This Week in Tech 550

Leo Laporte: It's time for TWiT, This Week in Tech. A great panel assembled for you. To really get down to the nuts and bolts on the Apple DOJ case, this is really good stuff and we have the best. Ben Thompson from Stratechery, Ed Bott from ZD Net, and Christina Warren from Mashable. We will flatten this story next on TWiT.

NETCASTS YOU LOVE FROM PEOPLE YOU TRUST, THIS IS TWIT! Bandwidth for This Week in Tech is provided by CacheFly at

Leo: Hi everybody, it's time for our annual audience survey. We'd really like to hear from you, it helps us understand our audience better, know what you like and don't like, how you listen to the show. It also helps us tell advertisers what kind of people listen, but I promise you your feedback is always kept personally anonymous. All you have to do is visit, and let us know what you think. It will just take a few minutes, and it will help us make TWiT even better. We really appreciate your support and any help you can give us.

This is TWiT: This Week in Tech, episode 550, Sunday, February 21, 2016.

Apple vs. the DOJ

This Week in Tech is brought to you by When you're selling online, getting your orders out the door quickly can be tough. is the fast, easy way to ship and manage all your orders in one place. For a free two-month trial visit, and before you do anything else, click the microphone at the top of the homepage and type in TWiT.

And by Gazelle: the fast and simple way to sell your used gadgets. Shop from a variety of certified pre-owned electronics, or trade one in for cash. Give new life to a used device. Visit today.

And by Sign up for the platinum plan and get two free books. Go to, and follow Audible on Twitter, user ID audible_com.

And 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, go visit today.

It's time for TWiT, This Week in Tech, the show where we cover the week's tech news with the best journalists in technology. We got them today and we got some big big stories to talk about. Joining me right now, Christina Warren from Mashable. Always nice to have you, Christina. Welcome.

Christina Warren: Nice to be here.

Leo: We thought it was going to be academy award night. We were all set to have Film Girl talk about films. We will anyway, because I'm curious what you think. There is bigger fish to fry. Here one of our chief fish-fryers, Mr. Ben Thompson from Stratechery. Joining us from Tapai today. Hello, Ben.

Ben Thompson: Good morning.

Leo: Early morning. What time is it?

Ben: 7:00.

Leo: Not bad. Oh. Ah. You got a kid, you're up this early anyway.

Ben: Something like that.

Leo: Actually, I don't want to diminish your generous contribution. Thank you for being here so early. I really appreciate it. He knows what's happening on Monday, so that's important. Living in the future. Also joining us, the great Ed Bott from ZDnet. My old buddy! Great to see you, Ed.

Ed Bott: Great to see you, Leo. What a nice thing to say!

Leo: From the great Southwest of this nation.

Ed: I put the flat up.

Leo: It helps me know you're in New Mexico not Arizona. Don't know where in New Mexico, but somewhere nice.

Ed: Turn left at Albuquerque.

Leo: That sounds like an Eagles song.

Ed: I think it's actually a Bugs Bunny reference.

Leo: I'm keeping it light right now because we're going to get into a fairly heavy conversation about Apple, the FBI, and what the hell is going on. I have to say, this story which broke on Wednesday came in dribs and drabs. We saw the court order to Apple saying you've got to help the FBI unlock this phone. We saw Tim Cook's response, we had a very good conversation with the technical additions from Steve Gibson on This Week in Google. Jeff Jarvis and Matthew Ingram and I with Steve Gibson's help. Since then, more and more information has come out. I don't need to summarize this story. You all know there was a cell phone that belonged to the San Bernadino County Health department that was in use by its employee that shooter in the San Bernadino mass shooting tragedy a few months ago. The FBI got that cell phone. They didn't get the other cell phones. Those were destroyed before the shooting, but this cell phone survived. It's an interesting position because it's owned by San Bernadino County department of Health, it's not owned by the shooter. He agreed to the right to monitor. There shouldn't be any issue at all in unlocking the phone and looking at what's on it except that it is locked. It's an iPhone 5C, but of course Apple has updated to IOS 9 so it was encrypted. The FBI has asked the court to force Apple to help them unlock it, not decrypt it, but unlock it. The court said Apple has to do a few things. They have to make a modified firmware. As you know, Firmware can't be put on an iPhone unless Apple signs it. They would have to sign this with their super-secret signing key. Put it on the iPhone, firmware would do a couple of things. One, it would disable the automatic erasure if more than 10 attempts to unlock the phone are made. In case the bad guy turned it on, and it would also reduce the delay between key presses. 80 millisecond delay between key presses to slow down brute forcing.

Ben: That's not quite right. There's a five second delay. The 80 milliseconds is how long it takes the phone to process the request. The minimum is 80 milliseconds, and it has to be done on the device, because part of the key is a combination of the passcode and the unique UID of the device, which is not known to Apple, it is not tracked, it's imprinted in this basically. 80 Milliseconds is the limit, which is the other thing here. No one said how long the passcode is but because of that 80 millisecond delay, if it's anything but a four or five digit numeric passcode, it’s going to be pretty impossible to brute force anyway. I presume it's just a four digit one. That 80 milliseconds is a lot of time.

Leo: This underscores a lot. There's a lot of stuff we don't know about this. The court order was that Apple should modify firmware, turn off the delay, turn off the automatic erasure on the phone, not to actually crack the phone, but just to give the FBI the opportunity to run an automated... give the FBI access to the phones so they could run an automatic brute forcing attack so they could unlock it. It's a weird request. In the past, Apple has in fact been ordered to decrypt criminal's iPhones and deliver the information to law enforcement and they say they've done that 70 times. They don't like doing it. That's one of the reasons they released IOS 8 which had full disc encryption.

Ben: Apple can't decrypt it. That's the big thing here. There's multi levels to this story. I certainly feel your pain about it dribbling out. I had a very widely spread, I made an update free on Thursday and that ended up having a couple things wrong. It is what it is. The way encryption works and Apple uses very strong encryption on the disc is that even if you have the data on the disc, if you don't have the key, you're not getting it. It's theoretically possible, but realistically impossible, even with a brute force attack. The issue is... IBM, if the FBI really cared about this, they could extract the data off of the memory chips and brute force it, the whole issue is that it's easier even with all these challenges, the only realistic way is to break the pass code itself, which has to be done on the device because it's tangled with the device ID. No one could break encryption. That's what makes this a multi layered issue. I think the real fear in the very long run for any of us in tech is the idea that Apple will have to make some sort of golden key or skeleton key for their encryption itself which is a really terrible idea.

Leo: And Apple says they can't do it. They could going forward...

Ben: You can't do it after the fact. Which is why the real concern here is that the FBI loses this case and then leverages that into congressional action to force this gold key thing saying we can't trust Apple, Apple's not going to help us, etc. All those times that Apple helped the FBI were pre-IOS 8.

Christina: They were, and that was before the encryption stuff. It's a different sort of assistance, and a lot of times from what I understand is they were instructing them to look for tools that already existed from third parties instead of actually giving them any data themselves.

Leo: As Jonathan zidarski pointed out in a really great blog post, there's a difference between what Apple used to do which was essentially do what they needed to do and provide the contents of that phone to law enforcement, versus creating a forensics tool, which is what the court is ordering them to do now, and there's a much higher burden of proof with a forensics tool then there would be with just Apple saying this is what was on the phone. This is a fairly burdensome order from the court. Apple has said it won't do it, and it will appeal. They have some extra time. They have three extra days to respond.

Christina: They have until Friday.

Leo: I don't know what Apple will say. As soon as this order came out, Tim Cook wrote this open letter and posted it on the Apple website saying this is why it's a bad idea, we think this needs to be public. Now, additional information that may change the color of this. A couple of things. First of all, apparently Apple had originally asked the FBI to do this under SEAL, privately. The FBI declined, they decided to do it publically. The reason that might be interesting is maybe Apple was willing to comply but didn't want anybody to know they could comply. I don't know what. I'm not sure why...

Ed: I don't think that's true because in the narratives that we've had so far, it's been very clear that they had tried the four different techniques that Apple had recommended and none of them worked, so they were at the impasse of saying our only motion left is for you to give us physical assistance to getting into the contents here where we can then try to decrypt it. They've already said that the cooperation ended unsuccessfully, so now the FBI asked them to do a specific thing, they said no, and so we go to court. One fascinating thing that seems to have happened here though that is different from other similar situations in the past is previously something like this starts out and the facts come out first. So remember when Apple's phone was liberated from that bar, it was iPhone 4, right? All those facts came out first, and then it turned into a court case, and then the lawyers got involved. The very first salvo is from the lawyers from the department of Justice and the response and Tim Cook might have signed that, but it was written by lawyers or at least vetted and sealed by lawyers. As a result, every bit of information that we've had on this story so far has come in legal form, which means every word is carefully chosen to communicate a particular fact so that it might be true but they might want us to believe something else.

Leo: There is some other information that didn't come vetted or in legal form, and it throws further mud in the water. Initially, Apple pointed out, the iCloud password had been changed while the phone was in the FBI's custody. The FBI immediately threw the San Bernadino county Department of Health under the bus, saying that they did it.

Christina: And then they immediately threw the FBI under the bus.

Leo: They tweeted No. The FBI told us to do that.

Christina: In my mind, they're both sort of incompetent. The best I can tell, I've been working on a story about this for the last few days, there was absolutely no mobile device management software on the iPhone that was given out by the San Bernadino department of health.

Leo: That's dumb. Apple pointed out that had they not changed the iCloud password, it's very likely that as soon as they went to a known wifi access point, such as his home or work, the phone would have backed up over wifi, and they would have had access to that backed up data.

Christina: We don't know if that would have been the case or not because we don't know if there was another problem on the phone, if that setting was enabled or disabled. At the very least, they could have attempted it.

Leo: Let me give you my conspiracy theory. I think the FBI wants this case. We know that James Comey the director of the FBI is one of the strongest advocates in government, by the way there is no unified point of view in Government about encryption. I've been told the NSA wants end-to-end encryption and believes it's important to national security. The FBI does not. They are worried about bad guys going dark. That's the term they use. And Comey has been looking for a case to set a precedent, and what better case than a terrorist and a phone belonging to a terrorist. I think they were looking for exactly this kind of case. If it were easy to get information, they wouldn't have been able to go for the precedent. My conspiracy theory, which impugns the FBI here, is that they didn't want to easily decrypt this device. They wanted this device to be hard to decrypt. Why else would you change the iCloud password? Is that a hand fisted attempt to get the data? They know better than that! I know better than that.

Christina: I think this might have been a case where they were so desperately trying to get access to something and just made a sloppy mistake. I would hope that was the case.

Leo: I don't buy it. I hope the FBI's forensics is much better than that. They know what they're doing.

Ed: There's actually an explanation for this. They change the iCloud password so that they could access the backups, and then they discovered that the backups had stopped on October 19 or 20, and that's when they said Oh. There's additional information on the phone. The backups...

Leo: Threy could tell the last backup without being able to unlock it, right? Maybe not.

Ed: They had to get it into iCloud to see the backup.

Leo: OK.

Christina: This was probably a case where they didn't want to wait for Apple to respond. They wanted to get information as quickly as possible and went too fast and by doing that, ended up screwing themselves. All of this is on the pre supposition that there is something on this phone that could be useful in this case. I personally don't know.

Leo: There's not a lot to indicate there is. They destroyed their personal phones.

Christina: The two personal phones are destroyed, Find My iPhone was enabled, so for Find My iPhone to be enabled but backups to be disabled, that seems weird too. There are a lot of questions about this that make me think there might not be anything on this phone. But this is a very important case for the FBI and this is the perfect case to get issues of encryption legislated.

Ben: There are really three layers to this case. I think it's important to keep those layers distinct, because otherwise it's difficult to keep track of what's going on. Layer one is what is not going on in this case. That is encryption. This case is not about encryption. It has nothing to do with encryption. No one is asking Apple to break their encryption, there's not to date a discussion of this golden key which I just brought up recently. It's something that looms over this case, because that is something the FBI has wanted previously. It was put to rest temporarily last year in a bit of a repeat of the crypto wars of 20 years ago. There's been reports that have come out that the FBI has said well OK. We lost this round, but let's keep our eyes open for a chance to re-open it, which this certainly seems to fit the bill. That's what is not happening. There's not a debate about encryption going on right now. What is going on is a debate about security of iPhones, and whether or not people can be compelled to weaken their security measures. They can't break the encryption, it's not possible. They can be compelled to do the things that you listed, and the question is, is that covered under the All Writs act, and as an aside, I'm a little tired of this Act from 1789. That's the Act that established...

Leo: The All Writs act.

Ben: It's not the All Writs act. It's part of the act that established the court system, which I don't think anyone is calling to undo, because the law happened to be passed in 1789. The All Writs act is not an unreasonable thing.

Leo: Why do people cite the All Writs act as being...?

Christina: Correct me if I'm wrong, Ben, I don't want to speak for you, but you're tired of people saying why is this law from 1789 defining what's happening now, when in actuality that is what the law was created for, which is...

Leo: A very general situation.

Christina: It's been cited in a lot of similar cases over the years. It's been used in unlocking cases since 2005. It was used as the basis for other sorts of cases. I think that's probably a good point. I still think that they're using this as a way to get around the fact that there's not legislation.

Ben: Which I would be happy to get to as my third point. The All Writs Act was the judicial act of 1789. No one is saying we should undo the supreme Court because of the Act from 1789. It's the same set of laws that passed at the same time, a la the bill of rights. The third point which Christina just referred to is the political angle, which is what ties the first two together. That's where a lot of the new developments are from is an attempt to win the political war. It doesn't really matter at the end of the day how or why the iCloud password got changed. It matters from Apple trying to win the PR war, where frankly they're at a disadvantage because we're dealing with a terrorist attack that happened, and I don't think there's any question whether or not they did this on purpose, I don't think there's any question that they {The FBI} see this as an opportunity to win a political battle. I think these are clearly all tied together, but they all have distinct issues, and that's why it's easy to get these mixed up together. It's not about encryption specifically, but that's certainly in the background. It is about this compelling software company to create software not to simply take advantage of software they already had. Pre IOS 8, Apple simply needed to use their root certificate and they could extract it off of the device because it wasn't encrypted. They could extract data off this device as well, the only problem is it would be encrypted. Part 3 is big picture. What is going on politically, what is the attempt in the long-run to compel this? That's what is going on. Apple was justifiably and understandably pissed off at the FBI's court request to frame this as a marketing stunt by Apple.

