Recorded: July 3, 2010
Published: July 3, 2010
TWiT 255 •Previous episode – Next episode
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This is TWiT, this WEEK in TECH, Episode 255, recorded July 3, 2010: You're Holding It Wrong.
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It’s time for TWiT, this WEEK in TECH, the show that covers your technology news. We bring in brilliant pundits and analysts to talk about something that happened last week and that’s kind of the model for the show and today we live up to the models. My good friend Steve Gibson is here of the grc.com, the Gibson Research Corporation. He’s the creator of SpinRite. He’s host on Security Now, our weekly podcast on security, and you’ll see why Steve’s here when I introduce our other guests. Hey, Steve.
Steve Gibson Hey, Leo. It’s great to be with you again, and I’m sorry that this week we don’t have any gurus and pundits for you, but…
Leo Laporte Just wish, we could only find some…
Steve Gibson Couldn’t get them on the 4th of July weekend. So, you got us instead.
Leo Laporte Well, we had a bunch of young people on last week, Kevin Rose, Dan Shapiro. We’d lot of, kind of entrepreneurial types. So this week I thought we’d bring out the gray hairs and I’m really pleased….
Steve Gibson Wings to the other side.
Leo Laporte Yeah, that we could get Jerry Pournelle back on the show. I love Jerry, everybody loves Jerry. Jerry is of course a very famous sci-fi author, wrote so many great books like Lucifer’s Hammer and he’s also kind of the guy who inspired me to get started in this business with his Chaos Manor columns in BYTE magazine for many years. He continues to write Chaos Manor online and publish it for people who want to read it and subscribe. Is it chaosmanor.com, Jerry?
Jerry Pournelle No, that somebody else got that and the terms under which they would sell it to me were not acceptable, so it’s just – it’s Chaos Manor Reviews.
Leo Laporte Perfect.
Jerry Pournelle But the easy way to find it is just me. If you can spell my name you can find me generally.
Leo Laporte Jerrypournelle.com and there it is, the view from Chaos Manor. I thought it’d be fun to have – it’s always fun to mix it up a little bit, I thought that – and I try to get another gray hair, John C. Dvorak on but he’s off for the 4th of July weekend. So, it’s the three of us, although I have another fellow joining us in just a minute who’s an RF engineer. Radio frequency is really a black art and I know you both know quite a bit about it but I thought we’d get somebody who specializes in this to talk about this iPhone issue. iPhone, of course, is a big story of the week and not so much that it came out, that was last week’s story. This week’s story is all the brouhaha around the iPhone antennas. Steve, you wrote a pretty good blog post on this as a matter of fact.
Steve Gibson Yeah, what happened was, someone who was following me on Twitter created a video which just very clearly and graphically demonstrated that when he put his finger, just one finger in one particular spot on the band of his brand new iPhone 4, watching this video and the whole thing was like 53 seconds’ long, the YouTube video, you could just see the bars dropped down to nothing and some people had repeated it, other people couldn’t. They did the same things, so I got feedback when I posted this. I thought you know the explanation for this is that you’re seeing five bars through a large part of the typical reception power range. So only toward the very end as you’re nearing the point where the phone can’t maintain a connection, can’t do [ph] they (5:02) reliably and so forth, only then do you begin to see the bars drop off, and if that were the case that explained what everybody was seeing and it turns out, from an engineering standpoint, I guessed right, that turns out to be what is going on.
Leo Laporte Apple’s defense was I brought my phone, by the way I was able to demonstrate this and I’m demonstrating it right now for people watching on video, I was able to demonstrate it the day we got the iPhone right away, but we were also able to demonstrate it on a Palm Pre, people say the same thing happened to the 3GS, almost any phone if held improperly will cause this problem, but really the problem is not so much that this is happening is that Apple’s response to this has been pretty anemic.
Steve Gibson Well, one of the nice things about being – what is that we’re old farts or…
Leo Laporte Gray hairs.
Steve Gibson Oh gray hairs. And I’m sure Jerry will relate to this, I was very concerned as an engineer when I started seeing antennas disappearing. You know, in the…
Leo Laporte You mean on the phone and physically?
Steve Gibson Yes, yes. I mean, there was something very comforting about like holding the antenna up out of the phone, you know early cell phones had telescoping antennas and it was like okay, now I believe that I really have an antenna, and generation after generation they just sort of went away.
Leo Laporte They disappeared, didn’t they?
Steve Gibson But they can’t go away.
Leo Laporte You got to have an antenna, it’s a radio.
Steve Gibson Yes, it’s got to be up there and it’s got to be able to receive a signal.
Leo Laporte I want to – we’re going to address this in two parts: First, let’s talk – we’re going to talk about the actual issue, the antenna issue and then we’ll talk about Apple’s response, which is really much more of an industry issue than the actual…
Steve Gibson Well, they were shocked.
Leo Laporte Yeah, that was the letter they sent out and Steve Jobs himself sent out a few notes, we are going to talk about that, but let’s get Spencer Webb on the line. Spencer is a RF engineer. This is his field. He wrote a – I thought day one he wrote a very cogent blog post of his blog antennasys.com. Spencer thanks for joining us on TWiT.
Spencer Webb My pleasure, good to be here.
Leo Laporte So I know you were interviewed by everybody from PC Magazine to the networks about this post.
Spencer Webb Indeed.
Leo Laporte Your response was exactly what Steve just said, which is as soon as they took the physical antennas out of the phone, they had to put them somewhere.
Spencer Webb Absolutely true. The – what Steve was just saying about the history of antennas especially in cell phones is correct. They have been pushed down into the housing of the phone and made integral to the little monolith that the phones have become and it has caused the consumer public to forget that there’s actually a radio in there and the radio needs an antenna. I have a little museum of old cell phones here and it’s pretty graphic how the pull-up antennas, which we loved on the flip phone and the – I had a Samsung with a pull-up antenna that I wrote a blog post about, that worked great and then we have little stubs and then bumps and then they were gone.
Leo Laporte You said in fact that one of the Motorola phones had a pull-up antenna but they knew that people weren’t going to pull it up, so they put an internal antenna in as well just in case.
Spencer Webb That was the – that was the classic flip phone. The Motorola flip phone, the StarTAC.
Leo Laporte Yep.
Spencer Webb The little bump out on the case had a helical antenna in it and when you push the extended antenna down, there was literally a switch that switched over to the helical antenna, so you still had a real antenna even though you push the antenna down, and many people thought that the antenna was a pacifier and in fact it wasn’t, it was the real thing.
Leo Laporte So, is it better to use an external antenna?
Spencer Webb It is absolutely better to use an external antenna and it does a bunch of good things, it gets the point of maximum radiation away from your head, it makes the antenna physically larger so it can become efficient and broader band which the RF designer of the transmitter really likes, and they have eliminated it on all the modern phones.
Leo Laporte So it’s really a design choice, a cosmetic design choice that isn’t optimal?
Steve Gibson Right. It’s purely consumer driven. It’s because people don’t want to have an antenna. It’s just sort of not cool and so unfortunately the radio waves don’t feel the same way, they really want to have an antenna.
Leo Laporte Now, Spencer your reaction was – well, this is life, you are going to – there’s – every phone there’s going to be a way you can hold it that’s going to kill a reception, but don’t you think it’s particularly bad in the iPhone? I mean this is in fact in every Apple ad this is exactly how the iPhone is held, it is exactly like that.
Spencer Webb In fact, if you go look at the pictures of Steve Jobs holding the iPhone at the keynote in nearly every shot he’s holding it wrong.
Leo Laporte He’s holding it like you’re not supposed to hold it?
Spencer Webb Exactly.
Jerry Pournelle Well, it probably had a bumper on it.
Leo Laporte Well that’s the question is why didn’t Apple know about this and why didn’t they do something about it. Is this a necessity?
Spencer Webb I think Apple could have solved this problem right at product release by having a sub $0.1 piece of paper in the box that said that had an international line drawing of a person holding the phone with the correct Vulcan iPhone thing.
Leo Laporte No, but you shouldn’t have to hold a phone like that.
Spencer Webb It has an antenna in it. I think what we need to do is, admit we all need to just say phones have antennas in them and then if we cover up the antenna we are going to kill the signal and it doesn’t matter where the antenna is. It just happens to be, I am sorry, go ahead.
Steve Gibson I was going to say didn’t they really though exacerbate the problem by externalizing the antenna by like actually giving us electrical contact with the antenna.
Leo Laporte Well, that’s kind of not normal right, normally it’s insulated by plastic or something.
Spencer Webb Well, we did a test yesterday. One of my engineer friends came over with his brand new shiny iPhone 4. I still don’t have mine.
Leo Laporte I see you have a 3 there, yes.
Spencer Webb This is, no, this is not a 3. This is a primordial iPhone.
Leo Laporte That’s the original, wow.
Spencer Webb That’s the original iPhone. It will not die. It keeps working. I love it. But anyway, we had a test with the iPhone 4 here yesterday and we, in fact if you bring up my blog page I posted a very brief blog entry showing some photos of what we did, but we held the phone with the dangling two hand grip and observed signal strengths during a call, this is an important point. We made a call and we, the goal was we’re going to try to drop the call and when we…
Leo Laporte This is not the grip that you’re recommending, is it this one here?
Spencer Webb No, that grip…
Leo Laporte Scott Johnson’s cartoon.
Spencer Webb Requires actually a – that grip requires a little certification.
Leo Laporte That’s from myextralife.com. So let me see is this in your first impressions, oh, here it is.
Spencer Webb Yes, right there it is, okay. There is the two finger…
Leo Laporte The two finger suspension grip you call this.
Spencer Webb Here we go.
Leo Laporte You shouldn’t need a freaking manual on how to hold the phone.
Spencer Webb No, you shouldn’t, but let’s just get through this and then I will…
Leo Laporte Okay, all right, I will calm down Spencer.
Spencer Webb It’s important. So the two finger dangling grip in my office yielded a five-bar response during a call and you could barely see it in that photo but there it is. And then when we went down to the grip of death, in fact we didn’t just do the grip of death, we did the two handed grip of death and, yes, we almost, almost made it thinner. In that case we got it down to one bar but we couldn’t drop the – we couldn’t drop the call. But the important thing is we then…
Leo Laporte Now, that’s important, you just said and we are going to get back to you, we couldn’t drop the call because that’s I think may be the important issue. Here I am, I am holding it in the pleasant accepted whatever it is, the two finger Vulcan grip and it’s got five bars and I can, I mean I have demonstrated this very clearly, is this only happening in places with the weak signal though, the four bars.
Spencer Webb Well, it depends on how strong the signal is. If you are in an area that’s marginal and…
Leo Laporte This went back up, that’s not supposed to happen, stop it. Why does it fluctuate? It shouldn’t go back up, should it?
Spencer Webb It wants to make you happy, Leo.
Leo Laporte Yes.
Steve Gibson Well, and see that’s I think part of the real controversy here is that by designing the bar formula the way Apple did, the consequence of that is you got five bars almost all of the time until you really have very little signal left.
Leo Laporte Right.
Steve Gibson Instead of it being, like a zero to a 100 or like a much more useful scale.
Leo Laporte Well that’s what exactly and let’s go to Apple’s letter which they sent out. Apple’s response to this has been kind of weak and we’re going to talk more about this, first Steve Jobs says hold it different. My friend [ph] Krista Bono (14:22) said no, that’s nice. Apple’s philosophy went from think different to hold it different, credit [ph] Krista Bono (14:30) on that one.
Jerry Pournelle The problem is that you actually relied on that indicator.
