This Week in Tech 539
Leo Laporte: It's time for TWiT, This Week in Tech. Great panel for you! Wil Harris from the UK, Katie Benner from the New York Times, and Jason Snell from Six Colors, Stop Spying and talks about lots of things. Samsung paying Apple half a billion dollars, but they want a money back guarantee. We'll talk about the hacker who got into V Tech and the hackable Barbie, plus Mark Zuckerberg. Is he really giving away 99% of his fortune, or is it all a scam? It's all coming up next on TWiT.
NETCASTS YOU LOVE FROM PEOPLE YOU TRUST, THIS IS TWIT! Bandwidth for This Week in Tech is provided by CacheFly at cachefly.com.
Leo: This is TWiT, This Week in Tech, episode 539, recorded Sunday, December 6, 2015.
Data Mining Barbie
This Week in tech is brought to you by Citrix GoToMeeting: The powerfully simple way to meet with coworkers and clients from the convenience of your computer, Smartphone, or tablet. Share the same screen and see each other face to face with HD video conferencing. For a 30-day free trial, visit gotomeeting.com today.
And by stamps.com: Start using your time more effectively with stamps.com. Use stamps.com to buy and print real US postage the instant you need it, right from your desk. To get our special offer, go to stamps.com now. Click on the microphone and enter TWiT.
And by Harry's: for guys who want a great shave experience for a fraction of what you're paying now, go to Harry's. Get $5 off your first purchase by entering the code TWIT5 when you check out.
And by audible.com. Sign up for the platinum plan and get two free books. Go to audible.com/twit2, and follow Audible on Twitter, user ID audible_com.
It's time for TWiT: This Week in Tech! The show where we talk about the latest tech news with the best people in the 'Biz. Oh forget it. It's not the best people in the biz. It's just my favorite people in the biz. Let's be honest about that. People like Jason Snell.
Jason Snell: Can't we be both, Leo?
Leo: You could be both. I want to make it clear. I don't choose you because of your esteemed position as the editor in chief of sixcolors.com, former editorial director of IDG. I choose you because I like you.
Jason: I appreciate it.
Leo: Same thing with Katie Benner. Sure she's at the Nation's paper of record, the New York Times. But she's also just a great person. Hi, Katie. Nice to see you.
Katie Benner: Thanks. Nice to see you. Jason, I heard a rumor he was actually choosing you based on your looks.
Leo: He's right.
Jason: I can categorically deny these rumors.
Leo: I am in love with Jason Snell. Wil Harris is here. I pick him because he only has one "l" in his Wil.
Wil Harris: And to provide some transatlantic perspective, once again. It's good to be back, Leo.
Leo: It's been ages. Wil is now head of digital at Conde Nast Britain. This is the fourth job Wil has held since he started appearing on TWiT.
Wil: That shows you how long we've been doing it.
Leo: It's more a reflection on the amount of time we've been doing TWiT. Great to have you all here. Especially nice because we can talk about Tech, the toy store instead of talking about guns and depressing sad stories, of which there are an ample supply. Sometimes I appreciate that I'm not a general reporter covering day-to-day news, but we only cover fun stuff. The toy store. Nevertheless, our hearts and prayers go out to people in San Bernadino. A terrible tragedy there, just on the heels of Paris. It seems a never-ending saga. You're using an iPad pro. See how that cheers you up immediately? Giant iPad.
Jason: It's a freakishly large iPad. It's like those giant checks they give to people who win the lottery.
Leo: It feels like a T tray.
Jason: It's like a clipboard, actually. When you carry it, it's like you're carrying a clip board.
Leo: You have opted not to go with the massive creative keyboard, but I see you're using the Apple slender keyboard.
Jason: Today I am. I thought I would be nicer on camera, although I am really liking my old Apple Bluetooth keyboard, and the in case origami. I like it better because it's a regular old mechanical keyboard, as opposed to this strange keyboard.
Leo: No pencil today?
Jason: No pencil today. I left it at home. Is it behind my ear? No. I left it at home.
Leo: It really bugs me that Apple provided no affordance for storing that pencil in any way. Not a clip, not a magnet you could put on the side. This is the surface book and it has a nice magnetic... that pen is not going anywhere. I like that. Just seems like a sensible thing. By the way, this is hot. Which means it is still pray to the problem Microsoft has identified but not fixed. Not until next year of just randomly being on. People reported that they put the Surface Book in their backpack and it got really hot and the battery died because it never... the screen is off.
Jason: That used to happen to my MacBook pro all the time a few years ago. Power management is tricky.
Leo: Microsoft says it's really Intel's fault. This is the first Skylake machine.
Jason: Blame Intel. Not us.
Leo: Long tradition between Microsoft and Intel. I'll never forget interviewing Andy Grove. Remember when he was CEO of Intel and he said it's all Microsoft's fault. We made great 64 bit chips and they keep giving us these crap operating systems. So it's never ending. It's a never-ending saga.
Wil: My favorite was always Andy Grove.
Leo: I loved Andy Grove. Whatever happened to him? He was a great story. He was a Hungarian refugee who tells the story of crawling through a minefield of barbed wire to get out of Hungary in the 50's when it was still a Soviet satellite. Crawling through a minefield to get out of Hungary, came to the United States. Not to get political, but there are so many stories of people who emigrated and really made a difference in the United States.
Jason: One of my friends in elementary school, his parents were Hungarian immigrants. Same story. One of them fled when the revolution failed.
Wil: If you haven't read any of Andy Grove's books, they are all very phenomenal. Great books on management, great books on how he built one of the most important companies of the 20th century. An easy to read, definitely worth picking up.
Leo: Only the paranoid survive, was that one of them?
Wil: Only the Paranoid Survive was a good one. The other one is about leadership, I can't think of what it's called now, but it's a good read.
Leo: Katie, did you get your phone back yet?
Katie: Oh no. Ebay is still trying to figure it out. What happened was my phone was stolen and somebody bought it on Ebay and kindly called me and said I have it.
Leo: How did they know it was yours? Was your stuff still on it?
Katie: I had a lock screen and it said please call this number if you find the phone, so I get this call yesterday such a nice person. I said OK. Let's figure out a way for you to get your money back first because that's the most important thing at this point, and then we'll figure out a way to get it back, because my work phone is property of the New York Times. Ebay called the seller to let the seller know that the buyer...
Leo: You mean the guy who stole your phone, seller?
Katie: So the seller immediately messaged the buyer of the phone and was like, I'll give you your money back, just send the phone back to me, don't report it. Totally insane. I did reach out to Ebay, and I said how does this get taken care of so this nice honest person gets his money back and I can return this phone, which is now broken also. He was sold a broken phone. Get this broken phone back to my office. Haven't figured it out yet.
Leo: A little note to crooks who watch TWiT, I know there's lots of you. Don't steal iPhones. You can't do anything with them!
Katie: You end up selling them on Ebay to unsuspecting people.
Leo: They have a kill switch, right? You couldn't get rid of Katie Benner's lockscreen, could you? No. He tried to break it. I bet you that's why it's broken.
Katie: It was like in Zoolander where the files are all in the computer and they start shaking the computer. If I just break this screen.
Jason: I heard one of the reasons they ask you when you take a phone to be fixed at the Apple store, they ask you to unlock it and turn off Find My iPhone, one of the reasons they want to do that is they want to verify it's your phone and you have the password to it. Because that would be a way around, right? Oh it doesn't work. Get me a new one.
Wil: Is that why they do that? I always found that really weird, but I guess that's why.
Leo: You can't turn on Find My iPhone unless you have a password to your Apple account.
Jason: It may also be because Apple isn't that great at dealing with phones that haven't been properly logged out and keeps them around as ghosts, but that's my understanding. It's in part because they want to verify that you own that device.
Leo: So, what's the latest from Ebay? What are they telling you?
Katie: They're working it out. Originally they gave the buyer, who was trying to do the right thing. He went to them because he's not a reporter. When he went to them, he got well if this hasn't been reported to the police and this doesn't show up on check mend.com which is a phone verification website that I can't imagine many people are using, if it doesn't show up there's no way to prove it was stolen, and you have to send it back to the seller and get your money back from him and work it out with him. This guy was a thief possibly. Of course the gentleman didn't want to send it back to the seller. He thought that was wrong. He got back in touch with me and let me know what was going on. We'll figure it out. He's really honest. He's a nice person.
Leo: How much did he pay?
Katie: He paid a hundred dollars. He fixes iPhone screens, so in the description it says the screen was cracked, he thought that's no big deal. I can fix that and then I'll have a working phone. He was buying it for a friend's mother for Christmas because she didn't have a Smartphone. He's a nice person.
Leo: Everybody is nice in this except for the thief. Who is Ebay favoring? The Thief.
Katie: They're still working it out. So we'll see.
Leo: Interesting story. You'd think with your cloud, and I know you've brought this to Twitter so it's in public, so you'd think they would respond more quickly.
Katie: They're being quick. I don't want to criticize them too harshly until they figure it out.
Leo: It might come out okay. As long as we're talking iPhones, we should talk a little Apple. Samsung says we're going to pay the amount the court has dinged us for in the patent dispute. It's not the full amount. It's 548 million. Wasn't it over a billion, originally?
Katie: Originally. A lot of the pieces of the case were dismissed or based off of irrelevance. The number got whittled down. I love this story so much. I want Tim Cook and Phil Schiller to be photographed outside of Apple HQ holding those big checks.
Leo: You could put it on an iPad Pro. It would be perfect.
Jason: The way I view this is Samsung is going to pay entirely in coins. They're going to bring it all in coins.
Leo: Wasn't that a rumor that they bought a dump truck of nickels?
Jason: And Apple will give them back some Apple Store Credit to be as passive aggressive as possible.
Leo: Samsung says we'll pay it, but we also want to be able to get it back if the judgment is reversed, modified, or set on appeal, which I think doesn't seem unfair, but I guess that's not how these things work.
Katie: It's also setting the company up for bringing the case somewhere else. When you think where else could they possibly bring it, one of those places is the Supreme Court, which they nod to in their statement as well, so I think that we can probably expect some move on Samsung's part to bring this case before the Supreme Court.
Leo: Samsung called the amount Apple's grossly exaggerated damages claim. Frankly, it is. It would be pretty hard to prove that Apple lost half a billion dollars in iPhone sales because of Samsung's crappy copies. It was the first Samsung phones that were admittedly copied from the iPhone, but I doubt it cost Apple half a billion dollars in damages.
Wil: It got Android in the game, right? So even if that generation of phones didn't sell very well, it was the generation of phones that proved Android could make something that was even vaguely comparable, which set the market up to go forward. I think if you were Steve Jobs, you would probably be thinking half a billion was an absolute steal.
Leo: Apple wanted 2 and a half billion. In the original lawsuit, they said it'll be 2.5 billion please. I don't know how much of that is damages and how much of that is statutory. Probably mostly damages, right Katie?
Katie: Yeah, and there were some things that were also dropped as well, to other people's points. Things like pinch to zoom. That patent is not something you can say was just yours, so.
Leo: Slide to unlock was another one, right?
Katie: Exactly. It'll be interesting to see what happens because these companies continue to drag out what is a drop in the bucket in terms of money for both of them.
Leo: Certainly for Apple. Samsung's phone sales haven't been great as of late. They might be that... I can't say they need the money. They still make bulldozers and refrigerators and ships. Even for a giant Karetsu, a half billion is not insignificant.
Jason: Isn't that a way to waste all of our time and all the company's time and money to do this whole thing?
Leo: What is the court cost? What are the cost that we the people are paying for this? And I think it became clear, I have to say Tim Cook is kind of toned this war down considerably. It was clear that there was some cost to Apple and in the discovery phase and the revelations about how Apple works that they didn't want Apple to know. I think that's a bigger cost in some ways to Apple.
Jason: I agree. This was Steve Jobs being angry, and I think rightfully so about feeling like they got ripped off by Samsung and that Samsung was building their business on something that was a rip off of an Apple product. I think that's all true, but to go nuclear, as he said and do this, there are no winners here.
Leo: Absolutely. You shouldn't let emotion like that run a business. That's a risky.... although you can't knock anything Steve Jobs did. Whatever he did, it worked.
Katie: I think letting emotion run the business was the Steve Jobs motto.
Leo: Yeah. You're right.
Jason: You have to take the good with the bad there. I will put this in the bad column, where he's got a vendetta against them and it's not necessarily going to do anything good for Apple, but he feels like it was right to do this, so they did it.
