This Week in Tech 499 (Transcripts)
Leo: It's time for TWiT, This Week in Tech. Jerry Pournelle joins us. He's feeling much better after his stroke, we'll talk to him. We'll eulogize Leonard Nimoy with Jason Snell and Jason Hiner, all people with J's in the name and of course, the FCC decision. Plus, a report live from Mobile World Congress. It's all coming up next on TWiT.
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Leo: This is TWiT, This Week in Tech, episode 499, recorded March 1, 2015
Live Long and Prosper
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It's time for TWiT, This Week in Tech, the show where we talk about the week's tech news and holy cow, what a week it has been. We've assembled such a great panel, I'm really thrilled about it, starting with Jason Hiner of the Tech Republic. Hi, Jason.
Jason Hiner: Hey, thrilled to be here as ever.
Leo: Follow Jason Hiner on Twitter, the CBS Interactive, owns the Tech Republic and your new book is coming out chapter by chapter. I'm excited about this.
Jason Hiner: Yes.
Leo: We'll give you a plug in a bit. We've got so much to do, I'm going to have to monitor my time carefully here. Jason Snell is also here.
Jason Snell: So many Jasons.
Leo: Yes, Jason Howell also running the board. Jason at sixcolors.com, @jsnell. Former executive editor at Mac World, PC World, IDG. He now does his own blog at sixcolors.com and some really good podcasts including the Incomparable. I'm thrilled to welcome Jerry Pournelle back to our microphones. I don't need to say much, Jerry Pournelle, one of the great science fiction writers. A man who inspired my own career with Chaos Manor, the column in Byte Magazine for many years. He's at jerrypournelle.com. And Jerry, we'd heard around December, your son tweeted that you'd had a stroke.
Jerry: Yes, I had on the 15 of December a mild stroke but as you can see, I'm pretty well recovered. I can stand up. I'm in a wheelchair but I can stand up. I get around all right. And I can talk now, I didn't at first. I was a little – that was horrible. But I've got that back, too, and I've got two books going, two of which are – well, Niv and I are doing one with T. Barnes. I do the plotting, they do the work.
Leo: I think the plotting's the important part.
Jerry: Then I've got another one with John Dechancey, same thing. I do the plot and they do the work.
Leo: So you're feeling okay, fully recovered?
Jerry: I'm feeling very good. I don't walk without a walker, but otherwise, you'd never know.
Leo: I practically can't walk without a walker, so I don't. You had brain cancer – you -
Jerry: I had brain cancer in 2008 and I survived that with 50 thousand rads of radiation. I'm hoping I've kind of got over all the bad things now.
Leo: You're kind of like Rasputin, they just can't kill you, Jerry. We're so, so glad. Welcome back and it's great to have you. One of the reasons I wanted to have you on – we'll talk about the FCC decision in a bit but before we get to that, of course, Mobile World Congress is going on right now. Already some big announcements this morning. Before we get to that, we should probably mention that Leonard Nimoy passed away on Friday at the age of 83. In fact, his memorial service is going on, I think, as we speak. William Shatner, Captain Kirk, was reporting that he wouldn't be able to go. He had a prior commitment at a charity event that he couldn't reasonably get out of to go to Mr. Spock's funeral. But the good news, apparently, is that Shatner was able to get on plane so he's going to be there.
Jerry: Oh, good.
Leo: Yes. He was memorializing Leonard Nimoy on Twitter. There was kind of a fury when he said he couldn't go but once you understand it's a charity event – I love this billboard. Zoom in on this billboard – it was put up in LA, I'm told, near Shatner's home. Is that right?
Jason Snell: I think it's one of those electronic billboards. I saw somebody who said they saw it in Atlanta, too.
Leo: Oh, so it's all over. It's a picture, of course, of Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock making the Vulcan live long and prosper sign. We're all going to do that right now and think about Mr. Spock. I love the epitaph, “He did.” He did, yes. He was an amazing fellow, much beloved and deservedly so. I know Jerry and I were talking, because Jerry, you know Gene Roddenberry or knew Gene Roddenberry pretty well?
Leo: As a sci-fi writer.
Jerry: Gene and I were at a conference at the Smithsonian for a while and then at the Library of Congress.
Leo: But you didn't know Nimoy?
Jerry: Interesting conference, there were a couple of Nobel Prize winners, there was [?], Gene Roddenberry, there was me and there were 15 unpublished Washington poets. I asked the librarian, “Why 15 unpublished Washington poets?” He said, “Who do you think is paying for it? Their husbands do.” So these ladies sat in the back of the room and we sat at a conference table in the Coolidge Library and we had a week-long conference on science fiction and literature.
Leo: There are some very beautiful tweets in Leonard Nimoy's Twitter stream. His last tweet was several years ago, one of the tweets, “I wish I hadn't smoked.” He quit smoking 30 years ago but passed away from COPD, had some effects. Is this right? Oh, @therealnimoy. No wonder, this is the fake Nimoy. There we go. This actually features tweets from other folks. I guess -
Jason Snell: His last tweet was just earlier this week.
Jason Snell: Then they've been retweeting various condolences.
Leo: The account is retweeting memorials, just some really -
Jason Snell: His last tweet was, “Life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had but not preserved except in memory. Live long and prosper.”
Leo: Oh, now I'm going to cry. Thanks a lot.
Jason Snell: He wins for best tweet ever, I think.
Jason: Pretty prophetic.
Leo: Well, I think he knew he was on his way out. All right, let me dry my tears a little bit. You didn't know Nimoy, Jerry?
Jerry: I never met him, actually, I don't think I did. We may have been at an agency party or something at the same time but I never actually met him.
Leo: Well, there you go. What can you say?
Mobile World Congress going on right now in Barcelona. We actually have two reporters there, Mike Elgan of TNT is there and he'll be reporting all week long on TNT and TN2 from Barcelona. Myriam Joire is there as well. The conference itself doesn't kick off till tomorrow but things have already started in some ways. Huawei has already announced its first Android Wear watch – the first Android Wear watch with a sapphire crystal. The talk band, B2 activity tracker and the N1 earbud hybrid. Acer announced the liquid M220, yes, a Windows Phone on a budget, which means it's not going to be a high-end Windows phone. Everybody's waiting to hear anything at Mobile World Congress like the Nokia 1520.
Microsoft is there, but they've even said, “We're not going to announce any high-end Windows phones.” Of course, the other two big companies that we're most interested in, HTC and Samsung, both have had events. Myriam Joire was at the HTC event where they unveiled the HTC M9. She had this report.
Myriam (recording): Hey there, it's Myriam Joire at the TWiT network and this is the HTC M9 here at Mobile World Congress 2015. As you can tell, it's very much an evolution of the original HTC 1 M7 and M8. This particular device is actually an interesting shade combination, the edges here are gold with the back being silver which is quite a nice color combination. So what's changed since last year?
It's a seam beautiful display, a five-inch 1080 p display with Snapdragon 810 this year. The other thing you have to keep in mind is the camer's obviously changed quite a bit. There's a 20 megapixel auto-focus camera now instead of the four megapixel ultra-pixel camera from the previous two models. However, the ultra-pixel camera is now located in the front, up here as a selfie camera. So that's one of the changes. Finally, everything else is more or less where you'd expect it to be for this phone. You've got the same sentries in the same places, buttons in the same places, MicroSD slot expansion, headphone jack and micro USB, which is hidden here by this security attachment. But basically, that's the HTC 1 M9, very much an evolution from last year's design.
3 gigs of RAM, 30 gigs of storage. Yes, that's it. Here at Mobile Congress 2015 in Barcelona. Cheers.
Leo: Cheers! HTC decided not to improve on what many considered the best Android phone of the year, certainly the best design, though they still have HTC Blink. Jason, you like this phone?
Jason Hiner: Yes, I was going to say, it's just an evolution. I mean, they had – it was probably the best designed Android phone, as it were, in terms of really slick and wow factor.
Leo: I think the thing that kept a lot of people from buying it was the camera, frankly. The four megapixel camera, that's a non-starter and the 20 megapixels will improve that considerably. They're also doing what everybody's going to do which is much better front-facing cameras. Originally, front-facing cameras were all about Skype. Now, it's clear. Selfie. They're the selfie cams so they're putting the ultra-pixel on the front and a 20 megapixel on the back. That wasn't the only thing HTC announced – they also announced the Vive, which is very much like an Oculus Rift. It's a Steam-focused VR helmet. They're doing it with Valve. Is this going to be just with use for Steam or what?
Jason Hiner: It'll be interesting because, you know, this VR stuff is – I was pretty skeptical of it all around, but this is really picking up steam this year - [crosstalk]
Leo: So to speak. They did pick up Steam, literally.
Jason Hiner: Literally picking up Steam, sorry. Bad pun. I didn't even know it. But in terms of VR, you know, the platform itself as a platform is picking up steam. I'm hearing about all kinds of interesting business uses for this stuff right now. A lot of it around Oculus Rift, clearly, as a platform. So it'll be interesting. The platform is the interesting play with this, you know, can they do that through Steam? Maybe. Or is it going to be something else that can ride on top of that? But there are companies that are coming out with some really interesting stuff in the months ahead in terms of what they're doing with business uses.
Some of these are public, some of them aren't, but things like Marriot letting you go and use that to look at resorts, for example, and actually get a full walkthrough of it is one. Toyota has talked about doing some things – has announced the things that they're doing with helping people, drivers, especially teen drivers, go through some scenarios that could help them be safer drivers using VR. So there are some really interesting practical uses and so I think these guys jumping into this game with the new product is kind of justifying the fact that there's a lot of great stuff happening in that space and it's not just games.
Leo: I feel like I'm more excited about Microsoft's HoloLens and augmented reality than I am about virtual reality. It doesn't have the same issue with seasickness, queasiness. Every time I put on the Oculus Rift, I feel like I need a cold compress. I also think it's a lot harder to create content for a virtual world than it is to do what Microsoft is doing with the HoloLens. They'll have the HoloLens out, they say, this fall, along with Windows 10, and I wonder if that's going to maybe – I feel like that's going to end this whole infatuation with VR. To me, VR is like 3D. It's a gimmicky – what do you think?
Jason Snell: I think it depends on who you are. I think you're not as excited about the possibilities for gaming. I mean, for gaming and maybe some of these things Jason Hiner was just talking about, where you need to be completely immersed and it's a completely different thing -
Leo: But it's hard to do immersive well. These aren't very high-res screens. There is latency, which makes you seasick.
Jason Snell: But I don't think it's an either/or, because the HoloLens – that is overly technology and that's going to be for things that might be game-related but are also just other real-world things. It's much more what people thought Google Glass was going to be except it wasn't. Where you could overlay internet information on what you're seeing. The VR stuff is just totally different. It's blocking out the real world entirely. There may be a place for that. I worry we see an announcement like this HTC announcement and we think, “Oh, great, it's another Oculus Rift.” I wonder if there's really a disparity in terms of the technology involved. That would be the danger as a consumer.
Leo: You don't want to split it.
Jason Snell: You buy – if you buy the HTC and it turns out that it's kind of lower-grade tech and that Oculus is really the one that's got so much that they've invented that makes their product better, you're kind of in trouble then.
Leo: You could stall it. It could be like beta versus VHS. Jerry, you must have – at Seagraf for 20 years, they've had various virtual reality devices. Are you a virtual reality buff, Jerry?
Jerry: I'll point out that 20 years is a million times better in technology, at least in current trends, and a million times better than what we have now, basically, is good enough, isn't it?
Leo: It's immersive.
Jerry: Exactly. I mean, the Holodeck from the TV shows is likely to be reality by that time.
Leo: I'm hoping they have it soon so you and I can hang out without leaving our living rooms.
Jerry: Well, it's getting close to that now but even Skype is pretty good compared to what we used to have.
Leo: Isn't it? I mean, it's true. Louis CK was right. We're sitting here wanting VR and here I am – I'm in LA and you're up in Northern California. Jason's in Knoxville – sorry, where are you? Louisville. I can never get that right. One of these days. It's as if we're all sitting around the table. So in a way, we've got something kind of – we're getting there.