Leo Laporte Right.
Jerry Pournelle And that turned out to be totally only loosely coupled to the actual signal strength and perhaps not coupled at all.
Leo Laporte Well that’s, that’s what Apple says. Apple said we have discovered the cause of this, this is a direct quote from Apple’s press release.
Jerry Pournelle So, live with it, if you get connection then you had bars, if you, the notion of bars is a little odd in digital phones anyway, isn’t it?
Leo Laporte Well, that’s a good question, Spencer. Is that, does that make sense to have bars, that’s an analogue leftover?
Spencer Webb Well, it’s a human factors problem; people want to see a number. They want to see an indicator. They want to – they want to have a feeling for signal strength and the fact of the matter is…
Jerry Pournelle Sure, but it’ a binary situation, you’ve either got enough connection to be able to make a call or you don’t, you don’t have
Leo Laporte It works or it don’t.
Jerry Pournelle Worst quality or better quality as you did in analogue base…
Leo Laporte Well, when I went in to complain to the AT&T folks and Apple’s even said this, I have heard the other people they said, AT&T said okay, the bars, but are you dropping more calls and I said, well I hardly use the phone at all, and no, apparently I am not, in fact I tried after I went home and I said, well let me see and I was able to get it down to zero and the call still didn’t drop. So maybe it doesn’t affect the call.
Spencer Webb Leo, we don’t know what the bars mean. The bars are relative indicator, okay. Nobody knows what the bars mean but they like the bars.
Leo Laporte Apparently even Apple; Apple said upon investigation we were stunned to find, stunned to find that the formula we used to calculate how many bars of signal strength to display is totally wrong. Our formula in many…
Spencer Webb What does wrong mean?
Leo Laporte Well, look at, you know what they did. They made sure that they showed five bars all the time in previous phones. Our formula in many instances mistakenly displays two or more bars then it should for giving signal strength. I am shocked, shocked that gambling is occurring. For example we sometime display four bars when we should be displaying as few as two bars, users observing a drop of several bars when they grip their iPhone in a certain way are most likely in an area with very weak signal strength, but they don’t know it because we are erroneously displaying four, five bars. It’s like they are saying, well we kind of fudged it before, is that true, Spencer or…?
Spencer Webb Well, I think the fact that AT&T has a standard for the signal strength and Apple wants to adhere to the standard, that’s a wonderful thing, but it does not mean anything. It doesn’t change the performance of the phone. It doesn’t change the number of dropped calls people are going to get. They had to make a response. This is the response they made. I don’t think it has any particular validity. I also think that the measure of whether the system’s working well or not is whether you drop calls or not and that really has nothing to do with what the bars mean, but the marketing guys won’t take the bars off the phone because everybody expects them.
Steve Gibson The one other sort or really interesting, sort of conspiracy theory side also is that with the release of iOS 4 they removed the field service screen, you could enter…
Leo Laporte I know…
Steve Gibson A really bizarre phone number…
Leo Laporte I know, you can’t do it anymore.
Steve Gibson And you could see the true, the – like a screen of true data that meant something and that disappeared, it’s like why, everyone like that, except maybe Apple...
Spencer Webb The smartest thing, the smartest thing Apple could do is quietly put the field service screen back in the iPhone 4 and just leak the information and not officially acknowledge it and I think people will start making measurements and I honestly believe they will find that the iPhone 4 is a more sensitive radio than the previous models. And getting back to something Leo said, does that, is the iPhone 4 more sensitive to having the human hand interfere with the antenna, and I think the answer is, yes, because they have moved the antenna action from the back of the phone to the side of the phone.
Leo Laporte Right.
Steve Gibson And you know, really, it’s a beautiful piece of design, but you need to give it a case, put it in a case if it’s a little rubber band around the antenna that’s fine or whatever, then you really solve the problem.
Leo Laporte Yes. And that’s what I did. I went – I got a case for the thing and you’re right, because it doesn’t happen anymore. I have to take the case off to do it. Don’t you think, I mean as long as we are talking conspiracy it’s a little suspicious that Apple releases the first case it’s ever done and it’s this weird bumper case that doesn’t work…
Steve Gibson And it’s $30.
Leo Laporte And it 30 bucks for a piece of rubber that just by coincidence happens to insulate the metal band and nothing else, Apple must have known. Jerry, we cut you off, I’m sorry, did…
Jerry Pournelle No, it’s alright. I find it all amusing because I think the whole think is to protect AT&T from people finding out their service sucks.
Leo Laporte Nobody’s paying attention to AT&T at this point, are they?
Jerry Pournelle No, I mean, look I used to have four bars here but that was when my wireless service – we had a thing called Cingular. And then AT&T bought it and what do you know, half my house I don’t get any at all, and even up here I have to head – stick my head out the window to get cellphone service in my house. So if I like Apple stuff, I’m kind of stuck with lousy service. I wonder how long Apple will continue to do that, because I suspect that I am not the only one who has that problem.
Leo Laporte Rumors are bad. And of course these rumors have been going on forever since the iPhone came out that Verizon – and this is now coming from good sources like Bloomberg.
Spencer Webb Bloomberg. Yeah.
Leo Laporte That Verizon will have this phone in January.
Spencer Webb Yay!
Leo Laporte But then we’ll lose that one nice feature of the phone, which is that you can surf while you’re on the phone. So it’ll be – because it’ll be on CDMA and not GSM. So these are very good – I don’t know if you saw it, Spencer, on AnandTech?
Spencer Webb Yes, I did.
Leo Laporte It looked like they did a very good analysis of the antenna. This is the actual physical antenna that’s in there.
Spencer Webb Yeah. That was one of the slides at the keynote that Apple showed.
Leo Laporte Apple – at the keynote was very proud about how good this antenna was.
Spencer Webb They were. And one of the questions I got asked during the last couple of weeks is, do I think that the disguise cases that they had, the company phones, and – for evaluation – might have hidden the severity of the problem. And I thought about that. And it’s very possible that that could have been true. However, the thought that Apple didn’t have a clue that the hand interference was going to be an antenna issue is preposterous. They had to not only know about it, I’m sure they quantified it and they took a risk and decided that it was worthy of it, and they shipped it like that. I still think that little piece of paper in the box would have solved the whole problem.
Steve Gibson I wonder if the whole deal with Apple and the iPhone and the signal strength and the deal with AT&T even, is a consequence of the fact that maybe they are in the shadow of a huge AT&T cell tower. And no one ever realized that at Apple, you get really good AT&T performance…
Leo Laporte Which is true, by the way.
Steve Gibson And nowhere else.
Leo Laporte Yeah. Apple has an usually good signal.
Jerry Pournelle You mean there is a place where you get good AT&T service?
Leo Laporte Yeah, it’s called 1 Infinite Loop Cupertino, California, 95014.
Jerry Pournelle So I have to move to Cupertino to be able to get decent cellphone service?
Leo Laporte I don’t know, maybe it’s a coincidence, but I wouldn’t be surprised if AT&T’s executive said, “make sure that Steve gets a good signal.” But it does make it hard to test, doesn’t it? So Anand’s conclusion – and in fact they have a chart, which must make it true.
Steve Gibson It’s a nice chart, by the way.
Leo Laporte Nice chart.
Steve Gibson Yeah.
Leo Laporte Signal Attenuation Comparison in dB – lower is better. And you could see that the attenuation goes from holding it naturally inside a case of 7.2 dB to 24 dB if you cupped it tightly, much more than you see on the 3GS or the Nexus One. I don’t know about their methodology. Spencer, does this make sense to you as an RF engineer?
Spencer Webb I think the most impressive thing that AnandTech did was hack the phone so that they can get dBm numbers out of the – out of the receiver.
Leo Laporte Yeah. That’s amazing, isn’t it?
Spencer Webb They did a wonderful job doing that and I think…
Leo Laporte They actually have numbers here on the bar.
Spencer Webb Yeah. They hacked it and reverse engineered it to find out what the numbers meant. Of course that’s all going to change as soon as Apple releases the patch.
Leo Laporte Right.
Spencer Webb But what they did was pretty good with the tools they had. I was actually reasonably impressed. One of the things that we have to keep in mind is that when the phone is being observed and tested, regardless of what change you’re trying to make, observe if it’s better or worse, you don’t know if you’re sitting on one cell site or you’re switching between three different cell sites as conditions change. And there is nothing on the phone save that service screen that will tell you that.
Leo Laporte Right.
Spencer Webb So all of the tests, 100% of the tests that have been published, including my own, if they – if you can’t be certain that you haven’t switched cells, then you don’t know if your data is valid.
Leo Laporte That’s very good. So you can’t move around, but you could even switch cells while you’re sitting still?
Spencer Webb Absolutely, yes. In fact, if you’re covered by cells and how you hold the phone or even where in your house you're standing, it might change the directionality or which side of your house the signal is squirting out, and you could be switching back and forth between cells and not know it. And that’s the beauty of the cellular system, but that’s also what obfuscates the ability to make any observations. I think Apple should re-enable the field service screen and let us nerds play.
Leo Laporte I wonder why they turned it off. I mean that’s highly suspicious. Isn’t it?
Steve Gibson Probably all it did was cause them problems. You know, the word got out, the screen was there, and users are going to complain. They’re going to say, hey wait a minute, you know, it’s like too much information. And Apple would just rather, we had five bars.
Leo Laporte They’d rather we read the press release and just listen to them...
Steve Gibson And we’re sorry that they were shocked.
Leo Laporte And hold it differently.
Jerry Pournelle I keep coming back wondering what’s the difference between one bar and five bars?
Leo Laporte Apparently, none.
Steve Gibson Four, actually, Jerry.
Leo Laporte Steve, we know you could do arithmetic. Spencer, what is – is it – it’s a logarithmic scale, isn’t it?
Spencer Webb Apparently. The AnandTech chart, if you could put it up, shows dBm on the bottom. And for those of you that don’t know what a dB is – if – a 10 dB change is 10x in the signal, 10 times; a 3 dB change is two times. So that chart, it actually makes the bars useful and lets you make some evaluations.
Jerry Pournelle Well, it can make some evaluations. But what is your different expectation, if I had one bar or I have four bars, what should I expect to see differently when I’m actually using the cellphone?
Leo Laporte So Jerry asked the question – and this is why Chaos Manor was such a great column. You’re a user, you asked a legitimate question a user should ask. How does it affect me?
Jerry Pournelle Am I going to get better data transmission? Are you going to sound better if have four bars than if I have one? I – my understanding is that bits is bits.
Spencer Webb Bits is bits and when you hit a bit-error rate or BER that is below what is acceptable to the system, you fall off a cliff. So I have to agree with you 100% that we either have it or you don’t have it, the bars.
Jerry Pournelle In which case, why shouldn’t it have a light bulb that says yes or no?
Leo Laporte Yeah. Good or bad. Yeah. It’s binary, isn’t it?
Spencer Webb Well, I think in this [indiscernible] (27:19) group we’ve already made the argument that it should both have a light bulb that’s green or red, and that it should have a bit-error rate read-out on some screen that you can only get to if you’re a certified nerd.
Leo Laporte It needs an analog meter with ballistics, so we can really see what’s going on.
Spencer Webb And to Jerry’s point, when you think about it really, the question, can you hear me now? That’s binary.
Jerry Pournelle Yeah, that’s the binary question. If you’re going to have a nerd screen, it probably ought to also use some kind of location system to point to where the signal is coming from so that you know which tower it is.
Leo Laporte Is it, Spencer, a warning that I might get a dropped call because my bars are plummeting?