Leo: Kudos for Apple. They open sourced Swift. They said they would when they announced Swift. Swift is a new programming language Apple designed initially for writing software for Macintosh and IOS, but they have now literally open sourced it. That means...
Wil: It was a good week for open source, right? Because Microsoft has just done the same thing.
Leo: Yes. The browser engine, what is it called? Karma? It'll come to me. It's interesting how my brain works. It's with a "K." Swift already we've seen it's on GitHub. Already we've seen a Linux implementation. I found a really cool site. IBM is doing a Swift sandbox, they already have it up and running, so you can go to IBMs swift sandbox and type in Swift code online and see the output.
Jason: It's running on the server and you can put the Swift code in there. It's a pretty cool idea. Whether it spreads far and wide or not, it's a nice gesture by Apple to make it open source.
Leo: One of the things that's really great about Swift is not part of this yet. That's the Playground. The Playground is a great teaching tool. This is the week of Code. code.org. Trying to get kids all over the world to spend an hour learning to code. Swift is really great for that because of this playground because it gives you an opportunity to see your code run and mess around with it in a graphical way.
Jason: The way Swift is structured--I'm not a programmer, my understanding is it's actually pretty good for education because kids can get going fairly quickly and see the effects of small changes in their code without a lot of code over hit that's required for more complex languages.
Leo: Of course it would be great for Apple if more people were coding in its official language. We talked about this on Security Now. I never verified. Maybe you can ask your developer friends. Steve Gibson says one of the problems with security on IOS comes down to objective C and the way it resolves function names. It's possible to hide access to internal functions, to non-published functions in an app because you don't have to call them by name, you can hash the name. In objective C, there's no way to turn that off. It's part of how it resolves function names. He says we've already seen an exploit based on that. He says it's not going to be the end of it. It's going to be a lot more. It may be Apple knowing this, is anxious to move off of Objective C.
Jason: This goes back to the Next days. The reason Objective C is the choice tool for IOS and OS X is because it was the development/programming language of choice for Next Step back in the day. When OSX came out, there was a long progression, but now you need to use X code and you basically need to use Objective C and Swift is the eventual replacement and is simpler and higher level and has a lot of features that weren't there or weren't available or weren't practical when Next Step was being worked on but that was a long time ago, so in the background they've worked for five years on Swift? What I hear from developers is that for certain tasks it's fantastic but it's also new and still growing and they're still making chances. They did a 2.0 version of the language that changed some of the rules which on one level if you learn to write in Swift and then they change the rules, that's scary, but on the other hand it shows that they're listening and they want to progress the language and say we made a mistake, we can never go back. Which would be...
Leo: They were very clear about that when Swift 1.0 came out, this was an unfinished language.
Jason: It will change and it has.
Leo: Swift 2.0 is current. It also seems like they're boasting rights. Every company has to have its own language. Microsoft has got C Sharp, Apple has got Swift, Google's got Go. Yahoo has got Brooklyn Ease. I don't know what Yahoo has got. They got nothing. Hey forget about it. I want to talk about what's going on at Yahoo, because that's an interesting story. Also the grand unified theory of Apple products, and John Gruber in his surprising breach of his relationship with Apple says the Mac App store is rotting. Wow.
Jason: Is that what that smell was?
Leo: I got a fun panel here. It's going to be fun. Wil Harris from London, his new digs with Fiber. Nice. What time is it in London? It's like Midnight. 11:30. You muted yourself, my friend.
Wil: Half after 11.
Leo: Half past 11.
Wil: That hundred meg feels pretty good for me.
Leo: Very nice. Katie Benner from New York City. We knew she arrived because we heard the sirens.
Katie: I'm in San Francisco.
Leo: I'm sorry! New York Times. I'm very literal.
Katie: It's OK. We have sirens here too.
Leo: Sirens everywhere. This is a nice view. I like the wood window behind you. It's very pretty.
Katie: It's my non-working fireplace.
Leo: It's not a window, it's a fireplace. Every San Francisco flat has to have a non-working fireplace.
Katie: Very quaint.
Leo: Yes. And on a rainy day in San Francisco, you finally have winter. Jason Snell is also here.
Jason: The other season. One of the two seasons that we have here.
Leo: Summer and winter. Our show to you today brought to you by those great folks who make GoToMeeting the easiest, most powerful way to meet with your coworkers and clients all around the world. You don't want to have to travel. More and more, for us as we work with people, we work with people all over the world. San Francisco, London, and meeting with people over the phone can be so dry and deadly, but with GoToMeeting you can see the screen, they can see your screen. You can trade back and forth. It's great for presentations, you can see them with HD quality web cams, and you can do that all on your computer, but your tablet, your Smartphone, you can even present from your iPad, which is amazing. That means you can sit out in the garden, enjoy a beautiful day. Boom. It's also really easy to start a meeting. You send out an email, they click a link, even if they've never used GoToMeeting before. They're up and running within seconds. I love it. You can get it up and running right now for free if you go to GoToMeeting.com and click the try it free button. You'll literally be ready for your first meeting in a minute or two. Then start a meeting. You're going to love it. We don't like doing meetings without GoToMeeting. I won't do conference calls anymore. I want to see people. I want to see their screens. It's much more engaging. Gotomeeting.com, try it free for 30 days. Go to Gotomeeting.com, and click the try it free button. I saw this, I don't know what to think of it, but I thought with Jason Snell here we could talk about it. This is from an Apple blog called Above Avalon. The grand unified theory of Apple products.
Jason: It's interesting. He's parcing some things that Phil Schiller, Apple's VP of product marketing has talked about in an interview. It's interesting to see with Apple sometimes you've got to look at what their statements are and divine from that what their... It's criminology. We are reading tea leaves here. In this case, it's how they describe these individual products. It's an interesting way to look at it, which is sort of the watches for things you used to be able to do on the phone, the phone is for things you can do on the iPad, the iPad is for things you can do on a laptop, the laptop is for things you can do on the desktop, and the desktop is for us to invent new things. That's literally what they seem to be saying.
Leo: It makes sense. It has this cascade, this natural flow. You almost need this, because you wonder how does the watch fit in to this overall scheme. I think there's some concern. Remember when Steve Jobs came back to Apple, the first thing he did was slash product lines. He famously went up to the lightboard and drew a big plus sign. We're going to have four quadrants. Business, consumer, portable, desktop. That's it. Anything that doesn't fit into that is gone. He killed many product lines. Always said the most important word in business is no. One of the biographies. Every day Steve would come to me and say how many times did you say no today, Johnny? He wanted to hear a big number. In the four years since Jobs passed away, Apple has doubled the number of products from 12 to 24, and if you take in the various views, it's even more. It's gotten fairly complicated. Neil points out that part of this is Apple's ability to manage a supply chain better, ability to manufacture better. It's nice to hear that there's still a rationale. Maybe you don't have a quadrant, but there's a rationale behind what Apple is doing. Does this make sense to you?
Jason: I think so. Again, how much of this is marketing and how much of this is what they think behind the scenes. What criminologists like to believe is that Apple's statements to the public can be reverse engineered to be something about the understanding of how they run their business. I think it's part of it, but it's not the whole picture. I think I'm quoting Doctor Who here, where I say a footprint doesn't look like a boot. Just because there's a footprint there, it doesn't mean you know what boot the person was wearing and what the shape of the boot was. I think there's a little of that going on here. This is the only information we have. Their behavior and their statements to the press that we can use to understand what does Apple think their business is and where are they going and why do they make the decisions they make? That's why criminology happens.
Leo: Very important to realize that Apple is incredibly savvy in how they present themselves. I feel like there's no statement coming out of Apple that isn't with intent behind it.
Jason: That's one of the nice things about the Bevelon piece is that when you parse what is said, you can see that it is very disciplined. You can see every statement Phil Schiller makes about every product is parallel with the others. So obviously there are talking points and everybody knows what to say and when they ask who the Apple Watch is for, they have an answer, and it's going to be the same answer and they're very disciplined about that. Again, we talked about Steve Jobs and how when you have Steve Jobs, you get what you get, good and bad. He was the most undisciplined person in some ways. He would say all sorts of crazy stuff from time to time because he was mad or because he wanted to, and Tim Cook's Apple is super disciplined.
Leo: You see how hard that is to do when you look at a company like Microsoft which will say contradictory things within five minutes of one another or Google saying same thing. It's a little easier to see a through line in everything Apple says and everything Apple makes. One of the questions I still have is the watch. Neil says while we did have to reset expectations after the watch came out, he says I continue to think the Apple Watch is being underestimated. People don't see it where it's headed. I'm wearing an Apple watch, but I've said myself that it feels like a flop. It didn't live up to its promise. It's more complicated there's another one. Katie, you have one. Look we have the same one, Wil.
Katie: I'm not wearing mine right now. I didn't want to be bothered by the alerts.
Leo: See? Of course Jason is wearing one. But we're not a good sample.
Jason: But at the same time, we may not be a good sample as to whether it's a flop or not. It sounds like the sales figures are pretty good.
Leo: It may be a million a month, according to some analysts guess.
Jason: So then it's about what your expectations are.
Wil: I think it's so early, right? We have this vision that whenever Apple comes out with anything, it's going to be perfect from day one, it's going to revolutionize our lives from day one, and actually we have that idea of that, and it's never been the case. That's never happened. When the iPhone came out, it took years to revolutionize. When the iPad came out, it was just an iPhone. Remember they had the thing where you could double the size of apps so that you could use apps that weren't out on iPad? You could still use the iPhone versions. That was a horror show. Yet we still continue to think that Apple is going to release something that's going to be fully formed and perfect from day one. I think this is much better than the iPad was on day one; it's much better than the iPhone was on day one. Is it as good as the iPhone or the iPad are now? Absolutely not. Will it get there? I'm absolutely convinced it will, and I agree with the guys on the blog. I think it's completely underestimated.
Leo: You agree, Katie?
Katie: I think it's interesting to see this in light of the comments that Angela Arris made. She was at Fast Company Festival in New York City. It's one of the first times they put her out in public. It's been very odd...
Leo: I keep expecting her to show up on stage somewhere.
Katie: She finally does. If you look at the context, this is what all the different products are for and these are the kind of people they're for, her push was more around productivity. How she wants to rearrange the stores by how well we use the products or what use cases they can solve, whether that's music or making music or videos, or business tasks and how each product can somehow fit into our lives in the way that we get up and work and live. Something like a watch, that feels to me like a product that just hasn't found its use case yet. How long has the iPad existed? And only now are we seeing it being given a real business tool purpose with the accessories necessary. That's just happening now. I think there's a chance that could be successful, right? The watch is for us. We had high expectations for it because we own a lot of Apple stuff and we wanted to be as cool as our phones are, but for somebody who doesn't own a lot of Apple products or is new to the company, for them it will be a much more natural process of I wonder what I can do with this in my daily life. Maybe my watch is going to be the thing that I only use for business purposes because I like the way it reminds me for meetings every 20 minutes. I'm never late again. That in itself is a wonderful tool that somebody who is using their...
Wil: That for me has changed my life, by the way. I always tell people. The Apple watch makes me a way more polite person. Rather than checking my phone every ten minutes when I'm in a meeting, if I get a little tap on my wrist then I know it's time to go. No need for me to be looking at anything else, apart from the person or thing I was supposed to be doing. It would be worth it for that, just in my view. That's a very niche use case, but that's a niche use case that a lot of people wouldn't appreciate unless you've tried it.
Katie: If you're looking at life in the bigger context of OK, what is productivity for me and what is business for me, there is your use case for the watch. Say you're not that person, say you're a physician, maybe there's a use for the watch that's totally different from time keeping, or if you're an artist, there might be a use for it that's totally different, and again, it's going to be a matter of those purposes coming together over time with experimentation and app developers creating tools we will like or we won't.
Leo: I'm hoping to do that notion. But I think like the iPad pro, the Apple Watch is a concept yet to be proven. It's all-potential. Actually... I started wearing it again. I'll give you an example. We flew to Vegas on Thursday, and I thought coming home I should really put the boarding pass in my phone and transfer it over to my watch. The only people who are going to do this, I think having done it now, are people who are geeks. Who are dedicated to getting this thing working? It's not as convenient as going up to the kiosk, printing out your boarding pass and carrying it. You have to fuss with it as your walking up the line, make sure it's on the screen and then you can't fit the watch under the scanner...
