Show of 12-8-2007

  • Email and Forum
    • Email from John: Dear Dr. Shurtz, I don’t want to pay 99 cents for a new ringtone. Is there a way that I can make my own? I am a student and don’t have much money. Thanks, John
    • Tech Talk Answers: You can easily make your own ring. All you need is an MP3 for the song you want in the ringtone and an audio editor. I like the free editor called Audacity. It is available from SourceForge (http://audacity.sourceforge.net/). You simply select the segment want for the ring tone, delete the rest of the song, and save it as a new file with a name you can remember. I usually like to taper the sound at the end of the ring tone. Uploading the ringtone is not a problem for GSM phone. Verizon blocks that feature in their phones, so you will have to hack your Verizon phone if you want to upload the ring tone to it.
    • Email from Jonathan: Dear Tech Talk, I have a laptop and need to backup my data. What are my best options? Jonathan.
    • Tech Talk Answers: You can buy an external hard drive (either USB 2.0 or Firewire). Get Firewire for a Mac and USB 2.0 for a PC. The price of storage has dropped dramatically. Get at least 120 GB or even more if you can afford it. I have a 250 GB drive at home. Online backup services are an options, but they are expensive.
  • Profiles in IT: Kenneth Lane Thompson
    • Kenneth Lane Thompson developed the Unix Operating system with Dennis Richie
    • Ken Thompson was born February 4, 1943 in New Orleans.
    • He received a Bachelor of Science in 1965 and Master’s degree in 1966, both in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, from UC Berkeley.
    • In the 1960s, Thompson and Dennis Ritchie worked on the Multics operating system. While writing Multics, Thompson created the Bon programming language.
    • They the Multics project used what they learned to create Unix, an unfunded project.
    • Thompson developed the B Programming Language which was a precursor to Richie’s C Programming Language.
    • For the first time in 1970, the Unix operating system was officially named and ran on the PDP-11/20. This port was funded by Bell as a word processor.
    • They added a text formatting program called roff and a text editor, all written in PDP-11/20 assembly language. Roff soon evolved into troff, the first electronic publishing program with a full typesetting capability.
    • The UNIX Programmer’s Manual was published on November 3, 1971.
    • Thompson developed the text editor ed (the default editor on Unix). This editor made heavy use of regular expressions
    • Regular expressions became pervasive in Unix text processing programs and even more modern programming languages like Perl. Almost all programs that work with regular expressions today use some variant of Thompson’s notation for them.
    • In 1973, Unix was rewritten in the C programming language, contrary to the general notion at the time "that something as complex as an operating system, which must deal with time-critical events, had to be written exclusively in assembly language"
    • The migration from assembly language to the higher-level language C resulted in much more portable software, requiring only a relatively small amount of machine-dependent code to be replaced when porting Unix to other computing platforms.
    • Thompson’s style of programming has influenced others, notably in the terseness of his expressions and a preference for clear statements.
    • AT&T made Unix available to universities and commercial firms, as well as the United States government under licenses.
    • In late 2000, Thompson retired from Bell Labs. He now works at Google as a Distinguished Engineer.
    • In 1983, Thompson and Ritchie jointly received the Turing Award for their development of generic operating systems theory and specifically for the implementation of the UNIX operating system.
    • Science of Snowflakes ? Is Every Snowflake Unique?
      • Can you ever be sure that no two are alike?
      • The short answer to the question is yes, since it is indeed extremely unlikely that two complex snowflakes will look exactly alike. Notice I said complex snowflake.
      • Variations caused by isotopes
        • If we restrict ourselves to water molecules which contain two ordinary hydrogen atoms and one ordinary oxygen atom, then again physics tells us that all such water molecules are exactly alike
        • However about one molecule out of every 5000 naturally occurring water molecules will contain an atom of deuterium in place of one of the hydrogens.
        • One in 500 will contain an atom of O (with an atomic weight of 18) instead of the more common oxygen (with an atomic weight of 16).
        • Since a typical small snow crystal might contain 1018 water molecules, we see that about 1015 of these molecules will be different from the rest.
        • The probability that two snow crystals would have exactly the same layout of these molecules is very, very, very small.
        • Even with 1024 crystals per year, the odds of it happening within the lifetime of the Universe is indistinguishable from zero.
        • However, if we consider a crystals of only 10 molecules, here’s a reasonable probability that two would be exactly alike.
      • Variations caused by stacking faults
        • When a crystal grows, the molecules do not stack together with perfect regularity, so a typical snow crystal contains a huge number of crystal dislocations, which again are scattered throughout the crystal in a random fashion.
        • One can then argue, like with the isotopes, that the probability of two crystals growing with exactly the same pattern of dislocations is vanishingly small.
        • Again one has the exception of few-molecule crystals, which can easily be free of dislocations.
      • Variations caused by variable growth dynamics
        • The number of possible ways of making a complex snowflake is staggeringly large. Now when you look at a complex snow crystal, you can often pick out a hundred separate features if you look closely.
        • Since all those features could have grown differently, or ended up in slightly different places, the math is similar to that with the books.
        • Thus the number of ways to make a complex snow crystal is absolutely huge.
  • Chip Wars ? AMD versus Intel
    • Quad cores processors finally arriving.
