This Week in Tech 577
Leo Laporte: It's time for TWiT, This Week in Tech! Our second episode in the brand new East side studios! Harry McCracken the Technologizer joins us, along with Jason Snell from Six colors. We're going to talk about all sorts of stuff, including the new iPhone. It's on its way. They still haven't gotten any invitations though. We'll talk about Apple's fight with Spotify over music, Steve Woz's reaction to the loss of a headphone jack, and Google's AI. Facebook. Who's the winner? We'll find out next on This Week in Tech.
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Leo: This is TWiT, This Week in Tech, episode 577, recorded Sunday, August 28, 2016.
Vulnerable to Ninjas
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It's time for TWiT, This Week in Tech, the show where we cover the week's tech news with some of the best tech journalists in the biz. As always, we've got a great team. We're doing in studio again in our new studio, because we weren't sure if Skype would be working, but it works fine. So I think the next step is we'll have people from all around. Jason Snell, it's nice to have you.
Jason Snell: Happy to drive on up.
Leo: From Sixcolors.com.
Jason: Like what you did with the place!
Leo: Yeah, it's different. I like it. We got bricks behind you now! Every day there's something different. We put bricks in. Also with us, Harry McCracken, the Technologizer from Fastcompany.com. Good to see you.
Harry McCracken: We're working on the side.
Leo: Your side is unfinished. You have actual brick. We are... it's hard to believe it's only a week ago that we made the move. We've been only in here a week. Wow. We welcome you to This Week in Tech.
Spotify says, "Hey. We're not burying musicians when they make deals with Apple." That's what Bloomberg said. Bloomberg, did they get it wrong, or did they overstate the case? They said, according to their sources, Spotify in an escalating battle between Apple and Spotify is telling musicians who do an exclusive deal with Apple, "Guess What? We're not going to promote you. We're not going to... we're going to bury you." Spotify says that's not true, although they didn't deny the promotion thing. This is a continuing saga between Apple music and Spotify.
Jason: It's competition, I get it. I hate the zero sum aspect of content exclusivity, where nobody is reasonably going to subscribe to both Spotify and Apple music, which means you're always going to have things that are favorites of yours that are not going to be available. I hate that part of it. I wonder in parsing the Bloomberg story if that's what they were telling artists they were going to be sorry if they made deals with Apple and didn't actually do any retaliation, just wanted to scare them.
Leo: Drake gave Apple Music an exclusive. And Frank Ocean, that was another big one. Apparently Spotify said... that makes sense that Spotify threatened us, but did they actually do it? Spotify categorically denies it.
Harry: You would think it would be counter-productive for Spotify to suppress things in search results, though. If you're a user and you can't find the stuff people really care about, it's not going to make you look upon Spotify favorably.
Leo: So many stories in technology these days, I guess it has always been that way. The user is the one who gets screwed. It's not... the company is fighting. It's like dinosaurs fighting. Stay out of the way, because they're going to stomp on you as a user.
Jason: Whenever you have big companies that are trying to... they feel like they're in a death struggle with one another, it's inevitably, they're making decisions based on their battle and not what regular people want. It's a shame. You're a fan of one artist and they're on Apple, so you go to Apple. Then you're a fan of another artist, so you go to Spotify. You're not going to subscribe to both. Then you're making decisions, it's tough.
Leo: Music industry is really struggling. The risk for both companies is people say "Poo poo to both of you, and I'm going to download the stuff from BitTorrent."
Jason: Yeah. I feel like the subscription music service game is all about getting everybody hooked. I wrote a piece on MacWorld about this. After a year of being an Apple Music subscriber, I've calculated how much music I've added to my library that I didn't buy. I used to buy music, but I'm not really buying music now. It was about 2 or 300 dollars' worth. Every year it compounds, right? Every year there's another year's worth of music that you didn't buy. IF you were to ever quit and stop using a music subscription service, you would need to spend hundreds or more than a thousand dollars to get those tracks back in your personal library, so I think that's what phase we're in now. Get everybody hooked. Given how little artists seem to be getting compensated for this, and maybe even record companies, what's the next shoe to drop? Probably that they will start increasing the prices. Saying, "Now you need to pay $20 a month." What are you going to do? You'll lose all your music if you don't.
Leo: That would be bad.
Jason: They got us right where they want us.
Leo: You dominate the market by undercutting everybody else, once everybody else goes out of business, you can raise prices to whatever height you want.
Jason: Even if it's Apple and Google and Spotify and there's some competition there, if the music Industry says you need to cut us in for more, they're going to have to raise the prices anyway.
Leo: It's going to be Apple, Google, and Amazon. I don't know if Spotify has a shot at this. All three have businesses that will be supported by the music biz, right? Amazon is offering an aggressive price. $5 a month for music, but you can only listen on the Echo.
Jason: The story was they're thinking of doing that. That's smart. As somebody that has an Echo, I'm willing to Pay Amazon a little bit to add features to the Echo. That's what that is. It's not really Spotify, It's accessing that library on the Echo.
Leo: Right now you get Amazon Prime music, which is pathetic.
Harry: My Mom would pay five dollars a month.
Leo: My in laws, we gave them an Echo. They're happy, because they can listen to Elvis. Amazon Prime has the stuff they want to hear. It's the modern stuff that doesn't...
Harry: My Mom likes opera.
Leo: Speaking of which, either of you get an invitation to any Apple events in the next couple of weeks?
Jason: Not yet.
Leo: We'll get them in the next couple weeks, right?
Harry: Next couple weeks would be the logical time frame.
Leo: No. You'll get them Wednesday for an event, we all seem to converge on the date. September 7. That's the Wednesday after Memorial Day. Then the rumor mill was that September 9 for pre-order. That's the Friday following at midnight. That's how Apple does it. Further rumor is September 23, two weeks after that for the first... We stand by that? That sounds right? This is the pattern. Nobody says Apple has to do it the same way every year.
Jason: Sometimes they break their pattern. There have been reports that say that's the date. I think it's probably the day.
Leo: It would be a hideous mistake to buy an iPhone today. I like headphone jacks, not going to lie. Steve Gibson who does Security Now, he'll fall in love with a technology. He really liked a particular Blackberry. He thought if they ever stop making it, I'll be out of luck, so he froze them. He puts them in the freezer so they don't decay. I say sometime you should go through your freezer, Steve, and throw things you don't care about anymore, like a Blackberry. I think he had a Pilot in there for a while.
Harry: I do that with film for my Polaroid camera.
Jason: It's like people who were using first generation Tivo who discovered after 16 years, even if it works fine...
Leo: I did the wrong thing. I bought a life time subscription for two Tivos. Hideously expensive, almost as much as a Tivo itself. Then Tivo gets sold to Rovi. That's MacoVision.
Jason: They got all the patents too.
Leo: That's interesting.
Jason: That's why Tivo is dying. Tivo didn't use Rovie as its guide source, that was the first thing they changed. They didn't want to update the software on the original Teevo to support the new data.
Leo: So Rovi forced them into this.
Jason: This is the first step.
Leo: So that's what I'm paying a monthly fee for, is the program guide.
Jason: You're paying the lifetime fee instead.
Harry: Which is not really a lifetime.
Leo: Lifetime of the device. I hope the box will last ten more years, given it was expensive.
Harry: Which model was it?
Leo: I got the Romeo Pro. Top of the line... we all have Tivo. Tivo was the best, but now it's sold and I'm wondering what the hell is going to happen?
Jason: It's still the best if you want to pay more than your cable box. I think it is the best. Doesn't it pencil out after two years you make back?
Leo: The monthly is a lot. It's 16 or 20 dollars a month. I was just talking to someone who was a channel master for over the air Tivo. The Program guide is free, there's no monthly. I have to wonder if I've been suckered, but we go willingly because it's the best DVR. I have the Comcast X1. It's horrible. Comcast is selling it like it's the best thing ever. It's horrible. Not a fan. Anything to say about the new iPhone? Seven and Seven S? Plus?
Jason: Seven and Seven Plus is the rumor.
Leo: Same sizes? They even look the same. They don't change the body. Same cases.
Jason: Apparently the back is a little different in terms of the cutouts for the antennas. If you were blindfolded and holding it in your hand, you'd have to feel around for the headphone jack.
Leo: The six S, according to Mac rumors beats the Galaxy Note 7 in a speed test. I love the Note 7. I have the Note 7 somewhere. But I'm hearing more and more developers complain about the Note 7. They say No. Reviewer uses Samsung phones long enough to experience the inevitable degradation and speed that happens after a few months.
Harry: It's the real issue with phones. If you're lucky you have a week to review it. It seems fine. A few weeks afterwards it gets bogged down. It's like a Windows Machine. Stuff happens at a much more accelerated pace.
Leo: What about this issue with speed? I think part of the problem with Samsung devices is Samsung's UI that they put on top of it.
Harry: Which is not called Touch Whiz anymore. I think it's the Grace UI.
Leo: The Samsung is using an 820, a Qualcomm 820. The A9 and the iPhone. The Samsung has four gigs of ram, the A9 has two gigs of Ram. But according to... it's somewhat of a synthetic test.
Jason: I watched this video. It's a good video. When you look at this testing, he's launching apps and getting them to the starting point. He's not really running...
Leo: Not doing what you and I would do.
Jason: What his test does do is it launches a bunch of fairly large intense apps. Then he presses the home button and launches another one. He does this twice. the idea there is you're measuring IO a little bit, and a little bit of processor. A lot of memory. How long does it take to get to the screen and then you move back...
Leo: Four gigs of ram would beat two gigs of ram.
Jason: That's what ends up happening, is that's where the iPhone pulls ahead. It keeps all that stuff in memory, so that when he goes back and circles back for a second lap, all of those things load in immediately. The Samsung is still having to re-launch them. This tells us definitively if all you ever do is launch apps and close them.
Leo: 14 apps. The Galaxy Note 7 launched fourteen apps in a minute and twenty one seconds. That was the iPhone. The Note 7 took two minutes and four seconds. If you launch a lot of apps sequentially, I guess this would be real world, but it's not. What does it tell us? Tells us they handle memory better?
Harry: it says something about Memory management.
Leo: And IO. Disc speed.
Harry: I've reviewed the iPad Pro. I opened browser tabs until it started to reload. My sense is that Apple is better at memory management because it doesn't have the most available RAM compared to Android. Android phone makers throw more memory at their devices which theoretically makes them more robust but doesn't always.
Leo: It's also a measure of the control of the platform. Apple exerts tighter control on its developers, and as a result maybe can be more predictable. The environment can be more predictable.
Jason: It's a limited number of phone models with a limited number of hardware sets. Which means they're optimizing for the specific... even if you count every iPhone model and every iPhone skew, they're all using a small number of processors, and they know what the RAM is. On Android it's much more complicated.
Leo: Do you think that Arm being sold will make a difference to Apple? I'm seeing stronger rumors that Apple is going to move the desktop line, the laptops to Arm.
Jason: People have been talking about it a long time, but they would have to get something out of it. You get some battery life, but you're losing compatibility, and you're not going to get a speed boost. They got a speed boost when they went to Intel. Going to Arm, it's probably not going to be faster, it'll be slower. John Gruber linked to a story a year ago that suggested what if what Apple did-- what if Apple uses Intel to build its next generation of A chips for IOS. And then what if Apple used AMD to build a compatible Apple design chip for the Mac. These are fun conspiracy theories. I don't know. You can't say Apple would never do it, because this is the kind of stuff that Apple undoubtedly has investigated, whether they would actually do it, I don't know.
Harry: Intel making all the Apple chips makes more sense intuitively than moving the Mac.
Leo: You also get samsung out of the game, which you'd love to do.
Harry: Apple and Intel have worked together for a really long time. They are in different lines of business.
