with Ben Johnson
Hosted by Ben Johnson, this daily "journal of the Digital Age" airs during broadcasts of Minnesota Public Radio's Morning Edition.
The hit Netflix series "House of Cards" is hitting cruising altitude on Virgin America.
Passengers on the airline’s new planes equipped with satellite Wi-Fi can now get access to the full catalog of Netflix films and shows on their personal devices until March 2. The hitch? If they’re not already Netflix members, passengers have to sign up for a free, 30-day trial membership. Three seasons of House of Cards will also be available on the planes’ in-flight entertainment system.
JetBlue recently crafted a similar deal with Amazon Prime, allowing Prime members to stream content for free on their tablets, smart phones or laptops and for nonmembers to pay to access Amazon content.
“For companies like Netflix, these partnerships are great sampling opportunities,” said Henry Harteveldt, founder of Atmosphere Research, a travel industry research firm. “They are a way to introduce the product to an up-market audience.”
Harteveldt said these deals are only possible with satellite Wi-Fi, not the air-to-ground Wi-Fi system many airlines use.
"Satellite Wi-Fi, which Virgin America is installing, and which JetBlue has, allows a greater bandwidth to be transmitted to the plane, which means more people can use it and you can do more with it, including streaming video,” he said.
But business travel expert Joe Brancatelli of JoeSentMe.com doubts these deals will matter when people book airline flights.
“Most people who travel for leisure will buy on price,” he said. “And most people who travel for business will buy on their loyalty to an airline's frequency program or price or some combination thereof.”(10/05/2015)
Not everyone is inspired artistically by Edward Snowden, the former CIA employee who leaked classified NSA documents. But then again not everyone is Simon Denny, the New Zealand-born, Berlin-based artist, who took the PowerPoint slides leaked by Snowden and turned them into art for his installation show “Secret Power.”
(Courtesy Jens Ziehe)
“The kind of knee jerk reaction from the design community when those slides came out, was to me a little disappointing, because it was kind of like ‘Oh these are really ugly and we are not happy with that,’” says Denny. “To me they contain so much more information.”
Around the same time, Denny came across the work of David Darchicourt, the former NSA creative director of defense intelligence, who had posted material online through Behance. Denny commissioned Darchicourt to make a map of New Zealand, his home country. At the time, Darchicourt had no idea why the work was commissioned or how it was going to be used. Denny also reproduced other material Snowden leaked such as cartoons, illustrations and logos.
(Courtesy Jens Ziehe)
“Part of what I wanted to do was compare Darchicourt’s creative work for the U.S. government to Venice and Titian, and some of these other artists that worked at a different time making images that related to intelligence that related to knowing things and presenting knowledge to the world.
Although Denny has an artistic background, he is inspired by tech industry and those working in tech. His first major solo show in the U.S., called "The Innovators Dilemma" lived at MoMA PS1 in New York.
“I’m a fan of these companies and the way that they work and I think the people in charge of tech, the people involved in tech are shaping the way we can communicate. They are shaping and changing all these industries worldwide.”
(Courtesy Jens Ziehe)(09/29/2015)
Squirreled away in something called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 is fine print that makes it risky to dig around under the hood of a new car and find out what makes it tick, explains Kit Walsh of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
“The modern automobile is controlled by about 100 different computers running software created by the automakers or third parties that they contract with,” Walsh said. "And they typically will lock down that software so that you can’t even look at it, let alone modify it as a user."
So, imagine you’re an engineering graduate student or a consumer advocate or a curious mechanic, and you want to examine that software code: for instance, to check out what’s coming out of the tailpipe, or if the airbags are safe, or if some hacker with a smartphone can take control of the dashboard and crash your car into a wall.
Walsh says you might think twice about breaking the lock, circumventing the encryption and revealing what you find. “Congress made it unlawful to circumvent the encryption that protects access to that work,” he said.
Attorney Scott Vernick leads the data security and privacy practice at Philadelphia law firm Fox Rothschild LLP. He says automakers do have a legitimate concern in trying to protect their copyrighted intellectual property. They don’t want cyber thieves or unscrupulous competitors stealing their software and trade secrets.