Spencer Webb Yeah. And you know, that it is a warning, and I think if we grown an ear inside of our ear canal – I mean an eye inside of our ear canal, a way to watch our bars….
Steve Gibson Exactly. Too bad we can’t see them because they…
Spencer Webb And then it becomes really useful. I think we should work on that, a little genetic engineering will have it solved.
Leo Laporte Well, you can have a tone. You can have a little tone.
Jerry Pournelle I’m tired of that.
Leo Laporte You don’t want that? No ears in your – no eyes in your ears, Jerry?
Jerry Pournelle I don’t think I need that. The maintenance sounds expensive.
Leo Laporte This is great stuff. Spencer, I said I would only take 15 minutes. I know you’ve got a lawn to mow or something.
Spencer Webb No, I’m – I’m good as long as you need me, Leo.
Leo Laporte Well, stick around if you like. You can continue with the discussion. I mean this is such a great conversation, and we rarely actually have anybody with any technical standing on the show. So it’s kind of nice to have somebody who knows what they are talking about. And I’ve got three people who know what they are talking about. Jerry Pournelle, the legend, the myth, so great to have you here.
Jerry Pournelle The myth?
Leo Laporte The myth. No that’s…
Jerry Pournelle Mythical, I like that.
Leo Laporte The mythical Jerry Pournelle, he’s like a unicorn. So nice to have you. Steve Gibson, from grc.com. And of course, from antennasys.com, Spencer Webb, who is an RF – an actual RF engineer. Which is mythical, like a unicorn.
Spencer Webb It’s true.
Leo Laporte RF is a black art as far as I am concerned. You design cell towers, right?
Spencer Webb You know I used to argue – no, no, I design antennas.
Leo Laporte Antennas.
Spencer Webb And most of the antennas I design the majority would fit in a bread box. And then there are some that get pretty big. But I’m an antenna designer. I have done RF design, that’s not my specialty. If it radiates, that’s what I make.
Leo Laporte Okay.
Steve Gibson Spencer, you probably heard that Apple is hiring antenna engineers now, right?
Leo Laporte Desperately, quickly.
Steve Gibson I wonder if it’s a coincidence.
Jerry Pournelle Steve, you are the 57th person who just remind me of that. And every person that reminds of that I tell them the same thing, and that is Apple knows how to find my phone number.
Leo Laporte Yes, they do now. We are going to take a break, come back, if you guys want to take a break please do, we got a minute but I want to talk a little bit about my friends at Ford and the fabulous Ford SYNC that’s in my Mustang and in many Ford Lincoln and Mercury vehicles; it is the best hands-free out there bar none, I mean I can just say that absolutely without equivocation, you get true hands-free calling and by the way I tried it, it works fine with iPhone, works great with Android; Android by the way is an example of a phone that in many cases does not have hands-free because it wasn’t built into the Android operating system, it doesn’t stop the SYNC when you pair it up on the Bluetooth, it downloads the phonebook and I can now call for anybody by name, I press the button on my – I don’t have to take my eyes off the road, my hands off the wheel, I press the button on the steering wheel, I say phone and I can call anybody from my Android phone, my iPhone, I can even have multiple phones in the car.
I just love that. Turn-by-turn directions too, you don’t have to have the big display, it will talk you through your route and if there is traffic – if there are traffic problems ahead, it will re-route you automatically; it’s got 911 Assist, which is very nice, I hope I never have to use it. It’s a feature you don’t want to have to use, if the airbags are deployed at any time in your car, it will call 911 from your phone, it will automatically send you GPS coordinates from your phone or actually it has it’s own GPS so it’s not from the phone but through the phone and play a pre-recorded message and then give you a chance to talk as well, so a great feature should the worst happen.
I use it for music all the time; I just – I have to say I love the Ford SYNC and I have tried many others, but there is none better; you can take a look at it of course SYNC at your favorite Ford Lincoln or Mercury dealer; it’s a standard in some Ford Lincoln and Mercury models, optional in others, or go to the website syncmyridepodcast.com, and they have videos and so forth you can see.
I can get sport scores; I can get movie listings, this is fun, you can say where is the cheapest gas and it will steer you there. SYNC, are you not in because you have one or just because you want one, it’s great, isn’t it? Yeah. Syncmyridepodcast.com. We love Ford [ph] and we thank them (32:22); by the way we are going to be going to Dearborn, Michigan at the end of this month to cover Maker Faire which is in Detroit for the first time, Detroit area for the first time, which would be a lot of fun. And we are also getting, I’m told, an exclusive tour with our cameras live of the Ford assembly plant in Dearborn, so that I’m really excited about because talk about high-tech the stuff is really advanced in so many interesting ways, that’s coming up at the end of the month, we’ll see you then on TWiT Live.
Back to our conversation Jerry Pournelle is here as well as Steve Gibson, and Spencer Webb, we are talking. Spencer, did you really – is your name really Webb, or did you make that up just for the website?
Spencer Webb I’m not at liberty to say.
Leo Laporte It’s a great name. Apple says in their PR release to fix this bar problem, we are adopting AT&T’s recently recommended formula for calculating how many bars display for given signal strength the real – and this is important, the real signal strength remains the same, but the bars were reported far more accurately providing users a much better indication of the reception they’ll get in a given area. We are also making – and this is the real fix, we are making bars one, two and three a little taller so they’ll be easier to see, they are going to make them bigger, so you’ll think you’ve got a better signal, this is in a free software update. What do you think Spencer, the chances are that Apple will also Slipstream without any notice maybe a little rubber thing on the – I mean couldn’t they easily just code it with something or do something to insulate a little bit better?
Spencer Webb I think they would have – any change they would have made to improve antenna performance would have made the product bigger, and I think that’s the important key. There are a lot of pressures on the design of this product and the antenna performance is only one of them, the industrial designers, the artists have a lot of say at Apple, probably more than other companies, the mechanical engineers have something to say, the battery engineer wants more battery volume, they are all competing for this volume in the phone, and I’m sure that there was a meeting in some dungeon at Apple where somebody innocently said well, can’t you use the band on the phone as an antenna, and the antenna guy said, well, I probably could and that was the end of that. He lost any volume inside the phone, yeah.
Leo Laporte It would have been a mistake.
Steve Gibson And don’t you just hate it when art gets upset by physics, you know, the immutable laws of physics. Sorry, art guys but you are just not going to have what you want.
Leo Laporte Well, and this is the sad irony of it is that well so now I have this what is truly a work of art, the iPhone 4 really is gorgeous, I have it in a case, because it ‘s the only way I could keep those bars from going down, and I think that’s probably going to be the solution, and maybe at some point Apple PR will say, all right give anybody who complains a free bumper, how much can it cost them to make, I know they sell it for 30 bucks but seriously it’s a piece of rubber, we tried the LIVESTRONG bracelet, those rubber band bracelets that you know you get from Lance Armstrong’s Foundation at LIVESTRONG, they work fine. Anything, anything to insulate would work fine.
Spencer Webb If you go to my blog I wrote a little bit on why the – the thicker the bumper the more it pushes your lossy hand away from the phone and it’s going to reduce the sensitivity to your hand. And I’m not so sure that Apple hadn’t considered this from the beginning, obviously the evidence is that they came out with the bumper so quickly.
Leo Laporte Right.
Spencer Webb But…
Leo Laporte You used electrical tape and did that work?
Spencer Webb I used electrical tape, in fact here is the actual roll of electrical tape, this is exclusive to this WEEK in TECHNOLOGY…
Leo Laporte I thought electrical tape was black.
Spencer Webb No, antenna engineers are permitted to buy white electrical tape.
Leo Laporte Oh, you have to have a license.
Spencer Webb You do. You have to show it at The Home Depot, so we used white electrical tape; this is serious…
Leo Laporte Stop Laughing.
Spencer Webb …and we did the insulation and we did the grip of death and it had no absolutely no change on our experiment, I have to admit it wasn’t a rigorous experiment, it wasn’t a very carefully controlled experiment but it was enough of an experiment for two RF guys sitting next to each other, look at each other and say, yup, okay, no change, no difference.
Leo Laporte So it’s not that the moisture in my hand or somehow bridging this plastic gap that’s a misnomer, that’s not what’s happening.
Spencer Webb That’s DC thing, that’s light bulbs and flashlights thing, we are dealing with radio frequency currents that are switching back and forth at, in this case about a billion times a second, RF acts differently. And if we take a thin insulator and put it over that band, the RF actually doesn’t know the difference because we are making so much capacitance with our hand. So it’s not really what we would call a Galvanic connection that’s causing the problem, it has nothing to do with that; it is a combination of detuning the antenna from putting our hand there and literally attenuating the signal as it’s coming off the antenna which means it’s turning into heat inside of our hands.
Leo Laporte So the farther away the bag of moisture that is your body is from this part of the phone the better?
Steve Gibson Yep.
Spencer Webb Yes. Absolutely.
Leo Laporte To a certain point, obviously if you are six inches away…
Jerry Pournelle And but it only takes one thin piece of tape to do that. Is that correct?
Leo Laporte No, no, it doesn’t, it sounds like.
Spencer Webb No, you need to – the bumper case pushes your hand, or I haven’t – I don’t have a bumper case in front of me, but I have the case that I use on my…
Jerry Pournelle Okay, I misunderstood you, and I suspect if I did some others did.
Leo Laporte Yes, no, thanks for clarifying.
Jerry Pournelle You are saying that a piece of tape won’t do it, you have to have something that has [ph] enough (38:22) physical difference to actually affect the capacitance of the…
Spencer Webb Right.
Jerry Pournelle …connection between your hand and the antenna.
Spencer Webb Yeah, I predicted that a thin piece of tape will have no effect, we observed that a piece of electrical tape didn’t seem to have an effect and next week I’m going to get much more detail than the measurements.
Jerry Pournelle Of course if you use some other than white tape.
Leo Laporte People have reported scotch tape works but it sounds like that wouldn’t.
Steve Gibson I think plastic tongs, maybe that would be a good thing.
Leo Laporte Yes, the Vulcan grip of death, we’ve already established, Spencer told us is you have to hold the phone with two fingers like that.
Spencer Webb Three fingers.
Leo Laporte Three finger. Oh is that…
Spencer Webb One on the top back…
Leo Laporte Okay.
Spencer Webb All right, and then one on each side…
Leo Laporte Like that.
Spencer Webb And that’s right, and…
Leo Laporte Is it necessary to extend one’s pinkie or is that just a finesse?
Spencer Webb Only in polite company.
Leo Laporte Hold it like a tea cup.
Spencer Webb That’s right. Absolutely. And it’s a shame to cover up this work of art with a case but you know when I bought the primordial iPhone it had a case on it before I left the Apple Store, and it looks great now and it’s been dropped, and it’s still working awesomely.
Leo Laporte Just every once in a while I take it out, I polish it up, I look at it, I go ooh-aah, so let me ask you, so Spencer, you are an iPhone user.
Spencer Webb I am.
Leo Laporte Will you get an iPhone 4?
Spencer Webb Not only will I get one, I’m wondering where it is, actually it should be delivered here on Tuesday, so, yes. And I have to make a confession I’ve said that I’m getting one, it’s absolutely not true, I’m getting two, my wife is getting one and I’ve told her that she is getting one and I told her that she’ll like it.
Leo Laporte There you go.
Spencer Webb So she has reluctantly agreed to give up her Motorola RAZR, which by the way strangely enough I did a little research and the Motorola RAZR has the Antenna right on bottom.
Leo Laporte Right on the bottom.