Jason Snell: Leo, it's like I'm actually here.
Leo: I can't believe how real – wow. You feel real.
Jason Snell: And I'm actually a HoloLens, it's crazy.
Leo: HTC also announced a – I feel like it's a bit of a, “Me, too!” You know, a Galaxy VR, Galaxy Gear VR – Samsung's got it. We've got to have it. Everybody's got a smart band, so we've got to have one. HTC did a deal with Under Armor and they announced the first HTC wearable. Not an Android Wear smart watch but a GPS enabled fitness tracker called the Grip. Grip's got a Grip on me, the Verge – oh, no. We're going to have to look at an ad. I don't want to look at an ad.
The Grip is kind of reminiscent a bit of the Nike Wear – Fuel Band, rather. A little bit of maybe the Microsoft band. It looks big, clunky. Multi-sport mode, finally, it says it can track activities from running to cycling. A lot of these devices really are just pedometers that can work with running and walking, and not much more. But also, Samsung had its Samsung Unpacked 2015 this morning. We got up early, did a live special covering the keynote. A very nice keynote considering Samsung's previous amazingly bad efforts. In fact, they even had two women do most of the presenting which Samsung had been accused of having a tone deaf idea of women in previous events.
This was much better. Myriam Joire took a look at the Galaxy S6 at the demo room after the keynote and she had this report.
Myriam: Hey there, it's Myriam with the TWiT network and this here is the Galaxy S6 Edge here at Mobile Congress 2015. Yes, it's Samsung's latest and greatest and it is a very nice phone, I have to say. So here you can see it's shiny in the back, some kind of glass or plastic finish. Of course, this is the edge, so it has this kind of curved-edge display as you can see here which is very unique. It's similar to what it was on the Note Edge last fall but it doesn't actually have buttons on it, they're just using it as a way to keep this really smooth, curved edge. It's very, very nice.
So this is an HD display, 5.1 inches. This is very high res, same resolution as the Note 4 but on a smaller display. As you can see, the chassis is made of metal on the edges here, so that's pretty cool. Very nicely done and in the back is a new, improved camera. It has optical image stabilization and an effable 1.9 lens. You can also still see the heartrate monitor that was present in last year's Galaxy S5 and is also available on the Note 4. So yes, this is a powerhouse.
Inside, you'll find Samsung's own Exynos processor. It's quad four, of course, three gigs of RAM. Lots of storage, something like 32-64. There's no microSD card slot, no expansion, no removable battery this year. This is a very new thing for Samsung. They usually have removable batteries and microSD as a selling point. You can see the volume marker up here, the headphone jack – actually, no, that's the infrared port and headphone jack is on the bottom with the micro USB charger port that's obstructed by this safety device here. Home button, of course. So, yes, the Galaxy S6 Edge, here at Mobile World Congress, a really nice phone. Cheers.
Leo: That's saying a lot because Myriam is a big HTC fan and has been for some time. The Samsung NS2, who purchases the Galaxy, one that's got a basically flat screen like an existing Galaxy phone and one like the Edge which is not like the current Edge. The current Edge is two screens, one curved and one flat and they show different things. This one is one – it looks like one super ANALED screen that is curved around the front which I like better, frankly. It looks – people who have seen it, including Myriam, have said it looks gorgeous. It does have some of the capability of the current Edge. You can have an Edge display but not nearly the capabilities of the current Edge, which is fine. I thought that was a mistake.
Samsung did say no more removable battery but they are going to have very high-speed charging and will support both wireless standards, Qi and power mat, which is great news, I think. No SD card but as Myriam said, 32-64 and 128 gig versions. So that's probably better than having an SD card in most respects.
Jerry: Why would it be better not to have a removable card?
Leo: Removable card is great because you can take it out and maybe copy stuff to it and so forth, or you can have multiple cards. But on most platforms, the SD card isn't an equal to an internal SD storage. So having a large capacity, internal storage means you don't have to worry about where you're storing apps – most apps cannot be moved to the SD card. No app with a widget can be moved to the SD card. So having it all internal, having sufficient internal storage, I think, gives you most of the capability you'd want an SD card for.
Jerry: And put you at the mercy of the Cloud.
Leo: Well, 128 gigs, Jerry, I don't think you're going to need much Cloud storage if you get a giant one like that. In fact, that's as much storage as you're going to be able to put in. I guess you could put in 128 SD card.
Jason: But it does put you at the mercy of their pricing of that memory, which if it were a separate slot, you probably get that memory for a lot less than what they're going to price it at.
Leo: They are using EMMC memory which is the same memory used, I think, in the solid state drives, which is a lot faster than the flash storage in existing phones. That's a big one. It looks like they've made massive improvements to the camera including, as Myriam said, an F19 and the fingerprint reader is much more like Touch ID on Apple. The current fingerprint reader on the S5 and the Note 4, you have to swipe – it's kind of like the laptop fingerprint readers where you swipe your finger along it. Now, it's going to be like the Touch ID on Apple's where you just put your finger on it.
They also announced their own payment system, Samsung Pay, which will, I suppose, continue to support the touch to pay technologies that Android phones have now with Google Wallet but also adds Loop Pay, a company Samsung acquired last month that lets you use a swipe card reader by not swiping your phone, but by putting your phone next to the swipe card reader. It puts out a magnetic field which the swipe card reader interprets as an actual magnetic strip. I know people who use Loop Pay – Jeff Needles in our office uses it and says it works quite well.
So Samsung said at their event, “We will support more payment terminals than anybody including Apple Pay because of this acquisition of Loop Pay.”
Jerry: And more ways to biddle the system.
Leo: You know, that's Andy Ihnatko raised that question. He'd like to see and I would too if it's possible to maybe snag that magnetic field on its way to the Stripe reader. But one good thing – Samsung's doing, just as Apple is doing, the same kind of tokenization. There's no credit card transfers, it's a single-use token that's passed to the merchant. The merchant doesn't get any information about you. I think that's really good news. Apple Pay is clearly moving the market in that respect.
Jerry: They're certainly getting there.
Leo: You know, I'm excited. I feel like Samsung has put together a very nice phone that at least, design wise, looks a little bit nicer. You pointed out it looks a lot like the iPhone 6.
Jason Snell: It looks a lot like the iPhone 6. I think – we talked about HTC 1, which has been the go-to, sort of like, if you want something really nice like an iPHone that's got that high design but you want an Android phone, that was the go-to. I look at the Galaxy S6 and I think, “Well, it might be the Galaxy S6.” They got rid of that plastic back that was removable, that meant you could swap the battery and card.
Leo: It looked like a bandaid in some cases.
Jason Snell: It sometimes looked like a bandaid or fake leather. Now it's this Gorilla glass back, it's non-removable and it looks really nice.
Leo: It actually looks like an iPhone 5 more than a 6.
Jason Snell: Well, I think the Edge probably looks a little more like the 6, but yes. It looks good. It looks really good.
Leo: There's the rounded edge of both phones.
Jason Snell: I always thought that for the leading Android phone, the Galaxy S models felt a little cheap because they had that plastic back.
Leo: I agree. They still have that physical home buttom, but so does Apple. Now that it's a fingerprint reader, that gives it some justification for existence. They're one of the few Android devices that still has physical buttons on the front face of the phone.
Jerry: [crosstalk] – had small phones but for some people – everybody's getting older. The bigger the phone, the better, within limits. I mean, it gets to the point you can't carry it but it's pretty small.
Leo: I agree with you, Jerry. The world seems to – it's funny because Apple and everybody seemed to mock these. I remember when I started carrying a Galaxy Note 1, which is smaller than the S6, people mocked me. They said, “What, is that a giant Hershey bar you're holding up to your ear?” Now it's just commonplace. I carry a Note 4, which I really like. That's 5.75 inches. This is 5.1 inches. This phone will not feel big in anybody's hands, I predict. It's smaller than an iPhone 6 Plus.
Jason Hiner: It's going to stop the momentum of these phones getting bigger and bigger. With this generation of Android devices, they are now sort of evening out and leaving some room for the phablet to do its things. I think the interesting thing – a couple of interesting things about the S6 is, the one thing I liked about the S5 and other Galaxy, because I've had the last couple for my work phone. I have an iPhone 6 as my personal phone. The Galaxy bounces. I swear, I've dropped that thing all the time. I don't know why, maybe I'm just not as careful with it but the nice thing about that plastic is it bounces and doesn't crack as much. You don't need a case and that kind of thing. I worry especially about this Edge – this thing's got, “Broken screen,” written all over it.
Leo: It's basically entirely made of glass, the front, back and sides!
Jason Snell: Like the iPhone 4, which everybody remembers was the – you know how your toast always lands butter side down? Well, both sides were buttered because both sides were glass, right? That's what the case is here. Apple went away from that and went to a metal back so they could reduce the breakage on the back of their phone but the S6 – definitely, there's glass on the back.
Leo: It's Gorilla glass 4, the fourth generation Gorilla glass, which they say is the hardest glass out there. But glass is glass.
Jason Snell: It's not going to be as impervious as that hard plastic was.
Leo: Actually, Samsung had some interesting cases for this, including one that's somewhat translucent. We saw in a demo after the event, it looks pretty nice. I don't drop phones.
Jason Hiner: For me, I anticipate a lot more breaks with this thing, especially the Edge. There's going to be a lot of breaks and for whatever reason – it looks great. I mean, I think that – I don't know why they made one with an edge and without. The one with the edge looks so much better and it's sort of weird. It's not really a feature you're going to buy the phone for, so I think it's sort of strange. They should have just made one device. If they want to go with the Edge concept, just do it and make it part of your design, but that's not really their style.
But I think that, you know, it's not as practical a phone but it looks a lot better. It is an incremental upgrade. Again, they're doing all the right things. As a fast follower, that's kind of their game is to play fast follower and they play it better than anybody. This does set them up to reclaim some lost mojo. They've got a lot of competition coming from Huawei and Xiaomi, others, you know, especially the Chinese manufacturers.
Leo: Yes, but they're still not selling in the US. None of the Xiaomi or Huawei are selling in the US.
Jason Hiner: They will be soon, though. I mean, Huawei is again and I think it's only time, but also, this is -
Leo: I love the new Mii. The new Mii 4 is beautiful. The Mii Note is great. We just looked at the new Huawei, Myriam brought a few of those in. Some pretty nice stuff out there.
Jason Hiner: I think they can do really well being everywhere but the U.S., too. I mean, Samsung does well in the U.S. but they know Apple owns the U.S. market more than ever.
Leo: Is that fair? I thought it was more like 50/50.
Jason Snell: Yes, I don't know.
Jason Hiner: Well, as a vendor, Apple is way out in front. You compare them to all of Android, you know, it's a different story. But if you're Samsung, you especially care about Apple head to head and Apple is selling a lot more devices than Samsung in the U.S. But worldwide, Samsung is killing it. When I go outside the U.S., you know, Samsung is what Apple is in the U.S. Everybody's carrying a Samsung and actually, in Asia and Europe. So I think those other brands – I think this will do well in those other markets but if they're under seriously intense competition from some of those other vendors, especially the Chinese manufacturers, they hear the footsteps coming with those guys.
Jerry: Didnt' I just read that Apple's still takes like half of all profits made by all cell phones?
Leo: That I believe.
Jason Hiner: I think the number just came out this week above – we're like 70 to 80% of the profits.
Jerry: I knew it was high.
Jason Snell: Last quarter, Apple to Samsung and most of the other ones didn't even make money.
Leo: But in the U.S., Android easily beats Apple. It's got 61% of the market compared to 32% for iOS cumulatively. Remember, Samsung's just a part of it, but Samsung is 27% of the U.S. market. So it's not that Apple is running away with this, by any means. They may be running away with the profits – isn't Apple now the biggest -
Jerry: It might be not running away but it's sure walking fast.
Jason Snell: With a bag of money behind it, yes.
Leo: Its pockets are stuffed with bills. It is worth twice as much as Exxon, now, market cap.
Jason Snell: Apple and Samsung are the players in the smart phone world. That's it.