Leo: The FBI said this is Apple going full boar marketing wise.

Ben: Which we can certainly get into.

Leo: They're not wrong. It's good for Apple to promote their privacy. It was somewhat of a revelation to me that Apple could even do this that they could sign a modified firmware that would make it easier to get it into an iPhone. You say it's not about decryption, but once the phone is unlocked the data is decrypted. It is a methodology to decrypt the phone.

Ben: It's not about forcing Apple to break their encryption.

Leo: They don't have to break their encryption, they merely need to break into the phone. The end result is the same.

Ben: But it matters. The reason it matters is because 1, they can't break their encryption. That's the entire point of encryption. Two, the FBI would like Apple to create encryption with a golden key.

Leo: That's not this.

Ben: No. But...

Leo: That's part of a slippery slope.

Ben: It's not just a slippery slope. You can see a scenario where Apple wins this case as they very well may, because part of the All Writs Act, as later defined by the Supreme Court, which was created at the same time, was there can't be an unreasonable burden.

Leo: Apple is not a forensics company, they would be required to create a forensics tool.

Ben: So Apple could very well win this case on its merits from a legal perspective, but that's where you come big circle. You can see the FBI going to congress and saying "Look. We had a terrorist attack on US soil, Apple refused to help, and legally they were not compelled to. We need legislation that won't allow this to happen again." The best way to get this legislation is to make it so we don't even have to go to Apple in the future. We have a golden key. This is by far the worst possible outcome. The big difference with that is then you have a silent failure of security because no one will know when that is compromised. It will be eventually. That's what makes this so complicated is multiple levels going on, and one of the levels is a PR thing. It's a PR thing, because ultimately the end game is potentially congressional action that could result in something even worse than what Apple is being compelled to do here. There's multiple levels of thinking about this that are going on and makes it... which is why it's not going to be a story, it's going to go away, nor should it.

Leo: We had, yesterday on the new Screen Savers, we had Julian Sanchez, he's a senior fellow at the KO institute, but he was one of the authors of the Berkman study don't panic, which is an excellent study. Some of the best security researchers in the world were brought in on this panel. A, the conclusion there was don't worry. There's no reason for law enforcement to worry, there are more ways to survey us than ever before. They already said we'll use all of them. What Julian said is absolutely, that's going to be the upshot of this case is a resurgence of legislation to provide backdoors. That's what this is all about.

Ben: Which is a far worse outcome! I absolutely support Apple's position, one. Two, I agree there is a very serious problem with precedent here, but three I'm also very of how this is going to play politically. I've gotten some pushback from members about this. Principle is principle, yes, but there's multiple layers of principle is principle. Make no mistake, a golden key is the worst possible outcome if you care about security.

Leo: But we should be clear that is not what is being asked for at this time.

Ben: It's not. It would be impossible, because as you noted, that's a forward looking security measure, which gets at why it's so terrible, as opposed to something that is backwards, retro-active, which is the case here. The more I... I've been making this point for the last couple of days. The more I think about it, I do think that Apple is right to fight and win this and win on merits, I think there's a great tweet the other day, something about the US messing with the three great world religions. I can't remember what the other two were, but the third was Apple. I think the FBI is probably going to get more of a fight than they bargain for on this, which is great. Good on Apple for leveraging that.

Leo: What's also very clear is there is an agreement in the Federal Government, whether in the administration, law enforcement or congress, I don't believe there is a concensus in providing a backdoor. Many members of Congress stepped forward and said Apple is doing the right thing. Some said Apple should comply. I've heard from others inside the beltway that there is no consensus on how to handle encryption.

Ben: That's the one... You mentioned the NSA. The issue here is the FBI. I mean, James Comey has been particularly...

Leo: We know who wants a backdoor most. That's James Comey, director of the FBI.

Ben: The thing to remember is the FBI is dealing mostly with domestic terrorism, but by and large they're dealing with mostly less sophisticated criminals. There's a lot of drug cases that come up. There was an interesting story that came up, there was a provision in the Patriot Act that basically lets you spy on someone without them knowing you are if you got a court order. It was said at the time this is for terrorism, it's not going to be used for anything else, and since then, 95% of cases have been about drugs and .5 have been about Terrorism. I think the FBI wants the capability. The problem is when you look at the big picture, when you look at encryption, we have more to lose by not having our stuff encrypted. By "We" I mean the United States.

Leo: That's what the NSA says.

Ben: Right. When it comes to corporate secrets or Government. The United States has the most capability of overcoming and avoiding that. If you gain this out, when it comes to a systematic look at our capabilities versus Chinese capabilities versus anyone else's capabilities, it behooves the United States to have stronger encryption because they have more ways around that encryption, relative to other countries. It makes the playing field more uneven. From a big picture perspective, encryption is good. Fortunately that has convinced enough people in DC, unfortunately the FBI has its head up its rear end a bit and only cares about their particular problems. Now we're stuck in this brass.

Leo: Another point to be made, is no matter what happens with Apple, strong encryption is widely available from sources all over the world. I think it was more than 70 countries make encryption software available. The math is out there, and there's nothing anybody can do in the long run to prevent encryption from being used. The notion of putting a backdoor into software made in the United States, all that does is weaken the product from the United States.

Ed: That is getting... I understand how you can game things out so that it gets to that point, but it was going to get to that point anyway. That argument, those bills are being written. Those lobbyists are working on this already. If you're looking for a test case on encryption, this isn't the one! As Ben rightly notes, it has nothing to do with encryption. What it does have to do is setting the precedent that large, very large and influential American tech companies can be required to cooperate and provide technical assistance to the United States Government when a proper warrant is issued.

Leo: Shouldn't that be the case? Why shouldn't they be exempt?

Ed: I think it should be the case. One thing I'm really happy about in this case is that it's not coming through the secret FISA courts. This entire thing is being argued very publically with good legal teams on either sides of the argument. Ted Olson is working for Apple. You don't get any better in terms of arguing before the Supreme Court than Ted Olson.

Ben: It's a good thing to note that there is such clarity around this. There is zero question about the Government's right to the data, frankly.

Leo: I think one reason this case was hand-picked was because the Government owns the phone.

Ben: Not just that. But if there was a testifiable warrant...

Leo: The guy committed a horrific crime. To be very clear, a lot of people including Donald Trump said you should boycott Apple because they're un-American, this is not about Apple protecting a terrorist. It's not at all what this is about.

Ed: Donald Trump. He is no Ted Olson.

Leo: When he's president of the United States, he's going to change your tune buddy boy. That's all I can say.

Ben: The only thing to remember is if you go back to the cyber wars of the 1990's, and this is when encryption was the first time that encryption was really challenged, and this "go dark" debate is not a new debate. In that case, the US government for a time actually limited the export of encryption. I think the most famous example was NetScape, the International version had 40 bit encryption.

Leo: Look at the consequence of that, by the way. That bad encryption still plagues us today with signing keys for SSL. There are escalation attacks. You can trick a browser using weak encryption. That encryption is in there because of those export restrictions from a couple years ago.

Ben: Right, because the US encryption was allowed to have 128, but it was too complicated to verify you were in the US, so everyone got the 40 bit version. Eventually, the sides of the angels won, as I would characterize it.

Leo: There's a long-term consequence. That's the real import of this, even that misguided law plagues us still today.

Ben: It does. The other thing is in response Congress passed another piece of legislation which people tend to forget about, which is known as CALEA, which is the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act. This was the counterpart, again there's always two parts to this going on. This was the counter part to the encryption part. Fine you can have your encryption, but we're going to do this, that's why all communications hardware and now software with these telecommunications companies have vender ports. Why AT&T has that unmarked room in their systems. AT&T gets an unfair rep, they are legally compelled to have those by an act of Congress. They're not providing vendor ports and these unmarked rooms because they're kissing up to the Government. It is because of the communications for law enforcement act, which came about in response to the cyber wars debate, which was like, "Fine. You can have your encryption, but in that case, we get capabilities to capture everything." That's where all this data collection stuff that was revealed by Edward Snowden, it all stems from this Act, again to re-emphasize, it's all a security debate, but there's different parts of security. I think what the FBI is trying to accomplish here is the equivalent of the CALEA act, they're trying to say fine, we'll let you have your encryption, at least for now, but we want to hav access to all your other security measures in the meantime.

Leo: Anything more to say before we move on? This is a good conversation. I think the facts are now fairly well known.

Ed: There's a couple things I thought of here. One is you mention that a lot of this dates back to the 1990's. At the beginning of the 21st century, Microsoft proposed and was ready to introduce I think in 2003 or 2004 Paladium, which became formerly known as the next generation secure computing base. Which was essentially this. It's essentially what Apple has now. Many of the pieces of what Paladium proposed have made it into existing PC hardware today, so you have TPMs and you have BitLocker encryption that uses that. PCs for several years have had the equivalent of Apple secure enclave on them. The point of bringing up Paladium is when it came up in 2003 it was shouted down hard and loud by the same people who are now rooting for Apple to win this.

Leo: We saw it as a power grab by Microsoft that allowed them to keep non Microsoft software off their system.

Ben: I think the bigger point that it's making is the capability that allows only Apple to install firmware here, there's another point to be made here by the way, that's the root of the walled garden. Only Apple can install an IOS device. This gets at why the FBI is making... if the FBI really wanted to get data on this phone, it's believed that the NSA whether they want to share it or not, has exploits that they spend a lot of time researching and understanding that would allow them to install the firmware themselves. That would defeat this attempt. What those exploits are about is about defeating the requirement that the core Operating software be signed by Apple. Yes, lots of people are on Apple's side right now that a week ago were opposed to Apple signing all of this software because it's my device. etc, etc.

Leo: That's the reason Palladium was killed because Microsoft could keep anyone else from opening a word document or installing anything but Microsoft Windows on their PC.

Christina: I do think you bring up a good point, Ben. I've been talking to a lot of security professionals, a lot of hackers who more than the NSA believe they can get into this phone.

Leo: John Macafee thinks he could..

Christina: I'm talking about competent people.

Leo: He says he could do it with social engineering. He is team of social engineering hackers. I'm not sure who you would call and fool to get into that phone.

Christina: I'm talking about competent people. Not creepy/alleged crackheads. I think that brings up an interesting point, which is it'll be interesting to see when this gets further into court, which is the FBI, the department of justice position is very clearly the reason that they're going to Apple is that Apple is their only hope. Help us Tim Cook Kenobi, you're our only hope. That doesn't seem to be the case. It'll be interesting to see if that impacts this case or not and how that impactsf the burden. I know that behind the scenes, there are a lot of security professionals who are actively offering their services. There are two levels of people at the FBI. There's the higher political level where they see this as a bigger political case and a bigger statement to be made and then there are the people who are wanting to work the case who want to get into the phone and see if they can work what's happening. That disconnect that is happening at that level, on the law enforcement side is interesting too.

Ben: One thing tha treally highlights this is that same Apple capability that is keeping this phone secure is also the one that lots of people have been annoyed about, to put it kindly. Get to the fact that all this stuff has trade offs. The trade offs get extreme when it is anything involving encryption. It's very much an all or nothing proposition. Math at the end of the day, you're either going to get one answer or you're not. That is what makes this case tricky. I'm not sure... it's one of those where being an absolutist, you may be right, but there's a danger of winning battles and losing wars here. That's why it's useful to think about these different layers because it's very possible to be narrowly right on one issue and if you're not aware of and acknowedging the trade offs that has on other issues. There's no question that encryption makes the job of legitimate law enforcement more difficult. There's nothing wrong with admitting that's the case. The burden is on us in the technological community to make the case why that trade off is worth it. One thing I think would be very helpful--I absolutely believe in a right to privacy, I think that's an important reason to have encryption. I'm concerned that's not the best political argument to make. The fact of the matter is there's a long history of people willing to throw away other people's privacy if it makes them feel more secure. This is a security argument. There are legitimate security reasons if you care about being safe, if you want to be safe, then you don't get to say I'll trade away privacy for security. No. In this case, you are trading away better security for a short-term sense of feeling secure. Apple actually has... the FBI should be able to make the argument that this is a security versus privacy argument. Oh we're so sorry we have to violate privacy this one time. The argument to be made and the winning political argument is that what the FBI is asking may help them in the short term, but in the long term, it's making us, everyone, the US, every single citizen less secure because that happens to be true. That's, when it comes to the PR level, that's something that I think all of us could do a better job articulating. It's not just about privacy. Privacy is important. Believe me. The thing is, we're preaching to the choir when it comes to privacy. Everyone listening to this show, everyone on here agrees with that. When it comes to winning hearts and minds, which is going to have to be done with this, there's a security argument to be made in favor of this if it's the right one.

Leo: It's not the end of the line. This is going to go on, Apple's going to respond. This story is going to go on, but this is also going to be the first of many attempts in a variety of ways to breaking encryption. Why is... is this also partly an issue of digital technology being treated differently than non-digital analogue technology? In other words, if the police have a search warrant for my home, they can search my home if there's a lock box in the home and the warrant covers it, they can get into it. If it's a chub safe and they can't open it, they can go to chub and say help us open it. None of that is debated. Why is this treated so differently?

Ed: I don't think it should be.

Ben: The encryption issue. Because encryption is breakable or it's not.

Leo: Let's say there were an unbreakable safe.

Ben: But there isn't, Leo, that's the entire point. Whereas encryption is! That's what makes it... the problem is you either fundamentally flaw encryption (I think I just used flaw as a verb) or you don't. That's what forces this to be a...

Leo: I should point out, you can't break math. Encryption will continue to be possible, strong encryption will still exist. It just means that Apple's version or Google's, or whoever is forced to provide a backdoor will no longer be reliable. But that doesn't break encryption, it just means your chub safe is no longer uncrackable. I'm not sure that's a huge moral hazard. If you want privacy, just don't use an iPhone.

Christina: So what do you use instead, Leo?

Leo: GPG. There is nobody to compel to give you a backdoor in GPG, and if there were because it's open source it will be immediately obvious.

Christina: That's my point. This is the sort of thing that any level of phone if you're wanting to get into it.

Leo: If you want privacy... the idea of carrying a Smart Phone and wanting privacy seems to be a contradiction in terms. If you want privacy, you should not be carrying a Smart Phone. Should you?

Ben: This is why this is a question of principle, ultimately. Is the burden on the customer to enforce their own constitutional right?

