in a car with the guy who does the invisible drive through pranks.
Leo: 47 million views the first week for this YouTube rewind. So it's clearly something that people are interested in.
Justine: The part with the hamster was my favorite.
Leo: He's eating a little YouTube chicklet.
Justine: So cute! Have you seen his videos? It's like this whole series where this hamster eats tiny little miniature food, and it is the cutest thing ever.
Leo: Also part of the value of this, and we see everybody is getting credit here, part of the value of this is it's introducing some of these YouTube stars to a larger audience. I had to actually sit down with a 12-year-old to find out who all these people are, and he knew at least half of them.
Justine: Yeah, I think I only knew half of them, which is so crazy, because this community is so massive that even a lot of these YouTubers are from other countries. Where did you come from? You have millions of subscribers, and I'm just now finding out about you. So it is a really cool way to get caught up on all the cool stuff that's happening on YouTube.
Leo: Also I think establishes YouTube as more than just the viral video center. The crotch shot video site. These are all creators who are making content on a regular basis. They have a style, they have a voice, they have a name, and they're very successful as a result. Although a normal person like John C Dvorak, he'd look at this and he'd go, "I don't know who these—” I love this guy.
John C. Dvorak: I know all of them.
Leo: You know that guy? Really, you look at them and you go, I know that?
John: Yeah, I've seen it before. I think what you overlook is these guys are making money.
Leo: Are they making money? Justine, how lucrative is YouTube? I mean, almost everybody, like Michelle has to sell cosmetic kits too. She makes her money in other ways.
Justine: Yeah, it is hard, because in YouTube they have sort of the partner program and you get a percentage of your ad revenue, but sometimes ad revenue isn't always the best, so a lot of us do sponsor videos. We do other projects, so it really is trying to find creative ways to have that other revenue stream, but it is so much fun, and I love taking sponsor projects where it allows me to create bigger and better projects that I normally wouldn't be able to do without the help of sponsors. You guys know, this is what we do, so it's great.
Leo: Well, and I think also, if you see YouTube as a launching point and not an end point, but as part of a larger thing, then it makes more sense than if you say, "I'm trying to make a living off of what I do on YouTube."
Justine: It is, and it takes a lot of time. I've been doing this forever—
Leo: How many videos to date have you made?
Justine: I at least post one piece of content a day. I've been posting daily gaming videos, and right now in December they do this big called 'Blogmas' where you blog every day until Christmas, so you put out a video every day until then. But it takes a lot of time, especially most of the YouTubers they still do shoot and edit all of their own stuff, so it's very time consuming.
Leo: A lot of these were shot at YouTube spaces, like the L.A. space where our former producer Aileen is one of the producers there. How important are these YouTube spaces to create?
Justine: I think it's important because it does allow YouTube to have a place where you can do meetings, you can have events, you can do premiers, and it more or less validates it in the traditional space, because most of the YouTubers, we shoot at home, we shoot wherever. So I wish they had this five or six years ago before I had invested my entire life into buying equipment and computers. It does definitely validate it, whereas these places all around the world that you're able to go, so matter what city I'm in, if there's a YouTube space, you can just come and shoot.
Leo: So you get a sense of community and being part of the larger community when you go to those YouTube spaces.
Justine: For sure. I think it's really important in L.A. too, because to be able to rent out those studio spaces, and they have full production speeds and all kinds of stuff. You do have to go through a training program before you're able to actually use it, so there is that, but it's just a great place that if YouTube wants to film something, they have it all right there at their disposal.
Leo: I tell you, when you look at something like this, you realize what a phenomenon YouTube has become.
Justine: It is. And the number one most viewed thing is gaming, which they did screw up, because they didn't put enough actual—
Leo: They missed out on twitch!
Justine: Yeah. But it's kind of a little competitor.
Leo: Now it is. They could have bought it.
Justine: They could have. They definitely could have.
Leo: They should have bought it.
Justine: I mean, I'm not pointing fingers.
Leo: Justine, I'll let you go. I thank you so much for being here. It's just when I saw this and I saw you in it, I thought, "Hey, we got to get Justine on to talk a little bit about this." When you look at it, you realize boy they really put a lot of work into it.
Justine: Awesome. Well, have a good rest of your show, and happy holidays everybody.
Leo: Happy holidays! Great to see you again.
Justine: You too.
Leo: Keep up the good work. youtube.com/justine?
Leo: youtube.com/ijustine. That's one of like 80 channels.
Justine: I know. It's too much.
Leo: She's a very busy person.
Leo: Take care. Bye. Now let me introduce the rest of the panel. Grumpy old John C. Dvorak is here.
John: I'm only grumpy because you took Justine off the air.
Leo: I know. I love her. Isn't she talented? You know, we discovered her. Actually, Alex Lindsey discovered her. I think she thinks she was known before we discovered her, but she was at a word camp, a WordPress camp in Pittsburgh and Alex Lindsey met her and said, "you're going to be a star." We had her on MacBreak all the time.
John: This is true.
Leo: And then she went on to bigger and better things.
John: I thought she pre-dated MacBreak.
Leo: You'd think that, wouldn't you?
John: I'm pretty sure of it.
Leo: Well, I'm sure she was born before then. That's John C. Dvorak. noagendashow.com. channeldvorak.org. It's so good to have you back. You didn't bring my camera back, did you?
John: You know, I brought it back the last time I was here and I was going to bring it back and I left it at the house.
Leo: Yeah. I heard it all before. Also, Christina Warren is here. Great to have film_girl with us from Mashable. It's obviously freezing where you are, because you're indoors and you're wearing a wool hat.
Christina Warren: I am because it's cold and my heat is not really working. I've got to get the landlord out, so yeah. It's one of those things where I'm in a sweater and a hat, and if I had my wits about me probably a scarf, but it's OK.
Leo: If you get chilly or your throats starts to get a little scratchy, please go get that scarf and maybe a hot cup of tea.
Christina: I will.
Leo: I don't want you to get sick on us. Dwight Silverman is also with us from his office in Houston where it is a balmy 80 degrees?
Dwight Silverman: It's in about the 70's here. It's a typical Houston winter so far.
Leo: Dwight is at the Houston Chronicle— blog.chron.com/techblog, and it's always great to have you on as well.
Dwight: Thank you, Leo. I'm excited. I love Christina, I'm a big fan of hers. I was particularly enamored of the piece she did about the Sony pictures blowing the Steve Jobs film. I can't wait to hear her talk about it today.
Leo: Let's talk about it right now, because it is the story of the century. Sony pictures entertainment hacked of course. No one knows who did it, even though apparently there was some Korean in the virus code, the thought that North Korea did it as revenge for "The Interview" movie seems to me to be not very credible. Especially since these #GOP people seem kind of independent. Shall we put it that way? On their own.
John: I'm wondering—I think it's interesting to try and figure out who did it, but I know that made an announcement saying they're going to have a Christmas gift for everyone.
Leo: Oh dear.
Christina: That came out today.
Leo: Well they got into Sony so good that they got into everything on every computer on every server. All the content of the e-mails, the deals, the contracts, everything. It's all been revealed. Even movies on their server, and Christina has been one of the people who has been watching this very closely, in fact going through some of these materials, looking for stuff. How much stuff is there, so far?
Christina: So far, I guess about 250 gigabytes has been released. So far.
Leo: And you think there's more?
Christina: Yeah, there's definitely more, and they're releasing it pretty indiscriminately. They released some information today. The Christmas gift. I haven't had a chance to download that torrent yet and see what's in it, but basically for the last two weeks they've been releasing stuff every other day or so. And it's been pretty indiscriminate. It started with some of the leaked films and that got a lot of attention, but those were basically just screener copies so they weren't even that great, but that got a lot of attention. And then what we saw with the first dump of documents was, "oh wow. This is actually some serious internal stuff." And they've escalated going from documents to deals to inboxes, and the e-mails they've released so far have been—Amy Pascal the co-chairman of Sony pictures as well as someone in heads of legal councils inbox, and hundreds of gigs of documents. Literally thousands upon thousands of documents. Mostly Excel files, doc files, and PDFs, and there is just so much. It's hard to really wrap your mind around. What's bad is they got in so deeply they literally had lists of every single server, every single workstation, every single virtual machine. Everything on the premises, all those devices, including their serial numbers, including their Mac addresses were all listed. They had listed every account that had studio access. They had password files galore. They got in hard. Trying to sort through the material and figure out what's there has been a real challenge, so a lot of us in the media are going through it. And the e-mails are certainly hacked the most enlightening stuff, at least for the public, but there's all kinds of other stuff too. I've been talking to former and current Sony employees. There's a secret base flow group, about 3500 people right now were all freaked out because their social security numbers had been part of this and people are worried about having their identities stolen and what recourse they're going to have that in. There's so much that it's kind of difficult to put into context, because this is the worst corporate hack ever, and it's kind of like the wiki leaks, the cable gate sort of thing, but for a corporation.
John: You know who I'd take a look at to see maybe the bad actor? Look for all the companies that made proposals to Sony about improving their security.
Leo: And was ignored.
John: And was ignored. By the way, did you know David Boies is out there? That famous guy who was the attorney against Microsoft and all these other things? He's taken over the Sony—
John: Yeah. And he's threatening everybody, saying, "This is stolen material, you can't be reprinting it!"
Leo: In fact, didn't the FBI arrest one person for downloading some of this material? Am I wrong?
Christina: I saw something like that.
Leo: Sony has been DDoSing the sites that host this material. Let me explain how this—
John: that's illegal.
Leo: Yeah, but they're doing it out of— so it's OK. How are they distributing this data? Is it a torrent link that they post to pastebin? Is that what they're doing?
Christina: Basically. And they're also using various file hosts. They're taking it down really quickly. The pastebins are going down within hours sometimes less than that.
Leo: So the press is jumping on these links the minute they're publicized and downloading them as fast as they can.
Christina: Right, and they're also e-mailing us.
Leo: The hackers are e-mailing you directly?
Leo: What are they saying in those e-mails?
Christina: It just has a link to the paste bin and some of their half Engrish sort of stuff.
Leo: Before they make it public they send it to you—
Christina: No. They've been a little bit late, actually. It's funny because I think I was one of the first people to get the e-mails, and that was purely happenstance. It was on Monday and I just happened to go to pastebin and search, and I found the e-mails. They had been up for about 11 minutes. We didn't get any sort of link from them for another 3 or 4 hours.
Leo: What do you say to people who say it is as bad to look at this material as it is to look at the naked pictures of Jennifer Lawrence? It's as unethical to do that. You're complicit in looking at these materials.
Christina: No. It's not even remotely the same thing. I understand why people have that—why people would draw that conclusion, but first of all, I think it's a false equivalency to equate corporate documents from public companies from private communications that are taking place on servers—
Leo: But it is stolen material.
Christina: Of course it is, but so are the Pentagon papers. So is the NSA leak.
Leo: But wait a minute. You can't say that this has anywhere near the importance of the Pentagon—
Christina: I'm not in any way. I'm in no way trying to equate the two. Let me be very clear. There is no equation whatsoever.
Leo: Why does the public need to know this stuff from Sony? There's no public need to know what James Franco got for being in "The Interview." That's gossip!
