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Tech and the Obama presidency, Part 2As Barack Obama takes office and with CNET News chief political correspondent Declan McCullagh regrettably unable to make this edition of Editors' Office Hours, Brian Tong goes solo and does an admirable job in answering your tech questions and looking...
>> Back from my vacation in Hawaii and you can see I'm the only person here because I guess Declan couldn't make it so we're going to kind of talk a little bit about some of the topics about the whole Obama thing. Hopefully you guys have some questions. I know a lot of people are just probably busy hanging out at home; but please if you want to be a part of this, you know we have our little question box in the right hand corner. If you need to create a user name and password, send me a question. We're going to open this up to anything and everything under the sun. I was just in Hawaii for a week, I came back from CES which was two weeks ago where I saw a lot of cool stuff so if you wanted to pick my brains about that, we could do that. And also I do have a few things that we can talk about with this whole Obama, the whole inauguration history today, some really cool stuff, so yeah we'll be good to go. So what we're going to do first is let's just talk about what we saw. I'm sure a lot of you guys were glued or watching some sort of coverage, and I'd like to hear what you guys thought about the whole Inauguration process and the coverage that you saw if you went to cbsnews.com or you saw it here at cnet.com. Now down here in the bottom of our chat box, that's where you guys get involved. So if you guys want to spit your thoughts don't worry about that. We'll just have fun with this; we're just winging it today. I'm back from vacation I don't care; we're going to have fun. So okay let's check this out. Obviously there's a transition of power and if you check out our blogs, Declan's blog, the Iconoclast. He talks about how whitehouse.gov recently launched. And what happens, I didn't know this, but every time a President takes office there's not only a hand over or a change over in power, but also a hand over of the duties and responsibility of whitehouse.gov. So it started with President Clinton; that website I guess was shaped earlier by him and there was a hand off to George W. Bush and now there's a handoff to Obama. And they said there's this big old picture if you check it out of Obama's fast and it says like change has come to America. But like many tech things, it wasn't completely bug or problem free. Declan writes in his article that the administrators posted an entry saying Obama was sworn in on their site but that was before he was actually sworn in. Also there are other posts that say read the Inaugural address but that was a blank document. So they still have got to up their game with being [inaudible] in tech and actually managing this website. One cool thing I love about just Obama, I guess you can say Presidency or his administration is the fact that we are going to have access to his weekly video address. I'm sure that some people might think that that's boring, but the fact that they're publishing it online through You Tube and through the website and giving us a little introspect or look inside of what's happening with our government. That's kind of cool and just a way to outreach and be a part of what's happening. Okay well it looks like no one is in the chat box. I do have a question. How was CES 2009 for me? CES 2009 was pretty sweet. Last year was my first year ever with CNET being a part of the team; this year was my second year so I was kind of a little more seasoned, I knew kind of how to attack it and the fact is that when I was thrown into the fire, we're covering if you saw some of the videos, I'm doing everything from MP3 players to headphones, to speakers, to audio video receivers, to cameras, to TV's to 3D sets, my mind was just mush when I was done; that's why I went to Hawaii. But there's probably my top three things personally that I saw at CES. Number one Panasonic's full 3D HD experience which was ridiculous. If you saw the video, I was laughing like a child, like I was gitty, because it was so awesome how every individual person was their own person in the 3D video. You're talking about a crowd; every little head was on its own plane and just some amazing stuff. They're really catering that to be coming to home soon and it has to be specific content on a specific Blu Ray disc. Supposedly the Blu Ray player has to be able to play this content and the TV set itself. They were using like a 103 inch plasma display but there were a lot of companies that were showcasing 3D; no one did it better than Panasonic, it wasn't even close. So that was my first pick that I loved. The second pick, just from a real moving forward technology aspect, is Sony's flexible OLED. If you're ever seen that TV down at the bottom of our most popular; I think it's one of the first four videos currently, that's one of the most popular videos and that was awesome because it was literally on this little film. It looked like a piece of clear bendable plastic and actually it was connected to two kinds of rods that were bending forward and backwards, and it was playing a video image. And they're just kind of showcasing how this technology in the future can be used like on a bracelet, where you can watch photos; kind of have a wristwatch that