Show of 3-29-2008

  • Email and Forum
    • Email from Amy: Dear Doc: What is the difference between all the types of solid state memory. Which one should I use? Which one is better? I am confused. Amy
    • Tech Talk Answers: Speed is the key factor. Cheap flash memory is slow. The rating is usually given like 200X (30 MB/sec), 133X (20 MB/sec), 80X (12 MB/sec), 40X (6 MB/sec). Each X is 150 kB/sec. The types of memory include:
      • Compact Flash — The format was first specified and produced by SanDisk in 1994. All major camera brands such as Canon, Fuji, Nikon, Olympus and Sony use this form of flash storage in almost all their Pro Cameras. Up to 64 GB.
      • Smart Media — SmartMedia was jointly invented by Olympus and Fuji. SmartMedia cards are limited to 128 MB. No new cameras have been introduced that use SM cards since 2003.
      • Memory Stick — In 1999 Sony brought out their own flash memory product called the Memory Stick which is being used in their Cyber-shot digital still cameras and most of their Handycam video camcorders. The Memory Stick DUO card is 1/2 the size of regular Memory Stick cards.
      • Secure Digital (SD) ? Secure Digital was developed by Matsushita, SanDisk and Toshiba for use in portable devices. Today it is widely used in all digital devices. SD High Capacity (SDHC) is required for 4GB and up.
      • MultiMediaCard — SD and MMC (MultiMediaCard) cards are nearly identical on the outside but technically different on the inside. SD cards are generally faster than MMC cards.
      • xD-Picture Card — Olympus and Fujifilm jointly developed the xD-Picture Card. About the size of a postage stamp, its prices are comparable to current Secure Digital.
      • USB Flash Drive ? Commonly called thumb drives, this format plugs directly into the USB port and is used to transport files between computers. Sizes up to 8G are commonly available.
    • Email from Loren: Dear Dr. Richard Shurtz, I now arrange my weekends to always tune into Tech Talk while I am exercising. You all do put together a unique program. What I especially like about the program are the discussion on IT trends, IT innovations, intelligent website finds and other similar topics that help me in keep up in the IT field.
    • I just started a new job as a tech writer for a Government contracting firm. I am a bit dismayed by the naming conventions they’ve been using when saving their active and archived technical proposals. The way their docs are now named and retained seems quite haphazard and many of us are spending far too much time trying to finding stuff. Are there any standard file naming conventions used for technical writing?
    • I used SharePoint at a former job because of the version retention feature among other reasons. Are you aware of any competing software or better methodology to archive tech documentation? Thanks, Lauren
    • Tech Talk Answers: Thanks for the email. I checked a number of sources and could find no document naming standards. Most organizations had developed their own based on the local requirement. The important thing is to document the naming standard so others who follow can understand it. SharePoint is an excellent option. It is fully integrated with MS Office and supports a web interface. It is gaining market share and is Microsoft’s recent success stories.
  • Profiles in IT: Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger
    • Co-founders of Wikipedia
    • Two personalities with two visions who are now feuding. Here is the story.
    • Jimmy "Jimbo" Donal Wales was born August 7, 1966, in Huntsville, Alabama.
      • Wales’s father Jimmy worked as a grocery store manager while his mother, Doris, and his grandmother, Erma, ran a small private one-room school.
      • Wales attended Randolph School, a university-preparatory school in Huntsville, Alabama.
      • Wales received his bachelor’s degree in finance from Auburn University and started Masters from University of Alabama.
      • In March 2000, Wales started a peer-reviewed, open-content encyclopedia, Nupedia ("the free encyclopedia"), and hired Sanger to be its editor-in-chief.
      • Wales funded Nupedia and later Wikipedia using revenue from Bomis, a website featuring user-generated webrings that, according to The Atlantic Monthly, "found itself positioned as the Playboy of the Internet. It features pictures of Bomis girls.
    • Lawrence Mark "Larry" Sanger was born July 16, 1968 in Bellevue, Washington, and raised in Anchorage, Alaska.
      • He graduated from high school in 1986.
      • He received his B.A. in philosophy from Reed College in 1991 and Ph.D. in philosophy from The Ohio State University in 2000.
      • From 1998 to 2000 he ran a website called "Sanger’s Review of Y2K News Reports"
      • On January 10, 2001, Sanger proposed the idea of using a wiki to create an encyclopedia.
      • Wales reluctantly agreed and installed wiki software on a server and authorized Sanger to pursue the project under his supervision.
      • Sanger dubbed the project "Wikipedia."
    • Sanger and Wales, laid down the founding principles and content, establishing an Internet-based community of contributors during that year.
    • Wikipedia was initially intended to be a wiki-based site for collaboration on early encyclopedic content for submission to Nupedia, but Wikipedia’s rapid growth quickly overshadowed Nupedia’s development.
    • In February 2002; Sanger resigned as editor-in-chief of Nupedia and as "chief organizer" of Wikipedia on March 1, 2002. He later founded Citizendium, which doesn’t allow anonymous editing.
    • In mid-2003, Wales set up the Wikimedia Foundation, a non-profit organization.