Christina: Well, it is gossip. But it is also the sort of information if we're being completely honest, if someone were to e-mail us the budget from that film and it were to come into my inbox and it were to be part of this thing, it would be stolen, and it would be news, and it would still be something that the trade publications would publish. Most of the time, and this is the uncomfortable part about journalism, Andrew Wallenstein wrote a really good op-ed that I largely agree with, they said, "We get stolen material all the time. That's part of our job. People leak things to us usually for other purposes, usually with our own agendas, and we have to go through and decide what's worthy and what's not, and in a case like this there are requests. Obviously this is stolen, but a lot of times there are requests for information that was obtained illegally that people go through and search for the most salacious or the most interesting tidbits. You can make the argument that something like the inside story for the Steve Jobs movie might not be news. I would disagree. I think that it is news. I think it's interesting. I think seeing the inner workings of how a major studio bungles a high profile project is news, whether it's the most newsworthy thing out there, of course not. But I also think that things such as salaries, things such as internal memos, and finding out information about things that might be going against what's being said publically are interesting. You also have to look through and think are there things that are happening that might be bad. Some people have been looking into the potential pay gap within Sony across gender lines. I haven't actually seen any proof of that in a conventional sense, but these are the things that are worth looking into to find out. I've been getting from some sources that there was—a lot of the layoffs Sony made might have been actually tied to what employees were costing them the most in terms of their health insurance and their health insurance program. That's something that they were looking into and trying to verify. These are real stories. When you get this data, you go through it; our job as journalists is to be responsible for the truth first and foremost, not to the individuals at Sony. And the second responsibility, when I wrote my story, I put 6000 words. I reached out to every person that was in it in advance. It's not as if they didn't get a heads up, it's not as if they didn't know it was coming. Second of all, there are things you omit, because when you're going through this stuff, we had certain lines where I said, "You know, this is going to be communication between a husband and wife and it's clearly personal in nature. It's not necessary to be part of this narrative. It's not necessary to be a part of this story." So I understand the criticism.
Leo: Well Even Andrew Wallerstein, who is co-editor and chief of Variety says at the end of his oped piece, "every reporter has fantasized about stumbling upon a treasure trove of secret documents. When a story such as Sony is spread in front of us all, it's unprecedented scope, it's instinctive for us to pounce. But this time around, acting on that reflex just doesn't feel right, even though it isn't wrong." He's conflicted.
Christina: Exactly. I am too. It's not an easy thing to do. You feel gross about it, and there are things that make you feel uncomfortable. But that's one of the pitfalls of journalism.
Leo: One of the things I found interesting about your article is how much you report from the inside sources was already leaked by sites like deadline. It seems like Hollywood is a pretty leaky civ anyway. And they nailed it by the way, in every case. Deadline and these other gossip columns got it exactly right.
Christina: And it was funny. My story was so long as it was, I wasn't able to make it into its own narrative, but one of the things that I wanted to say was that it was funny. You could look at the date that e-mails were happening. You could look at the time stamp, and literally within hours, the story— there would be a story on Deadline or the Hollywood reporter. There was clearly leaks happening from inside, and this happens all the time. So this is another reason why I'm saying in this case, I would never equate it to looking at nude photos of celebrities, because a lot of the information is being leaked willingly by the party anyway for their own benefit. Trying to influence things one way or another. I'm not saying that it can't be painful and it can't be embarrassing and it isn't devastating to the people who are involved. But this is also part of the game of Hollywood where things are leaked and that's the case with business journalism too, where we leak things. That's what we do. Part of our role in the press is we get information, we vet it, and we publish it, and the fact that this information was obtained illegally, while awful that this illegal act happened, does not mean that it's unethical according to any journalistic guidelines or anything else for us to go through them. On the contrary, the amount of legal precedent involved in saying that publishing stuff from stolen documents is absolutely legal and absolutely ethical according to almost every single journalistic guideline out there.
Leo: Oh really?
Christina: Yeah. That doesn't mean people can't be grossed out about, and that reporters can't feel conflicted.
John: I'm not actually sure that's correct. There's something we're overlooking here. First of all, this stuff is so banal. Who cares whether James Franco got a free ride in a Limo, or any of these things? It's so mundane.
Leo: There is some journalistically important stuff in here. Cases of sexual harassment that were buried by Sony.
John: That's OK, that's kind of interesting, and I think that should be taken up with a legal operation or the people who were affected by it, but it seems to me that this is not that interesting.
Leo: I beg to differ. How many hits did you get on your article?
Christina: We've had a lot.
John: Any gossip stuff will be that way, but still it's banal. It's like a traffic record. Let's stop and check it out. I don't know. This whole things seem to be what I think people should be more focused on is the outrageous amount of stuff that is on their servers that shouldn't be on their servers.
John: it's ridiculous how cavalier these guys were. That to me is the issue. Not that somebody's got a sexual harassment some place in Hollywood. That never happens.
Leo: We talked a little bit on Security Now about this. Even Steve Gibson, who is a security guru and kind of lives by the notion that it's possible to secure stuff, otherwise why be a security expert? Even he said there is very few companies that wouldn't be vulnerable to this kind of attack, that wouldn't have this kind of stuff unencrypted on their servers. Certainly no motion picture company, the problem is in order to get business done, to be fully secure you need to silo stuff and encrypt stuff and limit access to stuff, but to get business done, you almost need to do the opposite. People need to be able to freely speak in e-mails. They need to be able to see stuff, spreadsheets need to be shared. So there is this mismatch between the needs of high end security—
John: Make it sound as though Hollywood couldn't get any business done before the Internet and before all these servers were there.
Leo: Well it's interesting because one of the responses to this is no more e-mails. Nothing in writing. They're doing everything by phone calls going forward. Imagine if you were a producer, a director, an actor who was considering a contract with Sony. Wouldn't you think twice now about that? Dwight?
John: Depends on what it was.
Dwight: Passable has just published, 9 minutes ago, a piece in which Sony pictures us in a letter and several media outlets demanding that they delete e-mails delivered by hackers, I presume Christina has gotten some of those, and they are essentially threatening you. I'm curious Christina, you mentioned that you're getting e-mails from the hackers, have you by any chance heard from the law enforcement saying, "we'd like to talk to you young lady?"
Leo: Oh. We lost Christina. Inconvenient.
John: Pivotal moment right there.
Leo: We're going to get her back. There's a whole lot to this story that is news worthy. For instance, Sony and the motion picture association of America created something, and we learned this from these documents, called Project Goliath in which they are going after—Goliath is Google in this case, code name for Google, they talk about the problems created by Goliath and worry what would Goliath do if we went on attack? One of things the Motion Picture Association of America and the studios continually believe is that Google's search enables piracy. They would love to get Google to stop linking to bit torrent sites and things like that.
John: Search is search.
Leo: And they even talked about—well I agree with you. They even talked about ways to actually block sites from reaching ISPS, to in effect Ddos or block these sites.
John: That's just censorship.
Leo: I think there is something that is more than just gossip here. We don't want to repeat the gossip and we're not going to repeat the gossip. That's the story for us anyway. I think the story for us is, first of all, that Sony kind of ignored security entirely. Apparently, according to Elizabeth Barber in Time Magazine, they had been hacked in February of this year, they knew its servers were vulnerable according to Gawker for at least a year before the hacking incident, in fact, Gawker quotes an e-mail in February 12th of this year, Sony's vice president of legal compliance, Courtney Schaberg telling her clients Sony may have been hacked, but she would recommend against providing any notification to individuals, that they in fact wanted to bury these hacks.
Dwight: And then there was also the PlayStation hack.
John: She's back! Now you can ask her that question.
Dwight: My question was before the FBI cut you off, Christina, was have you heard from law enforcement about this where they want to talk to you? If you're getting e-mails from hackers, and obviously they're going to cover their tracks, if you're getting e-mails from hackers, have you been contacted by law enforcement?
Christina: I have not, and if I was I would be happy to turn over any of the e-mails from the hackers. If they wanted to have those, I'd be more than happy to turn that over. When it comes to David Boys and has he said anything to my knowledge? He hasn't said anything to Mashable yet, I haven't received any communications. I'm not sure if he's sent out a press thing or not. That would be out of the old council to have to take that over. That's not my pay grade, that's someone above me. But as far as we know, we're standing by our reporting and we're far from the only organization that's done this. I think that trying to intimidate people to not publish stuff, especially when there is proof, as you were just mentioning, Gawker pointing out that there is potentially they were aware of someone being in the system and they're not willing to let people know, that sort of negligence when it comes to the inevitable class action law suit that individuals are going to be making, I think that becomes really valid and really interesting, and I think the fact that they've had such despicable internal information security at Sony is something that most of my early reporting did not have anything to do with the salacious stuff. It was all about the fact that this is how terrible this was and how Sony's internal policies made this so much worse. I think that's worth harping on and worth investigating, especially as we try and figure out who is behind this and what their motive is, which seems to be financial.
Leo: I don't think so. I have a theory. I understand financial because they said they're blackmailing Sony. They claim if you don't give us some money, but I don't think there was a strong attempt to get money out of Sony. I think this goes back to 2005 when Sony Music, you may remember this, distributed music CDs with root kits on them.
Christina: Those were terrible.
Leo: And it modified Windows so you couldn't tell it was there. I'm sorry, I can't hear you. Your Skype is breaking.
John: Go on, Leo.
Leo: Remember that this was incredibly infuriating to people, particularly I think a certain class of people who then have continually taken it out on Sony ever since. I think the Sony PlayStation network hack was as a result of the bad publicity Sony got for this root kit, and—
John: But it wasn't a malicious root kit. They were idiots and they put this root kit in there because someone told them it was a great idea. They weren't trying to screw anybody.
Leo: I don't think it's a stretch at all. I think Sony got on somebody's bad side and they've been on their bad side ever since, that the same people, or at least descendents of the same people who perpetrated the Sony PlayStation network hack are people who were involved in this. This is revenge. This is somebody who is out to get Sony, who has been out to get Sony for a long time. That's what I think.
Dwight: Did they do a bust on the PlayStation hack?
Leo: Never caught anybody.
Dwight: Did they nail somebody?
John: I'm not going to subscribe to this thesis.
Leo: Why? You're the conspiracy guy. I thought you'd love that. Poor Christina is operating 30 seconds behind us because her Skype woes. I'm sorry. Go ahead.
Christina: Somebody did go to jail for the first Sony pictures hack.
Leo: OK. You're operating at a severe disadvantage. 77 million PlayStation network customers and 25 million Sony online entertainment customers were hacked in effect. Their information was revealed in this PlayStation hack, you may remember that the PlayStation network shut down for several weeks because of this. According to Reuters, this goes back to 2011. Sony hired detectives from guidance software, Protivity, and Data Forte to find these hackers and they think it came from a Malaysia based server. By the way, this is as credible as the fact that this came from North Korea. It's almost impossible if the hackers are doing their job right.
John: Right. It can be to track these people. Probably the Ukraine of any place.
Leo: It's clear that Sony doesn't care so much about security, even though they have every reason to care. They continually get hacked. I think we don't know how continually. I think there's been an on-going campaign against Sony since 2005.
John: Well that's because your thesis is based on that, yes.
Leo: That's what I said. I think that. I don't have any evidence of that.
Dwight: So there's another high profile hack that's in the news today. The Sands Casino.
Leo: Yeah. That was a revenge hack.
John: I don't know about this.
Leo: Shelly got hacked. So Shel de Mavinson, who is one of the richest men in the world— 42 billion dollars worth— runs the Sands Casino, and is of course a very outspoken advocate for Israel. Funded an anti-Obama campaign in 2008. What was it—Gingrich. I'm hacking. So apparently Iranian state hackers brought down the Sands.
John: I find this hard to believe, but OK.
Leo: Well you don't believe anything, but this one is true.
John: I don't believe anything.
Leo: This one actually, I think—
Dwight: Well Iranians claimed responsibility, but I don't think that it can necessarily be tied to the state, although maybe. A lot of these things where you talk about the state doing it is oftentimes I'm not necessarily sure there's a general somewhere saying, "go hack." I think what's happening is you've got people who are aware of this, who are sympathetic, who have the skills to do it, they just do it. And they may OK by the government, but they may not necessarily be employees of the government.