Leo: You don't have a constitutional right to privacy. You don't.

Ben: The Supreme Court precedent would disagree with you.

Leo: The Supreme Court might say so, but it's not a constitutional right.

Christina: I would disagree a little bit.

Leo: You have a right against unreasonable search and seizure.

Ben: The Supreme Court is responsible for interpreting the constitution.

Leo: They say it's a constitutional right to privacy.

Ben: The numbers of the constitution, various amendments, not just the fourth amendment, it's a few different ones has been found to make it so that people can't stop you from using contraception. Or abortion. The other issue is why the privacy, why this political issue is so complicated. When you talk about a right to privacy, there is a segment of this country that their ears perk up and they hear abortion because that's at the root of that. That is what makes it so harrowing politically. The other issue is this is not just about, this should be four layers. The fourth layer is this isn't just a US issue. This is about Apple selling in other countries, the most obvious example is China where all reports indicate that Apple has successfully resisted similar requests from the Chinese government for things like golden keys.

Christina: They actually said that China has never asked them for what the FBI is asking them for now. So.

Ed: I would parse whatever statement they made, I would parse those words as carefully as possible.

Ben: The whole issue in China is complicated. For example, iCloud data is hosted by China Unicom, not by Apple. There is speculation that allows Apple to say that we don't allow anyone access to data that...

Christina: At this point iCloud data is not encrypted anyway.

Leo: Do you not think that there is some balance that we could strike that would help us fight terrorism, fight criminality without... as I said. If you really wish to have privacy, this does not... this means.. let's say this all goes through. At some point, there's a golden key for the iPhone or for Windows or whatever. It doesn't mean you cannot pursue privacy, it just means that this device can't. Frankly, again I would say if what you want is privacy, you shouldn't be carrying a Smart Phone with you. How can you protect someone's privacy if you've got a GPS device with a microphone and a camera in their pocket that's broadcasting on the Internet? That seems like a lot to ask. I don't think we have a requirement to make sure somebody can take, you should be able to jump off a cliff without hurting yourself. That's not a requirement. You can still pursue privacy if you wish, just don't carry one of these around.

Ben: I appreciate you making the point, Leo, because I do think that it's easy for us in tech to dismiss very legitimate arguments on the other side. I would push back on two points. One, I already made the point that it's not my responsibility to guarantee my ability to speak freely, for example. To enforce my right to free speech. That burden falls on the Government. The burden falls on the Government to respect rights that are enshrined in the constitution. That's one. Two, this is why the argument, this is a political argument, ultimately. The fact of the matter is at the end of the day, the threat from terrorism in the United States has been dramatically over sold and leveraged to...

Leo: That's a political argument.

Ben: You're making a political argument that concern about terrorism ought to trump rights.

Leo: That's not the argument I'm making. I'm asking if there is some balance that we can make between protecting ourselves and protecting our security and absolute protection of privacy. I think it's absolutist to say in no circumstance should the FBI be able to search my phone. Under no circumstance.

Ben: That's fine. This is why the argument is made. Not to make a privacy argument, even though one I will go to the mat with you on it. Two, I will respond to you by saying, OK Mr. Leo Laporte that was an advocate. You say you carre about security. Let's back up and consider security as a whole and not in this one particular case. If you look at security from a systematic basis, the fact of the matter is the United States collectively has more to lose from bad security than any other country in the world, one. Two, we have more capabilities of overcoming security than any other country in the world, so if we want on balance to be in a better position from security, we ought to encourage broadly available technologies like encryption.

Leo: Let's make sure everybody has an Internet of things device in their house.

Ben: Exactly, which you can take advantage of. That's the exact argument. You can make the security argument that if you want the US to be more secure...

Leo: Make sure there's good strong encryption widely available. Make sure everybody has an Amazon echo in the house.

Ben: Exactly. The FBI is so focused on offense. They're this misbalanced basketball team that all they're focused on is how can we score the most buckets, how can we get the most data? To win a game, you have to play offense and defense. The problem is the FBI is seeking to compromise the US's defensive capabilities in order to score more buckets with the unwitting reality that that's a bad trade off. If everyone has the same level of defense, the US's innate offense is so superior that we don't need to weaken our defense to have a systematic advantage. The problem is the FBI is so focused on their problems, this is why the NSA supports strong encryption. The NSA wants nothing better than to spy on everyone. Why do they support encryption? Because if you look at it in a balanced systematic way, you can understand that everyone having the same level of defense is an advantage to the country that has the best offense. That's the United States and will be for the forseeable future.

Leo: Ed Bot, should Apple just say, "Whatever you need. We'll do it."

Ed: No. Of course they shouldn't say that. I think the larger issue that we have here, though is one of a complete lack of confidence in the United States criminal justice system. That's the root of the problem here. The other thing is the law enforcement people, maybe I'm biased because I happen to know a few FBI agents, but I know that they wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat thinking, "Did I forget something today? Is my phone going to ring with somebody telling me the thing we were afraid of just happened?" I think that's their motivation. I don't think there's petty politics involved here. It is coming from a sincere place from them, but the fact is what they're asking for here, essentially they're asking for Apple to set up a dedicated criminal justice lab that they can come to with a warrant and say, "Look, we got a judge, they gave us this warrant. We have physical possession of this device. It has information. Help us unlock it." If you could actually create a system like that where everyone's phone was safe, the only people who could break into it were Apple and Apple would only do it in their secret lab with a court order, that would probably be OK, except nobody has any confidence in that outcome actually happening, and nobody has any confidence in those warrants that are being issued being trustworthy because we have a history of the FIZA court rubber stamping those warrants for the last god knows how many years.

Leo: That's a really interesting thing to say, and I like it. If we knew that this could be restricted to this phone...

Christina: But it can't be.

Ben: Should only the US be able to ask Apple to us a secret lab? Should the Chinese government be able to ask them?

Leo: If you do business in China, you have to adhere to the laws of the Chinese government.

Christina: It opens up a lot of precedents that I think go way beyond this case, but in taking it to this case, of course it can't be restricted to this phone. That's such a ridiculous argument. They can very easily get a warrant to change the software to make it be done elsewhere. The fact that they would have to go through testing policies to prove that the software they're creating is valid would have to through labs. This isn't one of those things that no matter what this court order says you can just keep it on your campus, that's simply not true because that's not how the forensics testing works. There's so many...

Leo: That Zidarsky post is worth reading, because it may in fact be Apple's defense. We don't know what Apple is going to say on the 26, but in the court order, one of the defenses Apple would have is that it's an undo burden for them to create this tool. If it in fact is a true forensics tool, it's a massive burden, and it's a business that Apple is not in. They're asking Apple to do something they don't do, which is create forensics tools. I think that might be Apple's defense. I do want to say one thing, though, and I think it's really important to say this. I come from a point of view, perhaps foolish, of assuming everybody in this is acting in the best interests of the American people and of our security. I don't think the people involved in this are malicious actors. I think we can disagree about what is the best way to go, and I think one of the reasons Tim Cook wrote this public post is he wanted this discussion to happen. He wanted people like you, Ben to say OK. I understand why you want this, but you have to really understand the consequences of a golden key and it's so far reaching, this is the most important argument to make to the FBI, hurts our long-term national interest and our long-term national security. If you can make that argument successful to Congress, to the FBI, and law enforcement in general, I believe like you, Ed, I know many people in law enforcement. There are people in the department of justice who listen to this show on a regular basis and I think it's really important that we not come to the point of view that they're malicious actors. No. They're acting in what they believe is our best interest, and it's important to have this conversation so that everybody understands the full consequences.

Ed: That is something that unfortunately in the initial rush to judgment on this, there is an unfortunate assumption from Silicon Valley that the motives of the Government are evil. Just plain evil!

Leo: That's what I want to separate out. There's an anti-government streak. Look, I understand, and I don't even disagree with it, but that's not where the conversation needs to go. That's a political conversation. Once you start saying, "I don't trust the Government anyway, they should never have this ability," you have lost your moral standing to have this discussion. I think Ben's argument is much stronger.

Ben: I agree. We're all in the same boat here. This is why this is a political fight. Being an idealogue about this is not going to help. You might win a battle, but you're going to lose the war. That's a great reminder, Leo. It's something to bring up. One thing I do think that the end, actually I would use an example, I think this post was very good. He's had a couple really good posts. I'd be wary of, for example, I would back the FBI, which should this post, "Oh no. We don't want to make a forensic tool." The guy is already dead. His defense lawyer is not going to make... this is why it comes down...

Leo: It's broader reaching than just this case.

Ben: Well, it’s about precedent. It’s about once the FBI, it’s in the FBI’s interests to make this as narrow as possible. So, for example, they’re making it, that’s why Apple can do it in their labs and they can make it for this one phone. And Apple can make this for one phone. The issue of course is that Apple can easily make it for another phone once it’s done. And so the FBI is going to keep this as narrow as possible, and frankly just as an observer and a former recovering constitutional law student, this is a very nice case because it is so clear cut. It comes down to a matter of principle and of this interpretation of the All Writs Act. And I would, I see, oh it’s kind of cliché that says we have to go to the Supreme Court. The reality is that the vast majority of cases don’t go to the Supreme Court. It’s a very few number of cases per year. But this one is so clear cut and it’s so clearly a matter of like there are arguments to be made on both sides that I think it will and it’s going to be fascinating to watch it unfold for sure.

Leo: All right. We’ve spent an hour on it. An hour we needed to spend and I think really, really informing and valuable discussion. So thank you. Anything, Christina, you want a final word too?

Christina: No, I mean well that’s been said. I think this will go to the Supreme Court. I think this is much bigger though than just this case. And I think that’s why there are so many opinions on both sides and why it’s such a difficult conversation to have because it’s not just about this one phone. It’s about a lot more. And what that means down the line, we’ll see. It will be interesting to see Apple’s response on Friday. That’s going to be the next big thing.

Leo: And I have no doubt that right now in Cupertino, there are similar conversations going back and forth about what is the best course.

Ben: Well there is one more angle, too. I mean first off this was the 5C which these restrictions can be overcome by updating the operating system basically. The operating system enforces the 10 passcode limit. This would be significantly more difficult on the 5S and on in because the 10 limit and the delay between tries is enforced by the secure enclave. The Secure enclave is basically a separate computer within the iPhone. It’s its own silicon, it’s its own software. And Apple’s contention on background has been that well, yes but the same technique could apply, which basically means Apple could update the secure enclave to overcome this sort of thing. I think what’s going to be interesting from my perspective is not, it’s too late for next year but maybe the year after that is the counting, this 10 password counting or the delay at least. Probably the delay would be the more likely thing. Is that going to be etched into the silicon? So basically Apple’s going to be like, “Well the only way to overcome this—“

Leo: Can’t change this. Sorry.

Ben: Yea, we have to build a custom chip for you.

Leo: Sorry.

Ben: So now if you’re on reasonable burden—

Leo: That’s a good idea (laughing). That’s kind of what the TPM and Palladium was all about was hardware based security.

Christina: And if you don’t think they’re already thinking about those things, I’m sure that they are. And they’re also thinking about what things they can throw on the software side.

Leo: But there are many in this country that would see that as treasonous. That Apple is acting in every moment to undermine law enforcement in this country. There’s quite a few people who would say that.

Ben: Right and that’s why I think they’re making a security arc.

Christina: That’s what makes this case so interesting. I mean that’s why this is the ultimate, the last thing I would kind of say is I think has been interesting about the last week is that it has been kind of this ultimate PR battle. Because you have Apple obviously fighting their side. They haven’t even filed a response yet but they have filed their letter and they’ve had calls to people on background. And you have the FBI and the Department of Justice who are going full blast on their side. And at this point even though it’s ostensibly not a political case, the entire way this is being handled on both sides is as political as you can get and it’s already getting very, very ugly. And I think it’s only going to get uglier.

Leo: Let’s take a break. We’re going to come back with more. Ed Bott is here from ZDNet. Great to have you, Mr. B. My old buddy, old friend. Also joining us, Christina Warren, my new friend. I’ve only known her for 5 years from And my newest friend of all, Ben Thompson out of Stratechery who, man we just love getting you on. Thank you for joining us this early hour in Taiwan.

Ben: Happy to be here.

Leo: Show brought to you today by If you are selling on line, there’s an ugly word: fulfillment (Laughing) that you know all about right now. That’s why I want to tell you about, the easiest, bestest way to manage and ship all your orders in one place. With you can import customer orders right from the website, from EBay, from Amazon, from Etsy. In fact from more than 50 popular marketplaces and shopping carts. Then you’ll easily create shipping labels for all the top carriers. Not just the postal service, but UPS and FedEx. You do get a free US Postal Service account that gives you access to deeply discounted postal service shipping rates. The same rates that in the past only the biggest companies, the Fortune 500 used to get. You get it. Now they’re yours. This really turns your personal, small business into a fabulous big business. Or at least it looks that way and that’s nice. It’s no wonder is the number one choice of online sellers. And incredible 98% customer satisfaction rating. We want you to try it right now free for 30 days. In fact, you know what? Let’s double that. Let’s make it a 60 day trial but only when you use the offer code TWiT, all right? How about that? Now here’s what you do. You see in the upper right there? Heard about our ad? Click that microphone at the top of the homepage. Welcome podcast or streaming listener. Enter your offer code and get a free 30 day trial and free bonus month. And that offer code my friend is T-W-I-T. solves your fulfillment woes. Do it today. we thank you for your support.

Ben: I did find the tweet I referred to earlier which was Josh Centers. He said, “Trump has picked fights with the world’s three largest religions: Roman Catholicism, Islam and Apple.”

Leo: (Laughing) Oh, it’s true. I should find, just for entertainment’s sake, here’s the video of Donald Trump, who by the way, I think after this result in South Carolina we have to start taking seriously. You can’t just say, this guy is probably going to be the Republican nominee very likely.

Donald Trump: So I like the idea of you boycott Apple until such time as they give that information. I think that’s a great idea. Ok, yes.

Leo: That’s the Donald. Actually I think he wants to more than boycott Apple. I think he wants Apple to bring all of its manufacturing back to the United States, which would put it out of business. So that’s a good idea. It’s only the most successful company in the United States right now. Why not? Speaking of Apple, good news—

Ben: It’s interesting because I think the Apple manufacturing in China thing is, it’s a great example of how sound bites can voice kind of like thought, real understanding. Well first off—

Leo: By the way, there is a huge appeal to just saying stuff like that. Because you go, “Yea.” And that’s it. It’s just visceral. I mean the devil’s in the details. How do you build a wall? How do you ban Muslims? How do you do any of this? Doesn’t matter. Because it makes you feel good.

