Switchback: Talking Tech (August 22)

Aug 22, 2014

The team from The Switch discussed everything from the latest political tech news to the gadgets you’re eyeing.

Hello, readers. 

Everyone's talking about the non-military uses of drones these days: delivery services, aerial photography, etc. But what about drones as companions for lonely humans? is anyone thinking about the implications of a human and a drone falling in love? (asking for a friend)

I think I know the friend you're asking for. There are drones that will follow you around like a lost puppy -- and record your every move -- so you just might be in luck... 

How does it feel to be engaged at the Washington Post? Congratulations Hayley!

Thanks! It feels great, though it hasn't really sunk in over the past two days. With two of us on the team engaged, we're pretty sure there should be some good tech/wedding planning stories to be done.

Fun fact: There are now six people on the Post's business who are currently engaged. That's more than enough for a trend story. 

Are those turntables (e.g., Crosley, Ion) that are advertised as ideal for converting lp's to cd's worth the money? They're relatively inexpensive. What is the best way to do that kind of conversion?

I don't have any experience with those specific systems so I can't comment on their effectiveness-- although I do have a fair amount of experience with records in general. If you have a turn table with an audio out port, you should be able to use a stereo audio cord to plug into the microphone jacks on most computers and record it with free software like Audacity -- although the process may be more involved than with those specific devices. 

I don't understand why US copyright law applies to a photograph taken in Indonesia. Wouldn't any copyright, if it exists, come into effect based on where the work was created (in Indonesia) and therefore be based on the laws of that country? Does the US respect copyright laws from other countries, or does it apply its own laws to works registered outside the US?

Nope, it's where use takes place that determines whose copyright laws apply. A creative work is covered by a global patchwork of laws, and that's why there's so much attention paid to international agreements on this sort of thing, especially the Berne Convention. It requires that countries respect one another's copyright laws. And a quick check of, yes, Wikipedia tells me that Malaysia signed on in 1990.

Actually, to obsess a bit more about this, since the monkey is, I guess, Malaysian and the photographer British, they'd be able to claim different copyright protections...

Rest easy. Plenty of people are thinking about the implications of human-robot romantic relationships.

So how are we all feeling about the how Asimov's three laws of robotics might come into play here? 

Well, I don't necessarily know about romance, but there have been some interesting uses of robot caretakers for the elderly -- a lot of it in Japan. I'd be super interested to know if there are any interesting, dependency relationships there.

I spent a lot of time converting my out-of-print LPs into digital files. You just can't connect a turntable to your PC -- you have to have either a stand-alone pre-amp or a stereo receiver with a pre-amp. Otherwise, the output won't be loud enough to be picked up. And the conversion has to be done in real-time and you have to monitor the volume levels to make sure that the recording doesn't sound brassy or distorted. It was worth it for me to know that I'll always be able to listen to the music, but it's time consuming. Very time consuming.

Fair enough -- it's worked out for me before, but sounds like other people's mileage may vary. 

I honestly don't think forming an attachment to a robot is any weirder than forming one to, say, a cat. It's just about having something there for you. I guess the difference is we assume cats are cuddling up to you of their own volition whereas you've essentially told the robot that it has to. But does it really make that much of a difference?

This is serving as a good reminder to me to see the movie "Her."

So even considering that Ferguson has turned into a far reaching story involving not just the shooting of an unarmed teenager, but also police militarization and the protests, we were really surprised to see how much more interest it has garnered on Twitter than the Trayvon Martin shooting in 2012. What do you guys think? 

 

We had a great question on Nancy Scola's piece about the lax dress code for White House programmers, which I'm dropping in here. Reader Cubby_Michael says:

The suit is WAY over-rated in my opinion. For the President, it's expected -- but if you want to get good coders in, best to dump the dress code and at least bring it down to business casual.

In this day and age, most people have no need of a jacket indoors anyway. It's a holdover from a time where central heating was, at best, spotty. Personally, I'd love to just see the suit vanish anyway -- it's as necessary today as a top hat and cane are.

And by "great question," I mean "great comment." My bad!

