Show of 8-23-2008

  • Email and Forum Questions
    • Email from Ellen: My husband wants to reformat his computer, because of a virus. He wants to save certain files, and wants to know the best way to save those files. Ellen.
    • Tech Talk Answers: If you want to be totally, absolutely sure you don’t miss something important, then you want to take a complete backup image of your computer. Use a backup program like Acronis TrueImage or an equivalent, and backup your entire machine, most likely to an external hard disk. This is good practice anyway.
    • If you know exactly which files you need to save, your options are actually fairly simple:
      • Copy the file(s) to floppy disks
      • Copy the file(s) to a USB flash drive
      • Copy the file(s) to an external hard disk
      • Copy (or "burn") the file(s) to a CD or DVD
      • Copy the file(s) to another machine on your local area network
    • You simply need to copy those files to some other place so that you can copy them back after your machine has been reformatted.
  • Profiles in IT: Carver Mead and Lynn Conway
    • Mead and Conway were responsible for the Mead-Conway revolution which stands for the VLSI design revolution on chip design and manufacturing on the the way that electronic chip design could be taught.
    • Carver Andress Mead was born May 1, 1934 in Bakersfield, CA.
    • Mead received his BSEE in 1956, MSEE in 1957, and PhD in 1960 from Caltech.
    • He used a physics-based analysis to predict a lower limit to transistor size.
      • His predictions, along with the notions of scalability that came with them, were instrumental in setting the industry on its path toward submicron technology.
      • He was the first to predict millions of transistors on a chip.
      • Mead is credited by Gordon Moore of coining the term Moore’s Law.
      • He developed the first techniques for designing big, complex microchips and taught the world’s first VLSI design course.
      • He created the first software compilation of a silicon chip.
      • Carver Mead and Lynn Conway co-wrote the landmark text Introduction to VLSI Systems in 1980.
    • He built the first high speed GaAs MESFET, a device that is a key component in wireless electronics.
    • He teamed with John Hopfield and Richard Feynman to study brain computation.
      • Carver created the first neurally inspired chips, including the silicon retina and chips that learn from experience.
      • His 1989 textbook, Analog VLSI and Neural Systems, codified the field of artificial neural systems in silicon.
    • Mead retired from Caltech in 1999 and is now Moore Professor emeritus.
    • Lynn Conway was born in 1938 in White Planes, NY.
    • Conway received a BS in 1962 and MSEE in 1963 from Columbia University.
    • Conway at IBM in the 1960s and is credited with the invention of generalized dynamic instruction handling, used by modern computers to improve performance.
    • Conway joined Xerox PARC in 1973, where she led the LSI Systems group.
    • Collaborating with Carver Mead of Caltech on VLSI design methodology, she co-authored Introduction to VLSI Systems.
    • Conway invented of dimensionless, scalable design rules that greatly simplified chip design and design tools.
      • In 1981, Conway developed an infrastructure for rapid-prototyping and fabrication of chip designs called MOSIS (Metal Oxide Semiconductor Implementation Service), which has now produced over 50,000 circuit design.
      • The VLSI textbook, along with MOSIS, were responsible for the wave of chip design innovations during the 1980’s and 90’s, especially out in Silicon Valley.
    • In the early 80s, Conway left Xerox to join DARPA’s Strategic Computing Initiative.
    • Conway joined the University of Michigan in 1985 as professor and Associate Dean of engineering. She retired from active teaching and research in 1998.
  • More about the Mead-Conway Revolution
    • Before the Web, the Internet had been chugging along for years.
    • But it took the World Wide Web, and its systems and standards, to help the Internet burst into our collective consciousness.
    • The Mead-Conway approach had the same effect on chip design.
    • Before Lynn Conway and Carver Mead’s work on chip design, the field was progressing, albeit slowly.
    • "By the mid-1970s, digital system designers eager to create higher-performance devices were frustrated by having to use off-the-shelf large-scale-integration logic.
    • The situation at the time stymied designers’ efforts "to make chips sufficiently compact or cost-effective to turn their very large-scale visions into timely realities."
    • Conway and Mead introduced very large-scale integration (VLSI) methods for combining tens of thousands of transistor circuits on a single chip.
    • And after Mead and Conway’s 1980 textbook Introduction to VLSI Design — and its subsequent storm through the nation’s universities — engineers outside the big semiconductor companies could pump out bigger and better digital chip designs, and do it faster than ever.
    • Their textbook became the bible of chip designers for decades, selling over 70,000 copies.
    • They distilled simple methods that opened up a creative area of electronic design that hadn’t been accessible to computer engineers outside of a handful of companies.