Ben: That’s why it’s on, you know I think it’s on us and this goes with this debate too. We can actually, you can say, you want to say this is about security? Fine, let’s talk about security. And actually Apple is in the right here even if you think there is no right to privacy. Even if you think that is all a bunch of BS. Like fine, I’ll win on security arguments.

Leo: Let’s have that conversation.

Ben: Right. And I mean, the Apple manufacturing point is the value add to an iPhone is dramatically in favor in the United States. The China value add is quite small, approximately a couple dollars per device.

Leo: What’s done here in the states by programmers and engineers and designers is 90, what is it, 90% of the iPhone’s value? It’s a huge amount.

Ben: It’s not that much but if you go through the amount of value add to the iPhone, China is relatively low on the list. I mean the United States is by far and away number one. I believe South Korea’s number two. Taiwan’s I think—Japan’s number 3, Taiwan’s number 4. I think Japan might be 5th or 6th, or China might be 5th or 6th. But I mean it’s the entire point where being, there’s an effort to leaving people where they are. And that’s a complicated issue to understand. People don’t live and breathe this like we do. And I’m just concerned about people being so ideological and it’s understandable why people believe that unequivocally Apple should do this. We got attacked. Its terrorism, etcetera, etcetera. But I think it’s an opportunity to win this war not just in this case but for the long run which would be a tremendous benefit to technology broadly, and to the United States.

Leo: This is why, you know, if you were a politician, Ben, you’d have to say, “We’re doing this for the children, for future generations.” Just a tip next time you’re running for political office.

Ben: I’ll keep that, I’ll keep that in mind.

Leo: It’s for the kids. Apple has admitted that oops Error 53 was an error. We didn’t mean to do that. And that’s kind of what I thought but we didn’t, weren’t sure because Apple wasn’t being very communicative. What of course happened, and we’ve talked about this story. We talked about this last week was that if you had a 3rd party fix your screen, it didn’t even have to be the fingerprint reader, but just fix your screen, it would break the relationship between the fingerprint reader and the secure enclave. Of course that’s a security flaw and if at that point you updated your phone, you’d brick it with the dreaded Error 53. Apple said, “We never intended that to happen.” They released an update to iOS9.2.1 that if you have an Error 53 phone they will fix it. I’m not sure how you would apply that. I guess you’d have to plug it into iTunes.

Ben: That’s not quite right, Leo. This was absolutely about the home button, not about the screen. Sometimes the connector would be removed in the process of replacing the screen and that was enough. And actually I think Apple was speaking very carefully here. Of course they intended to do this. And actually this update does not restore the fingerprint sensor.

Leo: Right. You will no longer have Touch ID. It doesn’t have to be a 3rd party. My point was that it doesn’t have to be a 3rd party for Touch ID.

Ben: Apple’s error was in not having text that explained what was happening instead of displaying Error 53.

Ed: Well no, the error was error.

Ben: No, the entire point of the fingerprint sensor, the fingerprint sensor being tied into the secure enclave is the fact that the operating system should not be able to interfere with that chain and that’s why it’s interesting, it has an interesting tie in.

Leo: It’s part of the overall security. That’s right.

Ben: Exactly. And that’s why even though it’s updated here—there’s 2 things going on here. One it’s updated and they’re not restoring fingerprint functionality because that defeats the—

Leo: But at least restoring the functionality of the telephone.

Ben: Right, exactly. And that’s what they would have intended.

Leo: And I presume at that point you could bring it into the Apple Store and they would repair the secure enclave for the fingerprint reader providing—

Ben: They can’t repair. They have to replace.

Leo: They have to replace, ok. Go ahead—

Ed: They have to replace the entire phone. But the problem here is that they bricked the phone instead of just disabling the Touch ID capability and saying—

Leo: Right. Which incidentally is what Samsung would do. Samsung has the same issue with Knox. It would make Knox no longer functioning. You would no longer have access to Samsung Pay. It wouldn’t brick the phone. But I think, I credit Apple saying, “We didn’t mean to do that. We’re sorry. That wasn’t the intent.” Do you not think that is the case, Ed?

Ed: No, no, no, I do think that’s the case. I do think it was a mistake.

Leo: Apple says, “We apologize for an inconvenience. This was designed to be a factory test and was not intended to effect customers. Customers who paid for an out of warranty replacement of their device based on this issue should contact Apple Care about a reimbursement.”

Ben: Right. But I mean again, the point was the way the error was handled. It wasn’t the throwing of the error.

Leo: Yes, no, and they should have an error. Absolutely. There should be a warning. “Look, you may have a compromised device. We don’t know what’s going to happen now.” You could have a Trojan on there. We don’t know.

Ben: Right it’s just that you don’t have a compromised device. Fingerprint reading has been disabled. You bring it to Apple. And yea, but then again, are you sure it didn’t break the phone?

Leo: Well—

Christina: I don’t think it’s bricked.

Ben: This is why this whole issue is complicated. The fact of the matter is this could be a vector to attack the security of a phone. Like we’ve already established that with the On Disk Encryption, the disk cannot be attacked directly. By far the most effective way to attack the disk is to attack the passcode.

Leo: Right.

Ben: And this is, the fingerprint reader is a way around attacking the passcode because that’s what the fingerprint reader does. I mean the entire point here, I just found it fascinating how this is just a great example of how binary and problematic this entire issue is because I’m not totally certain that bricking a phone when you replace the fingerprint reader, if you actually do care about security is the worst thing in the world. It’s a bad thing from a customer service perspective and from the way people experience—

Leo: I don’t care that much about security, I want to use my gosh darn phone. I don’t want to buy a new phone.

Ben: Exactly, exactly.

Ed: That’s the case that should—look, this is the law of unattended consequences. An update to the operating system is what bricked the phones that had been repaired months or a year earlier. No, this was just sloppy software engineering and not testing because Apple employees don’t have to take their phones, their personal phones to a 3rd party point. So they didn’t test this scenario because they didn’t think it was going to be a thing.

Leo: But even more so there’s a phycology, “Hey if you’re taking a 3rd party repair, people, all bets are off.” There’s the phycology of why would you—

Ed: What if there is no Apple Store?

Leo: Right. Like the reporter for The Guardian that discovered this. He was in Macedonia.

Christina: Right, that’s the point. Right, if you’re in the Balkans and you need your phone fixed, you need your phone fixed. I think that it’s perfectly acceptable and reasonable to say that most users should understand that if you want your phone to work the way that it should and should be under warranty you need to go to an Apple Store and pay their prices, as inflated as they may be. But the fact remains that if your phone, if you’ve got an issue with it and you need a working phone for whatever reason and you can’t send it off to them and there’s not a store there, repairing your phone shouldn’t brick it with a software update. I think that what they’re doing now does make sense. I mean, Ben, you make a good point. There could be a potential security vector here but I mean if you’re shutting off everything associated with the secure enclave which is what you would hope is being done and basically letting that not be accessible anymore and the only way it could be, you could basically get Apple Pay back is to get a brand new phone, I think that’s a fair trade-off. But I don’t think it’s fair if you’re getting your phone fixed and like Ed said, you get an update, everything has been working fine and all of a sudden your phone’s bricked, that you’ve got something that’s completely useless. At least deprecate it be equal to an iPhone 5C, don’t make the whole thing useless.

Leo: Here’s another—ok, I’m not going to do all Apple today. We’ve got a lot of stuff from Mobile World Congress that has nothing to do with Apple. But I kind of like this story because I saw it. Local news, Channel 5 News here in San Francisco reported on mystery noises, it’s my friend Mike Sugarman as a matter of fact, coming from a secret Apple facility in Sunnyvale.

Christina: Cars?

Mike Sugarman: -- a driverless car and testing it in here. They certainly don’t want anybody to know what’s going on. They’ve got fences like this one up all over the place. Now building the driverless car, that’s no big deal. That’s legal.

Leo: But in the middle of the night, neighbors hear clanging, banging, trucks pull up at all hours of the day to make deliveries. And it’s a neighborhood, it’s not an industrial area. So neighbors have been complaining about the noise from this (laughing). Now, who knows what’s really going on in there. For all we know they’re building a secret fingerprint reader. I don’t know.

Christina: (Laughing) I just loved that San Francisco has basically turned into the TMZ for tech.

Leo: It is. It is.

Christina: Like you’ve got the paparazzi out there with high range cameras and microphones to pick up every little thing. That’s fantastic.

Leo: They talked to the Sunnyvale city hall and they said, “We didn’t know this was going on until we saw your report on TV.” So they have, apparently they have, and this is funny, Mike tries to knock on the door. They have a permit to build cars here. So they actually did apply for a permit to build cars in this facility ages ago I guess. And maybe they’ve been doing it all this time.

Ed: Eh, they’re just doing some body work.

Leo: They’re doing a little body work.

Ed: A little fender, a couple dings and dents were taken out here.

Leo: It’s Tim’s car. We’ve got to fix it. Who knows what’s really going on there.

Ed: Steve would have wanted it that way.

Leo: Yea, yea. All right, let’s talk about Barcelona. The Mobile World Congress starts tomorrow. We actually have Father Robert Ballecer there and a team covering it. But of course today both LG and Samsung had events to show off new phones. Let’s start with the LG G5 because that chronologically was the first. Nice looking new phone. It’s pretty much kind of a reinvention of what was always a good phone but never got much play. The G4 is a great phone. The G5 now has a pop-out modular chunk on the bottom that will allow you to change batteries or even add more battery and kind of a camera button on the thing. See, there it is. It’s popping out of the bottom if you’re watching the video. This has been tried before by other companies. I haven’t seen a modular phone in sometime though. What do you think?

Ed: I love LG’s phones. I have a G4 and a V10.

Leo: Did you get the V10? That’s the camera back by the way.

Ed: Yea.

Leo: What do you think of the V10? That’s a lot bigger, isn’t it?

Ed: It is considerably bigger. It’s like a 5.—

Leo: 6 inch, isn’t it?

Ed: Yea, pretty close to 6 inches. Although it’s not as tall as an iPhone 6 Plus or 6S Plus. It’s not as tall because it doesn’t have the button, it doesn’t have to have the home button on the bottom. The button is on the back.

Leo: And they abandoned that which I find interesting. They replaced that with a fingerprint reader, kind of a Nexus 6P fingerprint reader on the back.

Ed: Well the V10, this is the button and the fingerprint reader are the same on the back. Although it doesn’t work about half the time. It’s a security feature.

Leo: They’re going to the same one that they made for the 5X. I think LG made the Nexus 5X, right? They’re going to that same—

Christina: They did. They did.

Leo: And it works really well on the 6P. In fact it’s kind of the natural way to pick up the phone and unlock it all in one swoop and I think it works quite well. It’s going to be the Samsung, I’m sorry, the Qualcomm SnapDragon 820, 4GBs of RAM, 16 MP camera on the front and it’s got two cameras, not on the front, on the back, and it’s got a 2nd 8 MP camera with 135 degree angle, a wide angle on the back. So not sure how those will work together or maybe they won’t. Maybe you’ll just use whatever one you want to use. But in a way it’s kind of like having a zoom.

Christina: Yea, that’s similar to what the rumors are that Apple might be doing for the iPhone 7.

Leo: They are going to do a duel camera according to the rumor mill, yea.

Christina: Right and so it’s kind of a similar thing. I think this modular thing is interesting. Although I’m always skeptical of anything modular because I like the idea in theory and I think that it’s cool that you can swap out something for another battery or you could add another accessory or you could do other stuff. I think that’s interesting. But if I’m being totally honest it’s one of those things that I feel like, ok, you invested a lot of money into R&D and into development of this. And almost no one is going to use this.

Leo: But they need to, don’t they need a differentiator? This is the hardest thing when you’re making an Android phone.

Christina: They do need a differentiator but I guess my point is this still feels like a gimmick for gimmick’s sake that no one who actually buys the phone is actually also going to be buying the accessories. Because that just, it’s cool but it seems like one of those things that is going to appeal to a very small amount of people. Like you might by the thing thinking, “Yea, I’ll buy the accessories and swap stuff out.” But do you really want to travel or go around with having the different accessories in your pocket? No. I mean that’s—

Leo: I do like a replaceable battery. I’m glad they brought that back.

Ben: The reality is there is a small amount, the market for high end Android is a small amount of people. I mean the market dynamics of the smartphone market are such that Apple has a hold on it and that hold is slowly but steadily increasing. And the sort of people who remain are the people who, actually I think do tend to value flexibility and modularity and that’s the reason they like Android, why they go pay $600 dollars for a high end Android phone, or $500 dollars. And for that market, and this is actually why I wrote last year that I thought the S6 by Samsung was a really poor decision. Like you’ll remember last year, Samsung focused on we’re going to have design and we’re going to have all in one. They removed the memory card and that sort of stuff. And there was, oh is Samsung back? Are they going to make the thing? And actually the S6 was a big disappointment. And the reason I think was obvious. The reason is because the sort of people who were the market for a high end Android phone value those kinds of things. That’s why they like Android in the first place.

Leo: How does Android sell in Taiwan? Do you see a lot of Android phones there?

Ben: There’s a fair number.

Leo: Mostly the iPhone though?

Ben: No, in any country the iPhone is not the majority.

Leo: It’s the US here where you see most of the iPhones for sure.

Ben: Well the US is very dominant and Japan also. And you’ll see especially in first year Chinese cities, there’s iPhones everywhere.

Leo: Because it’s a status symbol.

Ben: Right. When you talk about selling the entire ecosystem, the ecosystem isn’t just apps. It’s not just the hardware. It’s not just the status. It’s not just those things. It’s all that sort of stuff. And the Apple proposition here is very strong. Again, where the vast majority of Android sales are, are at the lower end of the market. So I think we’re talking about a specific niche which is high end Android. And for the high end Android market, which again, these are people who could afford an iPhone but they choose not to buy an iPhone. And why would they not buy an iPhone? Well, probably because they value the things that Android brings to the table and if you think about what they value from a software perspective, it seems natural to assume that would extend to the hardware side as well. Which again is why I think Samsung made a mistake with the S6. I think the evidence bore that out that it wasn’t received as well as they hoped. And with the S7 which you haven’t talked about yet, but they’re adding back in—

Leo: SD cards are back, baby.