Leo: Intel desperately needs to get mobile.
Jason: The Intel of five years ago would not make an arm chip for apple. The Intel of today would be happy to get that business.
Leo: We live in interesting times. iFixit has pinpointed what they say is a design defect in the iPhone six pluses. Those are the bendy. The torque, not that it's going to buckle the phone, but the torque in the back pocket is enough to clobber the touch sensing chips on the phone. I haven't seen a lot of this, but apparently it's not uncommon to get a gray bar at the top of your iPhone and for the touch sensor to be less sensitive to miss touches. That is a symptom that eventually degrades because of the torque on... there's that gray bar, if you're looking at the video. It's not immediately obvious, but there's a flickering bar, and the evidence is that if you press it, it will fix it temporarily but inevitably gets worse. There are a lot of third party repair shops which are re-soldering the touch chips on this daughter board. What's happening is the flexing is breaking the solder beads underneath the chip and causing it to be unreliably connected to the daughter board. Re soldering it fixes it. You have to do micro-soldering. Apple won't do it. They just give you a new phone.
Jason: If you're in warranty you take it back to Apple and they're like this is something wrong here, we'll fix it. The six plus shipped two years ago, so unless you got extended Apple Care it is out of warranty. This seems to be the big question mark. If this is really a design flaw in that phone, Apple should probably make good on replacements for everybody who has this problem. That's the question. How many people have this problem? Are they taking it to Apple? Is Apple aware of it? What's their policy? Do they refuse or do they quietly swap phones? I don't know. If this is a fundamental flaw in the way that phone was built, they should do right by those customers, even if those phones are out of warranty.
Leo: This always happens, and this is an unfortunate thing Apple does, but one of the third party repair guys posted on the Apple forums a paragraph explaining that if you're experiencing these problems, if you're under warranty get Apple to fix it, if you're out of warranty, there may be a fix. It's an extremely common issue in the six and six plus. Here's the fix. If you look at the post later, edited by host: they delete that whole thing about how you can fix it at a third party repair shop. Apple's policy is don't use third party repair ever. On the other hand, if Apple's not going to fix it, I don't see why you shouldn't use a third party repair shop. You understand you're taking it fully out of warranty.
Jason: You can go to an Apple store and pay for an out of warranty replacement. Which is more expensive than an in warranty...
Leo: Do they replace the logic board, or do they replace the whole phone?
Jason: I don't know. It would be a good question to ask...
Leo: They don't do the re-solder. Pretty typical.
Jason: I never heard of anybody with this problem, but now that somebody wrote about it, there is certainly some set of people... and the problem with a device that's sold so many units, even the iPhone six plus, what's the percentage failure here? Is it 1 hundredth of one percent, or is it one percent?
Leo: Either is significant when you sell a hundred million phones.
Jason: Is it a thousand people effected or twenty thousand people effected? We don't know.
Leo: By the way, great article from iFixit, former sponsor. We love iFixit. Julia Bluff has been on the show, she wrote the article. She talked to a micro-soldering specialist. By the way, I say it wrong. I know. All our British fans say, "Leo it's soldering."
Jason: Not in the United States, sorry.
Leo: We probably sound stupid saying solder. There's an L in there.
Jason: It's rich for the British to complain about not pronouncing letters. Come on.
Leo: How do you say Worcestershire? They gave us that. It's your legacy. Harry McCracken is here, he's technology editor at Fast Company and Technologizer.com and of course our great friend Jason Snell from Sixcolors. He bleeds six colors on the Twitter. he podcasts at the incomparable. Pod for Ham is still going? You got a lot of mileage out of that.
Jason: It's honestly exhausting. It's going through the end of the year. I wish we had done it faster. But by the end of the year, we'll be done.
Leo: You're still doing the theatre...
Jason: Radio theatre will be coming back hopefully this fall. There's a missing episode that hopefully we're going to release in the next couple of months that has you in it as a monster.
Leo: You never posted that?
Jason: That's still sitting there.
Leo: What? I'm on the cutting room floor?
Jason: You were a lost episode. You're going to be a special edition soon.
Leo: My great acting debut. Hey, look at this. We're going to take a break and come back with more. This, you both have used these. I know you both reviewed them. I reviewed it. The first time I used it, I must have had a broken unit. Didn't do anything for me. Then they sent me another one, and I went boing. This is the Eero, and it solves a problem so many of us have, which is bad WiFi. Bad WiFi! When Wifi first started, it worked well. And then neighbors got it. And then the upstairs and downstairs got it. Pretty soon, you're saturated with Wifi signals, and suddenly you've got dead zones, you've got buffering. You're trying to watch Netflix and it's just not flix. It's terrible. That's because routers are generally crap. They don't wear out well, they wear out fast. Eero is a new way of doing routers. It replaces the old single router model with multiple routers. You can get an individual Eero and for a small apartment that might be enough. In our house we got the three Eero set. I'm going to get this technically wrong, but I'm going to use the term Mesh. Each Eero is independent. It's not a repeater with a main unit. They do some interesting things with the Eero. For instance, the Eero unlike any other router I know, get automatic update regularly. The Eero is also tuned the network for the kinds of devices you have on the network. So if you have a Roku on your network, they recognize that and go, "Oh yes. We can handle that." This is an enterprise grade wifi system that could be set up in your home, but it's easy. It uses your Smartphone, your iPhone or your Android phone for the setups, so you place your first Eero where your main access point is. You fire up the phone, it recognizes the Eero, logs you into the Eero system. Often, you get firmware upgrades like every day. You don't have to worry about it. It happens. You then say you walk down the hall and you put another Eero in and it tells you you're good or nope. Needs to be closer or farther. Of course it uses all the things we recommend. There's no W PS. That's dangerous. There's WPA2 encryption. They have a guest network system that works where you can actually send somebody a one-time only password. It is gorgeous, as you can see it looks great in your house. There's a 30 day money back guarantee. I'm just going to tell you my experience. Once you put the Eero in, all of a sudden, I used to get a lot of complaints. The Wifi is down again! Of course I'm the guy who has to figure out what's going on, re-boot the router all of that. Ever since we put the Eero in, marvelous. Not only five bars everywhere, including walking down the drive all the way.... the reason I know this is we played Pokemon Go. It took me a long time to get onto the 4G network. It was a lot farther and also faster. It does a bandwidth test on a regular basis, so you know immediately if your bandwidth is degrading or getting better. It is really awesome. Eero.com. Right now we're giving you free overnight shipping when you use the offer code TWiT. eero.com. If you're thinking about the Eero, let me tell you. It works great. Eero.com and the offer code is TWiT. We're talking about the week's tech news with Harry McCracken, Jason Snell. Roberto Baldwin was going to join us. I think you know he broke his foot and is on heavy pain killers. He said I could come in, but I don't think... Get better. We're thinking of you.
Jason: He live-tweeted his breaking his ankle. It was terrible.
Leo: Poor guy. We love Robbie, and get better soon. We'll have Roberto Baldwin back very soon. Apparently Intel is already in talks with Apple over base chips. According to Mac Rumors for future IOS devices. The rumor this year is the iPhone seven will use Taiwan Silicon manufacturing chips only?
Jason: They do use them as a manufacturer, so I don't know that. That's the thing about Apple's chips. They design them, somebody has to make them.
Leo: Could be Intel, nothing wrong with that. I saw a tweet the other day that said, "Woz, either stop working for Apple or stop bashing Apple." Christina Warren writing for her new employer GizModo. Congratulations, Christina. Woz to Apple, you don't know jack. What did he say? He said like many of us, where's the headphone jack? Remember Apple has not yet shown a product, so we're still speculating. He was talking to the Australian financial review. Woz says he wants to move to Australia. He loves Australia. He said. "If the iPhone seven is missing the earphone jack, that's going to tick off a lot of people. I don't use Bluetooth, I don't like wireless. I have cars where you can plug in the music and Bluetooth sounds flat for the same music. He likes the physical adaptor. Of course, if Apple does take the headphone jack out, they'll ship a lighting to get back, I'm sure. He says he's ticked off. Apple is good at moving towards a future, and this is one way you do it. You don't know jack. It's a great headline. Thank you, .Christina. Nice picture of Woz.
Jason: I guess that's actually a grimace of pain, about losing the headphone jack.
Leo: Woz could be talking about Satan and he'd be smiling. He's a happy guy. When you read the article, he's not even mad at Apple. He's like, I hope they don't get rid of the jack. I like the jack. We'll be talking about that a lot in two weeks. Want to talk about Nougat?
Jason: I've got 5X.
Leo: Android 7. Do you think cellphone companies time everything around Apple's announcements? Let's get this Note 7 out, let's get Nougat out...before Apple takes all the oxygen out of the atmosphere...
Jason: Maybe. We're also rolling into the holidays, and the holiday quarter is a good sale quarter. Apple has their big event in September.
Harry: For a lot of people on Android phones, it is almost disappointing when a new version of Android comes out because you have no clue.
Leo: It's heartbreaking for most people, right? If you have a Nexus phone... even then you might not have gotten an over the air update unless you were in the Beta program.
Harry: I signed up for the beta program so I could get it day of.
Leo: I think there are people with a 6P who still haven't gotten it. No big deal. There are some nice features. It's hard to make any big change. They got nightshift. You have to turn on a feature to get nightshift. You have to turn on the UI tuner. It's a trick to turn that on, then you can turn on nightshift, the yellow screen. So it doesn't wake you up in the middle of the night. You hit double tap the recent, it goes to the last app they use. You can pin apps. Mostly it's got better notifications, something Apple is adding with IOS ten as well. The ability to interact with notifications from the notification.
Harry: The battery life is better.
Leo: It didn't have great battery life to begin with. My 6P seems better, but I don't have a rigorous test.
Jason: They're coloring around the margins here. I see people still arguing about the iPhone and Android phones. They are what they want to be now. It's not like you can say the iPhone is lacking a feature that Android has or Android is lacking a feature that IOS has. In most cases, those are for... the space race is over. They are what they are. You get to choose.
Leo: I think you're exactly right.
Harry: We know that Windows is not going to be a serious threat on phones. It's unlikely that anything else... for a while it was so much fun to write about the wars a few years ago.
Leo: I wish Windows Phone had done better. It should have done better by all rights.
Harry: Even Microsoft decided this is not worth pouring resources into.
Leo: What killed Windows Phone, do you think?
Harry: Competing against these deeply entrenched products.
Leo: too late?
Harry: In some alternate universe, Microsoft got on the phones that weren't iPhones before Android came along. it was very hard for Microsoft to convince phone makers to use a system, particularly when they're trying to get them to pay for Windows phone on their devices.
Leo: I want to come up with a scenario that blames the carriers. I just want to. They're blamable. Nobody loves Verizon AT&T, Spring, even T Mobile is getting less lovable.
Harry: They all showed a fair amount of vision in latching onto Android.
Leo: You could go into any store from any carrier, and the chances of them showing you a Windows phone or even admitting its existence were nil!
Harry: There was a period where the iPhone came out and the rest of the Industry needed to figure out what to do. The single most important thign the rest of the Industry did was single around Android. Once that had happened it was tough for Windows, just as it woud have been very hard for another operating system such as Linux to come along and chip away at Windows.
Leo: Are we in the wrong business? I feel like there's nothing more to talk about. It's boring.
Jason: It is still august.
Leo: This is the bad month. I understand. We're at peak phone, we're not going to see massive improvements. We're debating about whether the headphone jack... that's the minorest thing of all.
Jason: Why do a chart about Apple? You put a chart on there and you have the Mac and iPad. You can't see the variation because it's so small. I feel like that's the issue with dealing with tech today. The Smartphone thing... everybody getting a supercomputer in their pocket, that kind of product may not happen again in our lifetimes. You may look at the last 50 years and say this is what it was all leading to. There may be great stuff in the future, they'll DVR stuff, but this is a once in a generation thing that we saw. Everything is going to pale in comparison to the rise of the Smartphone for a while.
