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TEK Eric Taub - How to Simply Get Involved

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[Eric Taub] I've been a writer about technology for the New York Times for over 20 years. And what I do is explain technology in a non-technological way to help consumers understand how it can really benefit them. And as an example, since we're using Skype I can give you a personal experience. About five years ago, when my mother was getting close to the end of her life she said to me the week before she died that she had no regrets in her life. And this is a woman who was born in a little village in Belarus. And then she said, "You know, I actually do have one regret. That is, I've never seen all of my great-grandchildren." So I said, "That's really very sad." But then I realized I had my laptop with me. So I was able to Skype with her and the great-grandchildren she'd never met. So in five minutes, across the country a woman who was born before radio was commercialized was now using a 21st-century technology to connect with her family. And that's an example of the kind of power that we have with today's technologies. The question is though, how do we get to harness them? How do we understand how to use things in an easy way? Because so much of this is made much more complex than it needs to be. And that's what my book is about. [Anne Jacoby] Good. Well, thank you for that. So I have a question for you. >> [Eric Taub] Sure. [Anne Jacoby] If companies want you to use technology, why is it often so complex? [Eric Taub] That's a good question. I think one of the reasons is because the people who write the manuals are often engineers. They think everyone understands things the way they do. And unfortunately, many times the manuals are written by people for whom English is not their first language. So if you don't mind, I can give you some real-life examples of how things are made much more complex than they need to be. I'll be reading from a Sony manual for television. And for example, one thing that's said here is how to explain the various color settings in a television. And in this Sony manual designed for consumers, it says, "Video color space or x.v.Color "displays moving pictures that is more faithful to the original source by matching the color space of source." I have no idea what that means. And I would imagine most people who are listening to this don't either. But it's not just Sony. Panasonic is also vying for an award here. In one of their television manuals, they explain the various picture settings. It says you can use vivid in a bright room, cinema in a darkened room, and standard for "normal viewing conditions." I don't know what normal viewing conditions are. And Sony's manual says you should use the standard setting for standard pictures. So unfortunately, we're often harnessed with some of these impossible-to-understand definitions and rules. So we have to cut through all that stuff. [Anne Jacoby] True, true. So what do you think is the solution then? [Eric Taub] Well, the solution is fortunately some of the companies now are beginning to understand that nobody understands how to use their technology. And you don't need to know all these acronyms. You don't need to know what they mean. So if something says you need an HDMI cable to connect your TV to your DVD player, it doesn't matter what HDMI means. All you need to know is that you want to plug one end of the cable into the output, and the other end into the input. And also with regard to other things such as PCs and even selecting light bulbs, a lot of these things are now becoming more simplified. For example with the new generation of LED light bulbs, the government has set up a little chart that looks like a nutrition chart on food that just simply explains how bright a bulb is, how much energy it uses, how long it'll last. So some of these things are becoming more simplified. Other things, I give a lot of rules in my book about how to just look for these four things and you'll be done. [Anne Jacoby] Okay. Well, that's good information. Can you talk a bit about cell phones? [Eric Taub] Sure. You know, smartphones today really have become the Swiss Army knife of our lives. And if you look at kids— and I think we should look at how children and young people use devices, because that's the future. They never let go of their smartphones. They hold onto them for dear life, fortunately, because you don't want them to get stolen. But you can do virtually everything today with a smartphone, from using it as a compass to measuring things, to figuring out how many calories you're burning, to even talking on it. And if you notice, you'll see that all the phone companies now are going to unlimited talk plans, and it's not because they're very generous. It's because nobody's using phones to talk anymore. I think the big problem that we've always had with people yelling in public spaces may be disappearing just because people aren't talking. Everybody's texting. But the smartphone is such an amazing device that— and you'll start seeing more of this in the next year or two— that it's becoming the device that we'll use to control our cars, to control the lights and appliances in our home, to gather together health information— I've got a device that attaches to my iPhone that turns my iPhone into an EKG machine. And that's just the beginning. We all know that Apple is planning on getting involved in health monitoring. So the smartphone is becoming extremely important. And of course, the two major platforms are the Apple iPhone and Android, which is an operating system invented by Google, and it's used by a lot of phone companies such as Samsung. And they both operate very well. They're very intuitive. It really is a personal preference which one you would like to get. One thing about Apple—and