Leo: And Samsung almost lost that with the S5. I think it was such a disappointment. Now, people are saying, “What about the Note?” The Note was announced at EFA in September of last year, so a Note 5 would presumably be announced in September this year. So they're off cycle with the Note and the S6. I think the S6 looks good. I'm going to buy the Edge and I'll just try not to drop it.
Jason Snell: The last two Galaxy releases were kind of lackluster. I was there at the S4 which was one of those embarrassing launch events too. You felt like they were going to not mess with the hardware and they were going to throw in a million different features. Actually, one of the features of the S6 was they reduced the number of features in the OS. They actually are stripped out a lot of junk.
Leo: No mention like things of the turning pages with your eyes going up and down, or I can now use the phone while my fingernails are drying and things like that. They left all of that out and by the way, announced no other products. The only product they announced at this event today was an updated Gear VR helmet that fits the Note 6. That's not much of a change. They decided to focus, laser-like, on the S6 and put their fortunes – and I think they needed to do that, frankly, because the S5 was such a flop.
Jerry: I guess I'm just old fashioned.
Leo: What do you use? You use an iPhone, don't you, Jerry?
Jerry: I use an iPhone. My son uses an S6 and likes it a lot. I don't – it's a big Samsung of some kind.
Leo: He probably uses the Note 4. Yes, yes.
Jerry: I was going to go down and by an iPhone 6 when I had the stroke and I haven't got around to it, so I've still got this old phone.
Leo: Jerry, we need to send you a new phone. Holy cow.
Jerry: Well, Apple isn't going to do it. I'll go buy one when I get a chance to get down to the Apple store.
Leo: I think the iPhone 6 is great and by the way, there may be a reason to carry an iPhone. We'll talk about that in just a second. I'll just quickly wrap up Mobile World Congress coverage. There were a couple of other announcements. Low-end phones are a very big part of the market. We don't talk about it because it doesn't have all those exciting, new, whizzy features. But the low-end phones are huge. Motorola on Wednesday sent us a box with a second-generation Motorola G, a very credible, very nice phone, much like the Moto X but $150 out the door unsubsidized.
Mozilla has announced a flip phone and a slider phone so if you miss your old flip phone, these are using the Mozilla operating system – the Firefox operating system is not my favorite in the world but these are – there's a huge market for inexpensive phones, often with dual SIMs, FM radio features that aren't usually seen in the United States, and of course, supporting the wireless bands that are used around the world. This is probably where most of the money is going to be made – I'm sorry, I doubt there's much money to be made but many of the sales will be made.
Jerry: I was going to say, there isn't much profit in cheap phones.
Leo: Yes. That's why Apple doesn't do one. All right, we have an announcement from Apple coming up. We'll talk about that in just a second. Before we do, though, let's take a break and talk about audible.com.
I'm an audio book fanatic. Since the esteemed Jerry Pournelle is on with us, we should quickly point out that Jerry and Larry have a number of books available on audible.com, some of my favorites. In fact, I'm thinking that most of the books I've read of yours, I've listened to on Audible. The Mote in God's Eye.
Jerry: They are selling very well. I got a huge royalty check from Audible.
Leo: I'm glad to hear that. So you don't mind people listening?
Jerry: I love it.
Leo: Good, because that's how I – I can barely read any more. I have to listen. The Gripping Hand, that's the sequel to The Mote in God's Eye. That one came out fairly recently. That's on audible.com. Footfall, Lucifer's Hammer, which if you haven't read, you're just missing out. Plus a lot of others, High Justice, Janissaries. Some of these are young adult novels which is great. In fact, Audible is great for younger people, your kids, your teenagers, often – research shows this, they get into reading by listening. If they're not into reading yet, get them an Audible book and get them to listen. Research shows that kids who listen to books read more books as well. It gets them going. It doesn't have to just be you with a kid in your lap reading. You can do it together, though, and we do that, actually, with Michael. We've been listening to The Lightning Thief, which is a great book for young adults. He is loving it. It gets him reading.
In fact, Audible got me reading again. I've always loved reading but with work and long commutes, I didn't have time to sit down with a book very often and as you get older, frankly, one page – (snores). I'm asleep. Audible is great, in the car, at the gym, walking the dog, doing the dishes. We have Audible on in the house almost all the time, both fiction, nonfiction – let me tell you. If you haven't tried it yet, I've got two books for you and that's pretty cool. If you go to audible.com/twit2, you'll be signing up for the Platinum plan. That's two books a month, your first month free, your first two books free. You'll also get the Daily Digest of the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal for free. If you cancel any time in that first month, you'll pay nothing but the books are yours to keep. I don't think you're going to cancel, but we understand.
Maybe you've never listened to audio books and you don't know. Audible.com/twit2, start with maybe a Pournelle/Niven classic. When I first joined Audible – Jerry says, “Yeah!” When I first started listening to Audible, they were a little disappointing on sci-fi. Then they started the Audible frontiers program where they actually record sci-fi in their studios. A lot of books and stuff that were never in audio are for the first time available in audio. It's really great.
Jerry: They have very good actors and actresses reading them, too.
Leo: They do. They're in Newark, they get New York, Broadway actors, some really great people. Christoper Hurt doing Stranger in a Strange Land, wow. That would be something to listen to, in fact, I might have to. Bronson Pitow doing Drury Road.
Jason Hiner: I've got a good recommendation on Audible.
Leo: Go ahead, Jason, what are you listening to?
Jason Hiner: I listened to this great one not too long ago, The Mortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.
Leo: Isn't that a great story?
Jason Hiner: Fantastic, the Hila cells. Her cells were a major breakthrough, her cancerous cells, a major breakthrough in science that led to a number of major breakthroughs. But there's also – the story itself is interesting and sad, disturbing. There's institutionalized racism, all kinds of interesting and somewhat disturbing pieces. But the story has a life of its own because her family sued over this and because her cells – you know, she didn't necessarily know what they were going to do with her cells or agreed to it. Anyway, it's a fascinating, fascinating story and it's a great listen. There's almost a performance in there at one point where there's some really amazing stuff that happens. The voice actor basically goes from reading it to exclaiming. There's a great interview with the author at the end that has some great stuff there, too. So a great listen.
Leo: It's not just somebody reading the book. It really brings the book to life. It's – unless you've experienced it, it's hard to understand how great Audible is. I know, Jason, you're a big Audible fan too. I'll tell you, it's – for me, it's all I do now is listen to Audible books. I just love it. Audible.com/twit2, get your first two free today.
Apple sent out invitations – you got one.
Jason Snell: I did.
Leo: Damn your eyes, invitations to an event one week tomorrow, March 9.
Jason Snell: A Monday this time, Monday event.
Leo: Is that unusual, usually Tuesday?
Jason Snell: They've been mostly Tuesday but they're moving it around now.
Leo: This one's going to be at Yerba Buena Center where they've traditionally had their events.
Jason Snell: This one is six months to the day that they announced the Apple Watch.
Leo: Do you think that's significant or just -
Jason Snell: It may just be a coincidence but I expect that we'll be hearing about the Apple Watch, so it's kind of funny.
Leo: So the invitation actually – this is not the invitation, this is just an image on the invitation.
Jason Snell: Yes, below it, it said, “Spring forward.” Then, “Please come to our event.”
Leo: It is the day after the return of Daylight Savings Time. So you will be springing forward the day before. Tim Cook has already said on his earnings call that April is the month. So this is not – we don't expect to get them on Monday.
Jason Snell: I'm not quite sure what to expect. I actually said on a podcast that I didn't think they would do an event just devoted to the Apple Watch but I was maybe totally wrong. It has been six months, they've probably got a lot of details to report. They want to get people excited about the watch again in advance. It may be that this is also when they seed the press with demo units. That could happen. It's not unusual. It would be unusual if they give them to them three weeks before they ship. If it ships in April, that would be – that would sort of be the timing. That wouldn't surprise me if that's what they're doing, too. Since this is a different kind of product, we already know that it exists. So they don't have to play as coy as they would with a product that was brand new. We all know that this exists and in fact, Apple employees wear them around and they're allowed to, the people who work at Apple who have an Apple Watch are allowed to wear it around. It's not a secret that they're wearing an Apple Watch, they just won't answer any questions about it when asked.
Leo: I think Nick Bilton of the Times told us that there are 1000 Apple employees wearing watches now.
Jason Snell: I've seen them and they're happy to say, “Yes, that's an Apple Watch.” They just don't want to talk to you about it.
Leo: I read something that they're putting it in a Samsung – something that makes it look like a Samsung watch.
Jason Snell: I don't think that's true anymore, I think that's when they were working on them initially. Now everybody knows they're making a watch, know what it looks like. They just won't tell you – they're not going to give you a demo. They won't lift up their wrist and say, “Let me show you.” They're not allowed to do that but it's out there. So to show that to the media and give members of the media review units and to tell more of the story of the Apple Watch wouldn't surprise me, if that's what most or all of that event is.
Jason: It has to be, I mean, just the fact that it says, “Spring forward.” That's such a time thing.
Leo: That's a watch.
Jason: It's all about setting your clock forward.
Jason Snell: And Yerba Buena, where they usually do these big events -
Jason Hiner: [crosstalk] – want prognostications on the Apple ecosystem, actually, Jason Snell is the person to follow. If you don't follow him on Twitter, do it. I've been following him for a long time and talking to him – we go back a long way and I've asked him off the record on some of this stuff, “Like, okay, what do you really think is going to happen?” You're usually right, so there you go.
Leo: What's awesome is that you got invited because you've left Mac World.
Jason Snell: Right, they invited me to the event in October and I'd already left.
Leo: You're an expansive blogger now, dude.
Jason Snell: Well, you know, they invite a bunch. They invite Jim Darrible, Jon Gruper. They invite a bunch of bloggers to it, Renee, Serenity.
Leo: We were talking before and it really is Apple's relationship with you, not with your publication, that determines whether you get an invitation.
Jason Snell: I think there's something to that. I think that's not entirely it. I mean, we could go back. Who knows why? I think the rules are changing.
Jason Hiner: I think if it's the Times, the Journal or something, yes.
Jason Snell: Yes. I think in my case, I mean, I'm trying to start a site that is covering Apple stuff and they have been – I know them, they know me. So being in the reviews program and getting advanced things.
Leo: Maybe someday if I cover more Apple stuff, I could get an invitation? Do you think?
Jason Snell: You know, if you put your mind to it and you work really hard, Leo.
Leo: It's okay. We'll be there. In fact, you can all be there because they're going to stream it live, starting 10 a.m. March 9, Pacific Time. That's 1 p.m. Eastern, 1800 UTC. We'll be broadcasting live with our usual snarky coverage. We'll show the stream and Andy Ihnako and I, and Mike and whoever else happens to be around, Jason, if – no, you're gone.
Jason Snell: I'll be there, sorry.
Jason Snell: I'll be in the chat room, send you some snark in the chat room.
Leo: We'll put you in the Holodeck and let you experience it through the TWiT stream on a week from Monday. Any predictions? We know there's three models, two sizes of each, a sport model at $349. That's the only price Apple's announced. Are you getting paged by Apple right now?
Jason Snell: Spock is calling from beyond.
Jason Hiner: I think it's going to be a huge flop, to be honest. I think they'll sell a million in the first weekend and then after that, I think that -
Leo: What? Are you kidding me?
Jason Hiner: After that first week or whatever -
Leo: You think it's going to be a flop?
Jason Hiner: Yes.
Leo: You and I are the only people that think that in the world. Apple's apparently, according to the supply chain, made more than 5 million, some say even a lot more than 5 million.
Jason Hiner: That was downplaying it. Honestly, one of the analysts said they were going to sell over 20 million, which I think there's no way. There's no way they will sell over 20 million. That's either – I won't say because, you know, whatever. But one of the analysts was saying they would sell over 20 million of these.
Leo: In the first year?
Jason Hiner: In the 2015 calendar year. Apple, I think, releasing that information that they've made 5 million, I think that's their way of tamping down expectations and saying – because obviously, I think they leaked that. I think that was their way of tamping down expectations for that whole 20 million business that some of the analysts were saying. So I think when the iPad first came out – if we just compare it to the iPad which is a device that nobody really knew what they needed and what they were going to do with it, it went – everybody expected it to sell 5 million and it sold 15 in its first year. That sort of made sense because there are some things you could do with it -
Leo: Well, it was a full computer. A watch is not by any means a full computer. It's a second display for your phone. Who needs a second display?