Spencer Webb That’s right. So if we do the grip of that from the Motorola RAZR guess what’s going to happen, the exact same thing.
Leo Laporte Now that’s interesting. Steve, are you an iPhone user or no?
Steve Gibson Nope, because I’m – like Jerry I feel the same way about AT&T, the only account I have with them is the iPad because I had no choice. That was good enough to drag me over there and I’m BlackBerry user also.
Leo Laporte And Jerry what do you use for phone?
Jerry Pournelle I use an iPhone. Long ago when they first came out, one of my readers said, “Hey this is the pocket computer from your old novel “The Mote in God’s Eye.”
Leo Laporte It is, isn’t it?
Jerry Pournelle And you ought to have one and then the next thing, one appeared in the Mail. So I – this one – because I’ve still got the ancient one.
Leo Laporte Yeah, you and Spencer like too.
Jerry Pournelle You know it works, it works for – I don’t like you – I don’t do much talking on the telephone, but I also don’t tweet. So, it works just fine for a phone and it’s very good for looking up things when I’m – getting around and I Google more with my iPhone than I do with anything else.
Leo Laporte You may be sure, you have a Google phone.
Jerry Pournelle Well, actually I am – what I really want is a stylish carry bag for my iPad.
Steve Gibson Well, he’s going to say the iPad has probably replaced, Jerry, use of the iPhone, because it’s just so right.
Jerry Pournelle That’s exactly correct. I use the iPad when I have it with me for almost – I would now accept that my iPad just did something goofy. While I’ve got two experts on the line, can I ask some advice?
Leo Laporte Go right ahead.
Jerry Pournelle Okay. My iPad connected to my network but it would not use it, that is it kept saying that it couldn’t get email or Safari, you sent me an email and I sent – I forwarded it on to my Mac account, so I could be looking at that at the same time I’m looking at this, which didn’t work. Although it appeared on the MacBook Pro I’m using. So that’s very interesting, the iPad which was working find down at the beach with a different network seems to believe it’s connected to my internal network here, to the Wi-Fi here, but it isn’t. So I pushed the button – the two buttons which makes it to a hard reset, and it came up and it worked fine and now I’ve got the – it connects to the Internet just fine. It believes it’s connected to my local internal network but when I turned it, it no longer reorients itself. It’s now locked into…
Leo Laporte Well, you know about the switch at the top, Jerry, the lock switch.
Jerry Pournelle [Indiscernible] (43:11) that’s what it is…
Leo Laporte Unlock that switch.
Jerry Pournelle There is this switch at the top and I did it right – hit it wrong.
Leo Laporte So it’s easy to hit that. Hey but let me ask this is actually [ph] Germaine (43:19) because Apple has had problems with the Wi-Fi and the iPad, problems which they’ve denied and then said, well and Princeton University said, well it’s a DNS – it’s doing DNS wrong.
Jerry Pournelle That was the switch …………..
Leo Laporte Oh good.
Jerry Pournelle And I had inadvertently hit it and I had forgotten about it which tells you the problem would be an 80-year old, if you forget there’s a switch at the top.
Steve Gibson There is something still not right, Leo. My – remember this is my second 3G iPad because the first one was locking up all the time and I remembered mentioning to you that I – at the time I was switching back and forth actively between the Wi-Fi and cellular sort of depending upon where I was, well I’ve just left everything in cellular mode because I was – I’m grandfathered in, thank goodness to the unlimited account…
Leo Laporte By the way, never let that lapse because I’m told if you let the lapse once, you never again get unlimited…
Jerry Pournelle I’ve gotten one and I guess I will never let mine lapsed. But AT&T swears to heaven that they’re going to put a new tower in our neighborhood shortly.
Leo Laporte Well ……
Steve Gibson Well, that’s good because you’ll get a [ph] tam (44:25) that way too. Anyway when I do mess with the turning on and off the LAN the Wi-Fi, I – every so often the Pad looks up and I’ve got to do Jerry’s two finger salute in order to, to get the thing going again, I mean, so something is not right somewhere…
Jerry Pournelle Yeah. Steve, when it locks up do you mean, it stops working or it just simply believes it’s connected to Wi-Fi but it’s not really connected to the Net.
Steve Gibson I’ve seen both behaviors, a complete freeze of the UI just that it never recovers from or sometimes that it’s got problems. I found that from my particular email servers, the UI on the iPad didn’t give me enough flexibility for configuring it, I had to – I had to setup the email on my Mac and then dock the iPad in order for the Mac that had more sophisticated email UI to then synchronize into the iPad then was able to work with my email.
Jerry Pournelle Mine was just – it was connected to the Wi-Fi but it didn’t – but it really wasn’t, if you see what I mean. It gave all the indication the setting said so, I went into the settings and turned Wi-Fi off and then back on again, no effect but when I did that hard reset, it reseted to have connect it to my internal Chaos Manor Wi-Fi network and it’s working just fine which is great. I was horrified because my whole – I never had a real problem with it before.
Steve Gibson When I first got the iPhone, I had a similar issue. It would get on the Wi-Fi and after a while it would simply act like it wasn’t connected to the Wi-Fi but it was; and I had to turn Wi-Fi off on the iPhone, turn Wi-Fi back on, on the iPhone and everything worked okay. And I exchanged the iPhones and that didn’t cure the problem. And then finally I took my Blue Linksys wireless access point, I think it was a WAP54G, if I’m remembering correctly and I took it offline and I went – I’ve gotten an Apple AirPort Extreme and the problem went away.
Jerry Pournelle Yeah that generally works but I use D-Link and Belkin here and they both worked very well, I’m very fond of those two companies for that sort of thing, but this was interesting that I thought it was in tragedy because I’m getting kind of dependant on this iPad. I think that’s the big news of the week is that – there’s a huge race for making ebooks and text books and magazines and everything while it’s cheap now. The readers are – there’s a price war on readers.
Leo Laporte Well, it’s interesting and I wonder how much of that is in response to the iPad, how much it is that the Barnes & Noble is eating some of Amazon’s business. As you know Barnes & Noble dropped the price on – I’m sorry Borders dropped the price on their Nook – no that’s B&N, right?
Jerry Pournelle B&N is Nook.
Leo Laporte That’s the Nook, and they dropped their price down…
Jerry Pournelle The Nook was the first one to cut and immediately Amazon retaliated and then the last I heard, B&N is – I mean, you know, that war isn’t over.
Leo Laporte So B&N they dropped the Nook to 150 bucks for Wi-Fi-only, 189 for Wi-Fi plus 3G and then Amazon responded dropping the Kindle price similarly, this happened a couple of weeks ago.
Jerry Pournelle Yeah.
Leo Laporte And now Amazon’s announced a new Kindle DX which has an improved e-ink screen and you said, Steve, you’ve already ordered that one.
Steve Gibson The moment I found that about it, I got my order in.
Leo Laporte You didn’t like the DX or did you? Was it too big for you or…
Steve Gibson No, I use it every day. That’s the reason I upgraded to this latest one, I’ve got it rubber banded to the head of my stairclimber and I read science fiction on it, when I’m stair climbing.
Jerry Pournelle But then you’re going to like it better than the iPad you think?
Steve Gibson No. No, what I’m finding is that there’s still nothing better than the Kindle for just reading. It’s light weight, the battery last forever unless you are in the dark then you’ve – you’re not going to be able to read very much. But it’s as a purpose-specific just ebook reader, I really like it better than the iPad because I’ve gotten used to the smaller screen, it’s easy to hold with one hand, you really can’t hold the iPad with one hand, it’s too heavy – to hold it for a long time.
Jerry Pournelle [Ph] That suspects (49:20) your eyes are better than mine, I’ve got a – what I really like about the iPad is reading Kindle books on the iPad.
Leo Laporte Well that’s the beauty of it.
Jerry Pournelle [Indiscernible] (49:28) that little slide bar at the bottom and you can thumb through pages very rapidly…
Leo Laporte Yeah, right.
Jerry Pournelle And that’s what’s [ph] going to cause (49:35) – and that feature is different between whether you can have textbooks on – on electronic books or not, you will never have textbooks on the Kindle as long as you don’t have some faster way to flip through the pages, which you can do so easily on the iPad. That was genius on their part who have done that. So they’ve got better – the iPad app on the Kindle, I’m sorry the Kindle app on the iPad is better for reading Kindle books than the Kindle itself.
Steve Gibson Yes.
Leo Laporte Well – and they put it on the iPhone and they’ve added audio and video to the iPad and iPhone, and they’ve also put it now on the Android phone. I was told – and I don’t know how true this is – that there’s two different divisions at Amazon, one selling the hardware and one pushing the software. Because I could never understand why – I mean, is Amazon in the book business? If they are, put Kindle everywhere, right? You don’t care about the [indiscernible] (50:31).
Jerry Pournelle Well, they’re in the razor blade business.
Leo Laporte Yeah. Yeah, they just want to sell the books, right?
Jerry Pournelle They want you to have something to read it with, which is why they didn’t resist having Kindle apps on iPads.
Leo Laporte But why do they still make a Kindle, then, if they’ve got a platform now? They don’t need to make the Kindle anymore.
Jerry Pournelle How long do you think they will?
Leo Laporte Well, I don’t know. They just announced a new one on July 1st.
Jerry Pournelle Gillette still makes razors, too, I guess.
Leo Laporte They’re making a big deal about the new Kindle DX, 50% improved contrast. By the way, they say this may be a first step towards a color Kindle.
Jerry Pournelle Yeah, well a color Kindle with an easy to thumb – look, there is an enormous potential in this business in textbooks. College and high school textbooks are so doggone expensive, that if you can do them with ebooks, it’s a lot cheaper for the schools. And over time, it would be cheaper for everybody. But you’re not going to do it unless you can thumb back – you can do bookmarking and thumb back and forth between those pages much more rapidly than you can with a Kindle right now.
Steve Gibson The other interesting thing that Amazon introduced with the Kindle, I’m not so sure how I feel about it. But they’ve added sort of a social networking aspect to it where you’re reading the Kindle book, and you’re seeing highlights that other people who read the same book made before you came along.
Leo Laporte That’s kind of weird.
Steve Gibson It synchronizes them all.
Jerry Pournelle Yeah, you can. And I have been very careful to ignore all that.
Leo Laporte Can you turn it off? You don’t have to see it?
Jerry Pournelle Yeah, you can turn it off.
Leo Laporte Yeah.
Jerry Pournelle I really – well, if I knew it was Steve Gibson or Leo Laporte’s comments, I would probably leave them on. But since they are more likely to be those of somebody who has picked up the book in a bookstore – who do I know? I mean there are more – let us face it. I think everybody on this program has more social contacts than we need right now.
Leo Laporte Yeah.
Steve Gibson Well in this case, Jerry, you definitely – I just want to advise you. Stay away from Twitter. This is not where you want to go.
Jerry Pournelle I have never Tweeted in my life and I am sorry to say I am – Leo, I am proud of you that you are the leading TWiT in this world. But I don’t have any – I have never even been vaguely tempted to find out when you were having lunch.
Leo Laporte Well, watch out, Jerry, because Steve felt like that a year ago and now Steve has three Twitter accounts.
Jerry Pournelle Really?
Leo Laporte He can’t stop!
Jerry Pournelle Gibson, are you now a TWiT? I didn’t realize that!
Leo Laporte Oh yeah, he’s got – it’s at – what is it, S-G-R – what is it, Steve?
Steve Gibson I have gibsonresearch for corporate stuff.
Leo Laporte Okay.