Leo: Where will the next... In the early days of computing there were battles over platform. Windows versus Macintosh. There were discussions over performance of Intel chips, the 32 bit versus 16 bit and later 64 bit. There were great battles and changes being made. But we've gotten to the point where Intel hasn't bothered doing much to improve its chips in years. They're all minor... We're five percent better.
Jason: There's some physics there too. Right?
Leo: I'm not complaining. Where are we going to get excited? Is it going to be AR, VR?
Harry: I think AI... You may see some companies that seem to be doing well now stumble because they don't get AI. If there are small companies its only become really important. It might be because they do cool stuff with AI.
Leo: The three of us have been around for decades, we've covered this. We've seen the ups and downs, the highs and lows. You certainly have, Harry. I guess I can't think of a period like this where everything was as mature as it is. Kind of settled. We got very excited about virtual reality. I don't want to say it's a flop, but it doesn't seem to be changing the world much.
Harry: It's a long-term thing. It's going to be another 30/40 years.
Jason: If you think about personal computers... if you look at the ads of personal computers in the 80's, its' a whole lot of you'll keep your recipes on it, you'll do your books on it. All these things that turned out to be completely impractical. What it was good for is..
Leo: I used it to balance my check book. Now you can't even buy checkbook balancing software!
Jason: You think computers weren't really practical back then. How long did it take for the entire world to embrace what computers could do to change their lives. The answer is probably until the Smartphone happened, at which point everybody is on the Internet.
Leo: That was a massive change.
Jason: If you want to time it for the first PC, that's 25 years of it being not very good.
Leo: It was 25 years, right? Or 30 years.
Jason: I think VR is maybe like that, where...
Leo: Look at the Smartphone. That was less than ten years. That was from 2007 when Apple announced the iPhone.
Jason: The Smartphone is just a continuation of the laptop and of the desktop. I think it really is part of that same story, of the PC...
Leo: This is quantitatively different than the PC.
Harry: When the first Smartphones came out and I reviewed one in 1994...
Leo: What was that?
Harry: The IBM Sinum. There were 13 years of Smartphones.
Leo: these were not so smart phones.
Harry: But there was the Trio and the Blackberry.
Leo: I love my palm and my Trio.
Harry: To this day the iPhone shows stuff that it took from the Trio.
Leo: There it is, the IBM Simon.
Harry: I reviewed that for Infoworld. It was the Brick of all bricks.
Leo: It looks like one of those brick Nokia phones. It has a big screen on it, it didn't have a dial pad. It was all on screen. This was a touch screen. Either that, or it was very frustrating to use.
Harry: Both. I came out about the same time the Palm pilot came out, so it didn't even draw inspiration from that. It drew it from maybe the Newton. But it took 13 years from that until the iPhone, so people sometimes say the PC began in 1881 with the IBM PC, which is not true. There are all those years of computers before that, and there are all those years of SmartPhones before the iPhone came along.
Jason: That's what I think of the RNAR and stuff like that. It is like Harry said. There's a long ramp there, and something like Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive, these are not the end point, these are the starting point. We're going to look back on them and laugh. "It was so big, you had to attach it to a PC!" All of these things that it may take ten or twenty years to get it so that it's in our glasses, and you just don't think about it.
Harry: Maybe the Rift is the original Trio. Given that VR has also been around a long time, you can go back to the 90's and look at all the experiments that were done then.
Leo: You can watch President Obama tour Yosemite in virtual reality. That's immersive video. That's not virtual reality.
Jason: It's not quite the same thing. They got one of those 360 cameras and they're taking the video. I think it's brilliant to have a 360 video of the President of the United States because the most fascinating thing with anything involving the President is to look around and see who is with the President, who is watching the President.
Leo: You never see them, do you?
Jason: I turned the other way to see how many people does he have with him in that meadow?
Leo: You never see the firetruck. There's a firetruck when the helicopter lands in case it bursts into flame. That's interesting. You're right. We don't ever get to see this kind of...
Here's the President and a ranger. Then you look behind it and you see a bear... no there's nothing. Nobody!
Jason: They put the camera down in the river and they left.
Leo: You secret service guys, you're going to have to leave now. There's nobody! There's nothing.
Harry: They don't let the bears too close to the president.
Leo: Now we're talking. You can see all the people behind a log. Yosemite is beautiful. This is... the thing ab out VR is it shows well. The first time you use it you go "Wow." I can look around, I can see everything that's going on! This is amazing. We had yesterday on the new Screensavers an open source underwater robotic explorer. 1200 bucks, it said drone for underwater. They're developing a VR helmet so you can put on your Gear VR and go with this drone. The guy said, and I believe him, it's mind boggling. It's like you're swimming under the ocean and exploring ship wrecks and things like that. But after you do that for a while it's like "Oh, that was nice." It's not useful, really. Hololens to me is more exciting, but this is way off. This is Microsoft's augmented reality. We're learning a little bit more about it, it has a 24 core specialized holographic processor designed by TSMC, Taiwan Silicon company. They call it the HPU. But it's really clear that Hololens is just a demo at this point. You've tried it right?
Harry: They've done several rounds of the demos.
Leo: It's just a demo at this point. You can do stuff, but it's not anywhere near where it's got to be to be a product.
Harry: They are getting Minecraft ready, but it's 3000 dollars. Primarily because they don't want actual consumers to come near it yet.
Leo: It's a developer edition. I think this is going to be important. How far off are we for this? Ten years?
Harry: For VR in general?
Leo: VR and AR. I think VR is the next generation... Sooner. Good. I'm trying to think what the next big thing is so we can get a show together to cover it. You already got Hamilton. I don't know where to go from here.
Harry: Back to AI for a second, I think there's a pretty good chance we'll interact with our Smartphones quite differently in a few years.
Leo: That's a tough one. We've been promising for instance, speech to text good dictation for 30 years, and it's not quite there. It's better. Way better. These things are harder to do. The real human scale things are harder to do than we think.
Jason: That dovetails with the AI conversation. One of the ways you do this is by realizing you can't write a program to do it. You have to have some sort of learning system that will try all possibilities.
Leo: We're training the future masters of the Universe right no.
Jason: When you look at one of these tools that auto translates from one language to another, they're still rudimentary, but they are amazing. You can see in five or ten years you'll be able to have a Skype conversation with anybody speaking any language and understand them.
Leo: Now I'm getting some perspective here. We've got our current layer of technology that is mature. It's not going to change a whole lot, it's going to evolve gently and gradually, things like the Smartphone, desktop computing. I don't know if that's evolving or dying tablets. We're in the very early demo stage of the next big thing, so we're in this interregnum. Harry do you remember this happening before? I don't think so.
Harry: I remember the early 90's as being a bit boring, because at the time it seemed like Microsoft was going to dominate everything. Apple was around but not innovative. Microsoft office dominated its category and you had to use IE whether you wanted to or not. It was not clear what the next big thing would be. But a few years after that, stuff got exciting again really quickly. I always come back to the fact that if in late 2006 you had tried to predict the next five years, no matter who you were, you would have gotten most of it wrong. Almost nobody knew about the iPhone. Even beyond Smartphones so much as what we do today is driven by stuff that started on the iPhone. It's entirely possible that five years from now things will be radically different in ways we don't understand yet. Maybe VR will accelerate a lot more quickly than we expect it to.
Leo: Even in the first couple of years of the iPhone, it wasn't apparent that this was a game changer. It was already here, but it wasn't apparent it was going to be the revolution it ended up being.
Harry: There were all those people who said it wouldn't be.
Jason: Nobody is going to use a phone without physical buttons on it, let's just be clear.
Leo: By the way, who is going to buy a phone that costs 600 bucks.
Harry: Supposedly the Blackberry guys were super relieved after they saw the iPhone because it wasn't going to matter all that much after all.
Leo: That's a classic story that will go down in history.
Harry: A lot of smart people did realize it was important the moment they saw the keynote.
Jason: The Android team did. Just to put the VR thing in perspective, you talk about the price of these things being really high. The original Mac in 2016 dollars was more than 5,000 dollars. It's not priced for everyone, it's priced for someone who wants to try something very new, and it'll be years before it's affordable.
Leo: I have a framed 2FX motherboard. Remember how expensive that was?
Jason: That was 5,000 dollars in the mid 80's.
Leo: It stood for two F ing expensive. It was the power tool. It had a bust, cards on it. that was an amazing device. We got lots more to talk about, but we had a great week here, first week in our new studio, and we've prepared a small vignette of scenes from this week's shows. Take a look.
PREVIOUSLY ON TWIT.
Denise Howell: This is our first show from the brand new east side studio. Love it.
Steve Gibson: John's Hopkins team of cryptographers, led by Matthew Green presented the paper disclosing a series of weaknesses in Apple's iMessage technology, allows for retrospective decryption of encrypted iMessages. I can't think of a more perfect example of the danger of a protocol being closed. Protocol should be able to withstand scrutiny.
THE NEW SCREENSAVERS.
Leo: You've seen underwater drones before, that's how they discovered the Titanic. Imagine owning your own.
Man: What you need is Chrome and Wifi. You've got a Raspberry Pie 3 on board, so you can control it with your own device.
Iain Thompson: What's VR up to?
THIS WEEK IN ENTERPRISE TECH
Father Robert Ballacer: Google is upset with sites that spoil the mobile experience with popups. Google wants search results to favor sites that have the best information and the least annoying advertising that covers up that information.
Brian Chee: Maybe we should have a rotten tomatoes ranking for websites. Shame them. You're Catholic, shame works, right?
Fr. Robert: No.
TWIT, IT'S NOT YOUR FATHER'S TWIT.
Leo: It's always nice to have a priest there. Jason Howell has a look at what's coming up This Week on TWiT.
Jason Howell: Thanks, Leo. Here are a few things we're going to be keeping a close eye on in the week ahead. On Tuesday, August 30th, Sonos has an event planned to announce a product of some sort, some are guessing it might be along the lines of an Amazon Echo competitor. With the invite saying "come here, how it's all connected." We shall see how it's all connected soon enough. On Wednesday August 31st, Amazon video will begin streaming 3 of its pilots on twitch for the first time, including the Tick, which makes people happy, and Jean Claude Johnson, though you'll only have 24 hours to watch them, so make sure to catch them fast. Also on Wednesday, Microsoft will shut down its sunrise calendar app that it acquired last year, with plans to put that team to work on Outlook. On Thursday, September first, ahead of the Friday launch of Efa 2016 in Berlin, Samsung has a press conference scheduled, and the invites hint at some sort of wearable with many guessing the Gear S3 is imminent, and Sony will also hold its own event on Thursday, where the invite shows products from all sorts of categories, so it's anyone's guess what the company will unveil. Expect a little Smartphone, cameras, and VR, as far as I can tell from the invite. That's a quick look at a few items we'll be watching in the weak ahead. Catch Megan Morrone and myself all week on Tech News Today as we chat about these and anything else that happens to break in the world of technology. Back to you, Leo.