Jason Hiner: Exactly. The people who should be getting excited about this I don't see getting excited about it and that's what worries me and makes me think that they are going to – there's no way they're going to sell 20 million.
Leo: I kind of agree with you. On the other hand, betting against Apple has never done well for me recently, not in a long time. So you know, these guys seem to have the glitter gold dust, something.
Jason Snell: Well, they're bound to slip up eventually. Jason is totally right that when there are – I would say, unexpected or unrealistic expectations out in the market, that's when you see a story that leaks that says, “Well, that's a little bit much.” You don't want unrealistic expectations if you're Apple. You want to manage that.
Leo: I do think that this is not the watch that Apple wanted it to be. We saw the story in the Wall Street Journal, again, probably leaked from Apple but who knows that said they wanted to have more health sensors but for battery reasons, technology reasons and FDA reasons, they couldn't put all those health monitors into it. I think Tim Cook saying, “Apple's watch will replace your car keys,” is a great example of lowering expectations. It's like, “Okay? Huh?” First of all, I have a fob. Is that what he's talking about? Wouldn't they have to make a deal with the car company before that would happen? How many car companies have made that deal? That's – if this is the selling point, this isn't going to make it.
Jason Hiner: The biggest competition is not other smart watches, which is all – even these ones that have come out at MWC, they look nice. I mean, they look really great.
Leo: I like my Android Wear watch. I think it does great. It's not more than a second screen but I can talk to it.
Jason Snell: But they don't compete unless you consider it secondarily. Those watches work on Android, the Apple Watch works on Apple stuff. Almost no watch works on both and if it does, it's something like the Pebble, the APIs are so much richer on Android. Apple's never going to let Pebble have access to what the Apple Watch has access to. Really, what this is about is how many iPhone users are there out there who are using the 5 and beyond – that's what it's compatible with. How many of them want to buy this accessory feeling it will upgrade their iPhone experience?
Leo: That's your total market. How big is that market?
Jason Snell: It's a big market. I mean, you've seen the volume of iPhones that Apple has sold.
Leo: They sold 175 million this year -
Jason Snell: It's a lot but -
Leo: It's a lot – or 75.5 million, sorry.
Jason Snell: That's an expensive accessory so that's the question.
Jerry: There is a big market, though. There are a lot of people who will want expensive accessories to Apple product. I'm not one of them. There are much better ways of monitoring your health than to wear an Apple Watch.
Leo: Well, I think these all – all these watches are just glorified pedometers and maybe a heartrate monitor, although they're not, in my experience, very accurate.
Jason Hiner: I think 10 million.
Jerry: I'm seeing, for instance, that -
Leo: You think they'll sell 10 million in 2015?
Jason Hiner: In 2015, I think they'll sell 10 million.
Leo: That would be disappointing for Apple, not so disappointing for most people. I'll sell 10 million anythings. By the way, $349 is the starting point. What do you think the price points will be, any ideas? What's the stainless steel going to be?
Jason Snell: I say $700.
Leo: Twice as much, then the gold is going to be thousands, right?
Jason Snell: $15 thousand. $10, $15, $20 thousand.
Leo: Not $6000 or 7000?
Jason Snell: Just the gold Rolex will cost you $10 or 15 [thousand], right?
Jason Hiner: Those are luxury watches, all $10 thousand or more.
Leo: There's a fundamental difference. Your Rolex is going to last years and you can give it to your kids. Your Apple Watch...
Jason Snell: I've got my dad's Rolex but it's possible that the Apple Watch edition will have some sort of trade-in something.
Leo: I think they're going to have to if they expect to sell it for that much.
Jason Snell: They kind of have to since the box it comes in is itself a charger. I mean, it's going to be – it's like the super valet version of the Apple Watch.
Leo: Apple is already bringing in safes to their stores. They never had safes before even though those Ozone computers are thousands of dollars. So that might lend credence to having maybe a few $15 thousand items in the store, in the back. They also might be putting in carpet because Johnny Ives said, “Well, I would never buy an Apple Watch without carpeting.” That sounds like a hint that the Apple stores are going to – as soon as you see carpet.
Jason Snell: Maybe there will be a velvet rope and behind there, there will be carpet.
Leo: If this announcement is March 9, do you think it'll be April 9?
Jason Snell: I don't know.
Leo: It can't be much later than that.
Jason Snell: Look, my – if they say March 9, my guess would always be a week from the following Friday, so it would be the 21 or something like that, but they said it would be April. So maybe it's a little bit longer, I don't know.
Leo: Jerry, what's the most you'd spend on a wristwatch?
Jerry: I'd spend about $75 on an Aviators watch from Japanese companies.
Leo: You've probably had that for years.
Jerry: I've had some watches, yes. They usually last me about three years. I buy a watch that's good up to atmosphere, water pressure and -
Leo: And it tells the time pretty well?
Jerry: It tells the time very well, they all do.
Leo: So it's only a quarter – actually, less than a quarter of what the lowest price Apple Watch would be.
Leo: I think Apple has a few challenges if they want to show anything this'll do like, “I've got to have it.”
Jerry: [crosstalk] – want to monitor my health, I'll buy one of the gadgets from the kids making them now that take a blood sample. Not only does it do the sugar but about 90% of everything else they do in labs.
Jerry: You just put your finger in it and it connects your computer and goes on [feedback] – as me diabetes sugar meter. This is – they're not going to do that with Apple and I can get it for a lot less than the Apple Watch.
Jason Hiner: I've kind of said this before but I'll say it again. When they first announced the Apple, I would've been more excited about this if it was less of an old-school watch and more of – there was some great concept art of a Nike Fuel Band with a longer display that had some interesting touch gestures and that kind of thing. I think something like that that broke the mold a little bit would have been – they would have sold a lot more. They probably would have had a lower price point – it would have been like, $199 or something like that.
Leo: Here is a watch. Like, Swatch has announced the smart watch, the Touch Zero One for volleyball players. They're going to own the volleyball player market on this one. It's got an ice cream cone on the front.
Jason Snell: It looks pretty cool. They're out-Pebbling Pebble with their look there. You know, I think this is a lesson worth applying to the Apple Watch, too, which is, Apple's not trying to reach everybody. They're trying to reach a portion of people who've already bought the iPhone. We already know the iPhone is in the high-end smart phone market.
Leo: Which one are you going to buy?
Jason Snell: They do pretty well. Well, I really wish that stainless steel model was not going to be $700. If it was $500, I don't know. It's going to be the cheap one because I'm going to be cheap and get the cheap one. I think that's what it is, but I like the look of the stainless steel.
Jerry: Do you think they'll be waterproof?
Jason Snell: I think it's water resistant – oh, Tim Cook. This is how crazy Apple criminology is right now. Tim Cook mentioned that he wears his Apple Watch in the shower and that made everybody say, “Oh, well, it may be more waterproof than previously understood to be.” Okay. Whatever. But it's, I would say, water resistant is the safe bet. You can get it wet but not go diving.
Leo: Any more battery news? Last week, Cook said it was going to last a day.
Jason Snell: Brian Shen in the New York Times, former Mac World editor, actually, proud to say. He's got some good sources and he reported what seemed to be maybe controlled leaks about the battery life that they're planning an extreme low power mode that actually displays the time because I think they were worried about this idea that the screen's off unless you jiggle it because that's not great UI. But to get battery life, a lot of watches do that. It sounds to me that they're still targeting – you can use it for a whole day and you'll be able to see it. So we'll see but it seems to be that Apple's trying to express that they're going to hit their battery life goals. We'll see.
Leo: They're not the only ones. Swatch announced a new one and Philippe Kon's company does the Motion X accelerometers that are in many of the fitness bands. They've announced a partnership with Luxury Swiss watchmakers, Mundane, Alpena and Frederic Consta. This is a horological smart watch. Make your own joke there.
Jason Hiner: A what?
Leo: These will be – they'll look just like the quartz watch they've been making for a long time. Battery life of two years but the ability to track your fitness. They'll, like Jawbone or fitness trackers – that's because of Philippe's company. The company full power, Philippe Kon said – I'm sure Jerry has some great stories about him, said, “There's a group of people that'll buy anything.”
Jerry: That sounds like Philippe, yes.
Leo: That's a way to announce a smart watch that'll cost thousands of dollars. So there you go. That's not all. Pebble has announced its newest color watch. They call it Time. They're using Kickstarter again – oh, I've got to see. I've got to see what they're up to.
Jerry: [crosstalk] – many of our listeners are likely to be worried about Apple Watches?
Leo: That's a good question, I don't know.
Jason Snell: $11.8 million so far.
Leo: Okay, so this is crazy. So you remember that the first Pebble Watch was one of the very earliest Kickstarter successes, raised $5 million, blew everybody away in a month. That created the Pebble Watch. Four – no, five days in, they were looking for half a million. They've got $11.7 million. What the hell? This, to me, shows that Kickstarter is now basically a preordering service because there's – you're not investing it or fostering a new innovation. You're saying, “I've got to get that watch.”
Jason Snell: Let's put this in perspective. It's about 60 thousand watches they've sold, which is nice for them. That's really good for them.
Leo: They claim a million, total, of the original Pebble.
Jason Snell: They've been selling that for 2.5 years now. I mean, I've had a Pebble for two years. You know, it's what I said before. I like my Pebble and enjoyed my two years with it but as an iPhone user, they are really limited in what they can do because Apple – all watch features Apple is putting into the iPhone are geared toward the Apple Watch and if I'm going to use an iPhone and want a smart watch, I'm going to need the Apple Watch. If I'm using Android, I think it's really compelling because it's not one of these, lasts for a day, colored screen, backlit LCD screen deals. This is their e-paper, LCD screen and it lasts a week. It does use some of the Android Wear APIs, so it does have good integration with Android and I think it's compelling and cheap. It's not a super expensive model so it's kind of compelling.
Leo: I want somebody to put this image of the watch side-by-side with an Apple Watch when it comes out.
Jason Hiner: Apple will sell more in one month than Pebble has sold in its whole lifetime and I'm a skeptic of the Apple Watch, obviously. But Apple will sell more in one month than Pebble's sold the whole time. But – I sat next to Eric, the CEO and founder of Pebble at CES at a dinner last year. He said something so compelling, I thought, which is, “We're not competing with, you know, other smart watch makers, really. There are people who are going to like our product. We do certain things well, other products do their things. We're competing with people who don't want to wear watches anymore.” I think that's still the case and I think it's going to be the case for Apple Watch just as much as Pebble and others. It's competing with the fact that fewer and fewer people are wearing watches because it's one thing you can get rid of. Another thing with your smart phone, you don't have to have, you know. The smart phone has consolidated so many different devices, so many different things. There's so many different tools and the watch is one of them. So getting people to put a watch back on is probably unlikely.
Kind of like what Jason Snell was saying, what they're really going after is making a bet. Of the sort of, almost, 200 million people who bought an iPhone last year that's going to be compatible with this thing, a pretty high percentage of them – all they need is 5-10% of them who already do wear watches and want a smart watch, and are willing to shell out money for an accessory. Then they've got a great market.
Jason Snell: I think you're right that the number one competitor for every smart watch is not wearing a watch. That is number one. Number two is maybe the competition but number one is, “I don't want to wear a watch.” I will say is that I totally get watch skepticism but there was a time when people carried watches in their pockets. Then they started strapping them on their wrists and pocketwatches went away because people found it more convenient on their wrist. That can happen again. That could totally happen. I'm ont saying it will, but it could. There is an advantage to looking at your wrist instead of pulling out of your pocket.
Jerry: Let me point out that your real competition is with people like me who don't want to take the damn thing off at night, or take a shower, or go swimming or take a bath. They just want to put it on and leave it there. I'd have it tattooed on if I knew how to do it so it would keep time.
Leo: Now, that's a business. Maybe the subdermal watch. I like that.
