Wise Guys on WHO Radio - June 6, 2015

Brian Gongol

The WHO Radio Wise Guys airs on WHO Radio in Des Moines, Iowa on 1040 AM or streaming online at WHORadio.com. The show airs from 1 to 2 pm Central Time on Saturday afternoons. A podcast of show highlights is also available. Leave comments and questions on the Wise Guys Facebook page or e-mail them to wiseguys@whoradio.com.

Please note: These show notes may be in various stages of completion -- ranging from brainstormed notes through to well-polished monologues. Please excuse anything that may seem rough around the edges, as it may only be a first draft of a thought and not be fully representative of what was said on the air.

In the news this week

Computers and the Internet What's Google's future, anyway?
Eric Schmidt thinks the company's moon shots might be the key

Computers and the Internet A major Twitter shareholder posits his thoughts on breaking out
The service is too daunting to those who aren't regular users -- the author says a billion people have signed up and then quit

Business and Finance Stop talking about "new rules of work"
Every time someone writes a list of "the new rules of work", the soul is trampled just a little. Certain circumstances of work always have evolved and always will, but for the most part, the fundamentals of work really aren't any different than they have ever been. The "new rules" are mainly just trivial details.

Computers and the Internet Google tries to do with Android what Microsoft did with Windows years ago
The more your platform becomes the universal conduit for commercial activity, the better your prospects

Broadcasting ABC's "World News Tonight" is doing well in the ratings by emphasizing the visual
The future belongs to whomever can tell the important stories in a compelling manner. When we make the important stories boring and elevate the trivial (as it's being not-so-subtly suggested that ABC is doing), we move in the wrong direction. What is visually compelling isn't necessarily good journalism. Moreover, it's up to good storytellers to find the novel and original in the world and bring them to people in a serendipitous fashion. When we lose serendipity, we lose a great deal. Synthesis is really the foundation for understanding great things.

Computers and the Internet "Best" is a terrible way to close an email

Computers and the Internet Google, Apple, and now Facebook trend toward higher levels of encryption for regular users

Computers and the Internet $537 million fundraising round at Snapchat concludes
Based upon the proportional ownership involved, that means someone thinks the company is worth $16 billion

Computers and the Internet Teach yourself programming

Aviation News Trouble in the skies: Green lasers and drones both creating problems in the last few days
To a large extent, we're going to have to evaluate whether it's going to be better to try to prevent people from misusing those tools or to find ways to mitigate the trouble they cause. Since terrorists aren't likely to be deterred by laws, we probably have to focus on hazard-mitigation adaptations for the aircraft already in the skies.

News Harvard surveys its seniors
The Crimson published results of its senior survey, and at least two lines are worrisome. First, a third of males in the elite social crowd are going into finance. Second, of the 14% of seniors going into engineering, half hope to be out of the sector in ten years.

Your role in cyberwar

4 million Federal employees -- past and present -- now victims of cyberattack
The Federal government is pointing fingers at China, and that's not something that's done lightly. This is war, just without the gunfire.

We in Iowa have a huge and influential role in American politics. We need to force Presidential candidates to show that they are conversant in technology and cyberwar issues. Force the issue. Ask the questions.

Security update

Social engineering attacks target Iowans
People are being bullied into thinking their utilities are going to be cut off, and the criminals are extorting payments via credit or prepaid cards. It's not necessarily all that high-tech an attack, and it exploits the weak link in a lot of technological systems: People. One would think the payments should be traceable, but perhaps there are enough steps through gray areas to give cover to the crooks. MidAmerican Energy says the evildoers are even spoofing the company's Caller ID.

Iowa tech

Facebook will build a third data center in Altoona, Iowa
Cheap, reliable power; a low cost of land; a central location away from most natural disasters; a high-quality workforce. All contribute to making Central Iowa an attractive place to build a data center.

Street-smart social media

Another friend of mine just posted naked baby photos to their Facebook account. Here's what you need to realize: About 1 in every 100 people has some kind of antisocial personality disorder. Unless you've thoroughly vetted every one of your Facebook friends for their psychological health, then you should assume that for every 100 friends you have, one of them has a serious problem dealing with society (even if you don't realize it). You wouldn't willingly expose your child to them, so you shouldn't share naked baby pictures with them, either.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but given just how much information about ourselves that most of us leak onto the Internet anyway (especially via sites like Facebook that trick us into thinking we're in a safe space among friends), it's best to do as much as you can to keep your kid off the social networks. There's no sense in giving people access to your vulnerable little ones.

Gadget of the week

You ought to follow...

Technically funny

One person's trash is another person's $200,000 antique computer

Productivity tool

Dispatches from the flying-car future

A near-perfect recharge of a battery?
Research at the University of Waterloo may have found a way to make lithium-oxygen and sodium-oxygen batteries work, which would make energy storage cheaper and more portable than now

If I'm looking into a crystal ball, I see battery power making it possible to launch electric-powered airplanes. (They already exist.) Electric-powered airplanes could be much quieter and more reliable than their combustion-engine counterparts. With a little additional refinement to the technology that already exists, they could be flown on autopilot from takeoff to landing -- eliminating the need for air crews. I imagine a future maybe 25 years from now when the option exists to board a 6- or 8-passenger electric aircraft flown entirely by autopilot, for a cost competitive with the expense of driving to your destination. Taking off from small airports (like the ones at Ankeny or even De Soto) as well as large ones, they could provide an affordable alternative to driving for trips in the neighborhood of 150 to 200 miles and up. More frequent flights with fewer passengers could make air travel a lot more like catching a cab than the big production it is today.

Brian's Big Picture

Politics of technology

The FBI is flying creepy surveillance planes over American cities
How are people supposed to recognize and report real threatening behavior when the government does exactly the kinds of things that people are supposed to report?

Jargon alert

Social engineering: The use of known psychological techniques to get people to behave in a desired way. Social engineering can be good -- for instance, rewarding employees for taking walking breaks instead of smoking breaks, and using reinforcement mechanisms to get people to choose the healthy behavior. But "social engineering" as it's used in technology usually refers to the use of dirty tricks to manipulate people into doing things that make them less secure. It's like hacking the user instead of the user's computer. Wikipedia has a really good compendium of social engineering tactics.

Listener questions

Our very own Bonnie Lucas had some questions about buying a new computer this week. I'll tell you what I recommended and why.

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