Leo: Monday through Friday, 4PM Pacific to 7 PM Eastern time. 2300 UTC. Tech news today. Our show to you today brought to you by Texture. It's kind of like Netflix for Magazines. If you binge on Netflix shows, you'll love binging on magazines. I'm a big fan of magazines. Some of the best journalism is still being done in weekly and monthly magazines. The problem is Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, and New Yorker, there's almost always one article I want to read in every issue, but are you going to subscribe to all of those magazines? Just for that one article? It's not all on the web, I've got to tell you. Or are you going to go to the news stand or the grocery store and buy and come home with a stack of us and people? National Geographic? No. Texture is so much better. You pay one low flat rate per month and you get all the magazines. Up to 200 of the best magazines, and you get them on your iPad, or your iPhone or your Android device, and you can read them. It's every page plus back issues. And bonus features that aren't in the magazines, like video. I admit I'm not going to buy a copy of people, but every once in a while I want to know what's happening with the Gosselin family or what's the latest gossip. I want to see the latest Rolling Stones stuff. There's some great journalism in Rolling Stones. I just don't want it cluttering my coffee table or killing all those trees for something I'm going to read one or two articles on. Plus, you'll read stuff maybe you wouldn't even get, the Billboard Hot 100 charts, or maybe you want to find out what's the best dishwasher in consumer reports. All of that for one low flat fee. They even give you ideas for things you might want to read in their top stories, noteworthy sections. They're curated categories. They give you a lot of information. Sign up to Texture right now, you'll gain instant access to all the content from the world's most in-demand publications that includes National Geographic and Sports Illustrated and Time and Esquire and Vogue. Texture.com/twit. We got a free trial for you, I think you're going to like it. I know if you're going on vacation this month, you want to have some beach reading. Don't bring all those magazines. Bring an iPad and Texture. By the way, up to five devices per account. Means the whole family can use the Texture subscription. Texture.com/TWiT. We thank them so much for their support of This Week in Tech. We saw Steve Gibson talking about the Johns Hopkins research on messages and discovering there were some backdoors to messages. If for instance your message didn't get delivered or it was stored in iCloud. The good news is Apple is fixing those retroactively. Bigger problem with these iOS flaws. Israeli security company, do you know the story, Jason? Can you fill me in? Instead of me telling the whole story. Shall I walk...
Jason: There was a dissident in the UAR who got a text message from somebody...
Leo: Achmed Monseur.
Jason: And they seemed suspicious.
Leo: He'd been attacked before.
Jason: What he ended up doing is taking them to a security expert and realizing it was a zero day, which is a vector not previously known it was code execution of route access on the iPhone. That's bad. That's really bad.
Leo: Complete ownership. It's basically a jail break. Lookouts, vice president of security research, remember security companies may sometimes overstate these. This is the most sophisticated bad actor we've ever seen targeting mobile phones in the wild. The malware came from an Israeli company called NSO group. It's owned by a US private equity firm called the Francisco partners. Apparently this NSO group will sell these exploits. Instead of telling Apple, which would be the right thing to do so Apple could patch it before it got into the wild, they hold onto these. This is unfortunately a wide spread trend among security companies, and sell them to the highest bidder. NSO says we'll only sell the legal entities, but the problem is a legal entity in the United Arab Emirates, the government may do things we aren't thrilled about.
Jason: Remember the Apple FBI case. The rumor there was what the FBI did was paying an Israeli security firm, I'm not sure it's the same one or a different one. But that was the rumor to get an unlock for that iPhone. This is the idea is that they're doing security research and rather than getting a bounty from the vendor, they wait for a really well-heeled client to come to them and pay to use that. If your job is spying, there's no interest in having these bugs fixed. The argument is somebody is also probably spying on you, and yo might want those bugs fixed, but they're more interested in having it as a vector for spying.
Leo: That's the problem. It's not just the NSO group; there are bad guys who may discover the same flaw and take advantage of it. By not patching it, they're making us vulnerable in their effort to make money or in the case of US law enforcement and the effort to catch terrorists. It makes us all less safe. Apple did just start their own bug batting program, but it costs a couple thousand dollars.
Jason: It depends on what the flaw is. The video just went online, they got the whole video which details a bunch of the security stuff they're doing.
Leo: That was a good talk, by the way. Watch that talk if you're interested in how Apple does security. Of course, as soon as Apple announces that bounty, a private firm announces we'll give you twice that much. Give it to us instead. This is why Apple didn't want to offer a bounty. They didn't want to get in a bidding war with Governments and other security agencies. To me, this is appalling. There are three zero day flaws in IOS. They've been around for a long time, maybe even years. This is appalling. And I don't blame Apple for this. I blame these security companies who are acting, I think, irresponsibly. They're finding it but they need to tell Apple. And in this case, Apple did learn of these and has patched them which is why it's absolutely vital to install iOS 9.3.5 that got pushed this week. Because now it's known. Now it's out there. We didn't—did we see any in the wild exploits?
Jason: Just the—I think the one that's known is the UAE.
Leo: Fred Mansoor. He says, "I'm a regular target for the authorities here. Every time they get new spyware they seem to try it out on me."
Jason: He's an early adopter.
Leo: Yea. So he was smart enough not to click that link. He sent it off to Toronto's Citizen Lab, which Citizen Lab is a great researcher working on our behalf. No response from the UAE government on this. The NSA group has a brochure that even advertises this stuff. They advertise Pegasus is the malware they used on Mansoor as a quote, "tool that allows remote and stealth monitoring and full data extraction for remote targets, devices via untraceable commands." Nice. Citizen Lab says, "Eh, maybe not so untraceable." They were able to track down a network of sites with the malware on it, some of them using web addresses designed to trick you into thinking you're a legitimate site. I went to—I was phished to a site that was T-V-V-I-T-T-E-R.com, which looks a lot on your browser like twitter.com but you know I fortunately caught it before I gave them my password. Journalists in Mexico have uncovered a corruption scam involving the country's president. Appears to have been targeted with text messages also in a Citizen Lab report. This is the Washington Post's coverage of this story I'm reading by the way. Apple did fix it after Citizen Lab and Lookout told them about this. So Monsoor's text messages derived on the 10th & the 11th of this month. Apple says, "We were able to figure out a solution within 10 days and push it out." They pushed it out this week. Get it. But it's not the last of this. Is there any hope? Should we not worry? Unless you're targeted by a government with deep pockets do you have to worry about this stuff?
Jason: It's scary the more we put in our devices. And the fact is the more important what's on our devices gets, the more crime will turn to it. Criminals will turn to it. Governments will certainly turn to it.
Leo: We know from last week's story about the Shadow Brokers and the NSA exploits against Cisco's routers that our government's engaged in the same kind. I guess you would expect that. Why would they not?
Harry: There also seemed to be a period where iOS felt like you could use it in confidence and it was beautifully—it was a beautiful thing.
Leo: That was a fool's paradise. I think we can all agree.
Harry: I think we all suspect it was. Now it is painfully clear that even the—iOS even despite the stuff, if you have to fix something, you're reasonably confident you're reasonably safe on iOS is still a good bet.
Leo: Is it though? I mean does it—
Jason: Security researchers that I follow including—
Leo: Jonathan Zdziarski.
Jason: Yea and Christopher Soghoian, right, they say, "Look. iOS device, Chromebook and put your email on Google or if you don't like Google, Office 365. And you choose the big email providers because they have in depth security teams that are always looking at this stuff as opposed to some little— "
Jason: No, don't do that. But they said still their recommendation is absolutely iOS which is by far the most locked down mobile operating system. And they really like Chromebooks because again—
Leo: Same thing, locked down.
Jason: Super locked down and limited to what exploits are there.
Leo: It's a trade-off between your flexibility and the ease of, the ability to do strange things or weird things and your safety.
Harry: One question I have though, about Chromebooks now is that now that they're allowing them to run Android apps, can they do that and preserve the lockdown safe quality that was one of the original pitches for Chromebooks in the first place?
Leo: It looks to be that the way they're doing this, Sandbox is the Android app. So and I would expect Google to do a pretty good job of that. Part of the problem for Android is not so much that Google's not fixing it and keeping it secure as that you can buy an Android phone from a lot of people, a lot of manufacturers, a lot of carriers, none of whom have the same commitment to security that Google has.
Harry: And almost none of which work all that hard to get the updates as quickly as they should.
Leo: They don't care. So what should we do? Should we just assume that anything—this seems prudent. Assume that anything you do on your phone could be observed upon by somebody who wanted to observe it.
Jason: I suppose so.
Leo: I don't take any more butt pictures. I'm done. That's it. And I certainly don't do it with a smartphone.
Jason: That's what the Polaroid's for, man.
Leo: (Laughing) Is that why you have Polaroid film in your freezer?
Harry: Actually supposedly Polaroid was actually—one of the reasons it was really popular back in the day was because you didn't have to take it down to be developed.
Leo: Right. The guy at the one hour photo would not see your pictures. We're back to the way it was.
Harry: But it won't get on the internet unless you put it there.
Leo: Yea but if it's on your phone—you know so the other side of that is, yea we're all vulnerable. It's apparent there's no software in the world that doesn't have flaws. You can't make perfect software and if software has flaws eventually somebody will find some way to exploit those flaws. But most of us are not targets. Now if you're Ahmed Mansoor you quite reasonably need to take extra steps to protect yourself. If you're a dissident in a dangerous country, then you should protect yourself. Most of us, we're just not targets so we can just walk down—I'll never forget the Wired Magazine article, or was it Fusion? Kevin Roose got himself hacked. Remember, he went to 2 different hacking groups and said, "Here's some stuff. Hack me." And even though he knew he was going to be hacked, he still got Spear Phished. He still got attacked. There was no way to prevent that. And he then asked a security expert and the guy said, "Look. When you're walking down the street, you're vulnerable to ninjas. If a ninja decided to take you out, what are you going to do? Nothing. The good news is most of us are not being targeted by ninjas." So it's not like there is some universal security thing you can use to protect yourself against ninjas walking down the street. If you worry about ninjas maybe you should but for most of us the saving grace is we're just not being targeted by elite hackers or governments. And these are elite hackers in most cases.
Harry: Journalists are sometimes.
Leo: Like you might be. You might be. I'm not a journalist. I'm just some podcaster operating in obscurity in Petaluma. And I like it that way. I do actually use 2nd Factor Authentication. I do the things that one should do and I, knock on wood, haven't been hacked or don't know if I've been hacked yet. That's the other problem. You wouldn't know necessarily.
Jason: The scariest things are these intersections of people who are targets who are also not at all technically savvy because they're not going to turn on Two-Factor.
Leo: Movie stars.
Jason: That's exactly right. Movie stars are a great example. We've had a lot of hacks of movie stars where they just get a phone and they put in a password of 1-2-3 and they don't worry about it. And I think they already exist but there is going to be a huge business in being the security expert to the stars, right? Because that's a huge vulnerability right now where 1., the size of the target is vastly different than the security knowledge of the target.
Leo: The savvy.
Jason: And that's the scary part. Not so much maybe dissidents and journalists who are going to get up to speed pretty fast. It's things like movie and TV stars and musicians.
Leo: Yea, that is too bad. That's always been the case though. The worst thing to be is a minor celebrity because you get all the negative attention of a big celebrity without the resources to protect yourself. That's always been the case. Did you read Steven Levy's article on the iBrain in your phone? He did a very interesting piece for anybody who's interested in Apple and covers Apple on what Apple's doing. Now admittedly this is interviews with Apple itself of what Apple's doing with Siri and with AI. I think Apple's in great pains at this point to say, "Hey, we're doing this too. Just because Google's doing it doesn't mean we're not doing it." You guys read it? Any thoughts about it? Are you impressed? When I see Eddy Cue sitting there, I go, "Oh, boy, really? This is the face of Apple's AI research? I'm not—you know." But that's—he's the VP of software and services so.
Harry: It will be cool when Apple is a little more open about letting people further down on the food chain tell more of this story.
Leo: Will they?
Harry: I would hope so. And they moved a little bit in that direction but there's more to go.
Leo: They have the money, the resources, not just the wherewithal but the desire I'm sure to provide really strong AI. They have a challenge because they have to do it with still standing up for privacy in a way that Google doesn't and Facebook don't have to. That's a challenge for them.
Jason: It's one of the challenges that is self-inflicted. It is Apple's focus on secrecy and wanting everything to be like a black box, to not explain how everything works.