Steve Gibson I have sggrc for my – just like, daily stuff that occurs to me. And sgpad. And what I’m finding is, I’ve got – I don’t know, like 11,200 some followers. And I’m deep into…
Jerry Pournelle I’m surprised it’s so few.
Leo Laporte Well, it takes a while. You’ve got to build up.
Steve Gibson And so I’m following along what’s going – what’s happening with the industry. But for example last Saturday, when I realized what was going on with the iPhone just based on sort of other people’s experimental results, because I don’t have one, I created a blog posting and then I was able to announce it on the Twitter, and a lot of people found out about it that way. And so for me, it’s just a great communication medium. And for example, earlier this morning, I said, hey, Leo and you and I are going to be on TWiT at 2:15 p.m. Pacific, and I got a ton of feedback from people who were really happy to find out about that.
Leo Laporte And I’m sure a lot more people are watching because of this.
Jerry Pournelle I’m sure that’s the case and I guess that’s true, but can’t you do it just by announcing it on blogs, or?
Leo Laporte Twitter pushes it out, as opposed to a blog where people have to go to your blog to see it.
Jerry Pournelle No, they don’t.
Leo Laporte Well, they don’t, but…
Jerry Pournelle …to subscribe to feeds don’t.
Leo Laporte Yeah, and you know what’s happened, Jerry? I think fewer and fewer people use feed readers and read feeds. That’s become I think a little less popular thanks to Twitter, where you get these little short bursts. Twitter, if you craft your lists carefully, becomes kind of like a feed reader that’s put together by other people. And this gets back to this idea that Amazon’s having, which I think is very interesting, of including other’s annotations in your book. And you hit the nail on the head, Jerry. If you could pick whose annotations you were looking at, wouldn’t that be valuable? That’s kind of what Twitter does.
Jerry Pournelle Yeah, I suppose. You have probably talked me into looking at it, and that’s horrifying, because – but my notion of Twitter up to now has largely been – the only TWiT I ever saw, that somebody was telling me, he was about to have a sandwich and then go to the toilet.
Leo Laporte Yeah, you don’t need that.
Jerry Pournelle Why was it that I wanted to know this?
Leo Laporte Well, you don’t follow that guy. You follow people like Steve, who say interesting things.
Steve Gibson And the fact is, Jerry, celebrities of various walks of life get a lot of followers. And you’ll be able to share things that you care about, you know, like little short bursts about a book you found or a movie review or a restaurant that you liked.
Jerry Pournelle That’s what I do on my day book now. I mean I invented the blog for heaven’s sake…
Leo Laporte Stick with the blog, it’s okay.
Jerry Pournelle I have a pretty good [indiscernible] (56:11) than the first blogger. And I don’t know that I want to abandon blogs to tweets.
Leo Laporte No, don’t, Jerry, it’s okay.
Steve Gibson And how many people are reading the blog? Do you have a sense for a subscriber number?
Jerry Pournelle I know how many paid subscribers I have, I know the usual ratio, and I know how many uniques I get, which is in the order of a hundred thousand a month.
Leo Laporte So are you – are you happy with the success of The View from Cass Manor? Has it gone well for you?
Jerry Pournelle Well, I’m not getting any twenty thousand a month out of it the way I heard you say on the radio you were doing, but…
Leo Laporte That’s donations, Jerry. Those people are contributing to the cause.
Steve Gibson Yeah, and it’s because you don’t have a Twitter account, Jerry, that’s part of the problem.
Jerry Pournelle Contributing – I mean is that just gifts to you or…?
Leo Laporte Yeah, so – we did this a while ago. You know, when we first started TWiT, it was all supported by donations, because we didn’t have any advertisers. And gradually – the plan was always – well, not always, but the plan after a few months of this was, I should get some advertisers because I’m not going to be able to live off what people donate. And we now have a fairly good stable of advertisers, very high quality advertisers. And I realized, well, why are people donating? It doesn’t make sense to have donations and advertisement.
But I still want to encourage donations, because what it really is, is a buy in. It’s a way – we’re only asking two dollars a month – a way of saying, I’m part of this, I support it, I like it. And it’s a way of feedback, too. So I thought, well, here’s what I’ll do. I won’t take a salary out of TWiT, we got enough people taking money out of TWiT including ten employees now and about thirty or forty contractors. Let – they’ll be funded by the advertising, but I’ll take my salary out of donations. So when you donate something, it really has a direct result. And that’s worked out pretty well. And it went up to about twenty thousand a month when I started doing that. I don’t take all that money, Jerry, I – because I take ten out.
Jerry Pournelle Oh, I understand. But I don’t provide – I don’t – let’s say my subscribers feel satisfied, I guess, because I have [indiscernible] (58:12) renewal rates…
Leo Laporte They’re supporting you! Yeah, they’re supporting you. And I think that that’s a really worthy thing.
Jerry Pournelle But it’s not my full time job. I’m still a fiction writer. And I don’t have time to supervise employees to come up with the kind of content that would justify taking that kind of money out.
Leo Laporte Well, exactly. And so…
Jerry Pournelle I just don’t put that much in it. Back in the [ph] bike (58:33) days, I had thirty editors working with – and some of them for – me back in New Hampshire, and I can go to all of the conferences and keep up to date and have somebody – ‘I want you to follow this for me and let me know if something interesting happens.’ Now it’s all in full, but you know, I get – I think I have the most interesting mailbag on the web.
Leo Laporte And you publish this, by the way.
Jerry Pournelle Yeah, I have my mail on the web as part of the Jerry Pournelle alone–
Leo Laporte I think that’s a great idea.
Jerry Pournelle [indiscernible] (59:04) review is not political. It is purely technology and it’s the old [ph] byte (59:12) column and its comments.
Leo Laporte Right.
Jerry Pournelle My website, it – that one, the one you’re showing in the background, now that website is whatever I think of. But I think of it as my technology and civilization seminar. In that background, Richard Feynman was getting me on to the faculty at Caltech to do a senior seminar on technology and civilization.
Leo Laporte Oh, I would have loved to have seen that.
Jerry Pournelle And this is basically what I do on that. And that’s what people are subscribing to.
Leo Laporte Oh, I didn’t know that. I thought they were subscribing to Chaos Manor. So it’s jerrypournelle.com.
Jerry Pournelle They get them both.
Leo Laporte You get them both.
Jerry Pournelle They get them both. The same subscription is to both. I don’t try to distinguish between – and I don’t have any ads.
Leo Laporte Hey, I – we’re going to do an ad, because we got to make some money here. But I do want to talk about leaky capacitors. And this is – we were talking about Apple’s problems. Well, Dell’s got some big problems they’re facing including some lawsuits over these leaky capacitors, and I want to get your take on that in just a second, if I might.
Before we do though, I do want to talk a little about Carbonite.com, yes another one of our great sponsors. They have been with us for a long time, in fact I am putting Carbonite I have mentioned this on my daughter’s laptop, I just put it on last yesterday. She has got a Mac Carbonite works on the PC or Mac, she is going off to college this fall and I could tell right now I normally get the call at some point where she says daddy I lost my paper or the laptop or the hard drive died and all my data too and I am going to say I am going to be the hero I am going to say don’t worry dear you’ve got Carbonite, Carbonite the leader in online backup.
We all know that computer disasters happen, hard drive fails. Steve’s made a living on failing hard drives. Laptops get stolen right and left. Carbonite is the way to back-up. It’s automatic, as soon as you put Carbonite on your system in fact you go right now to Carbonite.com use the offer code TWiT, you can put it on and try it for two weeks free. You will see it starts backing up to the internet, encrypted, 128-bit SSL, and if you want optional AES 256-bit encryption so it’s absolutely private. Your personal files are backed up to the net where they are safe and sound, in fact they can be accessed anywhere you can get online with just a couple of clicks including an iPhone or a BlackBerry. So if you back it up with Carbonite.com you are never going to lose that data, PC or Mac, $55 a year, less than $0.15 a day. And it’s everything on your internal hard drive, all your personal files. Carbonite.com, use the offer code TWiT to try it free for two weeks, if you decide to buy you will get it free for two months with the offer code TWiT. No credit card needed for this free trial either, it’s just absolutely free and open. Carbonite.com, offer code TWiT. Just do me a favor, try it. I know you are going to like it.
So Dell, this is article in the New York Times came out a couple of days ago, after the Math Department of the University of Texas noticed some of its Dell computers failing, Dell examined the machines, the company came up with an unusual reason for the computers’ demise, the school had over-taxed the machines by making them perform difficult math calculations. Not so, that’s just their excuse. It turns out Dell knew it’s being sued right now, the lawsuit is in process. Dell knew at the time that they had faulty electrical components. They sold millions of computers with bad capacitors from 2003 to 2005. Dell more than any other, HP and Apple had the same problem is where these capacitors were used widely. But Dell had a huge number of problems with these computers and unfortunately even though they knew what was going on they decided to – well, basically sounds like lie about what was going on. Now they are admitting it. These bad capacitors popped, leaked fluid, caused crashes, and the documents that were recently unsealed in the case against Dell in the Federal District Court in North Carolina show that Dell had far more of a problem than others. 11.8 million computers in those two years that had the faulty capacitors from a company --
Spencer Webb We had one of them.
Leo Laporte Did you --
Jerry Pournelle Are these on the motherboard or in the power supply?
Leo Laporte I don’t know.
Spencer Webb On the motherboard, they are on the motherboard, and we had a large and at the time large Dell computer that we were using for simulations and the same thing happened, we start getting weird memory --
Leo Laporte Too much math Spencer, it’s too much math. You have got to stop that.
Spencer Webb Can you ever actually have too much math? I don’t think so.
Jerry Pournelle You remember Intel had that problem with one of their math chips for a while.
Leo Laporte Yeah they had the bad floating point, right.
Spencer Webb Yeah, that’s right. So we got a brand new motherboard under service contract in that computer and it was obvious when you looked at the electrolytics they were swelled and those were the bad caps. And the technician told me about it.
Leo Laporte He admitted it?
Spencer Webb Oh yes, he said yeah we have a bad load of capacitors and that’s what’s causing it, and when you look at the board it was obvious that that was so.
Leo Laporte In the discovery of these documents --
Jerry Pournelle I am sorry, sorry to interrupt, but is this an ongoing problem --
Leo Laporte No.
Jerry Pournelle -- or is it something that happened, they fixed it and now their big problem is they are going to replace a bunch of motherboards?
Leo Laporte They fixed it. They said if you had the bad capacitors, the chances of it failing were 97%. The problem is, and this is the smoking gun that’s coming out now with the discovery, is that Dell employees went out of their way to conceal it and one email exchange quoting the New York Times between Dell customer support employees concerning computers at a law firm, a Dell worker says, “We need to avoid all language indicating the boards were bad or had issues per our discussion this morning”. “Don’t bring this to the customers’ attention proactively”. “Emphasize uncertainty”. That’s why I as curious Spencer whether they told you what was wrong, so they admitted it.
Spencer Webb Oh the technician absolutely admitted it. But if you looked at the motherboard and you were an engineer --
Leo Laporte You couldn’t miss it.
Spencer Webb It was a plain – you couldn’t miss it. It was just – you wanted to get under the table before they exploded. That’s how [indiscernible] (65:18) they were.
Steve Gibson The thing that’s interesting is that this has been a known vulnerability and problem that’s been ongoing for a decade, and --
Jerry Pournelle It’s been longer than that Steve. We had the problems with S-100 bus boards.