Jason: That's why I'm against mobile boarding passes in general. Like you just said, paper is easier. So it might not be the phone's fault.
Leo: I feel like many of the things that we go this is really great, we say it's great because we're geeky enough to devote the energy involved and to put up with the inconvenience involved. I don't think a normal person is going to... I feel like the potential is unrealized. I do.
Wil: I think you're smoking crack, Leo.
Leo: I'd like to be right now.
Wil: I see people flying. I fly a lot for work.
Leo: Do you use electronic boarding passes?
Wil: Absolutely. Because if you have something like the British airways Apple to virgin app, you get a little reminder that says hey do you want to check in and swipe and you check in online, and it says hey do you want to add this boarding pass to your passbook. As soon as you get to the airport, it pops up on your screen and OK. It's on my screen as soon as I walk into the terminal, and I see more and more people doing that. When I'm cueing up for a domestic flight, like a European flight, I see at least 20 percent of the people with mobile boarding passes on their phones.
Leo: I'll grant you that. A lot of people use it. It's very annoying because they slow the whole line down.
Wil: But I think that... I don’t think it's going to be geeks.
Leo: Same thing with Apple pay by the way. They slow the whole line down. They don't speed the line up.
Jason: My Apple pay... I'm super speedy and I speed the line up and you know why? Because I use Apple pay on my Apple watch. tap tap and I'm out of there.
Leo: I'm open to the idea. It feels like what you say, Katie, about Angela's comments are exactly as you said, Jason, in alignment with this whole notion of the watch will grow into tasks that the phone does right now, but you will find more use for in the watch. My only complaint.... when I say flop, I don't mean a sales flop. I don't judge a new technology product by sales. I'm not a business reporter. I’m judging it by utility. Applicability.
Jason: It hasn't made itself indispensible to you.
Leo: I'm also an individual case, I'm not a universal case. But I try to look at it with a Universal mind. It's fiddly. There's touch. There's a nob. The UI is complex. Maybe overly complex. I feel like they're... this is one of the first Apple products we've seen that didn't have a cohesive story about how people use it.
Jason: They sprayed use cases against the wall last September when they announced it. Two Septembers ago now. That's true. It's still finding its way. You're right; it's telling for me that the most compelling uses of it are the face itself and the notifications I get. Not the apps and the glances.
Leo: I just wish it were on all the time.
Jason: I guess. I internalize the wrist flip, but I wish I didn't have to do it.
Wil: If the face was on all the time, it would make life easier, also if you could enable the payment function without having to have a security code on it, because I hate that security code. That is the stupidest thing in the world, but if you have a credit card synchronized to it, you have to have it. Those are the two things that drive me nuts.
Leo: One thing that drives me nuts with Apple is their passion for security means they ask for passwords and security codes for too often. All the time. This is with fingerprints. But I gave you my fingerprint! What more do you want? Not like I have Katie Benner's phone or something. This is my phone.
Katie: I think it's going to be interesting to see how this plays out. I'm not a watch advocate because I don't use mine as much as a lot of people I know. It reminds me of the early days of the PC where people get these boxes to their house and they're like what the hell do I do with this thing? It wasn't until desktop publishing where people were like Oh. Now I understand there's a real use case for this enormous ugly machine that all I've done is play games on. I think the watch, if it works out is going to be similar. It could be a while before we're like of course. We're going to need to pay for things with this watch. That's the best thing we can do with it.
Leo: I think you nailed it. I think we're in the watch is in the checkbook balancing phase. When you first got a PC all you could do was balance your checkbook again and again because it didn't do anything. This is a product full of potential, waiting. I'm open-minded. I just feel as of today it's not particularly compelling product. For those of us who have it, we already paid for it. You know what, gave one to our thirteen year old for his birthday. He loves it. But it's kind of a status symbol a little bit.
Jason: That's part of the game, I think.
Wil: That's true for every watch, isn't it?
Leo: It's true.
Wil: The Apple watch is this unique sort of thing. No. It's a status symbol, whoever wears it, right? If you wear a Rolex or a Tag, or an Apple.
Jason: When I was 13, I had a Cassio calculator watch. That sent a strong message.
Leo: No dates for the next several years, I believe was the message it sent.
Katie: I want that watch now. Do you still have it?
Jason; It's long gone. I wish.
Leo: That's the one that's stylish.
Jason: No. It just had really tiny buttons that we had to press.
Leo: It was a cassio or somebody that made a calculator watch that you had to have a stylus because the buttons were so small. Look! 15.00 on Ebay. No activation lock on this one. They make one in gold as well.
Jason: This is all nostalgia purposes now.
Leo: That's 50 bucks, but I would wear that with pride.
Jason: It's got to be just black plastic.
Leo: Which one did you have?
Jason: I don't know. It was one of the old models. I think the buttons were silver and it was a blackface. It was super nerdy.
Leo: Very sexy. Love that. See that on a girl's back at a dance you know you're a man.
Jason: Be sure to wear that. I'm just saying, status symbol.
Leo: Gruber has been off the reservation a lot lately. He talks about the fact that Sketch, which is an app that's been in the conversation a lot because Bohemian coding, the folks who did it said that they were not going to do an iPad pro version, that would be great on the iPad pro, because they didn't feel like they could sell a 99 dollar app on an iPad without a demo version or something. Apple wasn't really helping them. Now they pulled it from the Mac App store because of issues about updating, certificate expiration problem that was a real issue with Apple. They let their certificate expire on a lot of apps and said hey I can't run any more. So he says there's a lot of reasons why we're taking Sketch from the App store. App review takes a week, there are technical limitations imposed by the guidelines, sandboxing and so on. Upgrade pricing unavailable. That's a big issue for expensive apps. If you buy Adobe Photoshop, you don't want to pay full price for an upgrade. Adobe does want to make some money on the upgrade.
Jason: This is a problem that is a problem with the IOS app store too. The differences are that Mac apps tend to be more professional and they tend to have bigger prices and what that leads to is issues about how do I charge for upgrades--You can't. How do I give people a trial? You can't. You can re-structure your app to be Freemium...
Leo: People often say that. Sketch One had the ability to have a demo version. Why can't we do freemium? Isn't that an OK way to do it?
Jason: You can build it that way, but you have to build it into your app. You've got to architect your features behind an in app purchase, and it gets complicated. ON the Mac you can bail out. The Mac app store was seen as a place you wanted to be despite all these limitations. You would go through them because you needed to be there because it was going to be a rocket that you could strap yourself to and it would drive your app into the stratosphere and it would sell just like IOS apps sold and you would be a millionaire. The fact is; Mac App store, all the anecdotes of people who rank in the top ten with their app and then report that they didn't make much on it, it looks like there's not much going on in most parts of the Mac App store. So at that point, why would you put in the money and time to build the Mac app store version of your app when it's easier to sell it yourself?
Leo: But the good news is you can do both. It's not like we have to. Gruber writes the Mac App Store should be designed to make developers happy. It should make developing for the Mac better, not worse than selling outside the app store. These are among the best apps on the platform from developers that have been loyal to Apple and the Mac for decades. He's talking about BearBones, Quicken. The Mac app store is rotting for productivity software. If this hasn't set off alarm bells within Apple, something is very wrong. We talked about this a lot on MacBreak weekly. There needs to be an App Store Tsar.
Jason: He's absolutely right. It feels like there's nobody paying attention to it. It seems to not have been updated in ages. The approval process is really delayed. It doesn't seem like it's a priority for Apple, so why would you stay in it if you could avoid it?
Leo: This is one thing that drives me crazy about Apple. Google is prone to this too. It feels like the eye of Mordor. They can only point one way at a time. If they're looking here, they're not looking there. The remote app still hasn't been updated to work with a new Apple TV. They didn't update it for three years and they've again ignored it. It turns out there was one guy. Apple is a big company. It's the most valuable company in the world. It's got huge amounts of cash. Can't they have two eyes?
Katie: I'm curious. Is there an equivalent of a Guy Kawasaki working there right now? Or somebody whose only job is to cultivate this community of developers? Or did that disappear?
Jason: There's a whole developer relations team. The problem is the people who run the app store are not the developer relations. They're the iTunes team. This is one of those things..
Wil: Don't even get me started on iTunes, right? I mean. Come one. Talk about can you only have an eye in one direction? Can we please fix the one thing everyone in the world uses to get all their media and make it not a complete horror show?
Leo: There was a guy... Michael Jury...
Jason: Jury is still there.
Leo: I thought he left to go to Black Pixel.
Jason: He did. He came back.
Leo: He came back!
Jason: In one area, he's working on OS X I think. There are developers and developer relations people and they talk all the time, but the services in the back end and who is doing the promotions, my understanding is that's a different group and they seem to be more focused on I don't know what.
Leo: There are 32 opening for developer evangelists at Apple right now.
Jason: Apple is famously under staffed. They're very slow to hire.
Leo: They have valuable stock.
Katie: I think we should all apply.
Leo: I could do it.
Jason: Fine. I give up.
Leo: Enough Apple. We've done our Apple segment. Let's talk about Barbie in a moment. Hello, Barbie. The NSA is listening. Actually, this hello Barbie is so cool. I know people behind the engine, but there's an issue. There's always an issue. Great panel today. Katie Benner, thank you for being here from the New York Times via San Francisco. So you're in the San Francisco bureau? Great people in that bureau. Mark Off is there, right?
Katie: Yes he is, and he is awesome.
Leo: Love John Markof. Say hi to him. Tell him to be on our show once in a while. He knows me. There's so many good people in that San Francisco bureau. Pretty much focusing on Silicon Valley. You guys do a great job. There's three news apps on all my devices. Washington Post because Bezos gives it to me for cheap. He bought his way onto my phone. The New York Times app, that's the one I read all the time. Nuzzle, which I'm a big fan of.
Jason: Nuzzle is the best.
Leo: Nuzzle is Jonathon Abrams. The guy who did Friendster. It's his app. It's a social app. It tells you what your friends are talking about. Friends of friends, and stories you might have missed. Wil Harris is also here. He is the director of Digital at Conde Nast UK. Head of Digital. He's a Digital head.
Wil: Hopefully the rest of me is digital too, but I'll take just the head.
Leo: Is that a strategy guy?
Wil: Yeah. Each of the titles we publish are Wired and Vogue and GQ has digital people that run those titles, but I have a team of people who work across all the titles doing Strategy and product development and those kind of things.
Leo: That sounds like a really fun job.
Wil: I once gave a presentation on Matrix management. That's how fun a job it is.
Leo: Sorry. I take it back. God. I forgot how much I hate corporate life. You know who is a refugee from corporate life? Jason Snell. He left behind those IDG folks. It's great. sixcolors.com. You do a great job covering mostly Apple. Then the Incomparable, which is a collection of podcasts including... You've grown a lot. Holy cow. I am on the Incomparable radio theatre from a couple of episodes ago, right?
Jason: Yeah. Which one were you in? You were the announcer in the sky mounties. In January you'll be back. You play a mad scientist in something called Full Fathom five, that will be out in January.
Leo: Full Fathom Five.
Jason: That's right. You and Andy Inhatko were dueling mad scientists.
Leo: Andy does a Jaques Cousteou accent that was very bizarre. That was fun. You get all the cast together on Skype and we record our parts. We record them locally so they're quality, but we're all in real time, kind of. It was fun. Please invite me back. I'll try better next time.
Jason: You did great. I loved your mad scientist. There's a monster and you did the monster voice too, which we weren't asking you to do. You just jumped right in and did the monster voice.
Leo: I hope this isn't a spoiler, but the monster eats me. The Monster sounds like all the people its eaten mixed together. So I try to...
Jason: You did it. You jumped right in there. When you sent me the file, I got to listen to you personally screaming. It's awesome.
Leo: Lot of fun. More to come on This Week in Tech. I love... I'm sorry. I'm getting mushy because it's that time of year. It's the Holidays. I just love doing this show because I get to be with my friends, people I love the most. I'm sorry I didn't make a turkey or something for you guys. Our Show today brought to you.. hello. How are you today? Good to see you. We rolled up the curtains because it's a rainy day in Petaluma, so people can see in the window. They're baffled. This is a small town and it looks like we're doing a TV show in here. What is going on?
Jason: She waved at us. That was nice.
