This Week in Tech 614
Father Robert Ballecer: It's time for TWiT, This Week in tech, and boy do we have a week for you! Mainstream media wants you to think that the wanna-cry hack is over, but folks it's still ongoing. You're going to want to stay tuned to figure out what you need to do to protect yourself. Also we've got news from Amazon and Microsoft about their newest voice assistance. By the way, there are certain words we can't say in this episode, and of course, in France they've owned the hackers. It's all coming up on TWiT.
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Fr. Robert: This is TWiT, This Week in Tech, episode 614, recorded Sunday, May 14, 2017.
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It's time for TWiT: This Week in Tech, the show where we go through the tech world like your Mom looking through your laundry looking for the best news to wear. I'm Father Robert Ballecer, in for Leo Laporte, who is currently exploring his spiritual side in Colorado. But of course I'm not going to be myself, I'm going to need the help of experts in this. Starting on my left with Mr. Alex Wilhelm.
Alex Wilhelm: I wouldn't go quite so far as expert.
Fr. Robert: Of course the editor in chief at Crunchbase. I've seen you so many times, I've never actually met you in person.
Alex: I've done throws to your video clips on the show. And next up we've got, and then you would come on and I'd be like I have to meet that guy.
Fr. Robert: I just needed to make sure you actually existed.
Alex: I am corporeal. Yes.
Fr. Robert: Next to him, the man poking Alex is Mr. Roberto Baldwin at Engadget. Roberto, I also have never met you in person.
Roberto Baldwin: I'm a secretive man. I've a cave a live in, and I'm not sure what I'm doing on the show.
Fr. Robert: So there's three people from San Francisco on the TWiT podcast!
Alex: It's either going to be the coolest and best TWiT or the absolute worst TWiT.
Roberto: Eventually it will devolve into us arguing over the best burrito.
Fr. Robert: That's not an argument, The best burrito is in Petaluma. OK. Someone who will not be arguing about burritos, but giving us quality tech reporting, is Christina Warren, who is a tech journalist icon, but soon will be a Microsoft icon. Christina! How much of this can you tell us?
Christina Warren: Hey! I can share what I'm going to be doing. So my last day at Gizmodo where I worked for almost two years was on Friday. Ten years in tech journalism. For the next week, I am unemployed. I'm moving to Seattle right now, I'm packing up my apartment and I will be a senior project manager in Microsoft's online learning division, working on Microsoft's virtual academy. I'm excited.
Fr. Robert: Congratulations. But I have to ask, we established before the show started that everyone here is a millennial, other than me. Wait. There's two of us who are millennials. The extreme sides of the panels are millennials. I thought millennials were never unemployed, they were just between gigs.
Alex: The phrase is fun-employed. It's that liminal state between bumming off your parents and being able to pay for your own rent. It's fantastic.
Fr. Robert: It's nice. I've only been between gigs once, or fun-employed once, since I'm with this organization. I've got to say, it was very freeing.
Alex: I changed jobs in January, and I ended up with more free time than I expected. I got super bored really fast. Day two I was going to the gym twice a day, I had nothing to do. It was horrible.
Fr. Robert: I remember going to the gym twice a day.
Christina: My gap week, I'm moving across the country. I do not have free time.
Fr. Robert: You have to move to Redmond.
Christina: I'm in Brooklyn. The movers and packers are coming on Tuesday and we fly out on Friday.
Alex: You're not driving?
Christina: Fun fact, I don't have a driver's license. That's going to be fun for me to figure out in Seattle. Do I get a car? My husband is going to get a car. The bigger question is do I? I'm not sure. There is public transit and stuff. We will figure that out.
Alex: Are you going to be in Seattle? Bellville? Kirkland?
Christina: I don't know. I'm not sure. We'll have a temporary place to say for two months. We'll figure out the living situation.
Fr. Robert: It's not about transportation. On the East coast, having a car is difficult because of finding a place to put it. There is parking in the West coast. We can put our cars places. Driving can be an enjoyable experience.
Christina: I don't believe you. But I will give that a thought.
Fr. Robert: Let's jump in. We do have a rare opportunity to talk about a news story that is still breaking. The non tech press has picked it up and ran with it because it is so big. We're talking about wanna-cry. There's a couple things we know. We know that it was developed from the leaked Eternal Blue that was released by the Shadow Brokers. One of the first reporters to pick up this story was our own Kurt Franklin who was a co-host on This Week in enterprise Tech. We know the initial infection was an email. Once infected, a computer would check the domain to see if it responded, it would exploit an SMB vulnerability in some versions of Windows in order to spread. Once you had a computer on a network that was infected, it could infect other vulnerable computers on that network. Then it installed the double pulsar backdoor, which was interesting because that would stay even if you paid the ransom. This is crypto-wear, it would demand $300 in Bitcoin. We have to wait for the numbers, but anecdotally, we're talking about over 200,000 systems. It's probably going to end up being in half a million systems by the time this thing is done. It seems XB is taking the brunt of the attack. 10, is far as we know is not vulnerable. 8, unless you have one of the first versions, it's not vulnerable. We're talking XP, Vista, and Windows 7. Windows 7 probably not, because it's probably been patched. The first impact was hundreds of systems followed by 150 countries, including Europe, Asia, some of the Americas. Continents. Shut down manufacturing at Nissan in England. It also affected, and this is the big one, health services in Britain which are running Windows XP. You had to have patients who were diverted because the intake systems weren't diverted. Is this the very first worldwide cyberattack?
Alex: I don't know if it's the first one, but it meets the scale we've been promised. People saying this is going to come, this is at least meeting that bill of sale. There was a photo I saw on Twitter on the way up here of a Russian train control area. Some of the screens blocked off with the malware we saw a second ago, because they couldn't run the trains. This was global and systemic across our important infrastructure and our life. It meets all the thresholds of crisis.
Fr. Robert: Christina, is this the digital pearl Harbor?
Christina: I don't know if it's that. But it could be. It certainly has the potential. The first attack was mitigated, but we have all these other variants that are coming out. It's certainly scary.
Alex: Why do they only ask for $300?
Fr. Robert: It's well studied. That's the paying threshold. Below $300, people are saying that's less than the time it would take me to fix my system. Above $300, people are saying I'll just go to a backup.
Alex: So the $300 is the sweet spot. That's amazing. I was told all the crypto was flown to three separate wallets. It can't be that much money aggregate if it's only $300 per.
Roberto: If you want to do it for the Lolz, or you just want a little bit of cash, or.. they might be looking at local laws, like anything above a certain amount would go for a misdemeanor to a felony. Plus, the threshold, you're more likely to get $300 than $5000. I'll just go to the bank, get 300 dollars, we just want this off of here.
Fr. Robert: They've done studies. This is not the first crytpo ransom we've seen in a while. $600 that's too much. Versus $300, which is less than 1/3 Bitcoin. People are willing to say that's worth me not being annoyed.
Alex: .5 Bitcoin, way too much.
Roberto: Regular people don't think in Bitcoin.
Christina: I don't know how it works in this case, but getting people willing to pay the $300 go into the process of buying a bitcoin and going through that is a challenge. You wonder too, there might be people who are willing to pay $300 but aren't willing to go through the hassle of going through a Bitcoin exchange and signing up for those accounts. You have to wonder how much potential the amounts are less, depending on who your target is, they might not be willing or able to go through that process.
Alex: That sounds valid, but the fact that they shut down the NHS for less than the price of a 3 day pass to outside lands, ironic in some ways.
Fr. Robert: They don't know where it's going to go. They release it into the wild and assume it's going to...
Alex: You can't be that indiscriminate and awful for the Lolz.
Roberto: That is what for the Lolz is though. If you look at it and say what percentage of computers are running Windows 9 and 5, what percentage of computers are not patched? If we just ask for $300, every single hospital, every single small mom and pop shop, $300. Every single place is still running Windows 95, because they can't afford to update their hardware or software. B, they're using legacy software for their business. A lot of hospitals have to use old stuff for their business. A lot of people are like why didn't you patch it? Because if you do, it'll break something that is very important to keeping somebody alive somewhere.
Christina: There was a great thread on Twitter from a Microsoft employee who was talking about these 15 million MRI machines are running Windows XP embedded because when the machines were created that was the most up-to-date, modern system you could use. But the manufacturer might be gone. Getting a patch and getting stuff done is complicated, and there are a lot of things that go into why something can or can't be updated. It's not as simple as to say we'll update it. Because maybe the manufacturer is in business, or the support has been outsourced to a lot of different areas. As you were saying, Robert, updating one thing could break a bunch of other things. You still need systems that talk to one another. It's a complex problem to solve, especially when you're looking at organizations like the NHS or hospitals in general where funds are cut all the time and they don't have big budgets to have security as up-to-date, as much a priority as it is. It becomes expensive to look at replacing certain systems that are working because of something else. It's a really complicated problem when you start talking about these sorts of important vital systems, like hospitals. I think that whoever created this, figure out who is behind this, depending on what part of the world they're from. Even $30,000 could be a lot of money to them. If this continues to go on and affect more and more users and more people pay up, that money could go up.
Fr. Robert: Let's talk about the mitigation. There's a few things that we know. We know that it didn't hit the United states as hard as it hit Europe for a couple reasons. One, we're on weekend. Two, by the time it rolled around to the US, people knew about the attack, so the phishing emails were being blocked. Then there was the accidental discovery. There's a British researcher, all we know is he's known as @malwaretechblog, he works for an LA based intelligence company. He was looking at the traffic that the malware was generating, and he noticed it was beaconing to a domain that did not exist. He registered the domain and the attacks abated. If you were already infected, it didn't work. But if the malware tried to install itself on the system and it did receive a ping back from that entry which was wannacry.org, then it wouldn't install itself. It was a kill switch. So he found that by accident, but it worked. It mitigated it. Here's the fun part. I want to get your input on this. You've got the non tech press, and even some of the tech press got caught up saying that was a bad attack, as if it's over. It's like no. This morning, we had security researchers that have verified on Twitter that there is a second variant in the wild, and they removed the kill switch, and it will not work anymore.
Alex: If it was that simple to take down, you can correct that mistake. But points to that guy for saving a lot of people a lot of problems. When I read this story I thought it was a joke. This can't really be what happened. It's amazing. It shows the power of one person taking around the edges.
Fr. Robert: From what I understand it was a standard honeypot. He watched the infection traffic and went what is this domain, it's not registered, let me register it. Wow that fixed it.
Roberto: I can track it with this tab. Uh. I fixed it. The person who made the variant is like oh.
Fr. Robert: Let me take out that...
Alex: The story I read about this particular solution is that when they first did it, they thought they had made it worse. Can you imagine the emotional whiplash you would go through. What's this? I've made it worse. Never mind, I saved the world. That's an emotional roller coaster. Unlike Divo, which is not an emotional, it's just bad music.
Fr. Robert: You just can't listen to it every day.
Alex: We tried to buy some Devo hats to wear on the show today, but we couldn't get them shipped here fast enough.
Fr. Robert: Something else about the story, a US ISB decided they were going to protect their clients by blocking the domain, and someone had to reach out to them and say that's the worst thing you could do. They thought, traffic, we'll kill it. No, you just blocked the kill signal. It's amazing that even some "technically minded" people didn't actually read the story. They saw the domain and decided the domain must be bad.
Alex: No one understands security. The number of journalists I know who I would trust to explain security to me is few. Zach Whittacre is great. I do not write about security on purpose because I always feel like a charlatan. I feel like I'm covering for a lack of personal knowledge.
Roberto: Writing for security is scary. It's so incredibly easy to get wrong. It's incredibly easy to get it wrong. I lean on a lot of security experts, I lean on security researchers. You've got to call those people and talk on the phone. If you try to write it in a vacuum, with security you can't do that. You have to get security people's knowledge in your article. If you don't , you're spreading bad information, which is worse.
Christina: And you have to make sure that you're talking to the right researchers. You feel like a charlatan as a journalist, there can be charlatans in the security community too. It becomes imperative to know you're talking to the right people, explaining it the right way. I'm glad I don't have to do this anymore. It's easy to get it wrong, and it can be bad when you get it wrong. People thought this first variant, the kill switch, oh that's over. No. This is literally just the beginning. It's easy to get caught up in the rhetoric, which makes security difficult. We have so many stories like this is the worst thing ever, the general public has a certain sense of malaise and lears to ignore the big threats, so when you have a situation like this that could be the worst thing ever. I don't know how seriously people take it.
Fr. Robert: I always try to trust the security researchers I know for years. They're almost never the ones you see in the headlines. Christina, you brought up the point of the general public, we've got to ask, there's the question. whose fault is this? the New York Times put out an op-ed saying Microsoft, this is on you. I couldn't disagree more. This is a patch that was put out for most of Windows in March of 2017. They released a free patch, even though they don't have to any more. Those products are end of life. It's been dead for years.
Alex: They stamped that issue up and down month after month, get off get off.
Fr. Robert: But this op-ed says I know it's end of life, but doesn't Microsoft have a responsibility to make sure this doesn't happen?
Roberto: It's not. It goes back to the Sky is falling, it's got to be someone's fault. It's the nature of the beast. It's hard to point blame. Clearly people who made this, the NSA who had this exploit. They basically... their shoddy security allowed it out. To yell at Microsoft is ridiculous, it's like when you yell because some third party hasn't made a driver for the newest version of Windows. You can't yell at the hospitals, you can't yell at these businesses, because some of them don't have a choice. If you want to get an MRI or CT scan, it's a weird nature of the beast, and to have this op-ed that is it's Microsoft's fault misses the point. It simplifies the issue, which is we have created the systems that you can't update. There's not anything.. machines that are $100, $200, $300. You're not going to update it because you need to put Windows 10 on here.
Alex: Snowden tweeted 45 minutes ago a new Microsoft blog post. The Snowden tweet was Microsoft officially confirms the NSA developed the flaw that brought down hospitals this weekend. The Microsoft post calls out NSA... what's the actual quote? Stockpiling of vulnerabilities by Governments. Look, if you guys stockpile this stuff, this is what happens. Can you stop doing that? Who is at fault here? The NSA from recovering things that they use in their job? I don't know where to drop the blame. It's definitely not one person, it's not a simple answer.