Leo: Time to stop doing that.
Jason: It is—so this is why this story exists, right? This is Apple saying, "Ok, we're not going to announce AI products that aren't going to ship. We're not going to talk about that a lot. But what we will do is we'll give an interview to Steven Levy and talk about, ‘Yea, we're doing AI too. We did buy AI companies. Look. Look. Here's some proof of it.'"
Leo: Right. Here's 30 companies we just bought.
Jason: It's similar to the VR argument or the AR argument. It's like where's Apple's VR or AR solution? The answer is it's in a lab somewhere. They're not comfortable showing it. They're not going to go through the rigmarole that Google and Oculus and Microsoft are going through. But you'll see a story somewhere at some point that is Apple saying, "No, no, we're working on it too." In fact, I think on their analyst call at their last quarterly results Tim Cook even said, "VR and AR are going to be big and they're going to be very important and our R & D budget is very large." And it's like he's trying to say, "No, no, no. We're working on it. We just have nothing to talk about."
Leo: These are investor benefits. Customers aren't saying "Hey, where's this product?" right? Although they might be looking at—we are obviously. But they might be looking at Siri and saying, "Well, that's not really doing a great job." I think Siri is falling farther and farther behind Google and even Cortana and Amazon Echo for that matter.
Jason: And that's why you get a story like this is Apple wants to put out there that "No, no, no, we really are working on this and thinking about it even though you don't see it because we're usually very secretive."
Leo: I wonder if Google's upcoming Allo, A-L-L-O might be also the reason for this article. I feel like, boy this might be crazy, but I feel like when the Allo comes out there's the potential here for this to be a game changing application. If it does what it talks about it doing. It's a messaging program but a messaging program with intelligence. And with the capability to, and I think this is a brilliant design. You know Facebook had bots in their messenger. The problem is it just was a bunch of annoying automated chatters that just got on your nerves and you just wanted to say, "Shut up." What Google's going to do is you chat with Allo and it goes out and does all of this stuff on your behalf. It intercedes on your behalf. And isn't that what we really want? We want a personal assistant. I may be, it may come out and we go, "Wow this is nothing." Like Duo. Duo was nice but didn't change the world. That's their Facetime equivalent of voice calling. It's cross platform.
Harry: Google's vision has some similarities with Microsoft. Microsoft thinks you'll have an agent and your agent will negotiate with the buyer on your behalf so you won't use a travel bot. Your agent will use the travel bot on your behalf. And your agent will know a lot more about you because you'll be comfortable giving one agent personal information that you would not want to give to Expedia's bot.
Leo: Well it's also easier. I don't have to remember 5 kinds of syntax. Actually that is one thing Google mentioned that I think is terrible. You know they got their own now Amazon Echo clone that will be out, the Google Allo someday in the not too distant future.
Harry: Google Home.
Leo: Home, rather. Allo, Home. And one of the things—it was something somebody said. I think it was Google. "I envision a day where you have a bunch of these on your mantle and you're talking to all of them." No, that is not the day I envision. I don't want that. I want one thing. I talk to that one thing; it talks to everything else. That's what we want. I want Scarlett Johansson in her.
Jason: The other problem with the Allo idea is that you're inserting an agent into one on one conversations. That was one of their demos where you're like, "Hey" to your significant other—
Leo: It would answer for you.
Jason: Or you would bring it in to schedule your dinner reservations or something and I saw that and I thought, "No, no, no, no, no. When I have a conversation with one other person I do not want a bot in between us."
Leo: It may be—wait a minute though. Maybe there's people that bug you and you can just say, "Ok, Allo, handle that."
Jason: Talk to the bot.
Leo: Don't even tell him. Just say, "Allo, handle this." Because you know Inbox has this great auto-answer thing. I've been using that more and more. It looks at the email. It learns how you respond to things and it's uncanny. It comes up with responses I actually use almost all the time. Well, a lot of times I'll write more but if Allo's like that? I can only imagine my wife and I start a discussion and then it ends up Allo's talking to itself.
Jason: Where did this new calendar thing come from?
Leo: Honey, are you still talking to me on that? No, I'm not. I'm not either. What are they saying? They're having a conversation. I think they like each other.
Jason: Google thinks we should go out to dinner tonight.
Leo: (Laughing) Yea, magic calendar. I've scheduled something for you. I'm telling you, Skynet. It's coming. Facebook of course working on AI as well. I think Facebook and Google do have an advantage in that we already given them so much of our personal information that they at least know my name you know. Siri is a little at a disadvantage there. Facebook is starting to do digital visual artificial intelligence. And both Facebook and Google have open sourced a lot of the code that they're using hoping that others will work with their code and start improving it. This is kind of the benefit of open source. The disadvantage is you're giving away company secrets, advantages if you've got cool stuff like TensorFlow from Google. People will start using that. And then we'll all benefit. Worried about Skynet? Are we getting closer?
Jason: When you said there was nothing going on, this is the stuff that's going on.
Leo: See? But Harry said it was AI and I think you're right. I think—but both of you are right. It's not right now. Except that this could be the iPhone in 2007.
Jason: We're going to keep using it and we'll complain about it and we won't even notice how much better it gets because it's still not quite good enough. And then one day, it will be—we will just wake up and be like, "Oh, it's good enough now." Or the world will end and it will be Skynet. One of those.
Leo: Allo will have incognito chats. It will have—everybody does this now—expiring messages. Everybody's also doing encryption, a point-to-point encryption. In Allo's case as well as Facebook's you'll have to opt into it. It's not a default. Apple's is default.
Jason: Yea, that's the thing that the security people dinged Allo for is you have to go in to secret mode as opposed to just having everything being there.
Leo: At least you have a secret mode.
Jason: Oh it's good that they got one. It's just by default it's not secret. And that's because Google wants to be able to do its thing and process what you're saying and come in with a bot to help you out.
Leo: Unlike Apple they're going to use a well-known open source solution, the Signal protocol which has been vetted and tested. It won't have the problem Messages has. Unique keys for every participant. Of course your assistant won't work anymore now because you're encrypted but you know, that's it. That's the trade-off.
Jason: And that's why it's not on by default.
Leo: Right. I completely think that's fine. Because most of the conversations you have in Messaging do not need to be secret. Honey, what's for dinner?
Jason: It's a secret.
Jason: Why are you trying to find out what my dinner is?
Jason: No, I think the idea there is that out of habit you always do your things unencrypted and therefore—there's always been that argument, right? Back in the days of everybody doing PGP email that you should encrypt everything. Or https instead of http on the web. If you encrypt everything—
Leo: Everybody's happy.
Jason: Then everybody's happy.
Leo: And there's not a red flag to the NSA saying that you must be up to no good because you just turned on encryption. Yea, I use PGP. I sign everything. And if somebody sends me their keys then by default our conversation will be encrypted, thereby making sure that every conversation will be in the NSA database. I don't—you know what? Who cares? Because it's just a dopey a conversation under the encryption as it would be if it were unencrypted. I don't know. I don't know. Big kerfuffle. We'll take a break and come back and talk about it. WhatsApp which of course is owned by Facebook promised, promised they would not share user data with Facebook after the acquisition. Now they're gonna. What a surprise. We'll talk about that in a second.
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Leo: We're talking about the week in tech. Harry McCracken is here, The Technologizer, currently at Fast Company a technology editor. Good stuff going on at Fast Company. I like what I'm seeing.
Harry: Thank you. We're having a lot of fun.
Leo: What are you working on? What's—you got a particular story your covering?
Harry: I have a big story which he put up yesterday. The TV show Hold and Catch Fire on AMC.
Leo: I saw that. I mean I saw your piece on it. It's good.
Harry: I think it's one of the best pieces of film entertainment about technology ever and I got to visit the set and roam around the sets and see the painstaking efforts they put into having the right computers on the set.
Leo: Oh, that's cool.
Harry: I talked to the consultants who they used to make sure that the plots are at least plausible.
Leo: So they're now up to 1986.
Harry: They're up to 1986. That should have been the AOL era.
Leo: I watched the first, beginning of the first season. And I had kind of mixed feelings about it. It was fun to see the old technology and they took apart TI Speak and Spell and stuff. And you felt like—I don't know, did the story of Compaq. You felt like it was kind of the story of Compaq.
Harry: Compaq and the other PC clone companies we don't remember as well.
Leo: Kind of all mushed together.
Harry: There were dozens of those companies and a lot of them were in Texas.
Leo: Yea, yea. And so in '86 now, what are we—I love this picture from your article.
Harry: Yea, I roamed around that set when there weren't any people on it.
Leo: Oh what fun.
Harry: They're basically in the era where AOL was getting going although it was called Quantum Link then.
Leo: Quantum Link, I remember that, yea.
Harry: And CompuServe was a big deal.
Leo: That was our address on the internet. Can you believe it? And not only that, we remember it.
Jason: Oh yea.
Harry: And security was starting to be an issue. And that's in this new season too. Joe MacMillan is launching a company which seems inspired by McAfee which got going about that time.
Leo: Oh, interesting. Yea.
Harry: The great thing about the show is it actually is about 1986 but almost everything in it is evocative of the current era and often kind of the eras in between. They're doing a lot of stuff with Commerce which is sort of reminiscent of eBay even though eBay was about 10 years after the plot line.
Leo: So I loved Silicon Valley because it poked fun at technology in modern day. And it was—I think they did a very good job with their technical advisors and their research reflecting modern day Silicon Valley. Sounds like they've done the same thing here with Hold and Catch Fire. Do they have some really good experts consulting them?
Harry: They have a guy named Carl Ledbetter who actually worked for IBM.
Leo: Oh, yea.
Harry: When the IBM PC came out and he worked at Sun Microsystems and AT&T and they go to him and the fact check staff and he often says that it's not quite right. You could do it this way. He'll give them stuff that shows up in scripts. They work with the Living Computer Museum in Seattle which was founded by Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft. Most of the computers on the set are real but the IBM mainframe, they basically built one from scratch using the original plans and talking to experts.
Leo: I'm going to have to watch it. I kind of skipped the 2nd season but I'm going to tune back in because I love that era.
Harry: They sort of reboot themselves every year.
Harry: The 2nd season was quite different from the first one and the next one is different from the 2nd season.
Leo: Will they keep going? Are they going to bring us up to the 90s?
Harry: I hope so. But the ratings have not been great at all. The people who love the show really love it but each, after the first season it wasn't clear if it would be renewed and after the 2nd season it wasn't clear it would be renewed.
Leo: I love it in this paragraph where you're wandering the set. You say, "I see rows of desks equipped with Commodore 64 PCs; 5 1/4" floppy disks of multiple makes, including Memorex, 3M, and BASF FlexyDisk." I remember all of these. "S manual for Frogger for the Atari 2600; a copy of a spreadsheet program known as MicroPro CalcStar." Wow. "Structured Systems Programming and countless other little pieces of history." By the way, I have 2 ET Extra Terrestrial cartridges if you want to borrow one of them.
Harry: Worst video game of all times.
Leo: (Laughing) That should be on the set, don't you think? So the story is about, are they making computers still? What is the company?
Harry: There's two companies. There's Mutiny which started out doing online games and then sort of segued into chat which actually did exist. And with that they saw that CompuServe had a CD simulator.
Leo: Yes, CD simulator, yea, yea, remember that?
Harry: So that does go way back. And now Mutiny is sort of segueing from chat to commerce. And MacMillan Utility is doing anti-virus software.
Leo: Is there you think an agenda underlying it? Is there a philosophy that they're—or is it—what is their point of view on all of this stuff?
Harry: I don't know if there's one overarching one. I think a lot of it is sort of about the control we have over our lives and the control that the characters have over their lives in the show.