Jason Snell: With Apple, you could wear it for a week and shower with it and everything. It's just every now and then, you'd have to be near an outlet once a week for a couple of hours. But you could keep it on while you did it.
Leo: If they put a Tamagotchi in my Apple Watch, I'm buying it.
Jason Snell: You start coding an app. There could be an app for that.
Jason Hiner: Maybe e-Paper for your wrist and it could be like that Motorola thing where you swallow a pill and it's powered.
Leo: You've seen concepts for those.
Jason Snell: Those tattoo displays, yes.
Jerry: Is there any chance the Apple Watch will let you talk to Siri without taking your phone out of your pocket?
Jason Snell: Yes. It's actually got a microphone on it and you can just raise your wrist off and say, “Hey, Siri.” I just set everyone's iPhones off, sorry about that.
Jerry: Now, if it actually lets you talk to your phone without taking the phone out and holding it in your hand then there starts being some practical reasons to have it – [crosstalk]
Leo: I could do that with the Android Wear watch. When I get a text, I can spot it. Right. But the Android Wear watches do that. It has a limited subset of commands but you can -
Jason Snell: Pebble Time's got that too. Pebble Time will have a microphone that'll work with Android.
Leo: I do sometimes – in fact, that's one useful thing. I get a text and get a buzz, then I can swipe right and respond. I do that at least once a day. Not that that's something I would go out and spend a lot of money on.
Jason Snell: I think there is a possibility that what these smart watches will do is reduce the need to pull our phones out of our pocket and do this for a while. That might not be bad. If you glance, flip and move on to the next thing, maybe that would be a good thing.
Jerry: How is the speech to command capability?
Leo: Well, we were talking about the Amazon Echo which you and I both ordered, Jerry, that little black tube that sits in your room – you know, there's something compelling about this. Maybe because of years of scifi and Howe 9000 and all that. I like a plastic pal you can speak with. I want to talk to my little friend and ask him questions.
Jason Snell: Nice reference.
Leo: We're going to take a break and come back. There is a lot more to talk about, including a landmark decision from the FCC. That's why Jerry is here to school us all about why this is a bad idea. Before we do that, though, let's talk about an all-new sponsor. We're welcoming ShipStation to the TWiT network. I first found out about ShipStation when I used it on SquareSpace. This is so cool. If you do fulfillment, if you ship things, shipstation.com. It can take your orders from eBay, from Amazon, from Etsy, more than 50 popular marketplaces and shopping carts, easily create labels for all the top carriers. You see them right there, UPS, FedEx and of course the postal service. You'll get a free US Postal Service account that gives you access to discounted shipping rates. The same rates that in the past, only Fortune 500 companies have been able to get. Shipstation.com, it is the number one choice of online sellers and they have an incredible 98% customer satisfaction rating. If you do fulfillment, even international shipping with DHL, you'll get the best prices, best service.
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Okay, we came in – actually, it was just here by chance, was it Wednesday morning? Tuesday? Thursday. It was my day off and I happened to be here, was doing a thing in Marketplace. By the way, if you haven't heard of the Marketplace, it was fun. There was a little number thing, a little contest. I did that on Thursday for Friday's air. I happened to be here and I noticed the chat room talking about the FCC. They were streaming the hearing live on the most important – actually, two of the most important votes the FCC has ever made. A little history on this, the chairman of the FCC, Tom Wheeler, who Jon Oliver called a dingo because he said, “Letting Tom Wheeler watch over the internet is like letting a dingo watch your baby.”
Tom Wheeler, Hall of Famer for the National Cable Association, the Wireless Association, a lobbyist appointed by Barack Obama to be chairman of the FCC had attempted – his predecessor had, Genachowski, to create open internet rules. Verizon sued and the FCC was thwarted. The judge in that case said, “Well, look.” And this is well known that the FCC only has the power to do what Congress tells it to do. It has a Congressional mandate. The FCC said, “You know what -” Sorry, the court said, “Verizon's right. You can't promogate open internet rules. You have no jurisdiction.” But the court did an interesting thing, sometimes they do this. They gave him a hint. They said, “Now, were you to invoke the Telecommunications Act and declare broadband providers to be telecommunications companies instead of information services, you would have standing. You would have jurisdiction. You could tell them what to do.”
The FCC put on its thinking cap. Tom Wheeler asked for comments, got four million comments swamping the FCC.com site. The majority of those comments coming partly because of Jon Oliver's piece on This Week Tonight but also because of EFF, and Epic and many of the other organizations. They got aggrievance from many big tech companies, all of them promoting this use of the Telecommunications Act – Title 2 of the Telecomm Act to declare that broadband companies were telecommunications providers.
We had a debate. We had two ISPs, one, Dane Jasper from Sonic.Net who said, “I for one welcome Title 2 regulation.” Another small ISP from Laremy, Wyoming, Rick Glass who said, “Oh my God, you don't want that.” Glass already tweeted, “I'm going to sue -” AT&T said, “I'm going to sue.” Because on Thursday, the FCC voted along party lines three to two to adopt Title 2 regulation. They declared broadband companies to be telecommunications companies. They said, “We have a 300-page document. One of these days we're going to show you -”
Jerry: “We'll let you read it someday.”
Leo: In a second vote, which I think in some way was equally important and maybe shows that their hearts are in the right place, saying that they were going to restrict the abilities for state legislatures to prevent municipal internet access. Towns like Chatanooga have really done a great job of providing gigabit internet access to their residents. 20 state legislatures at the behest and lobbying of the Telecomm companies have made laws prohibiting that. The FCC says, “We're going to overturn – regulate those out of existence.” I think we all agree, the real way to solve this is real competition. It's just something we don't have right now. There are only, for 86% of the Americans, two choices. Your phone company or your phone company for high-speed internet.
Jerry: At least that's two choices.
Leo: Well, it's more than one.
Jerry: Right now, with Title 2 – you understand Title 2 is a 1922 act.
Leo: It was written before you were born. That's how old it is, ladies and gentlemen.
Jerry: From copper telephone days when copper was expensive to run. Now, it gives them a right to, among other things, forbid content. Well, it used to be there was a federal crime about cursing over the telephone that they don't enforce any more. They said, “Well, we have all these rights now to regulate and to set prices and to license websites -” [crosstalk]
Leo: They've said we have the power to do that. They said they will not – they said they'll use forbearance.
Jerry: They said, “But we won't do that. You understand we won't do it, we just have the power to do it.” Isn't that nice? One thing I can assure you, regulators like to regulate and if they can regulate something, they will regulate something. Now, exactly what problem is this, giving them Title 2? Would you want Ma Bell back again to run the internet?
Leo: Well, isn't that what we have? We have Ma Bell and Comcast running the internet, Jerry. And by the way, they are solving a problem. Comcast and Verizon put the screws to Netflix, saying, “If you would like to reach our customers, you're going to have to give us more money.”
Jerry: Yes. But you – look, if I do nothing but download movies all day and you do nothing but normal telecommunication and we pay the same rate -
Jason Snell: This is one of the things that I – Ben Thompson, who's been on this show from Techery, said he likes this ruling but it will lead to metered access, where you pay for more bandwidth which is probably the right thing to do but that's where this will probably lead.
Leo: Yes. What you don't want, though, is a cable-like situation where – see, my feeling is that Comcast, Verizon and AT&T quite rightly are acting as a business. They're attempting to maximize profit for their shareholders and of course, the best way to do that would be to charge for access to internet providers. People like TwiT, we are a content creator. I can see them coming to me and saying, “Hey, our customers are watching a lot of TwiT. You better start paying us if you want decent performance.” This would prevent that. Now, maybe we will have to change how we think about pricing.
Jerry: Leo, the president of AT&T a long time ago said, “They're using my pipes and they're going to have to pay to do it.” But he didn't do it because competition kept him from doing it. The way to accomplish what you want out of internet neutrality is to have competition, but what you've given is a right of censorship.
Leo: But you agree we don't have competition, right?
Jerry: We don't have as much as we'd like but on the other hand, ten years ago we didn't have any.
Leo: I don't see much competition right now. If 86% of Americans have two choices, both of which are big companies, their cable company and their phone company who have already shown they're predisposed to squeeze them for as much as they can yet. I don't think that's a competition. I think we all agree that fostering competition is a good thing and that's the second vote.
Jerry: Adam Smith said, in The Wealth of Nations, his first book, “There never was a time when two capitalists sat down to have tea but the conversation turned to have government reserve competition with them.”
Jerry: He didn't put it quite that way but it's what he said. Do you really believe that you as opposed to a lobbyist for Comcast will have more influence of the FCC when it's over?
Leo: I think there's evidence that we did. I think Tom Wheeler, who in fact was a lobbyist for a long time for wireless and cable, probably didn't want to do this but received four million comments. I think those four million comments swayed the President, who does have to get elected. He does appoint the chairman of the FCC and I think, ultimately, the President swayed the chairman of the FCC to listen to the people. So I do think we have a lot of power, in fact, in this regard. Ultimately, we elect them or un-elect them as long as the citizens of the internet access care, we have no sway with Comcast. We have no sway with AT&T. There's no question about that. But it's supposed to be a government by the people, for the people and I think we ought to act as if it is.
Jerry: It's all with local government.
Leo: You do agree that some regulation is necessary? You'd agree that anti-trust laws are necessary?
Jerry: I would look at anti-trust laws. But look, you understand that Congress assumes it's passed, the veto power of Obama is going to take this all away. The Congress has made it very clear they did not plan for Title 2 to apply to the internet. The internet grew by having essentially no regulation or damn little, so you're dealing with a temporary situation and in fact, by the time it would be implemented, it probably won't have – it will have changed the administration.
Leo: Well, in the courts, you're obviously – we know that AT&T's already filed a brief to sue, so it's going to – the lawsuits will happen as well.
Jerry: [crosstalk] – it's a moot point because some of this stuff gets to the courts, we'll have had another big election and you'll find out whether four million comments were really comments from people who just suddenly spontaneously sent them or they were encouraged by the people who want that kind of content. I don't think Congress intended for Chatanooga not to be able to provide wireless to its people.
Leo: They actually provided Fiber and the minute the city of Philadelphia inaugurated municipal WiFi, Verizon went to the Pennsylvania state legislature and made them knock it off. It's happened in 20 states. I think you're right, if people say, “Government sucks, regulation sucks, we have nothing do with it.” If they take the cynical route, you're right, but I think this is a case where people are starting to realize the citizens of the internet care an awful lot about this stuff. I think we are voters and we are going to vote this.
Jason Hiner: I agree, I think – [crosstalk]
Jerry: [crosstalk] – if you give the government power, it will use it.
Leo: Yes, I mean, this is an idealogical discussion. You and I differ on our views of government and that's always going to happen.
Jerry: They'll use it for what they think is good. But what they think is good may not be good for us.
Leo: But that's an idealogical or political discussion and I think that there's a very clear path here that we need to follow so people are able to get the internet. Jason, go ahead.
Jason Hiner: I was going to say, I think that in one sense, we were talking about this a lot, obviously.
Leo: On this show, and UN, I'm sure everybody has, yes.
Jason Hiner: I've noticed that more and more users kind of tune out a little bit and I think one of the reasons they do is they expect – and I think they're right, that we're still going to be talking about this in ten years. We may still be talking about it in 20 years, because if we agree that as it now is, that the internet is a vehicle of public good. It is and there are now goods and services, but especially government goods and services type of things, that you cannot access unless you have a decent connection to the internet. Or cannot access as well or research – anyway, all of those things are true. The internet is a function of public good. The question now is if that vehicle of public good is in the hands of private companies in a capitalist society like ours, there's going to be a natural tension over what they should do, and can do, what they can't do and what we want them to do. So as long as that is the case, as long as, you know, this vehicle of the public good is in the hands of these private, capitalistic companies, then the people have an idea of what they – you know, this trust that they're giving them to something that is now integral to the lives of everyday people to live their lives and do the things they need to do. We're going to be having this debate indefinitely.
Leo: Well, I think, yes. I understand the fear, I think, everybody shares in government run amok in regulating the internet out of existence or limiting the kinds of content, giving license fees to people like me. That would be a bad thing. If you think that's going to happen, I understand your concern.