Leo: She waved. That was nice. There are other gestures. Our show to you today brought to you by stamps.com. I don't know if we've done it yet, we were going to have a roll of people using stamps.com. They said, Leo, would you do this? I said I don't use stamps.com, our office staff uses stamps.com. Shoot them doing it. They're huge fans. i was a fan when I still had to do my own mailing. stamps.com means you don't have to go to the post office anymore. If you use the postal service for mailing, if you're an Ebay or an Amazon seller, stamps.com will give you that professional look. You print the postage. You can print any kind of mail. Medium mail, you look so pro. Your logo shows up if you want. It automatically takes the address from the webpage, so there are fewer mistakes. Your return address is auto-filled in there. It even fills out forms like certified mail and return receipt. Even international customs forms automatically, so it really is pro. If you're sending by certified mail and return receipt, it'll send out an email to your recipient, and say here it comes, here's the tracking number. You can get discounts you can't get at the post office. You never have to go the post office. You don't need special ink or a postage meter. It does it all with a computer. You have the printer you have. And they'll come and get the mail. There's this thing called a mail carrier, a person who comes to your door, takes the mail from you, and brings it to the post office. What will they think of next? It's amazing. I love stamps.com, but we're going to wait for you to try this. It's a great deal. 110 dollar bonus offer, but we're also going to get you the digital scale because that's really helpful because you have all the right postage all the time. You just plop the thing on the scale and it's USB so it goes right on the computer, it tells the software exactly how much it weighs. You also get, and this is really sweet, 55 dollars worth of free postage you can use over the first few months of your account. stamps.com. Four week trial, digital scale, you get activities, a supplies kit, a whole bunch of stuff. All you have to do is click the Microphone in the upper right hand corner and enter the offer code TWiT. This is a very good deal, and this is the time of year. You don't want to be going to the Post Office this time of year. There's traffic, there's parking, everybody is mailing their Holiday gifts. Aunt Bertha goes to the Post Office once a year and buys one stamp at a time. You don't want to be behind her. So use stamps.com. It's what the pros use. Stamps.com. So you do a different... are you doing different stories?
Jason: It's like an anthology. There's some characters that recur and there are others that...
Leo: Serenity directs?
Jason: Serenity directs and David Lore is our playwright.
Leo: He's good. He's very funny.
Jason: We do different styles.
Leo: It's like old time radio.
Jason: There's a full cast and music. There's a Doctor Who parody, you did the Sky Mounties which is a Canadian police who fly a plane. There's all sorts of stuff.
Leo: Here's the live performance you did some time ago. Speaking of Doctor Who, isn't the last episode tonight? Last night. Was it good?
Jason: It was really good.
Leo: Capaldi is a good Doctor Who? I love him. The only thing I know him from is in the Loop, that British political comedy. The Thick of It, which is awesome, but he has a foul mouth. I thought is this the Doctor Who?
Wil: I hope none of the kids who are watching Doctor Who go and Google Peter Capaldi and say what else has the doctor been in?
Leo: Boy does he have a foul mouth. But in a very funny way.
Wil: A lot of it has become totally iconic. You see British people say that sort of stuff in the office all the time now because it's such a...
Wil: Probably not ideal, but you know.
Leo: I only saw in the Loop. He's in that, right? That's the movie version. The TV Show that preceeded the movie was The Thick of It. I don't know if I can see it here or not.
Jason: It's on Hulu.
Leo: It is. Good.
Wil: Oh my word. Start at the beginning and watch it all. It is all brilliant.
Leo: He plays a cabinet minister? Or a press secretary.
Wil: Spin Doctor.
Leo: So there's the Spin doctor to the doctor Who.
Wil: Based on Alastor campbell who was Tony Blair's spin doctor for many years and who was famously angry.
Leo: I'm told the chatroom has seen the last two episodes, the closing two episodes. I'm going to confess something that's shameful. I'm not a Doctor Who fan.
Jason: That's OK. There's some of you out there. The episode before last was essentially just Peter Capaldi.
Jason: He has 99% of the spoken lines in the episode. It's basically a one man show.
Leo: Wow. Back me on this, though. Will Harris, wasn't it intended to be a children's show?
Wil: Doctor Who was originally that kind of slightly early evening, children's show but with themes for adults. I think it broadly has the same approach now. It's definitely kid appropriate, if not kid friendly. I have never seen an episode of Doctor Who in my life.
Jason: You have to hand in your passport now. I'm sorry.
Leo: Wil, I've seen one. It was so god awful that I said I'm never watching this again. It was something about Daleks and a warehouse. There were mannequins involved.
Leo: Somebody told me don't start at the beginning because it's really cheesy in the beginning. So I started... This is the Doctor Who you want to see. I watched an episode and I thought not for me. Might have to hand in my geek card now. We are excited about Star Wars. Does it open in the UK on the 18th?
Wil: It opens the 18th. Midnight on the 17.
Leo: We're going to be going.
Wil: We get it a day before you guys.
Leo: You bastards.
Wil: It's amazing. France gets it a day before us. Some people are getting on planes and going to France to watch it. I'm worried I'll turn up and it'll have French subtitles. I've got a 5 AM showing on Thursday to go and see it. On IMax. I can't wait.
Leo: That's the question. How should one see it? 3D? IMax?
Wil: I'd rather not see it in 3D because I don’t really like 3D. All the good theatres in London are showing it in 3D, so if you want to go to a crumby theatre you can watch it in 2D, but if you want a good theatre, you have to watch in 3D.
Leo: That's a bummer. Jason, what are you doing?
Jason: On the Thursday night, it opens a week from Thursday. I've got tickets. We still have that one big single screen movie theatre that's showing it alternating 2D and 3D. We may be seeing a 3D showing which isn't my favorite, but it's a nice huge single screen movie theatre. As it was meant to be seen.
Leo: I don't think you should go to France to see it, because i can't see Darth Vader. I've translated Darth Vader into French. (Speaks in Faux French.)
Jason: How about, "No!"
Leo: Not the same. Hello Hackable Barbie. There's a new Barbie. Comes from Mattel, but they enlisted a company called Toy Talk. We’ve interviewed the people at ToyTalk, they’re really, really cool. They make a variety of toys, iPad apps and so forth that children are encouraged to talk to. And it doesn’t just stay with Barbie it goes up to a server where it analyzed and then Barbie is told what to say in response. Apparently there’s a little problem with Hello Barbie. Now it has it’s—it’s not out yet so there’s time to fix this. But the Hello Barbie, Bluebox Security analyzed it and there’s apparently some issues with an internet connected doll. Vulnerabilities in the mobile app and cloud storage used by the doll, I never thought I’d be saying that on TWiT. Vulnerabilities in the mobile app and cloud storage used by the doll could have allowed hackers to eavesdrop on children’s intimate play sessions. So they’re going to fix it. ToyTalk says, “All right. They’ve showed us. We’ve fixed many of the issues they raised.” The researchers say they told ToyTalk about this week ago. The company has been very responsive. Good news. But that’s a concern. You know, you don’t—you know. A number of people have been concerned in general about the privacy impact of Hello Barbie. The way it works, the child has the Barbie, presses a button on its stomach and talks to it. And it’s sent then to the internet where a server processes it and the doll responds with one of thousands pre-recorded messages. So people are, you know, understanding that that’s a little—in fact there was a suppuration that said, “That’s creepy.” I don’t know, do you find that creepy?
Jason: It’s like Siri basically inside a toy.
Leo: It’s Siri. It’s preparing your child for Siri. That’s all it is.
Jason: (Laughing) my first intelligence system.
Leo: Yes. And ToyTalk, ToyTalk actually is kind of cool. Let me see if they have it. Because they have on their website some samples of this technology. They have a Thomas the Tank Engine that talks to you. There’s Hello Barbie. And then we interviewed them when they were doing the apps like SpeakALegend, the Winston Show, SpeakaZoo. And they said there was actually some psychological value to this. So these are actually audio recordings of children—the parents submitted them and signed off and so if you listen to this, this is one of the characters in the iPad app, poses a question to the child.
App: She is saying that you cannot just fall in love but you can also fall out of love like it is a nest or the mouth of a predator.
Leo: These are 6, 7, 8 years old.
App: She says that I am having to think of ways to keep our love from falling out of her heart. Or her heart from falling out of – it’s already confusing, zoo keeper. Please tell me what I must do so that nobody falls out of love.
Leo: So now the child is in a private session in you know, the room, talking to this thing.
Child: Well, you must be very kind to her. And buy her gifts now and then. And remember her important dates like if you were to get married, anniversaries. Or birthdays.
Leo: So what they’re trying to do with this is they’re trying to create a dialogue, almost a psychotherapeutic dialogue with the child, or philosophic. It gets them to start thinking about these bigger questions. And they say it’s really valuable, it’s very, it’s really interesting. Do you find that creepy?
Jason: It’s like a Ray Bradbury story.
Leo: Like The Veldt or something, right? Go ahead, Katie.
Katie: Oh, no, this is how kids play and it is helpful and beneficial for development but we’re usually not eavesdropping on them when they do it. You know when a child plays with his or her favorite teddy bear, it’s often these sort of questions going back and forth like discussions and dialogue. But we don’t observe it quite so closely.
Leo: Yea we’ve all seen kids do that. But when they’re playing with their toys, that’s what they do, right? They have these elaborate conversations.
Katie: Yea, so it did creep me out somewhat to hear the dialogue.
Leo: Is it a little creepy? Yea.
Katie: I don’t think I should be listening to this. But it’s inevitable though that adults and children are going to get used to an idea where our queries and what they’re going to say are being constantly recorded by something in our house that we’ve invited in and want to have around. Like Alexa, for example.
Leo: Or the NSA.
Katie: Or the NSA. It really depends on whether or not you use Apple or Android. No, just kidding. Just a little joke (laughing).
Leo: I think that it’s fair to say that we don’t know who the NSA’s co-opted and whether it’s Android or Apple it could be either or both. Here’s the Hello Barbie. I think this is for older kids though, right? That’s a little weird. We have to plug her butt in.
Commercial: To download the Hello Barbie app. Launch the app and tap the get started button.
Leo: I really do think this is preparing kids for a new digital future, Katie. I think you’re exactly right.
Commercial: Enter your email address and get started.
Leo: Oh, my God.
Commercial: An email will be sent to you.
Leo: You can’t play with your doll until you enter your email address. Install the app.
Commercial: Go to your settings.
Leo: This is complicated.
Jason: Does Barbie have touch ID? Did I just see that?
Leo: Barbie has her own Wi-Fi. Oh by the way, that was one of the security flaws is it joins the Barbie Wi-Fi. Oh by the way, that was one of the security flaws is it joins the Barbie Wi-Fi. They’re all named Barbie something. It would be trivial for a bad guy to set up a Wi-Fi access point Barbie.hacker and the kid could very easily accidentally choose the wrong and start sending—I don’t know if that’s really a big problem or not.
Jason: I think the more times you’ve got microphones connected to the internet in your home the more you need to be aware of this.
Leo: We have an Amazon Echo in every room now. I want everything to listen. I am on the radio, though.
Jason: It’s awfully convenient. You’re used to broadcasting your voice.
Leo: Everybody hears everything I say all the time.
Commercial: What do you want to be when you grow up? I want to be a vet. That’s wonderful. Wanting to take care of sick animals is an amazing role.
Leo: See, that’s pretty cool because Barbie knows vet, oh I know what that is. It’s like a modern Eliza. Remember the bot that would—make sure you turn off your Barbie when you’re done and put her back on her dock.
Katie: It’s still a Barbie and that’s the thing. Like this is not a natural looking doll. I mean this does not pass the Turing Test at all. That’s so creepy to watch these children talk to this doll.
Leo: But kids—did you have Barbie’s as a kid, Katie?
Katie: Well yea of course. When I was growing up, we had the teddy bear that spoke.
Leo: Teddy Ruxpin.
Katie: Teddy Ruxpin. It was the same, it was the same exact thing except it wasn’t recording us but it was the same idea where you have this inanimate object that makes you feel like you’re friends. So I mean that part I get, I think is fine. Yea, it’s just, security flaws should probably be thought of before they make these things. This is always the problem, right? It’s not whether or not they’re creepy at the end of the day because this is sort of what life is becoming. We don’t love it but it is happening. It’s that the people who are making the speakers or the dolls or the teddy bears might think of security as an afterthought. And partly because they’re like, “Well what the hell would somebody do with like 24 hours of audio of some random kid talking to a doll.” It’s not like you want to hear those conversations but it’s still sort of like the idea that people and manufacturers are irresponsible and don’t care that I think is probably more disturbing.
