Switchback: Talking Tech (June 23)

Jun 23, 2015

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

Hello! Welcome to this week's chat. What's on your mind? 

Baymax and cat

We're here to help.

If you wanted to buy an unlocked Android phone of reasonable performance and price (i.e. not a $1,000 S6 edge), which would you choose? I should also add reasonable size. I don't do gigantic phablets. I want something I can put in my shirt or pants pocket...so anything very much over 5" is probably too big.

Unlocked phones, as you've probably found, are pretty pricey. 

You asked for a specific model, so I'll give you one: I've heard good things about the Motorola E, which you can get unlocked  for roughly $150 and has a 4.3-inch screen.  I haven't had more than a little hands-on time with it myself, but it's a fairly popular unlocked option. 

It's not going to blow your mind with its specifications and performance, but it's a solid phone for not a lot of cash. You may also want to look at Huawei's phones -- if you don't mind their alleged reputation for being spies -- which are good value for the price.

Those out there in chat land -- what do you think?

So now that I have an Apple Watch I am able to get a lot of information into the Activity and Health Apps on my iPhone 5. Since I have a 5, I wasn't able to use the Health App in iOS until I got the Watch. I love looking at the information I'm collecting but I'm really waiting for the great App/Website/Program that really pulls it all together in a usable way and allows you to do something with it. Do you know of anyone who is working on this type of solution?

Thanks for the question. I always like hearing from Apple Watch users in the wild! 

To answer your question, people are talking about it, but it's going to take a little more time to bake.

This depends a little bit on what you mean by "do something with it." If you mean for medical purposes, that's mostly in the conversation stage from what I  hear, because people are understandably a little antsy about sharing health information. 

If you're asking from a fitness standpoint, I've heard from lots of startups who are looking at pulling this information together to maybe work with personal trainers, dietitians, etc., to make wellness programs. But the sensors available right now on the Watch aren't quite precise enough for a lot of the finer work they want to do. 


...and AT&T wants to give me a Galaxy 5 for free (really free, that is) -- I currently use iPhone 5 and am happy with it, so: will I hate the G5? Would I be better to switch my "business" line to the iPhone 5 and use the G5 for everyday?

Funnily enough, I just got a Galaxy (S6) for work myself. I'd give yourself a little time to decide. Switching over from iOS to Android  -- or vice versa -- can be jarring. But you may find you like one system for one use or the other. I've made my iPhone my personal, since more of my personal cloud files are locked up in Apple's ecosystem, while my work stuff is mostly with Google. 

I also downloaded an app launcher -- Aviate, in my case -- because I sort of couldn't stand the Galaxy interface. But that's a matter of personal preference.

We're all double-fisters here on the Switch, actually.

I just recently joined the ranks of the two-deviced. And Hayley's right: Switching from iOS to Android is jarring. Is the Galaxy your only choice, or can you take some time to do some research to find out what you really want?

I'm a two device girl, but have been using an Android longer than an iOS device so didn't suffer the same sort of disconnect. In fact, I really don't have that much difficulty swapping between them. For reference: I have an older iPhone and a Galaxy S something.  

On this chat, the chat dialogue extends past its right border into the other elements on the screen. I've noticed this in other chats as well. See this screenshot. https://www.sendspace.com/file/yox5uw

Thanks for letting us know. Would you mind pinging me off-chat at hayley.tsukayama at washpost dot com to let me know what browser you're running, and if you have other extensions (AdBlock etc) that may be causing that? I'll pass on to the tech team.

Sorry. Forgot to mention using Firefox on Windows 8.

Ha, you beat me to it. 

I really want to submit one for publication in the chat! :)

Shoot us a link in the question submission box!

So I saw" Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine" at AFI Docs over the weekend. It is a documtary made by Alex Gibney, a very accomplished documentarian, his credits include Going Clear"  "We Sell Secrets"  and "Taxi to Nowhere."

I must admit I was very unimpressed with this movie but I suspect it will hit a chord with the majority of people. He started to make it because he could not understand why strangers were lighting candles when Jobs died. Because he starts from this premise, and because he got no cooperation from Apple or any of Jobs' family and close friends, the movie ends up being a bunch of poeple with axes to grind telling the worst stories about him. I also never understood the candle lighting stuff, but I blame that on the people who light the candles, not Jobs.

Have any of you seen it yet and if so, what did you think? I wish someone would do a BALANCED movie about him, not making him a saint who walked on water but also not blaming him for everything all tech companies are doing these days.

I haven't seen it yet, I'm sorry to admit. I''ll have to add it to my list.