Jason Snell: At the same time, I'm concerned that lack of net neutrality eliminates competition and innovation on the internet, right?
Leo: This company, my company, would not exist if the internet did not allow anybody to use it freely.
Jason Snell: Well, and let's say you make a deal with Comcast and then there's a great competitor coming up that wants to eat your lunch. You've got the deals, I can't win there.
Leo: Final thoughts? Jerry, we're going to give you the final word.
Jerry: There never were two capitalists that sat down to have tea but what they discussed it how to get government to eliminate competition, not between them. They'll live with that but newcomers, we don't need those. This is really giving the government the power to decide who can compete. Now, if that's a good idea, fine. The best or easiest way to do it, of course, is to license websites.
Leo: I know, but I think that's a non-starter. I don't think that's ever going to happen. Let me ask you what you'd prefer.
Jerry: They have the power now.
Leo: They have the power. It's never going to happen. What would you prefer? I mean, you could make up all sorts of perils that might happen. It's never going to happen.
Jerry: I only point out that they have the power – [crosstalk]
Leo: But you don't think it's actually going to happen, do you?
Jerry: [crosstalk] – then for God's sakes, have a Net Neutrality Act that specifies what they can do.
Leo: I'd love to see that.
Jerry: I don't want them to think they can do anything, so everything you do is all right but – well, you shouldn't really just license websites.
Leo: Nobody's going to just license websites, Jerry. If the Congress could write a good Net Neutrality – if Congress can overturn this, they will. If they overturn it, would they good net neutrality rule and say, “FCC, here are the rules.” Would you be happy with that?
Jerry: Except if they write it in the next two years, the President will veto it.
Leo: I don't know that's a given. I think President Obama knows he's on the hook for net neutrality. He's campaigned on those grounds. He's made a very strong statement that he wants to support it. You think he'd veto it?
Jerry: Well, he would veto any act changes the FCC's power right now, I think. He said he would. We'll see. I want to see a very definite limit to what the FCC can make you do.
Leo: I mean, I've worked in the radio for years where the FCC has a lot of power and sometimes is not well-loved because of their ability to fine people for using bad words and other things. Yet FCC regulation of radio has not really been a problem. In fact, it's gone quite well, frankly. But I don't – I certainly don't relish the notion they might regulate websites or regulate podcasts.
Jerry: So the government did really well making Ma Bell?
Leo: Well, we could debate who made Ma Bell. I think Ma Bell made Ma Bell.
Jerry: [crosstalk] – out of Ma Bell, that'd be wonderful to happen. I just don't think that the government allowed the telephones progress the way it should have been. I think if the government had been in charge of the internet in 1990, we wouldn't have the internet we do now.
Leo: That's true. That may be true. They certainly screwed things up by creating these duopolies, although I believe they did it under pressure from companies who said, “We're not going to invest infrastructure unless you prevent a monopoly.” So what would you like to see, Jerry?
Jerry: I'd like to see what we've got now. It's working so far.
Leo: Okay. We're going to take a break – actually, let's before we take a break, take a look at what happened this week on TwiT.
Voiceover: This week on TwiT.
(From GizWhix 1507)
Chad: In the form factor of a straw – we apparently have basin water here. Oh, my God.
Voiceover: Tech News 2Night.
Mike Elgan: US Federal Communications Division today voted in favor of net neutrality in the United States. In the year leading up to today's vote, a record four million citizens sent in comments, most in favor of net neutrality.
Voiceover: Security Now.
Steve Gibson: The worst thing that Komodia has done – the password that protects their private key that's in the SuperPhish software installed on Lenovo laptops and 100 other software products is “Komodia.”
Voiceover: TwiT. Friends don't let friends miss TwiT.
[?]: Yes, this one took 50 hours and this one took about 25 hours, so if those were to get erased, I would be pretty upset. Oh, no. That got erased. That's okay.
Dick: No, it's not okay. I'm so sorry.
Leo: That video, if you're listening, you're going, “What happened there?” That was from Toy Fair, Ohio Etch-a-Sketch had an artist there who would sometimes spend days twiddling the knobs to do cityscapes and all sorts of things. Dick asked him, “What happens if somebody shakes them?” He said, “Oh, don't worry, we drill holes and let all the aluminum filings fall out of the Etch-a-Sketch so you can shake it all you want and nothing will happen. Just turn that one over and you can see the holes.” Dick did and it erased the Etch-a-Sketch. There were holes but apparently they neglected empty the aluminum filings out. The guy wasn't too devastated, he said, “Oh, that was only about ten hours of work.” I'd have been a little peeved.
By the way, we're sending Chad to the doctor after drinking Petaluma River water. We think he's going to be okay. He's had no ill effects so far. He's got a new slogan. Hey, does Mike Elgan have a week ad? Let's take a look. Mike Elgan, our news director, what's coming up this week?
Mike Elgan: Not much coming up this week except the biggest show of the year, Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. Unofficial events are already happening today but the show officially kicks off tomorrow. I'll be streaming live coverage from the floor so stay glued to the live.twit.tv site all week and watch Tech News Today every day at 10 a.m. Pacific, 1800 UTC. Back to you, Leo.
Leo: Thanks, Mike. Yes, we're going to have some great coverage. Miriam Schwar is already there. Mike is there. Lots – this has become one of the most interesting, you know, even – not as big as CVS, but a rival to CVS in terms of the importance now that mobile is -
Jason Hiner: They get bigger every year.
Leo: Yes. And you get to go to Barcelona, so there's that.
Jason Hiner: Can't beat that.
Leo: Love to be there right now. You notice, I've got snacks. When friends have a disagreement, the best solution is to break out snacks. I wish I could send you some of these, Jerry. Do you like snacks?
Leo: Who doesn't like them? Oh, what about garlic plantains or cherry vanilla granola? How about jalapeno cashews? These are the ones we've been eating. Sara and I went through a whole bag of these yesterday, strawberry greek yogurt pretzels. They're so good. Now, this is all from a company called NatureBox. These are nutritionist approved, not the snack you get out of your snack machine at work. These are deliciously awesome snacks with no artificial colors, no artificial corn syrup, no trans fats, on artificial sweeteners, just good stuff that tastes great. Sweet, savory, spicy, you get to choose. They have snacks that are vegan if you wish, or gluten free, you can choose for dietary needs. I think you're going to love NatureBox. We've set it up so you can get a free trial, five of their most popular snacks, just pay $2 in shipping when you go to NatureBox.com/twit. Jalapeno white cheddar popcorn, cashew power clusters, whole wheat raspberry figgy bars. The fun thing is, they're always doing new stuff. So I had never had these before – the strawberry yogurt pretzels. These are good – I shouldn't eat it. I want to eat it but I shouldn't eat it.
Jason Howell: Do it, Leo. Eat it there.
Leo: naturebox.com – it's hard to do an add while you're eating.
Jason Hiner: That's really good.
Leo: Jerry, give us your address because we'd like to send you some. I think you'd like these.
Jerry: What do I do?
Leo: Nothing, just get your address on email and we'll send you a NatureBox. I like to send them to our hosts. Have you gotten one?
Jason Snell: I have not.
Jerry: I had to go on my computer to even see what NatureBox was. What the heck?
Leo: They're down the road from you.
Leo: They're in LA. No, they're not, they're in San Carlos, up here. See, I tried not to and couldn't help it. They're good.
Moving on – you know, there's such a debate over the FCC thing. We'll see what happens. I think you're right, Jerry, that Congress will probably try to do something. We'll see what happens. I liked Verizon's public policy blog which emphasized, as you did, that these rules came from 1934. They published their response in Morse code, the dominant technology of the era, I guess. Has anybody translated it?
Jason Hiner: Snarky!
Leo: That's snark. Let's see what else is in the news, now, real quickly. Oh, security. You saw Steve Gibson talk real briefly about the Komodia virus. This broke last week. We talked about the fact that Lenovo had put adware on some of their consumer-grade laptops. Adware called SuperPhish. The adware was bad enough, frankly, because what it did is watch everything you do in the internet, use the SuperPhish technology to match images so if you go to Amazon and you start looking at drones – they put ads on to the Amazon webpage. They did show ads for competitors on the Amazon webpage. Lenovo's defense was, “We thought customers would like that.”
But worse was the fact that SuperPhish didn't implement this very well. They, of course, wanted to crack into SSL streams, they couldn't see into those, so they licensed a product called Komodia. Steve does a great dissection of this on Security Now on our Wednesday episode a couple of days ago. But Komodia, it turns out, not only is it so badly written that it's a security flaw, but it's used by hundreds, literally, of other programs. How-To Geek did a great piece on the download.com site – I'm sorry, Jason. CBS Interactive's download.com. Can you do anything about the,?
Jason Hiner: No.
Leo: I would recuse yourself at this point.
Jason Hiner: I would definitely recuse myself from this discussion.
Leo: Somebody – I keep giving these guys a hard time. So a couple of months ago, they did a great piece. Here's what happens when you install the Top Ten apps on download.com. These are programs – download.com offers, as a convenience to you, all of them shareware or freeware from other sources. But download.com wraps this software in their own delivery mechanism and after – so How-To Geek says, “Danger: Do not try this at home.” In fact, they used a virtual machine. So they went there and looked at the ten most popular downloads, Avast, ABG, KM Player, Yac, C Cleaner, Free Youtube Downloader, Driver Booster. Some of it kind of junky but most of it pretty good. They downloaded it all and by the way, agreed in every instance to accept the additional software that was wrapped around it.
It was a mess, browser hijacking software, adware – none of them technically viruses because all of them you could uninstall and you had to accept it. There was nothing sneaked on your machine, although one might say that some of this was a little surreptitious. So they've done a followup on this and it turns out that two of these programs have Komodia in them. So now, you're really screwed. So Komodia is everywhere. What it does is break SSL and it does so in about as braindead a way as you can do it. They do it with the same key for all machines and I think, they have a very difficult to deduce password, “Komodia.” So download.com and others are now bundling SuperPhish style HTTPS breaking adware.
Now can you do anything, Jason? Not a word. I don't want to get you in trouble with your bosses. It's not your fault. Tech Republic does not do this.
Jason Hiner: No.
Leo: Stop using download.com is my best bet. Get your software from the original source and if you do – apparently, somebody's saying that Java, the Oracle download of Java, breaks HTTPS encryption. The Lavasoft web companion which is supported by these offers with Oracle, the Lavasoft web 'companion. You also get ResultSpeed, Chocolate Bar and C Fighter. Holy cow, just a mess. So while I was really upset with Lenovo, I have to point out they're not the only ones. A lot of this stuff is all over the internet, so stay away. The funny thing about Lavasoft is they're the companies that make AdAware, the ad removal and blocking system software. They use Komodia. A lot of antiviruses, apparently use Komodia.
Jason Hiner: It's bad news. Look, the best thing that we can say is that this came to light and hopefully, companies will change their practices when people are outraged. What's possible from this across the board -
Leo: Lenovo's feeling it for sure. In fact, this might be something good that's come out of it. They did say, we'll see if they do this, they said, “We don't make that much. We're going to stop bundling adware and trialware entirely.”
Jason Hiner: Good, that would be a great thing. That would be a great development.
Leo: Wouldn't it? Microsoft tried to do this with its signature PCs and nobody went along with it. Visio did. I don't know where you can still – I don't know if you can get a Visio.
Jason Hiner: I forgot they made PCs, that's right.
Leo: It was a very brief shining moment, so we'll see. Google has turned an about face, interesting development. We talked about this Wednesday on TwiG. Google has announced that they would ban adult content on Blogger but if you had adult content, you would have to make your Blogger blog private. They changed their porn policy. “This week, we announced a change to Blogger's porn policy. We've had a ton of feedback.” A ton of feedback? “Including the introduction of a retroactive change. Some people have had accounts for ten plus years, but also on the negative impact of individuals who post sexually explicit content to express their identities.” Jessica Palegeo, social product support manager at Google. “Blog owners should continue to mark any blogs containing sexual explicit content as adult so that they can be placed behind an adult content warning page, but we're not going to shut you down.”