Leo: Great story in Bloomberg business week by Ben Elgin and Michael Riley. Weed tailing this hack, which has cost an estimated—cost Sands and Shelley, 40 million dollars. I don't know. Is it Iran? Is it somebody in Iran who has the support of the Iranian government? I don't know.
John: It was the US government for all you know. We're the ones that do most of the hacking.
Dwight: It's true. And there are warnings that the Iranians are going after the energy industry. That's a Reuter story from this week, as well as other companies. I know in Houston everybody here is very nervous about state operated hacking, and there's a lot of efforts being made to educate energy employers to fall for fishing attacks—
Leo: An attack would be the power plants, right? Of course, we and Israel hacked the Iranian centrifuges to slow down their nuclear enrichment program, so I guess they don't know exactly who hacked the Sands. Investigators who are investigating this—this attack, by the way, which occurred in February, we just now learned about it, say it was likely the work of hacktivists based in Iran, but they couldn't determine if the Iranian government played a role, but says Dell secure works, it's unlikely that any hackers inside the country could pull off a hack of that scope without government knowledge, given the close scrutiny of Internet use within its borders. James Lewis, senior fellow at the center for Strategic International studies in Washington DC said, "This isn't the kind of business you can get into in Iran without the government knowing." I think that's fairly safe to say. So it cost Shelly 40 mil. Shelley can afford it. I know Shelly because they started Comdex. In fact that's where he got all his money, right?
John: Selling it, he got a billion dollars. So that writing on the wall. Bought the Sands somewhere, leveled it, blew it up, created the Venetian and leveraged that to create this huge empire.
Leo: The Sands the day after the attack told the press only that its websites had been vandalized and some office productivity systems including e-mail weren't working so the hackers got mad and they posted an 11-minute video on YouTube sent to Carl O Fortuna. That's the one they use in all the horror movies. It began by scrolling through news article that highlighted Edelson's comments about nuking Iran, then showed a computer screen packed with thousands of files and photos with names like IT passwords and casino credit, which had been stolen from the Sands. In the video, an unseen hacker—by the way, it's gone from YouTube. Law enforcement took it down. An unseen hacker clicks into a disc drive entitled "damnA" and there's a folder containing a terabyte of data. The next box appears, "do you really think only your e-mail server has been taken down? Like hell it has." I think this sounds a lot like the GOP hack.
John: I guess. This is not going to get any better. I don't know what people are going to expect in the future, but these hacks are just going to get worse and worse.
Leo: I think that I suppose we know how to really secure something, but it isn't really practical. Sony—
John: It's practical if you don't mind the inconvenience.
Leo: But it's hard to do business with a truly secure system, and I think that's the problem.
John: They used to do business before.
Leo: Because there was no Internet.
John: Now there's an Internet and they can't do business the old-fashioned way. I know a wine store in Brooklyn—
Leo: Come down to the brown derby. Let's talk. I want to make a movie with you, kid. That's the old fashioned way.
John: And it worked.
Leo: Meet me at the Brown Derby.
John: Take movies like Godfather I, II, and III. Those were reasonably good movies. There was no Internet back in the day.
Leo: That's the days when they had a telephone on your table, so you could show how powerful you were by taking a call.
Christina: Well what was actually interesting about a lot of the e-mails is that there were certain conversations that they clearly knew not to have over e-mail, and they said, "I'll call you. I can't talk about this over e-mail." There were certain exchanges between Amy Pascal and Scott Rudin that got forward to Michael Lynton, the CEO, and he actually said, "I can't believe the two of you would say this over e-mail." So it's one of those funny things, or even what we were able to get is only parts of the story, they were aware that there are certain things and certain conversations they shouldn't have over e-mail for standard practices and the fact that people can forward things and stuff can leak. I think that it probably isn't a bad idea if there is something truly sensitive or truly important that you don't want a paper trail for, then don't leave a paper trail.
Leo: The first upload of stolen data from the Sony hack was made in Thailand from the wifi network of the St. Regis Bangkok.
John: It's not a cheesy hotel, I might add.
Leo: Yeah. Do you think they drove down from South Korea?
John: North Korea.
Leo: North Korea. They just drove down.
John: It was a vacation.
Leo: Took a little vacation in the van and they parked outside the St. Regis and they said, "We'll use this network." That's probably what happened.
John: We'll use the St. Regis network. Which is unsecure, apparently.
Leo: I think that the people that did the Sony hack did want you to think that it was North Korea, right? Because they even make some comments about the interview.
John: No, I think that's our government. That's bullsh--. It's our government.
Christina: Some of their stuff said that, and it used some Korean terms, but I would actually say that I think it was probably some of the Sony people admit and some of their security people were spreading the meme that North Korea was involved.
Leo: That's good for Box Office.
Christina: Did you see—somebody in Deadline wrote what had to be the biggest French kiss to Sony I've ever seen in my life that said, "every American needs to go see 'The Interview' because we can't let the terrorists win."
Leo: And it, by the way, looks like the worst movie ever.
John: It does. People are talking about it and they show the trailers. You look at the trailer and you say well I don't want to see this movie! It looks like garbage.
Leo: Seth Rogan and James Franco crawling around on a sofa sniffing each other's butts. This does not seem to be to me to be American family entertainment like we knew, John, back in the days.
John: Yeah. When I was a kid, before the Internet.
Leo: Whatever happened to Crosby and Hope? We're off on the road to Damascus.
John: This is me bringing out the worst in you, according to somebody.
Dwight: It's The Hangover 4.
Christina: Basically. Or Pineapple Express 2, which is actually being made at Sony.
Dwight: I don't care about Paris, I just don't want Sony to win.
Christina: Right. But it's very funny though. Obviously the oped was written in such a way, this is deadline, staying on Sony’s good side. Please continue to give us information, please love us. We're going to write this flowery op-ed about how if everybody doesn't see this movie; the terrorists win, which come one.
Leo: That is a big French kiss.
Christina: When I saw that on Friday, I literally started laughing out loud. My colleagues turned around and looked at me, and I go, "I just saw the biggest lap dog article I've ever seen in my entire life." I didn't think that you could actually make a case to try and turn this into a publicity stunt, but there you go.
Leo: Little word of warning to Sony, the Department of Justice has already said companies trying to hack the bad guys back would be subject to criminal penalties under the Computer Fraud and Abuse act. So don't do it. Don't take the law into your own hands.
John: No! No vigilantes, please.
Leo: No vigilante justice. Sorry, Sony. Don't you think people hate Sony and they just want to — everybody wants to screw with Sony.
John: Everyone is bitching about no commercials in this show.
Leo: Nobody is saying bring out more commercials.
Christina: Some people want to pee. Some people in the chat are saying they need a break.
John: Well, we were. She's right.
Christina: They were!
Leo: I'm sure that is exactly the message we want to spend our advertisers. We're going to do a couple of commercials now so you can all go pee. It is not the message I want to send our advertisers.
John: It depends. It may be for a toilet.
Leo: It isn't. It's for something so much better. It's for Citrix GoToMeeting.
John: Oh, there you go.
Leo: Hey, don't go pee yet! We've got to tell you about GoToMeeting. This is the most—please take this seriously—it's the most important tool for your business you will ever hear about. By the way, it's secure. There's never been a hack of GoToMeeting. It's the absolutely secure way to meet in HD video conferencing. You can see each other face-to-face, you can share screens, you can solve problems, because meeting is the best way to cut through that knot, you can close deals faster, you can do those presentations, create new clients, create new opportunities. Clients love it. Clients, trust me, they don't want you to fly out and sit in their lobby and then come take up their time with your PowerPoint presentation. They would much rather you say, "hey. Let's have a GoToMeeting." It's fast, it's easy, you get to the point. They get what they need. You get what you need. GoToMeeting. If you've got a team distributed as most of us do all over the place, it's the easiest way. Eliminates the cost the time of travel. You can share screens to review documents; you can collaborate on documents together. You can present in real time. Again, that built-in HD video conferencing means it’s as good as face-to-face. You can see their body language; you can see their faces. They can see you. You'll cut out the wasted time and expensive travel without losing the personal touch. I want you to try GoToMeeting free for 30 days. I don't ever really do a meeting without GoToMeeting. It's just the easiest way to meet. You send out on e-mail. It's automatic, they click a link, they're in, they're doing it. gotomeeting.com, click the try it free button. You've got it for 30 days, absolutely free. gotomeeting.com. And we thank the great folks at Citrix for their long time support of the TWIT network. Well, you did a great job, and if anybody wants to read about the ins and outs of the Jobs movie, which left Sony because they couldn't make a deal— something about Angelina Jolie being a talentless immature baby.
John: I didn't think she was going to be a good Steve Jobs anyway.
Leo: I think she would have been—it was brilliant casting.
Dwight: What was that movie about Bob Dillon that had everybody but Bob Dillon?
Christina: Oh yeah, that was great. I'm not there. Tod Haines directed that. That was a great film.
Dwight: That was a great movie.
John: I don't know how you got from here to thee.
Leo: Because Cat Blanchet played Bob Dillon.
John: Oh, I see. I get it.
Leo: Canadian court rules police officers can search cell phones without a warrant, and civil liberties activists in Canada cheer. Why would they cheer?
John: Because then they can take the photos off and exchange them with each other, like they did in California, and CHP, and that would be cool.
Leo: Turns out, this is actually more restricted than previous Canadian law. In the past, there was nothing to stop a police officer from saying, "Give me your phone. I want to see if there's any good pictures on it." Now there are rules. The arrest must be lawful. Police need a valid reason for the search. I want to see if there's any nude pictures on there. The search must be limited to the suspected crime. This is the most important. Police have to keep detailed records of the search. So while initially it looks as if Canada is going the wrong direction on this, in fact this is an improvement over the preliminary. The previous law. Officers in Canada had a virtually unfettered right to search a cell phone during an arrest.
Dwight: And now it's unfailingly polite.
Leo: But you've got to be polite.
Dwight: That's right. You have to be polite.
Leo: Excuse me sir; may I search your phone? But here in the United States, the Supreme Court has ruled that police need a warrant to search your phone. So let's keep that in mind.
John: Yeah. That will stop them.
Leo: And the Fifth Amendment means they can't ask you for your password. You have the right to not self-incriminate. But they can press your finger against the touch ID.
Christina: So here's my question. What if I just wanted to press a finger that I don't have connected to touch ID? So if I haven't had a chance to restart it, exactly, and I use it my five tries, and then all of a sudden, "I'm not sure why this isn't working you guys." And it's like, "Oh. You want the code. I'm sorry, I don't have to tell you that."
Leo: Are you going to play the, "I don't know how this stuff works, officer."
John: Like Blanche, what's her name?
Leo: Blanche Dubois?
Christina: I mean, I think it's either that or if my phone is bad enough that I'm like this could be worse than what a person could do to me in the interim between, they're going to be really angry at me for not using my finger print, and my phone is worse, than I would probably put up with whatever the punishment would be and use a pinky that wasn't connected to it. I don't know.
Leo: It's always worked in the past, officer. I just put my pinky on it and it locks it. I can't understand why it's not working. I don't know.
John: I should do it with an obscure finger on the wrong hand.
Leo: It's not a choke hold, honest. Let's see.
John: What else you got on this list? I didn't get a copy of this.
Leo: You didn't get a copy of this? Just read over my shoulder. How about this one? This actually was something that Jeff Jarvis wanted to talk about on Wednesday on This Week in Google, but couldn't because it was embargoed but it happened. Google has announced that's it. We're not going to do Google news in Spain any more. I think this is the way Google should handle this stuff.
John: I've always felt this way.
Leo: A copyright law in Spain that doesn't take effect until year—
John: Google in some odd way tends to be doing people a favor when they—because they have links.