Christina: Right, that’s how they brought it back.

Ben: Well that’s why I like this LG sort of thing. I think it’s an understanding of what the high end Android market values. And I think it’s a very interesting move in it.

Leo: One of the modules you’ll be able to add is a Hi-Fi module, a 32 bit DAC, an amplifier unit from Bang & Olufsen. They’ll probably sell a few thousand of those (laughing).

Christina: I don’t know if they will though. That’s the thing. A few thousand, Neil Young couldn’t sell a few thousand polo players, you think LGs going to sell a few thousand on top of this phone that’s already going after a niche market? I mean I love the phone and I like a lot of the ideas, I just genuinely don’t think that most people who would even buy this phone accepting for the reasons that Ben lays out, are still going to want to buy accessories to carry around with them. I mean that—

Leo: I can see buying the camera thing. Now it adds a big bump but it also bumps the batter from 2800 to 4000 milliamp hours. That’s a significant sized battery for a phone like this.

Christina: But it won’t fit in your pocket.

Leo: Yea, and then suddenly you have this bug bump with a camera button.

Christina: See that’s what I’m saying. At a certain point it still needs to be a phone. And I think that everybody who’s tried this modular step it ends up not really working that well. I mean it didn’t even work that well with laptops and that was back in the late 90s, early 2000s and that was when it was cool to actually have like bays in your laptop. Like I loved that on my PowerBook, my Pismo, like that was the greatest thing ever. But that was still one of those things that you didn’t really see regular people doing. So even if you accept that it’s going to be a high, you know just a small percentage of people will buy this and they like these features, I still don’t see, I mean you have to carry it around. But I like the phone.

Ben: I think I know this answer, Christina, but what phone do you use?

Leo: Well, we know what she uses.

Christina: I have an iPhone. But I mean if—

Ben: Right. The whole point is, and so that’s my biggest point as well.

Leo: So you’re the one wrong judge, is that what you’re saying, Ben?

Ben: Well I am but—

Leo: She’s not a tweaker?

Christina: But I am a tweaker I just wouldn’t want to carry stuff around with me with my phone. I mean I appreciate being able to, for an Android phone I still wouldn’t buy this.

Leo: I always buy, I always used to buy second batteries or third batteries and a charger for my Samsung Notes because I loved the idea of having an extra battery in my pocket. And that was a great thing. I liked that.

Christina: I’m not criticizing the battery, because I think that’s smart. It’s more like getting these other like modules that I don’t think will sell and I frankly don’t think they’ll make as many of them as they claim they’re going to, because I don’t think there’s going to be an audience for them.

Leo: How about this? They’ve also announced a VR headset that is bucking the trend a little bit. Now the new LG G5 is a Type-C connector. I’m happy to hear that. And of course Type-C, USB-C if it’s true 3.1 has a lot of throughput and I guess it is because their new VR headset does not hold the phone as Samsung’s does. But in fact just has a Type-C cable that goes down to your phone and it’s got its own built in displays, dual 960 x 720 displays. It will have support from YouTube 360 and Cardboard so it’s kind of Cardboard focused. I don’t know. What do you think? Those who wore it at Mobile World Conference today said they felt it was nice and comfortable and lightweight compared to what Samsung’s been doing. Nothing to say. Moving on. Eh (laughing). I’m getting an Oculus Rift. Are you getting an Oculus Rift, Ed?

Ed: No.

Leo: Are you going to get a Vive? That’s apparently now also announced for what is it, $700 or $800 dollars? Very expensive.

Christina: We don’t even know. Yea.

Leo: The HTC Vive, HTC announced it will be available later this year. That’s the one that’s partnered with Steam.

Ed: You know, Ben raised the point about the market segment response. There’s a high end Android segment. I’m a member of that segment so I look at things a certain way. I do not understand what side of some gaming applications, some line of business type stuff that might, the classic one is real estate for virtual tours but I’m not sure that there is any other business scenario for virtual reality beyond things like that. And then you know, a few tens of thousands of people in Silicon Valley, I’m not sure who else is going to spend the money on these VR headsets.

Leo: Gamers. Gamers for sure.

Ed: That was the first thing I mentioned. Gamers of course.

Leo: They do spend a lot of money.

Ed: Well fine but they are also a niche market. They pay for high end video cards and high end sound cards and they’re the ones still buying desktop PCs with modifications and fans and water cooling systems and all that crap. But there’s not a lot of them either to Christina’s point.

Ben: Well there’s not a lot of them relative to smartphones. I mean the gaming market remains massive. The gaming industry makes more revenue than the movie industry. It’s a very large market and I do think that’s the focus. And that’s why I’m a little more skeptical of these phone solutions. I mean the advantage of the phone, especially this is why the LG one doesn’t make as much sense to me, the advantage of the Samsung is that you’re actually using your phone. Now you’re kind of duplicating the cost which I think that it’s not surprising that VR is starting with gaming because to Ed’s point, these are people who have a demonstrated willingness to pay.

Leo: You know what, if you like how technology has advanced, you can thank a gamer because it was after all for many years only gamers who were pushing processors and graphics cards to get better and better and better.

Christina: Without a doubt.

Leo: That’s who was spending money on that stuff.

Christina: And that will be the case with VR too. It will eventually go other ways and we keep seeing them trying to get into more of the consumer oriented spaces, you know, the Samsung VR and this LG headset. But the software’s going to have to get there too. And I think that right now most of the VR software developers I’ve talked to are more focused on the high end stuff and more of the gaming things. So it will trickle down but it will take some time.

Leo: Let’s take a break because I do want to talk about Samsung’s Galaxy announcements. There were quite a few and Samsung might have made a little tactical error at their event as well. We’ll talk about that. Our guests today, Christina Warren, Film Girl from Mashable, we love having you on the show. Thank you for being here. From beautiful, somewhere in New Mexico, Ed Bott from ZDNet (laughing). You can tell by the knotty pine and the New Mexico flag behind him. And the ceiling fan, earlier we saw that. Is it hot there?

Ed: It’s been warm. The weather’s about to turn cold again but it’s been, it’s ridiculous. In Santa Fe here we’re having record temperatures.

Leo: It’s been a crazy winter.

Ed: It’s just insane.

Leo: Even in New York isn’t it?

Ed: It’s supposed to snow on Tuesday, so, you know.

Leo: What?

Ed: Yea.

Leo: Does it snow a lot in Santa Fe?

Ed: Yea, we’re up at 7,000, 8,000 feet.

Leo: Oh, ok.

Ed: It’s the southern tip of the Rocky Mountains here. Come and visit sometime.

Leo: And coming from his New Year’s celebrations in Taiwan, of course Ben Thompson of Stratechery. Was it a good Chinese New Year this year? Did you have fun?

Ben: It was. It was.

Leo: Go to the parade?

Ben: Well there’s not really—well I guess there’s always random kind of temple parades.

Leo: We get parades here. You know that’s the big thing in San Francisco is the parade. That was last night actually.

Ed: A little late.

Ben: A little late, yea.

Leo: Our show today brought to you by Gazelle. Perfect timing, all these new phones and devices coming out. Maybe it’s time to shed the old phone and certainly don’t want to throw it in a drawer where it’s just going to gather dust. You wouldn’t do that with a $100 dollar bill, would you? Go to At least find out what that old device is worth. Gazelle’s paying cash on the barrelhead for all sorts of old devices. Even broken iPhones or iPads. They’ll give you money for that. The nice thing is you’re getting a guaranteed quote that’s good for 30 days. So you’re locking them in for the next month. That gives you time to figure out what you want, get the new phone, transfer your data and then send it to Gazelle. They’ll pay the postage. They’ll send you a box, prepaid shipping and all of that. In fact get a bunch of old devices. Pile them in and get a check in the mail from or a PayPal credit or an Amazon gift card. Now once you’ve sold at Gazelle, now maybe—look at that. Can you believe a Galaxy Note 3 is worth $75 bucks? I mean that’s like ancient. That’s a good deal. Now once you’ve sold, maybe you want to talk about buying at Gazelle. A lot of times people don’t want to buy a brand new device for a kid or maybe it’s your 3rd phone this year because you keep breaking them or maybe you just want to save a little money. You can get new phones, pre-owned phones from Gazelle as well. New iPads, new iPhones, Galaxy phones as well. G-A-Z-E-L-L-E. They will help you finance them. They offer financing on all devices from Affirm. That’s really easy. You can do it right on the Gazelle page. You just give them some basic information, you’ll get approved instantly. You can pay it off in 3, 6 or 12 months through your bank account, through your check, your debit card. Just select financing with Affirm offer. A special 12 month warranties for cell phones and iPads. They cover everything. Water damage, cracked screens, hardware defects. This is through Assurant. So really Gazelle’s becoming even more a full service place to buy as well as sell. Help is available 24/7 if you need it to process claims, to return your device. Gazelle, I love them. Go there right now. Never extend your contracts, just buy a new phone at Of course they will work with all the major carriers. You just don’t owe them your life for the next two years. Give new life to used electronics. Trade them in for cash or buy certified pre-owned. Visit today. We had a great week this week talking about the Apple news and Mobile World Congress. If you missed anything, these are some of the highlights from this week on TWiT.

Narrator: Previously on TWiT.

Megan Marronne: Roger Anderson, you created this bot.

Roger Anderson: I get a lot of scammer telemarketers.

Male voice: What are you calling about again?

Megan: I’m calling about Smart Pants. Would you like to order some?

Male Voice: Oh, geez, hang on, there’s a bee. Hang on, there’s a bee on my arm.

Narrator: TWiT Live Specials.

Father Robert Ballecer: This is Developer Week in San Francisco. It’s a celebration of the people who like to build, who like to make, who like to create.

Male: In seconds, you can know precisely what’s in your water. Or we can check for corrosion, heavy metals.

Narrator: This Week in Google.

Leo: A judge has ruled that Apple must help the government unlock and decrypt and iPhone.

Jeff Jarvis: What is it they could want out of that phone? Anything that was done under phone calls, there’s a separate record from the phone company. I would just suggest you weigh carefully the balance here to say that this is a huge and important precedent for what end? The miscreants are dead.

Leo: The US Government has asked us for something we simply do not have and something we consider too dangerous to create. That’s an important phrase.

Jeff: That’s the key of it all.

Leo: We don’t have it but we could create it is how I’m reading it.

Narrator: TWiT for justice.

Leo: (Laughing) For justice! We have a big week ahead as a matter of fact. Fortunately we have Megan Morrone and Jason Howell, our TNT team. Jason, what’s ahead this week?

Jason Howell: Thanks a lot, Leo. Here is a look at some of the things we’re going to be keeping a close eye on in the upcoming week on Tech News Today. First of all, Apple vs. the FBI and the backdoor access to the iPhone will undoubtedly continue throughout the week. We’re going to be keeping tabs on that as that story progresses. Also, Mobile World Congress starts tomorrow officially. We’re going to be talking all about the many announcements including Samsung and LG’s product announcements for earlier this morning. We’re going to have Fr. Robert Ballecer there throughout the week with reports form the show in Barcelona. We’ll see if we can’t get him on and maybe get him to bring back some jamon with him when he comes back. And finally, HP and Salesforce have their earnings calls this Wednesday, February 24th. And you know what? News is always breaking. So Megan Morrone and I will do our part to break it all apart, every weekday at 4:00 PM Pacific on Tech News Today. And that’s a quick look at the week ahead. Back to you, Leo.

Leo: All right, thank you, Jason Howell, Tech News Today, every Monday through Friday at 4:00 PM Pacific, 7:00 PM Eastern here and of course as he said, the Apple topic will live forever. But it’s not the only news story. Mobile World Congress begins, well really it began in effect today after Samsung’s event. We did broadcast live coverage of Galaxy Unpacked 2016. You can watch it on our TWiT Live Specials channel. And there was quite a surprise. At one point after showing off the new phone, showing off a new camera, they asked the journalists in the giant hall to put on VR helmets and look who was in the middle of the stage. Low and behold, Mark Zuckerberg. He came out when everybody was looking at the video on their Gear VR. And apparently, chaos ensued. People rushed to the stage to take pictures. Nobody was listening to anything Mark was saying. It was just—because he’s like, as The Verge said, it’s like Justin Bieber just appeared out of nowhere. There were gasps, screams, people fainted. No, I’m exaggerating. But there was a lot of excitement. Mark was there obviously to show Facebook’s support. They own Oculus and Oculus uses Samsung’s technology in its Oculus Rift and of course the Oculus Technology label is on the Gear VR, those basically little holders for your smartphone that Samsung sells. Let’s talk about the Galaxy S7. See, you dissed the S7, I think it was Ben. Or the S6. I loved the S6. I thought it was one of the most beautiful phones I ever used. Functionally I have lots of problems as many Android phones do.

Ben: I didn’t dis the phone itself, I’m saying it was a bad fit for the market.

Leo: It didn’t sell well. But that could just be a reflection of how tough it could be to succeed in the high end when you’re competing against an iPhone, frankly.

Ben: No, the problem is that there is a perception. My contention is that the common perception is that the high end Android phones like the S6 previously and the LG and the other ones are competing against the iPhone for high end customers. And my contention is that competition is largely over. They are actually competing with each other for high end Android customers which is a distinct customer base from the iPhone. These are people who have had the opportunity over many years now to buy an iPhone. They choose not to. And my further contention is these people value their, what they value is different than your typical iPhone customer. So creating a product in the S6 that apes the iPhone in being a beautiful piece of engineering, a beautiful piece of hardware, everything all built in, you can’t upgrade, you can’t add memory cards, you can’t replace the battery. All this sort of stuff that Samsung was misunderstanding their competitive position. I wrote this when they announced it a year ago and I thought that the projections that, oh, now they have high design, they’re going to sell a lot of them, is actually, no they’re actually going to sell fewer. And that’s what turned out to be the case.

Leo: They say that they listened and they gave us more of what we wanted. As you pointed out, they put an SD card slot in. They also made it waterproof which notably the S6 was not. I don’t know how big a part, how important that is. I guess people drop their phones in toilets a lot. But this is very much a design forward phone. It’s not as if they abandoned it. In fact, they’ve gone metal. It’s black onyx and gold platinum. And also in the Edge, silver titanium. They’ve gone big. The S7 Edge is, what is it, 5.5”and the S7 itself is 5.1”. They’re I think quite stunning. In fact I can’t wait to get my hands on the new S7 Edge. They have also added an interesting feature. A lower pixel count camera. They’ve gone from 16 to 12 mega pixels and just like HTC before them and others they say, “Well, no, bigger pixels are better.” I think Google said this with the 6P. Bigger pixels are going to gather more light.