Leo: I'll have to watch it. And of course you must read Harry's article on Fast Company.
Harry: Joe MacMillan is doing security software but he is clearly influenced from extent by Steve Jobs and he does these elaborate keynotes essentially. And he's a very compelling speaker but kind of a jerk.
Leo: Yea. I wonder if—that's fun. I wonder if he's going to get into, you know, move to South America and get into drugs or what (laughing)? What I like about this is they're not actual—it's not the story of any one company. That's what confused me in the first season. I thought, "Is this Compaq or is it not?"
Harry: They borrowed bits and pieces.
Leo: It's an amalgam.
Harry: But none of these characters are exactly based on anybody in particular and the companies aren't either.
Leo: Halt and Catch Fire. It's on AMC.
Harry: Hmm mmm. Tuesdays.
Leo: All right. And did the new season start yet or is it?
Harry: Yes, it started last week. There's the 1st two episodes.
Leo: So I have catchup. Ok. Twitter. I don't know what to say about Twitter. It gets worse and worse. So they can't help—you know I was just looking at my Twitter audit. 40% of my followers are now spammers. You look at Katy Perry, somebody with a lot of followers, more than three quarters of her followers, or I guess it was two thirds, are spammers. They can't do anything about trolls but the minute you tweet a GIF from the Olympics as Jim Weber did, you're banned for life.
Jason: He did get unbanned.
Leo: Did he?
Jason: Very quickly.
Leo: Ok, ok. After the story went out.
Jason: This is the whole story, right, that all along Twitter has proven to be very good at monitoring NBC's trademarks and copyrights and really bad at something core to the service like dealing with harassment. Although there was good Twitter news this week too. At least there was a story that leaked and said that Twitter is working on anti-harassment filters that are based on keywords. Unfortunately, the way the story was written, I forget who reported it but it was written that they'd been working on it for a year which really had the whiff to me of somebody who was frustrated that they weren't actually—
Leo: No, we've got this.
Jason: Seemed to me it was somebody who had been working on it for a year and was frustrated that it seemed like it was never going to roll out. And so they went to the press to sort of put some pressure on them. But yea, they do feel sort of like the gang that can't shoot straight over there.
Leo: The problem I have with keyword filtering is all it does is let—so that you don't see the harassment. But everybody else sees it.
Jason: Yea, it's still there and then you—
Leo: What is the benefit to that? I mean it's just like you're going, "Na, na, na, na, na, na."
Jason: Well, ideally it's all a part of this quality filter idea that they did roll out to people. Ideally you're looking at the length of the account, what the sentiment is in the account, what words the account uses and doing things like just hiding it for most people. Hiding it for all people. Or even putting those people in hole somewhere.
Leo: Yea but they can do the same thing about spam accounts too, right?
Leo: It's pretty obvious what's a spam account.
Jason: If you look—I look and I don't—
Leo: But they don't because they would cut the number of Twitter users in half.
Jason: You see favorites of tweets that you made like a year ago.
Leo: All the time.
Jason: You see follows that are very clearly—with a tiny bit of knowledge, you don't even need a complicated AI for this, it's very clear when there's a fake following you or favoriting your tweets. And I do report those as spammers but yea, Twitter has got the fire house. They can see it. They should be able to tell.
Leo: When I see people favoriting a tweet from John C. Dvorak a year ago that mentions me and the avatar of the person doing it is a scantily clad or most recently completely nude woman, I know this is not real. So you report it?
Jason: Yea I do. I report those as spam when I see them.
Leo: That seems like a waste of energy because—
Jason: I know, I know. It's true. And they roll up in Twitter from the app which I use most. They roll them up after 2 or 3. Then you can't even see them and so you don't even bother. But yes, it's very clear at a glance to a regular person that this is a fake account.
Leo: I don't understand—explain to me what a spammer is going for here. What do you gain? Because I don't follow them so I'll never see another thing from them. I do see when they favorite tweets I'm mentioned in. Maybe that's what they're looking for.
Jason: Some of it is they're trying to create a pattern to get away from being detected as a spammer. Ironically enough they're figuring if Twitter is looking for a certain kind of behavior when they start posting spam, that if the create the accounts earlier and lay some foundation of some tweets that they've stolen from other people—that's another thing that you'll notice a lot is the text of a tweet that you sent or were mentioned in that comes recycled from a bunch of other accounts.
Leo: Oh, I see that all the time.
Jason: And it's the same thing. I think they're trying to feed it with what they consider good data to trick Twitter.
Leo: Use it as sort of a, yea.
Jason: To not auto-block it when they start—when they turn on the spam engine, right?
Jason: But again, it's very apparent.
Leo: Isn't that what Horse ebooks was doing? I love that. Did you follow that? Remember them?
Jason: I think in the end didn't Horse ebooks end up being sort of a more of a joke then a—
Leo: So it wasn't a spam account?
Jason: I don't know. All my friends have ebooks accounts now. I don't want one but I wonder how you get one.
Leo: So their last Tweet was in 2013. But thank you, Twitter, for not taking this down. They were just randomly taking parts of texts—
Jason: Bits of tweets and soldering them together.
Leo: Yea. Space in your house how to sell faster than your neighbors how to make a strategic use.
Jason: Some texts from Google Books database I think. It was amazing, yea.
Leo: And then we all thought—huh?
Jason: Don't stubbornly.
Leo: Don't stubbornly.
Jason: Words to live by.
Leo: Yea. Stubbornly don't. Don't stubbornly. Yea and by the way I don't know why that's big but I guess 770—oh, I see why. 775 people—
Jason: People loved that one.
Leo: hearted it and one and a half thousand people retweeted it. I'm going to retweet it.
Jason: Nonsense is big on Twitter.
Leo: I like it. I'm going to retweet that sucker (laughing).
Harry: Now you're one of those people that are retweeting old tweets.
Leo: (Laughing) Will I be flagged?
Jason: Change your avatar.
Leo: Will I be flagged? I should change my avatar to a horse. I thought for a long time that the whole point—and you kind of see it, yea. There's spam. Learn to trade markets and there's a link to an ebooks. So that was the idea.
Jason: Yea, that was the idea was that it was a spamming account. I don't know. It's just sort of baffling that Twitter- it's people that have been talking about the ways that you can handle this stuff for a long time that hasn't been a priority.
Leo: I'm going to retweet this one too.
Harry: Twitter does have an AI group so hopefully they—I mean—
Leo: They're not incented to fix this.
Harry: Well I think they are these days because people like you and me and Jason are sitting around talking about it.
Leo: Bitching and moaning.
Harry: And also they want newbies and casual users to become serious about Twitter and either they will run into problems, even if they don't run into this stuff, they will have the perception that Twitter is not a welcoming place.
Leo: Right. Right. You've got to love this plan in Massachusetts. Who do you think idea's was this, to tax Uber and Lyft and then take some of that money and give it to the taxis? Massachusetts has agreed to levy a 5-cent per feet rip on people who use Uber and Lyft and then this nickel fee, portions of which will go of course into—ok, here's how it works. 20-cent fee. 5-cents goes to the taxis. 10-cents goes to cities and towns. And then 5-cents to a state transportation fund. Everybody wins except Uber and Lyft. How can they—this is so obviously written by the taxi commission. How can they get away with this? The law says, "the money will help taxi businesses quote ‘adopt new technologies and advanced service safety and operational capabilities.'" So you're paying for it via Uber. Lyft says, "We are pleased with the law. It's not perfect." I guess it could have been worse, right?
Harry: They got some stuff out of it in terms of it being clearer. They can go and do pickups at the airport and the convention center and so-fort.
Leo: Ah. The law does not ban them from picking up at Logan or the convention center although there will be special rules. What a mess. This does not seem good from anybody's case. But let's talk about T-Mobile. I mentioned that T-Mobile which has been the darling of the geek community, also ran and they offer some nice stuff including a low cost. They changed their pricing now. They've got one plan only. $70 bucks for unlimited text, data and voice. That's kind of a bummer. And the EFF is saying now it violates net neutrality. So the problem the EFF has is with something called zero rating, right? This is the idea that some companies don't have to pay—or, I'm sorry, for some companies, you don't have to pay. It doesn't count against your data cap. Of course if you have unlimited bandwidth what does it matter? And then the side effect of the zero rating thing which is all video is 480p unless you pay another $25 dollars a month. They also say by the way that the highest 3% of our users, those using more than 26GB of data a month may see some slowdown. So it's another one of those unlimited that's not really unlimited.
Jason: Right so it's throttling and they're reprocessing media.
Leo: They're downgrading video. And Binge On which did this I guess. Does Binge On continue under this T-Mobile One Plan?
Jason: I guess if it's unlimited then—
Leo: What do you care? Everything's unlimited. I'm a T-Mobile customer, so I don't know—I think I'll stay a T-Mobile customer. This doesn't seem like a bad thing. Nate Swanner writing for The Next Web TNW says, "T-Mobile One is garbage." (Laughing) and the EFF says it violates net neutrality.
Jason: Selective data throttling, right? That's basically what it is, is you paid for internet data but they're going to throttle your video because—unless you pay them extra. You're going to get a lesser experience unless you pay them extra for it. Instead of what everybody else does which is you can watch that high quality video all you like until your allocation runs out and then you're out of luck or pay more.
Leo: All right let's talk about WhatsApp. This is something that people are getting a little hot under the collar about. WhatsApp which is owned by Facebook had promised I think, was it right at the acquisition or sometime before the acquisition that they made a vow. Let me see if I can quote this vow. Jan Koum who is one of the founders said when Facebook bought them that the deal would not affect the privacy of Facebook users. "We don't know your birthday. We don't know your home address. None of that data has ever been collected and stored by WhatsApp, and we really have no plans to change that." Here we are 2 years later and WhatsApp has announced that it's going to start disclosing phone numbers and analytics data of its users to Facebook. They still don't know your birthday. They never did, right? You don't have to give them your birthday. Or do you?
Harry: Well, Facebook does.
Leo: Facebook knows your birthday. And that's the problem, right? It's now combining what WhatsApp knows with what Facebook knows and that makes it a very scary bundle of data. Facebook Messenger does the same thing, right?
Harry: I mean basically it sounds like WhatsApp is gearing up to do a business model at least somewhat similar to what Facebook Messenger is doing in that it won't be about advertising. It will be about business bots and business services that you'll be able to interact with through WhatsApp.
Leo: It's the same thing. In order to be useful we need to know more about you. WhatsApp says that—one thing that probably concerns people is the idea because WhatsApp is, you sign up with your phone number. So it has your phone number. That's how you're identified. Same thing by the way on Google's Duo. One thing that scares people is that Facebook or WhatsApp would give your phone number to advertisers.
Harry: Which they are not doing.
Leo: They swear they will not do that.
Harry: But I think WhatsApp's biggest problem was always we're not going to show you ads. And after Facebook pays $19-billion dollars for you and is not going to show ads, they need something to monetize that. And it sounds like their plan is to do what services like WeChat in China have done and to connect you with businesses.
Leo: EPIC, the Electronic Privacy Information Center says they will file a complaint on Monday with the FTC to stop this data sharing. They filed a similar case in 2014. Mark Rotenberg who is the president of EPIC says "Many users signed up for WhatsApp and not Facebook, precisely because WhatsApp offered, at the time, better privacy practices."
Harry: And the writings been on the wall for more than two years now.
Leo: They didn't buy them for nothing. Yea. So controversy, not surprising. What are we going to do? You cannot doubt by the way, it's not obvious but there are ways to opt out of that data privacy sharing. But you know most people will just say, "Eh, whatever." If you're using Facebook, you're probably, you've already said, "I don't care. You can know anything you want about me." Facebook is changing the way trending topics work by the way. They're firing the people, the team that was doing this. This was a little controversial because there was some question about whether they had a bias.