Jason Hiner: The problem with this kind of thing is, who decides? Lots of people, myself included, don't necessarily look at that kind of stuff or whatever. The thing is, who decides and what do they ban? That's where this is a such a slippery slope in why – if you believe in free speech and sort of a just society, you have to have some freedom of expression. You have to question these kinds of things. The great example is Facebook. Facebook had this policy where they were taking down and banning accounts, or censoring accounts of women breastfeeding but then they were leaving up all kinds of other, you know, sexually explicit stuff. So obviously, they were making poor choices. The problem is, it's a slippery slope once you decide you're going to start banning because the questions of who and what is where it gets to be a serious problem.
I don't trust Google to do it any more than I trust Facebook so, yes, I think that this is – and Apple, the same thing. Apple's trying to have it in their own way in the App Store as well. They maybe do a little better job with things that don't make news but there are still things I've heard behind the scenes where sort of weird things get banned for odd reasons. So stuff, right? If you believe in a free society has to have a measure of freedom of expression and freedom of what's published, then you kind of have to question.
Leo: I actually got in a conversation with Jeff Jarvis. I was observing it, with a pornographer on Twitter. The pornographer said, “Actually, we would welcome this move from Google.”
Jason Hiner: Really?
Leo: “We want to keep adult stuff in an adult place, maybe .xxx or whatever and we don't want people running across it. That makes it hard for us to do business. Frankly, a lot of content on Blogger and tumblr is stolen from us in the first place, so we want – would welcome this decision from these companies to keep content off. We wouldn't welcome anybody to say, 'No adult content on the internet,' but let's put it somewhere the kids aren't going to stumble on it, then we don't get all the heat that we get.” But I agree with you. What is pornography? What is erotica? What is an expression of art? You know, Leonard Nimoy was a great -
Jerry: I'll give you an example. Your banned various things, are you going to ban, say Boogie Nights where somebody plays a porn star and she is in fact a porn star in that movie. Now, is that an art movie which most people say it is, or is it just a way of hiding porn? Who decides?
Leo: Very difficult to do so.
Jerry: I don't think I want the FCC deciding.
Leo: They do decide on radio, don't they? They have those seven words. Yes. I was going to say, Leonard Nimoy who later in his life had a career as a photographer and had a number of photography books, one of them was large women nudes. That certainly was not pornography but might be banned under a policy like this. So I think Google did the right thing. They backed down.
Jason Hiner: That reminds me of a Leonard Nimoy story that I meant to say earlier when we were talking about Leonard Nimoy. Since we're getting toward the end, one of the great things that came out – you know, he was sort of notoriously erascible, not necessarily always the friendliest person to be on set with and that sort of thing. But Ryan Barry called him the conscience of Star Trek. There was a great story that came out about him, I thought, that would be appropriate in sort of a way of remembering him.
This was before he was a big star, when Star Trek got started and he found out somehow, whenever people talk, what other stars were making. He discovered that Michelle Nichols, African-American woman -
Jason Hiner: Uhuru, yes, was making considerable less than the others, even with similar credentials and all of that. He was outraged by it and took it to the studio. He stood up about it and stood up for her, and said it was wrong even though he wasn't a big star and basically that, you know, that he threatened them at that point. It worked and got Michelle Nichols – she talks about it in the Pupil magazine. But I think that's a great, cool story to remember about somebody, you know, that passed away this week that meant a lot to a lot of people in the science and tech space and what a cool thing for him to do, and stand up and make a difference.
Leo: Did you see the picture from the Space Station, one of the astronauts put the live long and prosper sign going out the window.
Jason Snell: It was over Boston, which was Nimoy's hometown.
Leo: Oh, I didn't notice that. Yes, and by the way, the chat room reminds me, it's Uhura, not Uhuru. I always mispronounce it. It's Uhura.
Jason Snell: At least you didn't call it Star Wars, okay?
Leo: I do often. But as a -
Jason Snell: Oh, Leo.
Leo: I know the difference. One has ton-tons and storm troopers.
Jason Snell: The other one has tribbles.
Leo: The other one has tribbles and Vulcan mind melds and little dregs. He wrote that, you know.
Jason Snell: I did not know that. Well, it's not the battle of the Bilbo Baggins.
Leo: It's close. Going to take a break and come back with more. I want to hear, Jason, about your book. I know I'm in it, so it's a little self-serving, but I want to know what Jerry Cornell's up to. Jason Snell, I want to hear about the growth of your fabulous podcast network. If only the FCC could do something about that.
Jason Snell: I know. I must be stopped.
Jerry: That story about Uhura, Michelle Barret had some influence in that too. Of course, she became Mrs. Jean Rodenberg.
Jason Hiner: Yes, yes. She was the voice of every computer all the way until the latest Star Trek. She was – she passed away recently but she was still the voice of the computer in every series and every movie.
Jerry: She got involved in that pay controversy, too.
Leo: I assume Uhura got her pay raise.
Jason Hiner: She did. She did eventually get her pay equity, which is great.
Leo: This episode of TWiT brought to you by our friends at SquareSpace. My daughter just started her Squarespace. I'm really proud of her. She had an idea for a website she wanted to create with a friend as a public service. It was going to be a blog and I told her all the choices. I said, “You can get it for free.” But she independently – I don't think she knew they were our sponsor or use them. Independently, came up with SquareSpace, said, “Dad, I know it's $8 a month, but is it okay?” I said, “Yes!” They wanted a website that looks great, be responsive, they could take donations, and SquareSpace could do it. I love SquareSpace and by the way, the best hosting ever, never goes down. The best support ever, live chat and phone support 24/7 from the SquareSpace offices in New York. It is affordable, $8 a month with – that's all the hosting plus the great software. When you register for a year, you even get the domain name.
All SquareSpace sites are something really important nowadays. Responsive – remember, it used to be you'd have a mobile site and desktop site? These days, everybody's on mobile. Screen sizes are all over the place. Responsive is the way, one site fits all and SquareSpace sites do it. They scale to look great on any device. When you upload an image, nine thumbnails are made so you automatically have the right size for the right device. It's so great. Every SquareSpace site comes with a free online store and by the way, the eCommerce solution on SquareSpace - $24 a month and you get everything including ShipStation. It really is nice. Cover pages, something new on SquareSpace 7, lets you set up a beautiful one-page online presence in minutes so you can create the landing page for your brand, your personal identity, product. SquareSpace has great apps on the iPhone and Android devices. In fact, if you're a photographer, I think there's no place better to put your portfolio. Not only are you going to get a portfolio styled to look like your style and fit your aesthetic, you also get a great portfolio app on the iPad. It'll actually pull the images from your site so you can show them to clients. It's all part of SquareSpace.
I want you to try it. One of the nice things about SquareSpace is you can go to squarespace.com, click the Get Started button and with no credit card, just a name, an email address and a password for the site, you've got two weeks to create a site. You can import content from your old site, really play with all the templates, and of course, content is completely separate from the template so you can try them all. See how your stuff looks, customize your heart out.
The only thing I ask is when you sign up, and I wish Abby knew this, make sure you use the offer code TWIT and you'll get 10% off your purchase. I think she signed up without doing that. That's okay, Abby. I'm happy you're using SquareSpace. We want to thank Squarespace for their support of This Week in Tech. Squarespace, build it beautiful. That's what Jeff Bridges did with his dreams. It's weird. It's exactly what you've expect from the Dude. Squarespace.com and use the offer code TWIT.
Still kind of trying to figure out the deal with Gemalto. Gemalto, which makes two billion SIM cards a year, is used by most of the mobile companies in the world including, I think, all the US mobile companies was, in the most Snowden leaks implicated – I think it was a Snowden leak that said Gemalto had been hacked by the NSA and had all of the encryption keys for the SIM cards and was able, therefore, able to spy on anybody with a Gemalto SIM card. Gemalto said, “Whoa, hold on there. Wait a minute.” They did an investigation and they did in fact say, “We detected attacks in 2010 and 2011 that gives us reasonable grounds to believe an operation by the NSA and the GCHQ, the British spy agency, probably happened.”
But they reassured everybody that the attacks against Gemalto only reached its office networks and could not have resulted in a massive theft of SIM encryption keys. The operation aimed to intercept the encryption keys as they were exchanged between mobile operators and their suppliers globally. “By 2010, we had already widely deployed a secure transfer system and only rare exceptions of this could have led to theft.” So they're saying, “None of our products were impacted. In the event of a key theft, the National Surveillance Services would only be able to spy on communications on second-generation 2G networks. 3G and 4G networks are not vulnerable. So believe what you want, but Gemalto said, “Didn't happen, and if it did, don't worry unless you're on a 2G network.”
Anything else? Oh, we talked about Snapchat a couple weeks ago with Baratunde and Nick Bilton, thinks real high of this. The Snapchat Our Stories had just launched. I actually set up an account and started putting up Stories until I realized they're deleted in 24 hours. That's a lot of work for nothing, but big brands got involved, Yahoo, Katie Couric does a daily newscast, ESPN, many channels. Apparently, these stories are generating a lot of views.
Jason Hiner: I have one. Sure do.
Leo: So are you part of the Discover thing? No. That must cost a lot of money to get that.
Jason Hiner: They did that for a limited numebr of partners, and big partners. You can tell – it's funny, when I look at Discover, I hear the voices of a venture capitalist in the background going, “What if we got some big brands to produce short clips about the same piece like Snapchat. We put it in it's own section on the site.” It reeks of that type of thing because it's so different than the actual experience of what Snapchat is, that Discover feature. Actually, some of it's kind of compelling.
Leo: I actually enjoy the Katie Couric bit. You can swipe through the newscast, which is interesting.
Jason Hiner: It really is kind of interesting, and fun and innovative. But it's so different from what Snapchatreally is sort of about.
Leo: You know, all the teenagers who use Snapchat are like, “What?”
Jason Hiner: You know, teenagers since Snapchat's done this Discover thing, teenagers are like, “Okay, Snapchat's dead.” It's like Facebook. Now all the adults are coming in and sending them friend requests and stuff? They're like, “Okay, that's it. It's over.” I've heard that multiple times in the last couple of weeks.
Leo: Because teenagers will move on if they think mom and dad are – Rousi won in 14 seconds? Boy, I'd be pissed if I did the pay-per-view on that.
Jason Howell: It was super quick, like out of the gate.
Leo: Was that the big fight?
Jason Howell: That was the main event.
Leo: That was the main event?
Jason Snell: Mike Tyson did that too, right? Mike Tyson used to throw people out.
Leo: How much was it on pay-per-view? $2?
Jason Howell: I don't know, I went to a friend's house to watch it. They had a party.
Leo: Gina Trapani watched, too. She loves UFC. So that's – I think this is a good use of it. This is an ESPN headline app and just like Snapchat, you swipe and get the next story. I'm sorry, it's loading slowly here. I don't know if that's our network? I think Snapchat does a lot of caching and because I rarely use it, it's taking its time. But you get a sense of what this can do. This is the ESPN channel. These only live for 24 hours. So what does Tech Republic do?
Jason Hiner: We do more behind the scenes kind of stuff, stories that we're doing, things that are going, funny stuff in the newsroom. The handle is just @techrepublic. It's kind of fun stuff and we do it in Stories. You know, we try to be a little bit humorous and light-hearted. A lot of our content is pretty intense stuff about keeping the world running and making good decision about technology and all of that. So we try to do it a little bit in the spirit of what's already on Snapchat, not around the Discover stuff.
Leo: Right. This is the Katie Couric Yahoo News and she narrates it. They must have some tool for the Discover folks because this is obviously not produced in Snapchat.
Jason Hiner: It's a separate CMS that no one else has, because you know Snapchat, everything else, you have to do it live. Take a video, it's got to be live. Take a photo, got to be live. You can't import photos, import videos. Everything has to be filmed or snapped from the app itself. That's part of the immediacy of that platform. These folks are obviously shooting professional videos and uploading them and building them as some kind of CMS nobody else has access to.
Leo: Jerry, what's your Snapchat handle, I want to add you.
Jerry: What's this, now?
Leo: Nothing, just teasing you. Jason, you're is techrepublic?