    • Wales has tried to minimize Sanger’s contribution to Wikipedia. Sanger has fought back. They have been conducting a wiki-feud since 2002.
      • Sanger says: The world needs a better, more authoritative, more reliable, free encyclopedia.
      • Wales says: Nature Magazine has concluded that Wikipedia’s science entries are nearly as accurate as Encyclopedia Britannica’s. If Larry’s project is able to produce good work, we will benefit from it by copying it back into Wikipedia.
    • Neither made much money out of the deal.
    • Websites: http://wikipedia.org/ and http://citizendium.org/
  • Website of the Week: Adobe Photoshop Express
    • Web address: https://www.photoshop.com/express
    • Free photo edited website from Adobe
    • Upload up to 2 GB of pictures for processing and storing
    • Great option for those on a budget
    • Adobe hopes to up sell from this site
  • Blu-Ray Encryption Defeated
    • Slysoft has defeated Bly-Ray BD+ according to Peer van Heuen
    • Slysoft is a small software company in Antigua (West Indies), Caribbean
    • Web address: http://www.slysoft.com/
    • Software name: AnyDVD HD version 6.4.0.0
    • Price: 30 Euros (47 US dollars)
    • Can BD+ protection scheme be tightened up with new encryption keys?
    • Some DVD players may need a firmware upgrade to read BD+ encryption.
    • Van Heuen told Arstechnica that cracking updates will take significantly less time than the basic work we did the last 3 months (which was figuring out how BD+ works, since it is not documented in public)
    • BD+ copy protection that is layered on top of Blu-ray discs’ existing AACS copy protection. BD+ has been being rushed out to titles only shortly after the spec was finalized, partly in response to hackers cracking the protection on AACS (Advanced Access Content System) earlier this year.
    • Now you can make your own Blu-Ray backup copies without any problems.
  • And the Winner Is: Blu-ray DVD Format
    • Blu-ray was jointly developed by the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA), which includes: Apple, Dell, Hitachi, HP, JVC, LG, Mitsubishi, Panasonic, Pioneer, Philips, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, TDK and Thomson
    • The format offers more than five times the storage capacity of traditional DVDs and can hold up to 25GB on a single-layer disc and 50GB on a dual-layer disc.
    • While current optical disc technologies rely on a red laser to read and write data, the new format uses a blue-violet laser instead.
    • The benefit of using a blue-violet laser (405nm) is that it has a shorter wavelength than a red laser (650nm), which makes it possible to focus the laser spot with even greater precision.
    • This allows data to be packed more tightly and stored in less space.
    • Blu-ray is currently supported by more than 180 of the world’s leading consumer electronics, personal computer, recording media, video game and music companies.
    • The format also has broad support from the major movie studios as a successor to today’s DVD format.
      • Seven of the eight major movie studios (Disney, Fox, Warner, Paramount, Sony, Lionsgate and MGM) have released movies in the Blu-ray format.
      • Six of them (Disney, Fox, Sony, Warner, Lionsgate and MGM) are releasing their movies exclusively in the Blu-ray format.
    • Make certain that you Blu-ray DVD has been remastered.
  • Fruit Fly Flight Simulators Reveal Secrets of Decision Making
    • Using the simulator, Michael Dickinson, the Zarem Professor of Bioengineering at Caltechbhas discovered an algorithm that guides decision making during the flight of the common fruit fly.
    • The algorithm is basically a set of rules that determine how flies will behave when confronted with one of two simple stimuli: long vertical stripes or small spots.
    • The paper describing the work appeared in the March 25 issue of the journal Current Biology.
    • Their experiments were conducted on both free-flying flies and on flies tethered within a virtual-reality flight simulator.
    • In the flight simulator, flies could steer toward or away from images displayed on an electronic panorama.
    • "We can present the fly with different scenes and the fly reacts to them.
    • The experiment revealed that flies are attracted to, and will fly toward, the vertical line, but are repelled by the small spots.
    • One way to interpret this is that the fly’s brain is programmed to fly toward big vertical edges, because it evolved in a world where big vertical edges indicate vegetation.
    • A vertical edge could be something to eat, or it could be a landmark of something to land on.
    • Small blobs, however, could represent just about anything in a fly’s environment that it would not want to either land on, such as a falling leaf or a spider in a suspended web.
    • The results are significant, Dickinson says, because they represent "an important step toward understanding processes like decision making, which we think from our own perspective should be complicated, but which in the fly emerge from a simple set of principles."
  • Educational Website of the Week: Google Code University
    • Web Address: http://code.google.com/edu/
    • This website provides tutorials and sample course content so CS students and educators can learn more about current computing technologies and paradigms.
    • In particular, this content is Creative Commons licensed which makes it easy for CS educators to use in their own classes.
    • The Courses section contains tutorials, lecture slides, and problem sets for a variety of topic areas:
      • AJAX Programming
      • Distributed Systems
      • Web Security
      • Languages
    • In the Tools 101 section, you will find a set of introductions to some common tools used in Computer Science such as version control systems and databases.
