Show of 2-9-2008

  • Email and Forum
    • Email from Peter: Dear Dr. Shurtz. I just bought a new computer. Do I need a surge protector? What specifications? Thanks. Love the show. Peter.
    • Tech Talk Answers: You do need a surge protector and a good one. In the most common type of surge protector, a component called a metal oxide varistor, or MOV, diverts the extra voltage. Be sure that meets standards defined in UL 1449.
      • Three line protection between hot, neutral and ground lines.
      • Clamping voltage of not more than 330V
      • Energy absorption/dissipation 600 joules or more.
      • Response time less than one nanosecond.
      • Indicator light that tells you if the MOV protection components are still functional.
  • Profiles in IT: Michael Saul Dell
    • Michael Saul Dell is founder and CEO of Dell, Inc.
    • He was was born February 23, 1965 in Houston, Texas. The son of an orthodontist, Dell attended Herod Elementary School in Houston, Texas.
    • At age 8, Dell sent away for equivalency testing to earn his high school diploma.
    • At age 12, he formed a direct marketing company which offered a national stamp auction through the mail. He earned $2,000 on the venture.
    • Dell had his first encounter with a computer at the age of 15 when he broke down a brand new Apple II computer and rebuilt it, just to see if he could.
    • Dell attended Memorial High School in Houston where he did not excel scholastically.
    • At age 16, he developed a scheme to sell newspaper subscriptions for the Houston Post through target marketing, and bought a BMW with the $18,000 he earned.
    • In 1984, 19-year-old University of Texas freshman Michael Dell had a simple idea.
      • He decided to sell custom-made computers directly to customers?
      • He invested $1000 in discounted PC parts he bought from a retailer and used them to upgrade some old PCs.
    • His parents were beginning to worry about his grades, so he promised he would quit his computer venture and devote himself to the books if his business didn’t perform.
    • During his first month of business, Dell made $180,000 in sales.
    • But by the end of the year, the company was making $50,000-$80,000 a month.
    • With the help of an additional loan from his grandparents, Dell dropped out of college at the age of 19 to run PC’s Limited, which later became Dell Computer Corporation.
    • Since day one, Dell has stuck to a unique set of business strategies.
      • The company sells direct to the consumer, sidestepping the usual markups implemented by the retailer.
      • Each PC is made-to-order, and the company only keeps eight to 12 days worth of inventory on hand at any time, often purchasing components when the prices are low. Dell pioneered revolutionary supply chain practices
      • Dell configures the computers and loads all the software right in the factory.
    • In July 1996, Dell offered online purchasing. By the late 1990s, the company was selling an average of $18 million a day online.
    • As of 2007, Forbes estimates Michael Dell’s net worth at $17.2 billion.
  • FCC Spectrum Bids Total $20B and Rising
    • After 32 rounds, the FCC has raised more than $18.8 billion in its 700-MHz auction, well surpassing its own early estimates of attracting between $10-15 billion in offers.
    • As of Tuesday, no further offers have appeared for the nationwide C Block license package or the D Block combination commercial-public safety spectrum. The last anonymous bid for the C Block, for $4.71 billion, remains the highest to date and most industry experts believe there are only three companies currently in the running: Google, Verizon and AT&T.
    • Google, if you recall, promised to bid at least $4.6 billion for the licenses. Verizon is also thought to be interested in the package now that the open access stipulations attached to this chunk of spectrum theoretically jibe with the company’s newfound commitment to opening up its own network.
    • On the other hand, AT&T’s participation in the C Block bidding war became slightly less likely today as the FCC finally approved the company’s $2.5 billion purchase of licenses for a 12 MHz swath of the 700-MHz band from Aloha Partners this past October.
    • Unlike the C Block and regional licenses, bidding for the D Block remains stagnant. The last bid of $472 million doesn’t come close to the $1.3 billion reserve price set by the FCC. If the government fails to get that amount (which is looking more and more likely) it has said it will re-auction the block with a new set of rules.
    • The government auction will continue indefinitely as long as lively bidding continues for regional licenses
  • OLPC Politics ? Feud with Intel
    • Intel and Microsoft have withdrawn active support for OLPC
    • Intel was miffed because OLPC is using an AMD chip.
    • Microsoft is miffed because it is using a Linux OS
    • The XO laptop, which currently uses a Geode processor made by Intel rival Advanced Micro Devices.
  • Defendant Cannot Be Forced for Reveal Password
    • A federal judge in Vermont has ruled that prosecutors can’t force a criminal defendant accused of having illegal images on his hard drive to divulge his PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) passphrase.
    • U.S. Magistrate Judge Jerome Niedermeier ruled that a man charged with transporting child pornography on his laptop across the Canadian border has a Fifth Amendment right not to turn over the passphrase to prosecutors.
    • Customs agents stopped him and searched his laptop when he and his father crossed the border from Canada on December 17, 2006.
    • An officer opened the laptop, accessed the files without a password or passphrase, and allegedly discovered "thousands of images of adult pornography and animation depicting adult and child pornography."
    • But then–and this is key–the laptop was shut down after Boucher was arrested.
    • It wasn’t until December 26 that a Vermont Department of Corrections officer tried to access the laptop–prosecutors obtained a subpoena on December 19–and found that the Z: drive was encrypted with PGP, or Pretty Good Privacy.
  • Creating a Strong Password
    • Think of a sentence that you can remember. This will be the basis of your strong password or pass phrase. Use a memorable sentence, such as ?The New England Patriots lost the 2008 Superbowl.
