Switchback: Talking Tech (Sept. 12)

Sep 12, 2014

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

We're so excited you're here to chat with us!

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Fix your computer that is. I just could not resist.

But I'd probably take our Brian, because at least I know he makes a great gif even if I have no idea if he understands how computers work, in all honestly. 

At the risk of exposing my geek credentials, I used to teach kids how to build PCs at summer camp. 

At the risk of exposing my lack of cultural knowledge — who is Brian Tong?

Well, now I feel totally justified in my faith. 

Some part of my brain just tried to "like" this, but I feel I must register my approval.

Apparently this is Brian Tong, and he's quite popular on Twitter? 

For what it's worth, there is another Brian Fung out there and we're aware of each other (he's a photographer based on the west coast). 

Taking this as an opportunity to point people to one of my favorite sites: How Many of Me

Man, it was such a great day when I eclipsed 2007 Teacher of the Year Andrea Peterson in Google search results. 

One of the Nancy Scolas passed away a few years back and it actually was kinda depressing seeing the Google alerts. 

I imagine I will be bummed when I get alerts for the death of the Andrea Peterson who became a firefighter at age 68. 

As far as I know, I'm the only Hayley Tsukayama on the Internet. I welcome you all to disprove this, because it actually makes me kind of nervous.

Any reactions? Will wallets as we know them become obsolete soon?

My gut reaction: I'm not sure I would trust a company that sort of victim blamed about their lax security practices which made it easier for hackers to get into the online accounts of celebrities and couldn't keep the livestream going at their own announcement with my payment data. But then again, I trust credit card companies and retailers with it all the time. It's basically all about balancing how much security you're willing to give up for the convenience of a service. 

Well, to be fair -- or not fair? -- Apple has a lot more legal incentive to keep payment data safe, because it's data that's actually legally protected. And, for that reason, they've thought a lot harder about how to protect financial data. I'm not saying they're good on security, I'm just saying they have a greater incentive not to mess this one up. 


One of the things that I dislike most about being out in the world is waiting for a check at a restaurant. I'm wondering if we might see table-side readers in even semi-nice restaurants. There's no reason you couldn't do that with a credit card, but Apple has the incentive to bring people on board that neither restaurants nor credit card companies have had. 

Some restaurants already ring you up tableside, actually, as some sort of security measure against skimmers. I've never really understood it.

I want to be able to do it myself. Like, I'm done eating and I just swipe and go. 

We could call it EatZ-Pass.

Did anything big happen in the tech world this week? Just wondering.

Well, Apple announced a bunch of products that everyone expected them to release. Which I understand many people (not me) were super excited about. 

Court docs related to Yahoo's challenge of the PRISM program were declassified, showing that the government threatened them with massive fines to force them to give over user data 

Home Depot confirmed that it suffered a data breach, but almost none of the details about it. 

I mean, other stuff happened? It was a fairly busy week, honestly. 

Meanwhile, Google broke its silence on net neutrality and my generation is saving America, you guys.

Every time I see the Destiny logo...

My immature fifth grade brain takes over and I see something dirty. Help me be an adult and tell me I'm the only one who had this reaction!

Well, now I definitely see it. Actually reminds me a lot of the combination of every anatomy possible that is the new-ish Airbnb logo

Are iPods officially over? I have to admit that if they weren't still so expensive I'd replace my dying one with a new one. I like having a device that is dedicated exclusively to music. But I think the rest of the world is moving on and I guess I should just accept that it's gonna all happen on my phone (or my watch!) from now on.

The tech industry will have to pry my mid-aughts iPod Classic out of my cold dead hands... But it lives almost entirely in my car now as a sort of musical time capsule of the music I listened to in college. Streaming radio to my phone(s) is now my primary music listening way of life, although I must admit I've almost ENTIRELY switched over to podcasts. Maybe my journo career has just made me more interested in stories than in beats. But yeah, it is a lot harder to find a dedicated music device these days. Maybe try a Pono if you're an audiophile and/or Neil Young fan? 

I'm going to give you a definite maybe on this one. Generally, single-use things are on the way out -- digital cameras, camcorders, etc. -- and with the rise of streaming music services, people are less inclined to actually buy music. 