Leo: They did this in— it was the publishers I think in Germany that wanted to charge Google for putting snippets of the stories, they said, "That's our content, you can't do us. You have to pay us." So Google just turned it off, and they lost so much traffic, they said,"Never mind. Please publish snippets." So in Spain, really extremely aggressive law that would have compelled Google to pay licensing revenues to Spanish publishers if even a headline appeared in Google news. Google pointed out, "We don't actually make any money." There's no ads on Google news.
John: Google News is a loser. Money loser, that is.
Leo: So they say, it's with real sadness that on December 16th before the new law comes into effect in January, we are going to remove all Spanish publishers from Google News; we are going to close Google News in Spain. The good news is there's a lot of Spanish language content out there, and that will continue to appear on Google News, but none of those Spanish newspapers will get a single link from us. That's revenge.
John: I like to see them throwing their weight around.
Leo: Do you really want to see Google throw its weight around?
John: Only in these situations. Not just all the time.
Dwight: Well that's not throwing your weight around. It's kind of passive aggressive.
Leo: It feels like, "I'm going to take my ball and go home." Kind of.
John: Well, you're going to get sued otherwise.
Christina: But the Spanish newspapers right now are saying—I know. My husband's playing video games. Let me get him to stop.
Leo: Tell him to stop! What? Get his priorities straight.
John: He's downloading porn while you're doing the show!
Leo: What video game is he playing?
Christina: It's embarrassing for me to even admit it. So I'm not going to.
John: Tell. Tell. Tell.
Leo: This is like Google pulling the Spanish news content from Google News. It's the same passive aggressive stuff.
John: Come on. You can tell us. Who is going to know?
Leo: He's playing League of Legends.
Christina: No. He's playing some sort of weird Second Life game.
John: Oh second life?
Leo: That's still a thing? Is he wearing his nude suit?
Christina: No. There's apparently a game within second life where there's a whole mafia thing going on. I don't even know. I'm like, just play Minecraft. Just play WoW. Why are you doing this? It's, I don't know. See like I said, it's humiliating for me. This is who I married.
Leo: Yeah, you married this guy.
John: He's probably got a couple of wives in that game.
Leo: You chose him! Who's your second life wife? I want to know. Is she beautiful? I actually have a friend—I'll share my embarrassment. I have a friend who is a Second Life photographer. He publishes this on Facebook and I want to say Daniel, stop doing that. He poses people in Second Life and he takes pictures of them. I think there may be a tool. I don't know. And then he posts these fashion pictures from Second Life. Something about Second Life.
John: I never liked the idea. Guys get really caught up in it. I knew a guy that was like a high-end professional attorney, and he just loved Second Life. It was baffling to me.
Leo: Who is it we had on Triangulations? One of the founders of Second Life. I can't remember his name. Linden Labs? He was on Triangulation?
John: Boy. You really listened to that conversation carefully.
Leo: That must have been a good interview. He's on the board at Second Life, but I think he's doing a new thing like that. A new virtual world.
John: Third Life.
Leo: Well it all comes from Snow Crash, right? The Meta verse in Snow Crash?
John: That's my understanding.
Dwight: I know that when Second Life was really hot, there was a lot of interest among publishers, how can we get in there and get our content? And I was going, "No. You don't want to do that."
John: And then they're putting billboards up and setting up shop. There was a couple PR agencies that was going to set up shop in Second Life.
Leo: OK. The weirdest thing. The Maldives, they had a consulate in Second Life. Remember that?
John: I remember that. Idiotic.
Christina: I'm going to get divorced because of this, and I'm going to blame you guys.
John: If you get a divorce, always blame us. It's not a big deal. You're in New York, we're out here.
Christina: My husband is going to divorce me because I shared this secret shame of his. He's going to be so mad.
John: He's a smart guy. We goaded you.
Leo: I have something he might be interested in. If he's sleeping on the couch tonight, may I recommend a Casper mattress? Casper Mattress—
John: This is the Segway of the decade.
Dwight: That is. That's excellently done.
Leo: Stop sleeping on the couch, get a lovely Casper mattress. They're super comfortable. They use latex for breathing and comfort and memory foam on top to give you a mattress with just the right sink and bounce and they last forever. I love my Casper mattress. Here's a video of the Casper. This was a Queen Size Casper mattress. It comes in a little box. They actually deliver it to your door. You may say, "Well I'm not going to buy a mattress unseen." For those of you watching the video, I'm opening the box.
John: Inside it says, Leo we hope you sleep like a queen? What is this supposed to mean?
Leo: Well I had gotten the Queen size. If I had gotten the king size, it would have said, "I hope you sleep like a king." And if I'd gotten the twin, it would have said, I hope you sleep like a twin. It's a little pun. Watch this, the mattress opens right up. Look at that. So comfortable. You can dive right into that Casper. Oh comfort. I liked it so much I actually got one for my son in college, and he loves it too. And you may say I'm not going to buy a mattress online, I want to know how it feels, I'm going to lie on it first. Studies show, I'm sure there's a study that would show this—
John: Is that you?
Leo: Yeah, that's me. Studies show that going to a showroom and lying there for five minutes in the day with some showgirl looking at you—
John: What show business?
Leo: Is no way to choose a mattress. Casper lets you try these mattresses for 100 days. Delivery is free and returns are free and easy. So it's completely risk free. We've got a great deal for you too. You'll take 50 bucks off your Casper mattress if you use the offer code TWIT at casper.com/twit. Very affordable too, by the way. 500 for a twin, 950 for the fullest, biggest King size. That's a lot less expensive than the mattress store, and I got to tell you a lot more comfortable. Made in the USA, they are fabulous. A premium mattress for a fraction of the price, and 50 dollars off when you use the offer code TWIT. casper.com/twit. Tell your husband, Christina. Hey Honey! Guess what! You're not sleeping on the couch tonight! Actually, it would be you sleeping on the couch, because you busted him.
Christina: I'm the one who is in trouble here, because it's my secret shame, but it's really his secret shame too. He enjoys it, and I love my husband, as long as he's not—
John: He will never listen to the show.
Christina: This is true. He won't. He doesn't read what I write; he doesn't listen to my podcasts.
John: Tell us more stuff.
Leo: How did this lucky guy get you? Does he work in the business?
Christina: He does. He's a software engineer. But he used to be an editor. He used to write for a site called Download Squad and he hired me. I worked at Download Squad too and Grant hired me.
Leo: You married the boss.
Christina: I did. It was very scandalous.
John: Lawsuit lurks. You can blackmail him. Go for it.
Leo: I think Grant is a very nice guy. He's a great guy and he's a very lucky guy. What game do you play while he's playing second life?
Christina: Call of Duty.
John: Oh here we go again.
Leo: See? So you're saying he's the girl in the relationship. What do you think now? Is Call of Duty—did you get advanced warfare? Is it going downhill?
Christina: It is. But I’ve been playing it for so long. The new GTA 5 for Xbox One, I’ve been playing that too.
Leo: That looks like fun.
Christina: Yea, I love GTA. I wish I had more time for video games.
Leo: Apparently Call of Duty Advanced Warfare sales have declined about 27% from Ghost, which came out in 2013. Ghost was down 19% from Black Ops 2. That was down 17% from Modern Warfare 3. And on and on, and on.
John: They need to beef it up?
Leo: How many versions of Call of Duty are there?
Christina: There are a million of them. I like Assassin’s Creed as well. The graphics in Assassin’s Creed look fantastic but the game play’s been going downhill.
Leo: It was never good game play but it’s so beautiful.
John: Lots of butchering.
Leo: Not butchering. But climbing and running around. Do you find when you play Assassin’s Creed on PlayStation, Xbox?
Christina: I do, on the Xbox.
Leo: For some reason and this is not the Unity. This is the previous one. It’s twitchy. I’m trying to run after the guy who stole my wallet and I keep running past the turns and stuff because I can’t… do you notice that it’s twitchy?
Christina: I do. It’s definitely twitchy.
John: Get a different controller.
Leo: You can’t. It’s Xbox, there’s nothing else.
Christina: Although I’ve been loving the Wi Yu lately. With Smash Brothers.
Leo: No. You’re playing Mario Smash Brothers.
Christina: Mario Smash and then Mario Cart. Mario Cart was the greatest thing this summer. I had so much fun with Mario Cart.
Leo: Is that the new one?
Christina: Yea. I haven’t had that much fun with the video game. I’m being totally honest, in probably a decade. Since Mario Cart this summer, I had so much fun with it on the Wii.
Leo: Okay, I was thinking of getting the Wi Yu for Michael. He’s 12. Only for Mario Cart 8.
John: You want to play.
Leo: I want to play Mario Cart 8.
Christina: Mario Cart 8 and the new Super Smash Brothers. They’re so much fun. Some of the other games are good too. But just Mario Cart alone is such a blast. I have friends come over; I old probably four Wi Yu’s to people. Just because they play Mario and they’re like oh my God. Even people who aren’t huge video game people. They were like I have to have this.
Leo: How much longer are they going to make this Wi Yu?
Christina: Who even knows? They finally have good games. The problem is the games play pretty well but their interface is still really slow because they underpowered the thing.
Leo: And it’s not HD yet, either.
Christina: No, it’s HD. It’s finally HD.
John: But is it 4K? No.
Leo: I want 4K!
Christina: No, I need a 4K TV for that first. I’m not spending $10,000 on a TV.
John: They’re actually pretty cheap now. You can get them at Costco.
Christina: I know.
Leo: They’re crap. Don’t get them because… don’t get UHD now because the standard’s not set and you’re going to get a TV that’s not going to take advantage of…
John: Every new set that comes out… you should never buy any of them.
Leo: When the UHD standard is set and all the color space and all that stuff, then get one. But don’t buy one now.
Christina: Once the new Blu-ray standard is out so that…
Leo: Exactly! Bingo!
John: Leo, do you have a 4K TV?
Leo: No. I have an O-LED. That’s O-LED.
John: I thought you had a 4K.
Leo: That curved one you’ve seen.
Christina: That’s because the O-LED looks so good.
Leo: It looks good! And I think the Wi Yu on my O-LED TV would be very nice.
Christina: Oh it will look amazing. So much fun. You’ll throw shells and Luigi gives the stink eye. It’s the greatest thing ever.
Leo: Okay the Wi Yu is a controller with a screen like in the controller.
Christina: It does. You don’t have to use it though. You can also use regular controllers. You can use any of the Wii accessories. You can even use the Game Cube controllers with it.
Leo: I could get the little steering wheel and do it.
John: There you go. Now you’re talking.
Christina: The steering wheel works really well.
Leo: Is that what you use, Christina?
Christina: Yea, I use the steering wheel. And it’s pretty fun. It’s so much fun. I mean my husband’s a big Forza person. So he really loves Forza and I’m into Mario Cart. I’m like I don’t want the realism. I want the cart racing.
Leo: I drive every day. I don’t need the car game. I have to say I can see myself if I play enough of this Mario Cart, having a dream that I’m driving around in a Mario cart.
Christina: That’s what happens to me in GTA.
John: I can see you having the dream, for sure.
Leo: What do you do?
Christina: So with GTA what happens, is I walk around NYC or somewhere else and I see a car. I see a milk truck or something…
Leo: And you jack it.
Christina: Exactly. My first instinct is to jump in the car and drive off. I have to stop myself and go no, this is not a game. This is real-life. You don’t actually steal cars now.
Leo: And you should see what she does to hookers.
John: Dead hookers in New York. Now we know.
Christina: No, that’s only in Jersey.
Leo: Should I get GTA 5, should I?
Christina: Yes. It’s fantastic.
Leo: My son plays the games and I thought this is just wrong. You know what he played that was even worse? Postal. Do you remember that?
Christina: Yea, that was old school.
Leo: That was a horrible game. You rip people’s heads off. That was terrible.
Christina: That was banned in Europe.
Leo: Yea, rightly so. It should have been banned in Europe.