    • Check if the computer or online system supports the pass phrase directly. If you can use a pass phrase (with spaces between characters) on your computer or online system, do so.
    • Take the first letter of each word of the sentence that you’ve created to create a new, nonsensical word. Using the example above, you’d get: "tneplt2008sb.?
    • Add complexity by mixing uppercase and lowercase letters and numbers to get ?tNEPlt08sb?
    • Finally, substitute some special characters. You can use symbols that look like letters, combine words (remove spaces) and other ways to make the password more complex.
  • Website of the Week: Open Courseware Consortium
    • Web Address: http://www.ocwconsortium.org/
    • An OpenCourseWare is a free and open digital publication of high quality educational materials, organized as courses.
    • The OpenCourseWare Consortium is a collaboration of more than 100 higher education institutions and associated organizations from around the world.
    • Countries represented include Australia, Austria, Canada, China, Columbia, France, Iran, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Spain, Taiwan, Thailand, United Kingdom, United States, Venezuela, Vietnam
    • US participating institutions include: Harvard, John Hopkins, MIT Tufts, U Mass, Notre Dame, and many more.
  • Dumb Web Posting of the Week: Deibold Posts Master Key
    • Princeton University Computer Scientists Confirm ‘Secret’ Key For Every Diebold Voting Machine ‘Revealed’ on Company Website!
    • Diebold touch-screen voting system uses the same key to open every machine.
    • The Princeton Diebold Virus Hack found that a single person with access to the system could slip a vote-swapping virus onto a single machine which could then undetectably affect every other machine in the county.
    • Someone used the picture to fabricate a copy of the master key. They sent it to Princeton and it opened the voting machine. He used simple blanks available from any hardware store and the picture on the Deibold website.
    • The photo has been removed from the Diebold site?a little too late.
  • Sun Microsystems to Acquire MySQL
    • Offered tendered January 16, 2008.
    • Sun offered to pay approximately $1B total consideration.
    • With millions of global deployments including Facebook, Google, Nokia, Baidu and China Mobile, MySQL will bring synergies to Sun that will change the landscape of the software industry by driving new adoption of MySQL’s open source database in more traditional applications and enterprises.
    • The integration with Sun will greatly extend the commercial appeal of MySQL’s offerings and improve its value proposition with the addition of Sun’s global services organization.
    • MySQL will also gain new distribution through Sun’s channels including its OEM relationships with Intel, IBM and Dell.
    • MySQL’s open source database is the "M" in LAMP – the software platform comprised of Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP/Perl often viewed as the foundation of the Internet.
  • Google Opposes Microsoft’s Hostile Takeover Bid for Yahoo
    • This post appeared on a Google blog, posted by David Drummond, Chief Legal Officer for Google
    • The openness of the Internet is what made Google — and Yahoo! — possible. A good idea that users find useful spreads quickly. Businesses can be created around the idea. Users benefit from constant innovation. It’s what makes the Internet such an exciting place.
    • So Microsoft’s hostile bid for Yahoo! raises troubling questions. This is about more than simply a financial transaction, one company taking over another. It’s about preserving the underlying principles of the Internet: openness and innovation.
    • Could Microsoft now attempt to exert the same sort of inappropriate and illegal influence over the Internet that it did with the PC?
  • Malicious Programs Reach Epidemic Levels
    • Reports vary but some estimates suggest there were five times as many variants of malicious programs in circulation in 2007 compared to 2006.
    • Security company Panda Software said it was getting more than 3,000 novel samples of so called malware every day.
    • Criminals pump out variants to fool anti-virus programs that work, in part, by spotting common characteristics.
    • Security software testing organization AV Test reported that it saw 5.49 million unique samples of malicious software in 2007 – five times more than the 972,606 it saw in 2006.
    • Panda Software said the number of malicious samples it received in 2007 was up ten fold on 2006. In a statement it said the rise represented a "malware epidemic".
    • Finnish security firm F-Secure said it had seen a doubling in the number of pieces of malware it detected in 2007 compared to 2006.
  • Cable Break Update
    • Work has begun to repair two damaged internet cables in the Mediterranean Sea that were severed last week.
    • Flag Telecom, one of the firms responsible for the cables, says it will take about a week to be fixed.
    • The break in cables has caused disruption to net services in the Middle East and India. The cause is still not known.
    • Repairs will involve a team of about 50 people, including navigation experts and cable engineers.
    • The ship that will repair the first severed cable is already in place, with repairs underway, while the second vessel is expected to begin work on Tuesday.
    • Often the location of a break can be found by cable engineers back on shore. The areas affected by the outage will give key clues as to what part of the cable is broken.
    • To get a more precise location, cable engineers can send light pulses along the fibres in the cable using a device known as a Optical Time Domain Reflectometer.
    • The next stage is to employ a specially fitted cable ship, which will have onboard remotely operated vehicles (ROVs).
    • The damaged cable can be repaired on the ship at which point a technician will splice new cable to the existing pieces.
    • There was disruption to 70% of the nationwide network in Egypt, and India suffered up to 60% disruption.
  • Sex or a plasma TV
    • In response to a survey of 2,000 Britons conducted by electronics retailer Comet, almost half of the men polled said they would give up sex for six months in return for a 50-inch plasma TV.
    • That compared with just over a third of women who were willing to make the same sacrifice for the big-screen television.