Ben: HTC went to 4 megapixels I think.

Leo: They went a little too far I think. They went to 5. They may have gone a little bit too far. They are using an interesting technology. I don’t know if it’s a Sony sensor. That’s one of the problems these companies have. They’re all using essentially the same Sony parts in their camera. This one is F1.7 which is extremely fast, much faster than the F2.2 iPhone 6S. And they are using some sort of technology that allows the pixels themselves to focus. Apple uses some pixels for focusing but Samsung they’re going to use all of the pixels. I don’t know what this means. It’s just gobbely-gook to me to focus. But they did say it will focus much faster. Also giant batteries. A 3000 milliamp hours are in the smaller S7 and a 5.5” S7 Edge, 3600 milliamp hours which is a lot of juice. That’s listening, too, isn’t it? That’s, I think that that’s responding to many Android users who say battery life needs to improve. Ed, which phone do you use? Do you use a Nexus?

Ed: No, I have the G4 and the V10.

Leo: Oh, that’s right. You said you like those.

Ed: Yea, I just switched to the V10. I had a Nexus 6P but it for whatever reason and I worked with Google Support on it for, you know, project 5 support team. And it would take 45 seconds to open a webpage on any Wi-Fi network I was on. And they sent me another one and it had the same problem. I found other people who had the same problem. So I couldn’t use it. I wanted to try the Nexus 6P but that’s kind of a deal breaker when a webpage takes 45 seconds to load. I went back to—you know, the G4 has been just a marvelous phone. It’s one of the best cameras I’ve ever had.

Leo: Compare then this G5 to the S7. Do you think you’ll stick with LG?

Ed: For now, yea. They’re making wonderful products. They’re really doing some very, very smart engineering. And I don’t see a lot of gimmickry in what they’re doing either.

Leo: Yea, yea. Samsung of course, the king of gimmickry.

Ed: Of gimmickry.

Ben: The challenge here is the order in which people make decisions. And I believe people first choose iPhone or something else. And then once they decide on something else, or they explicitly choose Android, then they decide do I want the Samsung or the LG or whatever. And the problem for all, for Samsung and LG and all these sorts of guys, is they can’t change that equation. They don’t have the control to change that. So all they can focus on is the hardware aspects of their devices. If customers made a decision, well, I’m going to treat all these as equivalents and then choose the best one. I mean this is nothing new. This is a replay of—you know I used to always chuckle when you would read reviews from like PC Magazine back in the day when the new Apple laptop. And at the end they do the compare and like well this compared to the ThinkPad to the Dell to the whatever. And it’s like, if someone is choosing an Apple laptop, they’re almost certainly not even considering the Windows laptops. Like it’s not, you’re setting up a false comparison. And obviously that was at a much smaller scale than what is going on with phones. But I think it still holds. I mean so it’s fun to talk about the Samsung features relative to an iPhone, but it’s a purely academic debate that I don’t think has much, that will really matter in the long run.

Leo: Although again, are they making the same mistake that you thought they made last year? Is there too much design and too little tweakability?

Ben: I have no problem with too much design. No, I mean obviously I’m for design.

Leo: For the Android market.

Ben: No, I don’t think, I’m not saying Android people want—

Leo: Ugly phones? No, we do, yea, absolutely, yea. Give me an ugly phone.

Ben: (Laughing) my entire point was by, they went so extreme with the S6. Like basically cutting out all accessibility and all ability to tweak I just think they—and I think they did it to take on the iPhone which I think was just a misunderstanding on where the market was.

Leo: No, and I welcome the return of the SD card slot. But I have to say, it really feels like a very fragmented market where essentially you decide I like this. And people are brand loyal. And don’t change a lot. I mean I think Ed’s going to stick with LG for some time to come. And not be tempted.

Ben: Right. The danger is losing what you have. And I think Samsung, that’s what happened with Samsung last year was they lost customers because they—and that’s the hidden cost of features and being tricky or clever or whatever you’ve characterized Samsung as being. And this is something I think Microsoft really had to learn. I remember it was, it’s way harder to take things away and unwrap thing than it is to add them in the first place.

Leo: Yes.

Ben: And that’s something that Samsung learned last year.

Leo: The power of no.

Ed: There was an extra, there was a double whammy for Samsung which was Apple introducing large phone finally. So there were a lot of people who were buying Samsung’s or some other fairly large, you know, Droid, Motorola, whatever, a fairly large phone because the Apple phones were just too small. The iPhone 5, especially if you’re of a certain age and your eyes aren’t, you know, you don’t have the vision of a red tailed hawk anymore, an iPhone 5 was not an option. The larger screen was much easier on an older demographic. And there’s plenty of people in an older demographic who are still willing to spend money on it. But once Apple got in there with the 6 Plus and the 6S Plus, all of a sudden, oops, that didn’t become the critical differentiator anymore. Oh, there’s now an iPhone that’s big enough for me? Fine I can switch back.

Leo: I would say Samsung’s new plan is to really create an Apple-like ecosystem with lock-in. And it’s very clear, you know watches, they’re really not doing the Android Wear anymore it’s Tizen.

Christina: It’s Tizen, yea.

Leo: And their VR helmet only works with Galaxy. In fact if you preorder a Galaxy S7 when it goes on pre-order in 2 days you get the VR and 6 games for free. That’s very interesting.

Christina: That’s smart. It probably means they haven’t sold a lot of Gear VRs.

Leo: Quite a few of them lying around (laughing).

Christina: But that doesn’t mean that it’s not a great product. I mean frankly the Gear VR’s not a bad product and it’s certainly has more development use.

Leo: I may also herald a new marketing strategy which is get people to order it before the reviews come out.

Christina: (laughing) right. Although I mean people have had those phones now for about a week so we’ll see those reviews.

Leo: Oh, they have? Oh.

Christina: Yes, they have.

Leo: Oh, I didn’t know that.

Christina: I don’t know if I was supposed to say that or not but.

Leo: I’m not on that list as you might imagine, so.

Ed: That was a deep, dark secret. And nobody knows that all these reviews just spring up magically.

Leo: Well what you don’t know is when they are going to spring up. So now we know that they’re going to spring up pretty soon.

Christina: Yea I have no idea when they’re going to spring up. I just know that people have phones. But yea, I like what they’re kind of returning to Ben’s point kind of. You know, bringing back the water resistance which I think is smart. Bringing back the SD card slot. I always really liked the design. I thought that the camera on the S6 Edge was great last year.

Leo: Loved the camera. Loved the camera.

Christina: Loved the camera. I think that one of my favorite cameras actually of the year. And we did a big camera shoot out, Ray Wong of Mashable did. And in some, it basically was an even split between the Samsung and the iPhone 6S. And so, but yea, they’re kind of in this interesting place like you say, Leo, where they all kind of try to create this ecosystem. And they’re succeeding to some extent. But I think the problem has been they spent all this time on the custom Samsung software that just nobody’s using. Those apps and –

Leo: Well, you know Samsung Pay, 5 million people.

Christina: Well Samsung Pay, sure, but—

Leo: That’s a surprising success given the competition.

Christina: Well I wonder if the success there is because it also does the mag swipe stuff so I wonder if it’s more of that.

Leo: It’s the only one that does. Android Pay and Apple Pay both require touch.

Christina: Exactly. They’re taking advantage of the fact that it’s got the NFC, it’s got the mag swipe stuff so it can be used in more places. But even then, I haven’t seen a lot of people using Samsung Pay so we have figures to go by. But I more mean like their apps that their building. Like they’re own Notes app and they’re own—

Leo: Just stop doing that, please, Android manufacturers.

Ed: That was the problem with Windows PCs for so many years all of these hardware companies who thought that they could build a better Windows shell and shovel a bunch of utilities on there. And it was just crapware and you have crapware on mobile devices too. And people, I’m with you, Christina, and I don’t know anybody who’s using those Samsung apps, but I don’t know why they’re putting the effort into trying to maintain that proprietary ecosystem.

Leo: By the way, they killed Milk Music, right? They killed some of the Milk stuff. Which by the way, very poorly named.

Christina: Very poorly named.

Leo: Not just poorly named here but in Asia, Milk is not a common commodity, is it? I think people don’t drink milk in Asia, so.

Ben: No, it’s pretty rare and the rate of lactose intolerance is higher as well.

Leo: It’s very high. So it’s a bizarre choice from a Korean company for the name. It isn’t as if we’re seeing the market leaders in a fight to the finish. There’s a clear market leader in all this and it’s Apple. And then it’s kind of almost a battle for the scraps at this point.

Christina: Well I think that there’s two battles. There’s the battle on the high end which obviously you have what we’ve seen from Apple and Samsung.

Leo: Apple doesn’t care about low end, right, so that’s their game.

Christina: No they don’t, but that’s where the scrap battle is and that’s where you have your Huaweis and your Alcatels and your Xiaomis and you’re insert company of the week here. And then you have the side stories like the Nextbit Robin or the phones that will never sell any substantive amount of devices but are interesting and will get some interesting stories because they have some interesting game but will certainly never sell in large capacities. So, yea.

Ben: So I think that’s the point. There’s two markets. There’s the iPhone market and then there’s—I’d say there’s really 3 markets. There’s the iPhone market, there’s the high end Android market and then there’s the low end market. And the iPhone’s biggest competition is the iPhones that people already have. And when and if they decide to upgrade that. I do think Ed’s point about the screen size is a good one in that it’s almost the exception that proves the rule in that the one thing that people did care about more that guided their decision before the operating system was the size of the screen. And I think the evidence is that Apple added a ton of new to Apple customers with the new screen sizes. There’s actually not that much evidence that Apple—Apple certainly probably pulled forward some upgrades but I think if you look at the numbers carefully, they just brought in a huge wave of new customers for the iPhone 6 specifically. And yes, certainly that was the one kind of trump card that Samsung had for a long time. It’s a great point.

Leo: Both Samsung and LG announced 360 degree cameras. LG’s looks a lot like the Ricoh Theta S which I’ve been using. In fact both of them are consumer oriented I think with dual cameras and a very wide fisheye lens on each. And those are able to then stitch together into stills or 360 degree immersive video. The Samsung looks interesting because it looks like it can do live streaming. In fact what Samsung was kind of pushing at the event was the idea that your friends can be in Paris at the Eifel Tower, you could be at home wearing a Gear VR, of course Samsung product, with your Samsun Galaxy S7 phone. They’re in Paris with their Galaxy S7 phone and the Samsung Gear 360 Camera and you are immersed in what they’re doing in real time. That’s what it looked like. I might have been reading more into I than I should have.

Ed: This is an episode of Portlandia.

Leo: (Laughing).

Ed: This actually was the plot of an episode 3 weeks ago. Literally they decided not to go to the music festival, they would just put on the VR headsets instead on the couch and send their drone to the festival and then they could just watch the thing. But the drone hit a biker and the biker came to their house and beat the—it’s a great episode.

Leo: (Laughing) I love Portlandia. I’m glad it’s back. Well, there you go. You’re going to be living in an episode of Portlandia soon. Samsung has yet to announce a Samsung Drone however. That may be in it’s near future.

Christina: Yea, that’s true. I just want to make one comment.

Leo: This is the show. These are the kids playing soccer in Barcelona they showed this. And you can look around and be right in the action until a soccer ball hits you as it will in a moment.

Christina: Right. Or hits the camera. The camera itself looks exactly like the Logitech Webcams which is—

Leo: Doesn’t it? It’s a ball cam, yea.

Christina: It’s a little ball on a little stand.

Leo: I don’t think that’s an accident. I think they wanted it to be consumer-y and friendly.

Christina: No, I agree it’s just funny to just look at them. You’re like oh my God, this really, genuinely looks like something that we had 20 years ago. But now it’s a 3D rather than a webcam which is interesting.

Leo: It isn’t exactly super high res, it’s not quite 4K. It’s 30 frames per second. The stills are pretty high quality. The stills are 3840 x 1920. I’m sorry, is that video? No, that’s video. So we’ll see. Although John Carmack tweeted that you shouldn’t go any higher than 3840 x 1920 at 30 frames per second because the Gear VR just can’t handle it. That was last year. Maybe it’s different this year. Anyway, I think that that’s a big market. I’m very excited. I have a Ricoh Theta S and I used it on my last trip. It was really fun. I feel like 360 video is a very exciting thing. And that’s by the way why Mark Zuckerberg was on stage to say, “Yes, Facebook will support this. We believe in this, in the immersive video.” So not a surprise. All right, we’re way behind so I’m going to get to another ad because I want to get you out of here before, again, before the Academy Awards next week.

Christina: (Laughing).

Ed: (Laughing).

Leo: Oh, my God. Who’s your odds on favorite for Best Picture, Christina?

Christina: I think that it’s going to be—

Leo: I know what you’re going to say. The Bear.

Christina: No, I think it’s going to be The Big Short actually.

Leo: Really? Ok.

Christina: I mean if it were me I would probably go with Spotlight. And I would—

Leo: See, I thought Spotlight was boring.

Christina: I thought it was great. I think The Revenant was a great film. I think that’s going to win Best Director and Leo’s finally going to get his Oscar, but based on, and see I’m bad at this because I base this on who’s won the awards so then you can kind of figure out how the voting blocks are going to go. And it looks like The Big Short is going to be the one that takes it.

Leo: Ok. Ok. That’s the one I haven’t seen, of course.

Christina: It’s good. It’s good.

Leo: Oh, I hear very good things about it.

Christina: Brie Larson without a doubt, Brie Larson’s totally winning Best Actress. Like that to me is without a doubt.

Leo: Oh, gosh, I thought that Vikander in The Danish Girl was so good. She’s Best Actress or Supporting? She’s Supporting.

Christina: Supporting. She’s Supporting. So Brie’s biggest competition would probably be, would have been against Charlotte Rampling from 45 Years but Charlotte kind of killed any momentum she would have had. But Brie has literally won that award from every other awards ceremony. So voting wise I think that she’s a lock for that. And she was great in Room. She was really fantastic in Room.

Leo: Is she the mother or the child?

Christina: The mother, the mother.

Leo: I’m watching that tonight.

Christina: She was fantastic.

Leo: In my quest to see every movie before I watch the Oscars.