    • Intel’s Quad Core
      • Core 2 Extreme QX9650 quad-core chip
      • 45nm manufacturing technology
      • 50% boost in cache memory
      • QX9650 consumes 60 Watts less than its identically clocked 65nm predecessor chip (around 120 watts)
      • Two dual core dies pieced together to reduce yield risk
    • AMDs Quad Core
      • Phenom 9600 and 9500 quad-core chip
      • The first quad core die ever in production and hence suffers with yield risk
      • It uses 65nm technology with 45nm soon to follow
      • Expect AMD to undercut Intel’s price significantly as they seek market share rather than profitability.
    • Gamers should love the quad core. So should high end servers. It is really four computers on one chip.
    • Watch the competition heat up. The consumer is really the winner here.
  • Tech Gifts 2007
    • Digital Picture Frames
      • Wi-Fi, USB input
      • Internal Memory, SD memory card storage
      • Audio, video, jpg capable
      • Sizes up to 15 inches.
      • 12 inch frame is around $200 and 7 inch frame around $100.
    • MP3 Players (iPod Touch and others)
      • Display type
      • Storage type (Flash memory versus mini-hard drive)
      • Wi-Fi versus USB input
      • DRM on iTunes is a disadvantage (in my opinion)
      • External Hard drive (USB 2.0 or Firewire)
      • Prices around $150 for 300 GB and $80 for 80 GB
    • Digital Cameras
      • Optical zoom up to 7X
      • Stabilization
      • Display
      • Memory size
      • Physical size
    • Laptops
      • $600 to $1200
      • AMD (versus Intel) will save a couple of hundred dollars
      • Ergonomics are everything (screen size, keyboard layout, weight)
      • Integrated webcams and mics
      • Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
      • Memory (2GB for Vista)
    • Game Consoles (Nintendo Wii)
      • Street price around $500
      • Great family gameset because of the accelerometers in the controller
    • Slingbox Pro
      • Redirects the TV signal to the computer of your choice–providing high quality video, no matter the distance
      • Connects to digital cable box, DVR, satellite receiver, DVD players, video/security camera, or any NTSC component HD, S-video, or composite video source
      • Includes free Slingbox Finder service to locate a Slingbox from any network location
      • Watch and control your home TV, DVR, basic cable, digital cable box, or satellite receiver anywhere around your home or around the globe
      • Street price: $180 on Amazon
    • Robots
      • Pleo, the Robotic Dinosaur ($349) Hottest robot on the market!!!
      • Rhooma, the Robotic Vacuum Cleaner ($150 to $400)
      • Lego Mindstorm NXT Robot Kit ($229)
    • Remote Control Toys (www.thinkgeek.com)
      • R/C Microblimp 900 MHz ($129)
      • R/C Reflex Helicopter ($69.00)
      • Palmsized R/C Helicopters ($29 to $49)
      • Palmsized-Z Mini Indoor R/C Fixed Wing Airplanes ($29 to $49)
  • Women tempted by gadget gifts
    • When it comes to gadgets, American women are most likely to get a digital camera or an iPod for Christmas this year.
    • IDC surveyed more than 1,000 women. They were all members of the Women in Technology International organization.
    • What were they buying for other people: Digital cameras, iPods and other MP3 players, accessories for iPods and laptops.
    • Women influence around 80% of consumer electronics purchases, according to Consumer Electronics Association.
    • Best Buy started having personal shopping assistants after realizing that women influence the majority of purchases made in the household.
    • Gadget makers are also trying to include female users more when thinking about product design, marketing and retail strategy.
    • They are starting to recognize that women want lighter laptops and smaller devices.
    • While the likes of tech giants like Motorola sell pink devices, many women deny they are looking for pink gadgetry, particularly for something that they use at work.
    • There is a market for pink products, but, it is more likely to be among girls between 12 and 14 years old than a woman sitting in the boardroom.
  • Food Science ? Low Fat Baked Goods
    • Fat serves as a binder in the product as well as a taste enhancer.
    • When fat it reduced, the new binder must be substituted.
    • Usually the sugar content in increased significantly because sugar can bind.
    • Then the product tastes too sweet.
    • So salt is added to cancel the sweet taste
    • The net result is that low fat baked goods are high in calories and in sodium
  • Origin of the word ? Byte
    • If computers worked entirely in binary, and did nothing but calculations with binary numbers, there would be no bytes.
    • But to use and manipulate character information we must have encodings for those symbols.
    • The term byte was coined by Dr. Werner Buchholz in July 1956, during the early design phase for the IBM Stretch computer.
    • The term "byte" comes from "bite," as in the smallest amount of data a computer could "bite" at once. The spelling change not only reduced the chance of a "bite" being mistaken for a "bit."
    • It seemed reasonable to make a universal 8-bit character set, handling up to 256 ASCII characters.
    • ASCII stands for American Standard Code for Information Interchange
    • Unicode uses a 16-bit word so it can handle more characters.
  • Yaari is one of the worst
    • Yaari is Hindi for friendship and Prerna Gupta, founder and CEO of Yaari.com and co-founder Parag Chordia, are playing heavily on that key word to create a social network for the Indian youth.
    • However, its approach is not so friendly.
      • ?By registering for Yaari and agreeing to the Terms of Use, you authorize Yaari to send an e-mail notification to all the contacts listed in the address book of the e-mail address you provide during registration.?
      • Immediately as a potential registrant by seeking and accepting membership, Yaari tells you, you have to grant them unrestricted access to your personal contact list.
      • Once you have decided which email address you will use based on your three choices another screen pops up asking for your email account password before you can continue.
    • After you register, within minutes all of your contacts are invited to join (using your own email account). It appears that the email came from you.
    • Then all your friends are subjected to the same scam.
    • Don’t join Yaari. Don’t give our your email password to anyone.