Fr. Robert: This is a multi-part exploit. It's at least 2 to 3 parts. First part is the phishing attack. Either attachment or email link. Once it was installed, then it did the second part. The second part was an exploit of the other vulnerability in Microsoft networking. That's the part that was developed by the NSA. In the past, when you had a phishing attack, you'd affect one computer, maybe the computer that was authorized to connect to. But this one will actively search out other vulnerable installations in the network.
Alex: Can you explain what move laterally means in this context?
Fr. Robert: Once you get past the Firewall, you are all the systems past that firewall on the same level. If you can move laterally within that, that means you've bypassed the firewall for all those computers.
Alex: So there's one firewall for all the cool stuff, and once you're down there...
Fr. Robert: You effect everything in that network. Which is why good enterprise security divides things into zones. It's not a firewall and we assume everything is good. A good network will assume everyone does something stupid, so you firewall off as much inside the network as possible.
Alex: So you baby proof enterprise tab.
Fr. Robert: Think of who got hit the hardest. Manufacturing and the NHS. Neither of which have competent IT team. They don't have the ability to put things in zones. Imagine in a hospital, if every time you needed to approve an emergency service you had to go through five layers of security? People would die. That's not good. If someone enters in the wrong password in a manufacturing plant and you shut down the assembly floor... that's not going to work either. This is the story that I like. There's a story of inertia here. We do not want to change the way that we work. We want the tool to change, but the tool can't change. What they attacked here was human nature.
Alex: Can we replace humans with some better ones? That might solve the problem.
Roberto: My wife works in the hospital. She gets paid a lot of money. I don't want her replaced.
Fr. Robert: All I know is if we're going to be replacing healthcare workers, we can replace them with Pilipino AI, because they work the best.
Alex: I don't know how to comment on that and not get in trouble.
Roberto: I'm waiting for you so I can yell racist.
Alex: That's why I'm not saying anything.
Fr. Robert: Here's the thing. This is far from over, because tomorrow, Americans go back to their workplaces, they're going to be on computers that have been untouched for three days, and they are going to log into systems that might have already been compromised or they're going to be going through their huge email inbox and go I'm going to click everything I see. If this is the second variant, there is no kill switch. This is going to be a great week.
Roberto: I'm sure all the airports have updated their systems...
Christina: Shhh. I have to fly this week.
Fr. Robert: I got back from Malta on Friday and I have to leave for Europe again tomorrow afternoon. I just say it was a security thing. All right. We're going to get back to this, but we've got to move on. I don't think the tech people would say this caught us by surprise. We knew something like this was going to happen at some point.
Roberto: It's a given. WE knew this was coming, we know tons of legacy systems are out there. We know some IT departments are not as good as others, and everyone will click on those phishing emails.
Fr. Robert: I have systems in my lab that are virtualized specifically...
Roberto: Did you hear about the one that jumps out of virtuals?
Fr. Robert: It's an automatic process for me. I hit a red button and everything goes back to the way it was.
Roberto: You are a much better nerd than I am.
Fr. Robert: The church provides gear for me. Catholics are big on gear. Well folks, speaking of Gear, this episode of TWiT is brought to you by the Ring Video Doorbell. I know that you've seen this. We've had this on so many shows on the TWiT TV network. Yes, it's a doorbell that replaces the device you have on your home, yes it includes everything that you need to be up and running including the doorbell itself, the adaptor, all the tools to have it up and running in a few minutes. I bought this kit before Ring was a sponsor for my father who lives in Las Vegas. He was able to install it in four minutes. It was very impressive. It's more than an electronic doo dad. It's more than something you can hang outside so people know you're geeky. This is a security device and a security echo system that is paralleled by none. Today over a million people use the Ring video doorbell to help protect their homes. Because Ring knows home security. They know it begins at the front door and it doesn't end there. They're not just providing you with technical solutions, they're giving you a solution that takes into account human nature. That's why they're extending that same level of security that they provided in the Ring video doorbell to the rest of your home with the Ring floodlight. Just like Ring's video doorbell, the new floodlight cam is a motion activated camera and floodlight that connects to your phone. It lets you know the moment anyone steps onto your property and lets you have a two way conversation with them. You can see and speak to those visitors, even set off alarms, right from your phone, no matter where you are in the world. When things go bump int he night, you can bump back and know what it is. Whether you're home or away, the floodlight cam lets you keep an eye on your home, and floodlight cams offer the ultimate in home security with high visibility flood lights and a powerful HD camera that puts security in your hands. It was named the Wall Street Journal's best of CES 2017. I trust my parents with the Ring ecosystem. What that allows me to do, even when my parents are not home, if someone is coming up to the front door and peeking through the window. It's that that tells me my parents are secure. I know if someone is scoping out their place, it gives me peace of mind and lets me know my parents are protected. Here's what we want you to do, we want you to be always home. With Ring, you can do that. Save up to $150 off a Ring Security kit when you go to Ring.com/twit. That's Ring.com/twit. And we thank Ring for their support of This Week in Tech. All right, let's move on. I'm done with phishing and with worms. I want to talk about something happy, shiny, and new. Specifically the Amazon Echo. Disclaimer here. We do not say the Amazon voice assistant trigger word. You can say either Amazon voice Assistant, or Echo, but don't say that other word.
Alex: What if we just called it like Al?
Fr. Robert: It's close enough. That might trigger on some systems. You have to remember: people listen to the show on their Amazon devices, and if we say it the show interrupts itself, which is awesome.
Alex: I decided I don't like them and I want to troll all the owners.
Roberto: Some of them change it to computer or to Amazon...
Fr. Robert: We have no control over that. If we say it, the editors have to spend extra time editing things out.
Alex: Do we like the editors?
Roberto: I like the editors.
Fr. Robert: They're the hardest working people at TWiT.
Alex: They're the only working people at TWiT.
Christina: Can we say Wilhelm's name?
Fr. Robert: It's close enough. Just so you know, those are the ground rules. Let's talk about the new Amazon Echo show. We're talking about a seven inch touchscreen. Front facing camera, mic, a rear facing, eight mic ray. So you get that conference call technology. It's powered by an intel X 5 z 8350, Wifi 2811. ABGN, plus Bluetooth. It's probably going to be some Amazon variant of Bluetooth, like they use on their Fire tablets. It works on all current Amazon voice assistant skills. It's going to be available on June 28 for 230. You get 100 off if you buy it now.
Christina: It is so ugly.
Roberto: It looks like the 20th anniversary Mac.
Christina: It looks like a Chumbie.
Fr. Robert: I have a better one. You know what it reminds me of? Almost exactly like the three com Audrey.
Christina: Kind of yes. It looks like the Audrey, a bit like the Chumbie, a little bit like Sony's variant of the Chumbie, which is called the Dash. It is so ugly. When the leaks first appeared last week, I was like there is no way this is real. Here's your product photo, this is what it looks like.
Alex: They made the Fire phone, so...
Christina: The Firephone was attractive. The Echo and the Echo dot look fairly good. I even think the look is the creepy camera that I want. I'm terrible, I want the look. At least those have some sense of design, especially the Dot or Echo in white. This, especially in white is terrible. I don't understand how Amazon put this...
Roberto: It's the worst digital photo frames that are out there. Remember those six months when everyone was buying digital photo frames for their parents? It's one of those that happens to have a speaker.
Fr. Robert: It looks like some 3D printed something that all the parts would fit into, then gave it to the styling team, and they said, no, we'll go with that.
Christina: Yes, it's brutal, but Alex, it's accurate. This is designed for your home. The Echo and the Echo Dot are designed for a bedroom or a kitchen, this is for put this everywhere. Make this a centerpiece. You're going to use this to Facetime or to watch Netflix, and you're going to use this to get vizualizations for your music, but that makes the screen the center point. It makes the ugliness factor a lot more egregious.
Fr. Robert: That's what kills it. The whole Amazon voice assistant ecosystem is a hands free system. The second you tack a screen on, it's not hands free. You can't roam, you need to be on the screen. Can you imagine people wanting to watch content on a seven inch screen in the middle of a kitchen?
Alex: What if you held it close to your face?
Roberto: What's awesome is it's tilted up, so you get that camera angle that everyone loves, you love your chin so you look like a monster.
Fr. Robert: If you really want this, buy yourself a $50 Amazon fire Tablet, 3D print the stand, and it's a show.
Christina: People in the chat are comparing this to the iMac that was on the stand. I think that is mean. That was the best looking iMac that was ever created. That to me was a beautiful design.
Fr. Robert: That was distinctive. At least the Echo, it had that cool look.
Roberto: And the dot is unobtrusive, you could put it anywhere in your house...
Christina: The whole point is that it's voice controlled, whereas this is voice controlled, but they want you to stare at it, they want it to be the center point. I cannot imagine, I'm someone in theory who would like an object like this, even though I would never use the screen, I'm going to buy the look because I'm a dumb person. I'm an idiot, I don't have a full length mirror, this would be great. Just invite Amazon into my home to have photos of me everywhere. I'm looking at this and there's no way I'm putting this in my house.
Fr. Robert: I have an Amazon parent. Someone who works at Amazon is a parent at the school I live at, and she was explaining to me the reasons I would like this. Her primary thing was it works with all the Amazon voice assisted skills. I was like, I can already use those with my Echo. She said this is for the people who don't have an Echo.
Alex: Have them buy an Echo.
Fr. Robert: This is a lot of hate. Is there a good use for having a screen?
Alex: Yes. For letting the NSA into your house more easily. I didn't buy an Echo or a dot because it felt like a violation. This is adding even more capabilities into my house to collect data. It doesn't feel good to me.
Fr. Robert: I'm with you. I have an Echo. It is unplugged. I only plug it in when I'm doing a project that requires it. I have the voice assist on my phone turned off by default. Cortana on my Windows X computer turned off by default. Just because I don't like data leading my network. It's probably super paranoid, but it's a me thing.
Roberto: It's not paranoid. You know what I'm surprised about? The amount of security researchers I hang out with that have Amazon Echos and dots. They love those things.
Christina: They build the Amazon skills for them. That makes me feel better about my own poor decisions to let these into my house. I know you're both right, I should never have this. Then I'm like, I would like to listen to Spotify with my voice, I'd like to control Spotify with my voice. I'd like to be able to listen to TWiT or whatever. I like that convenience and I'm willing to give it up. What's interesting to me, when we talk about those skills, they are about voice. With the Fire TV, there is a visual interface, so there's precedent for that. Most of the people creating skills are doing it without the need for a screen. I don't see...unless they can make the developer play, which is you should be developing screen based responses, which is very different approach to doing things, I don't know how good the experience is going to be. Honestly, if you did want that visual experience, wouldn't it be better to have your nice attractive TV that's in your home and have your FireTV connected to that. You don't get the camera for voice calls,. but let's be honest. Even the biggest Amazon die-hards are never going to use the voice service. You're never going to be able to convince your family members to open the Amazon app and make a video call when they could facetime or use duo or whatever. People are already invested in our video systems.
Alex: You know what will add to that? Facetime, Skype, Google hangouts, and all the other consumer grade video conferencing solutions are bad. This one has high fidelity and a reliable connection I can use across oceans and continents? I will buy one just for that.
Christina: Do you believe that's going to be the case? I certainly don't.
Alex: I was trying to find some nice thing to shoot for in this conversation.
Fr. Robert: Christina brought up, as someone who might have a use case for this screen, if you're going to do that, you can do that from the Amazon voice assistant app on your phone. It's a very strange placement.
Roberto: Is it going to flop?
Christina: If it were more attractive, they might be able to convince people to do it, because of how successful the Echos have been. I would have considered buying one for my Mom if they were more attractive. Instead, I could never put that in my Mom's house.
Roberto: It's mean. It's like your Mom made you mad. Guess what you get? boom.
Fr. Robert: So this will be the Amazon lump of coal? OK. Let me inject some positivity here. A lot of people didn't know what to do with the Echo when the Echo first came out, they were like this will help me shop more? It turned out to be a blockbuster product. It was a new genre inventing product that everyone..
Christina: Great point. The Echo, didn't give our review units on the Echo for a while. So you had to buy one. When I was at Mashable I got one early. I was able to do the review when it only had a couple skills. Even then I was like this is amazing. When it was first announced most of the tech press didn't understand it, but then it came out and it was a good product and they've continued to make it better. I think you're right. I will add the caveat that I didn't believe the Echo would be as big as it is, and it came out and I loved it. If they can come out with a more attractive version of this... that would be my only thing. The ecosystem for the Echo products is huge.
Fr. Robert: Do you think Techies will hate it but consumers will love it?
Roberto: I don't see what the need is for it. I don't understand why you had to put a screen on something that works great. I ask thing something, it tells me something, I don't have to do this, and I don't have to look at it.
Alex: How often do you use it?
Roberto: All the time.
Alex: Five times a day?
Roberto: At least.
Fr. Robert: When I had it plugged in, all it did was play music for me. It's a decent speaker.
Alex: The dot is not.
Christina: The whole point of it is you plug it into your speaker. You can use Blutooth or...
Fr. Robert: I had it plugged into my car for a while. It worked. It got its Internet through my phone, it was tied into the audio system. I had the array mics in my car. It worked reasonably well.
Alex: Can we become best friends? My life is so boring compared to that.
Fr. Robert: You have to remember I have no social life to speak of.
Alex: You're talking to tech journalists.
Fr. Robert: There is one more attachment to this. This is the fact that Amazon also announced their A word calling. It's a new skill that allows hands free sending and receiving of calls to anyone with an Echo or the Amazon voice assistant app. So it will work on phones, it will work on all the Echos. Paired with a show, you can make video calls with this. Interesting, right? Free is good. Is this a good thing.
Roberto: The video calls don't make sense. I can make a video call with this and I can walk around the house. Look at this. Look at that. I'm over here, I'm over there.