Leo: Somebody said this is the new data mining Barbie. I like it (laughing). Data mining Barbie. Part of the reason for their sensitivity of course is because of the VTech breach. VTech makes children’s toys. They’re a Chinese company and they announced a couple of weeks ago that 5 million customer accounts had been hacked and harvested by the bad guys including the user profiles of the kids connected to those accounts. Email addresses, names, encrypted passwords, security questions and answers, IP addresses, mailing addresses, the download history. No credit card numbers. No social security numbers. You know, so there’s 190GB of kids’ photos and chat stored on VTech’s servers. That’s a little bit more of an issue. At the same time, what are you going to do with that, right? I mean I guess if you were a pederast that would be of interest.
Jason: I think it’s important that we don’t live in a world where there’s a product or a service that’s connected on the internet that doesn’t need security.
Jason: And it seems like the VTech policies where not really considering the fact that they needed to take it seriously.
Leo: They’ve been doing digital stuff for kids for a long time. Say again?
Wil Harris: I was going to say they seem pretty woefully inadequate. Like things being stored in plain text and in the clear and it’s like, it’s just not even, it’s just not even close to kids’ security practice.
Leo: So for now—you’re muted again I think, Wil. So from now on I think it’s fair to—(laughing) nice face though. It’s really expressive. Wil doesn’t need speech. He can just make faces. Are you there now?
Wil: Yea it just seemed like—am I working now?
Leo: Yea. And as somebody’s pointing out, it’s not just the kids talking to the dolls, you also have any background going on, mom and dad fighting, shouting their social security numbers at the top of their lungs.
Jason: As you do.
Leo: As you do. As one does, yea. No but I think that’s exactly right. This is early days. Now’s a very good time to start paying attention to this. These breaches are a good reminder that everything is now going to be connected to the internet. Maybe it’s time to pay attention to this stuff. We had yesterday on The New Screen Savers, we had the new Raspberry Pi. $5 computer. So cheap they’re putting it in the MagPi Magazine for free. You buy the magazine, get a computer. Buy the magazine get a computer. A $5 computer with an HDMI port, a USB port, storage on a SD card. I mean this is amazing. And of course those can be put in all sorts of devices. I mean the internet is, you know, computers are going to be in everything because they’re so cheap. No reason not to. Computerize it. Why not? Mark Zuckerberg had a baby. Pricilla Chan, his wife posted on Facebook. Lovely picture of the two of them. It’s actually a very sweet picture. Do you have kids? Wil, you don’t have kids.
Wil: Oh, hell no. I would be a disaster. I can barely look after myself.
Leo: (Laughing) I know. Katie, you don’t have kids, right?
Katie: No. Just no.
Leo: So do you two, when you—Jason, you don’t.
Jason: I do.
Leo: You do. So we’re fathers but you two who are not parents, when you look at this does it make you want to have children?
Leo: (Laughing) this isn’t like—see to me I look at this and go, “Ah, isn’t that sweet. Those first moments you have with your newborn baby.” Just so sweet.
Jason: Makes me want to set up a limited liability corporation.
Wil: I think I’d have children with Zuckerberg if I got some of the $450 billion or whatever it is.
Leo: (Laughing) $45 billion. Come one, now.
Leo: Let’s be real. So there has been a surprising amount of snark about this by the way. So Mark wrote a long letter to our daughter published Tuesday with the announcement of Max, her name is Max, Max’s birth. And kind of buried the lead because in the final paragraphs he mentions, “Oh and by the way, we’re going to give away 99% of our Facebook shares currently worth 45 billion dollars during our lives to advance personalized learning, curing disease, connecting people, building strong communities.” Wonderful. They created the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative. And they formed, and this is where the snark began, an LLC. Not a charitable foundation as most would but an LLC. And I, I think it’s a little bit of an unusual bit of, fair bit of snarking going on. I mean I think it’s genuine that they plan to give away $45, well currently $45 billion. It’s probably going to be a lot more. 99% of their fortune. That’s what Bill Gates is doing, Warren Buffet is doing. How do you all feel about the notion that because it’s an LLC, they can for instance channel tax away? They can make profit.
Katie: Any charitable donation is tax deductible. I mean, so and we do that because we want people to give to charity. There’s a reason why that exists. So I don’t think that should be criticized and the LLC structure, it gives them a little more optionality in terms of what they give their money to. So you know they can give their money to--
Leo: They can also invest it.
Katie: They can also invest it in the same way that like, I don’t know, Harvard Management Company invests the endowment so that they can always have a lot of money to give to Harvard. You know what I mean?
Leo: You can increase that amount of money, right?
Katie: You can increase the amount depending on how well the investment goes. So I, I don’t think this is bad. I just, I was surprised by a lot of the criticism as well. But I think that part of it is because Silicon Valley does seem really cut off from the rest of the country. The amounts of money that are sort of made here seem really unreal to most of the US frankly. This is a very, very different place. And amount of wealth that’s here are very different from your average town in the Midwest or New England or pretty much anywhere else in the country so there’s a natural suspicion I think of things that happen here because they seem so divorced from reality of what other people face day to day.
Leo: And absolutely, and it’s even worse when it comes from Mark Zuckerberg. I think there’s a lot of kind of dis, mis-trust of what Mark’s up to.
Katie: Well because there was a lot of mistrust around Facebook in the early days of the company. I mean some of that’s gone away but if you think about it there was like not 6 months that could go by without Facebook doing something that made everybody really upset about privacy and be like, “Oh, what are you doing?” So I mean there’s some blowback there but I don’t think essentially what they’ve done is bad. It’s kind of great. I mean it’s like a lot of money to put to use other than just making other people rich.
Leo: Right on. Right on. Felix Salmon who’s a well-known financial reporter, has a nice British accent so I trust him, wrote I thought a very, I think you know, and Jeff Jarvis posted this and I noticed it and he wrote kind of the, flattened this story on Fusion. He says, “Mark Zuckerberg wants to change the world, again. You got a problem with that?” And really explains why the LLC. Why this is not a bad thing and praises him as I think we probably should for doing this. There is often the question though, “Hey these guys have so much money. That $45 billion is so much money it could really—do we want people like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffet kind of unilaterally determining the future of the world?” But better that, as you say, Katie, better than that then to you know, building a mansion.
Katie: Right and also like the politicians who are supposed to be doing that aren’t really stepping up right now. So they’ve left kind of a vacuum. You know what I mean? If we had a really robust political system with politicians who were thoughtful and trying in earnest to solve problems, not just preserve their jobs, I don’t think there’d be as much as a huge hole for wealthy people to fill.
Jason: And this isn’t knew. I mean the rail barons created charitable foundations for a lot of their wealth.
Leo: Carnegie. We have a Carnegie Library in town.
Leo: Andrew Carnegie, the steel baron, late—although he was a son of a bitch, late in his life he decided to, he decided hey maybe I want to go to heaven after all and gave libraries. We have a beautiful Carnegie free library in Petaluma.
Jason: Yea I mean lots of things like that that have happened. So I think the judgement’s going to take probably longer than we’re alive on how well this money gets spent. But you know this is, it’s not bad to have this in general. It’s just depends on how, what they do with it. The Gates Foundation has done some amazing work in some places and I think arguably some of their other work has been less successful. But that happens in lots of endeavors.
Leo: Jesse Eisinger among others criticizing it saying, “This should be an occasion to mull what kind of society we want to live in and who should fund our general society needs and how. Charities rarely fill quotidian but vital needs. What would $40 billion mean for job creation and infrastructure spending?” And I think you’re right, Katie. If our government was doing a better job on those things, these questions wouldn’t be, wouldn’t be raised. But you know, one of the things Zuckerberg says he’s going to work on, climate change, I think in light of the Paris climate talks this is absolutely an appropriate thing for all of them to work on. I think this is great. I don’t, I think if you read up on it and understand what he’s doing, there’s nothing but good here. But I did want to raise the issue in case if anybody wanted to explain why it wasn’t such a good thing. It’s tough to do. I mean Bill Gates always said, “I’m not going to become a philanthropist until I’ve had the time to decide what’s the right way to spend the money.” He advanced that timeline a little bit. He, I think initially said, “I’m not going to do it until after I leave Microsoft because I’m too busy running this company.” But when he got married, Melinda I think kind of advanced the foundation and started running some of the foundation’s giving efforts before Gates left. And now that of course that he’s no longer at Microsoft, I think it’s a full time job.
Wil: But isn’t it great? If you took, you know, the combined wealth of the Forbes 100 or whatever, and said to them, “Right, you guys give away 99% of your wealth into something.” Like look at the effect that Bill Gates has been able to have on malaria right now. He’s almost single handedly like getting rid of that globally. Imagine what you could do if everybody in that Forbes 100 did that. Like how could you possibly argue that’s going to be a miserable thing?
Leo: Salmon quotes another billionaire philanthropist who says quote, “I believe much of the highest value add in philanthropy is in things that are controversial. That they are controversial is exactly why there’s under investment and thus the most to gain in these areas.” That actually makes a lot of sense. He says, “I think many philanthropically inclined people struggle with how to give away very large sums. Institutions most adept at handling large grants are universities, hospitals, cultural institutions.” But maybe better to find some niches that need some funding besides those.
Katie: Right, like Mike Bloomberg has done. I mean he’s made a name for himself only giving away tons of money to really controversial things. Gun program control, he has really strong views on health care and on the ways that people eat as any New York City resident can tell you. When he wanted to get rid of our soda.
Leo: He banned, what is it, super-sized sodas, yea.
Katie: He tried.
Leo: He tried. They’re back?
Katie: I believe so, yea. We can drink as much horrible stuff as we want. But I mean that’s the thing. He’s not afraid to avoid controversy and he’s kind of like, “Well if I have the money and I have the influence and the clout, why not use it for something real rather than give more to like another museum?” He gives a lot to museums. Don’t get me wrong. Like, but he’s also not afraid to put his name on stuff that a lot of people would rather back away from. John Arnold was the same. He wanted to, and he did fund, a huge initiative around tax reform. I mean that’s pretty controversial. People don’t want to see that happen.
Leo: Isn’t Michael Bloomberg being bandied about as the next mayor of London? Have you heard that, Wil? I didn’t make that up. Maybe I had a bad, a fever dream and I—no? Are you sure?
Wil: Yea, pretty sure. The last I heard he was going back to actually like doing some work running Bloomberg, right? He was sort of stepping back into doing a bit more there. No we have a very interesting London mayor right now. I don’t think he’s going to—
Leo: Boris. But when Boris leaves?
Jason: My understanding is that he is back and engaged at Bloomberg, his company that he’s happy to be back in charge of it.
Leo: Well, shoot. Well in fact here’s a direct quote in the Telegraph. Michael Bloomberg, zero chance I’ll run for mayor of London. So and there’s a picture of him next to Boris.
Jason: Yea but that’s great that that newspaper got the, you know, at least two stories out of that. The story saying that he might, and one that said he wouldn’t.
Leo: (Laughing) yea. He says he has zero interest. He actually told the Times this. Zero interest. So I’m not, it wasn’t a fever dream. There was briefly, briefly. He said, at one point he said, “My 12 years as mayor of New York City was a suitable apprenticeship for running London.”
Katie: Rumor started by Bloomberg employees.
Leo: Yea, probably. Get him out of here. He was knighted. He is Sir Michael. No actually he’s not allowed to be Sir Michael, right? If you’re not a British citizen.
Wil: He can’t be Sir Michael. He can be knighted but he can’t be Sir Michael.
Leo: He can’t be Sir Michael. So do we like Boris Johnson, Wil?
Wil: Oh my God, I am not getting into that conversation. It’s going to be an absolute—
Leo: (Laughing) Is he a Peter Capaldi type? Can you imagine him swearing a blue streak in—
Wil: He’s, he’s done a few good things.
Leo: Ok. I was just talking about The London Eye and how much—at first I thought what a bad idea to have one of the most beautiful skylines in the world dominated by a Ferris wheel. But then I rode in it and I thought well this is pretty cool.
Wil: It’s a pretty cool Ferris wheel to be fair. Worse things have been built in London, I can tell you that for sure.
Leo: Are you not a fan of the Gherkin?
Wil: The Gherkin, The Walkie Talkie is the latest controversial one. The Walkie Talkie’s been a problem because whoever designed it didn’t quite realize that the angle at which they built the glass would reflect the sun down in the summer onto the pavement.
Leo: Oh, Lord.