John: Is there anymore news we can talk about?
Leo: Not at all. So in case you just tuned but you have to pee…
John: Another pee break?
Leo: This was a good week in TWiT. Let’s take a little look. While the 9’ers lose, let’s see what happened this week on TWiT.
Previously on TWiT: That newsroom thing was pretty cool, huh? That was neat. He’s obviously logged into the TWiT live IRC. It’s like, please let it be on! Security Now: How many breaches of Sony have we talked about in the past? BitTorrent clients have been loaded on Sony’s servers and they are offering the torrents from Sony’s own servers. That’s insult to injury. Triangulation: Oren Jacob is here. He is CEO and founder of toytalk.com. I am not a pet. I thought you were a cute little puppy. Because you have two arms and two legs and two eyes. Tech News Tonight: It’s 85 of the most disruptive ideas in our history. One of my favorites, PowerPoint at number 53. The strumpets aren’t all good things. But it really has changed the way that many companies do business. TWiT: It’s free when you watch from work. You know the smartphone is number 78 but I will point out that kitty litter is number 73. Go ahead and make that right there. Kitty litter is absolutely one of the best inventions of the century.
Leo: Do we have a week ahead with Mr. Mike Elgin, news director here at the TWiT complex? Let’s hear it.
Coming up this week, Oracle reports earnings on Wednesday, December 17th. Also on Wednesday, the Chinese search giant Baidu is expected to announce a major investment in Uber. And Blackberry has an earnings calls scheduled for Friday, December 19th. That’s what’s coming up this week. Back to you, Leo.
Leo: Thank you, Mikey. Thank you, Mr. Mike Elgin, news director. You can catch of course TNT Monday through Friday, 10am Pacific, 1pm Eastern time, 1800 UTC. Your daily dose of tech news. Should I worry?
Leo: I rooted my Nexus 6 phone and then looked at it with a file manager. And I found a folder called Baidu.
Leo: Baidu, the Chinese…
John: You think you should worry?
Leo: I don’t think that I should have a folder called Baidu on a phone that I never had a Baidu program on.
John: Maybe something is up. Is this… whose phone is this?
Leo: This is the Nexus 6. It’s made by Motorola but it is made in China.
Dwight: And where did you get the image that you used to root the phone?
John: Oh, you got it from Baidu.
Leo: Oh, I’m in trouble now. I just found it on the internet.
Dwight: You just found it on the internet?
Leo: I found it on the internet!
John: I’m going to root my phone.
Leo: What could possibly go wrong?
John: This thing is huge.
Leo: It’s the Nexus 6. It is big. The code name is Shamoo, killer whale.
Dwight: It’s too big.
Leo: No, it’s just right.
John: It also weighs a ton.
Leo: Well it’s big.
John: I have one of those phony iPhone 6’s from China.
Leo: You got one of those?
Leo: I have something else for you that the Char-backs brought me. A little keyboard folds out. He said give this to Dvorak. I would but you didn’t give me my camera back.
John: Oh you can keep it then. I’ll keep the camera.
Leo: Wait a minute. That’s…
John: No, I got the camera. Anytime you want it. I’ve kept everything in the little pack so the lenses aren’t floating around the house.
Leo: Did anybody go and buy anything on Black Friday? Any of you who do your Black Friday… thank you. Here’s the keyboard that folds up.
John: It’s kind of cute.
Dwight: No, most of the deals on Black Friday aren’t really good deals.
Leo: You knew that, did you?
Dwight: I did know that. I try to stay away from it.
Leo: The folks at the Wire Cutter did a survey of 54,000 of the deals for Black Friday… of those 54,000, how many do you think actually were deals?
Leo: 300. Less than one percent. 300 out of 54,000.
John: It’s a scam!
Leo: One of the things they found maybe, in fact I even saw this. I think it was Best Buy, they were offering, was it a Samsung UHD, ultra HD TV. Let me see if I can find the story here. 55-inch ultra-high definition Samsung TV: $899 on Black Friday. Discounted $500. Best Buy in fact has raised the price back up to $1299. But the Wire Cutter looked at the model. They found that it had one of the worst cases of motion blur they’ve ever seen in an LCD. The 4K resolution only holds true if there is no motion on the screen at all. If it’s a static picture, they said on a moving image you’d be lucky to get 1K.
John: What brand is this?
Leo: Samsung! And that’s the problem. Is yes, there may be deals but they will not be on the best items. In fact, Brian Lane who started the Wire Cutter-we love Brian-said don’t get distracted by the razzle dazzle of double-digit off. Figure out what you need, then do the math. He said otherwise you’ll get lost in a sea of apparent discounts that are most likely not good things and not good prices. They’re not good things and they’re not good prices. He said the best stuff, the stuff that’s really good is almost never on sale.
Dwight: In that story that Farhad Manjoo wrote, he mentioned a site I’ve never heard of before. I went and checked it out and it’s pretty interesting, called Camel Camel Camel. And this site tracks Amazon products. You can set up essentially alerts to let you know when something has hit a certain low price. And they also have separate sites for Best Buy and Newegg that tracks those websites as well. I didn’t know about this.
Leo: I didn’t either. And I bookmarked it because this is such a great thing. So this is Amazon price history for one of the things they were talking about-in fact I have this toaster oven. They say it’s a very good toaster oven, the Breville smart-oven. And you can see the graph, price history graph, went down as low as $187 and as high as $250. And so that really tells you that, you know what the range is. And when you go to Macy’s and their Black Friday deal is $300, that’s not a good deal!
John: I don’t think this is news.
Leo: I think it is. I think people do think… have we talked about the door buster specials on Black Friday on TWiT?
Dwight: A lot of people fall for it.
Leo: And it might have been Owen, I can’t remember who it was but somebody said look you’re not poor. You don’t understand. If you don’t have a lot of money and you need to get gifts, you’re going to get in line on these door busters because you’re going to be able to get more for your money. And I think a lot of people do believe they are getting a better deal. It is not a good deal. And you are not often saving money. For instance, the smart toaster, Macy’s was offering for a limited time sale price. You just saw that the highest price on Amazon was $250. Macy’s was offering it for $280.
John: Oh no.
Leo: Which Macy’s says it’s a discount off the item’s regular price of $417. Except according to Camel Camel Camel, no one’s ever charged that. So Farhad asked a spokeswoman from Macy’s where did that $417 price come from. Macy’s says those quote regular prices are based on many different factors including the costs…
Christina: Oh I love it, I love it.
Leo: Including the cost of the item overhead, benefits we offer, as well as our ability to offer the item at a lower price during sales events.
John: Gambling? I’m stunned!
Leo: As Macy’s…
Christina: As keychain Max always says, compared to up to whatever the price is, and you’re like yea this shirt never sold for that much money. Blame on TJ Maxx for making me think about it.
John: It’s astonishing news.
Leo: Macy’s explains on the fine print on their website that regular prices never have resulted in any actual sales.
Christina: Granted this was more than a decade ago, but when I worked at Best Buy when I was in high school and college, for Black Friday we would get…
Leo: Were you on the Geek Squad?!
Christina: I quit when it became the Geek Squad because they wanted me to where polyester pants and shirt combo that was attached together with a clip-on tie. And at that point I was like no, I’m done. I’m not doing this.
John: I think clip-on ties…
Christina: I’m not going to wear a clip-on tie and polyester clothes.
Leo: Christina Warren, I like your high standards. I will work for the Geek Squad but I won’t wear polyester pants.
Christina: That’s basically where it was at. At that point, the company had taken five years of my life, my youth, and I was like you know what? This is the last insult.
Leo: You’ve sucked me dry, Best Buy. I’m gone!
Christina: That basically was it. What was funny was for Black Friday and other things, we would get… remember E-Machines, the really terrible computers? Well we would get special E-Machines in that we would only sell on Black Friday. We would get these packages that were similarly spec’d but not quite as good as the regular low-cost machines. We would get things from HP as well; we would get computers that we would only sell on Black Friday that we would have on really low prices. That had these cut-down configurations. They would look really similar and model number to the existing stuff we sold, but they weren’t exactly the same. And they would be $100 less or something. We’d sell out of all of those and then we would have to up-sell people to the real ones that were sort of similar to what was in the ad. But the fact of the matter is that just proves that this report is totally right. A lot of these things are not deals and the good stuff doesn’t go on sale. In fact, they get models of products in just to sell cheaper ones.
Leo: That’s interesting. They’re not even legit. You’re right, John. What are you looking at rains for?
John: I just thought I would put this up on the… it’s nuts.
Leo: You did a search for nuts? Of course people kind of… the actual depth of this out of 54,000 products, only 300 are real deals.
John: I was surprised it was that high. I was stunned. I thought it would be zero.
Leo: I’m sorry, Dwight. Go ahead.
Dwight: I would like to see if Camel Camel Camel is so good. And both Wire Cutter and Sweet Home are such good resources; I’d love to see the combined or if we said Wire Cutter were to buy Camel Camel Camel. Can you imagine that kind of tracking built-in to a site like Wire Cutter! That will be amazing!
Leo: Actually Brian started Wire Cutter after he started Gizmodo. And I think it was almost just a personal pet project.
Dwight: Right. It was just his recommendation.
Leo: When you see the reviews, all you really want to know is in this category, what’s the one product? What’s the best product? So Wire Cutter was just… don’t worry about it. This is just the best one. This is the best toaster oven, the best electric broom, the best computer, that’s the one. And I almost agree with their conclusions because it was a great idea because they’re clearly growing. And good on him.
Dwight: The suite home has some strange categories. I read today that they have the best fascial tissues and they’re Puff’s.
John: Actually there’s a brand in Canada that’s far superior to Puff’s. Seriously, you think I joke.
Leo: It’s nuts! I love it! John is somehow commenting on the show by searching images on Google. And you felt like searching for nuts and… because nobody could see your screen so I thought I would show them what John’s looking at. Did that make you feel better doing that?
John: I like the nuts’ nuts.
Leo: Tasty-looing peanuts, squirrel, and in fact this is my favorite picture. What nuts! No, don’t show them. We’re going to take a break and come back with more. John. Dvorak is here from noagendashow.com. Christina Warren from Mashable and Dwight Silverman from the Houston Chronicle. Our show today brought to you by stamps.com. We just mailed our Christmas cards. You think we went to the post office to buy stamps, you’re nuts!
Leo: Nuts! Who has time to go to the post office? This time of year, it’s crowded. There’s parking hassles, there’s traffic. Just driving across town this time of year is nuts. So we use stamps.com. Stamps.com lets us buy and print our own U.S. postage from our computer and printer. I don’t ever have to get up from the desk. And you can print postage for any letter or package when you need it. You’ll always have exactly the right price. You don’t have to worry. And the mail man picks it up. With their USB scale, you never have to guess. You get discounts you can’t even get at the post office on priority mail, express shipments. If you’re doing international mailings it will automatically fill out the customs forms. In fact, it saves you on errors because if you sell on eBay, Amazon, Etsy, if you use QuickBooks, it will pull the information-the addresses-right from those websites or services and fill it out automatically. It is so fast. This is mailing made professional. You can even print right on the envelope which is awesome. With your company logo, the return address pre-populated. It will save you time and money. You’re going to love it. And I have a special deal that is really second to none. This is the time of year to take advantage of our no-risk trial. Visit stamps.com. You’ll see in the upper-right hand corner one of those old-fashioned likes, click that. Enter the offer code TWIT and you’re going to get a special $110 bonus offer. That includes that digital scale I mentioned. You just pay shipping and handling for that, $5. But it also gives you $55 in free postage coupons to use over the first few months of your account and 30 days free of stamps.com. It’s a pretty exceptional offer. Stamps.com, just make sure you click the microphone and use the offer code TWIT. Turn your business into a pro-mailing enterprise with stamps.com. So I’m watching with great interest a couple of Supreme Court cases. One that I’m really interested in is about free speech.