I could see listening to music being a serious-enough thing for people to want the single-purpose device for (i.e. the e-reader) but the general public is probably happy to let it meld with their smartphone.

I think the big difference between e-readers as a single-purpose device and music is that when you're reading, you can't pay attention to anything else. So that makes sense to me.

I think there are still certain circumstances in which you'd want a music player. Phones can do a lot of other stuff while also playing music, but that other stuff tends to be a drag on the battery. What if the music was all you wanted and your goal was to devote your entire battery to playing music?

That said, I'm one of those holdouts that still uses the free version of Spotify. I've been thinking of becoming a subscriber but need a little extra push. How significant is it to be able to store playlists offline and skip ads? Somebody make the case to me.

Thoughts? Does it change the wearables game? Does it lay the groundwork for future changing of the wearables game? Or is it just a watch that does some other stuff? I'm on the I Don't Get It side of the spectrum, plus I can't see how it would help my sanity for my wrist to buzz every time I get an email (it's killing me enough just on a phone that I can put away). But some of my friends are truly psyched.

I'm mostly with you on the IDGI side, still, though I do think Apple's watch is the most promising of the watches I've seen so far. (That's not exactly high praise.)

The weird thing to me is that Apple's normally pretty good about explaining WHY I need a thing, but in this case the presentation was mostly -- look! We made a watch! I think the directions software they showed off, which buzzes to let you know when and in what direction to turn, is a good glimpse of some actual problem-solving, but I'll need to see more of it before I'm convinced.

I'm not thrilled with it, either. Apple talked about how it didn't just want to shrink a smartphone down to the size of a watch, but that's basically what they did. I don't think what they've built here is a genre-defining device. 

What I would love to see is something that isn't just another digital screen, but a traditional watch with smart elements.

Is Hayley back from Apple HQ? I'm dying to know what it's like there. Is it a magical land of rainbows and unicorns? The pictures I saw of the Apple Watch tryon room sort of looked like a dystopian nightmare torture chamber.

I am! Well, back from Cupertino. The launch event was actually at a nearby college, so it was more a nightmare torture chamber than a magical land of rainbows and unicorns. Especially the weird, huge white box they custom-built for the hands-ons. The college campus itself was actually quite lovely; I filed from the courtyard, which reminded me of all those term papers I tried and failed to write from my college quad.

Actually, Apple's current main campus is a pretty but standard office park that's starting to show it's age. I assume that's whey they're building a spaceship.

Hayley, I've been meaning to ask you this: were there snacks at the launch event?

There were snacks! There were breakfast wraps of some kind, as well as some bags of nuts, water, coffee, peaches and some granola bars.

I was honestly filing so much that I didn't pick anything up until afterwards, realized the sun was setting and I hadn't eaten and they were starting to threaten to throw things away. 

Okay. Thanks. 

Did anything come of it? I didn't even see much of a presence across the internet. I was much more aware when internet blackout day happened. This one, I feel like if you weren't in the know, you didn't notice it. Did it make much of a splash from what you saw?

It got considerable press! So that's something. It did generate some comments to the FCC and some calls to Congress, but my sense from talking to people involved is that the idea here was really just to keep up momentum around the open Internet rulemaking. Organizers on the 'pro-neutrality' side are having to face something that organizers don't really like: a clear process but no clear timetable. But that I mean, we don't know when the FCC/Chairman Wheeler might act. But we know he's gonna. So they're having to organize to a specific end without a specific deadline. It's much easier when, you know, there's an election day or something similar to work toward. 

How vindicated did you feel by that Pew study showing millenials read more than older generations? Suck it, old people. We may be terrible, but we're not any worse than you are.

This is making me really curious now. What's the age breakdown of our livechat audience? If you feel comfortable (totally anonymous) chime in with your age and I'll do some tallying.

I mean, I think us young kids are doing a lot of good things not just limited to reading more books. We're killing cereal, for instance. 

Hi, this dates me, but I'm perfectly happy with my iPhone 5 and new Mini -- except I can't find any info on how to move the music from my phone to my new desktop. Nothing in the forums, as far as I can tell. Any of you geniuses (meant as a non-snarky compliment) have any insight?