Wil: And they had to, they had to change the glass in some of the upper areas because it was like burning things on the ground. The classical thing of like taking an egg and you know, baking it on the pavement. You could do it in like 30 seconds, you know.
Leo: (Laughing) it looks like, it does look kind of like a giant Walkie Talkie.
Leo: Yea (laughing).
Wil: It’s pretty dire.
Leo: That is one ugly-ass building actually. Better than the buildings in front of it, the 60s era buildings in front of it but—
Wil: StrikeItRich in the chatroom says that Rob Ford is the next person to run for London’s mayor.
Leo: There you go. The vaunted mayor of Toronto. Is Ford still the mayor? No.
Wil: Isn’t he dead?
Leo: (Laughing) let’s start a rumor. You know who’s not dead yet? Marissa Meyer. We’re still waiting—
Wil: Oh my God. That is the most awkward--
Leo: All right, all right, I apologize. I’m not dead yet. I’ll take a break. We’ll talk about Yahoo. Because the board met, right, this week but we haven’t heard anything. There was all sorts of wild talk about selling off the assets, maybe firing their CEO. Lot of talk about her severance package. Nice severance package. Not $45 billion but a good amount of money. Our show today brought to you by Harry’s. I feel like this should be a British company. Harry’s. For guys who want a great shave experience at a fraction of the price.
Wil: At a fraction of the price.
Leo: Yes. Harry’s is, they actually, they bought the company in Germany that makes the blades. There’s only a handful of really great razor blade companies and manufacturers and they bought it. So they can make better razors at half the price of the drug store blades. And but now I want to mention this as a great gift idea. I know by now most of you are shaving with Harry’s. And if you haven’t yet, go there right now, take a look at the Harry’s kits. Fantastic price. You start as low as $15 and you get—but this would be a great gift too. If you’ve got a secret Santa at your office, you can get them the $15 kit. He’ll think that’s pretty special. And by the way I’m going to tell you how it can cost $10 in just a second. But if there’s a special man in your life, look at this. This is kind of the Harry’s gift set. Yea, keep it on this because I want to show everybody how beautiful this is. By the way you get this great gift box. You get the monogramming. And you get the new, this is the Winter Winston with a copper handle. Beautiful razor, great look and feel. And as with all the Harry’s kits you get 3 Harry’s blades, you get the great Harry’s travel cover which you know, you may think this is just a piece of plastic. That thing is really, keeps you from getting cut when you open up your brand new Harry’s shaving kit. Oh, yes, you can get this as part of it too. And your choice of shave cream or the Harry’s foaming shave gel. Now if you’re not sure which to get, I like the shave cream. It’s so smooth and soft and gives you a really great shave. You know one million guys have now made the shift to Harry’s? Easy to use website. Takes less than 30 seconds to place an order. Be great to get all your manly holiday shopping done at Harry’s.com. And everybody will be happy including you because the price is right. The Winter Winston set $30, and you can get engraving. It’s a limited edition. Beautiful. Just beautiful. And you can take $5 off your first order with Harry’s and free shipping for the holidays. That ends soon so do that now. When you use the offer code TWiT5 at checkout, $5 bucks off with the offer code TWIT5. But free shipping for the holidays ends December 10th. So what, that’s like 3 days. 4 days. So waste no time. Love it. You will love it. If you don’t have Harry’s yourself, get it for yourself. Harrys.com. H-A-R-R-Y-S for the holidays. It’s Harry’s for the holidays. So was this all BS that was started with the Wall Street Journal article saying that the Yahoo board was going to meet earlier to decide what to do with the business. They might in fact even sell it. One of the issues was they did have a plan to spin off the Ali Baba investment. That’s worth billions and maybe even Yahoo Japan, also worth billions. But then the IRS would not guarantee that that would be a tax free transfer. So some of the investors went, “Oh, hold on. Hold on there a little bit.” So now they’re thinking maybe we just sell the whole damn thing. They’re going to halt the Ali Baba—perhaps, according to the Wall Street Journal, halt the Ali Baba spin off and sell the internet business. This of course coming from the activist investors on the Yahoo board now. Most of the value of Yahoo. It’s got $31 billion dollars in market cap but most of that value is Ali Baba and Yahoo Japan. $32 billion dollars’ worth for its 15% stake in Ali Baba which, Ali Baba is kind of like the Amazon of China, right? Is that the best way to describe it?
Wil: That’s fair.
Leo: And in fact you can use it here. I know a lot of people use it here. And as a—
Wil: It is literally, the Yahoo business right, according to the numbers that you’ve got right, is literally less than the sum of its parts.
Leo: Yea. Is that weird?
Wil: Like all the bits separately are worth more than its current total market cap. Like it’s totally not.
Leo: So and that’s what kind of puts it upside down right? The stock market values it at $31 billion, the Ali Baba stake’s worth $32 billion if they just sold it. The Yahoo Japan stake is $8.5 billion if they just sold it. And they have cash and investments totaling $5.9 billion. But it’s only worth $31 billion? So that’s what puts a company in play when it’s something like that.
Wil: And it’s pretty clear if you look at the share prices have gone this year and it’s like it’s not in a good place.
Leo: Down, down, down. $50.
Katie: I think the share price is a measurement of Meyer. It’s investors saying that they don’t believe that she can actually steer the company without the buffer that she has with all these really valuable assets. So that’s fine and it’s great that the market thinks that it’s great that a bunch of activist investors may or may not have fed a story to the Wall Street Journal but this is still a decision that’s made by the board of Yahoo, a board which is clearly immersed in Meyer’s corner. And these are people, many of whom are handpicked by her and Charles Schwab as a San Francisco luminary and close to Meyer. Scott comes from Walmart, she served on the board of Walmart. They’re very tight. You know I doubt that you know, somebody like, you know Scott and David Filo, David Filo’s not going to try to push her out. I highly doubt that Max Levchin is going to push her out so she has support of people who are making the decision of whether or not she can run the place and then to sell the core business, what would that give her to run? What would she be overseeing a management company, an investment company, a stock management company? She doesn’t come from Black Rock. She doesn’t come from you know an investment firm that’s not her expertise. She’s not going to do that either. So I really highly doubt we’re going to see that happen.
Leo: So there’s no story here in your opinion.
Katie: I don’t think that there’s no story. I mean the board has a fiduciary responsibility is the jargon-y way of putting it. But just means that they are responsible every single option. Sort of like CYA so that if something happens or they can prove that they were doing all they could at all times to maximize value for shareholders. So yea, do they have to have everything on the table and talk about it? Of course they do. But I just don’t think they’re going to push Marissa Mayer out the door, not anytime soon. And as long as the Ali Baba spin-off happens, that’s a lot of money for them. So I don’t know. I just don’t see her getting canned in 2015 or even early 2016. That’s just my read.
Leo: Loyalty only goes so far. I mean yes, of course these guys are in her corner. But at some point if the company is, if the stock market says the company is worth $31 billion and you’ve got assets worth 50% more, do you have a choice? I mean at some point these activist investors are going to, they’re going to start waging a battle over this. The good news, if you’re Marissa Mayer is according to USA Today, she’s got a pretty hefty severance package.
Katie: Yes if they fire her they have to give her like $158 million dollars. Which also makes firing her seem like a very expensive move.
Leo: Even harder. Yea, yea.
Katie: Very hard because one, it’s very pricey to do and two, can any of you think of anyone saying who would go run Yahoo right now?
Leo: Right. $3 million in severance, $66 million in accelerated stock, $88 million in accelerated stock options. So it’s $157.9 million dollars. But only if she gets fired. Or there’s a—and I think there’s a triggering clause if there’s a transfer of ownership as well. Nice work if you can get it. Can Marissa Mayer turn around Yahoo? That’s the other question the board has to be asking. What does the future hold? Anybody?
Wil: Well I think, I think under you know, as much as we all deride the management prior to Marissa Mayer, it was a really clear goal for Yahoo which was kind of taking the AOL route and trading in its existing business for a media business, right? From building an ad funded business that owned lots of media assets, traded off its enormous scale, used brand recognition, etcetera. She didn’t really want to go in that direction and wanted you know, for it to be a tech business, right, not necessarily a media business so most of the media assets have slightly kind of stumbled and dwindled. And apart from acquiring you know something like Tumblr which is an enormous but kind of financially not exactly exciting, she hasn’t really sort of put anything in place where you go, “Well, I can definitely see the way you’re going with that.” They’ve done a lot of acqui-hires in terms of bringing in talent but you know, there was a great article I saw a couple of weeks ago about you know, acqui-hires can be terrible for everybody else that works there because you sort of realize you’ve been working in, if you’re an engineer in Yahoo, you’ve been working for however many years and you’re getting paid x and the guy next to you has been working there for 3 months and has just cashed out you know, $10 million or something. It’s sort of totally demotivating. So I’m not really sure that she’s put in a, you know, really a vision that anybody maybe outside her in a circle kind of really understands.
Leo: I don’t think it’s too early to say that whatever strategy Mayer had has failed. And it may in fact be that she didn’t have a coherent strategy. I mean I’m not sure I saw anything, you know, from Yahoo. I’ve not seen anything from Yahoo in the last 3 years that looked like it even had the remotest chance of changing Yahoo’s fate. Their Flickr app re-design? I don’t think so.
Jason: No, it’s a tough—it’s tough because she inherited a lot of stuff that would have been potentially successful if they had moved faster earlier, but it was too late. Like Flickr being a good example. Flickr probably could have been Instagram but they didn’t—
Leo: They didn’t see that. But how often does that happen?
Jason: And they buy these things and then they kind of abandon them. And so I don’t know what she was supposed to do. The content strategy might have done something but yea, when people talk about Yahoo now, they’re saying the same things they said when she got hired which is, “Is Yahoo still around and what does it do?”
Leo: It seems like nothing has happened in other words.
Jason: And things have happened but in the end it hasn’t changed anybody’s perception of it. It’s not like they did something radical and broke it apart and turned it into something like Google with a bunch of products and services, nor did they turn it into a media machine that could take advantage of their huge audience. Because Yahoo still has a pretty large audience. It’s just not a cool audience. It’s a very non-technical, older kind of audience. Yahoo, in fact I hate to say this, but it’s more like a newspaper than any other site on the internet. It’s got an older audience and it’s got a really broad general audience which is nice. But it’s not exciting and I think not necessarily a growth area.
Leo: And also, webpages. I hate to say it but they’re going the way of the newspaper, aren’t they? I mean, I love the web but it’s all about apps now right? How much time to people spend on the web versus a Yahoo property, TV.com?
Jason: No there’s Dr. Who. We’ve come all the way back around.
Leo: Yea but I don’t even see any ads on here. Oh that’s because I have an ad blocker.
Jason: (Laughing) well, you see and that’s part of, that’s part of the issue too.
Leo: That’s part of the problem, too. They also own—
Jason: You can write lots of stuff inside apps and then it’s apps and services and we really I think expect that there’d be more of that. And they do have Tumblr and Tumblr is a really interesting business. But you’d expect them to have broken, you know—
Leo: I see a lot of ads on Tumblr now I have to say.
Jason: It’s—yea. Yea, I don’t know what their business is. I think that’s the problem is they’re so big and they have so many legacy businesses and they are not like killing products fast enough or spinning them out fast enough and I don’t know. It’s a tough job.
Leo: If you want to know what happened with celebrities, would you go to Yahoo.com/celebrities or TMZ? I mean I feel like in every respect, I mean this is—
Jason: This is the newspaper though. It’s like a little bit of everything instead of being focused and I would like to think there’s a place on the internet for people who are not, you know, solely focused on celebrity news, to get a little celebrity news. But that may not be the case that something of just general interest that Yahoo is just not the way the world works now.
Leo: I should turn off my ad blocker because there’s a lot of white space on this page. Let me referesh.
Katie: This reminds me a lot of Dell because I just—that was a company that clearly needed a big strategy shift away from PCs and it never really got it done, right? It never really got into services, it bought Perot Systems. It did a lot but it was never bold enough. Michael Dell was never a bold enough leader in that way because there was something about the core he didn’t want to let go of or change substantially. Yahoo seems somewhere. You’ve got Mayer making a lot of decisions around the margins. “Let’s do a TV show. Let’s do a magazine, online magazines. Let’s bring in all this talent.” But never making a bold decision with any of that stuff. Never saying, “You know what? We need to really utilized Tumblr in a real way.” All Tumblr does is give them enough engagement that they haven’t been totally abandoned by advertisers.