Steve Gibson Well in this case I think what’s happened is that no offence made to China but we have very, very inexpensive Chinese manufacturers who are producing something which is unfortunately not solid state. The electrolytic capacitors on motherboards and power supplies are arguably liquid state because they have a dielectric in them in order to make them go which can dry out over time or in some cases it can get punched through and so the capacitors starts to heat up, and then pushes this dielectric out of itself. So unlike resistors and chips which are like the other components of the motherboard which really are sort of solid state, capacitors are not so much that and the quality of manufacturer, when you really squeeze the price out of them this is sort of a consequence of that.
Jerry Pournelle Yeah, and that has been true since [ph] AM (66:40) radio days in the 1940s for heaven’s sake.
Leo Laporte So just bad manufacturing.
Jerry Pournelle You bought – certainly think you bought quality items for – when you were building your stuff back in those days, you always paid attention to the capacitors because those were the ones that were most likely to fail.
Leo Laporte Right. There is a $40 million lawsuit now from a North Carolina internet services company, they say that Dell tried to hide the problem. There is also a risk because these capacitors could also burst into flame, you could have a serious – not merely bad math calculations, you can have a serious problem here.
Jerry Pournelle But did anyone – did any of them burst into flames, did anybody get hurt, or is this just some lawyers who have found a way to --
Leo Laporte Well that’s a good question, I don’t know Jerry.
Steve Gibson Yeah, these are all pretty low voltage. Normally the symptom of this is just the machine locking up. It just --
Jerry Pournelle Yeah.
Steve Gibson -- it freezes. And --
Jerry Pournelle The machine doesn’t work and they replaced the motherboards, right? When you – when there may have been it was due to [indiscernible] (67:44) rather than it was a bad capacitor, but they still replaced the motherboard, is that not correct?
Leo Laporte Sometimes with the bad capacitors on the new motherboard as well, yeah.
Steve Gibson Yeah. If you have got a bad supplier, you are going to have bad capacitors.
Jerry Pournelle How many cases of bad capacitors they have?
Leo Laporte You know, that’s a good question. 11.8 million computers were shipped with these bad capacitors.
Spencer Webb And these computers have like 15 or 20 of these capacitors on the motherboard, it’s pretty numerous.
Leo Laporte Yeah. Yep. They are for the most part OptiPlexes, again from 2003 to 2005.
Jerry Pournelle So that’s pretty likely the machine was going to fail if it had that bad lot in it.
Leo Laporte Oh yes. They say 97% chance a machine would fail --
Steve Gibson -- sooner or later.
Jerry Pournelle And they replaced them all as soon as somebody complained.
Leo Laporte Well, the issue is that Dell is – had an active policy not – according to these documents had an active not to say that’s what was wrong. Not to take responsibility --
Jerry Pournelle Of course they do. Apple has an active policy not to admit anything.
Leo Laporte So you are just saying it’s endemic. It’s in the nature of business.
Jerry Pournelle I am saying that it’s the normal way people do business for heaven’s sake. And it is the normal way the lawyers try to get themselves rich. Because you can make certain that the client is never going to get a dime out of this class action suit. The client will get a coupon worth a new capacitor some day.
Spencer Webb Well now we have these alleged lawsuits that are filed – actually they are not alleged, there are several lawsuits that were filed against Apple with respect to the --
Leo Laporte That’s right.
Spencer Webb -- iPhone 4 antenna. And they are saying that the antenna was defective and Apple knew it. And what do you have to say about that? I mean the antenna was a design choice, I don’t believe --
Steve Gibson The only thing that could happen I think would be if the lawsuits don’t get just dismissed out of hand, during this process of discovery we would get access to documents, and it would be interesting what Apple knew and when they knew it, if anything. I think that’s probably unlikely, but…
Jerry Pournelle Well, it aint my business. It – I – my business is to use Apple products and tell I don’t like them and then I’ll go buy something else.
Leo Laporte And that is as Steve Jobs defends. In fact that’s what’s said in that press release is we will give you 30 days to decide if you want something else and if you want something else go buy it.
Jerry Pournelle Yeah. Pioneers are the ones with the arrows in their butts for heaven’s sake. I mean I have been doing that for 40 years, I have been using equipments some of which wasn’t in, I had two of those Intel things with the bad chips in them --
Steve Gibson Well, Jerry, wouldn’t – I think that’s why you are sort of careful when you sit down, right, Jerry?
Leo Laporte Wouldn’t you agree though Jerry that the right thing for a company to do would be to acknowledge the problem and fix it as opposed to stonewall, deny, put it off as long as…
Jerry Pournelle Of course it’s the right thing to do. Now, tell me who does it?
Leo Laporte Well, apparently, not Dell or Apple.
Jerry Pournelle So who else?
Leo Laporte I don’t know. That’s a good question.
Jerry Pournelle Name somebody who does what you think is the right thing.
Spencer Webb I could name one but it’s not a technology company.
Leo Laporte Who is that?
Spencer Webb LLBean
Leo Laporte Yes, that’s true.
Jerry Pournelle Yes, yes.
Leo Laporte If you have a problem with your [ph] water proof – (70:44)
Jerry Pournelle And [ph] Andy Bower (70:47) used to be, it’s no longer the case, but at one time [ph] Andy Bower (70:50) stuff was always guaranteed forever. You didn’t like something, you brought it back 20 years later, I didn’t like this jacket very much, oh, alright.
Leo Laporte I don’t know if you have seen these --
Jerry Pournelle Notice they went out of – they didn’t exactly go out of business [ph] but Andy Bower (71:06) no longer owns any bowel.
Leo Laporte They are not flourishing. Now I got to warn you there is a little bit of profanity in the video that I’m about to play; this is a very funny video. Heck, everybody in our studio audience is now turning to face the screen and listening carefully, the very funny video made by a Best Buy, I believe a Best Buy employee.
Spencer Webb Right, Best Buy.
Leo Laporte About the iPhone, the typical iPhone customer. I’ll just play a little bit of this, we’ll bloop out in the download, we’ll bloop out the profanity but for those of you watching live just cover your shell-like ears here.
[Video Presentation] (71:45)
Anyway it goes on and it’s actually totally inspired, and the kid who made it is about to lose his job at Best Buy because, I don’t know why, I don’t know what their justification is for it. I think it’s --
Spencer Webb Well, in fact he has been suspended and now they are trying to figure out how to make it permanent. So I don’t think they know yet what the justification is either that would pass the attorneys.
Jerry Pournelle Well, that’s alright, Droid should hire him immediately.
Leo Laporte Yes, exactly. Get him a job at the Sprint Store. Brian Maupin is 25 year old Kansas City, Missourian. He has been working at the Best Buy selling mobile phones for the last three and half years, they suspended him indefinitely, because the video which currently has millions of views on YouTube offended somebody at corporate, they felt “it disparaged a brand they carried as well as the store itself and were fearful of stockholders and customers being turned off to Best Buy Mobile”.
Spencer Webb Did it mention Best Buy? Did the video mention Best Buy?
Leo Laporte Not once. In fact at the beginning it says some random name for a phone store.
Spencer Webb Yeah, they don’t have a case. I think he may make his next couple of year’s salary in the lawsuit.
Leo Laporte Yes. I don’t know if Missouri is an at will state, I mean in California they could fire him for any reason at all.
Jerry Pournelle Yes.
Spencer Webb Well, they ought to move him into creative services and [multiple speakers] (74:40)
Jerry Pournelle Yeah, [multiple speakers] (74:40) crazy to a libertarian like me I think they ought to be able to fire him because they don’t like his look.
Leo Laporte Right.
Jerry Pournelle But that’s --
Leo Laporte Right. He did make by the way a rebuttal video, it’s not as funny, but it’s a video to – I don’t know if this was after he got in trouble and probably not, but I think he felt bad about the iPhone so --
[Video Presentation] (75:00)
Leo Laporte So it’s actually – he is quite fair to both, in two videos he definitely gives you the pros and cons on both. So I don’t – I think the guy – you are right, he is – at this point it’s all good for him.
Steve Gibson Let’s just all pay him to keep making videos.
Leo Laporte Yeah, no kidding.
Jerry Pournelle Yeah, subscribe.
Leo Laporte Yeah, he needs a donor base.
Let’s talk about making money. I am going to talk about a viral video that made the family $150,000 in merchandising and more but before I do that, I want to make a little money myself, and tell you a little bit about Audible.com. We all know Audible is the bookstore online. Jerry you have some books on Audible as a matter of fact.
Jerry Pournelle I have lots of books on Audible, and I can tell you that they are very fair to us as they have – I have been getting quite reasonable royalty check from Audible for sometime now.
Leo Laporte That’s good to know.
Jerry Pournelle I’d endorse Audible. Buy my books on Audible. They actually do a very good job.
Leo Laporte Oh I love them.
Jerry Pournelle I think you got to do your commercial but I can tell you, they get good readers; the people who read them actually have read the book and understand something about them. I have even gotten questions on pronunciation from some of the people, and you know when you invade aliens and alien languages it is not always obvious how those words are to be pronounced like --
Leo Laporte Oh yeah that’s the Larry Niven the Protector book. They did a great job with him.
Jerry Pournelle [indiscernible] (77:14) Mote in God's Eye. It was in fact Larry Niven [indiscernible] (77:16) not mine, but it was [indiscernible] (77:18). In any event Audible just does a very good job of reading those books. They’ve got most of the ones Niven and I have done and many of mine alone on Audible and they are very good.
Leo Laporte Well as you can see it’s in my library The Mote in God's Eye. I listened to both Lucifer's Hammer and The Mote in God's Eye, one right after the other which is about 40 or 50 hours worth of entertainment. You can get them both absolutely free, and Jerry still gets his royalty. All you got to do is go to audible.com/twit2, you sign up for the platinum account, that’s the one I have which is two books a month, which is my minimum. I know people have multiple platinum accounts, people with long commutes. Two books a month is about right for me. Those first two books are free, you can cancel at any time and you get to keep the books forever. But don’t just stop with The Mote in God's Eye or Lucifer's Hammer, there is also Starswarm and Footfall and Oath of Fealty, I mean there is a great Jerry Pournelle collection, Inferno, what’s your favorite of these Jerry, Escape from Hell?
Jerry Pournelle Well, though the collaboration to one the only one of those which is single one so far, but there are coming out with more from Audible later is Starswarm which is a juvenile.
Leo Laporte That’s right, that’s right. So this – that’s another thing that’s great about Audible, kids love Audible, and it’s a great way believe it or not to get them reading. I have a friend who – his daughter is a big Harry potter fan, she is only in second grade, she is actually reading the books which is pretty impressive. This is a very smart kid. But she loves listening to them as well. Audio books are great way to introduce kids to chapter books, a little ahead of time, get them reading ahead of level, and kids just love them. For long car trips, for dad and mom too in the car or at the gym, I listen all the time at the gym, audible.com/twit2. Give it a try, We are Audible fanatics here at the TWiT Cottage and I know you will be too. In fact I hear from people all the time say I stopped listening to your show, I’m just listening to Audible now. That’s – you are allowed, it’s okay, I understand.
So did you ever see the viral video David After Dentist? I will play a little bit of it, it’s a pretty old viral video. It’s kind of – this father videotapes his kid who’s just had dental surgery and is still stoned out of his gourd, he is seven years old.
[Video Presentation] (79:45 – 79:53)
So this video believe it or not, they have made $150,000 off of it not only from Google Ads but they sell t-shirts kind of an amazing story, the guy shot it on a flip camera just [indiscernible] (80:11) share it with friends, not put it publicly but he didn’t have a choice on YouTube, it had to be public and now I should check, I didn’t see what the numbers were but millions of people have watched this video. It just shows you there is – it’s possible to make money on YouTube videos, oh-wo-wo, 62 million views.