Jason: They cleared out the boiler room of people that weren't—
Leo: No more boiler room.
Jason: Weren't invited to the employee party because they were just journalists. Now they're just unemployed journalists again.
Leo: You're talking about the scathing expose by one of the former boiler room members about how they were just mistreated, shamefully treated as second class citizens of Facebook. And he said in his expose that in fact there was some editorializing going on. So Facebook is replacing those people with a computer.
Leo: But remember, somebody has to tell the computer what to do. I'm just saying. Computers are not inherently unbiased. They're just reflecting the bias of people who wrote the software.
Jason: Yea, so it looks like instead of doing—so they had this editorial group and it looks like what they were doing is they were trying to do things like write headlines and simplify things. And what this changes essentially is saying, "We're just going to throw up a hash tag or phrase. People aren't going to write headlines anymore.
Leo: You can figure it out.
Harry: Much closer to Twitter.
Leo: Twitter does this. And you know what? The whole point is, you see the trending topic and you click on it. That's really what you want, right? More engagement, more clicks. There are still people according to Facebook, this is a Facebook blog post, involved in this process to ensure that topics remain high quality.
Harry: Remain high quality?
Leo: (Laughing) So for instance, if everybody is using #lunch at lunchtime, that will not be a trending topic. It also means we no longer have to write topic descriptions and short story summaries and ok, fine.
Jason: Did you see the story about Facebook now can guess what your politics are?
Leo: How would they guess that?
Jason: Well the answer is, well they know everything about you.
Leo: All the people I follow? I'm confusing Facebook because I follow them all.
Jason: And what you post and what you like and all those things but it will come to you as no surprise, the way you find this out is through your ad profile, your personal ad profile. Because they're just using their ad targeting system to figure out whether they should target—the story is that the Trump campaign is apparently doing a bunch of ads targeting Moderates. And the question was, "How do you find who a Moderate is on Facebook?" And the answer is, "Oh, Facebook knows."
Leo: Oh we know if you're moderate.
Jason: So whether it's accurate or not remains to be seen but they will take a guess.
Leo: Where are my Trump ads? I'm probably two left-wing for them. I don't see any Trump ads.
Jason: Anyway if you go to—
Leo: I see an ad for a hair salon.
Jason: Facebook.com/ads/preferences and click on Lifestyle & Culture, you will find the U.S. Politics section.
Leo: Does it actually tell you what your politics are?
Jason: Oh, yea. Well no, it tells you what it thinks your politics are.
Leo: Well I'm curious. Facebook.com/ad?
Jason: Oh I missed it now.
Leo: Oh, shoot. I want to go there. I want to find out what my politics are. I've got a broken thumb on mine. I must have typed it wrong.
Jason: Yea, shame on you. Let's see.
Leo: I can probably just search for ad preferences.
Leo: Ads plural, all right.
Jason: And click on Lifestyle and Culture.
Leo: Lifestyle and Culture.
Jason: And one of your interests will be your politics apparently.
Leo: Are these my interests?
Leo: I'm a liberal. You have this preference because we think it may be relevant to you based on what you do on Facebook. And you can see what ads you would get.
Jason: Yea, and in this section it's fascinating actually. All of this stuff is things that Facebook infers about you based on your behavior on Facebook.
Leo: Wait a minute. It says I'm a late adopter of technology.
Jason: (Laughing) I'm down as an early adopter here.
Leo: Wait a minute.
Jason: And a parent of a teenager.
Leo: Yep they know my kid's age, 18-26.
Jason: Generation X. Got me. I'm going to get ads for Gen X products.
Leo: What does it mean, I'm away from family?
Harry: It says that for me too.
Jason: People who travel. I think if you travel and are away from family they do that.
Harry: It says that I'm interested in my friends' upcoming birthdays.
Leo: What is friends of anniversary within 30 days? I don't even know what that means. A computer obviously worked this.
Harry: I'm a new smartphone and tablet owner.
Leo: Oh, congratulations.
Jason: Congratulations, yea.
Harry: At any given moment I probably am.
Jason: Anyway, it knows a lot about you is what I'm saying.
Leo: And here's advertisers with my contact info. That's interesting. How did the Arthritis Foundation get my contact info? What do they know about me that I don't know? That's interesting. Well, this is good to know about. So Facebook.com/ads/preferences.
Harry: It says I'm into the Gregorian Calendar.
Leo: Who isn't though? Are you a Julian guy? I think you are.
Jason: Well I named my son Julian so you tell me.
Leo: Oh. Does Facebook think you're into—wait a minute. Into the Gregorian Calendar? Really?
Jason: You must post a lot of things about like solstices and equinoxes.
Leo: What kind of weirdo are you?
Harry: But it did notice I like to do Polaroid stuff. It says I like instant cameras and instant film.
Jason: A big Leap Day guy?
Harry: It says I like solid—
Leo: Big into Leap Day.
Harry: It says I like solid state drives which I guess I do.
Leo: I do too but I don't see them on my preferences.
Harry: I don't write about them though.
Leo: You should be able to add preferences.
Jason: I got the two big Xs here, the Mac OSX and the Generation X.
Leo: Are you Gen X?
Jason: I am. Yea, reality bites, man. That's a movie. Anyway.
Leo: I don't know because I'm not Gen—I'm whatever came before X.
Harry: It says I'm very liberal which is certainly not how I would describe myself.
Leo: Oh I'm not very liberal. I'm just liberal.
Jason: That's what it said to me and I'm absolutely not that but you know, whatever. I like in Marin County. It's a pretty good guess.
Leo: Probably the zip code has something to do with it. I love that I'm a late adopter of technology.
Jason: That is amazing.
Leo: I don't think I could be more opposite of a late adopter of technology if I tried.
Jason: Well, talk to Facebook about it. I think maybe they more than you do about yourself.
Leo: What do you get if you're a late adopter? What kind of ads do you get? Oh, you can put a little frowny face saying I'm not interested in technology late adopters. Apparently they're having a hard time finding an ad for technology late adopters.
Jason: Maybe it's all the stuff you click on when you're trying to help people on your radio show.
Leo: Maybe. Maybe. All those Windows XP links I keep clicking on. Facebook knows. That could be. It would be interesting, wouldn't it? All right we're going to take a little break because I want you to be—oh, I want to show you this. Look at this. Oh, I love this. This is the stuff I saved from my Trunk Club, last Trunk Club I got. Trunk Club is awesome. Trunk Club is for people who don't like to shop and yet want to look nice, want to dress nice. And you know, you get a personal shopper. You don't have to go to the store. They will send you your trunk with clothes that match your style, your interests and they'll do all of that for free. In fact, you don't even pay for the items in the trunk. You just pay for what you keep. I did keep the mustache bowtie because that is a look. That's a hipster bowtie. And then if you want to be under cover, you just flip it over and now you're just like a banker. It's a banker bowtie. I kept a nice polo shirt. I love this. Beautiful soft cotton. Trunk Club gives you a stylist. You talk to your stylist on the phone. I love my stylist. I'm not telling you her name because I don't want to lose her. She's awesome. You can talk about—I told her I'm fat. And you know, but I said chunky. Or maybe I said hunky. I said something. I gave her the idea that I don't want the skinny clothes. But she didn't laugh at me. I liked that. She helped me find clothes that would look good, fit my style. What they do after they talk to you, is they create a website. You go through it. You say yea or nay. Then you get a trunk. You have 5 days to try on the clothes. It's kind of fun. Do a little fashion show. And pick what you like and you send the rest back. It's not a subscription service by the way. You're not going to get another trunk in a month. You only get a trunk when you ask for a trunk. Shipping is free. In face everything is free. You only pay for the items you keep. Now this is backed by Nordstrom. So great quality, great customer service. And they do have Trunk Club clubhouses you can go to in Dallas, New York, LA, Chicago or D.C. and you can meet your stylist in person. That also has an advantage because they will do tailored clothing for you too if you go into the clubhouse and get measure, they'll do tailored clothing for you. Premium clothes, expert advice, no work and your own personal stylist. This is for people who don't want to shop, who don't like to shop but like to dress nice. Sometimes you need a nice little wardrobe. And by the way, good news. Was just for men remember. They've got Trunk Club for women too now. Go to truckclub.com/twit. That way they'll know that you heard about it on TWiT and get your style together. They have a really nice variety of stuff. Trunkclub.com/twit. And we thank them so much for their support of our program.
Leo: Facebook's newest app may have a huge security problem for teens. Facebook has a new teen app, it's called Lifestage and the idea is if you're under 18, you use this instead of Facebook. It's like training wheels. It's like my first Facebook. It relies on self-reporting so all you have to do is say you're 18 and choose a high school. So I guess there's some people worried that maybe people who go after under 18 people may use this as a way to target them. It will not provide access to content to other people for users who list an age above 21. But again, the verification's kind of weak. Facebook does ask to report suspicious activity. Do your teens, would they be—no, they want real Facebook.
Jason: Yea, no, actually my daughter who's 15—
Leo: Doesn't use Facebook at all.
Jason: Doesn't use Facebook at all.
Leo: Good for her. Snapchat right?
Jason: It's Snapchat.
Leo: That's the problem. That's why Facebook's doing this.
Jason: That's exactly it that is they have decided to sort of lay off the teen market for lots of good reasons but other companies aren't laying off that market and so they're getting way behind.
Leo: That's the market you want, too, for advertisers.
Jason: Although, my daughter's really into Instagram, so Facebook's got her there.
Leo: Now that's interesting. Does she use the Stories feature on Instagram?
Jason: I'm not sure if she's using Instagram Stories yet because she's so comfortable using Snapchat stories.
Leo: Snapchat's worse so there's no reason to—yea.
Jason: I think if you're already a power user of Snapchat though, there's no reason to use Instagram. I think the Instagram stuff is great for people like me who still kind of boggle when I try to use Snapchat but I get how Instagram works, so.
Leo: Do you do Stories?
Jason: You know, I haven't tried to make one but I've started looking at them. So next step is to try to make one. I thought about making one the other day. Next time I'm somewhere doing something that I feel like merits it I'll probably give it a go. I'm not sure if anybody wants to see my walk with the dog but we'll see.
Leo: I just don't want anything to disappear after 24 hours. I'm the exact opposite. I feel like if I'm going to put the energy in to making something, I want people to see it later. That's me. I want to see it later. I love my Instagram photos because I can go back through time and look at my history.
Jason: That's why we're old.
Leo: Oh. Oh.
Jason: Late adopters.
Leo: So how about this? So it's only a week after Gawker announced its demise and they had a wake and Nick Denton said goodbye and wrote a bunch of articles. Peter Thiel declared victory. Of course Peter Thiel was the billionaire, PayPal gang member and venture capitalist who funded Hulk Hogan's lawsuit that put Gawker out of business. Well, I don't know how you feel about Peter Thiel going after Gawker. There are a lot of people, even people who hate Gawker—I'm surprised to Xeni Jardin who has a very good reason to hate Gawker as do I, saying, "Oh, this is terrible that Peter Thiel went after them." I feel like he used the legal process. It's not like he sent a hitman. He took them to court through a proxy. Well now there's a new service. Legalist.us, data backed litigation financing. We fund your court case. Wow. Our algorithms analyze millions of court cases to source, vet, and finance commercial litigation. Find out if your lawsuit qualifies for financing. This is an investment vehicle. People with money saw what Peter Thiel did. Peter Thiel didn't do it to make money. He did it to put Gawker out of business but they said, "Wait a minute. What if you only funded cases that were going to win?" They say they've analyzed many cases in many courts and if you qualify, they will provide you with legal fees until the suit is resolved. And then of course they take a cut. Half? I'm not sure how much. For a long time, there's been contingency lawyers but this takes it to the next level. Help me apply. Who should I sue (laughing).