Totally valid question. Because actually, that's one of the worst usability things about Apple, ever. You can't, really. 

You can restore your purchase music through iTunes, or should be able to, if you go into your iTunes menu. There used to be a program I used, called Senuti (That's iTunes backwards) that would let you move things from your phone to your computer. It's still around, but I haven't used it in about a decade and so can't vouch for it. Download.com seems to have given it a fairly recent and fairly good review. 


Since someone else mentioned the game's logo, just wondering if anyone's tried it out yet and what they think. One thing that really jumps out at me is the soundtrack. It's amazing. I might start doing work to it now.

And if anyone's got the game and wants to play, come find me: My username is "brainstormerus."

Appears to be that the livechatters willing to share their ages with us are in their late 20s. 

One of you is 30, but feels 26. Which is about how I hope I will feel when I hit that mark. 

Care to comment on the comparison? Is it fair?

So Hayley actually typed a super lengthy response to this that for some reason isn't showing up... She's working on replicating it now. 

Let's try again.

In some ways, I think it is fair. Generally when Apple jumps into a trend late or replicates something that others have done, they add something or make that trend seen generally more sensible than it did before. (See: tablets.)

In this case, there wasn't anything that they did to really sell me - I have little hands, I like clutch purses, I like my current phone -- on the case for a bigger phone. 

That said, coming in later with the big phones meant they got to skip a lot of the spaghetti throwing that other manufacturers have had in testing screen sizes, meaning that they've hit on two that they think people will actually want. In that way, it may be good to be late yet again.

Interesting point on Apple being late to things, Hayley. Apple was willing to make us wait forever for an iPad. They never gave in to the public pressure for it until they were really ready with a product. The Apple Watch seems rushed to me — as if they felt like they had to be responsive to the clamoring masses. It's out of character for them. 

Are people playing that? I am an unabashed Sims nerd, but can't seem to get myself over the lack of toddlers and pools... 

Wil Apple ever come out with a 50 to 70inch monitors or Tv sets? 4k with retina display would be awesome and forget about OLED.

To quote the Magic 8 Ball: Don't count on it.

I was talking about the TV question with our deputy business editor David Cho yesterday, and we were saying that if Apple came out with a TV, they'd really have to make an iTunes like series of deals with cable/media folks to make a TV worth it for them. Again, they'd have to change the system (man?) rather than just the product.

Otherwise, it's just too expensive for them to make in a market with too little turnover.  

I'm not dead yet! (Says the guy already on the Bring Out Your Dead cart)

YES! I salute you.

You guys have probably answered this in earlier chats, but what is your preferred mobile OS? What about desktop OS? Are any of you Divergents who use separate platforms for their devices?

I use both an iPhone 4s and a Samsung Galaxy S4. I generally prefer the Galaxy for web browsing, but the iPhone for podcasts?

I actually only have the iPhone because I dropped my other Android device in a cup of soda. They both work, but I find myself getting frustrated by the app store  limitations of iOS. If I had to choose, I'd probably use something Android. I'm the lone Windows user of the team on the computer front. 

I'm 51, but was late to the chat today!


It's finally time to upgrade my 4s and trying to decide between the 5 and the 6. I know either will be an upgrade and I am oddly focused on making sure I can still slide it into my pocket while my dog. Don't really care about Apple Pay but the nicer cameras are appealing. And yes, still looking at the Iphone mainly based that I've had apple products for over ten years. (remember when they gave away Ipods with a new macbook? That's how I got my first one and for a week, I was cool.)

I'm assuming you mean "while walking my dog." Unless you're an Animorph!

I would say that it the pocket test is your most important test, then you should wait until at least next week. I tried dropping both phones into various pockets at the hands-on stations (Apple was cool with that, unlike with the watches which we couldn't even operate) and found the iPhone 6 was generally good, except for my little clutch purse. The 6 Plus did not pass the pocket test, at least for the largely decorative pockets on women's clothes. But it would fit easily in a side dress slack pocket, for men. Or maybe a jean pocket, if it isn't too skinny.

The nicer cameras are nice, but I think it's weird that they aren't flush with back of the phones.

