Switchback: Talking Tech (Oct. 17)

Oct 17, 2014

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

It's officially decorative gourd season, dear readers. Let's chat. 

Oh Google, you're killing me here! This phone is too big, and the price is way too high. Sure, now carriers can sell it with subsidies, but I've never wanted to buy a subsidized phone. I'm on TMobile because of that. I'll be hitting Swappa to see about picking up a used Nexus 5, and either sell or send my superannuated Galaxy Nexus to the great junk drawer in the sky. This is just what I was afraid of with Android Silver. If the phone were $450, I'd be saying "Shut up and take my money!" But at $650? Nope nope nope. Cue the animated octopus gif.

Here, let me help: For me, a 6-inch smartphone is just too big. Still, I look forward to trying one out for review -- it may surprise us yet!

Le sigh. I am the only person who loves big smart phones here -- but I don't love big price tags. 

I am a bit leary about updating my mid-2012 Macbook Pro to Yosemite because updating my iPad 2 to iOS 8.0.2 has slowed down its performance to the point of frustration. Are you hearing any reports of Yosemite bogging down older Macbooks the way iOS bogs down older tablets and phones?

Yikes, sorry about iOS 8.0.2 and your iPad 2.

I've been watching the forums (fora?) for reports of slowdowns, and haven't seen any yet, but I might pump the breaks for a little bit to see if problems pop up before upgrading, if I were you.

From a personal standpoint, I'm actually using Yosemite on my 2010 MBP right now (as we speak!) and I haven't had any new, noticeable problems since I upgraded from Mavericks to the beta a few months ago.

I'm so disappointed with the iPad Mini 3. I was planning on upgrading from the the original iPad Mini, but I can deal with the slowness for another year. However, should I be worried about the rumors that this was just a way to make users go to the iPhone 6 Plus and that the long term plan for Apple is to get rid of the Mini like the iPod Touch (which I still use as my audio player for running)? That is never going to happen for me. I like the separation of phone and tablet, and I think the mini is the perfect tablet size. But I'm just one person and my $400 isn't going to make a dent in Apple's profit margin. While I'm at it...get off my lawn!

I'm with you. I still rock the original Mini and I find it to be a much better size compared to the large iPad (I even wrote about how Star Trek prepared us for the 7-inch tablet as an optimal form factor.)

That said, I'm so rarely away from a computer that having a tablet isn't really a necessity. So…

I own an iPad mini also really like it -- it's basically how I read all of my magazines, where I keep a lot of non-work documents I want to handle when I'm out of the office and it's so portable that I pretty much always have it with me. 

It's hard to say what Apple's doing, exactly, but I wouldn't worry too much about the iPad mini if I were you. It's a good seller for them and it has a good niche. I could easily see it getting less frequent major upgrades, though -- think the Mac mini.

Hi, my various cheap or free speakers and eight year old iPod dock have all finally died and I am ready to invest in a new system for me and my fiance's small 2-br apartment. I do not have (or want) a TV or home theater: this is going to be pure audio. I do not need the system to be window-shattering loud (note: apartment neighbors) and for good sound quality, I will turn to my headphones. I like the versatility and wi-fi based approach that both Sonos and Airplay systems offer over Bluetooth, and ideally, the system will play music off of my hard drive, Pandora/Spotify, and NPR. If you were starting from scratch, like me, and wanted to keep the budget to under $600, what would you do?

I will be the first admit that I'm not really a great person to consult for home audio stuff, but if you're looking for a great place to start your research, I'd suggest heading over to the audio section of The Wirecutter, Brian Lam's site. 

They give really thoughtful reviews overall, and are a great resource.

What do you think about the Guardian's report about Whisper tracking users? And Whisper's pushback

I enjoy great sound quality and have avoided alienating my neighbors in my two-bedroom apartment by buying Bose SoundLink devices, the big one for the living room and the mini for the bedroom and kitchen (I walk it between the two rooms). I use my laptop to control everything. No problems with BT connections and the audio quality is fantastic.

In an ideal world I would have a sonos. In reality I'm not buying an audio system that costs could easily hit 2K. Sonos cost is too extreme. Wirecutter just has a 5.1 option from vizio. Is there any middle ground?

I'm hesitating to upgrade to IOS 8 on my old iPhone 4S since I'm afraid it will slow it down too much. Have you heard any reports regarding IOS 8 on the 4S?

From what I've heard, the problems aren't quite as bad on the 4S as they are on the 4. I've heard and read about some lag problems on the 4S (and the 5, for that matter) but I would probably advise sticking with your current OS if you don't have a super-compelling reason to upgrade. 

Apple wouldn't like to hear me say that, but it's probably the best course.

Seriously: get a *good* desktop-style powered speaker system with subwoofer and all. You can spend as much as you want, but they're designed to generate big low-volume sound (kind of like the "loudness" setting on your EQ. You can get your NPR propaganda through the app, and probably have better sound quality than an FM antenna.

Thoughts on the slowdown in tablet sales? Are we seeing consumers realize that tablets aren't really laptop replacements? Or are we all just waiting to replace them with Apple Watches?