Leo: Let me see if I can find this story because I don’t think it’s in our rundown. The first amendment. And the question is, believe it or not, if the first amendment protects hate speech online. Let me see if I can find this story. It comes from a guy who was harassing his ex-wife on Facebook. And I mean…
John: Oh this is the crazy guy. If I threaten to kill you, it’s just I’m joking.
Leo: Yea. Yea. So they actually heard arguments December 1st. Pennsylvania resident Anthony Elonis was sentenced to four years in prison for posting explicit rap lyrics in which he threatened to murder his estranged wife, shoot up elementary schools, and cut the throat of an FBI agent investigating the case. He went to jail for that because it’s a Federal offense to transmit threats over the internet-inter-state threats-to the person of another. One of the things he wrote: I’m not going to rest until your body is a mess soaked in blood and dying from all the little cuts. Hurry up and die. Seems like that’s not protected by free speech, right?
Leo: In the past it’s always been held that if…
John: This is really not hate speech though.
Leo: Well, but free speech is not protected if it’s a threat against somebody, right?
John: It’s a threat-speech.
Leo: The ACLU is defending this guy.
John: Bless their hearts.
Leo: Saying a statute that proscribes speech without regard to the speaker’s intended meaning runs the risk of punishing protected first amendment expression simply because it is crudely or is zealously expressed. Supreme Court has all along said that if it’s a true threat it’s not protected under the first amendment.
Leo: But they’re agreeing to hear this case.
John: This was a true threat.
Leo: Sounds like a threat!
John: It’s a threat!
Leo: His ex filed a restraining order. She feared for her life. The appeals court said no you’re right. They sent him to jail saying the federal statute only requires a reasonable person would feel legitimately threatened. But now the Supreme Court is going to address this and answer the question whether her perception that her husband’s intended harm is enough to warrant a crime. Or do you need to in prosecution demonstrate that the husband himself was in a threatening state of mind. This is stuff that’s hard to prove. Intent is very hard to prove. And because…
Christina: She had a restraining order.
John: I think that’s a good sign right there. That proves something is up.
Christina: I was going to say the fact that she has the restraining order already means-I would think-that the judge, someone that has shown there is clearly a cause for concern. And that’s why he has the restraining order issued against him.
Leo: But here’s the thing, it’s on Facebook. Here’s a legal scholar, Garrett Epps writing at the Atlantic said if Elonis sent the threats by mail, there would be little doubt of his intent. If he had written them in a diary that was discovered by accident, they’d be protected.
Leo: Where do Facebook postings fall? I think that’s public.
John: Totally public!
Leo: Because the threats were not communicated and so they’re not actually threats. This is why I bring this up. Otherwise this would be just a free speech issue. But somehow because of the context this threatening… if it’s on Facebook, is it really a threat? And what worries me is if the Supreme Court decides that oh no that’s protected speech, that’s first amendment free speech; then hateful stuff on Facebook and Twitter is going to have a free reign.
John: It’s not going to happen.
Christina: That wouldn’t prevent Facebook and Twitter from still banning that sort of stuff.
Leo: In fact we should be very clear about this. The first amendment merely says the government may not prohibit somebody from saying something. Text-free speech from the government.
John: And passing a law that says you can’t do this is the government.
Leo: I could ban somebody from my chat room. I can tell anybody…
John: And you do.
Leo: And that’s fine. Facebook and Twitter can do it. But the government can’t do it.
Christina: I guess what would that mean then if they were to rule in favor of this guy and say it is protected; what could that mean then for people that admit to crimes on Facebook? Because law enforcement uses a lot of Facebook postings now for those sorts of purposes. So they’re to say this has been private communication, then wanting somebody’s whereabouts or any information that they’re delving in for that the same as getting a diary. If they didn’t have a warrant or other things, or admitted to a crime, would the argument be that my views of actually something else.
Leo: The thing that’s interesting about this. He didn’t post this on her wall. He posted it on his wall. That’s why it’s more considered… I don’t consider it this way… but as a dairy. And of course because it will show up on her wall or other people who are following her. Maybe depending on how he sent this, everybody.
John: The way I see it: just don’t do Facebook at all. Just get off.
Leo: I agree with you. But I do think this will be an interesting case to watch. They’ve heard oral arguments; you can listen to them.
John: They sometimes bring these things in for a minute and they kick it back. So they’re not going to deal with this.
Leo: Well they accepted the case. And that’s the question. Why did they accept the case? They must have thought there was something worth talking about.
John: Maybe. What’s the other one?
Leo: Internet shopping. So Colorado decided that they could collect taxes, sales taxes on out of state purchases. This is what they said. Colorado in 2010 enacted a law that required out of state merchants to report transactions to their customers and to state tax authorities. So right now the way it works, if a company doesn’t do business in that state, they don’t have some physical presence, then they don’t have to collect taxes. You still owe taxes. In fact here in the state of California they ask you on your state form…
John: I pay them.
Leo: Yea. They say did you buy anything online and not pay sales taxes?
John: When I’m on Amazon buying stuff, it usually shows up right there as I pay them.
Leo: Well Amazon does pay them now. Remember what happened, Amazon said we’re not going to collect. And then the state turned around and said you do business in California because you have associates, Amazon associates. So Amazon cut off the associates, taking money out of a lot of people’s pockets. That put pressure on the state to back down. They went back and forth and finally there was a negotiated agreement which Amazon said alright we’ll start collecting sales taxes. I think it’s next year.
John: So I’m wondering…
Leo: By the way that’s good for Amazon because now they’re building a fulfillment center in California.
John: I thought it was going to be in Nevada.
Leo: They have one there right now. That’s why they have it in Nevada, to service California. But now they can put service centers all over California because now they’re finally collecting sales tax. Colorado didn’t say we are going to collect the tax. But we are going to require that these out of state merchants report to us so we can go back. Apparently it’s the only state that does that.
John: So I’ve been doing business in Washington State. I’m paying my taxes and all these sorts of things. And Colorado is going to tax me even though I get no services from Colorado what’s so ever. But they’re going to tax me. This is taxation without representation. It’s the founding problem with the entire system. I’ve got no representation in Colorado and yet I’m being taxed by these guys.
Leo: No, I think it’s the other way around. I think it’s if you live in Colorado and you buy something online from a merchant that doesn’t do business in Colorado. The merchant will be required to tell Colorado so that they can send you a bill.
Dwight: Actually several states have laws like that including Texas. But no one does it.
John: In fact you’re right. That’s the joke of it. Washington State has some sort of arrangement. They never collect it. The guys show up and you’re supposed to give them some money. Nah, here’s your stuff.
Dwight: In Texas, I think it’s up to the consumer to report the purchases.
John: That’s California, too.
Leo: California as well. So Colorado is going to say we already know. We’re just going to send you a bill. Anyway, the Supreme Court is going to take a look at that. And we shall see.
John: That will actually be the interesting case.
Dwight: In the budget agreement that was just passed, there is an extension of the ban on Federal internet taxes. So consumer taxes…
Leo: Was there? On this new budget?
Dwight: Yea, I think it’s through October 13.
Leo: I’m a gimlet. I don’t see why an internet should not have to be as responsible for sales tax as a brick and mortar entity.
John: I have a business in Washington State. And you’re living in California and you want one of my products. So I ship it to you. And you want to pay taxes for it?
Leo: Well I don’t want to. I’m just saying…
John: I have no presence. I’m not getting any of the benefits of the tax. Taxes are to benefit from taxes. If I run a company in Petaluma and I have to tax everybody because Petaluma has goods and services and sewers and it gives me all these benefits of paying the taxes…
Leo: You’re just collecting the tax. It’s a tax on me. I’m getting the benefit. And you’re collecting it and paying it to the state on my behalf.
John: Somebody’s benefit.
Leo: Yea, the state is. Because I live in the state.
John: I know but you’re benefiting too. It gives you goods and services and puts sewers in.
Leo: You’re not keeping it. You’re collecting the tax and passing it onto the state.
John: It’s a pain in the ass. I have to collect taxes for all these dictions.
Leo: That’s what you have computers for! That’s the argument Amazon uses. There’s too many tax jurisdictions. There is no way we could figure that out. That’s B.S. Of course they can figure that out. That’s what computers are for. It’s a trivial calculation. What county are you in? Okay you pay this much.
John: What do I have to do? I have to send out 48 checks to all the different states. Oh bull. This is anti-business. This is just you and your anti-business attitude.
Leo: Why should the internet be exempt from taxation when every other brick and mortar isn’t?
John: Well because every mail order company for the last 100 years has never paid taxes out of state. It’s just the way it goes. There’s nothing different to me from an internet company than a mail order company. It’s the same exact model. Why has it changed all of a sudden? Because of Amazon because they are more effective than Sears was in 1919?
Leo: Well the reason it’s changed is because bookstores are going out of business because Amazon doesn’t have to collect taxes.
John: Bookstores are not going out of business because of the tax. Bookstores are going out of business for a myriad of reasons and tax is not one of them.
Dwight: Tax is one of them but you’re right.
John: I don’t believe so. Just because Amazon is undercutting…
Leo: Amazon has a big lead and right here that’s something like 10% less than they can charge. So I’m always going to Amazon to buy a book, right?
John: Dvorak is living in 1976.
Leo: I understood when the internet was brand new we have to foster it. Actually I don’t have a strong opinion one way or another.
John: No you like to argue.
Leo: I thought I would bring… somebody has to represent the other side.
John: The bad side.
Leo: The brick and mortar side.
John: I said 48… there are 50 states. I said 48 states. That’s funny.
Leo: Did you say 48?
John: Yea, I did.
Leo: Well these Hawaii and Alaska, they’re so new it’s hard to keep track of them frankly.
John: That’s a good one.
Leo: But you’re saying, Dwight, that the new tax deal they made, the $1.1T tax deal…
Dwight: Extends that ban, correct.
Leo: So you win, John.
Dwight: For now.
John: What was the score?
Leo: You mean. It means that your little independent bookstore in Port Angeles is going away.
John: No, they’re thriving.
Leo: Are they really? What are they doing that’s making them thrive?
John: They’ve got all sorts of screwball stuff you can buy.
Leo: That’s the trick. By the way, independent bookstores, if you’re interested how do you stay in business? Screwball stuff you can buy. That’s the trick. Alright, let’s take a break and come back. We have a final segment. Great cast here. I’d like to know what you think, folks at home. You are internet users. Is it unfair that internet companies should be able to skirt tax rules just because they’re on the internet?
John: They’re not skirting it. This is traditional.
Leo: If they’re doing business in the state, they should have to collect taxes. They’re doing business in the state.
John: No they’re not.
Dwight: But people will always answer that question out of self-interest because they don’t want to pay.
John: Of course. Who wants taxes? Who is for taxes? This kills me.
Leo: I’m for fairness. I’m for fairness.
John: I got fair for you. Stop Macy’s no taxes. End state sales tax. Which is the case in Oregon and I think New Hampshire. There’s no state sales tax. Make it universal. That would be fair.
Leo: What do you mean? Like a VAT?
John: No I don’t want VAT. I don’t want tax.
Leo: No sales tax at all?
John: Right. You got it.
Leo: In fact let’s not pay any income taxes. Let’s not pay any gas taxes. Why should we pay…? What did the government ever do for us?
John: I’m telling it the way it should be. It should maximize property taxes as a wealth tax. Which would be the fairest thing for everyone to pay. Because right now it’s set up so income tax takes people… it makes them so they can’t accumulate wealth. So you tax them for income? Most of the people at the high end are always complaining…
Leo: So raise capital gains and property taxes?