Alex: Rob is very tall. He's the tallest tech journalist of all time.
Roberto: Casey is taller than I am.
Alex: He's the second tallest tech journalist of all time. there's a record.
Fr. Robert: WE use Facetime in my household but it's mostly between my brother and mother because she wants to see the grandchildren. I can't see her tilting the show down.
Alex: Can you recall all the times it came out? The Windows 7 for the Kitchen? The Windows 8 for the Kitchen? The Windows Vista PC for the Kitchen. It'll be great, it'll be right there. No one bought them. It is a low price item at least.
Christina: I will say that. That's probably its best quality. This is very inexpensive for what it's ostensibly offering. But again, I wonder. Wouldn't people be better off getting a Fire Tablet?
Fr. Robert: It's less than 1/4 the price.
Christina: Put it on a stand, now you can walk around with it, it might not be listened to the same way that this device would be. It will be portable, you can talk with it. People do love to put their tablets in the kitchen. It's a popular place for people to put tablets. I don't understand this product.
Roberto: People tend to move the tablet...
Fr. Robert: They should have done more of a user study. If they wanted to make something with a screen that would be an indispensable item, it should have been the Amazon Echo Paper, installable in the bathroom with a seven inch screen, and right below it is a toilet paper dispenser. Let's be honest. Amazon you're welcome.
Roberto: and you're stationary so you can look at it. You can't tweet from it.
Alex: NO you can. It doesn't have a keyboard...
Fr. Robert: Do people do toilet tweets? Is that a thing?
Alex: 90% of my tweets are from the toilet.
Fr. Robert: On that, I think we're going to be moving away from that. Christina, we're going to be talking to you for the next one. This is something that's going to be in your world. Amazon wasn't the only one who released interesting news about voice assistance this past week. We're going to have to talk about Microsoft's effort. But before we get there, let's take another quick break to thank another sponsor of This Week in Tech. You guys lose things, right? Christina, have you ever lost something shiny that you love?
Christina: So many things.
Fr. Robert: It's too easy. I say it's easier now. So many high value items are so small and designed to be so portable it's easy to walk away from them and from them to walk away from you. Phone, keys, bag... if only there was a device we could use that we could attach to our most treasured technology possessions, that would allow us to know where they were, that would allow us to find out down to the meter where they might be located. Folks, that exists. It's called the TrackR. The TrackR is a coin sized device that you can attach to anything you find valuable. To your keys, to your phone, to your computer bag. Even to your pets. It allows you to link it up to your phone so you can find out where it's going. TrackR is possibly the best, the easiest way to track your things. It uses a lithium battery that lasts for a year, so you're not going to be changing the battery on this. It's good to go. Not only can you pair a TrackR, you can pair it up to your phone and get a separation alert. As you're walking away from your bag in the coffee shop, you get a notification on your phone saying hey, are you sure you want to be moving away because I'm out of range. You can do reverse tracking, push a button on your TrackR, and it will make your phone ring, even if it's set to silent. How good would that be? If you know where your keys are but you can't find your phone? Push the button, listen to the tone. There you go. With the TrackR, you never have to worry about losing your things again. The new TrackR bravo is that coin sized device, and it's constructed with anodized aluminum. It's the most durable tracking device ever. Once you pair it, you can find out where all your items are. Here's what I love. It uses something that they're calling mesh GPS. It allows you to find out where a device is even if it's gone beyond the range of your Bluetooth transmitter or receiver. The way it does that is as long as your TrackR is in range of another TrackR user, they can still get the beacon and you can get the notification. That means that if your phone has wandered across the world and it is somewhere in India, you can push that button and find out what street it's located. A while ago I had a gig bag that I left in our garage at the high school. Unfortunately, someone opened the garage during one of our open campus days, someone wandered into the garage, took my gig bag, and left with some prototype devices. What ticked me off was when my audience said you've had the TrackR on your network for years, why didn't you have one on your bag? That was one of my smack my head moments. With over 4.5 million devices, TrackR has the largest crowd GPS network in the world. You're always going to be able to find your item, even if it's wandered away from you by miles. By states, by countries. The distance indicator on the TrackR app will show you if you're getting closer or further away from your item. So there's a bit of detection finding skill involved. With a 38 day money back guarantee, there's no reason not to give it a try. Folks, are you tired of losing your stuff? You can stop losing your stuff today. Go to thetrackr.com and enter the promo code TWiT. You get a free TrackR Bravo with any order. That's thetrackr.com, promo code TWiT for your free TrackR Bravo with any order. We thank TrackR for their support of this week in Tech. Let's move on to a lesser known voice assist, but one that is important. That's Cortana. Cortana is built into every Windows 10 device, it's in the X Box one, and now Microsoft wants to make it a stand-alone device. They don't want it to be tied to the PC. They don't want it to be tied to your TV. They want it to be something like what Google and Amazon have with their respective voice assistants. At build, which was this last week, it was clear Microsoft wants to go after this market. They saw what most tech journalists saw at CES. Everything is Amazon. Everything had an Amazon integration. They're all realizing why build my own thing when I can use Amazon's? How many of you went to CES?
Roberto: It's ridiculous how big the Echo has gotten. My thought is what took Microsoft so long? Apparently Apple is working on the same thing. Come one guys. Get with the program.
Alex: Siri has been out the longest with these things and it's the worst of all of them. Apple has different privacy rules, and I don't say that in a way to cast aspersions, but Cortana is somewhere in the middle, between A word and Siri at the bottom. Cortana is fine. I have it on Windows 10. Then again, I'm the guy without a dot or an Echo. This sounds like a reasonable move, but not one I'm jumping up and down screaming yes about.
Fr. Robert: Christina, do you use Windows 10 at all?
Christina: Um. I have an X box One S.
Fr. Robert: You have Cortana.
Alex: Is your fun-employment going to stretch on a bit longer now?
Fr. Robert: I'm sorry about that, Christina.
Christina: I will be using Windows 10 every day very soon, and I'm very excited about it.
Roberto: You're not a journalist anymore. You don't have to worry about ethics. Say what you want to now.
Roberto: You are now in the realm of the normals. They have much more freedom. Let's talk a bit about what Microsoft is doing here. Even though they have a much larger install base than Amazon ever will, because it's included in Windows 10, I have a dozen Windows 10 devices in my lab, all of which have Cortana turned off. I don't think I'm alone in that. I think a lot of people see that Cortana voice assistant and say no.
Christina: When I review Windows 10 laptops, I will use Cortana more than I used Siri on the Mac, because Siri on the Mac is... it's superfluous. At least Cortana you can get interesting results. Maybe I'm wrong in this, but where I understand Siri and Google assist on the phones and how that can be useful, where the voice assistant stuff has become the most useful is realizing the secondary devices in the home that are these speaker types of things. That's where it becomes interesting. That's why at CES we saw so many integrations, and that's why Microsoft is so interested in expanding Cortana into this space. I think that for me, the way I use stuff, I might use Siri to set an alarm on my phone and maybe Cortana for a similar purpose to connect to a network or do some quick search, but in general I don't think to do that. I tend to instead get the most value out of voice assistants if it's set an alarm, or set a timer, or play this channel. Those sorts of things that are best suited to a third party device, rather than something that is integrated into my computer where I can just Google something or my phone where I can open up a webpage and I'm right there.
Fr. Robert: For me, I get it. I've played with Cortana and it's quite good. It gives me interesting analysis, but the problem has been I have my keyboard and my mouse. If I'm at my computer, I'm faster than me asking Cortana to do something. It's a walk away device, it's like the Echo. That's what they realize. They have to have a device that proves the utility of Cortana. It's a hands free device, when you're away from the keyboard of a mouse.
Alex: Is this just Echo envy.
Fr. Robert: No. I see this as part of the strategy. Mandello came from Microsoft's service side. He's always been about web services first. And part of web services first is leveraging the integrations that no one else can. They love using things they can do that Amazon can't. They're betting on two things. The first is they're using the PC model of voice assistant. Unlike Amazon and Google, they're not building their own thing. They want partners, so they brought in HP, Intel, Invoke Speakers, BMW, Nissan. They want their partners to build the devices, just like their PCs. And I think that gives them the edge as far as penetration. So, you'll see a more varied variety of voice assistants in different circumstance. You'll find them in the car. You'll find them in the appliances. But the second thing, and I think this is their big advantage. This is why I would not count them out. They can offer far more integration than Apple, Google or Amazon in the sense that they have their calendar. They have your travel plans. They have your search history. They have your time sheets. They have IOT data. If they're tied into your Enterprise network, they have your Enterprise networking data. And all of those things, they've already integrated into Cortana. Cortana can make some amazing correlations based on your contact sheet and who you're getting email from.
Roberto: But, yea, that's a corporate play. Because Google does have my travel plans. Google does have my calendar. Google does have all this stuff. I don't care. I mean, the average person doesn't care about their time sheets at home.
Fr. Robert: Well, no, it's not breaking up your time sheets but it will—you'll find Cortana doing something like, it will know that according to your time sheet you've worked this much so you probably need a vacation. And it knows that this is one you get paid, so these are good times to pitch you on vacations.
Alex: So, it's going to try to sell me stuff?
Fr. Robert: Not necessarily. Depends on your settings.
Alex: I am not down for that. Can I ad block Cortana?
Roberto: I think I just know that I need a vacation. If I need a robot in my house to tell me, "You know, Robbie, you need a vacation." I should have known that like weeks ahead of time.
Fr. Robert: I notice you're bleeding out of your eye. Maybe it's time to step away from the computer.
Roberto: Oh, dear.
Alex: Three times in four days. How are you doing today? I don't think they're going to be intelligent enough for us digital, not natives per se, but digital constants. Like this is where we live all the time, it actually improves our lives. But then again, I try to build a use case for like my parents, you know? Like they're less digitally centered than we are so perhaps this would be a good extension of modern technology into their more functional lives. But, I'm with you, dude. I can type so much faster than I can talk. Like, it's not even a question.
Fr. Robert: I'm kind of down on voice assistants for myself in general just for that very fact. I don't like talking to things. I barely like talking to people. I definitely don't want to talk to devices.
Roberto: I like yelling across the room.
Fr. Robert: Oh! So, close.
Alex: Robbie agreed to do 10 pushups after the show for every time he—
Roberto: I can't do 10 pushups. There was no way I would have agreed to that. I might be able to pull off like a third of a push up.
Alex: I'll pay you $100-dollars to do 10 pushups.
Christina: Wow. Robbie will do it.
Roberto: No, I still don't think I can do 10 pushups and that's a sad thing. I would like $100-dollars.
Fr. Robert: Real pushups or just like kind of hover a little bit.
Alex: Well, for you, half pushups. For Robbie, full deal.
Roberto: I don't know if I can do 10 pushups. I haven't surfed in so long. Any hoo. I like yelling across the room at my digital assistants. And when I don't have a keyboard, like at my house I'm sitting there and I want something to happen or I want a question answered, I can yell it. In the car, like when it works well, Siri does not—it works great.
Fr. Robert: You have a way bigger house than I do because where I live—
Roberto: No, I live in a tiny little apartment.
Fr. Robert: If I want something to happen, I am within arm's reach of the device I wants.
Roberto: Yea, but you have 12 computers all around you. I just assume your house is just every surface has a computer on it.
Fr. Robert: Well, I mean I have to have a different set of computers for every type of work I do. They never mix. That's a thing with me. I'm serious. They never—well, I have to have my personal computer but then the computers I use for the Vatican work are different from the computers I use for the TWiT work.
Alex: Ok, that's fair.
Fr. Robert: Different from the computers I use for my school work.
Alex: That's actually a reasonable and it actually sounds fair.
Robbie: It sounded more like you were just like, "Yea, this is my computer for when I order Eat24."
Alex: I want a hoarder joke. But it wouldn't have come out very well.
Fr. Robert: We have hoarders in my order. You have to remember, anyone that lived through the Depression has already a natural tendency towards being a hoarder. And we have a lot of those. And whenever they die we have to clean out their rooms and it's amaze-balls.
Alex: There was so much in that sentence that I want to enact but we don't have time for, but just give us one example. What's an amazing thing you found during these post-life—
Fr. Robert: Oh, when I was living in Los Angeles, I lived next to a brother, Brother McDermott. I love him. I have no problem saying his name. And he was a geologist. We were clearing out his workshop. We found more than $153,000 dollars in uncashed checks and bonds that he just received over 60 years of a career and just tossed them into a box.
Christina: Oh, my goodness.
Fr. Robert: We also found an actual moonrock that we returned to NASA who said, "How did you get a moonrock?"
Alex: Well, I went to the moon and—
Roberto: That's amazing. How did you know it was a moonrock? Did it say? Was it labled?
Fr. Robert: No, it had no label.
Alex: It said moon in Sharpie.
Fr. Robert: It was like—he had a lot of very valuable stones in his lab. But then there was one that was under a container. I was looking at it going, "Wait a minute." So, I contacted a friend I have at JPL. I said, "Are there any missing moonrocks?" He goes, "Actually there's one." I'm like, "I think I have it."
Alex: There was one missing moon rock?
Fr. Robert: There was one.
Alex: Are you serious? Pinky swear. Pinky swear. Pinky swear. All right.
Fr. Robert: Actually my superior can verify it because he was—it was kind of amazing.
Alex: Well, who got the money?
Fr. Robert: There was no money.
Alex: The $153,000-dollars.
Fr. Robert: The problem is a lot of those were bonds and checks. Those expire. So, there was maybe $10,000-dollars in cash and that went to the school. But the rest of it was just wasted. You can't—I mean, a check that's 18 years old, they're not going to let you cash it.
Fr. Robert: I didn't know that.
Fr. Robert: Oh, really? Wait a minute. We've got millennials here. Have you ever written a check?
Alex: Oh, yea. I have a checkbook.
Christina: Yea, of course.
Fr. Robert: You have to pay rent, right?
Alex: No, when you fill out your deposit information.