all of a sudden changes from a watch and then al of a sudden you can watch photos, but it's the entire surface material that's this flexible OLED. It was like .2 millimeters thin but that was really amazing to see. I just love the fact that we get the ability to pick inside of what's coming in the future. Another cool thing, the third thing that was really fun, oh back to the Sony thing. I doubt we'll see stuff like that for another ten years actually hitting the market but seeing concepts like that at CES is what makes it kind of special to me. Another thing was, oh why am I brain fighting--the coke machine, it was a collaboration, it was in Samsung's booth and it was Samsung and Coca Cola. Unfortunately I forgot the name of the company that did the OS, but it was a full touch screen Coke machine, and I actually picked a coke and it was kind of funny because we just shot it, just raw, just did the whole thing and when the Coke bottle came out I opened it up and then it totally fizzed to prove that it was real coke. But just being able to interact, have advertising, and see really cool stuff like that I think that's going to be the wave of the future with touch screens. Okay what else do we have here? Let's see if someone else has asked me a question here because if not, we're going to--oh okay here we go. Super techy, very involved with our chat here, super techy asks what kind of impact will Obama have with tech. Now I personally, I think Declan would be able to speak more because he's been following this, but the bottom line is Obama is way more tech savvy the most tech savvy President than we've ever seen; also the people inside of his campaign are more tech savvy. You saw pictures of him with a Mac book; just happened to sport a cover that I worked on. But just interaction with him and the fact that he uses the Internet and knows how to use the Internet, I think that bids well for tech. One thing in Declan's blog, the Iconoclast he talks about, President Bush is mark on technology and really what had happened is when Bush came to office he kind of featured some...right off the bat I think it was within the first few weeks, he kind of showcased whitehouse.gov and some of the new features that were there, but then September 11th hit and it really kind of changed his focus and all of a sudden, tech obviously there's great thing going on in the tech world--it's innovation, but when you're talking about the bare bones of what we need to take care of which our economy, security, and September 11th hit and obviously his focus completely changed. From that point on, tech wasn't really that big of a platform and he really didn't have people inside his administration that were as tech savvy or willing to make the right decisions to really push the tech agenda forward. I'm pretty sure the tech sector and the tech world will benefit from Obama, but more than anything I think that Obama will bring tech to people that aren't used to it. The fact of telling people they can go out to the Internet and be involved and watch his address and things like that that my parents would not have access to, but now kind of easily be able to click a few buttons and be involved and watch that type of stuff. That's kind of cool. So I think more than anything the administration will be able to bring the tech more to the people in Middle America that may not really care about it. Also I think he had an agenda where he was talking about getting the Internet into every household. I've heard about that like with the high speed connection and actually making that a real thing. Parts about improving our infrastructure and really getting digital lines out because that's the backbone of the Internet, he talked about that in his actual inauguration speech so he had one sentence that touched upon technology so I think overall it's a good thing for us. Okay Jemantz [assumed spelling]. Jemantz's in the house. Ask me a question. What piece of technology did I see at CES that I think will be either the quickest to make, make it to the hands of us regular Joes or will have the widest appeal? That's actually a really good question. I think that a lot of the tech that's out there that we're going to see right off the bat is really going to be (excuse me) that's really going to be this whole...I don't know why this revolution is a big deal, but the whole idea of making current television sets thinner? Like I can see how that's nice if you want to mount it on a wall, but actually bragging about your TV is the thinnest. There's only a certain point in time where getting under an inch or getting a half an inch is really going to make an impact, so I don't think that really matters. There's also another big push by a lot of the TV manufacturers to have LCD TV's with a 240 Hertz refresh rate. Dave Katzmaier recently did an article. I think it's actually on our more stores on our front page of cnet.com talking about does 240 Hertz refresh rate really matter. Overall the summary of his article is that at the moment he hasn't really seen any major benefits, and also a lot of this motion blurring or it helps with motion blurring you can only really tell the difference when you run like specific benchmark tests; so whether 120 to 240 really make a difference, we'll see 240 Hertz TV's coming soon, probably thin TV's and 240 Hertz TV's are things that we're going to see the quickest and actually be available to us. But does that really