“Piracy is a huge issue,” Vernick said. "And no one wants to make it easy for them — particularly in light of the amount of industrial espionage and cyber hacking that’s going on today.”
But Vernick agreed with the Electronic Frontier Foundation and consumer advocates that independent researchers looking for pollution or safety or security problems should be shielded when they access that software.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, meanwhile, has petitioned the Library of Congress, which has jurisdiction over these matters, to exempt software in automobiles from the copyright protections in the DMCA. A decision is expected in October.
And several efforts are proceeding through Congress to amend or overhaul the DMCA to allow for independent research without fear of legal penalties and prosecution for copyright violation. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) has sponsored one such bill with Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colorado), called the Breaking Down Barriers to Innovation Act.
In light of recent revelations of safety and emissions problems with automobiles from multiple manufacturers, Wyden says the DMCA as it stands now “is a textbook case of some of the limitations and pitfalls of overly restrictive copyright law.”(09/28/2015)
A lot of our infrastructure is moving to space.
“Communications satellites, GPS, our TV," says former NASA scientist Donald Kessler. "We’re talking about the region of space that’s only about 600 or 700 miles above us. That’s where most things go and that’s the most crowded region.”
And sometimes, on rare occasions, they crash. In 2009, Russian and American satellites ran smack into each other.
“They came together roughly like two cars in an intersection but traveling 17, 000 miles per hour each,” Kessler says. “And that’s typical of what we should expect in the future to happen at an increasing rate.”
Kessler’s been warning about this issue since the late 70s, so much that the problem is called the Kessler Syndrome. It refers to the domino effect of all that debris crashing together.
“We’re at what we call a 'critical density' — where there are enough large objects in space that they will collide with one another and create small debris faster than it can be removed,” he says. Something like a loose fleck of paint, moving at these speeds, can hit with the force of a grenade.
Kessler got pulled out of retirement to start working on the issue again, but he doesn’t go around saying “I told you so” at space conferences.
"I don’t have too," he laughs.
Donald Kessler, former NASA scientist and expert on orbital debris (aka space junk).
The U.S. the government is worried about the issue, too, says Air Force lieutenant colonel Scott Putnam.
“Because a bad day in space for one owner is a bad day for everybody,” he says. “From a standpoint of a collision … that creates a debris cloud that could create hazard for other users including Department of Defense.” Putnam runs the Air Force program that monitors roughly 23,000 objects in orbit that are about the size of a softball or larger.
NASA spends almost $7 million a year tracking space junk.
“The way we do warfare now depends on outer space and the functions that we can perform through outer space," he says. Those functions include communications, navigation and weapons guidance. And, Putnam warns, if something goes wrong in space, many of us will notice on the ground.
"Space is getting to be foundational to our everyday lives," he says. "From GPS giving smartphones the ability to do point-to-point directions, to the banking system relying on GPS from a timing standpoint, from satellite radio and satellite television ... If we turned off space, a lot of the things that people take for granted would go away."(09/22/2015)
Talk about clash of the titans. The nation's largest cable TV provider is going head-to-head with the nation's two biggest phone companies, competing for the biggest of the big business customers.
Comcast announced Wednesday a new Enterprise Services unit that is aimed at offering internet, phone and other communications products to Fortune 1000 companies.
These kinds of offerings have been the purview of AT&T and Verizon because they have nationwide communications infrastructure in place, which can serve corporations with offices in multiple cities. While Comcast covers more than half the cable markets in the country, it still has geographic limitations, just like all other cable providers.
But in announcing its latest move, Comcast said that it's struck deals with other cable operators to cover a broader swath of the country, and that it has already signed up "large customers from multiple industries, including financial services firms, banks, hospitality chains and retailers."
Craig Moffett, senior research analyst at MoffettNathanson, says that is something cable companies have wanted to do for years. "It's always been the dream of the cable industry to say, 'let's do a nationwide consortium.'"
In the past, that dream has not withstood the daylight of reality, says Thomas Eagan, senior research analyst at Telsey Advisory Group. Cable companies have tried similar partnerships when first selling broadband and another in a deal with Sprint, Eagan says.
"We haven't seen these cable consortia be that successful," he says. "What we found is that the cable operators' individual agendas were sometimes at conflict."