Fr. Robert: Oh, that's right. When you have to do an electronic transfer, that's from your checkbook, right? Oh, no, it's not. Not anymore.
Alex: Venmo hooks up to my checking account, sure, but writing check is like I'm in jail or getting my friend out of jail or something.
Roberto: How do you pay your rent?
Alex: It's just a direct transfer every month.
Roberto: Christina, how do you pay your rent?
Christina: Yea, I literally Venmo my landlord.
Roberto: Oh, what I do is I write all the checks for the year and I put them in an envelope. Because they wouldn't do anything. Because I hate—the idea of writing checks is the worst. And so I just give him an envelope full of checks and I'm like, "Just cash them throughout the year."
Fr. Robert: I got a checkbook when I opened up my current account, which I opened 20 years ago with Wells Fargo. The book is currently on check number 17.
Roberto: How do you pay room rent?
Fr. Robert: Rent? (Laughing).
Roberto: Oh, sorry.
Fr. Robert: Rent? I don't have rent. Let's ask our audience. How many of you still use a check on an average monthly basis?
Alex: No, one person.
Roberto: Burt does.
Fr. Robert: But Burt's weird.
Roberto: So, I have the only landlord that's living in the 90s? So, what's going on with that?
Audience Member: I live in Lake County and there's some companies that just do not accept anything except checks. That's the only thing you can use to pay.
Roberto: They only take checks.
Audience Member: Yes.
Fr. Robert: I don't think I could live someplace that would only take checks. That would feel really shady to me.
Christina: Yea. That's weird. No, I mean before we Venmo—
Fr. Robert: You're landlord takes Venmo, right?
Alex: I wish I could pay my rent with my credit card and get mad points. But they don't let me.
Christina: Oh, see, we—they were going to let us pay by credit card but then if we did that, we had to pay like an extra 5%. And I was like, well, no. Yea, the processing fee or whatever. I was like, screw that. That's not happening. So, for a while before the landlord would do that, we would do a certified check because there's been a problem at one point with—yea. That's more annoying. Then you have to go to the bank and actually have them do it and pay $10-dollars and it's a whole thing.
Fr. Robert: You have to go inside the bank. Think of how much security does not exist that we are so used to when you write a check. So, the verification is your signature at the bottom of a check. And the amount is determined by the number you write in pen on the top of the check. That's it.
Roberto: Well, you've got to spell it out as well. That's the security, the spelling it out.
Fr. Robert: That's the thing that hits me the most whenever I do have to write a check which is my spelling is really bad and thank God for spell check because I'm like seventeen, that's S-E-V-E-N and then just T. 15. How do you spell fifteen?
Alex: It's not fifteen so F-I-F-T and yea.
Fr. Robert: I know people who write—
Roberto: I give them the extra dollar and write sixteen.
Fr. Robert: (Laughing) Just round it up so it's an easier number to spell.
Roberto: Fifteen dollars, not worth it.
Christina: What I was going to say though, it's funny, is that the technology for scanning checks and like the OCR stuff in apps, like Bank of America's app and the Chase app and things like that is incredibly good even for terrible handwriting. So, the few times somebody will send me a check and I'll need to cash it, you can now cash it with the Bank of America app. So, you open up your app and you take a photo of the check, the front side and the back side and they're like, "We will deposit this in your account." You don't even have to go to the bank anymore. And it's a similar thing. If you actually go to the bank now to deposit through the ATM, it's like scanning the check and doing OCR. And it's actually quite good. So, that tech is kind of cool. But, yea. The 6 years that I've lived in New York, I very, very, very rarely ever had to write a check to the point where I don't think I've ever updated my checkbook with my New York address. So, yea. When I lived in Atlanta, towards the end I think the only way I ever wrote checks was to my hairdresser and pizza. And like that was it. So, it was like Pizza Hut and like the hair salon. That was it.
Fr. Robert: Do you have the checkbooks that have the carbon paper underneath the checks so it—
Fr. Robert: I still have that.
Christina: I do too.
Fr. Robert: I love that thing. It's awesome.
Alex: What vintage is that?
Fr. Robert: It was like 2000 basically.
Alex: So, you wrote them and made a receipt. What did you do with the receipt afterwards? Did you hold on to it?
Fr. Robert: No, it stays in the checkbook. It's attached.
Christina: It stays in the checkbook.
Fr. Robert: You tear off the check, but the carbon still attached.
Alex: Oh, my mom had that when I was a kid. Yea. I'm sorry, that came out insensitive.
Christina: The last checks I got in like 2006 had those, so they were like DC comic checks that had Superman and Wonder Woman checks. They were really cool actually. I liked those checks.
Fr. Robert: How did we get talking about checks?
Fr. Robert: We were talking about Cortana (laughing). Wow. Ok, that's different. I will say, here's a quick life hack. I recently had to donate—well, I didn't have to. I donated $10,000-dollars to a project to do something at DEFCON because I want them to build something awesome for the attendees. And they let me use PayPal. The reason why I used PayPal was because I now have $10,000-dollars of spend on my credit card which goes to my frequent flyer miles.
Roberto: Oh, yea.
Fr. Robert: So, if you're looking for a quick way to get to your, what do they call that? The—because you have to have a certain spend in order to get mileage now. That's a very easy way to do it.
Alex: Just have $10,000-dollars. Have something to give it to. Give it to them. Voila.
Fr. Robert: I mean, even if you don't do that because with the special promotion, $10,000-dollars transferred through PayPal from my credit card costs me $160-dollars.
Fr. Robert: And that's much less than it would cost if I actually tried to get that spend. So, if you're looking to do that on your frequent flyer account, that's actually a decent way to hack it.
Roberto: That's a good idea.
Fr. Robert: You can PayPal to yourself. You actually can.
Roberto: So, you could pay your rent through PayPal.
Fr. Robert: Yea, put it on your credit card.
Christina: And earn frequent flier miles.
Fr. Robert: People are like, "No."
Alex: No, that takes so much work I'm not going to do it.
Roberto: It's like 2 seconds.
Alex: I don't think about finance that much and it makes me nervous.
Roberto: You? That's like all you do is think about finance?
Fr. Robert: Oh, by the way, $10,000 is the max because if you do $10,000 and one, they do like a 2-week long security check.
Christina: Got you.
Alex: How do you know that?
Fr. Robert: It's a Jesuit thing. Ok, let's move onto something else that is not checks or Cortana. A laptop ban. This actually hit me because I was flying back from Malta on—when did I get back here? On Thursday? Friday? Saturday? I got back over the weekend. And Delta actually had me check my laptop into my bag because they were afraid that a travel ban was going to take place while I was in route because it was a 31-hour trip.
Roberto: Oh, wow.
Fr. Robert: And I transferred twice. And they were like, "If it happens and you hit the United States, they're not going to let you carry your laptop through." This is something that DHS will be doing. They're not exactly sure when they're going to institute it but they're going to be banning laptops in the cabins of all airlines going from Europe to the United States. Previously they had banned it just from a certain number of countries. Now it will be any European flight you will not be allowed to carry a laptop in the cabin. You've got to put it in your checked luggage.
Alex: Does that cover tablets as well?
Fr. Robert: Not yet.
Alex: What about two-in-ones?
Fr. Robert: Or what about really large tablets? What about this which is about the size of a tablet?
Roberto: It doesn't make any sense. They're just literally—it makes zero sense. Because what is the—they're not going to tell us what the problem is. But what is the—whatever security issue they're concerned of, could it be an explosive, if you have gone that far to make a computer into an explosive, it's going to take you 5 extra minutes to trigger that with your cell phone that's in your pocket in the cabin.
Fr. Robert: Unless you have a Note 7.
Alex: Then you have two bombs in one.
Roberto: No, too easy.
Fr. Robert: No, ok. Now this was brought about by intelligence that they did receive that terrorist were modifying laptops to act as an explosive device. In fact, an Airbus 320 last year had to make an emergency landing after one of these was set off and it actually blew a hole, a decent sized hole through the fuselage. It was able to land but that spooked a lot of people because they knew that they were trying to do it and they finally figure it out. They're not releasing any of the technical details but from what I was able to hear on the darker side of the internet was it's a combination of a binary explosive and actually using the lithium-ion battery that's in there. Because they realized there's a lot of chemical energy in there and if you can have a big enough runaway reaction, it's very energetic. Right, it does actually explode, especially if you combine it with a binary reagent.
Alex: So, this is not security theatre, then?
Fr. Robert: This is not security theatre. This is actually--- but, it kind of still is.
Roberto: But the shoe thing still is because remember that guy with his shoe once that one time he was going to try to light a bomb that was in his shoe. So, now we all have to take our shoes off. So, the fact that like, ok, well, you can't take laptops. Do you think the terrorists are still like, "Well, you know, let's just keep doing that laptop thing. I know they're putting them down here. Let's keep doing that laptop thing."
Fr. Robert: Well, there's XKCD Comic about a man arguing with a TSA agent at the gate because the TSA agent won't let him bring his bottle of water. He was trying to convince him. He was trying to win the argument by saying, "But my laptop has way more explosive potential than that bottle of liquid."
Alex: Don't make that argument inside the airport. Don't do it.
Christina: No, do not. Do not.
Alex: You'll be in the airport for a long period of time.
Fr. Robert: But I want to go with what you were saying. Where do you stop? The problem isn't the laptop. There it is. The problem is the lithium-ion battery. And that lithium-ion technology exists in your phone. It exists in your watch. It exists in your tablet. It's in any mobile device.
Roberto: You're not allowed to check battery packs. I travel with a lot of battery packs because I'm always out in the middle of nowhere in a car or whatever. And so, I need to be able to charge things all the time. So, I can't check these bricks. So, I bring them on the plane. I shove them in the thing. There's nothing that would stop someone from doing the same thing with a brick.
Fr. Robert: And that's by design because they've actually had, in 2016 there were 33 incidents of fire. This was not malicious. This was just devices catching on fire. It happens. You pinch a lithium-poly pack the wrong way, expose it to oxygen, and suddenly it's a runaway pack. And what the FAA is worried about is that the traditional fire suppressant technology that planes carry do not work against lithium-ion packs. A water extinguisher or halon extinguisher will not extinguish the flame. And it's not the flame that will affect you, it's all the smoke it's going to release into the cabin. If it's in the cargo hold, there's no way to get to it.
Fr. Robert: So, we should just not have electronics anymore?
Alex: No. I mean I don't want—
Roberto: I'm totally fine with that. You know what? Let's go back to being Amish.
Alex: Ok, you're not that old, Robbie. You're over halfway there. I mean is there any middle ground here that's functional and safe that allows us to still have entertainment on planes? I read mostly analog, so I don't really care too much.
Fr. Robert: I sleep.
Christina: Well that becomes too, right, is that more and more of the airlines are moving away from putting in inflight entertainments, like inputting in screens and TVs, you know, in the planes. Oh no, just use your iPad. Just use your tablet and sign into our app on our network and access your server that way. That's literally becoming one of the ways that they're trying to cut money, on inflight entertainment things. So, there's like a certain amount of business pressure versus like security theatre or maybe not security theatre. Maybe valid concerns like we're going to be kind of pushing up against one another if they do start to ban more and more types of devices from being carried on because it is like literally, like what are people going to do?
Fr. Robert: Yea, and it doesn't make—again, it doesn't make any sense because now you've told everybody, "Hey, we're not going to let these on anymore." And, again, if you're the kind of person who's already created an explosive out of a computer, you're going to be able to trigger it with this.
Alex: Well, I just hope we all don't get taken down, but I can't imagine I'm going to fly any less because of this. This isn't going to affect my behavior at all. It's going to be an annoyance that I'm going to get over.
Roberto: I can't use my computer on the plane anyway.
Alex: Why not?
Roberto: Because I'm too tall. I look like a T-Rex. I'm like typing like this. I'm never comfortable. What are you doing? Are you working? Yea, I'm writing an article. So, I just don't.
Fr. Robert: You need one of the tablets, one of the convertibles that actually lets you put the screen forward.
Fr. Robert: Have you seen those, like the Acer R13? It's on a pivot, so you can actually—the screen moves up and it's still on the swivel but you put it here so that the keyboard's actually behind the screen. I've seen that used on planes. It works really, really well.
Alex: That's pretty cool.
Roberto: I still don't have a lot of room.
Alex: Is that why you don't use a mouse in the office?
Roberto: No, I don't use a mouse because I was starting to get carpel tunnel in my right hand. So, I use a tablet now.
Roberto: I mean, I've been using a tablet for like 10 years.
Alex: Robbie has a very particular work setup at his desk and I really appreciate it. We're like 10 feet apart now, so.
Roberto: Besties at the workplace.
Fr. Robert: This actually doesn't affect me that much because I don't use my electronics in the cabin. I'm normally sleeping or watching something on the entertainment system. So, if I have to check everything, the only thing I will miss is my phone. I like having my phone because I use it when I'm between, on connections.
Christina: Of course.
Fr. Robert: Bu that's actually, it's a big impediment to doing business if you don't have your electronic devices with you. If they were to day, "Look, they can't travel in the cabin or the cargo hold, you have to ship it yourself."
Alex: Oh, my gosh.
Christina: Oh, God. That would be a nightmare.
Fr. Robert: Because that's the only way to make these things safe. They'll still catch on fire in the cargo hold if they were going to catch on fire.
Roberto: That's my nightmare.
Alex: Back in the history of computing, people talked about thin clients in the 90s. Once we had that, they were everywhere. You weren't going to have a computer where you got, with you or wherever you ended up. You would just login to your own instance and go from there. Sun was working on this back in the day. If you remember Sun.
Christina: Yea, Oracle too.
Alex: Exactly. We didn't go that way as a world of computing. But maybe if that happens, if we're forced in that direction really late, way past the time we thought it may have already happened. But I can't imagine not having a computer for more than like—when I get out of the shower, I'm like, "Give me a computer."
Roberto: Hotel Wi-Fi is the worst. The thin client will not work. I have to use hotel Wi-Fi all the time and I'm like no, My-Fi. And even the My-Fi, depends on where I'm at, it's the worst. Thin client will not work.