I think they've always been very good at this— is making products that are very attractive and very intuitive. Their goal has always been— and I've done consulting work for them— to create products that you don't need a manual to use. And I think that's true whether you're talking about their computers, their iPads, or their smartphones. But that's not to say that Android phones aren't easy to use—they are. They're just a bit less intuitive. [Anne Jacoby] Okay. So in your book you actually go into lighting as well, which I thought was interesting. Do you mind talking a bit about that? [Eric Laub] Sure. Well, you know lighting's really undergoing a technological revolution very much akin to what television has done. You may recall that 10, 12 years ago all of our TVs were these big, bulky boxes. They were called CRTs, cathode ray tubes. They weighed hundreds of pounds, very often. And now of course they have all gone away. And everybody has essentially— if you bought a TV in the last 10-12 years— a flat panel screen that's wider. It wasn't just a question of making a better picture, but we went through a technological revolution because suddenly TV went from being analog to being digital, from broadcasting a standard radio-type signal to one that uses 1's and 0's. The reason I'm mentioning this is because we're seeing in lighting today the same kind of amazing revolution that we saw in television, by which I mean the old standard 100-year-old technology of incandescent bulbs that Thomas Edison invented is rapidly disappearing, and that's for the good. Because we're now getting light bulbs that last literally 25 years and use 1/10th the power that a regular incandescent bulb uses. These lamps are called LED lamps for light-emitting diodes, tiny little chips that create an intense, enormous amount of light when put together. And that allows us to do a lot of very interesting things. For example, this lamp— this LED lamp— is actually controlled by a smartphone. A smartphone app lets you change the colors of the lamp, turn it on and off when you wish, and even get it to light up in rhythm with a song that's being played on your smartphone. Here's a couple of other examples. This is one of Philips's early lamps— LED bulbs. It's yellow-looking, but when you turn it on the light that comes out looks just like a regular incandescent bulb. Here's another example. This is the kind of lamp that you put in a kitchen—what's called a can. And you can see the little LED lamps, little LED chips all around. If you're wondering what these veins are for, while LED lamps are much cooler than standard incandescents, they do give off heat, and these veins dissipate the heat. And because they're LED lamps, you can create them in any shape you want. Here is Philips's newest example of a bulb. It looks more like a lollipop. This bulb creates the equivalent of a 40-watt light source, uses 4 watts, and is made out of a little polycarbonate, will last 25 years, costs about ten dollars. You'll be saving a ton of money. You can even put this in your will and give it to your children. But more importantly than the shapes— because these lamps are now creating light with a digital source, as I said, you can control them from a smartphone. And in the not-too-distant future, we're going to see lamps not just connected to smartphones but connected to our cars so that for example when you drive home, your home will know that you're getting close to home and the lights will automatically come on if you so wish. And also now hospitals are using lamps that sense not just when somebody walks into a room but who's walking into a room. And if you find purple a more pleasing color, the lamp can automatically change to purple for that individual. The lamp can go out when nobody's around so we're saving a lot of money on energy costs. So all of this stuff is really going through an amazing transformation. Costs will continue to come down. LED lamps will become ubiquitous. And we're just going through an amazing revolution in lighting. You don't have to worry. It's not illegal to own an incandescent lamp. It's just the new lamps that are going to be manufactured just have to meet certain standards, and currently the only way to meet those is either by making compact fluorescent lamps, which most people don't like, or LED lamps. [Anne Jacoby] That's interesting, I actually learned something new about lamps just now. Is that all documented in your book— >> [Eric Taub] Yes. [Anne Jacoby] —or is that something I can reference in your book? Okay. [Eric Taub] Well, I have a pretty thorough explanation all about lighting in the book. >> [Anne Jacoby] That's good. Okay, thank you. So I wanted to talk to you— you and I were talking earlier about finding help, or if something comes up, maybe something with home networking, how I can find help on that. [Eric Taub] You know, the internet's an amazing tool. I remember when I was a graduate student at UCLA and I would work in the research library, and every 10 minutes I would get up to take a break and go walking down the stacks and pulling books out at random. And if you're like me, you might be inquisitive and just start looking up very interesting things. Suddenly you find a whole subject that you never— you know, about Ubangi warriors that you never even thought you'd be interested in. Think of the internet as today's library stacks. You can find virtually anything you want there. You just need to know how to search for it. So I have a rule of thumb, which is any legitimate question that I have, somebody else already has it. So all you need to do is a little search on Google and I'll find it. Google's an amazing tool. You just need to know how to search properly to get the best results. So for example, if you want to find the answer to a particular subject, put in a general question— you don't even