I realized another thing I'm angry about: They took away the awesome open map stuff from Sims 3 -- I liked being able to have my digital dolls have adventures around their digital town. But from reviews, it looks like they are just siloed in one subdivision, and there are LOADING SCREENS when visiting neighbors. 

Basically, I really care way too much about this. 

This is an amazing comment. 10/10

Can I also say I love the chat? I don't usually comment, but I hope you keep doing the chat, even when it's a slow news week!

This gives us the warm and fuzzies. Thank you, have another happy turtle. 

We have a lot of readers who are also in their fifties. Anyone else? Folks in your thirties, forties? Sixties?

Where my seventies readers at?

The commenter who wants help moving music from their iPhone to their new desktop should browse the Apple support forums. If the answer's not there already, just ask, and somebody will respond. Alternatively, ask at the Genius Bar (although that's not too practical for a desktop).

I agree the Apple Support Forums are an excellent resource!

This will help you with transferring music you've purchased, but if you've ripped CDs, etc., then you'll want to go here

Also, I can't believe Hayley just dropped an Animorph reference.

Showing my age. 

I can. It's one of the things I love about her. 

HAVE I MENTIONED HOW MUCH I LIKE YOU GUYS? Speaking here to both readers, and the Switch crew. 

You make me as happy as this turtle. 

They're reading the print version of the chat.

So, I will never get an iPhone. But I do love my iPod touch, which is now getting a little long in the tooth and lacks a camera. I've been holding off on replacing it because of the cost. If you were me, would you buy now, or trust that the Touch isn't going the way of the Classic just yet?

The Touch is still a pretty good business for Apple, so I wouldn't say it's going away just yet. It's particularly good for younger kids who want all the social media stuff, but whose parents don't want them to have phone plans. (Understandable.)


I'm tired of previous generations saying Millennials are the worst generation ever, especially since the next generation is clearly the WORST GENERATION EVER!

Dude, are you even on Yo? Or Snapchat?  

I'm one of the people who likes to build his own PCs and can fix them, while getting mocked by his Apple mob friends.

Let's not turn this into an Apple/Microsoft flame war.

I didn't answer the platform question before, so I can say here that I actually built -- well, helped build? Held things in place while my significant other built?-- my first PC two years ago, and really enjoyed it. 

My family, growing up, were always Apple people, and I haven't deviated from that much, but I almost always have an Android phone on hand for reviewing, and I also use  Android devices a lot for reporting (i.e. for the app reviews.) 

I will say that in using mostly Apple products, I no longer get to build or tinker with computers, and that makes me sad. (Though I did just add a solid-state drive to my MacBook Pro.)

Apple force U2 on iTunes users, thoughts?

Gut reaction: It's a ploy from Apple and U2 to make it seem like they are actually having the biggest album launch ever.  Would be very curious to see how many of the downloads are never claimed -- not that I expect that information to ever be released. 

Also, how many people actually still use iTunes as their primary digital music hub? I feel like most people have moved on to Spotify, Pandora, or other streaming services. 

I might be betraying Hayley's confidence here, but she told me that she just cancelled her Spotify subscription. Why, Hayley? And do people agree/disagree with that choice?

No confidence betrayed! I was just looking at my media budget for each month, and decided it was something that could go. I mostly listen to Pandora classical stations at work, and I'm mostly singing chorus music at home (I know, I know, I'm 28 going on 75) so it wasn't something I could justify anymore.

Um. I just got an (unsolicited, but whatever) ad for a Hydra-themed HTC One M8, so maybe my allegiances just changed right now.

For his 75th birthday, I got my dad a "Building Your Own PC for Dummies" book. He was able to do that within a few weeks. He always was what we now call an early adapter.

You're so right. When this U2 stuff happened, it dawned on me that I hadn't even opened iTUnes in months. Without realizing it, I've completely moved on to other platforms. All the music I own is still in iTunes and iTunes only, but I almost never listen to music I own anymore. It's all streaming radio and podcasts managed through podcast apps.

Bye everyone!

In This Chat
Brian Fung
Andrea Peterson
Hayley Tsukayama
Nancy Scola
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