Fr. Robert: Christina, you had something?
Christina: No, I was just saying like you're right. This would just be a nightmare. The one positive thing, I mean obviously having to ship your laptop or rely on thin clients would be terrible. The one positive thing I guess, and it's not positive for everybody, but if you can't use the laptop in the cabin, then you know, like employers who basically try to force you to work on flights, that's like a great excuse to no longer having to turn literally every free moment when we're not in the office into a working option. Because, sorry. Can't work on the flight, guys. Can't follow those blogs because they won't let me.
Alex: I can't follow the blogs, man. Come on.
Fr. Robert: By the way, I do want to thank Air Malta because they had the old-style planes that still had the Ethernet jack. And you could watch movies over the in-plane network. And here's the best part. It actually copied a copy of the file to my computer before it started playing. So, now I have Mulan on my computer.
Alex: So, I actually pulled up a map while we were talking of where Malta is. Because I knew roughly but couldn't actually point at which bit of the ocean was the speck. It's in the Med. I couldn't like pin it.
Fr. Robert: It was the most bombed city during World War II because it's where the British were staging their push into Africa.
Fr. Robert: Actually, that place is amazing. We went down into the catacombs. It runs almost the entire city of Mdina. And there was a place where you could pay a fee and you would bring your family down into these tiny little concrete bunkers while the city was getting blown apart.
Alex: You had to pay?
Roberto: Oh, there was a fee.
Fr. Robert: Yea, you had to pay a fee. So, if you were poor, you were done.
Alex: That is some late stage capitalism.
Fr. Robert: True. True. Very true. All right, so, but it's going to happen. So, are any of you going to Europe anytime in the near future?
Roberto: I don't think so.
Alex: Yea, I was going to go in the fall, actually.
Fr. Robert: So, you can have your laptop in the cabin on the way over and you'll have to check it in on the way back.
Alex: I picked the wrong year to stop drinking. It's going to be a really boring flight.
Roberto: You can still take your tablet and your battery pack and your phone.
Alex: Who uses a tablet? Come on.
Roberto: I only use a tablet for traveling so I can watch movies.
Fr. Robert: Christina, do you do your real work on a tablet or do you still have a laptop?
Christina: No. I still have a laptop.
Fr. Robert: I remember there were press rooms at CES and NDE and all the big events, and the big craze for a couple of years was everyone working on tablets. And now I'm seeing them coming back.
Christina: They're coming back, yea.
Roberto: No, I can't do anything.
Christina: Like I was saying, people like Federico from MacStories. He's been able to make the Mac, the iPad Pro his primary computer for years and he has a ridiculously complex setup and like more power to him. He's a great guy. Me? Absolutely not. I need an actually computer. I don't care if it's running Windows. I don't care if it's running Mac OS. It can even be a Chromebook. I would be—that's harder, but I would prefer a Chromebook to just having being forced to have my iPad.
Roberto: I don't have time to screw around with a tablet.
Alex: We were at CES in one of those kind of God forsaken hallways that you get stuck in before different keynotes. And back at TC, Kyle Russel before he went to Andreesen was on the crew. And he was sitting there on the floor which is very common. And he had one of those little 3rd party iPad stands and the crappy little keyboard. And I just wanted to give him a hug. Like, no. They'll give you a real computer. Why are you trying to run an F1 race in a go-cart? It just doesn't make any sense.
Fr. Robert: My favorite is seeing press people who are trying to use the wireless keyboard with a tablet but they don't have a desk. It's on their lap, in the conference hall.
Alex: It's the 65 and up community. They've got their glasses down like here. They're like, "Well, I'm going to log on now." God bless those people. They're still around.
Fr. Robert: Well, let's move on. I do want to talk about something that I think it's important because this is in its nascent stage and we actually do still have a say. Specifically, Comcast and Charter are going to be moving into a new venture and they've decided that it would probably be better, in their best interests of course, if they didn't compete. I think maybe consumers should have a say in that.
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Fr. Robert: All right, so back to the tease. Comcast and Charter on Monday, they made a joint announcement that they would and I'm going to use a quote here, "explore potential opportunities for operational cooperation in their respective wireless businesses to accelerate and enhance each company's ability to participate in the national wireless marketplace."
Alex: In non-crap speak, what does that mean?
Fr. Robert: It means that what they want to do is they want to license service from Verizon, become an MVNO. That's a Mobile Virtual Network Operator. They're probably going to combine it with features that they will integrate into their services so that it gives them some communication slash enterprise-y feel. And then resell it to their customers. But, here's the thing. They've decided that they're not going to compete. So, going into this venture, they've agreed that if either of them ever want to make another acquisition, let's say Comcast says, "Hey, you know what? We can buy T-Mobile." Or, let's say Charter says, "There's a local operator that we want to buy and it's in Comcast territory," they have to get the permission of the other.
Roberto: That's not creepy. That's not, yea.
Alex: I mean, I'm a capitalist.
Christina: That's totally cool.
Roberto: Just expect all your bills to go up is what that means.
Alex: Yea, whenever two corporations go long, I presume that I'm losing somehow. And again, I'm a capitalist. I'm not trying to say I'm opposed to corporate entities doing well, but this seems very creepy to me and it's probably pretty good for Verizon because they have both working for them going together, but I can't imagine this is going to be good for consumers, aside from there will be some kind of increase in competition in certain areas. But this is just creepy, to use Robbie's word, and also just blech.
Fr. Robert: Yea, and it just—I mean it smells anti-competitive. I mean it's in the wording. We're not going to compete against each other.
Alex: I believe that's the definition.
Christina: It's really interesting because in a different administration and a different era, this would be the sort of thing that would immediately I think trigger intervention from Congress or somebody to look into this. Because this just on its face just smells bad. This just doesn't seem ok.
Alex: Do you think Tom Wheeler would have been in favor of this?
Alex: Do you think Ajit Pai will be in favor of this?
Christina: You mean former Verizon employee Ajit Pai? Yes.
Fr. Robert: I have not heard that before.
Alex: He's charming but wrong about everything.
Fr. Robert: Yes.
Roberto: Charming but wrong.
Christina: I don't really care how charming he is.
Roberto: He's like an uncle.
Christina: He's dismantled net neutrality and a bunch of other things.
Alex: Oh, no, he's an awful human but he's charming.
Christina. Yea, charming doesn't really matter to me.
Alex: I'm trying to find nice things to say and not be negative all the time.
Fr. Robert: Ok, I will say this though about Ajit Pai. I'm with you, I do not agree with his policies. I think he's wrong. However, he's been very consistent about them, unlike a lot of other people who will flip flop, he—two years ago he told everyone his stand on net neutrality and he stayed by it. I think his defense of it is absolutely indefensible. But, but, at least he stayed with it.
Alex: So, you're saying we should give him more points because he hasn't done any self-education over the intervening period.
Fr. Robert: It's such a low bar. It's such a low bar, but—ok, I'm just saying if you're going to be horrible, at least be consistent.
Alex: Like Newt Gingrich is consistently horrible.
Fr. Robert: Right, but consistently horrible.
Alex: All right.
Fr. Robert: (Laughing). Wow. See, I don't want to go across—that's a very, very tight fit.
Alex: I know. I'm dancing around it.
Fr. Robert: But here's the thing. They know, they know that this is going to trigger all sorts of smell alerts because it does smell anti-competitive. It does smell like this would be nothing but a losing battle for consumers. But here's their argument. And they actually address this in the press release. They say this is not going to run afoul of anti-competition regulation because they don't currently compete in this arena. This is not a cable infrastructure project. This is a wireless project. And therefore, since they don't currently hold any stake in that, they're just saying, "Well, you play over there and I'll play over here."
Fr. Robert: I don't think that makes it better but that's their argument. That's how they're going to defend this.
Alex: I wonder if that will work in court.
Roberto: Broadband is broadband no matter how you get it.
Roberto: That's doesn't matter. And that's really what these companies are. Comcast, Charter, Verizon, it's a broadband play. Cable TV is just sort of like a thing that they have now. Broadband's the future. They know it's the future. Whether they're going to let you shove that pipe into your house or over the air into your phone, it's still broadband and it's still anti-competitive.
Alex: So, you don't make a distinction between wire line and wireless. You use the industry slang.
Roberto: No, not any more.
Fr. Robert: It's the old bits or bits. It doesn't matter how you're getting the bits, you're getting the bits.
Alex: Oh yea, I agree with this entirely.
Fr. Robert: I wish we had somebody on the panel that would violently disagree.
Roberto: I like the words bits and bits. I just like the word bits.
Fr. Robert: Christina, could you please dismantle net neutrality?
Fr. Robert: Oh, dang.
Christina: No, in fact actually one time I was asked to do that on a major cable network and I declined.
Alex: Wait, wait, which one?
Alex: Wait, business or FOX, official FOX?
Christina: No, FOX FOX. I was specifically asked to go on, they wanted me to talk about net neutrality, and they specifically asked me to disagree and I said I'm not going to do that. And then they were no longer interested in me coming on the network.
Fr. Robert: Did they say they wanted you to disagree as devil's advocate or they wanted you to pretend like that was your actual decision?
Christina: They needed someone, they wanted someone on expressly with the position that net neutrality was bad. And came to me for that. And the place that I worked at the time asked me, "Well, would you consider doing that?" And I said, "Absolutely not. Under no circumstances will I go on television and say something that I don't believe just so we can go on television." And yea, that was—yea.
Fr. Robert: As a small bit, I'll clap.
Roberto: High five for ethics.
Fr. Robert: But you don't need those anymore because you're no longer a journalist.
Roberto: Now you can do whatever you want.
Fr. Robert: Now you can go on FOX and say, "Net neutrality? I heard that kills people."
Alex: Frank Shaw told me.
Alex: What people don't know is that sort of preamble to cable news is incredibly common. Like whenever you go on CNBC, in your little earpiece they say, "Show us energy. Show us energy." And they pick people that have different opinions on purpose to create an argument on the network. It's not by accident. They pick people that are pro and con in a very simplistic fashion and then they amp you up and then they have you on for four minutes to argue. And then they just drop you.
Christina: And then they drop you—in some cases they say they want you to talk about a specific issue and explain something. And that's usually the context that I would go on television, would be to explain something. And usually not to have an opinion unless it was expressly asked. This was a weird situation where I was expressly asked to hold an opinion and go on a show and argue for that opinion. And that was something that—it's funny. I can show you this now that I am no longer a journalist. I was like absolutely not. There's no way. There's no way.
Fr. Robert: Wait a minute. This is blowing me away. Are you saying there are people out there who would prostitute their own personal options and their world view in order to be on TV?
Alex: We already talked about Newt Gingrich, man.
Fr. Robert: (Laughing).
Alex: I mean, come one, man.
Fr. Robert: Ok. Let me try to play devil's advocate here. We do want another player in the wireless service industry, correct? And we would desperately like another national player because any sort of competition on a national level will drive down prices for consumers. So, I could see themselves saying, "Look, we don't have enough capital to compete against another new player. But if both of us get into this, eventually we will be at the level where we can compete with a Verizon. We can compete with a Sprint. We can compete with a T-Mobile." Isn't that a good thing? I mean, don't we want to spark that competition? If they come back and say, "Look, if the FTC is going to come down and say this is anti-competitive and we can't do it, then we just don't invest." And isn't that a net loss for America?
Alex: (Laughing) I'm sorry. That was great right there.
Roberto: Unless they're going to build their own pipes.
Christina: I was going to say, because they're using Verizon's. So, doesn't that immediately offset some of that? I mean I would agree with you if they were actually investing in their infrastructure. I wouldn't necessarily agree that that was still—I wouldn't necessarily agree with the argument. I would say that the argument would be more valid. In this case though, they're going to be using Verizon's infrastructure which to me says that ultimately, Verizon raises the prices for certain things then they're going to have to raise the prices too. So, I don't even know how much more competition you have.
Alex: And I just looked at the numbers to your financial argument. And in the first quarter of this year, Comcast had $5.7-billion dollars in cash beyond their operating activities and a free cash flow of $3.1-billion. So, the argument that they can't afford this to me is specious.
Fr. Robert: The other argument here, and we'll hear it here as well as the net neutrality debate, is the one that's always trumped out is that regulation kills investment. Which is not helped out by the numbers since the passage of net neutrality. We've seen a marked spike in the amount of capital outlay for both spectrum and deployment of fiber. So, it's—
Alex: Those numbers are malleable. Money is money. Someone is talking about specific numbers just for wireline investment over the last multi-year period since net neutrality, and there is some data that indicates there was a mild impact in the negative.
Roberto: But I mean, I like how you preface. Some mild.
Alex: Well, we're talking about economic data that is inherently, politically weaponizable and so I don't want to say I'm sounding clear cut when it's not. Because it's not how you—the data you pick, the timeframe you pick and how you slice it is how you then bend things to your own political narrative. And so, that's what Ajit's doing. But I don't want to say he's wrong. He's technically correct in some ways, but it's a deliberately I would say misshapen image of the broader investment landscape that you're outlining which includes more than just one area of investment.
Roberto: Clearly Comcast is not hurting.
Fr. Robert: No.
Alex: No. I paid for cable for like 3 years by accident and didn't have a TV. So, I think they've got enough money from me.
Roberto: (Laughing) How do you do that?
Alex: It was cheaper when I moved in to get cable with my internet and then I didn't turn it off, so that few thousand dollars.
Roberto: That's what happened with me and yea.
Alex: I'm still kind of mad about that.
Fr. Robert: Christina, you're going up to the northwest. Who is your provider up there?
Christina: I have no idea. I might be stuck with Comcast. It depends on what area we're in. I love my current provider Optimum. I wish that Cable Vision or Altus, whoever the French company who bought them is, I wish that they were available where I'm going because they're great. But, I have no idea who my ISP is going to be.