While the prospect of this latest partnership remains an open question, the potential for revenue does not. Providing broadband and communications services to business customers is a much higher margin business than selling cable TV plans, because the former doesn't require expensive deals with content providers, Eagan says.
Comcast has already been offering services to smaller businesses, ones within its geographic service areas. The company says that part of its business is among its fastest growing and could bring in as much as $4.5 billion.(09/17/2015)
The 2002 movie "Minority Report" has been remade into a television show, which will premier September 21st on Fox. Along with the return of the precogs, the show will also bring back some of the futuristic tech that made the original so fun.
Max Borenstein, one of the show's writers and executive producers, joins Marketplace's Adriene Hill to talk about the show, predicting innovation and whether we should be optimistic about the future.
Click the media player above to hear more.
Over the next few days, members of the automotive industry are gathering in Detroit for this year’s Autonomous Cars Conference, and one of the big issues facing the field is cybersecurity for vehicles.
Last month, you may remember, a Wired Magazine reporter lost control of his transmission, driving 70 miles an hour on a highway in St. Louis as a sort of demonstration project set up by "white hat" hackers. If there had been any doubt whether new cars rolling off the assembly line are at risk, last month’s stunt answers that clearly.
“Theoretically, hackers can take control over all control of the car, the steering wheel, can take control of the brakes, can take control of the engine and shut it off,” says Pete Samson, with the firm Security Innovation.
If your vehicle’s computer is networked to any other computer, your vehicle is vulnerable. Kathleen Fisher of Tufts University says automakers are beginning to recognize that now they must become software companies too.
“It’s going to take significantly more investment in the software that is running the cars written to higher standards of quality,” she says. “It’s going to take a culture of assuming hackers are trying to break in and thinking in a defensive mindset.”
Fisher says a bill moving through the Senate, the Spy Car Act, may force the industry to make necessary changes. If done right, she says, that could make hacking so hard, attackers would look for easier marks.(08/24/2015)
As part of a series about music technology called "Noise Makers," we're talking to musicians about their favorite noise-making device. For our last installment Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson visited El-P's apartment studio in Brooklyn where they talked about his favorite keyboard sampler.
In his studio filled with select synthesizers, drum machines, and records, El-P explains why the Ensoniq EPS-16+ keyboard still stays at the figurative center: "I keep it here because it's been the most important thing for me to even become a musician or to even learn what I'm doing."
According to El-P — real name Jaime Meline — most rap producers start out with either a drum machine sampler or a keyboard sampler. With a sampler, the performer triggers pre-recorded sounds and edits them to create a composition. Rather than a short, percussion-based sample triggered by buttons on a drum machine sampler, the keyboard sampler is advantageous for El-P because it deals with longer iterations of sound.
He describes sampling as "using sound to create sound" and employs this technique to spawn otherworldly sounds. But El-P also acknowledges the hip-hop history behind this technique: "The creativity popped out of limitation. The idea of using two records to perpetuate a groove that was limitation."
Limitation leads to creative solutions in his own music: "I have a track, I know I need a kick and a snare, I can pretty easily get that. I know I want a bass line. Can I find a bass line? Or do I need to find a bass line? Can I find a horn that I can slow way down and make it sound bassy and take the place of that?"
This process requires a give-and-take relationship with the equipment.
"You sort of paint yourself into a corner," he says, "just as much you're working with trying to find something that fits an idea you're having. You also are working with responding to the thing you've put into the machine. And you're always making the choice between bending to the sound or trying your best to bend the sound to the thing you have in your head."
Ultimately, El-P finds this feedback productive and profound because it puts his musical genre in perspective, vis a vis the larger world of music. Through the keyboard sampler El-P says he has "an unlimited sound source. Every record from every genre that has ever been made but it all has to go through this one box."
"You stop thinking about them in terms of category," he says. "It doesn't matter to you that you got a snare from a rock record, a blip from a soul record, or a recording that you just made in your living room. It all loses its original meaning and it's there for you to manipulate and turn into something else."
Click the media player below for an extended interview with El-P about other rap producers that use the EPS-16+, Blade Runner and video game sounds, and the one guy in California who replaces El-P's equipment.(08/20/2015)
As part of a series about music technology called "Noise Makers," we're talking to musicians about their favorite noise-making device. For this week's installment Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson had a conversation with Money Mark about simple hacks and making music from unexpected sources.