Christina: It’s a really good film.

Leo: I liked The Danish Girl a lot. It was very touching. But I think Leo’s going to beat—

Christina: I think she’s going to get Best Supporting Actress. Yea, I would have, in December I probably would have thought maybe Rooney Mara because I thought that Carol had a lot more heat than it ended up kind of having at awards season, but I think that Alicia Vikander is going to win it for The Danish Girl.

Leo: She’s so good. So good.

Christina: She’s so good.

Leo: What a moving story that is. And it’s really a love story which I thought was very interesting. It was not what I expected. And of course Eddie Redmayne who won the Oscar last year for his portrayal of Steven Hawking does it again. But I don’t think he’s, getting mauled by a bear trumps everything.

Christina: Well and I think that it’s also kind of a weird, almost—I mean sometimes you see The Oscars be awarded not just for the film in question but for a pass body quota. And in this case I actually think that his performance in The Revenant was fantastic. But I think that Leo has probably deserved Oscars in the past times he’s been nominated. He’s been so good in the past. So I think it’s kind of like it’s finally his time.

Leo: And The Revenant is a grueling movie by the way.

Christina: It is. It is.

Leo: It is horrific.

Christina: And when you see everything he did to his body and put through that, that’s one of those performances that the Academy likes to kind of reward because they’re really, truly going there. So I think Leo is finally going to get his Oscar.

Leo: We’re talking not about me by the way, but Leonardo DiCaprio. My Oscar is long off I’m sure. Our show today brought to you by Audio books are the greatest things since movies. In fact I always think of an audio book as a movie in your mind. Truth is, sometimes I think I’ve seen the movie when I haven’t. I’ve just listened to the book and it was, it came to life. I don’t care how much money they pour into a science fiction movie, there’s no way those sets, that action, are going to be as good as what you can see in your head when you listen to these books. I love science fiction on Audible. I’m listening right now to Neil Stephenson’s latest Seveneves which is really a hard science fiction book, almost like The Martian. Same kind of idea which is you’re faced with really a remarkably difficult problem and you use science to solve it. I’m sure he was inspired by The Martian. By the way, The Martian, also nominated for Best Picture. Best audiobook ever. You’ve got to listen to that. Here’s the deal. I’m going to get you 2 books. You can listen to both of them if you want. Go to, that’s TWiT and the number 2. You’ll be signing up for the Platinum Plan. That’s 2 books a month. That’s my plan. And by the way I love it. The 22nd is my renewal date so I look forward every month. Like in 2 days I’m going to be able to get 2 more books. There’s a wish list you can add books to so you if you hear us recommend something and you’re already a subscriber add them to your wish list. If you’re not, this is your big chance. Get 2 books free. You’ll also get the daily digest of the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times. You can cancel any time in the first 30 days. You’ll pay nothing, but as always with Audible those books are yours to keep. Oh, The Help. What a great movie. But you know what? The book is even better. And the Audible version of The Help is a dramatization that just comes to life. I am a huge Audible fan. I know you know that. I don’t know why you haven’t tried it in the past. When you’re in your car, when you’re at work, when you’re on the treadmill, when you’re walking the dog, doing the dishes, there’s nothing like having a book. And if you have an Amazon Echo, man, I get home, the first thing I do is I say, “Echo, read to me.” And it will pick up where I left off and read my book and that is awesome. we’ll get you 2 free books right now. How could we have buried the lead, Ed Bott? HP’s Elite X3 Windows Phone.

Ed: (Laughing) It actually looks like a very nice device.

Leo: It uses this continuum thing which—

Ed: For focus?

Leo: Yea, the idea that you can plug the phone into a keyboard, mouse and monitor and now it’s your desktop.

Ed: Yea. I am skeptical of the demand for that feature.

Leo: As am I. But Microsoft really seems to think it’s important (laughing).

Ed: Well, the way that this plays out if you think into the future, this is always about skating to where the puck is going to be.

Leo: Yes.

Ed: Right? So imagine a future when we no longer need—I mean how many phone calls do you make on your phone anymore?

Leo: Lots of people don’t. I don’t know why we still call them phones.

Ed: A smartphone is just a computer in your pocket so if you take, if you assume that the computer functions of it are in the long run going to be more important and that the communications aspect of it will shift into the computer part of it and that the apps can be web-ified, then you have, then that’s where the puck is a couple years from now.

Leo: I wish they had put this phone out 2 years ago. This thing is a beast. 6”, Quad HD, Snapdragon 820 with 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, support for micro SD up to 2TB. There’s an iris scanner. That’s the Window’s Hello on the front. There’s a fingerprint sensor on the back. And it’s a huge battery. 4150 milliamp hours. This thing is a monster.

Christina: But no apps.

Leo: But its Windows phone. Exactly.

Christina: It’s Windows Phone and I mean there are no Windows Phone app. Even the continuum stuff, where are the Windows apps? Because your X86 stuff isn’t working with this, so.

Leo: Well the puck hasn’t got there yet. They’re skating. Is the puck ever going to get there?

Christina: I don’t think the pick is ever going to get there. I don’t think it will. I think we’ve kind of gone with this mobile app ecosystem. The whole day of like HTML 5 is going to save up from mobile apps thing, that thing turned out to be false. I really like what they’re trying to do with it. I agree with that. I think it’s a really good idea. I personally don’t think this is going to sell any and I don’t think the demand is going to be that great. I think HPs best bet with this will be to bundle it when they are trying to like say to their corporate customers. “Hey, take a fleet of phones too.” But I mean HP hardly has the best success record with phones.

Leo: Man, if this—so what’s missing for me is my banking apps, Sonos.

Christina: Uber.

Leo: Uber.

Ed: Now Uber for Windows Phone exists.

Leo: Ok. Is it from Uber?

Ed: It’s from Uber, yes, yes. Made it.

Leo: Instagram’s there now, right?

Christina: Yea, but it’s the beta version they released 3 years ago that hasn’t been updated.

Leo: That’s the problem. They don’t keep these up to date either.

Ed: Well, no. No company is going to develop, is going to invest tertiary resources into a platform with only one or two percent market share. The future here for a company like HP is to replace, these becomes terminals. These become virtual desktops.

Leo: Yea. It’s an Enterprise play as you said.

Ed: It’s an Enterprise play and most tech journalists who are covering this don’t understand the Enterprise at all.

Leo: No.

Ed: They look at this as a pure app store play and it makes no sense. But you know, there are scenarios where this could be a good business. There’s no scenario where it couples Android or the iPhone from one and two positions.

Leo: That’s why we have Mary Jo Foley on Windows Weekly because I neither know nor care about Enterprise computing. She talks and I don’t understand what she’s saying anyway. It all sounds like badoop Azure badoop (laughing).

Ed: There’s a tremendous amount of money there.

Leo: I know. I’m ignorant.

Ed: A tremendous amount of value created for the world economy so if we’re going to talk about the value that Apple brings to the American economy with its mobile infrastructure, we really should talk about the value that the boring Enterprise.

Leo: It’s so boring though.

Ed: Well, yea, ok. Money’s boring.

Leo: Money’s not boring when you have it in your pocket.

Ed: If you actually look at that, yes, is that a new phone in your pocket or are you just being boring, Leo?

Christina: (laughing).

Leo: (Laughing) It’s so much more fun to talk about consumer stuff. And your point is very well taken and I don’t deny it. We never did an Enterprise show for a long time because I couldn’t find anybody to talk about Enterprise because it was boring.

Ed: And the people who were actually doing the work in the Enterprise space are, you know, they’re too busy (laughing).

Christina: It’s true.

Leo: They don’t want to talk to me.

Ed: There’s so much work to do right now in that space.

Leo: By the way, I don’t know if you use the Surface Book or a Surface Pro 4. I’m guessing you do. But that firmware update for me on my Surface Book fixed it.

Ed: Yea. I have a Surface Pro 4 and yes it’s—in fact I’m over here, there, just logged me in.

Leo: Yea, the Hello works better now. I don’t have the hot bag problem where you close it but it stays on and uses battery until it’s dead.

Ed: It’s ice cold.

Leo: It’s ice cold. It’s ice cold, baby. Ice, Ice Surface Pro.

Ed: So this is an interesting thing for me because I has this Surface Pro 4 was not, it was functional. It did its job. But I had to, I had to go in and change the power settings to force it to hibernate. You know, close the lid, hibernate. It only takes like 12, 10 seconds maybe at most to wake up. Which is not that much but it’s annoying. But at least it did its primary function which it worked as a laptop computer. The Nexus 6P that I had did not do its primary function which is to work as a handheld computing device. So I sent that one back and I gambled that they would come up with the driver fix for this one that fixed it. And they seem to have done that.

Leo: I did too. I was waiting. They hadn’t shipped it. They said they were going to ship it on the 16th, they ended up shipping on the 18th. But if they hadn’t shipped it by now, I probably would be turning that laptop back in. But now it’s one of my favorite laptops.

Ed: It’s a very nice machine.

Leo: It’s fantastic to play with.

Ben: The sort of ironic thing about Ed’s point, Microsoft certainly makes, particularly makes a lot of money off Enterprise and you would have been better off investing in Microsoft as of a couple years ago than Apple for example. Basically in part because they remembered that’s how they make money. And frankly—

Leo: Right. Because they were seduced by the gadget side too.

Ben: Among the many mistakes made with the Windows Phone, I think by far the biggest was the fact that it wasn’t hooked into Enterprise from day one. In fact, a Windows Phone was significantly inferior to the iPhone when it came to Enterprise features for many years.

Christina: It was inferior to Windows Mobile in Enterprise features. I mean like it—

Ben: Right, well Windows Mobile was Enterprise first.

Christina: Right.

Ben: Because they were the only ones buying iPhones at the time and then they kind of rebooted and they swung all the way to the other side. And I think in many respects there’s lots of ways to talk about what Satya Nadella has done at Microsoft and I’ve been a big fan. But I think maybe the—if you want to really bring it down to a nutshell it’s kind of remembering what Microsoft was good at and refocusing the company on that. And the way that it’s played out, you know folks on Azure and folks on the cloud generally is the tactics of that but at a high level position I think it’s been a real narrowing of what, of Microsoft’s ambition. And that can be a really good thing. I mean focus is something that matters. And kudos to him for that.

Leo: You got to say though that Mark Rylance in Bridge of Spies was pretty amazing. I don’t know if he’s going to win but I really loved his performance in that. I’m sorry. Were you talking about Enterprise?

Christina: (Laughing).

Ben: (Laughing).

Leo: I got distracted. But don’t you agree? I’m sorry.

Ben: You know I was waiting for you to call me on the Windows Phone thing. I was going to feign being asleep. So I have sympathy for the joke and I’m glad I didn’t do it.

Leo: (Laughing) Fine, I’ll take the heat. I’ll take the heat. So Hollywood Presbyterian hospital. Wow. Sad story here. Their computer systems were down for more than a week. They were hit by ransomware. I don’t think it was targeted at the hospital. I don’t think this was a spear fishing thing. I think it was just a net, they got caught in a net and unfortunately, they didn’t have email, they didn’t have access to patient data. They were admitting patients on paper with pens. They were using, horrors, fax machines and telephones to get work done. Finally they gave up and they paid the ransom which paid out to be 40 Bitcoins. That’s all.

Ed: $17,000 dollars right?

Leo: Yea, that’s all. But you know what? I had been there I would have counseled them not to because so many times we’ve heard of people paying the ransom and not getting the key. Or getting a key that didn’t work. But apparently it did.

Ed: Well for $17,000 dollars, it does work.

Leo: It was worth a try.

Ed: And then you at least know—because you’re IT staff will burn though that in about 30 minutes when you’re trying to recover from this. But there’s, you know, we’re back to the Enterprise again and now all of a sudden you have an interesting Enterprise story, don’t you? Because—

Leo: Why are you running a hospital that’s vulnerable to this is question number one.

Ed: There were some pretty big mistakes being made.

Leo: Yea. If your X-Ray machine is on the public internet, you’re not doing it right.

Christina: No, I mean, I seriously hope that every person on that IT team, like every job is vetted. I mean honestly I don’t want anybody to lose their jobs but at the same time it doesn’t sound like these people were doing them that well. Like what are you doing?

Leo: It’s not hard I don’t think. It’s not hard to put a fairly nice little—we have it here. A little security appliance in between you and the outside world that’s stops things like ransomware from infiltrating.

Ed: Well or that mitigates the amount of damage.

Leo: Well a good back up would have mitigated the damage, right?

Ed: A good, a properly architected back up system that takes into account the existence of ransomware in the world. And a network infrastructure that does not allow ransomware to spread from PC to PC would help also.

Leo: Right. They had none of that.

Ed: Apparently not.

Leo: Now on the other hand, Linux Mint. There’s an operating system that’s got to be, you know, these guys know their—no, uh huh. So apparently, I didn’t realize this, the Linux Mint website runs on WordPress, problem number one. As you know, with self-hosted WordPress you’ve got to keep on those patches. They must have missed a patch because a bad guy on the 20th got into the Mint website and repointed the downloads to their own server in Bulgaria where they were offering a nicely modified ISO of Linux Mint that had a nice backdoor Trojan in there. The good news is because they encourage you, and I use Linux Mint and I love it, because they encourage you to run against the MD5 to validate the ISO, it was noticed pretty quickly. I doubt, they think not very many people downloaded it.

Ed: Two days. Two full days. In fact they discovered it on day one and they made the announcement, “Ok, we’ve fixed this now and everything’s fine.” And several people in the comments section said, “No, you didn’t fix it.”

Christina: It’s actually not fixed, dude.

Leo: And then they went, “Oh.”

Ed: Yea, it’s still down. And then they took the website completely offline and you know, but this is, can I do a shruggy here?

Leo: Yea. The Tsunami Botnet Malware was loaded into the disk image. So if you downloaded the Linux Mint you have to be version 17.3, the Cinnamon Edition. That’s the desktop that it was on.

Ed: On the 20th or the 21st.

Leo: On the 20th or the 21st, that’s our time.

Ed: Until just earlier today, yea, like 12 hours ago.

Leo: Don’t use it. Erase it.

Ben: The other thing too, it’s just like the Presbyterian Hospital thing. If there’s, it’s become a cliché to blame WordPress but one, I’d like to know how up to date, as you know, the WordPress installation was, and two, what plugins they had installed and whether they were vetted. Because that’s actually the mast majority, the vast majority is out of date plugins are most WordPress exploits. But then three, what was their web server architecture that getting in through WordPress gave them access to all this other stuff.