Fr. Robert: I just got a notice at my place that our campus is now available for Sonic.net which makes me incredibly happy because we can get fiber. I'm going to get the 10GB package.
Roberto: Yea, I'm getting fiber at my house from Sonic. I'm on Comcast but I'm just like—
Fr. Robert: Well, here's the fun part with Comcast. Comcast goes to the—we basically own a block in the Sunset in San Francisco. Comcast goes to all four corners of that block and all the houses around that block but to come across the street, they want to charge us $150,000-dollars.
Fr. Robert: So, we're like, "No, that's ok."
Alex: Don't give $10K to the Dev group 15 time and you'll have it right there. And you'll get so many miles on your PayPal account.
Fr. Robert: My gosh. I'd be set for life. Oh, and by the way, just as a disclaimer, Sonic is a sponsor of the This Week in Tech network. But, I don't know. I get it that this is the environment that we're in. I mean I don't think you would have heard an announcement like this last year because they figured that they'd be held accountable. But the fact that they're willing to do this openly and to make it sound like it's a wonderful thing for consumers, that's got me worried. That's actually the story for me above the fact that they just announced it. It's the fact that they think this is going to be ok.
Roberto: You know, this is cool.
Christina: And the thing is, I think they have a good shot at convincing people because if you look at what has already happened with zero rating and how that has been advertised as a good thing to consumers and consumers are like, "Oh, well look. I get unlimited data now. And I can get—my YouTube videos don't count. And this doesn't count. And look at all value I'm getting." I mean they're really selling zero rating as being a good thing for consumers even though ultimately it has a lot of really scary implications that bigger picture people should consider. But that's not how it's being presented as. I don't think that's how regular people see it. So, yea, I mean if you use enough buzz words and say competition enough times and we're going to lower your prices enough times, people still might be wary because I think most consumers don't trust their service providers to lower prices. But they might just see on the surface, "Oh, well, this is a good thing." I could see that they could make that convincing argument just because it's already worked with zero rating.
Alex: Yea, and then Comcast is a really popular company with consumers. You know, it's got a great customer service reputation, very fair pricing, good service.
Alex: They're the absolute—they're actually better than Apple on the net promoters score.
Christina: They are, they are. They're way popular.
Fr. Robert: Let's be fair here. Absolutely I'm with you. They have a horrible customer support reputation, deservedly so.
Fr. Robert: If you ever get caught up in admin hell with Comcast, like for example they say you haven't returned a piece of equipment even though you know you have, that can go on for months and months and months. And there's so many people—
Christina: Yep. Try years.
Fr. Robert: Three years, right?
Christina: No, seriously, I moved from Atlanta to New York. They still think I have a cable box that I do not have and it took me, I'm not even joking, two and a half years to get it off of my credit report. It was a nightmare.
Alex: Did you go to Twitter? Just line them up on Twitter. You're verified. Just cause mayhem and win. I mean I know it's like a program we can being to abuse, but whenever I need stuff fixed, I just tweet someone.
Fr. Robert: It's like their strategy is, "Well, we're Comcast. You're going to get tired before we do." And that's not a great—but, on the other side, if you've ever been in a place where all you have is AT&T DSL, you dream of having Comcast. As bad as it is, you dream of having cable.
Roberto: I had an AT&T cell and their customer service was actually work than Comcast.
Fr. Robert: (Laughing).
Roberto: They hang up on me like multiple times. I'm like, ok I reset everything. Yea, I know. Yea. Yea, I know. No, you don't understand. Right now I'm doing 46K download. No, I've been on a—click.
Fr. Robert: Yea, no, I actually dialed up in order to get faster service, so maybe you could come out and fix this.
Alex: How fast was it supposed to be?
Roberto: It didn't matter.
Fr. Robert: AT&T DSL? How fast is that supposed to be? Not even AT&T knows really.
Roberto: It was really, really bad.
Christina: Faster than satellite is all they can promise.
Roberto: That is depressing. Faster than someone running across town with the web page printed out.
Fr. Robert: That's their promise. That's actually their service level agreement.
Alex: My mom threatened to print out an email this week and I had to talk her out of it. I was like, "What?"
Christina: Oh, no.
Alex: It was—sorry. Off topic.
Fr. Robert: Actually, no, there's nothing off topic when you're talking about Comcast really.
Alex: It never gets old to me. It never fails to make everyone laugh because everyone's had an experience or a phone call with them that was—
Christina: Everyone knows.
Alex: We've all had it.
Christina: Everyone knows.
Fr. Robert: Have you heard their new commercial campaign? And it's like the caring mother type thing. We know that you have a busy life which is why we think Comcast should work around your schedule than you working around Comcast. I'm thinking, "When have you ever done that? Ever?"
Alex: Also, you just go there?
Roberto: Like, oh.
Alex: A revolution.
Fr. Robert: A few years back, we had a Comcast rep who wanted to be on This Week on Enterprise Tech. And I worked with this person before. I really didn't want him on the show. But I was trying to be nice, trying to build a relationship but their PR people just got really aggressive. And so at one point I said, "Ok, fine. Come on Friday, XX day at this time. Da-da-da-da." And they said, "Ok, when can we expect you to connect?" I said, "Well, sometime between noon and six."
Fr. Robert: And it took them a sec and they're like, "Oh." You just wait. We'll be right there.
Alex: Did you actually keep it that way?
Fr. Robert: No, they never called back which I'm ok with. So, yay. Sorry about that. All right. We're going to be back in just a second. We have one more big story I do want to cover because something interesting happened last week and that was that hackers of an election got owned by the French. Viva la France.
Fr. Robert: But first, let's go ahead and take a moment to thank another sponsor of This Week in Tech. Now, we've been talking a lot here about things that we've read, things that we've learned. Things that we've consumed from other media outlets because let's face it. Information in this day and age isn't just something that's good for you to know, it's something you need to participate in, in society. The question is, do you have the right app? Do you have the right sources? Do you have the right process to make sure you can get all of your trusted news sources in one place? Well, if you use Texture, yes, you do. Now, this episode of This Week in Tech is brought to you by Texture. With everything changing in the tech space, there is so much to learn. You can read up on the latest projects from Zuckerberg to what Elon Musk is doing with his free time. Or, maybe you can get the scoop on the next must have drone from your favorite tech journalist and editor. You can download the Texture app and get access to hundreds of magazines like Wired and PC World. Texture has gone beyond just
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Fr. Robert: All right, let's back up a week because this story I absolutely love. Living in the security world, living in the network world, this is something I think that's going to be the standard going forward. Now, we now that in France there was a politically motivated attack, cyberattack, just like we've had in other countries. We've had it here in the United States. It happened in Germany. It's ongoing in Germany and it's ongoing in the UK. In the US elections and what we've seen in Germany is you've had exfiltrations of large amounts of information which are then weaponized. They can be released along with false information to make it sound like a leak is much worse than it actually is. And it does sway elections. Let's be honest there. Now, the New York Times has a great article about how this all played. Now, Michael S. Rogers, he's an admiral with the NSA. He testified in the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that his agency saw the attack unfolding. They were looking at traffic. They were looking at spikes. They were looking at what the intelligence was saying and they said, "Look, someone is trying to undermine the French election." So, he reached out to his French counterparts and to his surprise they basically said, "No, no, no. We've got this."
Alex: (Laughing) Oh, you're way too late.
Fr. Robert: We're all over this, but thanks. Now, the French knew it because they were actually on guard for this. They assumed that they would be attacked. And when they started to receive what they called high-quality phishing attacks for their employees, they said, "Ok. It's on. Game on." And here's what I think was brilliant about their strategy. They had a war room meeting and they said, "There is no way we're going to be able to secure every employee, every computer. It's just not possible. Something will leak. So, how do we deal with it?" And they said, "Well, how about this? What if we just assume that's something's going to leak? And why don't we influence the leak?" So, what they did was, they started working in a counter offensive. They mixed in disinformation with the cache that would be stolen. For example, one of my favorites was the created documents that looked like smoking guns. They had a purchase, series of emails that looked like a high-level staffer was purchasing bath salts and stimulants on the internet and paying for it in Bitcoin. This is one of those things like if you were trying to hack the election, like, oh my gosh, he's high. I've got it. I've got it. But on the surface, if you were just looking at is the document real? Did it come from the treasure trove? You would say, "Yes." But if you dug further you would find out in the Bitcoin ledger, there is no such transaction. And that's the kind of information that the sowed into the trove.
Alex: Are you saying that when WikiLeaks gets a big old dump of data from Russian sources they don't actually go through with a fine-toothed comb to verify it? I am shocked.
Fr. Robert: What?
Alex: One dude locked in an embassy by himself with little staff can't do a whole lot of leg work digitally? Shock.
Fr. Robert: That was the other part because the WikiLeaks thing came out.
Christina: It was the cat.
Roberto: Yea, he has the cat, right?
Alex: His cat. None of the jokes are—ok.
Fr. Robert: But WikiLeaks, they did tweet out when this was starting to surface that this is what happened. And they said, "I very much doubt that the French authorities have the ability to vet information faster than we do." And the French were like, "No, that's because we pre-vetted everything." We know what's fake.
Alex: I love WikiLeaks trying to be all like nerd power. Like oh, they can't read faster than we can. And they're like, "Oh, man six weeks ago you were still dumb."
Roberto: So, there's one of you and a country.
Alex: Well, France is like as big as Kentucky, so.
Roberto: Still bigger than a room at an embassy and a cat.
Fr. Robert: But this opens up a new thing. This has been de facto standard for many organizations around the world. This is actually being pointed out in our chatroom right now. In fact, my organization uses this all the time.
Alex: Wait, the school? Your family or the other guys?
Christina: The Catholic Church.
Fr. Robert: Yes. Yes. Yes. I have three birthdays just FYI. But, this is something that you use because you know there's going to be a leak. At some point, data's going to get out. And if you can throw even a little bit of doubt into that data and have a way to verify that the data was wrong, then it's very difficult to actually affect me with something that you've stolen.
Alex: Wasn't there also a media blackout for 2 days before the election?
Fr. Robert: Which is normal. That's normal.
Fr. Robert: There's no campaigning. You don't campaign right before the election.
Alex: But there was time to come out the Friday before so they wouldn't be able to respond to it and it still didn't have the impact they were looking for.
Fr. Robert: Precisely. So, the way it works is they're not allowed to campaign. The officials are not allowed to campaign. But you could still have news and this was supposed to be a news article.
Roberto: Misinformation. I don't have my birthday. No.
Alex: I think I took mine off of Facebook and Twitter.
Roberto: Sometimes people will want to tweet me on my birthday, and so I had to go in and create fake birthdays so it would populate their calendars because I realized I had taken my birthday off and I had changed it and removed it from Facebook. But people still has it in their calendar so they were tweeting at me on my birthday. So, I would respond to them like, "Please, delete your tweet. Please." So, now I have changed the birthday. I have made it public. Waited until it populated their calendars, and then I changed it again. So, now they are like 2 or 3 birthdays behind.
Fr. Robert: I always put disinformation on my social media. I mean, that's just sort of—
Roberto: I'm not really even a tech journalist.
Alex: That would explain a lot actually.
Roberto: It would. It does, it does explain a lot.
Fr. Robert: I'm actually not a priest.
Alex: Well, that's just a let down. I only have so many friends that are priests and that number's 2.
Fr. Robert: There you go. But I mean, is this going to be the standard for going forward? Anyone. I'm not just talking about political campaigns. Will there be Chief Disinformation Officers who look for strategic ways to seed this in, in a way that doesn't affect corporate operations but anyone who obtains the data won't know how to interpret it.
Roberto: Well, there has to be. Apple's been doing this forever with leaks. I mean if you're not taking from Apple's playbook.
Fr. Robert: Well, Apple takes it a step further. They'll leak seven different things so they can figure out—
Christina: Yea, where it came from and figure out who.
Alex: Sounds like a very pleasant environment.
Fr. Robert: (Laughing) Right?
Roberto: Don't leak your stuff.
Alex: I mean, I have no secrets to leak, sadly, but it sounds like if that's your culture that you're liberally trying to suss out leakers via disinformation intra your staff. I mean, blech.
Roberto: That's what happens. A lot of money.
Fr. Robert: But it was interesting how the narrative on this changed so much in 72 hours that it was really running. Because at first it was a leak and everyone's like, "Oh. This is going to lose him the election." And then very quickly, it didn't come from the campaign, it was coming from people who were looking at the treasure troves saying, "There's something not right here. This data is—" And the one that they found quickly was the bitcoin one. That should be a smoking gun. It's not. What's going on?
Christina: And that puts questions on any of the information because even if it's accurate or not, it doesn't matter. You know have that level of distrust because the bitcoin address didn't come out. This information is not accurate, so how can we know the rest of this information is valid?
Fr. Robert: And they took a playbook straight out of the hackers, a play out of the hacker's playbook because this is what they had been using. They had taken some true information, put in their own false information that seemed worse. The French did the opposite. They said, "Ok, fine. We're going to let you get some of the true information, but we're going to seed in false information so everyone will assume any information you have is tainted."
Alex: But critically, Lipan only got 39 point some percent of the vote. So, it was a landslide. The result is that even though they tried their best to influence the election by doing this horrible thing, they not only lost operationally, they lost in terms of results. So, they could have actually defeated this operationally through the methods you described and still had the election tilt in their favor. It didn't work.
Fr. Robert: But how much of that is the French? That's a French recital thing. I mean, that's very French.
Alex: I feel like the French will get us in trouble with someone. But I mean my point is that they lost twice. And so, that's what I like about this story. The election result didn't go the way they wanted it to, and they were owned before they even knew it. And so, that makes me very happy. If we lose to this consistently, democracy is undermined globally which I think would not be very good. So, I'm glad we have some tools here to fight back. And, if we cannot apply these systemically across all the elections moving forward, and hopefully new and better tools, this doesn't seem that complicated. Shame on us.
Roberto: If you're a parent and you have a child, teach that child OPSEC or INFOSEC and put them in that industry. Make them—because there's not enough people on the good side like helping companies, helping everyone figure this out. You don't get paid, yea.