matter to me? No. To me the next generation but of course it's still real expensive and HD video is obviously going to be the OLED's and I sent in my videos but don't get them until they see it but it really makes HD look even better than the current HD because of the wide range of a contrast ratio. And just everything pops and looks so much better on OLED's but price--by the time they're affordable, if you want to get a think about a...what the largest OLED we saw at CES was like a 31-inch Samsung display. There was no price on it but again the Sony OLED that's out on the market is $2,500 dollars and that's only 11-inches. So before they become affordable for us, I have no idea. Okay let's do this. How am I doing so far? Am I doing alright? I don't' know I'm just having fun. If you guys want to ask me questions about Hawaii, I can tell you everything I did there. I can tell you places to eat in Hawaii if you even wanted to, so let's do this. You know what? We'll take a little break. We'll go to video, you're probably sick of hearing me talk and you want to see someone else's face so we'll take a look at Windows 7 Beta. This is real exciting and you can actually now get your hands on it, you can download it for free, and Seth Rosenblatt is kind of showcasing some of the new features. The interface tweaks I think are actually really cool and a lot of people are saying this is what Windows Vista should have been. So we'll take a quick look at the video, we'll be back, and I will continue to blab. >> Hi I'm Seth Rosenblatt for Download.com and today we're taking a First Look at Windows 7 Beta. There's a lot of new exciting stuff that Microsoft has crammed into their latest operating system. While it's true that Windows 7 Interface will be familiar to fans of Vista's Aero, both XP and Vista users have a lot to look forward to. Before we jump in, keep in mind that this is a Beta. It hasn't crashed in the week I've been using it, but that may not hold true for everybody. Under no circumstances would I recommend using 7 for mission critical tasks until the final version is released. I'll be addressing how to install 7 in another video. For now, let's assume you're ready to go. The first thing that should stand out is 7's new task bar. This is one of the best improvements Microsoft has made. Besides incorporating the translucent style of Aero, the new taskbar is a great leap forward. Pin programs use large, easy to see icons, mouse over one and all windows associated with that program appear in preview. Mouse over one of those preview panes to reveal an X to close the window. Hover over the preview to show a full size preview of the program or click on the window to bring it to the front. Jump lists are a new feature that makes recently opened documents easily to get to. Right click on any program that's pinned to the taskbar to see a list of files that you've recently used in that program. In Internet Explorer this will show recently visited websites although it doesn't yet seem to work in Firefox. As you've noticed the missing show desktop icon, that's because it's been baked into the taskbar itself. Mouse over to the right corner, hovering over the show desktop box reveals the desktop and then hides it when you mouse away. Click on the mouse to minimize all your programs. Dragging programs is now a simple way to resize them. Drag a program window up to the top of the monitor to make it full screen. If you want to work in two windows simultaneously, drag them to the left or the right edge of your screen. Drag a program away from the top or sides to return it to normal. Theme packages also make it much faster to change the look of Windows 7. From the control panel you can change the theme under appearance and personalization. Microsoft has created several theme packages to give users a taste for what the feature can do. Click on one to download it and it instantly changes the look of 7, no need to reboot. There are other less visual changes to 7 which make it far better than anything Microsoft has put out so far. It boots faster and programs launch faster all from the same hardware that runs Vista. You could probably get away with less fancy hardware for 7 because it utilizes what's available better. It runs fine on my Pentium 4 or example and it doesn't require 2 gigs of ram. The new device stage makes managing peripherals significantly easier combining printers, phones and portable media players into one window. You can also use it to set common tasks. When you try to use a file already in use, 7 goes beyond Vista and XP by telling you where it's being used. The bloat adverse will appreciate that 7 doesn't come with a slew of Windows Live programs at least for now. So far, 7 looks like the operating system we've all been waiting for and shows a lot of promise for the future. For cnetdownload.com I'm Seth Rosenblatt with a First Look at Windows 7 Beta. >> Okay guys I'm back. You have to look at me again all five of you. So what we're going to do is we're just going to take maybe one or two more questions and wrap it up because I'm sure you guys have lots of things you want to do or have other things you're actually watching; and also because Declan's not here we can't really pick on his brain as much, but he did apologize for not being able to make it and we'll try and get him back here another time. Okay let's check out another question because super techy is just--ooh, whoa, we have more