need to phrase it as a question. Just put in a couple of key words. If you make it too specific, you might not get the answer. So for example if you need to set up a home network and you don't know how to do it, you could just put in "home network help" or "network router type," and you'll get a whole slew of answers. Also, Google uses various kinds of search rules so that you can exclude certain things that you're not interested in. If for example you wanted to learn more about the Jaguar automobile, you could type "jaguar" and then "-cat" so that the results you get will not be about the jaguar animal but only about the car. Vice versa, if you wanted to know only about the animal and not the car, you could write "jaguar" and then space "-automobile." And then you won't get anything about Jaguar cars. Also, if you want to find out something about two words that are next to each other, you type the two words and put quote marks around them. Or if you want two words included in the search but not necessarily next to each other, you put a + between them. Google has all of these tips on their website, so it's very easy to use it, it's very easy to find. And another place to go—which I think is an amazing tool, by the way— is YouTube. YouTube is a lot more than just videos about cats doing cute things. There are amazing video resources there. There are historical events that you can find. And you can lose yourself for hours at YouTube. If for example you're interested in Sid Caesar, you could watch a lot of his old original acts on television from the '50s. If you want to know about World War II, certain events, there are lots of videos, speeches by Hitler, Mussolini, FDR— it's just amazing what people have posted on there. [Anne Jacoby] So there is a lot of information on the internet, but do you have any tips on validating it, or what are legitimate sites? Because I know there's some wrong stuff on the internet as well. [Eric Taub] There's a lot of wrong stuff, unfortunately, because anyone could put up anything. One thing I often do— and if members of the audience are like me, you may regularly get these dire warnings in your email about some virus that's going to blow up your house in an hour. Most of these kinds of terrible events are false. But one place to go to check out whether they're false or not is the very good website called Snopes. S-N-O-P-E-S. Snopes.com. You go there and you type in a word or two from that email that you got, and you quickly find out if it's just a silly rumor or whether there's some basis in fact for that. Then with regard to other things, for example if you need health information, there are certain websites that are reliable like WebMD or the NIH, the government website, or the Mayo Clinic for example. I think as you use the search feature you'll start seeing sites that both look legitimate and are, and I think if you find information from various websites that all validate each other, then you'll know you're on the right track. [Anne Jacoby] Okay, that's very helpful. So Snopes is a good one to validate information. All right. Thank you. Was there anything else that you wanted to share? [Eric Taub] Well, I just wanted to talk about— I know lots of people now have WiFi and are setting up home networks, and that can be a very complex process— again, as we started at the beginning, just because the people who create these networking products have not always figured out how to make them simple. So here's another example. We all talk about how we need to protect our WiFi networks so that outsiders are not using them, but how do we do that? Well, I bought a router from a company called Netgear and here's what they told me I needed to choose when I set up a protected home network. I had to choose between the WPA-PSK(TKIP) standard, and the WPA-PSK (TKIP) + WPA2-PSK (AES) security method. Again, I had no idea what they were talking about. And I'm sure 99% of the people who use those products don't. A few simple things when you create a home network. There are different standards of speeds for routers. Get an N router. That today is the fastest router you can use, has the best connection range, and many of them now are getting much easier to set up. There is a new standard that's coming in called AC, but in order for that to benefit you, you need computers and iPads and phones that can see that standard. Otherwise the speed will drop back to the N standard. Today, very few products do offer that compatibility. So you don't really need to get an AC router yet. It's a bit more expensive. If you're on a budget, get an N router. Follow the directions. If you get confused, do a Google search. You'll find lots of help from lots of people that can make it very simple for you. [Anne Jacoby] Okay, and just to clarify because a lot of folks are writing notes— you said it's an N router, as in the letter N? [Eric Taub] N as in net. That's right. >> [Anne Jacoby] Okay. Great. That's really helpful. So we actually have some— I know that you have some personal business to attend to. We have some books of yours that we would like to give away to members of our audience. >> [Eric Taub] Wonderful. [Anne Jacoby] And I truly appreciate your time in being with us. Again, Eric Taub's book is "Does This Plug into That?" And I really thank you for being here and sharing all of this. I'm gonna go look at my copy because I need to change some light bulbs. [Eric Taub] Okay, great, Anne. Thanks very much. And I hope everyone has a great time at the show. [Anne Jacoby] All right. Thanks for being with us. [AARP: Real Possibilities] [www.aarp.org/aarpTEK]

Video Details

Duration: 18 minutes and 47 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Genre: None
Views: 25
Posted by: aarp on Sep 16, 2014

TEK Eric Taub - How to Simply Get Involved

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