But I do agree that portrayals of Jobs in film/books we've seen since his death  fall squarely onto one shoulder or the other -- he's either an angel or a devil. Jobs is fascinating, and I think his built-in redemption story makes it easy to over-dramatize. I'll be interested to see what Aaron Sorkin comes up with. 

Might be my all-time favorite GIF:

I converted the link into an image through the magic of HTML!

This gif is so wonderful. 

I have a question. I've been writing a lot about virtual reality and augmented reality lately, and these are definitely technologies that I worry I get too into my little bubble about when assessing whether people will actually want to use them. 

How excited are you, generally, about things like the Oculus Rift and the HoloLens?

You could say I'm asking for a "reality" check. Eh? Eh?


I'll show myself out.

I think for many people, the technology is still too foreign to know what to think. But I could be wrong.

Not sure if this is in this chat wheelhouse, but has anybody ever successfully hooked up an xbox to a computer monitor/speakers? I have an xbox, but no TV and don't really want to buy one. Don't ask me why I bought the xbox...I guess I thought this would be an easy task.

Xbox One or 360?

Sorry to expose my ignorance here, but I guess I would assume that you could just do that with an HDMI cable. Is that not the case? 

I'm actually in a similar boat to you — and I have no idea what the answer is. If you find out, let me know.

Hayley, I would imagine that getting the computer to recognize another input type would be tricky, no?

If you're using it for both a computer monitor and an Xbox monitor, then yeah, that could be tricky. Unless you have two HDMI ports and can switch between them. For example, I have a monitor that I use for my MacBook and my PC, and can switch inputs between VGA and HDMI. 

OP, what have you tried?

I also saw a great movie at AFIDocs called CODE: DEBUGGING THE GENDER GAP that looked at the under representation of women in the coding world. Really a wonderul and important film. I hope it can get wide distribution and be shown in schools around the country. One thing that amazed me in the film was the lack of coding classes in US Public schools. Compared to the rest of the world we are severly lacking. We also have many places where even if you can take a coding class it does not count toward graduation. How in the world can this be true in 2015?

I really have little to no interest in Virtual Reality technology yet but since I am not a big gamer (the games I do play tend to be word based) I may not yet be the target audience. I'm waiting for an application or use of interest to me that would benefit from VR and I don't see it yet. I suspect that in a way, everything now is a prototype and eventually we will interact with computers through VR, but for now I'm a "meh."

I think this is actually the single biggest danger for VR's future — that it'll get pigeonholed as a gaming technology rather than as something that has broader implications for the economy.

I feel like it's like 3D at the movies. It's cool in small doses, but not worth the cost to the consumer right now. Maybe if it becomes like the holodeck on ST:TNG or show the practical uses (maybe for med students practicing surgery), I'll be more down with it. I just don't think it'll happen within my lifetime.

If they started showing up in businesses you visit -- at the movies, for example, or even at work -- would that be appealing to you? (So, not for you buy yourself, but to have other people buy for you to use)

I bought the Motorola Moto G last year and it works for me. I didn't need the higher functions of the Moto X and both have newer versions out, along with the E. You might want to edit your response that people assume whatever their provider offers is what they're stuck with but that's not true. I bought my phone from Motorola then went to a TMobile store and they cut down my prior SIM card to fit into the Moto. Done. Easy.

Thanks for the response. I'm not going to edit because sometimes that confuses the chat program, but I'm happy to have published your response. 

Well, it depends on what kind of setup the OP has going on already. If he/she is asking about using a computer monitor for the display, that shouldn't be a problem as long as there is a compatible connector (HMDI/DVI or other). If the OP wants to hook it up as a second input source to a computer monitor that is already connected to a computer, then you'd need a second input connection, either by using a different type of connector or possibly with an HDMI switcher. I've used pig-tailed style HDMI switcher to connect a computer monitor to a desktop and a laptop.

Boo. Chat erased my answer, which was basically to say: "This."

I think one reason is because the vast majority of people don't need to know code, any code at all, in everyday life. It's not like math, science, reading, and writing, or other topics you need to know to understand daily life. Plus, we're moving away from the world where you needed to code to build many features of the internet. Developers are building tools to create things for people who don't code. You don't need to know code anymore to make blogs and websites, for example. Should code classes be offered so kids can get exposed to it? Sure. But it's not as vital as spending time learning math and reading.

I do think that coding teaches a certain type of logic, though -- a way of thinking as much as a way to make things. 

While we're on the subject of making things, everyone should read my former colleague Derek Thompson's cover story in The Atlantic on the future of work (or the end thereof). 

Well, that's all the time we have today folks. Thanks for your questions! 

Countdown clock

If you've still got burning thoughts on your mind, feel free to drop 'em into next week's chat here

In This Chat
Brian Fung
Andrea Peterson
Hayley Tsukayama
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