Alright, since you're all being so bashful today, I will say that -- despite being a bit of a traditionalist -- that I also agree that setting up a  work environment where people feel comfortable produces the best work.

That said, I wear blazers to work a lot because the air conditioning in this newsroom is a little too efficient.

So what is your favorite tech tool for wedding planning?

I'm just two days into this engagement thing, so I'm still trying to figure out how not to slam my left hand into things. But there is someone in chat who's further into this than I am.... 

Deep breaths. 

Two words: Google Docs. Shared spreadsheets are saving my life and my relationship right now. I've actually been pretty disappointed with the wedding planning community type things out there -- with the possible exception of Offbeat Bride -- but that might be because I'm not planning a WEDDING wedding. 

Okay, back when I got married, we asked for things like blenders and serving platters. What does the Switchback crew hope for when they are just starting out with their newly betrothed? Wireless speakers? A smart thermostat? His and hers (or hers and hers, or his and his -- whatever) iPads?

Ooh. I really like this question. Off the top of my head, I'd really say any tech that enables togetherness: wireless speakers are a good thought, projectors to share movies with friends and each other, that sort of thing. Things that encourage us to get away from our individual screens, at least.

Isn't the internet the tech tool? I planned a semi-long distance wedding (neither of us live near our hometown), and without the internet, there was no way I could have done that. Location/catering reviews, photographer blogs, even scheduling pre-cana, registries...all internet. I had a friend that used an app for her wedding website, but I didn't trust the security. I had to ask her for her registry.

Oh, absolutely. We're trying to plan something in Michigan from DC right now, and there's absolutely no way we could do it without the Internet. 

Have you tried it? Seems like it might be just the thing I've been looking for to use while running - I've seen some amazing sunrises and sunsets and would love to have a tiny camera with me.

I haven't had much time with it -- really, just about 20 minutes or so back in January at a convention -- so I didn't get to dunk in water or drop it on pavement. But I was impressed by what I saw, and it's a neat little competitor to the more expensive GoPro.

Take 90% of the cash you would spend on the reception and put it towards an emergency fund. Buy hooch and those little hot dogs with the rest, and pay the preacher to come to whichever friend of yours has the nicest house. You're welcome.

That's not far off from our general plan, although we are lucky enough to already have a pretty solid emergency fund: Rent beach house, have friend marry us, have party. 

When we got married in 1998, my bride-to-be was traveling all over from our home in Dallas. She did all the planning for a Salt Lake City wedding by cell phone (no real online tools then, kids) and it was outstanding -- even if her brother did wind up with a lifetime supply of Bombay Sapphire.

Congratulations! Sounds like quite the wedding favor your brother-in-law got.

Aren't you carrying your phone?

Well, the whole reason the action camera market even exists is that you don't always want to put your phone at risk when you're on the move. And while your daily run may not be the same as skydiving, it doesn't mean that you want to risk a cracked screen (or sprained ankle!)  for a nice sunset picture or video.

As technology reporters, would you be innovative and do an electronic invitation? I did love my paper invitation, but I'm not bothered. My friend sent me an email with the wedding date. It was easy, cheap, and environmentally friendly.

So, again, just two days into this whole idea, but this is one I've given some thought. I'm a total stationary nerd -- I write letters and use fountain pens -- but I like the simplicity and eco-friendliness of electronic invites.

Right now I'm thinking I'll probably do some mix of both, to accommodate the people I love who are a little less into tech. I know there are places that let you design a mix of both. 

Hayley and I can be a little old fashioned when it comes to paper: We're both owners of mechanical typewriters. Mine's planning to be part of the guestbook process...

We are now in the lightning round part of chat -- so if you've been holding back questions, now's the time to ask them. 

A LP still sounds better than any CD or toher digital media. Listen to your favorite LP over a reasonably priced stereo and it creams any other media. Its no where near close when you get above $5k. Digital just doesnt sound good.

It's a good point. Though I assume that people who want to convert their LPs and thinking of it a supplement for their current music collection, and not a replacement.

Alright, we're outta here. But if you have more questions, you can ask one of these guys:

Your mileage may vary.

In This Chat
Andrea Peterson
Hayley Tsukayama
Nancy Scola
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