If you ask Mark Ramos Nishita, or Money Mark, about his work with the Beastie Boys, you might end up hearing more about minutiae of writing a song than say, what it's like to be part of a multi-platinum group. He remembers the marginalia of the Check Your Head album, released in 1992, specifically: "There was a time when we were building the studio in Atwater village at the same time as we were recording. They were playing basketball in the other room. I was screwing a screw into the wall and it made this incredibly amazing sound. And [Adam] Yauch came in and was like, 'We should just record that.'"
The spontaneity of incorporating an accidental sound into a studio album fits within Mark's musical ethos: "There’s this Japanese saying that if you sharpen the knife too much, you actually make it dull. So, there’s a point when you have to have an emotive force there to inject into all this stuff that’s around you."
This philosophy derives from Mark's childhood — As a kid, whenever he would get a new piece of gear, his father, who was an electrical engineer, would take it apart in order to understand how it works.
As a result, Mark's music making involves less polishing and more tinkering. For a live performance, Mark says: "I actually just bring everything out on the table. Nothing is really hooked up. But I think even that is the theater of it — Getting the cables and patching it all together and making a chain. And this is how it sounds in the end. All of that to me is very entertaining. I always wanted to know what was behind in the wings of the theater and what was really making all that magic happen."
Click the media player above for an extended interview with Money Mark which includes a live demonstration of a musical hack involving a cell phone, an amplifier, and a quarter.(08/17/2015)
Emirates, the airlines, announced it's adding a flight between its hub in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Panama City. Perhaps most notable is the sheer length of the flight: At 8,590 miles, and with an estimated travel time of 17 and a half hours, it will be the be longest nonstop flight in the world.
Click the media player above to play along.(08/17/2015)
It's time for Silicon Tally! How well have you kept up with the week in tech news?
Click the media player above to play along.(08/07/2015)
As part of a series about music technology called "Noise Makers," we're talking to musicians about their favorite noise-making device. For this week's installment Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson had a conversation with Yo La Tengo's James McNew before an improvised performance through the Issue Project Room at Pioneer Works in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
Before committing to any one favorite piece of equipment, James McNew emphasizes how the nature of the performance changes his opinion about gear: "It’s an improvised performance. So I’m not that attached to either [guitar pedal]. I guess that’s really the true spirit of the improviser, which is that you can’t really depend on that stuff."
Instead of settling on a pedal, neither of which are part of his Yo La Tengo setup, McNew picks the guitar itself, a Teisco May Queen guitar, which is also something he hasn't played in a long time. He describes the Teisco as "a kind of crappy fantastic guitar ... The pickups are really cruddy. But in this really fantastic sound. It kind of has this really dead blunt sound to it. I haven’t heard another guitar that sounds like it."
McNew says he is attracted to things that don't sound right because "it’s more fun to force something to make it sound like you want it to sound. To push it out of its own comfort level. To make a tape machine into a distortion pedal just to drive it to its absolute limits and turn it into something else."
Most of all, McNew loves it for its size, the neck being the right size for someone with large hands. However, objectively the Teisco is not a quality guitar.
"In a way, it's a toy," McNew explains. "If you put it next to a 1959 Les Paul, the difference in craftsmanship is somewhat noticeable."
Similarly, McNew talks about an essential piece of equipment his typical repertoire with Yo La Tengo: a 1960s Ace Tone Organ, which he also regards as a toy. McNew speculates that "it was made for like Japanese combo pop acts; maybe Garage bands in the 60s." Either way, he concludes, "they really did it right."
Click the media player above for an extended interview with James McNew about the enigmatic band the Shags, his opinion about computers on stage, and if music provides evidence for the existence of aliens.
"Sudden Organ" by Yo La Tengo
Driverless cars or autonomous vehicles may be just around the corner, but in order to get there, they require a meticulously mapped environment that goes beyond the turn-by-turn directions on a GPS.
According to Nidhi Kalra, information scientist at the RAND Corporation, automakers are pretty much universally interested in developing driverless cars, but they do not all have access to the kinds of map technology they need.