Wil: Except if you look at what Dell has done recently, the one thing that Michael Dell suddenly did which was like he sort of realized what was going on.
Leo: He got bold.
Katie: He got bold after he took the company private.
Wil: He took the company private, right?
Leo: Yea. That was a bold move. And now they’re buying EMC for the largest tech acquisition in history. He got bold. I don’t know where that bold came from but he found his bold.
Katie: Right. He went private so he wasn’t being scrutinized by shareholders. And the move to buy EMC is actually a move that Kevin Rollins during his teensy brief tenure as Dell’s CEO had also wanted to do for about a quarter of the price of it (laughing).
Leo: Whoa. Whoopsies.
Katie: So but I mean at the same time, you’re right. He did finally, he did finally start making those moves. Is that what it will take at Yahoo? Will Yahoo have to go private and be outside of the public eye in order for Mayer or whoever—
Leo: That’s actually an interesting—if, since they do have assets greater than their stock market value, I wonder if there would be a way for them to go private?
Katie: Sure. I mean—
Leo: That would be interesting.
Katie: If they were to sell off Ali Baba and Yahoo Japan, physically the company in terms of its size is much smaller. And then, yes, a buyout shop like a Silver Lake could raise enough, borrow enough money to take the thing private. In theory that would work.
Leo: Interesting. Well, but thank you for that dose of reality. That was probably, that Wall Street Journal was probably planted by the activist investors who wanted this to happen, not necessarily what was going to happen. Still a challenge. I, you know, I think we all have a soft spot, at least those of us of a certain age, have a soft spot in our heart for Yahoo. It’s the first search engine I ever used. Acobono.stanford.edu and it was a pretty amazing thing for some time but—
Jason: When the web was small enough that you could have a directory of what was on the web.
Leo: A human powered directory.
Jason: Instead of a search engine.
Leo: People going, hmm let me—oh, nice new site. Let me type that in. Hey if you missed anything, we’re going to take a little break. If you missed anything on TWiT this week we had some great stuff. Here is a little synopsis we put together. Sort of the Cliff Notes of this week on TWiT. Watch.
Narrator: Previously on TWiT.
Brady Forrest: What the heck is this? Why is there a set of legs in the microwave? It makes no sense. Oh, I made it to the adventurer’s path.
Leo: We’ve got some great guests today and a great topic. Developers and people behind two of the most popular ad blocking utilities out there.
Thomas Greiner: It’s interesting that they spent more resources and more effort on trying to face ads onto the visitors of their site rather than coming up with alternatives. Maybe alternatives that fit their site better.
Narrator: The New Screen Savers.
Leo: Hey it’s Aaron Newcomb. How are you doing, Aaron?
Aaron Newcomb: Hey, hey, good to be here.
Leo: You’re a maker.
Leo: And you built with your 3D printer, this is a little Inception, a 3D scanner so you can 3D print things you can scan.
Aaron: That’s right.
Narrator: This Week in Enterprise Tech.
Brian Chee: China claims arrest in the OPM hack. Claims it was criminal activity not state sponsored. So great. This means that I need to get my old federal records from the Chinese criminal overlords and not the Chinese government. Much better.
Narrator: TWiT. Say hello to the NSA. They’re listening.
Leo: Do we have a week ahead? Nope. Couple more stories. Tell you what, let me do an Audible ad and we’ll come back with a couple more stories and wrap this up. Katie Benner is here from the New York Times, San Francisco bureau. I want to be clear about that. Jason Snell is also here from sixcolors.com. theincomparable.org. What else you want to plug?
Jason: I don’t know. Relay FM.
Leo: Relay FM. I hate those guys. They’re stealing our thunder.
Jason: It’s a little tiny operation. They don’t even have an office.
Leo: Ok then, that’s ok. I don’t hate them anymore. Oh, they don’t have an office.
Jason: They don’t even have an office.
Leo: Oh, I like them now.
Jason: The guys are in their pajamas.
Leo: (Laughing) what could possibly go wrong? Actually Relay does a lot of great stuff and shows with many of the people that you might hear from time to time on TWiT including Andy Ihnatko. Mike Hurley’s been on TWiT himself and some guy named Jason Snell.
Jason: Yea, I got 3 on there now.
Leo: 3? Really 3?
Jason: Yea, it’s Clockwise which is our 30 minute tech podcast quick hit. Upgrade which I do with Mike Hurley which is the like traditional people talk about tech for two hours kind of show. And Liftoff, the space podcast.
Leo: Oh, a fortnightly podcast about space.
Jason: That’s one’s fun. We go into space every 14 days. And we come back. Because you can’t breathe in space.
Leo: You can tell this, you can tell that Hurley’s British though. Because I don’t anybody in the US would say fortnightly.
Jason: I actually, I pushed for that.
Leo: You did?
Jason: Because bi-weekly is unclear whether it’s every 2 weeks or twice a week, right?
Leo: Yea, fortnightly. It’s not unclear, it’s just obscure.
Jason: It’s fun.
Jason: It’s fun to say fortnightly.
Leo: Fortnightly. Speaking of fortnightly, here he is. He’s built a fort and lives in it nightly. Wil Harris from Conde Nast Britain. Hello, Wil.
Wil: That’s terrible.
Leo: (Laughing) I should ask for a show of hands in the chatroom. How many of you know what fortnightly—well, you’ve kind of defined it now, so—
Jason: It’s 14 nights you see.
Leo: Oh, is that where it comes from? 14 nights.
Leo: Well now it’s not so obscure. Our show brought to you buy Audible.com. I love Audible. In fact I get a new book every fortnight. Well, 2 books a month, it’s kind of the same thing. I’m sitting here on my two credits going, “Oh. So many books.” That’s why Audible’s created the wish list. You know as we recommend books on Audible we can, we can add them to the wish list and then you go to the wish list and you think, “Oh, should I get the new biography of Ian Fleming, The Man With the Golden Typewriter? Oh, that sounds good. Or, because The Man in the High Castle is now an Amazon Original. Should I re-read the Philip K. Dick Novel? Or how about Glyn John’s autobiography?” He’s the sound guy to the Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Eagles, The Who. Chrissy Hynde, My Life—these are all books on my wish list. That’s the problem with Audible. There’s so many great books. And one of the nice things about being an Audible subscriber is those books are in your library forever. I’ve been a subscriber since 2000, 15 years, I have hundreds of books in my library. I can go back and listen. And I just love it. The best of 2015 is out if you’re looking. I’m going to get you 2 books free. Let me explain this. If you’re looking for a book, how about this deal for today’s deal. Don’t get this for your free book because it’s only $3 dollars. The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth About Food and Flavor. Interesting. Hmmm. The Harry Potter series. Jim Dale’s reading of the Harry Potter series is incredible. I just go this, or ordered—yea, I just got this, The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome. Part of a new series. It’s going to tell the stories of all peoples from the very distant past to the present. That’s going to be a bit of reading ahead. Look, here’s the deal. You’re going to get 2 free books when you go to Audible.com/twit and the number 2. That’s because you’ll be signing up for the platinum account. That’s 2 books a month but your first month is free. You get also the daily digest, both subscriptions, all the subscriptions you get the daily digest of the Wall Street Journal or The New York Times, your pick. Katie’s articles often show up in that. They’re read to you which is nice. You can also cancel in the first 30 days and you get to keep those two books forever. They’re yours. I don’t think you’ll cancel but I understand sometimes people go, “Well, I don’t know. Am I going to like being read to?” Who doesn’t like being read to? I love being read to. And these aren’t just your average readers. They’re some of the best actors and readers in the world reading some of the best books. Oh, I want to get this. And it’s Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me. A letter to his young son. Did he won, which award did he, the Booker Award? I can’t remember. He won maybe a Pulitzer for this, big prize and he narrates it which is going to bring this to life. You know what? I’m putting that in my cart for sure. So here’s the deal. Go to Audible.com/twit2, your first 2 books are free. Pay nothing if you cancel in the first 30 days and you can keep it forever. Fiction, non-fiction, science fiction, it’s great for that. Radio theatre, yea they got quite a bit.
Jason: They do.
Leo: Some of these books are dramatized too which makes it a lot of fun. You know my favorite dramatized one is a Neil Gaiman. They have so many Neil Gaiman books. I love Neil Gaiman. By the way, if you get ones that Neil reads he does Neverwhere I think he reads. Yep. Really great.
Jason: That’s a good one.
Leo: Isn’t it good and he reads it. And they made a BBC series out of it and so forth but he reads it. But this is one of my favorites. It’s American Gods. They did a full cast production on it’s 10th anniversary. Isn’t it a great novel?
Jason: Yea, it really is.
Leo: He did it, well, it’s hard to describe. It’s the old gods are having a hard time in the new world.
Jason: It’s about immigrants and so the immigrants to America bring their gods with them but they don’t have the history and the tradition that they had back and they’re mixing with other gods from other places, yea.
Leo: And it’s dramatized. It’s wonderful. If you like Terry Pratchett, I don’t know if people know this but he did a book with Neil Gaiman called Good Omens that is hysterical.
Jason: It’s very funny.
Leo: All the Neil Pratchett novels are there. There’s just so much stuff I don’t know where to begin and you won’t either. But pick two. I just got this new one. Is this it? No, no, no, no. Sara Vowell who has the quirkiest voice ever and is hysterical, you probably heard her on This American Life, has a new book about Lafayette. Lafayette in the Somewhat United States. And the readers on this, John Slattery from Mad Men, Nick Offerman—
Jason: From Parks and Recreation.
Leo: Parks and Rec. Fred Armisen from Saturday Night Live, John Hodgeman. It’s another one. I just got this one. I’m so excited. Can’t wait to listen. You can see I love Audible. You’ll love Audible too. Get your first two books free. Audible.com/twit2. Do you listen to audiobooks, Wil Harris? Seems like you would be an audiobook reader.
Wil: I do. I love a good audiobook. I commute quite a lot so I love an audiobook and a podcast and the last one I listened to I’m completely, completely behind the curve but I just listened to Tina Fey read Bossypants.
Leo: Isn’t that funny? Oh my God is that good.
Katie: She’s great. I just listened to Colin Firth read The End of the Affair and it’s amazing. He actually won an award for it. He should, if he ever doesn’t want to act anymore, he should be a professional audio book reader because he’s awesome. He’s really, really good. And it’s a great, great read.
Leo: It’s a wonderful book.
Katie: Yea, so download that right away. See, we’re all just advertising for Audible.
Leo: I know. I’m a huge Graham Greene fan and I’ve listened to most of his books on Audible but wow.
Katie: So listen to Colin because he’s homegrown.
Leo: Ok, you just gave me another one to put in my cart. Love it. This is part of kind of an Audible series they’re doing where they get great voices reading classic books like The Handmaid’s Tale. Claire Danes reads that. Dustin Hoffman, Being There: The Jerzy Kosinski book. What a great book. If you thought the movie was good you’ve got to read the book. Oh, man. This is the ad that never ends because we just keep finding new books (laughing).
Katie: We’re just watching Leo shop now.
Leo: I love it. So speaking of books, Wally Lamb, he wrote a great book and I think I listened to it on Audible called This Much is True. He’s written a number of books. I didn’t read his last one She’s Come Undone because it was too depressing. But actually that was his first one. I Know This Much is True was good. It was We are Water I didn’t read. So he is a very, very well-known best-selling novelist but he’s doing something weird. His 6th novel will be not released as a book. It will be an app. What? It’s, so it’s Metabook is the app. It was founded last year, it specializes in multi-media interactive story telling. Remember when Stephen King released, he said, “I’m going to release a novel chapter by chapter as an audio only download.” Or maybe it was an e-book only download. And it was a miserable failure. And he said, “I’m never doing that again.” Have times changed? I don’t know. You’ve got a big name. The novel’s called I’ll Take You There. It centers on a film professor who runs a Monday Night film club in an old theatre that turns out to be haunted by the ghost of Lois Weber, a silent film era actress. Wow. And by the way, only on iOS. Not even Android. And you’ll have to buy it from the iTunes App Store. Ok.
Jason: Is it all at once or in installments?
Leo: I think it’s all at once.