Fr. Robert: The good side will earn you a 5-figure salary and being on the dark side offers you a 7-figure salary.
Alex: No, no, no. Being on the right side will get you at least 6. Good, good security people are very valuable. They're probably worth about as much as self-driving cars tech now.
Roberto: Some of this stuff they have on sale at DEFCON that I've gotten, I'm like, "Oh, I can't afford that."
Fr. Robert: This is the first time in almost 20 years that I'm going miss DEFCON.
Roberto: You're not going to go?
Fr. Robert: I can't. I'm in silence during that time. I have a 2-month thing I have to do. It's a priest thing.
Alex: Can you not talk for 2 months?
Fr. Robert: Yea, no. I'm off—I will not be on the internet. I have no laptops, no desktops, no phones for 2 months.
Alex: What do you do?
Fr. Robert: I've heard about this thing, the priests used to do it back in the day.
Alex: Wait, wait, wait. Pray?
Fr. Robert: Pray.
Fr. Robert: Yea. I'm going to do that.
Roberto: There's an M.C. Hammer song about it.
Fr. Robert: Meditate.
Alex: What if like at month end you're like, "I don't know. I can't do it."
Fr. Robert: I've already done it.
Alex: Oh, ok.
Fr. Robert: It's not new for me.
Alex: Even a weekend retreat with yoga sounds terrifying to me. Because that's two whole days with no laptop? Come on.
Fr. Robert: Hot yoga with a bunch of priests. That's not—no.
Alex: Whoa. I don't hang out with—I told you. I have two priest friends that I can't get both in the room at the same time. But, two months. Does everyone do this in your order?
Fr. Robert: Yes.
Alex: Ok. Still impressive.
Roberto: I'm bummed you're going to miss DEFCON.
Fr. Robert: Yea, I'm really bummed I'm going to miss DEFCON. I'm good friends with the boss who makes the badges.
Roberto: Yea, I interviewed him last week.
Fr. Robert: And so he asked me, because I heard I wasn't going to be able to make the show, he goes, "Hey, you want me to send you a badge?" I'm like, "Yes." Right? He offered to send me an Uber. I'm like, "No, that's not right." You have to earn an Uber badge. You've been to DEFCON, right, Christina?
Christina: I have.
Fr. Robert: So, yea, the Uber is the I'm a geek, I solved one of the major challenges. I'm like, "No, you have earn that." If you walk into the show with an Uber, and you can't tell them what you won it for, that's—no, you should leave.
Roberto: I always start looking to get that stuff and then I get like 5 minutes and I'm all—haha. I don't need that badge.
Fr. Robert: I love the hardware hacking village. It's a place where you can sit and just be with like-minded people and geek out and solder stuff.
Alex: I've never been.
Roberto: You've never been?
Fr. Robert: You've never been to DEFCON?
Roberto: It's the best.
Alex: I don't cover security, so.
Fr. Robert: You don't have to. Just go.
Christina: You don't have to. Just go to go.
Fr. Robert: Audience, have any of you ever been to DEFCON. No? There is no place more romantic, more relaxing than Las Vegas in August.
Roberto: With a bunch of hackers.
Fr. Robert: (Laughing).
Alex: That sounds so awesome.
Roberto: With a burner computer and a burner phone. It's the greatest thing.
Fr. Robert: Yea, bring no electronics.
Christina: Nothing with your actual IDs on it, yes. Bring burner stuff for sure.
Alex: Do they change casino technology?
Fr. Robert: No, they do not. It is hilarious.
Alex: I presume it's got to be breakable, right? I mean like they've got millions of dollars flowing through those gambling floors, and they've got the world's most nefarious / hilarious / lonely hackers bouncing around. That just sounds like for a recipe for like losses.
Fr. Robert: They've gotten better at it recently. But like the last year, they found—someone did a scan of the area around where we held DEFCON. And before the show, a week before the show, there were 7 repeaters, 7 cellular repeaters. During the show there were 40. Oh. Man in the middle attacks. Woo hoo. A while back, one of my first DEFCONs, there was a notice in the employee lounge where it was being held. And it asked—
Alex: Wait. Wait. The Aria.
Alex: Did you mean The Aria? Come back. Resurrect. Did you mean The Aria?
Fr. Robert: No, no, it was the Alexis Park. Sorry.
Alex: That is a lot closer. I can forgive that.
Fr. Robert: There was a notice asking employees to watch out for ATM machines that they hadn't seen previously. Because that was a thing. People would just set up ATM machines. You put your card in.
Alex: And it would scan.
Roberto: They put skimmers on them. You don't use an ATM machine anywhere—or you're yanking on it, hitting on it. I'm like, I don't need that.
Fr. Robert: You all do that, right?
Roberto: I do that at every ATM machine unless it's at Bank of America. I yank on it.
Fr. Robert: Yea, you always check. Bang on the card reader, right, Christina?
Christina: Oh yes. I've been skimmed in my neighborhood in Brooklyn because of mistakes, so yes. That was my bad.
Fr. Robert: I always put my wallet over my fingers when I'm typing in case there's a camera that can capture.
Fr. Robert: You don't do this.
Roberto: You need to go to DEFCON.
Fr. Robert: No, that is not paranoia. You should do that. That's a good thing.
Alex: Well, I never take out cash because we live in 2017.
Roberto: Do you ever use an ATM machine?
Alex: If you write me a check, it's cool.
Roberto: Do you use an ATM machine at all?
Alex: I don't—well, unless I've been drinking so no. I mean like there is a dive bar ATM. I became best friends with it. And then I broke up with it. And now it's just me in my apartment drinking green juice.
Roberto: That's like the best place to put a skimmer is a dive bar ATM.
Alex: Because no one's going to be like checking.
Christina: Seriously, that's where I was skimmed in my neighborhood was like a dive bar.
Christina: And I knew it as soon as it happened and I was like, oh. I knew it. It was one of those things like words I can't say on this show. But I was so angry. And immediately I was like, "All right. Got to call the bank because this happened."
Roberto: Amazon voice assistant.
Fr. Robert: I want to find one of those because I want to take it. I really do. I want one of those.
Roberto: Take it home.
Alex: There's a whole meme on Reddit about this where they show a picture of one they found. And then someone sent a picture of an ATM just destroyed. I found one guys. And I love how that meme keeps popping up. But I mean, how often do you actually see that? You've been skimmed once, but I mean—
Fr. Robert: If you go to DEFCON, there will absolutely be at least one.
Alex: Outside of Nerdapalooza.
Fr. Robert: Well, I've never found one. I've never found one. But I did teach my Jesuit brothers when I was living in St. Louis to just tug on the little thing really quickly. One of my brothers did find one.
Alex: Ok. All right.
Roberto: I got skimmed at a gas station in Texas outside of the airport.
Fr. Robert: ATM or the payment?
Roberto: Just the payment machine.
Roberto: It was my work card and I did it and it like moved and I'm like. I'm like, "I'm going to miss my flight." You couldn't pull it off. And then a week later, they're like, "Did you charge $46-dollars at the Piggly Wiggly?"
Fr. Robert: (Laughing).
Roberto: And then all of a sudden it's like $400-dollars at Walmart.
Alex: Was this your AOL card?
Roberto: Yea, it was my AOL card.
Alex: The way those old cards used to work were if you spend more than $75-dollars in one transaction, you needed to have a receipt. That's probably why they started catching those.
Fr. Robert: Something I like about having the American Express card that's also tied to my frequent flyer account, they know where I'll be at any time. I don't have to tell them I'm going out of the country. They have that information so, for example, I got a popup when I was in Tokyo that someone had my card and was trying to buy something in California and I was able to immediately hit on the app no. Like in real time.
Alex: Your life sounds cool.
Roberto: Yea. Bank of America hits me up whenever something weird happens. They hit me up like right away.
Fr. Robert: Tokyo. I have—
Alex: Well, St. Louis. St. Louis isn't very cool.
Fr. Robert: St. Louis can be fun. St. Louis has a zoo.
Alex: (Laughing) that was the best.
Fr. Robert: They have the arch. They have a botanical garden. Good music. Once a year they have the balloons.
Alex: Oh, man, this is just riveting stuff. There's no such thing as balloons.
Fr. Robert: No, I mean hot balloons, like hot air balloons, like a little race. Oh, gosh. Ok,.
Alex: No, my friends are from Kansas City.
Roberto: KC Mo.
Alex: KC Mo.
Fr. Robert: I think that what we're all trying to say with this discussion is if you're going to hack an election, make sure you don't used a compromised ATM.
Alex: Ah, correct.
Fr. Robert: That's the second time we've gone off the rails and I don't know how we got there.
Alex: You've got to corral us. You've got to corral us away from this because we will do this every single time.
Roberto: Well, DEFCON is coming up.
Christina: There you go.
Roberto: And I'm assuming Christina's not going. None of you are. It's just going to be me.
Alex: I'll go with you if you want to pay me.
Christina: Yea, I'm not going.
Fr. Robert: You're going to be in the area. The west coast is all one big place.
Roberto: Are you going to be closer?
Christina: Yea, I'll be closer. When in August is it?
Roberto: No, it's July this year.
Roberto: They pushed the last weekend I think.
Christina: Never mind because I am going to be in Vegas in August but that's for Brittany Spears.
Alex: Oh, she's doing that residency show, right?
Christina: Yea. It is coming to an end and so I have to go.
Alex: I'm looking forward to when Metallica does that like in 15 years. And I'll just see Metallica for a week at their Vegas residency. It will be amazing.
Fr. Robert: If you do go to DEFCON, make sure to check out Duel Core who always preforms. He does nerd core rap. Ok. It's actually a lot cooler than it sounds. No, he's really good. He's really, really good.
Alex: Dual Core?
Fr. Robert: He's called Duel Core. Oh, the group's called Duel Core. We can him Eighty as Interrupt Eighty.
Alex: I'm pulling up Spotify right now so I can write this down.
Fr. Robert: Ok.
Alex: Is it Dual Core one word or Dual Core two words?
Fr. Robert: Dual capital C Core. Dual Core. And the song you want to listen to is Hack All the Things.
Alex: That's a little on the nose.
Fr. Robert: It is, right?
Roberto: Is this year's bands going to be analog or digital?
Fr. Robert: It's analog. This is analog.
Roberto: Ok, last year was digital because I talked to him last year and he was like, "Well, I kind of want to do something digital because it's the 25th year but at the same time, you know."
Fr. Robert: Well, the last analog Uber, he used irradiated glass, which was phenomenal because it's so difficult to fake that.
Alex: For everyone's who's listening, like I was a minute ago, and think you're talking about the company Uber, what is an Uber and why does it matter and why do we care and how do you earn them and why are they blah.
Fr. Robert: So, if you go to DEFCON, you will see people walking around with different kinds of badges. And typically they're black or have some element of black in them. They're called the Uber Badges. An Uber Badge goes to someone super elite and it's typically because you've won a competition, you've solved the contest. Like, capture the flag or the bag tack or the crypto challenge. And with an Uber badge you get lifetime admittance to DEFCON for free.
Alex: Oh, that's super—oh. Those are really cool.
Fr. Robert: But it's more than admittance. If you have an Uber badge, people know you're damn good at what you do.
Alex: Can we say that on the show?
Fr. Robert: Yea, damn? Yea.
Alex: What? I was so lied to two years ago.
Fr. Robert: That's the Uber Badge.
Alex: Ok, so, if you haven't seen these, go ahead and look because they actually are really ornate and pretty cool and I would love to have one of these.
Fr. Robert: The eyeballs pop out on that, by the way.
Alex: Oh, really? This hits all my nerd zones.
Fr. Robert: It took Lost so long to assemble those. Now that we're speaking about things that no one can see even if they're watching the video version—there we go. It's radioactive.
Alex: That is super cool. And then Uber's name was then ruined by Travis. Oh well.
Fr. Robert: Folks, I'm getting a sign from the producer who's saying that we're running out of time. Is there any story we haven't covered that we really should at least talk a little bit about?
Alex: Snapchat got whacked.
Fr. Robert: We expected that though, right?
Alex: Yea. That's what I worked on most of this week.
Fr. Robert: That actually affects me because one of our sister schools, St. Francis, they're the ones that had that amazing IPO bonus. They invested $15,000-dollars.
Alex: Yea, I heard about that.
Fr. Robert: And got $25-million. And immediately I told the, "Sell."
Alex: Yea, oh, yea.
Fr. Robert: And they didn't.
Alex: Well, it opened at 24, shot to 29. Now it's at 18. Whoops.
Fr. Robert: And that's still overpriced.
Christina: Yea. I was very proud of my headline. I will say this. It was Snapchat Debuts New Disappearing Stock Price.
Roberto: Oh, that was a good one. I remember seeing that.
Alex: 10 points. Was that your last article?
Fr. Robert: Christina, you don't get to do that anymore because you're not a journalist.
Christina: I know. I'm not. No, my last article was predictably about rose gold. And that is not a joke.
Roberto: Rose gold?
Christina: Yea, I wrote a blog about my love for rose gold.
Roberto: Oh, ok.
Fr. Robert: As in the finish?
Christina: As in the finish. As in the color and I said it's the best thing that's ever happened in tech and I will hear no arguments. That was my final blog.
Fr. Robert: Does fashion conform to Moore's law?
Christina: Sometimes. It depends.
Alex: Do they make rose gold Zunes?
Fr. Robert: I have a chocolate Zune. Do not make fun of the Zune.
Roberto: I had a Halo Zune. And then somebody stole it.
Fr. Robert: All right well, I think that means that we're going to be running to the end here. I do want to give my guests here a chance to talk a little bit about their projects because well, this has been a fun show. I haven't done this in 3 years and I probably won't do it for another 3 years, but I'm glad I did it with you. Alex? Alex. What are you doing that people should know about?
Alex: Yea, I'm editor in chief of Crunchbase News. It's a new media world we're building over at Crunchbase which is a data company. So, if you want to read some really nerdy financial stuff, you can go to crunchbase.news in your browser and say hi.