Driverless cars require maps made for machines, not humans. Kalra explains that "for an autonomous vehicle a map really is not a map; it’s a blueprint of the world. Where’s the curb? Where are the lanes? Is that a stop sign or a stop light? Where are the constructions? Where are the detours? It’s not a map anymore the way we use it; it’s something different, it’s much richer."
Acquiring maps of this quality means huge investments for automakers in the infrastructure, technology, and servers that can deliver precise information at high speeds. It is unfeasible for many to develop their own mapping technology because the maps difficult to create and costly to maintain.
Kalra emphasizes the stakes of designing quality maps: "The technology needs to be able to distinguish between something that’s inconsequential and something that matters. The decisions that need to be made are extremely hard. And every vehicle that has this technology or uses it is participating. And it’s absolutely essential. The difference between being 10 centimeters one way or another way can be the difference between being in the gutter or being in the other lane into oncoming traffic. So, there’s not room for error with this technology."
While there are many autonomous cars that can drive by themselves, responding to the world around them, making split-second decisions, and staying out of the gutter is another task entirely.(08/04/2015)
Like Twitter, Instagram posts can be a veritable cornucopia for hashtags; from #nofilter, to #instafood, to paragraphs of #tagsforlikes. Recently, #curvy, a hashtag that was popular but effectively invisible due to the photo app's censorship rules, created a controversy for the photo sharing platform.
According to Instagram, the photos on #curvy violated the photo sharing app's terms of service because of nudity. But Molly Mulshine, senior digital culture editor at Tech Insider says, "the really weird thing is you can still find a lot of much more offensive content than nude photos on Instagram."
The ban on #curvy also reveals inconsistencies about what warrants a ban versus a warning. For example, when searching for #skinny and #thin, the app shows a warning that there may be graphic content on the page, but it doesn't remove the content altogether like it has done for #curvy.
Because users self-police on Instagram and report content that they deem inappropriate, Mulshine says, "I think that a lot of people are seeing these photos surface and reporting them to just kind of to be jerks."
Sara Chiwaya from the blog Curvily has talked about how these issues connect to the larger effort to battle cultural biases online. She says that even when equal amounts of skin are showing, curvier bodies tend to be treated as more obscene than thin bodies.
Instagram recently reinstated #curvy after outcry from the plus-sized blogging community, and the rise of hashtags to get around the ban, like #curvee. Mulshine says that it is a rare for the photo sharing app to listen to the community in this way and lift a ban.
Now, the users on #curvy can add #winning to their posts.(08/03/2015)
It's time for Silicon Tally! How well have you kept up with the week in tech news?
Click the media player above to play along.(07/31/2015)
Since its release in 2009, the Finnish gaming company Rovio has built an Angry Birds theme park, capitalized on Angry Birds merchandise, and created numerous spin off games like Angry Birds Star Wars, Angry Birds Rio and Angry Birds Space.
With its bird slingshot and beef with pigs, Angry Birds blew up the mobile gaming structure and expanded into a cultural phenomenon. Farhad Manjoo, tech columnist at the New York Times, explains its success was because "they got the game mechanics, right and it was addictive and it was fun. It hooked you, so you kept playing because every free moment was an opportunity to play.”
It remains to be seen if Angry Birds can continue that excitement in the current mobile market, which Manjoo maintains is not only "a lot more crowded in the game space. But it’s just also more crowded in apps. There’s many, many more apps. There’s more stuff to do on your phone that you can goof off with.”
While Manjoo believes it has a huge marketing advantage because of its cultural influence, there is still uncertainty surrounding the release of Angry Birds 2 due to the nature of sequels — a follow up to a blockbuster film won't necessarily repeat the same success.
Plus, with Rovio aggressively pushing Angry Birds outside the mobile market in merchandise, movies and Disney-like experiences, the question remains if Angry Birds 2 is an attempt to continue the excitement around the franchise or if it's just trying to kill two pigs with one bird.
The pressure is on Twitter's interim CEO, Jack Dorsey ahead of the company's earning reports. Many are wondering whether Dorsey's is fully committed to his role after his other company, Square, reportedly filed for an IPO confidentially. We talk with Will Oremus, Senior Tech Writer at Slate, about Jack Dorsey and the once and future challenges of the company.