Jason: It's an interesting idea, right? The idea is if you have a large enough group and you make bets that are—
Leo: Data driven.
Jason: Pretty data driven which makes them ok. Like they don't have to be perfect but they just have to be better, you will get a return on your investment.
Leo: Right. It's just like any market.
Jason: Yea, well it's very, very much like a Wall Street investor.
Leo: Yea. This is a venture fund. We are only paid if you win the case at trial or reach a settlement. If your litigation is unsuccessful, you owe us nothing. However, of course, with litigation financing you can get the best lawyers and not have to worry about legal costs. I would—you know what? If I felt like I had to go after somebody, if I were Hulk Hogan, I would use this. It's not illegal. Is it sketch? Eh.
Jason: As a—I'm not a big fan of Gawker either but my problem with what Peter Thiel did is that we learned in journalism school, the fact is that one lawsuit can destroy pretty much anybody.
Leo: It's a chilling effect because nobody has the resources or deep pockets.
Jason: Exactly. And a reasonable case you will end up talking about a settlement. You will end up, right? I mean there are lots of places you could go there. But if the goal is to destroy you, then there will never be a settlement, right, because the goal, the ultimate goal is to destroy you. And if they can win, they will destroy you. And you know, everybody makes mistakes. And one mistake is all that's required. And Gawker made a pretty big mistake. You know we can argue with it but that was a pretty big one. But it destroyed them. And that's the scary part is that you end up in a situation where one false move when somebody is watching you will destroy any media organization. And to me, that's the scary part about it. And this, you know, this financing. It's not that different from contingencies. It's sort of like gaming the idea of lawyer contingencies. They're taking on the risk instead of lawyers. I think lawyers might actually be very happy because they just get their money.
Leo: Either way.
Jason: The investors are the ones who are taking the gamble.
Harry: Thiel also did it secretly. I mean he later said he's proud to have done it.
Leo: Not that proud.
Harry: Not that proud because nobody knew about it for the first few years.
Leo: You know Melania Trump is suing a number of, or threatening to sue a number of—
Harry: She is suing one. Is it The Daily Mail?
Leo: She's suing The Daily Mail. Yea. But threatened others including small blogs. And that was an interesting—in fact I'm trying to find it but I can't find the article as a retraction that was really a non-retraction retraction, from a small blog that said, "Well, right or wrong, even if we have sources and we believe our sources are good and we stand by the story, but right or wrong, we can't defend that lawsuit. So it has the effect of shutting us up. And so I understand that. And at the same time, this is the legal system we live under. I think it's a good legal system.
Harry: People get shut up all the time because they can't afford to go through a very expensive court case.
Leo: But that means we need some sort of tort reform. We have to have a slap system where you can't file frivolous litigation because if you lose you have to pay the costs, that kind of thing. Right now it costs you not much, especially if you're a billionaire, it's easy to file a lawsuit. If you go to Legalist it's free. Just give up a portion of it. It's here sooner than we thought. A network of fully self-driving taxis in Singapore. This is from NuTonomy a self-driving company that came out of MIT. It's based in Singapore and Cambridge and they plan to deploy a fleet in the next couple of years of 1,000 self-driving cars. There are drivers in these. Well, not drivers. More like observers. Would you get in this cab in Singapore? If you knew that it was—apparently it's not level 4, it's level 3 autonomy so there's a person behind the wheel of the car.
Jason: this is the same as the plan in Pittsburg, right? The idea is that there'll be a monitor at least for the time being, watching what happens in the self-driving car.
Leo: I guess the question is, is the monitor actually doing anything or just to reassure the passenger? I don't know. Interesting. We're getting close. Singapore. I've driven in Singapore. It's not a hard place to drive.
Jason: It's a pretty constrained area, right? And it's probably mapped very well. So like the area around the Google campus, it's probably a pretty clear place for a computer to drive though.
Leo: I think they should have a little robot in the driving seat.
Jason: Well that's Johnny Cab.
Leo: You're in a Johnny Cab. Yea. That would make me feel better. I think we're kind of coming to the end here of the show. Are there any stories that I didn't mention that you want to? Pokémon Go. We haven't talked about Pokémon Go. Apparently despite the fact that it was the most successful mobile launch in history, it has shed more than 10 million daily active users. Engagement downloads and time spent fading fast. Sigh. I notice myself I'm kind of losing interest in the old Pokémon Go. But don't worry. They're going to be back with some big changes to the game including the long awaited trading, some legendary Pokémon and I heard a rumor that the next game from Niantic, the developers of Pokémon and Ingress, will be a Pokémon Go for Harry Potter fans. Hmmm.
Leo: Cast spells. Abracadabra.
Jason: Yea, you just need to have a little more for people to do then the launch version of Pokémon Go.
Leo: It was just a skin on top of Ingress, right?
Leo: But, yea, I think they may be—I don't know. I think they were hurt by their success. I don't think they expected so much demand and they spent all their energies keeping the servers up instead of changing the game and adding interest to the game. Still, not bad. The most successful launch in mobile history. And finally let's wrap up with a farewell to a guy the New York Times, actually John Markoff of the New York Times says created the early laptop. Did you ever use a Grid?
Harry: I remember when the Grid came out and I actually wrote about it recently because it was the first clamshell laptop. There were portable computers before that, like the Osborne but the Grid really did event the idea of it opening and closing although the hinge was in the middle.
Leo: Weird. It was also heavy.
Jason: You can see the Mac Portable was a knockoff of the Grid. And there's a great, I think it's in the New York Times Obituary, a great story about Osborne seeing, being at a conference I think when John Allenby was speaking about this portable computer and of course Osborne made the luggable one that was the size of a suitcase and you popped off the top and had a keyboard. Then he opens it and it's the Grid and Osborne just thought, "Oh, geez."
Leo: I'm in trouble.
Jason: It was the moment of "I can't believe what I'm seeing here." That this opens up.
Leo: It was very early. It was 1982, one year after then IBM PC.
Harry: It was $8,000 dollars so basically, yea. They sold a lot of them to like the Reagan Administration and went up in the space ship.
Leo: Apparently for a while the codes for the nuclear launch were on the Grid. The Grid was part of the football.
Jason: This would be like $10,000 dollars in current money. It's very expensive.
Leo: A lot of money.
Harry: Look how thick it is. I did the math and it's like as thick as 10 MacBook Airs or something like that.
Jason: Well the story is that it was on the Challenger when it exploded.
Leo: And survived.
Jason: And survived. And was still functional.
Leo: It survived. That's—and it worked. There was a version according to John Markoff intended to US Special Ops that came with a red dot on its black magnesium case placed there as an aiming guide for a Commando that might have to shoot the device to destroy its data quickly, rather than let it fall into enemy hands.
Harry: It used Bubble memory. It had solid state memory when a time when it was really unusual and expensive.
Leo: Admiral Poindexter, John Poindexter who was Reagan's security advisor and a computer hobbyist had one. He would take it with him when he traveled with the president.
Harry: They were eventually bought by Tandy so they became part of Radio Shack.
Leo: Oh that explains it because it kind of looks like the early Tandy portables.
Harry: In the ‘90s, one of the last machines they did which nobody remembers was essentially the first convertible tablet. It was a laptop; you could rotate the screen around it. It came with a pen. So essentially the tablet PC about 10 years before the tablet PC came out.
Leo: John Ellenby. He was a computer scientist, passed away at the age of 75 and the creator of the Grid. Kind of seminal.
Jason: He worked on the Alto as well.
Leo: That's right. He worked on the Alto at Xerox Park, yea. Yea, very interesting. Very interesting. The Grid was named because of Ellenby's vision of a grid-like network. Where have I heard of that before—that would connect various computers with one and other allowing them to share files. Kind of a visionary. Well that does it for today's show. I want to thank you so much for coming up the pike and joining us. Jason Snell, you'll find more of him at sixcolors.com. That's his blog. Apple blog pretty much still?
Jason: I have other stuff in there too, Amazon and things like that.
Leo: And of course the Incomparable, the great podcasts also on 5 by 5.
Leo: I'm sorry, Relay.
Jason: Relay FM, yea.
Leo: And anything you want to plug?
Jason: Those are the things.
Leo: Those are the things?
Jason: Yea, check out the things.
Leo: Always a pleasure having you. Now that you know the new address.
Jason: I know how to get here.
Leo: You didn't go to the old place, did you?
Jason: No I didn't.
Leo: You did better.
Jason: I'll send you a pizza sometime now that I know where you are.
Leo: (Laughing) Also thanks so much, and you had brought Marie which is nice. Welcome Marie and Harry McCracken, our technologizer at fastcompany.com. Where's Marie? There she is. Hi, Marie. What do you think of the new place, Marie? Harry's wife. You like it? Ok. Marie's great to know because she brings us great guests too sometimes. Harry is at fastcompany.com. Read his article about Halt and Catch Fire. And anything you want to plug besides that?
Harry: Mainly that.
Leo: That must have been fun.
Harry: Yea I think I went to the set like in April.
Leo: It's fun to visit television studios. Not like this. Like a real television studio. It's kind of amazing.
Harry: Yea, I had never spent that much time on one so it was pretty cool.
Leo: Did you get to watch them shoot a little bit?
Harry: I watched them shoot.
Leo: That's when you realize this is much better because they do the same thing 20 times.
Harry: Yes, I watched them do the same one-minute bits over and over.
Leo: I would be so bored.
Harry: I didn't put this in the story but Andrew McCarthy directed that episode and the PR person said to me, "I will try to get Andrew to talk to you but he's famous for agreeing to do it and then bailing." And he did indeed bail at the last moment which was ok because I didn't think I needed to talk to him. But I listened to him on the set and he talked a lot about the fact that he's a writer which I didn't realize.
Harry: He does travel journalism.
Leo: Huh. Very interesting.
Harry: It's pretty unusual for tech companies to let you just go in and sit around and hang around while they work. If you go to a TV set, you can sit there and hang around.
Leo: It's fun. I've done that for Dexter.
Harry: You overhear stuff.
Leo: Yea, the show writer for Dexter was a fan of TWiT.
Harry: Very different from sitting in a conference room and interviewing some project manager.
Leo: I have a lot of trouble being one of those actors or even anybody on the set. Just it's so painstaking. It takes them a day to do 5 minutes of a show. They just do it over and over from different angles and it's just a lot of work. We just do it once.
Jason: That's it.
Leo: Actually let's do this whole show again. I wasn't happy.
Jason: (Laughing) maybe it will be better.
Leo: With the open. Can we start over (laughing)? No, we're not, sorry. I want to thank everybody for joining us. It's nice to have a studio audience here. Folks who found—you found the way? You didn't go to the other place, huh? All right. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll send you directions to our super-secret new TWiT Studios. I love having people in the studio audience so thank you for being here. We love it when you watch live too. We do the show every Sunday afternoon, 3:00 PM Pacific, 6:00 PM Eastern time, that is 2200 UTC if you want to watch live. You can also be in the chatroom at the same time, IRC.twit.tv. Those are like the kids in the back of the class, way in the back there throwing spitballs. I love them. Irc.twit.tv. If you can't watch live or be here live, you can also do the on demand thing. We make on demand of all of our shows available, audio or video at twit.tv that's our website. By the way, we're replacing those pictures. Those pictures on the website, those are all from the old brick house. We're going to put new pictures of the new studio in there. You can also subscribe to your favorite podcatcher like iTunes or you know, every platform has a TWiT app, Roku, Windows Phone even has a TWiT app and of course there's 5 now TWiT apps on the Apple TV. Thank you to our wonderful 3rd party developers who just—they're just fans and they decided to write apps for us. We thank you for that. We'll see you next time! But for now, another TWiT is in the can. Bye-bye.