John: No, create a wealth tax mechanism like in Switzerland, an extremely wealthy country where everybody benefits. And just charge people a certain percentage of the wealth. It’s a small number. And by the way, people like Buffet and Gates, I want to be taxed more. This would tax them more. This is perfect!
Leo: Alright. I want to hear more about this. I like it. But first let’s talk about building your wealth so you can get taxed more, with Personal Capital. Personal Capital is actually a great tool. You’ve got to plan for your future. Young Christina Warren sitting there playing your games, I hope you’re thinking about the day you retire. Because me and Dvorak, we are-of course we’re just around the corner, it’s probably too late to plan for retirement.
John: You’ve got to work till you drop. That’s the way I see it.
Leo: If you don’t want to work till you drop, you’ve got to see what’s happening to your money right now. I’ve got a free and secure tool for you that I love. I’ve been using it for a couple years. Personal Capital. It lets you keep track of what you’ve got, your stocks, your 401K, your bank accounts, your charge accounts, your mortgage. It helps you budget. It puts it all on a single page so you can see exactly what your money is doing. It also can see if you’re paying too much in fees or in management costs. All in one single screen on your computer, phone, or tablet. They even have an award-winning Android wear app. So I can get alerts when my money ain’t doing what it ought to do. It gives you relevant and timely updates on your finances wherever and whenever I need it. Personal Capital, it will show you how much you’re overpaying in fees and how to reduce those fees. You’re going to get tailored advice on optimizing your investment. There are calculators that will help you make sure you’ve got everything done just so. And it’s easy! Why wait? Signing up just takes a minute and it will pay big dividends. Personalcapital.com/twit. Wealth management for the digital age. I can go on and on. It’s really an interesting story. People in our demographic, there’s two ways to go. Some people, the old school way you would hire a broker and a manager for your investments. You would pay them a fee. Maybe they are making a little extra on the side from the stocks they’re selling. You don’t know if their advice is good. Then there are people like me who said I can do it myself. I’m going to use an online broker and I’m going to do my own investments. But then you forget, you don’t rebalance. You don’t pay attention to it.
John: No, you’re not a pro and you’re not sitting there working on it 24/7.
Leo: But it’s easy if you have the information in front of you. You know, and they really make it easy for you; personalcapital.com/twit. Try it, it’s free. What have you got to lose? Personalcapital.com/twit. Pirate Bay, Swedish police raided and closed down the Pirate Bay site. It’s offline. The founder of Pirate Bay was doing jail time. I don’t know if it’s the same group but it’s the same problem, which is that the folks in charge of motion pictures and music talked the local police, the Stockholm police, to shut them down. And if you go there right now, they’re offline. So is superbay.org, their forum site. Bayimage.com, pastebay.net. According to the police, the raid targeted a data center built into a mountain. I don’t know what there is to say about that.
John: Not much.
Dwight: Well ISO Hunt has resurrected them, it’s back now.
Leo: Is it back now? You can’t kill them!
Dwight: I think they had a lot of mirrors. And I think ISO Hunt picked one of them up.
Leo: Piracy lives!
Dwight: So Leo, can we talk about this Comcast lawsuit?
Leo: This is a story you had in Houston.
Dwight: Well initially it was from a site called courthouse news and I think that’s out of San Francisco. And you know, a while back, Comcast turned on public Wi-Fi hotspots in its customer’s routers, in the routers they rented. And it creates an Xfinity Wi-Fi hotspot that any other Comcast customer can connect to. Or you can buy a day pass.
Leo: As I wonder around, I’m an Xfinity, I have Comcast at home, as I wonder around, I can see open Wi-Fi access spots everywhere.
Dwight: Right. And they’re from residential routers. Comcast says that it’s a separate network. It may come through your router but it has its own channels, bonded channels, and a different Wi-Fi signal. And so it’s in theory secure but this lawsuit basically said because Comcast didn’t get permission to do this first, it’s opt-out, you are automatically opted-in. That it’s essentially a violation of the contract between Comcast and its customers. And so they have filed this lawsuit against them.
John: How does it work?
Leo: It only works if you’re using a Comcast Wi-Fi router. If you use your own Wi-Fi router, nothing. But if you install the Comcast Wi-Fi router, and most people do because it comes with the service.
John: Yea, but you have to pay a monthly fee to use them, right? It’s dumb.
Leo: You have to pay a fee but the Wi-Fi and modem are one device. I don’t use it. I use an AirPort router; I don’t have this problem. But if you do, by default-unless you go to the Comcast website and turn it off-it opens up two networks: yours and a public network. And anybody who is a Comcast customer, there’s actually an app that you can put on your phone that says there is one nearby. Once you log into one by the way, they’re all available to you. They’re all open to you. And they really kind of make this great mesh of Wi-Fi. If you go to San Francisco where the plaintiffs are in this case, you can pretty much go anywhere in the city and be online.
Dwight: The idea behind this was for ultimately Comcast wants to build a telephone network, Wi-Fi telephony network where you can essentially roam and be able to connect. This way they can compete with somebody like AT&T. That’s also another issue in the lawsuit where it says they’re profiting off of customers to have these in their homes. What’s interesting is that in Houston when they turned this on, it was about 150,000 customer had it here. It would be that many hotspots. It has continued to be of high interest here and nationally. The blog posts that are wrote on it including the one that tells you how to turn it off and set up your own router, are easily on any given day the most-viewed thing on my blog. They get about 2,000 page views everyday each. And it’s been a while since they’ve been up. So there’s still a lot of interest in this. A lot of people are still pretty upset about it.
Leo: The plaintiffs in this case say that it’s a power-wasting-that’s a good point. We have to pay for the power, it’s probably a few cents. Internet clogging. And Comcast disputes that saying it’s not using your bandwidth. It’s privacy-threatening. That’s an interesting point. Network of public Wi-Fi hotspots. The plaintiffs say that Comcast is exploiting them for profit. And I have to agree with that.
John: Have you looked at their bills?
Leo: I know. I’m paying them and they’re using me.
John: Well no I mean the regular bills that exploit you for profit. That’s the idea; that’s what they’re in business for.
Leo: I hate Comcast so much.
John: You know what I don’t like about Comcast, ever since they had Comcast Business show up, I get bandwidth that’s pure crap. And I have been posting this on Twitter ever since.
Leo: That’s why I haven’t switched to Comcast Business.
John: You have to because you get crap!
Leo: I thought oh they’ll just turn off my home internet. But they didn’t. That’s a separate division. So now and I’m terrified…
John: Wait a minute. What are you telling me? That you cancelled the other one?
Leo: I’m going to cancel it. But it’s a separate thing. It’s not related to the Comcast Business. So now I have two connections… they took the router back. Well actually I was using my own, so that’s right. They did not take it back. But I am so beaten and bloodied by Comcast I don’t want to call them and tell them to turn off my internet. I know they’ll screw with me. They’ll turn off my TV, my Business stuff. And they’ll say what do you mean? You said turn off… no! Let me get to our call center in the Philippines.
John: That’s a triple play thing. You’re not going to call…
Leo: I spent an hour and a half two nights ago on a chat with a Comcast representative.
John: Did you record it?
Leo: I did, but these guys are so horrible.
John: AT&T is worse.
Leo: I pay for Showtime and HBO. I want to watch it on demand. I can do that on my TiVo with my cable card but the fancy-Dan X1 Comcast box says you’re not subscribing to HBO or Showtime so you can’t watch this. So I called them up and said here’s the error code. The error code clearly, it’s a 901F error code. If you look at the Comcast website, it says that’s a billing error. Nevertheless the rep insisted that my connection was weak. She had me running all over the house turning on all the TVs.
Christina: Of course she did.
Leo: You were there! Turning on all the TVs.
John: Have a drink.
Leo: I have a super-high quality signal now. Try it now. Four times I tried it. Same problem! And by the way, the beginning of the call, the first thing they say is a little later on I would like to take a look at your bill and see if I can save you money. Which of course means subscribe you to 14 other Comcast services you don’t want. But first, let’s help you with this. An hour and a half later, she says I think a technician has to come out to your house now. And I told her, no it’s a 901F, it’s a billing error. Will you please look at the billing?! I said can I have tier two support. Nothing. They were going to roll a technician. I said don’t bother. If the technician comes, they’re going to take the box with them because I quit! Except I realized that I can’t quit because there’s no one else!
John: Yea, it’s a scam! Have another drink.
Leo: I gave her the link to their own page that says a billing error. I gave her the link to the forum comments that said they keep trying to send us technicians. But when I got the billing department, they fixed it.
John: Did you reset the modem?
Leo: Oh I reset the modem. Well you have to go through this notebook that this nitwit has before… but I thought maybe at the end, if I sit here for an hour and a half and go through all this, she’ll finally check the billing code and fix it. And no, she won’t. We have to send out a technician.
Christina: They have to send a technician. And the technician will say there’s nothing we can do about this because it’s a billing code.
John: Yes, exactly. That’s exactly what will happen.
Leo: That’s why I’m paying for two internets. I don’t want to talk to them.
John: And the technician will say why didn’t you say it was a billing error?
Leo: I did!
John: No that’s what the tech will say.
Leo: I know the technician can’t fix it. We’ve talked to Comcast technicians. You understand, it’s different computer systems. They don’t know who we are. We don’t know who they are. It’s different systems.
Christina: A lot of the technicians are just contractors; they don’t even work for Comcast.
Leo: They don’t work for Comcast. They’re just contractors.
Dwight: So Leo, when you call them, here’s what you do. When you get to the automated tree that has 700 different choices, choose billing and talk to the billing people. Talk to billing.
Leo: That’s what I’m going to do. I can only talk to Comcast once every four years. My doctor says it’s bad for my heart.
John: There are pills you can take for that. Have a couple shots of whiskey.
Chad: Also keep in mind, Leo. If they come into your house, you often end up paying for the visit.
Chad: Insult to injury. You’re going to pay for this!
John: That will dissuade you from bringing them over to tell you they can’t do anything.
Dwight: I’m sorry I brought it up.
Leo: 901F folks! No, you know what, it’s fine. I’m just not going to watch on demand. I’m going to pay for two internets. It’s fine.
John: No it’s not fine.
Leo: It’s Stockholm syndrome.
Dwight: Just use HBO Go.
Christina: But he’s paying for HBO on demand. He should be able to get it from his fancy X1 box.
Dwight: He should. You’re right.
Christina: I feel your pain, Leo.
Dwight: In the interim.
John: You’ve got to fight this, Leo. Don’t give in! You’re being pushed around by these bullies.
Leo: I went to the doctor. He said don’t call Comcast. I said I can’t help it, doc.
Christina: Have you complained on Twitter?
John: That used to work.
Leo: That used to work. I’ve had this happen to me. The Comcast executive office calls you and their total goal is not to fix the problem but to get you to stop tweeting about it. They basically brow-beat you into shutting up. They don’t want to fix the problem. Why isn’t there competition? Why?
John: You know why. Because nobody has enforced anti-trust laws in the last 30 years.
Dwight: You don’t have U-verse in Petaluma?
Leo: I don’t want U-verse! That’s worse!
Christina: It’s horrible.
Dwight: It’s competition.
Leo: It’s kind of competition.
John: I hear good things about Verizon fiber.
Leo: I don’t have Verizon. It’s either AT&T or Comcast or go home.
Christina: FiOS is great if you can get it. U-verse is awful. Comcast is good. Where I live, I can only have Cablevision. Or if I was to somehow illegally take over the basement, I could probably get FiOS.
Leo: Isn’t Cablevision good? They’re smart.
Christina: Yea, they’re smart. They let me run a server out of our plan actually part of the sales pitch. Like you can run your own DNS server! Awesome.
John: They’ll be bought out. They’re doomed.
Leo: Ralph Baer, the inventor of the first home video game system has passed at the age of 92.
John: What was the first home video game system? I thought it was Pong.