Click the media player above to hear host Ben Johnson in conversation with Will Oremus.
"I think this is a rare case where a new CEO might actually have a chance to make a difference," says Oremus, due to the fact that the company is in a transitional period. "In startup years, Twitter's kind of having a midlife crisis. It went through the big early boom years. It started to mature and make money, but now it really has to grow into something much bigger if it's going to satisfy investors."
The dual challenges facing Twitter are to grow advertising and users, says Oremus — Falling short of expectations after its IPO that Twitter would be the next Facebook, the company is now wanting to focus more on reach than number of active tweeters.
In light of this shift, Oremus points to Twitter's new initiative, Project Lightening, as a potential opportunity to pivot Twitter from a ubiquitous social media site to more of a media platform. Project Lightening allows users to "to follow events and then you'll see tweets curated by human editors with the help of software so you won't have to be a pro Twitter user to log in and see what's going on."
With anxious investors, a revolving door of CEOs, and a need to re-think Twitter's role in the digital media sphere, Oremus says, "the Twitter board really wants someone who can put his whole life into this role."
While Oremus says the challenge of ousting Dorsey is that he is such a popular figure within the company, Twitter has to do some serious soul searching to overcome the ghosts of Twitter past and re-position itself for a new Twitter future.
As part of a series about music technology called "Noise Makers," we're talking to musicians about their favorite noise-making device. For this week's installment we talked with experimental composer Sabisha Friedberg ahead of her performance for the Issue Project Room.
Sabisha Friedberg's music is planned very carefully. As she puts it, "if something is very well placed and thought out a kind of magic can happen."
Magic and unexpected occurrences are the focal point of her recent double-LP entitled The Haunt Variance. About the record, Friedberg says, "much of it is about things that seem to manifest as apparitions that one doesn't intend. It's the idea of a haunted space and entities that end up coming through the mechanics in the electronic equipment like phantoms that you don't expect."
Click the media player above to hear Sabisha Friedberg talk about working with imperfect technology to make music.
She remembers how this electronic equipment, specifically tape machines and frequency generators, "were my early toys, in fact. So, I played with disused reel-to-reel tape machines and the frequency generators I've inherited from people."
In her performances, Friedberg continues to revive instruments, and even sources her equipment from a Russian mechanic in Coney Island. Through her dysfunctional equipment and rigorous planning, Friedberg creates music with a controlled chaos and haunting ambiance.
More information on Sabisha Friedberg and her recent double-LP can be found at the Issue Project Room website.
Pixels, a film debuting this weekend, features a rag tag team of gamers fighting against giant arcade game characters, like Pac-Man, who are attacking planet earth. And along with the movie, there are two free apps based on the flick where you can essentially play Pac-Man, Centipede, and Frogger.
This summer also saw a $50 Jurassic World console video game using the Lego game brand. So, why all the video game spin-offs of Hollywood movies? Marketplace's Molly Wood talks with Adrienne Hill about these video game tie-ins ... and their spectacular failures.
Click the media player above to hear more.
According to Hill, we've had video game tie-ins "almost as long as we've had video games. Back in the arcade days, even." However, Hill says, "a lot of these games have been average or really bad."
One such game was the ET game for the Atari 2600. It was so bad, it's credited with being part of the reason the industry tanked in the 80's. Jon-Paul Dyson, the director of the International Center for the History of Electronic Games at the Stong Museum of Play, reveals the story behind the ET game:
"The developer Howard Scott Warshaw had only about a month to translate this movie into a console game for the Atari 2600, which was the most popular video game console of the time. And it was really an impossible task. It was the story of this alien trying to make his way home. There was not really the battles or other things people knew how to make for video games at the time"
The disaster of the ET game reveals a lot about why movie tie-in games still struggle. Hill explains that the "developers don’t have enough time to work in these games. They often don't have the budget that a really good game requires because these things don't ever sell great." Also to blame? The games often seem more like a marketing ploy than an attempt at making a quality game.
With video games becoming more cinematic than ever and movies using graphics to create virtual worlds, it might be game over for video game tie-ins.(07/24/2015)
It's time for Silicon Tally! How well have you kept up with the week in tech news?
Click the media player above to play along.(07/24/2015)