Well, I think there are a few basic reasons. One is that tablet sales have been white-hot because no one had one until now -- there was nothing but potential buyers for tablet makers. Now that a lot of us have them, though, we're not replacing them as often. So sales are slowing down for that reason.

Another is that, like Andrea, a lot of people like those big-screened phones because they don't want a tablet and a phone.

As to the laptop question, I think we all know that tablets aren't quite there in terms of replacing laptops for the things we need them most for. That will probably evolve, and quickly, but it does explain the little slowdown here. 

No question, but a link to some pushback to Whisper's pushback.

Yeah, I found that whole thread absolutely fascinating. Brian's really been running point on the Whisper stuff, but I have to say that the responses to that thread do really seem to backup what The Guardian's saying.

Just like all apps, you need to determine if the risk of spilling your secrets was worth being tracked/public/trolled/etc.. For me, that will be never. Just like how I will never take a naked photo and put it on Snapchat or publically tweet something obscene.

It's a good practice, yes. Still, I think that companies have a responsibility to be upfront with their users about what they're actually doing. I don't know enough about Whisper's processes to make the determination myself about what is or isn't happening there, but the Guardian article is pretty troubling.

Besides, while I similarly don't post secrets or take racy photos of myself, that doesn't mean that anyone deserves to have stuff they thought was safe exposed for reasons beyond their own control.

That's that social media site that doesn't sell your data? Or is it that app that just says the word Yo? No, wait, it's the one that deletes your business sexts after ten seconds, right? On second thought, maybe I'm thinking of Google+ here...

Heh, "business sexts." I don't even know what that would entail, and I'm worried about asking you for your opinions on the matter.

Who here is excited about all the HBO and CBS streaming news this week? How far away are we from ending the TV bundle?

If you all have the original iPad mini, have you updated to iOS 8.0.x? Any pros/cons? Should I just wait for iOS 8.1?

I've upgraded. It's nothing earth-shattering — things mostly work exactly the same way. 

The one thing I'm really enjoying is the ability to deal with emails in Mail in different ways -- archive, delete, etc. -- by swiping. Hayley tells me that Mailbox already did such things but since I'm a Mail user, it's new to me.

It's one step closer to the time that I can punch away emails. Have I mentioned that I'm not a huge email fan?

Regular readers may have noticed I've been super quiet all week. This just published story on how simple human error can result in massive data exposures is why. Open it in a new tab and read it after chat!

I keep getting ads suggesting I download and use MacKeeper - is this a good system for keeping my computer 'clean'? Thanks for taking my question.

MacKeeper is sort of a weird product, because there are a lot of user reviews that claim it's malware and that it's a really bad program, while security experts and reviewers say it's a perfectly fine program.

From conversations I've had, though, it seems like most people say it's not really a necessary program for most folks -- the file cleaning system isn't that necessary for most users, and features like the location services now come through iCloud -- so I might suggest just ignoring it all together.

But I'd love to hear from other folks about what they think.

If it works and isn't crapware, they should execute their marketing director. It looks like the worst imaginable product and sends reasonable people running for the exits.

They do use scareware-like tactics, I agree, which is part of the reason a lot of users have said not to download it. There have also been some user reports of slowdowns and deleted data. But, again, I've actually asked this question of a lot of security folks in the past, and they say it's definitively not malware. 

That's not the relevant question. The relevant question is: "How much will Comcast charge for high speed internet once people start taking only the internet service." Your bill isn't going down until there's a real competitor for the last mile...in other words, never. Brian Roberts and his dad paid good money for their monopoly status, and until you replace the entire Congress, it's never going away. Just my opinion...based on 15 years in the cable business.

If you like any kind of sport on TV, probably never. Unless the big sports (NFL, NBA, MLB, maybe hockey and soccer) all pool together and create a giant sports bundle. And that is never going to happen. And you still have to pay for internet.

Sorry Bose has a hsitory of making some of the worst selling audio products ever. Their 901 speaker from back in the day was a total joke and their current range is jsut gawd awful. Look at Boston Acoustics adn B&W for speakers. Yamaha, Marantz and Denon for receivers. if you really want to hear how good 2 channel audio can sound find a Linn dealer and listen to least expensive Linnsystem with a Linn turntable. Lps still sound best. Nothing digital even comes close.

Woo! A fellow vinyl snob.

I liked Nancy's recent article speculating what might happen to tech policy if the Republicans take the Senate. Do you guys have any notion of what might happen if the Democrats somehow manage to keep the Senate? Will there be progress on these issues, or more gridlock? Is there any possibility of compromise?

Thanks, of course. I think on many of the issues, the status quo prevails. Net neutrality might take a little longer but otherwise forges on at the FCC, copyright is still a treaty issue that Reid objects to, and immigration is still immigration. That said, as I mentioned in that piece, 'patent troll' legislation is poised to move -- especially since the White House announced last night that it's nominating Michelle Lee to head the U.S. Patent Office, and she's someone who has called abusive patent litigation "a bug in our system."

Well, that's it for us this week folks. See you next week? 

In This Chat
Brian Fung
Andrea Peterson
Hayley Tsukayama
Nancy Scola
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