Leo: I’ll buy it. Just to see. I’ll buy it. I love his stuff. News from the US Court of Appeals from the 2nd circuit. Breaking your computer, your employer’s computer policy is not a crime. This is actually surprising news because the courts have traditionally upheld the rights of employers when it comes to digital stuff. An employer has to hang up if he picks up the phone and he hears you having a personal conversation but reading your e-mail, no problem. Digital stuff has always been treated as, you know, the under the ownership of the employer. This is kind of a creepy case. It comes from the Cannibal Cop case. A New York City police officer was charged with conspiracy to kidnap. He never kidnapped anybody. He wrote fantasy posts on a cannibalism fetish site. And he did it during company time. And he was also charged with violating of the—actually he was charged with the computer fraud and abuse act for violating the New York Police Department’s policies about accessing a police database without a valid law enforcement purpose. Now that’s an NYPD policy but they decided to make an example out of him and they charged him with a computer fraud and abuse case. He was convicted on all counts. The trial court reversed the jury’s conspiracy verdict saying, “You can’t really have a kidnapping conspiracy in which no one is ever kidnapped. No attempt at kidnapping ever took place. No real world steps were ever taken to kidnap anybody.” It’s not really—it’s thought crime. It’s not a crime to think about it. So the court overturned that one and then, but they upheld the conviction under the Computer Fraud Act. Interestingly though the 2nd circuit has overturned that saying, “We decline to adopt the prosecution structure of the Computer Fraud Act which would criminalize the conduct of millions of ordinary computer users. While the government might promise it would not prosecute an individual for checking Facebook at work, we are not at liberty to take prosecutors at their word in such matters. A court should not uphold a highly problematic interpretation of a statue merely because the government says, ‘Oh, no, we’re never going to use it on Facebook. It’s only when the guy’s doing something really wrong.’” But this is probably good news. It means that you could get fired or you know, reprimanded for breaking your employer’s computer policy, at least you can’t get charged with a Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
Jason: I mean, this is good news but of course corporate policies aren’t crimes. They aren’t laws. You can’t commit crimes by breaking corporate policy. That’s crazy.
Leo: And this really points to an overreaching by law enforcement and prosecutors in the US.
Jason: Computer crime, it’s scary.
Leo: Exactly. On this CFA because I mean that’s what Aaron Schwartz was charged under the Computer Fraud Act. It’s been misused.
Leo: So good. I’m glad the courts said, “Wait a minute, hold on.”
Jason: Yea discipline him because he violated your corporate policy but he didn’t break any laws by not doing what your handbook said. It’s crazy.
Leo: Here’s a weird one. How many of you have a, do not have a landline? Wil, do you have a landline? No landline. Katie, do you have a landline?
Leo: No landline. Jason Snell, do you have a landline?
Jason: Yea and we tried to get rid of it but we still have it because of the Comcast bundle. It was cheaper to keep it.
Leo: Ok. You don’t want a landline?
Jason: Don’t want it.
Leo: Turns out according to the Centers for Disease Control, people who have cell phones but no landlines are more likely to binge drink, more likely to smoke, more likely be uninsured. You guys are losers.
Katie: I think that’s just describes young people.
Leo: That’s exactly it. There you go.
Katie: That’s a demographic that skews towards not having landlines.
Leo: That was a test of your ability to think and you, and you passed, Katie Benner. Turns out the CDC, I didn’t know this ,but the CDC does a kind of a census every year. 40 thousand people are interviewed. And because they want to talk to everybody, they go house to house. They don’t do it by phone. So they were able to compile these statistics. Look at this. More people are cell phone only than have landlines in the United States. 47% are cell phone only, 42% have both like you and me Jason, have landline and cell. The only reason I have a landline is for my burglar alarm. I don’t use it. I wouldn’t have it. Why do you need one? You’ve got a cell phone. There are 8% of people in the United States that do not have a cell phone but have a landline. Probably the older people and the very poor. But yea, isn’t that interesting? Actually that is the statistic that is more interesting. There are more people don’t have a landline than do. Actually that’s not strictly true because if you add landline and cell phone to landline to no cell phone you get 50%. But it’s close. It’s neck and neck.
Jason: Yea this is, as we’re going into our presidential election year, this is something to keep in mind. The pollsters are better at it than they used to be but the entire polling industry was predicated on this idea that you could reach people at a certain time, a number of that was the location.
Leo: On a landline, yea.
Jason: And that meant a landline and while they’re all trying to grasp the right way to poll with cell phones, it’s been an issue. And it may continue to be an issue where the kind of people they want to reach who do vote, but if they can’t reach them at a statistically accurate level, you end up with distorted polls.
Leo: Well you understand the one people for one thing.
Wil: So in the last UK election which was earlier on this year, the polling that took place was statistically the worst on record in terms of accuracy.
Leo: They thought Donald Trump would win. That’s the amazing thing.
Wil: (Laughing) but universally it’s bad because it’s getting harder and harder and harder to poll people. And because of their, because of the landline problem. We’re seeing that now in the UK and there’s no signs from any of the polling companies over here like the ugovs or whoever that it’s going to get any better.
Leo: Good. Because polls suck. No, because they make the whole—all the coverage of election’s a horse race in other words, right? Who’s winning at the—you know, and he’s coming around the turn it’s Donald Trump, Donald Trump. That’s not what an election should be about. We should be talking about issues not who’s winning in the polls. Finally, I love this article in New York Magazine. They followed up on 10 former viral sensations on how they’re doing, life after the internet. Katie Upton, remember the South, Miss South Carolina teen who couldn’t in 2007 answer a simple question.
Jason: In the Iraq and such?
Leo: Yea. And I felt bad when I watched this.
Katie Upton: I personally believe that US Americans are unable to do so because of—
Leo: I’m not even going to go on with this. At the same time as you’re laughing at her, you realize this is not her finest moment and in fact she almost committed suicide. She said, “I lost a lot of close friends over it. People I knew since I was ten, people I grew up playing soccer with. One group of girls took me to this party at the University of South Carolina. I walk in, the entire USC baseball team surrounded me and bashed me with the harshest, meanest comments I’d ever heard.” Somebody put a letter in her parent’s mailbox that said, “Go die, Katie Upton, go die for your stupidity.” She said, “I went through a period of, I was very, very depressed.” I mean a huge—this is actually tragic. Fortunately she went brunette. She was blonde in this video and now her biggest problem is people think she’s Kate Upton so better things. Now how about this? Mahir.
Leo: I Kiss You. Remember this one? This is pre-YouTube so I don’t have a video of it. It was a meme though, right?
Leo: He says he’s fine, he’s doing great. “I’m married. We practice,” blah, blah, blah, “nothing in my lifestyle has changed after being famous,” but he tried to sue Borat. He says, “I’m still mad at him. Wouldn’t you be? It’s disrespect. Without my permission earning lots of money, this is stealing. I kiss you.” (laughing) he says, “Borat is a copy.” And then he says, “I don’t want to descend to their level. I’ve transferred to the greatest court and greatest judge, Allah. He will make them pay even if they are not aware.” Oh boy. I’m glad I’m not Sasha Baron Cohen. The evolution of the dance guy. He’s doing great. Of course he is. He continues, although what’s not said is he still has to do that routine, ten years later he’s still doing the evolution of the dance. Oh, remember the guy, the homeless guy who had this beautiful voice? He says, “I only thought I was getting a job at the local radio station. I knew nothing about viral internet sensations or anything.” Satellite trucks, CNN, ABC, everybody covering this looking for an exclusive.
Video: Say something with that great radio voice.
Ted Williams: When you’re listening to nothing but the best of oldies, you’re listening to Magic 98.9.
Leo: Wow. Wow. So how’s he, how’s he doing now? He’s, I don’t know if he’s working, I don’t know. He’s trying to help homeless military veterans which I guess he was. So I guess he’s using his bully pulpit. Remember the wedding dance? I love this. This is a great article, New York Magazine. Charlie bit my finger. They’re all grown up. That was 2007. Well, not all grown up. Charlie’s 9. They’re still earning income from videos. Charlie bit my finger. We have an unwritten rule, if somebody asks to be bitten, Charlie gets to bite however hard he wants. So it’s still, you know, he’s still biting. Tay Zonday, we know Tay pretty well. He’s still around. He was a graduate, a PhD student when he sang Chocolate Rain. And he’s kind of working in the biz. Still has a YouTube presence.
Wil: Yea, I see him on YouTube quite a lot.
Leo: Yea. He’s kind of, he’s the old man of YouTube stars, right (laughing). The eminence grise. Chocolate Rain. Leave Britney alone. Had a reality show, an HBO documentary, has sold 200,000 downloads of his own songs, deleted his YouTube account in September. Now posts on Facebook. That’s the future, kids. The sign language interpreter for Mayor Bloomberg that was not saying anything at all. She started her own company with 150 interpreters on staff and writes about the deaf culture for the Huffington Post. Actually she wasn’t the one that wasn’t—that was a different one that was saying stuff but she was just really into it. This was actual sign language. He’s talking about Hurricane Sandy. She’s getting more—she’s quite entertaining actually.
Mayor Bloomberg: Our first obligation is—
Leo: (Laughing) it’s fun. It’s fun to watch her. This is fun. So anyway, just so you know, someday I’ll be on that list. You will too, Wil Harris. Thank you for being here. Digital director at the Conde Nast operation over there across the pond in the UK. He’s on the Twitter @W-I-L Harris one L. Nice to see you.
Wil: I can only dream of being an internet has been.
Leo: Yea, I can’t wait to be an internet has been. I look forward to it.
Wil: Thanks very much for having me. It’s been great fun to come and do the TWiT as my nan says.
Leo: We won’t make it so long next time. We’ll have you back soon. Thank you so much for being here. Katie Benner, same to you. By the way, the best voice in newspapers.
Katie: (Laughing) thanks so much.
Leo: You’re like that guy. You’re like that—
Katie: Yea, I’m like that homeless guy.
Katie: People say that to me all the time.
Leo: Yea, you’re just like him. It’s always great to see you. Newyorktimes.com, nytimes.com. I’m a subscriber.
Katie: Ah, thank you.
Leo: Are they going to do more of the 3D immersive video stuff because I still have my cardboard.
Katie: Yes, I think we have other videos and projects coming up.
Katie: I think another one was just released actually. I’ll have to double check but don’t throw away your Google Cardboard.
Leo: No. That actually I think, they single handedly, the New York Times, really made immersive video a, something everybody has had a chance to experience.
Katie: That’s why there are a million subscribers.
Leo: A million, yea.
Katie: So a million people suddenly had something that they didn’t have the day before.
Leo: Pretty cool. Thank you Kater. Kater? I don’t why I called you Kater. But you should be called Kater from now on. I think Katie Benner, I just shortened it. And just Snell.
Leo: Just Snell is here. Thank you for coming all the way--
Jason: Thanks, Leo. That’s not awkward. That’s not awkward at all.
Leo: (Laughing) Jason Snell is at sixcolors.com. He’s @jsnell on the Twitter. Thanks for all of you for being here too. We really appreciate it. It’s a real pleasure doing this show each and every week. It’s a privilege for me. I just love it. 3 PM Pacific, 6 PM Eastern time 2300 UTC. If you watch live you can be in the chatroom at irc.twit.tv. Harass us mercilessly, we love it. You can also be in the studio. We had a great studio audience today. Thank you all for being here. Thanks to whoever brought the fly swatter up for killing the damn fly.
Jason: It’s still buzzing.
Leo: Is it? Didn’t get it, huh?
Jason: Didn’t get it.
Leo: If you want to be here and join us in the fight against flies, go to tickets@ or e-mail tickets.tv and we’ll make sure we put a chair out for you. We also have on demand versions of all of our shows available at our website twit.tv, on YouTube. I think it’s youtube.com/thisweekintech. Wherever you find your podcasts. Don’t forget we’re looking to put together, poor Jason, he’s got a lot of work to do. Put together a best of episode for the week after Christmas. And if you would like to help us, go to twit.tv/bestof. Think of the children. Think of Jason’s children. They haven’t seen daddy.
Jason Howell: There’s a lot of the editors and producers working on these right now, so.
Leo: I know, I know, I feel bad. But it’s so much fun to see kind of these best moments from the whole year. If you have a memory of something you really liked, like maybe, you know what I would put in there? John C. Dvorak tormenting me with Jolie O’Dell as she gets up and starts to show him how to use Google Maps in the middle of the show. That would be in my list. (Laughing) what’s on your list? Twit.tv.bestof. Thanks to Jason Howell, the best producer in the world for joining us, making this show possible. Thanks to you for being here. We’ll see you next time! Another TWiT is in the can. Ow.