    • The CS Curriculum Search will help you find teaching materials that have been published to the web by faculty from CS departments
  • MySpace Private Pictures Are Not Private
    • You can use MySpace image viewer to see any private pictures
    • Web Address: http://myspaceprivateprofile.com/
    • Enter Private User’s FriendID in the form.
    • Hit the submit button and all the private pics will appear
    • Moral of the story: Don’t post anything you want to remain private to the web!
  • Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1) Released
    • Microsoft has released the long-awaited first Windows Vista Service Pack, a wrap-up of incremental updates that apparently cripples certain vendors’ software.
    • SP1 tackles reliability and performance, adds support for new hardware and wraps in earlier updates for compatibility with third party software.
    • Microsoft claims more than 2,000 applications are now "certified for" or "work with" Windows Vista.
    • The only problem? A number of security products won’t start up or run on updated desktops thanks to "compatibility problems".
    • Among those affected are BitDefender AV or Internet Security, Fujitsu Shock Sensor and Zone Alarm Security Suite. Meanwhile, other products will experience "loss of functionality" once you’ve installed SP1.
    • Microsoft has also introduced a number of security changes to Windows Vista, including updates to BitLocker drive encryption.
    • And SP1 is "aligned" with Windows Server 2008, the two operating systems sharing common files in Internet Information Services and concurrent user support.
    • Early reviews of SP1 is that it does not speed up Vista. Vista’s speed problems are architectural and cannot be solved with patches.
    • Vista is Linux’s best salesman at this time.
  • Obama Rewriting Internet Fund-raising Rules
    • While past campaigns have relied largely on support from small circles of wealthy and well-connected patrons, Obama has received contributions from more than 1 million donors.
    • He raised $91 million in the first two months of 2008 alone, most of it in small amounts over the Internet.
    • It is the result of an elaborate marketing effort that has left Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, his rival for the Democratic nomination, and Sen. John McCain, the presumed Republican nominee, struggling to catch up.
    • Obama aides say their goal has been to "build an online relationship" with supporters who will not only give money but also knock on doors and help register voters for the candidate.
    • They have spent heavily on Internet ads — $2.6 million in February alone, more than 10 times as much as Clinton and more than 20 times as much as McCain.
      • Ads for Obama pop up on political Web sites, such as the left-leaning blog Daily Kos, and on more general ones, such as those of newspapers.
      • The Dallas Morning News in the weeks before the Texas primary had an Obama appeal stretched along one edge of the screen.
      • The campaign bought search terms, such as "Iowa caucus locations" or "Ohio primary," on Yahoo, Google and Microsoft search engines.
      • Obama has targeted unlikely sites, such as the Washington Times.
    • But a click on the ad did not lead to a request for donations; instead, it took users to a page where they could sign up for invitations to campaign events or provide an email address.
    • The email campaign included opportunities to participate in events, videos of Obama speeches, and occasionally asked for funds.
    • This approach of not directly asking for donations has been part of the strategy.
  • Open Office Update Released
    • Website address: http://openoffice.org/
    • OpenOffice.org has released the latest edition of its open source productivity suite.
    • The latest refinements to further close the gap on Microsoft and enable migration from MS Office.
    • The OpenOffice.org 2.4 database, Base, now supports MS-Access 2007, while capabilities for MySQL, Oracle JDBC and native HSQL databases have been improved.
    • PDF handling has been improved with five export options, and Writer has been rounded out with improved "find and replace", new keyboard short cuts, and the ability to set options for printing hidden or place-holder text and for following hyperlinks.
    • There are also improvements to Chart and Draw feature, and the Impress presentation package includes 3D transition effects.
    • The next release 3.0 is set for September. This will add the ability to import PDFs as well as support for Microsoft Office 2007 file formats and Open Document Format (ODF) 1.2.
    • Linux and Open Office are looking better each year.
  • Weather Engineering in China for Olympics
    • To prevent rain over the roofless 91,000-seat Olympic stadium that Beijing natives have nicknamed the Bird’s Nest, the city’s branch of the national Weather Modification Office has prepared a three-stage program for the 2008 Olympics this August.
      • First, Beijing’s Weather Modification Office will track the region’s weather via satellites, planes, radar, and an IBM p575 supercomputer, purchased from IBM . It models an area of 44,000 square kilometers (17,000 square miles) to generate hourly forecasts for each kilometer.
      • Second, using their two aircraft and an array of twenty artillery and rocket-launch sites around Beijing, the city will shoot and spray silver iodide and dry ice into incoming clouds.
      • Third, any rain-heavy clouds that near the Bird’s Nest will be seeded with chemicals to shrink droplets so that rain won’t fall until those clouds have passed over. They will use a coolant made from liquid nitrogen to increase the number of droplets while decreasing their average size.
    • China’s national weather-engineering program is also the world’s largest, with approximately 1,500 weather modification professionals directing 30 aircraft and their crews, as well as 37,000 part-time workers–mostly peasant farmers–who are on call to blast away at clouds with 7,113 anti-aircraft guns and 4,991 rocket launchers.