Jason Hiner: Just the username, yes.
Leo: I'm going to search and should find you. You know, my net is bad. I've got the sad ghost which I've never even seen before. Snapchat has the sad ghost if your internet is too slow.
Jason Hiner: That's not me, by the way, that's staff members much more funny than I am.
Leo: Let me tell you, this is – according to Snapchat, some of these Stories, the Snowmageddon story, 25 million views. Viewers took screenshots 5000 times. Many of these views in the millions, some as high as 27 million. The Oscars, which averaged 36 million last week, the Snapchat folks are coming in strong.
Jason Hiner: Same for ours. We were pushing 27 million last week, too.
Leo: No, you're not. You lie. I don't know who firstbarrel is but they have 20.3 million views. Holy camoley. Phew. That is kind of mind-boggling. That also explains why now Snapchat is valued at what, $20 billion? Some huge number.
Jerry: That's something I've been trying to say for some time. There are lots of niches out there. Some are big, some are little, but it doesn't take a very big niche to support you. I don't have any 20 million readers but I have enough that they buy $500-600 a month.
Leo: Neither do we, but we make a decent living. Jerry, what are you working on now? You said two books.
Jerry: Yes. I've got to an age where we do plots and rewrites but somebody else writes the book. What the heck. It makes for a good book, actualy, because the plots are good.
Leo: And the writing is good craftsmanship.
Jerry: Give it to somebody who knows what he's doing to be the writer. Steve Barnes is very good.
Leo: What are the stories about?
Jerry: Well, the one with Nevin, we're writing a sequel to the Beowulf children's story. The first colony in a slower-than-light universe, so what happens after about four generations and the equipment you brought with you wore out. It'll be pretty good, especially since there's some very interesting aliens in our book. The other one you haven't got interstellar travel yet, we've got asteroid colonies. There's a 12-year-old girl whose father has invented a little better spaceship and the government wants it. IT'll be an interesting story as to what she does.
Leo: It's funny you say there are interesting aliens in your book because Jason Hiner has some interesting aliens in his book as well. He's doing a great book called Follow the Geeks, which is being released online, chapter by chaper. Chapter 1 was Baratunde, right? Is that gone now?
Jason Hiner: It is. So we release them – the book will be released later this year. The people who are in it are kind of the fun part. We release them a few weeks before – a few days before actually, as we release the chapter. As we release the chapter, when we announce and release it, we take the previous chapter down. It gives you a chance to read it, leave it up for a few weeks until the next chapter. A few weeks to a month until the next chapter is available.
Jason Hiner: So, yes, it's not just me. I have a co-author, Lindsey Gilpin. We're co-writing it and it's one of the funnest, coolest things I've ever done. So I'm enjoying it a lot, enjoying the idea of releasing a book and really taking advantage of the power of the internet. One of the thing we do when we release these chapters is we're asking people's feedback. You know, “What did you relate to? What did you think was most significant in there? What were the most important insights from their life and story that you think will influence the future of tech, society, a business?” We're going to take the best comments and stuff, and when we finish the book, we're going to publish the best comments at the end of each chapter. So people have a chance to have their voice included in the book as well.
Leo: So the good news for fans of the TWiT network is, Baratunde was number one. Chapter 2, Lisa Benni. We love Lisa.
Jerry: Is it Google Follow the Geeks?
Leo: Yes, Follow the Geeks is the book, Jerry.
Jason Hiner: The site on Twitter, it's just @followthegeek. Lisa's chapter is up, just went up last week so that will be up a little while longer. It's a great read. I think what a lot of people didn't realize is, you know, what a tumultuous story she had, how much adversity and challenges she had to overcome. Different parts of her life, that really was something we talked about a lot in the chapter. She was great and very open about it. You know, she just gave us some great material from her life and it was a lot of fun. She's an amazing person, very inspiring person. Same thing with Baratunde, so inspiring, lot of adversity he's overcome as well. They both came – used those things to do very unique, very innovative things. They were both out front of a lot of trends and setting trends. That's a lot of what we get to in their chapters.
Leo: We adore Lisa and she's done very well, moved back, I think, to Vancouver, right?
Jason Hiner: Victoria.
Leo: Right, much prettier.
Jerry: What is the logic of taking the first chapter down?
Jason Hiner: After we put them up? The idea is we want each one to be special. We want to focus all the attention on one chapter at a time and also have people have some urgency to read it while it's up.
Jerry: Are you sure that's wise?
Jason Hiner: No. That's -
Jerry: I think that is not wise if someone sees the fourth chapter and they've never heard of it before. But they can't get the first three chapters. What's the get them to read the fourth?
Jason Hiner: Each of those stories – I was kidding when I said no. We did think about this a lot. Each chapter does stand alone. Each chapter is the story of one innovator and their story in particular. Our hope is, you come to chapter four and read chapter four and you say, “This is amazing, I'd like to read more of this,” then they'll preorder the final book and say, “Okay, I want to read the rest of these stories.” One of the things we've done is, with nonfiction, you typically take a year to research and then write that book, so by the time you get to that, you're two years removed from when you originally started. Then when the book publishes, a lot has changed and happened in their life and so, you know, our thought is to release these as we go and then the information we have in them is very current, very up to date.
Jerry: I can see posting them a chapter at a time, I don't see taking them away.
Jason Hiner: Taking them down?
Leo: I think a little urgency is not a bad thing. It means you have to go read it. I put off reading Baratunde's story and now I'm kicking myself. So I think that's – you know, it's not a bad thing to create a little scarcity, Jerry. You know that.
Jerry: You can't create scarcity, I just copy the thing off and read it when I feel like it.
Leo: If anybody has a copy of the Baratunde chapter. No, I'm going to buy the book. More chapters to come. Who else are you interviewing for Follow the Geeks?
Jason Hiner: The interesting things is we haven't said. One of the cool things about serial publishing – we saw this with the serial podcasts, it's that it's a cliffhanger, right? You can't wait to see, sort of, what happens next. So what we've done is haven't said who's actually going to be next. That's part of the fun is creating a little bit of that interest and urgency. We don't really announce it until a couple days before we're going to release the chapter. Then we say, “Next, chapter 3 will be ...” Then we'll say it.
Jerry: How are you doing with it?
Jason Hiner: The great thing is, we've gotten so much that we also did a little bit of a crowdfunding campaign to get it started since we're self-publishing it, to sort of cover the cost of printing and an audiobook, the cost to hire somebody to do the audio book and those types of things. So that crowdfunding campaign did great. We got the money that we needed to do these kinds of things. Then we've gotten so much amazing feedback. The one thing I didn't expect is people honing in on doing this book in a new way and how many people were excited about this idea of innovating on the idea of how to do a book to take advantage of the power of the web, through feedback, crowdfunding, and serially on our site to sort of generate interest and immediate – give people some immediate access to information. That's the stuff people have been honing in on and interested in, much more than I expected. I didn't know – this idea, books have been done the way they were done since Gutenberg. Doing them differently is kind of a foreign idea. I'm surprised how many people were excited about that.
Leo: That's one of the cool things about the internet is the chance to experiment, Jerry, and you know this. Well, you don't know what's going to work. It's a whole new world. So try stuff and see what happens.
Jerry: It's an interesting pattern. We just changed the rules of Science Fiction Writers n America to allow self-publishing, fulfilling the organization. It took three years of debating over it because you – it's not a fan organization and you're not interested in having members of people who would like to be writers but aren't yet. So it took a long time for them to come up with it, but they came up with something that might work. We'll see. Now I suspect that you're going to end up with more self-published writers than you are with traditionally published writers and members.
Leo: Actually, I guess this is not completely novel. I didn't know this. The chat room tells me that William Gibson did a book in the early '90s called Agrippa that disappeared as you read it. So if you read the digital version, it would encrypt each page after reading it. If you read the physical version, the pages were treated with photosensitive chemicals so as you read it, they would disappear.
Jason Snell: Somebody took pictures of all the pages, OCR'ed it to the internet and read it that way.
Leo: You can still read it. It's not gone forever but it lasted longer than a Rousi fight. Not much. I got the timely reference in there, right?
Jason Snell: There's one in an archive in the UK that's unread that's the permanent copy. You can't read it because it'll disappear.
Leo: That's cool. What are you up to, Jason Snell?
Jason Snell: Oh, you know, sixcolors.com. Writing about Apple and other stuff. Podcasts at the incomparable.com, that's where you can find me most of the time these days.
Leo: We love what you're doing, keep up the good work. Chat room also gave me this link.
Jason Snell: Got some new shows coming so check it out. Coming for you, Leo.
Leo: I know you are, but the FCC will protect me. Dwarf bright light on the dwarf planet of Ceres. What is going on? This is from C-Net, Jason, you know anything about this? The latest pictures from NASA's Dawn spacecraft reveal a second mysterious bright spot.
Jason Snell: Could be campers.
Jason Hiner: Could be.
Leo: This is the planet – is this in the Cyper belt?
Jerry: Ceres is the largest asteroid.
Leo: Oh, it's in the belt between Mars and Jupiter, I see. So it's not a dwarf planet because it's a giant asteroid.
Jason Snell: Well, it is a dwarf planet because it's round and -
Jerry: Nowadays, there's a movement to call it a minor planet rather than an asteroid just as Pluto downgraded. They're trying upgraded Ceres.
Leo: What do you think that bright spot is, Jerry?
Jerry: Not sure. I think it might be an artifact, myself.
Leo: That's what I would guess, too.
Jason Snell: Some J.J. Abrams lens flare.
Leo: We'll leave you with that mystery. Thank you, Jerry Pournelle. I'm so glad you're feeling better.
Jerry: Wait a minute, you haven't shown my website. It's pledge week.
Leo: Is it pledge – you do pledge week?
Jerry: This is the end of the pledge week today. Go to jerrypournelle.com and where can I pledge?
Jerry: Up at the top. This is kind of ridiculous. You see the way it says “View Mail,” oh, I don't know. It drives me crazy sometimes, the way they set this up for me. You'll get there eventually.
Leo: Well, you should definitely support Jerry. There's a Paypal button right there on the front page of jerrypournelle.com. Does that get you bonus material?
Jerry: Oh, you get – that's a daily thing. You just haven't got it. I don't know what happens. Chaos manor, try. I don't know.
Leo: The web, it's not easy. Let me tell you. Here's the Chaos Manor Reviews, cut short a little bit by ill health. You going to start doing those again soon?
Jerry: Oh, I've been doing – there are – I've got something up today, for heaven's sake.
Leo: See, I need to become a subscriber. Here we go, last chance. Three grades of subscription. You can do it right there. You're right, it is kind of hard to find, pay me some money. Jerrypournelle.com/pay.html.
Jerry: The very first link you see on there. There you go.
Leo: That takes me to Chaos Manor, Pledge Week. Last chance. There you go. Jerry, such a pleasure. Always love having you on. You're doing better. You're doing great. Thank you, Jerry. Jason Snell, sixcolors.com.
Jason Snell: We'll talk after.
Leo: Come back next week – no. We'll figure it out. Thank you also, Jason Hiner. Congratulations on the book, looking forward to future chapters if they're all TWiT hosts, I'm going to be a little suspicious.
Jason Hiner: We have some amazing digital innovators still to come.
Leo: We had a great live studio audience. Happy to have you, If you come early, you get a nice chair. If you come late, you get kind of an old chair but we promise a chair for you if you send us an email. You can also watch live, we love it if you do at 3 p.m. Pacific, 6 p.m. Eastern, 2300 UTC Sunday afternoon/evening. If you're live, we see you in the chat room. We thank you for being here and our live community all around. If you can't watch live, on-demand versions, audio and video always available for all our shows at our website, soon to be remodeled. TwiT.tv. .We're in the middle of that right now, why I have so much dust in my hair. Or, on iTunes or wherever you get your digital recorded content. All the same places the Incomparable is.
Jason Snell: Call the FCC to step in.
Leo: Until I get my podcasting license, I'll just have to follow in your footsteps. But we also have great TWiT apps thanks to our developers on all the platforms, Windows, iOS, Android, even Roku. Thanks for being here, see you next time! Another TWiT is in the can.