questions. Jemantz an ease 321 jump in here. Okay let's go here. Jemantz what's up? He or she asks, "You were at MacWorld at CES. Do you think we'll see more of a Mac presence now at the next CES?" So well I have been on vacation and I've briefly...like when I'm on vacation I don't--I stay unwired but there were rumblings that actually Apple will be potentially displaying or showcasing products at the next CES. That makes sense for them to have a presence if they're going to be leaving MacWorld. It's not like we expect them to do any major announcements at CES, but the bottom line is they're a huge player in the consumer electronics field. Before it was just their Macs, then it became their iPods but not they have three big time devices with the iPhone as well. So to have a presence showcase display do it the Apple way and really kind of expose people to their brand even more, although everyone there knows about them. I think it's a good thing if they started doing announcements in the future at CES; that would be another huge thing but I really think that will be reserved for Apple themselves. They really like to control the environment when they do things their way. And announcing them at their headquarters when they're ready to release a product makes more sense than trying to wrap up all the time for a show like MacWorld. This year MacWorld is very lack luster. They didn't really have much to bring to the table where they weren't going to wow us but they still had to announce something, and they did. There were a few cool things but then Apple really wants to take back control of when they announce their products and when they'll have the most impact. If I had to put a bet down right now, I would say we will see Apple at CES next year with some kind of presence but wouldn't expect any major announcements. That's what I think but we're just picking our brain. Okay any new details about Snow Leopard? I haven't kept up on Snow Leopard specifically; I know a lot of us thought that they might give us a pretty good MacWorld. I personally didn't think we'd see Snow Leopard at MacWorld at all just because MacWorld is a consumer show. Snow Leopard is going to be a very incremental update with under the hood features and I don't think people will care that it performs faster and no one wants to watch them spin 20 minutes talking about that. If you saw the keynote and you saw Iwerk, like people were not paying attention. Reporters around me were surfing the Internet on other websites when they were talking about Iwerk. I poop you not. Up to my knowledge, no new details about Snow Leopard. Okay Jermantz just popped in another question. I'm just taking them; I'm not even reading them ahead of time. I loved what I saw about the Pre? What did you like the most about it? Anything you felt was missing? The Pre looks awesome but for me I'm going to actually see the product working, product in the consumer hands because that really is the test that tells you how the product is going to be. A lot of people saw the T-Mobile Android OS before it was put on any device and it did look really good. I still think obviously Android has a lot of growing but it will be great but on its first run it's okay. I don't think you could hear from anyone that says they're in love with Android. Obviously the thing I like the most about the Pre and we'll see how this handles is the fact that you can multitask so if people aren't familiar, you can run multiple apps and be able to jump to them and then use an app running the background. So essentially the iPhone doesn't have the ability to run apps in the background where the Palm Pre looks like it can. I don't know exactly how they're executing this. Even if it was something like if you had a weather or e-mail app open and maybe it takes a snapshot of that at that moment, and then when you go back to it, it kind of re-queues it instead of having to launch and load the entire app. I don't know if that's how it's doing but we'll see how it all shakes out but I think it's great that Palm is finally kind of at least back in the conversation. We don't know how long this is going to last for them but they showed off a great product and it's nice to know that yes although we thought they weren't doing much, that they actually had something pretty cool in the works. And the biggest killer feature about the Pre is the fact that it's a touch screen and it has a slide out keyboard and it was in a pretty slim, manageable fore factor so that's probably what I liked about it the most. Okay. It's 11:53. I've done a lot of talking by myself. I hope I didn't bore you guys to death too much. I'll be back with plenty of other videos. You know we'll be coming back out with more Apple bites, more prize fights, and again I think we're actually going to be here on Friday to talk about the 25th anniversary of the Mac. Tom Krazit is going to be in the house with me so come on out. You can ask Mac questions; you don't even have to. You can ask PC questions because the Mac and the PC are kind of dual and there's a lot of history between them. I don't even know what I'm saying. But there's a lot of history between the two companies and honestly they affected each other through the course of those 25 years. So come back, it's 11:30 a.m. West coast time; 2:30 p.m. East coast time, Editor's Office Hours. I'm Brian Tong with cnet.com and we will see you later. Peace. ^M00:21:30 [ Music ] ^M00:21:35