Fr. Robert: And we see you quite a few times on The New Screen Savers. I think you've done that show what, 4 times? 3 times?
Alex: Yea, yea, they keep bringing me on because I'm useful I think. We'll see how it works out.
Fr. Robert: Well, you're a millennial, so.
Alex: Yea, I presume the ask me to attract a younger audience. I don't know. I love coming up here. I just wish this was in SF for our sake. Now all three of us are going back to the city. But it's great to be here.
Fr. Robert: But it's reverse traffic so it's kind of ok.
Alex: Robbie has to drive. I just sit there and complain.
Roberto: It is true. He does complain the entire time.
Fr. Robert: Oh, yea, you don't drive, right?
Alex: I drive. I just don't drive in SF.
Fr. Robert: Well, Christina doesn't drive either.
Alex: I mean I have my license.
Roberto: Oh, millennials.
Fr. Robert: Are you going to get your license?
Christina: I don't know. I don't. I mean, I don't know. It's been a really long time since I've driven and I'm not very good at it.
Roberto: Take a lesson.
Fr. Robert: Did you ever have a license?
Christina: Yes. I did. It's been a really long time.
Fr. Robert: And you just let it expire.
Christina: I just let it expire. It was best for everyone that I not drive. And that was even before I moved to New York and then in New York, it's absolutely best for everyone that I not even attempt. So, we'll see. Public transit, I understand that depending on where we live it could be pretty good. Depending on where we live I might be able to have busses take me to the office. I don't know. I'm still figuring it out. I'm very afraid that in six months' time I might actually have a car and then I will be really terrified for everyone on the road with me.
Fr. Robert: You're going to be in Seattle so the only two cars that are acceptable are either a Prius or a Tesla.
Fr. Robert: Prius, sorry. I use the Top Gear pronunciation for a second there.
Alex: That's ok.
Fr. Robert: Christina,-- I'm sorry. Go ahead.
Christina: No, I was just saying I've heard from friends that if I get a Prius they will disown me, but, you're right. That's definitely the more affordable option. So, we will see. I don't know.
Fr. Robert: I like them. I don't buy them because they're hydro. They're geeky. I like geeky cars. No?
Alex: Robbie, what's your day job? No, because it's topical.
Roberto: Oh, my day job? I write about cars and motorcycles and transportation and yea. Just take a lesson. You'll be fine. Just take a lesson. Don't let anyone, and don't let your friends or your family members teach you how to drive because that always seems to end in tears. That's what I hear a lot.
Christina: So, you're saying I shouldn't let me husband teach me to drive?
Roberto: I think it's better off letting a 3rd party just like give you a nice refresher course if you're that concerned and then once you have your license, you don't have to get a car. They have Car-To-Go up there. They have BMW Reach now. They have a lot of really great services where you just drive a car from point A to point B and you just leave the car. You just walk away from it which is kind of nice.
Fr. Robert: Well, as long as we're talking about you, you want to do your plug? Let's talk about all your outlets. Let's talk about all your work. Especially, talk about your work with automotive technology because there's a few of us here at TWiT that love that stuff.
Roberto: Yea, so I write about transportation for Engadget. I write a little about InfoSec. But yea, the transportation stuff's great. So, I get to drive cars and Teslas. Right now I'm testing the Zero Motorcycles. They're an electric bike with 6.5 kW hour bike. So, it's an electric bike. If you've ever ridden an electric motorcycle, it's outstanding because it's just torque all the time.
Fr. Robert: You can wheelie on that thing.
Roberto: Yea. Yea. So, that's what I write about.
Fr. Robert: You ride around on electric vehicles in San Francisco?
Roberto: Yea. All the time. I drive—
Fr. Robert: Like in the financial district?
Roberto: Yea. I ride around in cars. I get cars for like a week. I'll have these motorcycles for a few weeks. My daily rider is I have a 250 Vespa that I just use to get around the city.
Fr. Robert: Why hasn't Nissan given you one of their Leafs yet? Because I know they've been wanting that to catch on.
Roberto: I don't know. I think—well, it's a little long in the tooth so at some point you're just reviewing something that's a year old or a year and a half old. And so, yea, you know, you reach out. Some auto makers, they kind of understand that tech sites are doing more car stuff so they reach out a little bit. They're a little bit better at reaching out. Some of them, not so much. Yea. Yea. I write about cars. Oh, I have a show coming up with my band.
Fr. Robert: Oh.
Roberto: That's a plug. Can I plug my band?
Fr. Robert: What do you play?
Roberto: I sing.
Fr. Robert: Oh, you sing? You're the front man.
Alex: He's really good, too.
Roberto: According to Alex I'm very good.
Fr. Robert: Where are you playing?
Roberto: We are playing at The Rickshaw Stop on May 27th. We're doing a 90's show. So, if you like Nirvana and Pearl Jam, all the Gen X stuff. So, you're going to be there.
Fr. Robert: Oh, I'll be there.
Roberto: We're doing US versus UK. We have our friends that are in a UK Pop band. They're doing you know, they're doing Oasis, Blur, Pulp. We're doing—
Fr. Robert: Hole. Definitely Hole.
Roberto: Yea, Hole. We're doing all the US bands. It's going to be fun. We're doing Beastie Boys.
Fr. Robert: Ok, if you're doing Beastie Boys, I have to show up.
Roberto: We're going—we had to do a last minute change.
Fr. Robert: Wait. Old Beastie Boys or newer Beastie Boys?
Roberto: It will be—we're doing Sabotage. There you go. I'll just say it. We're doing Sabotage, everyone. Everyone loves that song.
Roberto: We're going Rage Against the Machine. We're doing Presidents of the United States of America.
Alex: Oh, that's why that was all—
Roberto: Yea, so the playlist because I have t learn all the songs. See, there it is right there. There you go.
Alex: All we played on the way up here.
Fr. Robert: Get your tickets today, folks. It's only what? $10-$12 dollars?
Roberto $10 bucks in advance, $12 bucks at the door. It's cheap like compared to any other thing you're going to do in San Francisco. It's cheaper than a burrito at this point.
Fr. Robert: I don't think I've ever been to the Rickshaw Stop. So, that's reason enough for me to go.
Roberto: It's amazing. It's such an amazing place. They really care about sound which is for somebody who's in band, like that's important. But, it's a really nice room. It's big. They have a bar. They have a mezzanine so you can sit upstairs if you don't want to dance.
Fr. Robert: Is this where I saw your Talking Heads show?
Alex: Yea. It's a great venue. Go upstairs if you can.
Fr. Robert: Go upstairs. It's super chill. It's nice. Yea, so, yea, bands. And I write about cars. Sure, why not?
Fr. Robert: Roberto Baldwin. He is a tech man and a man of the arts. Thank you very much. It's been a pleasure to meet you both in person, to have you hear for my little hosting party.
Alex: I hope you still like us?
Fr. Robert: Of course.
Fr. Robert: Yea. And of course, Christina. Now, you're not a tech journalist anymore.
Christina: I'm not.
Fr. Robert: And I think that should be in your Twitter handle now. Christina, not a tech journalist anymore, Warren. I know you can't tell us too much about what you're doing at Microsoft other than what you tease, but is there anything else you want us to know about what you're doing, what you're going to be up to other than a one week of unemployment?
Christina: One week unemployment slash moving. Like, honestly, it's not really fun. It's really all about packing up my life and moving across the country. What I would like to plug though in addition to what I will be doing at Microsoft, and I'll have more to share on that once I learn more about it, but I will be producing content aimed at the developers across different levels for Microsoft Virtual Academy, so that will be fun. And obviously, if you guys have suggestions for courses and things you'd like to see, let me know because definitely I want to engage with the community and create stuff that will be informative. But I also do a podcast called Rocket on Relay.FM. Relay.FM/rocket that I do with Brianna Wu and Simone de Rochefort and that's a lot of fun. And I'm going to be able to continue doing that, so, I will still be podcasting. So, even though—and I will still be tweeting especially about The Bachelor. The Bachelor comes back on May 22nd.
Alex: Oh, you are literally my feed on those nights.
Roberto: Yea, I've never seen those shows. I've never seen those shows but I know what's going on.
Fr. Robert: I only watch two shows on TV. One is Game of Thrones.
Christina: Yea, great show.
Fr. Robert: And the other is The Expanse.
Alex: Oh, the Expanse is great.
Christina: The Expanse is so good. But now, the Bachelor comes back and that means that I will be tweeting from a different time zone which is bizarre because I will now be spoiled. Like East Coast Twitter is going to ruin the Bachelor for me the same way I've been ruining it for people for the last however many years. So, it is my comeuppance and I'm excited.
Roberto: Can you get an East Coast feed somehow?
Christina: You know what I might be able to do, I will see. Yea, I think with a VPN and some of those services that I subscribe to, I might be able to.
Fr. Robert: And of course, Christina, we already have a person on the Microsoft Campus in Redmond who does have a weekly show on the TWiT TV Network, Lou Maresca. I have no idea where you'll be in relation to him but at some point the two of you will probably bump into each other because there's only what, a few thousand? Tens of thousands?
Christina: Only like 60,000 of us. No, I would love that. I would love to meet Lou. I'm trying to meet as many people as I can. We are going to Seattle. I have some friends there but it's not the same sort of situations. So, anybody in Seattle, hit me up @film_girl at Twitter. I'd love to like have coffee. Get to know any of you. I need friends. Yay.
Roberto: Aw, become friends.
Fr. Robert: Christina Warren, thank you very much. Now, I want to do something right now and it's not because I completely forgot to do it until now. It's because I wanted it back to back. But in case you haven't been watching TWiT, here's what you missed.
Narrator: Previously on TWiT.
Jeff Jarvis: Sophie has come back and we have tips and tricks.
Jason Howell: Oh, she's so adorable.
Stacy Higginbotham: Walk. There you go.
Jason: Aw, that was great. Yay. Oh, man. I want a dog so bad.
Leo Laporte: Daniel Suarez is here. It feels like every couple of years I'm going to get you back with a new book. This new one, Change Agent, which just came out, is the first one that is in the future. This is a warning of what could be.
Daniel Suarez: Putting people on notice that Silicon Valley will decamp if it needs to. The brilliant minds there might go elsewhere. So, we have to treat science seriously. And we have to be evidence based in our thinking. You don't get to the moon by going like this. You do the math.
Narrator: Windows Weekly.
Megan Morrone: Mary Jo Foley and Paul Thurrott are here with some special guests from the Microsoft Build Conference.
Chris Pratley: What you see in Story Remix, we've done deep machine learning on all sorts of sets of videos and photos so it can understand not just, "Oh, there's a person in here." Then we can take all that data, put it through our AI system and tell the story for your if you don't have the time or the inclination to learn how to use a tool.
Narrator: TWiT. Tech just like you like it.
Jeff: Sophie wants out.
Stacey: I tried to offer her out beforehand. I told her she was not going to enjoy it but she would not go.
Jason: Warning, Sophie. We're starting a podcast. You might be a little bored. Ok?
Stacey: It lasts forever.
Fr. Robert: So, that's what you missed. And we've got Jason Howell with the week ahead.
Jason: Here's a look at just a few of the stories we'll be watching in the week ahead. On Tuesday, May 16th, HTC is holding an event teased as Squeeze for the Brilliant. Apparently that refers to the rumored HTC U 11 that is expected to include a feature called Edge Sense that puts touch sensors into the frame of the phone that allows users to squeeze and swipe the sides of the phone for different interactivity elements. Trying something new. On Wednesday, May 17th, Google I/O kicks off at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California. Google is expected to dish out new features to Android O, Google Play updates and of course developers in attendance get to fill their minds with all things Googly. I'll be there so I'm sure I'll have some insight to share from the event throughout the week. On Thursday, May 18th, the FCC will put up a vote on restoring internet freedom in a move that signals FCC chairman Ajit Pai's determination to move net neutrality rules out of FCC's jurisdiction. That's a look at a few of the things we'll be tracking in the coming week. Join Megan Morrone and me on Tech News Today every weekday at 4:00 PM Pacific, 7:00 PM in Eastern, here on TWiT.TV.
Fr. Robert: Thanks, Jason. I appreciate that. And, folks, don't forget you can find us every Sunday starting at 3:00 PM Pacific time. I'm not like Leo. I can't just rattle off UTC but just work backwards and forwards from there. Again, thanks to our panel. Christina, Roberto and the man whose name is too close to the Amazon Voice Assistant to say on our screen, thank you very much for being here.
Alex: Thank you.
Fr. Robert: Thank you for coming up. It's not easy coming up to Petaluma from San Francisco as we get closer to the summer because then we get all the summer traffic.
Alex: It's ok.
Roberto: It's not that bad.
Alex: Also if you did this studio in SF, it would be like the size of my apartment. We'd all be in the same chair.
Roberto: Sit on each other's laps. That's not awkward at all.
Fr. Robert: Also, thanks to Karston Bondy our super producer, to Lisa and Leo who actually let me do this. Hopefully they're coming back from Colorado in the near future because, yea, we miss you. We need you back. Anything else? Did we want to have any shout outs? Especially to our audience. We actually have a studio audience and they braved what happens in Petaluma to come and watch the unfolding of tech news.
Roberto: What happens in Petaluma?
Fr. Robert: We have chickens.
Alex: To quote the song, it goes down in DM I think. I don't know, in Petaluma.
Fr. Robert: We actually do have chickens. We have the Chicken and Egg parade. And--
Alex: We need to get out of here.
Fr. Robert: Don't we have American Graffiti Days or Graffiti Days coming up, like classic cars.
Fr. Robert: They reenact that scene from American Graffiti where they pull the back axle out of a police car. It's kind of fun, actually.
Alex: Alex Gumpel was telling me about that.
Fr. Robert: You should come up. Yea.
Roberto: I'll ride my motorcycle.
Fr. Robert: That predates me a little bit. Well, it's obvious I've got some skeptics here and with that, another TWiT is in the can!