Jerry Pournelle Wow.
Leo Laporte 62 million views.
Steve Gibson Good. Great.
Spencer Webb And so it’s because there is also ads on that YouTube page?
Leo Laporte There’s ads on it and YouTube shares some of that revenue, kind of amazing that there is that much money in viral videos. I don’t know if there is anything more to say about that. Rumor – that Google is going to do a – a ‘Google Me’. We talked about it last week, Kevin Rose spread that rumor originally on twitter, he was asked by somebody we don’t know who would take it down he did, didn’t matter it was too late and now the world teams to agree Google is going to do a Facebook clone called ‘Google Me”. Eric Schmidt, was asked about it during a speech in London this week, his denial is a non-denial denial, he said, that would be a product announcement and I won’t say.
Steve Gibson Well, I love Jerry’s Facebook page.
Leo Laporte What’s your Facebook page Jerry, I don’t have a Facebook account so I can’t see it.
Jerry Pournelle I have never seen it. My daughter had it set up and they maintain it and at some point I suppose I should go and look at it, but in fact I have never seen my Facebook page, isn’t that awful?
Leo Laporte So [multiple speakers] (81:37)
Steve Gibson It’s hooked right into the twitter.
Jerry Pournelle Right. I suspect it does and my daughter is a – was a Army Intelligence Officer, and she is now in publication, she is a – she’s got a Ph.D. in anthropology. She – her thesis is change in lot what we knew about 5,000 years ago. So she is a pretty sharp girl and she pretty well runs that thing. I haven’t paid much attention to that.
Leo Laporte Oh! you look good on that. You do look at the sharp tuxedo and Jerry when you post on here then it’s your words, but your daughter’s writing them because I see posts.
Jerry Pournelle I assume that that’s so, she probably takes them out of my books and things.
Leo Laporte This is --
Jerry Pournelle But we’ve never really even corresponded on it, she just said, she thought that somebody out there have one – so she is – had it going and she is done a good job with it --
Leo Laporte It could be worse, she could name it, my dad says and --
Steve Gibson I was just going to say it --
Jerry Pournelle Yeah wouldn’t that be one.
Leo Laporte And publish a – this guy – talking about guys made money this was a twitter account, the guys is 29-years old lives with his 74-year old dad who is a little outspoken shall we say, it is now a book, it has been optioned for – is it a TV show or a movie --
Steve Gibson Shatner is going to do a series --
Leo Laporte William Shatner is going to be the dad – see, Jerry there is some value to twitter.
Jerry Pournelle You’re convincing me maybe I should go get [indiscernible] (83:09) by telling people when I’m going to have a peanut butter [indiscernible] (82:16)
Leo Laporte You – don’t knock it. Don’t knock it, so --
Spencer Webb I have a very brief twitter story.
Leo Laporte Yeah.
Spencer Webb Last – when this first blog post that put out last week was published I went on the Antennasys twitter account and I tweeted just the fact that there’s a new blog post which I do every time I do a new blog post.
Leo Laporte Right.
Spencer Webb And the next day my unique visitor count which is typically around 11 to 15 unique visitors and – oh, one of them is my mom, went to 89,000 unique visitors.
Leo Laporte And I’m one of them by the way, first time I’ve been there and you know what Spencer I’ve bookmarked it and I’m going to coming back there. So this is good for you.
Jerry Pournelle Okay. You got me convinced. Thank you, Spencer.
Spencer Webb Oh you're welcome.
Jerry Pournelle I’m not sure – I’m a [ph] wordy old conjure (84:08) I’m not sure I can think of anything worth saying in a 128 character [indiscernible] (84:10)
Leo Laporte Oh I think you --
Steve Gibson See that’s what’s so nice is by being limited to 140 you sort of – you are not being expected to write a book every time, it’s just you know, how dry was the peanut butter.
Jerry Pournelle All of those courses I took in formal English on poetry on [indiscernible] (84:31) and that sort of thing maybe that will help.
Leo Laporte I think Jerry you should write all your tweets in the form of a sonnet.
Jerry Pournelle Iambic pentameter.
Leo Laporte It should all be an iambic pentameter, there you go.
Leo Laporte What is that, [indiscernible] (84:45).
Steve Gibson I will follow Jerry.
Leo Laporte I would follow – who wouldn’t.
Jerry Pournelle He bangs the drum and makes a dreadful noise, that’s one – or to be or not to be that is the question but you’ll notice that question ends with a soft sound and it has 11 beats in it.
Spencer Webb And besides I think that tweet’s already been taken.
Jerry Pournelle [indiscernible] (85:02) that too [indiscernible] (85:06) iambic pentameter as well.
Leo Laporte I think, Jerry, this is how you make it interesting for yourself. You create this artificial structure. You say, okay, I’ll tweet, but it has to be iambic pentameter. Or something.
Jerry Pournelle There’s a thought! Or maybe all of it put together will become an ode.
Leo Laporte Be writing a sonnet there.
Jerry Pournelle An ode is not a sonnet.
Leo Laporte I’m sorry. Shocking, shocking.
Steve Gibson And I have to say, for me it’s great feedback, too. I learn as much from the people who follow me as I think – or more, than they do from me. So it does create some connection.
Jerry Pournelle I do too Steve, don’t mind but that’s just on the mail. I mean I don’t need to tweet to do that.
Steve Gibson Something about it. Give it a shot. I’ll bet you’ll get hooked.
Leo Laporte Oh, man. This just cracks me up, because Steve was so resistant. Steve echoed everything you’ve ever said, Jerry.
Jerry Pournelle Well, you know, for many years, I used to say that I wasn’t the smartest guy in the world. But I had such a – a long enough readership that there were very few questions I couldn’t gave an answer to because somebody --
Leo Laporte That’s right.
Jerry Pournelle -- who reads me knows the answer --
Leo Laporte That’s right.
Jerry Pournelle -- and he’s going to send it to me. Well, that’s still the case. There’s very little I can say on my – in my daybook – I hate the word blog – but there’s very little I can say in my daybook that doesn’t get me some answers from people who really know the subjects a lot better than I do.
Steve Gibson That might actually be more true today, Jerry, than it used to be, even.
Leo Laporte Yeah, yeah. And I think that’s kind of what happens on Twitter.
Jerry Pournelle Well, you may remember that in 1980, I said that by the year 2000, everybody in Western civilization will be able to get the answer to any question that actually has an answer. I said that in 1980 and everybody said I was crazy, and of course I had to say in western civilization because I certainly didn’t believe the Soviet Union would be gone by 2000.
Leo Laporte Well now, in fact, I mean Twitter is very much global. In fact the new Twitter statistics are that Asia tweets more than anybody.
Jerry Pournelle Yeah. But China does censor the internet, and by a lot.
Leo Laporte It does. You can’t tweet from China, I found that out when I was in China.
One last story and then we’ll move on. And I want to pose this question to you grey-hairs believe I cannot – I think this is unprecedented. Microsoft announced a phone six weeks ago, they called it the KIN. They released it and they have cancelled it in six weeks. And I cannot think of another time that Microsoft or anybody else could have killed a product this fast.
Steve Gibson I’m so impressed by the speed.
Leo Laporte The fastest failure in – I can think of. Six weeks from announcement to ‘you can’t buy it anymore.’
Jerry Pournelle It took them longer to kill that stupid sound board than that.
Leo Laporte That’s right, that was an early Microsoft flop.
Spencer Webb Oh in that – in that phone, in fact, the antenna was your ear. You had a hook a wire to your ear.
Leo Laporte What? No!
Spencer Webb No, it’s true. And if you hook one wire to each ear, it actually was a --
Leo Laporte Oh, he’s teasing us, he’s teasing us now, I could tell he’s teasing us. It is a funny looking phone, it’s a little – tiny little pebble of a phone. I don’t know where you would put the antenna in this thing, because there’s nowhere – you cannot hold it – I mean you have to hold it in your hand.
Steve Gibson That is tiny.
Leo Laporte If this phone doesn’t have an antenna problem, then Apple has a PR problem.
Steve Gibson The evidence is that it disappeared in six weeks.
Leo Laporte Yeah, maybe.
Steve Gibson Isn’t it?
Leo Laporte You can buy it – this is the Amazon page for the KIN ONE. The list price, $349, sales price, $0.01.
Steve Gibson Yeah, this just shows how clueless Microsoft is.
Leo Laporte What went wrong?
Steve Gibson That they could think that their – well, they were just envious of everybody else doing it right. And they said, well, we’re Microsoft. So we’re just going to do one too. And you know – Jerry knows that Microsoft doesn’t create things for a market, they just force what they have to fit into where the market has gone. It’s like, they didn’t have an internet network capable OS, so they just stuck it on the internet, stuck Windows on the internet, and then we had years of security problems. When the phones started getting smart, they didn’t have a smartphone OS, so they just tried to sort of squeeze Windows down, and we know how well that worked.
Jerry Pournelle Well, I am not as anti-Microsoft as you seem to be – as you historically have been – but I am hardly one of their toadies, either.
Leo Laporte What do you do – what do you do if you’re Microsoft now, where you’re struggling, you’re just struggling to keep up?
Jerry Pournelle I don’t think they have – I think that Bill Gates always ran scared, you know. I mean I knew Bill back when he was actually running the company. I used to win bets from people by saying I could get Bill Gates on the telephone. And what you do is you just dial the Microsoft switchboard number at night. He’d be the only one there. And he’d answer the phone.
Leo Laporte Those days are long gone, Jerry.
Jerry Pournelle Those are long gone but he ran scared and he paid attention. There isn’t anybody doing that now.
Steve Gibson Right. Instead they have an internal --
Jerry Pournelle Bill understood that his company was number one for as long as you could keep it there. And he had some fiefdom to work. The office fiefdom was run very well by – oh! come on, we both know – all now his name. He bought a bowling alley after he retired. Anyway, the – but it isn’t the same Microsoft anymore. And it’s trying to be run by different crews and they don’t have the same – they are not as scared and they’re not as hungry. I don’t know that they can survive this – the new wave.
Steve Gibson It might be time for them to be done.
Leo Laporte The interesting thing in Paul Thurrott, if you’re here with [indiscernible] (1:31:02) he’s our Windows Weekly host tonight, really great guy. Microsoft’s revenue is still huge. You know you talk about the market cap that Apple beat Microsoft’s market cap, but there’s no question that Microsoft is still extraordinarily profitable, a massive company. I guess, the question is, is the trend in Microsoft’s favor or not. In other words, is Microsoft – I mean, clearly Microsoft is still doing very, very well.
Steve Gibson So they have a ton of inertia and I would have to agree that the trend is not in their favor. When you look at open source in the long term, you look at all of this next generation portability. I mean, you know, Jerry is jumping up and down and carrying an iPad around as am I.
Leo Laporte Yeah.
Steve Gibson I mean we are traditionally Windows people.
Leo Laporte Microsoft said this week that a billion people who use Microsoft Office – one billion people.
Jerry Pournelle Yeah. And Office is pretty good for all the people who say they don’t like it, the fact is that most of the books written in this world are written on Microsoft Word.
Leo Laporte Except, Jerry, I remember very well that you were the guy who wanted a clean screen. You didn’t want Microsoft Word.
Jerry Pournelle I didn’t want Microsoft Word for a very long time and Bill – was it Peters? The --
Steve Gibson [Indiscernible] (1:32:16) away from this.