Christina: Yea, I would say probably say it wasn’t WordPress. I think that that, I mean, unless they were running a really outdated version because that’s had automatic updates for a while and had gotten a lot better, it probably was something on their server side where they were—

Ben: Well, no, it probably was a WordPress plugin is what I would bet. But the whole point is that should be isolated from where you’re hosting all this other stuff anyway.

Christina: Right. That’s what I mean.

Leo: It shouldn’t be that easy to change the link to the download to a server in Bulgaria.

Ed: This is why the year of desktop Linux is still. Next year—

Ben: It’s why it’s not fair or it’s incorrect to be cavalier about security. It’s like, oh, the government will keep the Secure Key safe or this forensic tool will not be leaked. I mean it’s a reminder I mean all this stuff is related. Security is incredibly challenging on the internet and it’s why encryption matters and why encryption is important. And all these stories in many respects are related.

Leo: And the FBI did an interesting thing. Of course they were trying to capture child pornographers. They seized The Playpen which was apparently a popular child porn site on the dark web. And kept it running. That’s a little suspect right there, in order to catch more suspects. They used malware to crack the Tor Browser that people, it was on the dark web so it was an onion site so they’re using malware to get into it. And on Wednesday the judge ruled that defense lawyers in the FBI case must be provided with all the code used to hack the client’s computers. When asked whether the code would include the exploit used to bypass the security features of the Tor Browser, the public defender told Motherboard, “everything. The declaration from our code expert was quite specific and comprehensive, and the order encompassed everything he identified.” So we may learn how the FDI pursued this, the malware that they were using. They apparently infected as many as 1,000 computers.

Ben: This is a case of the (?) argument playing out in real life. Like defense lawyers do have a right to this.

Leo: They’re going to get the code.

Ben: Right, exactly.

Leo: For all we know, they’re going to publish it online.

Ben: Well it will be under a court order. They will be under a court order to keep it—if it happened it would be finding under contempt of court. But I mean the reality is—

Leo: He might keep it on a USB key that he leaves at the airport by accident. You don’t know.

Christina: I would just say, court documents that are sealed and information gets leaked all the time. So, that’s kind of the thing.

Leo: 137 people have been charged. So it was a very successful sting. Computers in Greece, Chile, the UK, Chile and the UK. Let’s take a break. A couple more stories and we’re going to let you guys go because the Academy Awards are coming up. But you got to say, I mean Mark, I loved Mark Rylance and I thought he was so good in Bridge of Spies as the spy, Able. Our show today brought to you by—you’re not taking my bait—the show today brought to you by GoToMeeting, the powerfully simple way to meet with coworkers and clients using your computer, your smartphone or your tablet. I love GoToMeeting because it just makes a meeting more interesting. Nobody likes meetings. And nowadays with everybody distributed all over the world, it’s harder and harder to have a meeting and yet meetings are the most effective way to cut through the confusion to get down to work, to brainstorm. You’ve just got to do it. If you’re presenting to a client, you want to meet with them. You want to make the client want to meet with you, too. It can’t be a chore for them and that’s why I love GoToMeeting. It’s easy for you but it’s easy for them also. You can go to GoToMeeting right now and try it free for 30 days. You’ll be up and running in minutes, literally before the show’s over. Certainly before the Academy Awards start. I know, I’m confusing the hell out of people by saying that. And your clients, it’s the same thing. You just send them a link in the email, they click the link. If they don’t have the software, it downloads. Seconds later they’re in the meeting. You know what? They’re going to be pretty impressed because now they’re seeing your screen and more than that, they’re seeing you with that HD quality picture. It’s like you’re in the same room. Share screens to present, to review, get feedback in real time. I’ve used it to collaborate. It’s so real time I was able to rehearse a speech that I was giving with other presenters in real time on GoToMeeting. It was awesome. With my slides and everything. GoToMeeting, try it free right now. All you have to do is go to the website,, there’s a big fat old orange try it free button. You click that button. You’ll be meeting in minutes. Don’t take my word for it. Try it. Big victory for the Electronic Frontier Foundation on late Friday. This is relatively breaking news. They were challenging the NSA’s internet telephone surveillance. The case was Jewell versus the NSA. The EFF was authorized on behalf of the plaintiffs to conduct a discovery against the NSA. They’ve been trying to do this since the case was filed in 2008. For 8 years the government’s been blocking them. For the first time ever, the EFF now will have access to what the NSA is up to, what tools they are using. This is huge. The government was unable to prevail in court. So the door is open for discovery. And I’ll be very interested in what the EFF finds out. The EFF is suing the NSA and other government agencies on behalf of AT&T customers. This is exactly what you were talking about earlier, Ben, the secret room in the San Francisco AT&T headquarters were controlled by the NSA. Which we learned about because of whistle blowers like you. So please, come forward and tell us what you know. You probably don’t like this story so much, Ed, The Verge story. How schools around the country are turning dead Microsoft PCs into speedy Chromebooks. Although this is a good use of a dead Windows machine. These are 8 to 10 year old Dell desktops and laptops. I mean these are not—what are you going to do with these?

Christina: You can run Windows 7 on it. But, yea, you’re right.

Leo: No, I think a Chromebook is a better idea. And you know what’s good about Chromebooks? You can’t run Minecraft on them. And that’s what you need in a middle school and high school, right?

Christina: That’s true. You don’t want the kids playing games all day. But they have their phones anyway, so I really don’t think it matters.

Leo: Yea, you’re screwed.

Christina: They have their phones anyway so they’re playing Minecraft Mobile, Pocket Edition. And they’re texting. So they’re not paying attention anyway.

Leo: Damn those kids (laughing). Damn them. I love John Markoff’s article last Sunday in the New York Times. We didn’t speak about it on the show last week but I encourage you to check it out. He’s talking about how IBM came out with a good voice for Watson, the computer that played Jeopardy. And of course now is doing all sorts of things. Like you’ve seen the ads of Watson talking to people, to everybody from Bob Dylan to athletes. And he has clips. I guess Markoff has written a book about computer speech synthesis which I think would be a fascinating read. Let me play some of these samples, because you probably heard Watson. These are examples that they use from Jeopardy. This is the voice they ended up using on TV.

Alex Trebek: -- recreation area in San Francisco.

Watson: What is Alcatraz?

Alex: Right.

Watson: National Sites for $2,000.

Leo: That’s him. This is Trebek.

Alex: This state’s only national memorial honors clergyman Roger Williams. Jennifer.

Watson: What is Rhode Island?

Alex: That’s it.

Leo: Jennifer? Really?

Christina: It’s a little deep.

Leo: What is Rhone Island? This is the fun one. IBM researchers explored voices that have various levels of expressiveness and intonation. This was designed to sound childlike but was rejected when evaluators said it sounded creepy.

Alex: -- as part of the Golden Gate Recreation area in San Francisco.

Watson: What is Alcatraz?

Alex: Right.

Leo: (Laughing). I can’t believe they even considered.

Watson: What is Rhode Island.

Leo: Yes. I’m here to kill you (laughing). Anyway, a great article. I really recommend it and Markoff does a great job. I can’t wait to read the book. Just looking at the bottom of the, you know the stuff that sank to the bottom of the list. Anything else we want to talk about? I think that’s it. I think that’s it. Are you doing something special for the Oscars, Christina, next week?

Christina: Well my husband’s birthday is on Saturday.

Leo: Damn him.

Christina: And his mom is coming into town so I’m not sure. We might be having some sort of, I might be doing a going to a bar or something for Oscar Night. I don’t know. I might end up being with family because of his birthday.

Leo: You’ll Tweet it though? You will be Tweeting?

Christina: Of course. Obviously.

Leo: Please.

Christina: Look, I’ve been live blogging the Oscars so long, I mean I think you can go back more than a decade and find my own terminal from like high school and see stuff.

Leo: The Oscars are what Twitter was made for.

Christina: It really is.

Leo: In my opinion. Well, good, we’ll look forward to that and of course all your writing at

Christina: Thank you so much.

Leo: It’s always a pleasure. You can follow her on the Twitter. If you want to follow those Oscar tweets, @film_girl.

Christina: Yes.

Leo: Mister Ben Thompson from Stratechery. He offers every week a free article. And this week of course it was the article about the Apple FBI or DOJ story.

Ben: I actually wrote about Zenefits which we didn’t talk about.

Leo: Oh, man, what a story there, huh? What the hell? So Zenefits was a high flyer, three years old, right? Not very old. The idea in fact we even considered using them. The idea is you replace your old benefits system which you might be doing, your old HR system, payroll, with this fancy, super-duper automatic software, great dashboard, easy to use, saves you money. It seemed like, you know, a modern way to handle HR. Turns out, maybe not so modern. A lot of it was done by humans who made a lot of mistakes behind the scenes. They have an extremely aggressive sales force. And one of the things they were doing, of course in order to sell you know, the software, this medical insurance software you had t be certified by the state, and there was a fairly—what was it, 52 hour course you had to take. So hey, no problem. They wrote software that would let the computer think you were watching while you were sleeping. I think they got in a little bit of trouble for that.

Ed: Did anyone call it Zenron?

Leo: (Laughing) They’re not out of business. They fired the CEO. They brought in a new CEO who’s pledged to fix everything. They got rid of the sales guy that was maybe overly aggressive. What is your take on this, Ben?

Ben: Well I mean they brought in a new CEO who was the COO who mysteriously didn’t know anything that was going on.

Leo: I knew nothing. I know nothing.

Ben: They’ve fallen very short of their revenue projections, so there’s really a lot of pressure going on. What I wrote about was the angle, there’s been, there was sort of a lot of think businesses that came out along those lines. Silicon Valley needs to get its act together. The bad boy routine, etcetera, etcetera, and they were comparing Zenefits to Uber. And my contention was that this current situation was very different than Uber wanted and so the point of the article was kind of exploring why. Like when does it make sense to challenge regulation? When does it not make sense? And in this case the regulation was unambiguous. No one was benefitting from challenging it other than Zenefits. There’s no consumer benefit. There’s no recourse. Like Uber gets people to protest and write to their legislative officials, things like that.

Leo: They were banned in Utah.

Ben: Right, actually that was the angle I took was I think that the Zenefits Utah case was much more like Uber. And there it made sense to challenge it. Whereas this was just pure cutting corners, and where there was a benefit you can argue, it wasn’t worth the risk. It was just poor business judgement. And so that was the point of my piece. I do have a daily update which is subscribers only but I had one about Apple I made for you. Which I then did update.

Leo: And this one’s from Monday, the Zenefits article.

Ben: Yea, so they’re both there.

Leo: I subscribe. So I can’t tell what’s free or not because I love it. And you should all subscribe. It’s well worth it. It keeps Ben in fried ride and gaibow and his family—

Ben: And then Exponent FM is my own podcast.

Leo: Oh, yea, tell me again?


Leo: Must listen to, yea. Really appreciate all the work you do and I’m so glad we can get you on here when we can. Thank you, Ben. We appreciate it. Thank you also to Ed Bott who writes for ZDNet on a regular basis. Thank you for that take down of that—and I have to say, I kind of was one of the people suckered by Jesus Crust but as you say, Mr. Crust made some fundamental errors in what he was assuming was Windows 10 phoning home. It wasn’t phoning home. It was phoning a toredo server, for crying out loud.

Ed: Oh that was such a—

Leo: I fell for it.

Ed: There’s a word for that.

Leo: Jesus Crust.

Ed: Jesus Crust. Well yea.

Leo: By the way, he disappeared, didn’t he? He said, “I’m sorry.”

Ed: He deleted his account.

Leo: (laughing) He’s like, “I don’t know anything.”

Ed: But you know, to me the issue was this was a story that was on Forbes.

Leo: That’s amazing, isn’t it?

Ed: He had 400 thousand people read this story. And it was crap. It was fact free, it was fact free crap. And there was a follow up story that was even worse. And so it was—and despite the author of that story thinking that I personally took delight in insulting him, I didn’t and in fact I went out of my way to focus on the facts in this story. There’s just so much fun. And I will have a follow up story coming this week on what actually is in Windows Telemetry and would be shocked—

Leo: Oh, I would love to know that, actually.

Ed: You’ll be shocked to learn how little there is there.

Leo: If you turn off all the phone home stuff. Because if you’re using Cortana—

Ed: One switch. One Switch.

Leo: Cortana needs to communicate with the server. You’re asking it to collect information and value. So you flip one switch and it shuts down.

Ed: Well, there are two different things. Telemetry data is the diagnostics data that Microsoft is using for its data driven design—

Leo: Microsoft wants the user experience or whatever they call it, yea.

Ed: Yea, right, yea. Diagtack is the name of the service.

Leo: Diagtrack, yea. That’s how they know for instance that nobody used Windows Media Center and the few people who launched it went, “What’s this?” and closed it right away (laughing).

Ed: Yes, 25% of 6% I believe was the figure there. But yea, they also, and that’s how they know that systems are crashing because of a defective video driver or power supply or something and they can fix it in a matter of days instead of waiting for the support lines to light up. So on balance it’s a good thing.

Leo: So I’ve got the headline for you. I turned off Windows Telemetry and you’ll be shocked at what happened next.

Ed: Thanks.

Leo: Ok? Just a little tip. Something I learned from BuzzFeed. Yep. Thank you, Ed. It was great to have you. Thank you, Christina. Thank you to our great friend, Ben. It’s great to have all three of you on a day where we had some really good stuff to talk about. And you did not fail. We thank you all for watching. I know it was a long show today, maybe one of the longest shows we’ve ever done. I appreciate your patience. I hope you got something out of it. We do the show every Sunday afternoon, 3:00 PM Pacific, 6:00 PM Eastern time, that’s 2300 UTC if you’re watching elsewhere in the world. Of course you don’t have to watch live. You don’t even have to watch the whole thing. You can subscribe, you can download it, you can listen to it over a period of days or weeks. In fact it may even be that the Academy Awards are starting in just a few minutes if you’re listening to this now (laughing). It could really be the case. But normally they’ll be on the 28th. Just that’s the normal time.

Ed: Say goodnight, Leo.

Leo: (Laughing) I’ve got to. I’ve got to say goodnight. It’s time! We thank you for joining us. We’ll see you next time. Another TWiT is in the can. Bye-bye.




All Transcripts posts