Leo: He sold it to Magnavox, remember the Odyssey?
John: I thought that was after Pong.
Dwight: Odyssey was first.
Christina: Actually Pong, there was a big lawsuit that Pong copied the table top game that he created for the Odyssey.
Leo: In 1971, he was working for a company called Sanders Associates in Nashua, New Hampshire. And he filed the first video game patent. He actually was an engineer who figured out how to put little dots on a standard analog television screen. He got the patent in April 1973, licensed it to Magnavox. Which began selling it as the Odyssey. The Odyssey, I don’t know if you remember it, that was the one that had colored overlays that you’d put on the screen to give the game color. Because it couldn’t support color. You’d also get a deck of playing cards, poker chips, and a pair of dice. So it was a good deal. Forty transistors, forty diodes. Now I have to say and I don’t know Ralph and I didn’t know the history of this. But I do know that he spent a lot of his later years suing the hell out of people. Atari came out with Pong shortly after Odyssey sued. Atari settled for $700,000 becoming their second licensee. Over the next 20 years, Magnavox sued dozens more companies wining more than $100M. And of course Baer often testified. But there you go. Wow. 92 years old.
John: That shows you that game playing makes you live long.
Leo: Long. Your husband is going to do this for a long time.
Christina: That’s cool. And I will too. I just hope it’s for better games. My problem isn’t him playing the game, it’s the game playing him.
John: Is that the game you’re showing the game he’s playing right now. That’s second life?
Leo: There he is.
Christina: It’s amazing. He developed his first prototype for this in 1968 I think.
Leo: Neat story.
Christina: He had the idea in 66 and he had the first working prototype, the Brown Box in 68.
Dwight: My family had one of those, the Magnavox Odyssey.
Leo: Were you an adult?
Dwight: Yea, I’m about 92. I was a teenager. My parents bought it. It was great.
Leo: Did you play a lot of games on the Odyssey?
Dwight: I did. Well I played the one game. I didn’t know there were others. We certainly got the others as they came out. But yea, I love this.
Leo: And HBO is going to go ahead… we’ve heard rumors, but they’re going to go ahead with streaming content on the internet. However a little bit of a slap in the face for their former CTO who had created a streaming video office in Seattle. They hired 55 people. Many of them, his ex-colleagues from Microsoft. HBO was rumored to have spent $100M a year on this autoberky. The CTO quit when he learned that HBO was going to go to major league baseball for the streaming technology for their new website.
John: Isn’t that Silverlight?
Leo: Oh I hope not!
John: I thought MLB was Silverlight.
Leo: MLB works well.
John: Silverlight works well.
Leo: It can’t be Silverlight because it’s on the iPhone, it’s on every platform.
Christina: Silverlight is just the front-end. At this point even Netflix uses HTML5. Silverlight is being deprecated anyway. But MLB works really well. And I guess from what I understand, the CTO was building now his own technology. And they’ve done pretty well. HBO has had some problems with Game of Thrones episodes. But they’ve done fairly well with keeping up with demand. But I guess they looked at it internally and said we have this pure online-only play with online stuff, we’re not convinced that we’ll be able to support the number of concurrent users. And MLB has proven that they can do it really well on lots of other devices and lots of markets. So it probably does make more sense to use proven technology. As a front to the CTO, he’s gone now.
Leo: He quit, yea.
Dwight: It’s not clear what’s going to happen with the original HBO Go with this either, right?
Leo: HBO Go uses the old technology. But what I think they’re saying is that we’re going to stop using this HBO Go.
Christina: Yea, they’ll probably ship over. It’s not clear yet if this streaming thing will be HBO Go plus live stuff. Or if it’s a standalone property. What the price point is going to be… I still stay, I’m predicting $20 a month is the charge and I stand by it.
John: It’s kind of steep.
Leo: Will it require a cable company subscription?
Christina: No it won’t. That’s the whole reason I think they’re going to charge $20. At this point, they get so much money from the cable companies who are offering it as part of tie-in deals. And they get so much free promotion with that. And probably offer it standalone and say hey you don’t have to have a cable subscription. You can just subscribe to HBO but they’re going to charge $20 a month. As a way to a appease the cable companies and b make the same amount of profit that they’re getting from the cable subs where they do it at $10 a month. It would be cheaper for me to subscribe to HBO having to detach my cable as it would be to pay the $15 or whatever it is as part of my cable plan. So I can’t see them going below what it costs me as part of my cable package.
Leo: Apparently the technology which was code named Maui will continue to be… they’re cancelling the Maui project. But it sounds like they’re going to continue to use it with HBO Go. A large portions of Maui’s efforts they wrote can be repurposed for HBO Go, a top priority for HBO.
Dwight: So many people are sharing HBO Go passwords, in fact I think there’s just one HBO Go password and everybody uses it. But they’ll obviously shut that down. The question becomes what happens to cable subscribers who are legitimately using HBO Go to watch when they’re away from home. Will they have to use this new platform as well? Or will they be able to continue to use the simple app that HBO Go has.
Leo: This could be really good news for me. I can finally get off of Comcast. If I get HBO, that’s like 90% of what I care about.
Dwight: Another thing about HBO, people will subscribe for specific shows that will last only a certain amount of time. The Newsroom which is going away or I’m not a big Game of Thrones fan, but if so I would pay that $20 a month for three or four months. Then stop when there’s nothing on that I want to see.
John: That’s fine.
Christina: That’s always been the case. That’s one of the reasons they rolled out HBO Go to begin with because it has all the past content available also. So you have the Sopranos, Sex and the City. You have documentaries. You have this huge array of content. When I interviewed HBO in 2011 when it rolled out, they were very clear. They said we are willing to give up our home video business in exchange for hoping that we can keep people subscribed longer. Because just like you said Dwight, most people go in spurts and drops where they’re not consistently subscribed month of month. Netflix sees this too, fluctuations with people subscribing. I think the goal with HBO Go and whatever this new thing is is that I’m providing not just live access to the content. But also to the entire back catalogue, entice people to continue to be part of it. Because they feel like hey, I never know when I’m going to want to watch old episodes of something. Or I want to catch up on some other content.
John: We’re watching too much television in this country.
Leo: I agree. Read a book! Cousin of Yan in our chat room says by the way if you want that HBO Go password that everybody’s using, it’s in the Sony documents. Just do a search.
John: I’m sure there’s more than a few in there.
Leo: If you haven’t read Christina Warren’s great story on the true story of the Jobs movie, it’s on mashable.com. Great work on that, Christina Warren. We love having you on. @film_girl. Go back to your gaming.
Christina: I will.
Leo: Kill something for me. I appreciate your being here. It’s always great to see you. Thank you, Christina. Thank you to John C. Dvorak, noagendashow.com now twice weekly in the morning.
John: And @therealdvorak.
Leo: Follow him on the Twitter so that he has some clout.
John: I can’t seem to get to my hundred thousand mark.
Leo: If he has enough clout, then he can get the Comcast executive team to call him.
John: The last time I did my complaining on Twitter, I got all these different. There’s about 10 of these people now. Let me know what’s going on. Is it improving?
Leo: Wait until you have a few more followers. They’ll just call up and say stop tweeting. Stop tweeting about it!
John: They send me a check, I’ll stop tweeting.
Leo: Send me a check.
John: How about a refund? Yea, a refund. I don’t get my full bandwidth. I should get credits. I shouldn’t be paying this monthly bill. $100 for 750K.
Leo: That’s what gets me. My Comcast bill is closer to $200 a month when I added all the stuff I pay.
John: It’s a scam.
Leo: Paying them to beat me up!
John: It’s a drinking game. When I say scam, they have to drink.
Leo: And what do they drink? It’s a scam!
John: No, me. I have to say it. But we could change the game.
Leo: Dwight Silverman’s at the Houston Chronicle. Log.chron.com/techblog. Always great to have you on. I realize Sunday night you go into work just to do the show.
Dwight: Yea, but I live about two miles away so it’s not that big a deal. And you know, by the way John, I’m sorry you’re not getting your bandwidth. I pay about $65 a month for Comcast and I get about 112MB down.
John: Yea, thanks for telling me that. I really needed that.
Dwight: You need to move to Texas where we rely mostly on property taxes, have no sales tax, and everybody’s just really happy.
John: Which is a form of wealth tax I might add.
Leo: Thank you everybody for being here. We have a lot of fun every Sunday afternoon. It starts at 3pm Pacific, 6pm Eastern time, 2300 UTC if you can watch live, I love it. Because we love having a live audience. You can also visit us in the studio. We have some good people here today. Thank you for joining us. Tickets@twit.tv. We’ll put a chair up for you.
John: Oh just show up.
Leo: Well you know, 4-5-6-like 10 people that show. You’re right. Don’t bother. Just show up. I do want you to email us if you’re going to be here for New Year’s Eve. It will be crazy. I hope you’re going to come for that.
John: I may be in Washington State.
Leo: 3am New Year’s Eve till 3am New Year’s Day. It’s a 24-hour marathon. A benefit for UNICEF.
John: Oh that’s a good idea.
Dwight: That’s great.
Leo: Yea, I’m taking Jerry Lewis’ mantle. We’re doing it for the kids.
John: I thought he gave up.
Leo: I’m going to wear a black tie and tuxedo and I’ll sing I’ll never walk alone! I’m going to do the whole thing. I’m going to bring in Sammy Davis Junior. It will be amazing. No, we’ll have bands and we’ll have all sorts of stuff and they’re not telling me everything. Because they want me to be shocked and surprised.
John: Why would that be? You may blow up at them. We can’t afford this!
Leo: What are you talking about?! A mechanical bull?! Apparently we’re taking over the street. We got a permit. Take over the street, we’ve got a mechanical bull, a bounce house, and we’re going to set the building on fire. Fireworks. And we have by the way people from all over the world. There are 27 time zones in that time period. And John Selina says we have all but seven or eight covered.
John: Which ones?
Leo: We still need Alaska, we still need Jarvis Island. That’s the last one.
John: You shouldn’t have a problem with Alaska.
Leo: Twit.tv/nye if you can be our Alaska correspondent. Fiji Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands, Norfolk, Thailand, Vietnam. We should have Burma, Cocoas, Bangladesh, Curtin, Kirgizstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan…
John: Yea, there’s a bunch of these.
Dwight: The stans.
Leo: We have Afghanistan, we have Iran, we have Moscow. We have Tokyo. But we don’t have Alaska.
John: That makes no sense, Leo. No sense.
Leo: That’s even one of the 48 states.
John: Yes, exactly.
Leo: Twit.tv/ny if you’d like to be a part of that. We’ve got a great best of planned for you. I thank you, Jason. You’ve worked very hard on that. That will be aired on the 28th.
John: North Korea needs to be represented, I agree.
Leo: Do we have somebody in North Korea?
John: No I think it’s in some other time zone. Maybe China.
Leo: I think is it somebody named Kim Jong something? Und. So that’s going to be fun. Make sure you stop by New Year’s Eve unless you’ve got a date. If you’ve got a date, it’s okay.
John: If you’ve got a date, bring her! Or him, or both!
Leo: Give them $10 and they go away?
John: Yea, that’s all it takes.
Christina: You just keep a line out and then just keeping pulling people in.
John: Blank checks.
Leo: I’ll need a velvet road.
Christina: Exactly. Just keep the line moving and that way if you get to fire capacity, then people would just wait. Wait for one of the time zone and maybe filter people out and in.
John: You’ve got the whole street. There’s not fire marshal for the street.
Leo: You know what we don’t have, Christina? We don’t have anybody from Second Life. What time zone is your husband in?
Christina: You guys are going to get me divorced.
John: It’s the twilight zone.
Leo: But I do have a nice Casper mattress you can sleep on. Thanks for joining us. We’ll see you next time! Another TWiT is in the can.