Jerry Pournelle The product manager came down here and said, what would it get to cause you to use it. So I told him three things to put into it and by god, they did. And at that point I was doomed.
Leo Laporte You had to use it. They done it for you, it was the Pournelle feature.
Jerry Pournelle You will notice that with Office 2009 with Word you can do that Ctrl F1 feature most of that ribbon goes away and you’ve got what amounts to the old clean screen again.
Leo Laporte So you use Word to write?
Jerry Pournelle I use Word to write, but I use it with using that Ctrl F1.
Leo Laporte Right. To clean it up.
Jerry Pournelle To clean it up so there’s nothing up there except what I do. Okay. I like typeahead, Leo. I like automatic word correction. I am a sloppy typist. I type t-e-h quite a lot.
Leo Laporte Right.
Jerry Pournelle And I don’t like to have to go back and correct it. And I like it that it automatically corrects that. Also I like being able to have special dictionaries because I have a lot of character names I don’t want in the normal dictionary. I want one in the – specific to the work I’m working on.
Leo Laporte Well, I guess it’s not over for Microsoft but it’s certainly no longer a Microsoft era, and –
Spencer Webb It’s true.
Jerry Pournelle No
Leo Laporte And the KIN is a surprising stumble for a company that’s done really so well.
Jerry Pournelle But it wasn’t inevitable. The problem is that the hardware that is available to everybody is so much better than software that nobody really can keep, but there is an enormous room for improvement --
Leo Laporte Let me --
Jerry Pournelle -- in everything we do.
Leo Laporte Let me say this again, because I think it’s really important what you just said. The hardware available to us today is better than the software.
Jerry Pournelle By a lot.
Leo Laporte Why is that?
Jerry Pournelle Because Moore’s Law.
Leo Laporte Isn’t hardware – isn’t hardware harder?
Jerry Pournelle Moore’s Law doesn’t scale for software [indiscernible] (94:10) smart people and we don’t have any way of doing that and until we get the singularity we’ll have computers designing themselves if that ever happens. AI and you’d get assisted evolution rather than Mendelian evolution and so forth, Lamarckian evolution and then maybe we will – software will begin to catch up. But the hardware is going to get better again.
Steve Gibson And the other thing is that --
Jerry Pournelle I mean, look at what Intel’s got in the queue for heaven’s sake and we can’t use the capacity of the hardware we have.
Steve Gibson The other thing is that hardware has to be correct and software sadly doesn’t have to be correct. It can be sort of approximate and the system appears to work, but if the hardware is not correct it doesn’t do at all.
Jerry Pournelle Well, that’s how Gates built Microsoft. Everybody, the OS 2 windows war was very [indiscernible] (95:10). IBM was a company that prided itself on doing it right and they weren’t going to put things out there until it was really done well. Meanwhile, Gates would ship it tomorrow because it doesn’t matter how bad it works on the equipment people have now; the next generation of equipment is going to work very well. And he was out – he bet – essentially he bet everything he had on Moore’s Law and he won because that was Gates and he was willing to take chances like that.
Spencer Webb I think Microsoft needs an injection of new blood young engineers who are given the freedom and the cash to go out and design something that will have to be better than what Apple can offer.
Jerry Pournelle Sure, and they wanted them for a very long time, but the trouble is Google got them all.
Leo Laporte Yeah, Google got all the brains.
Steve Gibson One of the things that impresses me about Apple which also upsets people about Apple is that Apple is willing to obsolete their stuff very quickly. I mean, it upsets people when a new version of the phone comes out after two days before they bought the prior version and one thing that happens when companies get big like Microsoft is they have so much investment in their own existing product line that they cannot obsolete it. They have to simply creep it forward very slowly.
Jerry Pournelle Well, Gates wouldn’t have put it that way. He felt – and I know this, I mean [indiscernible] (96:52) he felt an obligation to people who had bought previous generations of the stuff that they wouldn’t just be suddenly left in the lurch, and his choice was to make a lot of concessions to legacy. Apple doesn’t have to do that and didn’t so that as a result was until not very long ago Apple had what 2% market share?
Leo Laporte Yeah, yeah. And in fact, Jerry I am sitting here looking at, I am not typing into it right now, but I am still in a DOS-based text editor for writing my code.
Steve Gibson But what’s interesting is that both of you are using iPads and iPhone.
Leo Laporte Well, an iPhone for you Steve but --
Jerry Pournelle And I’m on here on a --
Leo Laporte -- a Mac.
Jerry Pournelle A MacBook Pro, yeah.
Leo Laporte So what does that tell us?
Jerry Pournelle Tells us I like them both. It tells us that the operating system is becoming irrelevant. No user gives a damn what operating system he is using. What he wants is the damn machine to do what he wants it to do.
Leo Laporte Yeah, what about Google’s Chromium OS? Google’s moving towards an OS in the cloud, you think that’s reasonable, that kind of is the ultimate response to that.
Jerry Pournelle It wouldn’t be for me.
Leo Laporte Because you don’t want to live in the cloud, Twitter Jerry, Twitter Jerry.
Jerry Pournelle I don’t want copies of my novel up there where somebody else can get at them if they know how.
Leo Laporte Oh, that’s interesting. You are afraid of the security issues?
Jerry Pournelle It’s not just security, it’s – there’s privacy.
Leo Laporte Right.
Jerry Pournelle Also I’ve had enough interruptions in my high speed service especially since I am dependent on AT&T for some of it that I want to make damn sure that anything I do can be done with so far what I have here and why in the world should I have sitting here, I am talking to you on the equivalent of what would have been considered a supercomputer in 1990, why in the world should I want to go out to do the way I used the supercomputer back in 1990. In 1990 I used to have to go to the University of Illinois to get the solution to some [ph] tensor (1:39:02) which I don’t do anymore, but I did in those days. I can do all of that stuff on my machine here, why would I want to go back to having to use the web to do things, which I thought wonderful that I finally got a machine to do it here.
Leo Laporte Well, what about the notion that you’ve got a bunch of devices and having them all say the same thing as valuable, so it makes sense if Jerry you got one computer, desktop computer but now I got a iPhone, iPad, laptop, desktop shouldn’t they all have the access to the same data, the same information, the same --
Jerry Pournelle Don’t yours? Mine do.
Leo Laporte Well, that’s thanks to the cloud, right.
Jerry Pournelle No, I network right here.
Leo Laporte Oh you do your own network?
Jerry Pournelle I have a perfectly good network here.
Leo Laporte That’s because you don’t get out of the house much.
Jerry Pournelle Every file on every one of my machines is available to every other one of my machines.
Leo Laporte What happens when you hit the road?
Jerry Pournelle When I hit the road I carry terabytes of information with me when I hit the road. Don’t you?
Leo Laporte No. I have it all in the cloud.
Steve Gibson I think it’s clear that the future is for us to carry viewers and that we’ll be connected amazingly enough. I mean I – the fact that this is really happening as an old gray hair just amazes me.
Leo Laporte It does surprise me because I had the same objection, Jerry.
Jerry Pournelle That is what I described in Mote in God’s Eye, you know --
Leo Laporte Yes.
Jerry Pournelle -- because I’ve seen that they were carrying, the pocket computer they were carrying really have very little internal storage --
Leo Laporte Right.
Jerry Pournelle It connected to what we would call a desktop now in the room they were in and that connected to the ship’s main library.
Leo Laporte But here’s the good news. You don’t have to make the choice, you could do both.
Steve Gibson Yeah.
Leo Laporte So you get what you want.
Jerry Pournelle Oh, I – to that extent I do but I don’t really won’t – I won’t – okay, there was a proposal in the Congress last week that the President should have a big red button that allows him to shut down the internet whenever he thinks that there is national security reason do so. Do you remember that?
Leo Laporte Oh, oh, yes. Steve and I talked about this. This is a so-called kill switch.
Jerry Pournelle The big kill switch for the President. Now, when that happens Leo, where are you?
Leo Laporte Well, now Steve you didn’t think it really was a kill switch.
Steve Gibson You will never know where Leo is because he won’t be able to tweet his location.
Leo Laporte You’ll have no idea where I am exactly.
Jerry Pournelle Yeah. I’ll be right here in Chaos Manor but --
Leo Laporte I have no physical locus. Jerry, I am everywhere. Unfortunately, virtually there are limits and we’ve run against the limit called time. I wish I had a day for the show but Jerry we’d just have to get you and Steve back and Spencer you too, this has been a lot of fun. You guys are – sometimes the gray hairs have some perspective that the young guys don’t have and that’s I think often much more interesting.
Steve Gibson The young guys think things were always connected.
Leo Laporte Right.
Steve Gibson And we remember when things – I mean when the idea of connecting things was like, wait a minute, how can we have all these computers networked together. You can’t do that.
Leo Laporte Exactly. Jerry Pournelle is the author of so many great books The Mote in God’s Eye, Dante’s Inf – I mean sorry, Lucifer’s Hammer. I always want to call it Dante’s Inferno for some reason. Inferno is another book.
Jerry Pournelle Inferno is the name of the book that Niven and I wrote and Escape from Hell is its sequel and they’re essentially Dante’s geography and Vatican II theology.
Leo Laporte Jerry, let’s pick a Twitter handle and create a Twitter account for you before we get off the air. What do you want to call yourself on Twitter?
Steve Gibson Big red button.
Jerry Pournelle What do I want to call myself on Twitter?
Leo Laporte I guess probably the best would be, Steve learned this, the best is something short with your name is always good, right?
Jerry Pournelle Chaos Manor?
Leo Laporte Oh, Chaos Manor, now there’s a good handle.
Spencer Webb Beautiful. Let’s cross our fingers.
Leo Laporte Well, I’m not going to sign up for you Jerry. I want you to sign up for yourself.
Jerry Pournelle I’ll have to figure it out how but I can do that.
Leo Laporte I’m sure you can figure that out.
Steve Gibson Twitter.com
Leo Laporte And jerrypournelle.com is the place to go to read Jerry’s postings his musings do donate – take $2 from Leo and give it to Jerry instead. He certainly earned it. We all are here because of Jerry Pournelle. Jerry, it’s great to have you here.
Jerry Pournelle Thank you.
Leo Laporte Steve Gibson is the man at grc.com. That’s where you can get SpinRite and also other wonderful free security programs and of course let’s not forget security now, the greatest podcast on security. Grc.com/security now for that. Jerry, and that’s – I’m sorry, Steve thank you for being here. We’ll see you [ph] online (103:42).
Steve Gibson It’s a pleasure and Jerry great to be with you on the show.
Leo Laporte Oh, man. That’s so fun.
Jerry Pournelle Thank you.
Leo Laporte And Spencer, you’ve been great to see here while these old cats have been talking.
Spencer Webb Oh, I’ve been enjoying it every minute.
Leo Laporte Spencer Webb is the man in charge with AntennaSys.com. He’s not looking for a job Apple but you know where to find him at AntennaSys.com. Thank you for joining us and giving us a straight story on the antenna situation with the iPhone.
Spencer Webb Happy to help.
Leo Laporte Thank you all for being here. We do this show normally, and we’re a little off today, we do this show normally on Sundays at 3 PM Pacific, 6 PM Eastern Time, 2200 UTC. We’ve switched it over to Saturday because of the holiday. I hope you have a wonderful Independence Day, 4th of July. Anything patriotic you’d like to say, Jerry before we sign off?
Jerry Pournelle No, God bless the legions.
Leo Laporte And with that, another TWiT is in the can. Take care.
Steve Gibson Thanks Leo. Thanks everybody.
Spencer Webb Thank you, what a great show.
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