  • How Obama Really Did It
    • The importance of social networking was seen on Super Tuesday II, the March 4th primaries in Texas, Ohio, Vermont, and Rhode Island.
    • In Texas, Democrats vote first at the polls and then, if they choose, again at caucuses after the polls close. The caucuses award one-third of the Democratic delegates.
    • It takes organizational structure to get the caucus vote out.
      • Hillary Clinton’s camp had about 20,000 volunteers at work in Texas.
      • 104,000 Texans had joined MyBo: http://my.barackobama.com/.
      • Clinton won the Texas primary vote 51 to 47 percent.
      • But Obama’s people, following MyBO, so overwhelmed the caucuses that he scored an overall victory in the Texas delegate count, 99 to 94.
    • The Obama team put such online technologies at the center of its campaign.
      • They recruiting 24-year-old Chris Hughes, cofounder of Facebook.
      • They hired Blue State Digital to create the tools.
      • Blue State Digital was founded by the alumni of the Dean campaign. Obama and DNC are its two primary customers.
      • The MyBO tools are rebuilt and consolidated versions of those created for the Dean campaign: text messaging, phone tools, Web capacity.
    • Blue State Digital had nine days to add its tools to Obama’s site before the senator announced his candidacy on February 10, 2007, in Springfield, IL.
    • By July 2008, the campaign had raised more than $200 million and MyBO had more than a million users and facilitated 75,000 local events.
    • MyBO also made giving money a social event: supporters could set personal targets, run their own fund-raising efforts, and watch personal fund-raising thermometers rise.
    • The campaign sought to make Obama a ubiquitous on the Web.
      • Obama was prominent on Facebook and MySpace.
      • The YouTube posting of Obama’s March 18 speech on race was viewed by four million.
      • The campaign even used the micro-blogging service Twitter, garnering about 50,000 Obama "followers" who track his short posts.
    • At Obama rallies, speakers frequently asked attendees to text their contact info.
    • The obvious next step for MyBO is to serve as a get-out-the-vote engine in November.
  • VP Announcement via Text Message
    • There are several interesting things about the Obama campaign’s decision to text-message his VP announcement directly to his supporters.
    • It makes the choice more exciting. It reinforces a direct connection with his most passionate followers.
    • It creates an enormous list of mobile-phone numbers that the campaign will doubtless use in its get-out-the-vote efforts in November.
    • The most interesting effect, though, is the way it cuts out mainstream news outlets.
    • By harnessing social networks to distribute the news, the Obama campaign ensures that many people will be getting it from a trusted contact who is also an Obama supporter.
    • Distribution over social networks will also undercut the ability of traditional news outlets to provide context with their content.
  • Website of the Week: Plus Magazine
    • Web Address: http://plus.maths.org/
    • Plus is an internet magazine which aims to introduce readers to the beauty and the practical applications of mathematics.
    • A lot of people don’t have a very clear idea what "real" math consists of, and often they don’t realize how many things they take for granted only work because of math.
    • Some people even have the idea that it’s boring! Weird.
    • The current issue includes:
      • Understanding uncertainty: The math of surprises
      • Saving lives: the mathematics of tomography
      • The nature of Infinity. Are all infinities the same?
      • Math in the movies
      • Catching primes
      • Teacher Package: Vector and matrices
      • Plus the regular puzzle
    • This magazine makes math fun and interesting
  • Microsoft’s New Marketing Effort
    • Those Apple "Get a Mac" ads have long been an annoyance to Microsoft and to Bill Gates in particular.
    • No surprise as Apple, emboldened by rising market share, continues to ratchet up the venom with quips like, "fear of switching is the foundation of customer loyalty for PCs," found in its latest TV ad. Now Microsoft is fighting back.
    • Microsoft’s new $300 million campaign (one of Redmond’s largest ever) is set to launch with a $10 million assist from "key celebrity pitchman" Jerry Seinfeld.
    • Bill Gates will appear as well — the once maligned, rich corporate nerd turned adorable, rich humanitarian nerd.
    • The campaign is said to be based on the idea of "Windows, Not Walls," stressing the need to "break down barriers that prevent people and ideas from connecting."
    • The immediate goal of the campaign is to reverse the negative public perception of Vista and thus incorporates elements of the Mojave Experiment.
    • While we have doubts about the latter, the combination of Seinfeld’s pithy observations with a bit of that Bill Gates, self deprecating humor seen in "Bill’s Last Day" could be a winning combination.
    • The campaign is said to debut on September 4th.
  • Importance of Gmail SSL Feature
    • Gmail recently added the SSL feature to encrypt all communication.
    • It is important to use this feature particularly if you access the Internet via Wi-Fi.
    • You can tell if the connection is SSL by looking at web address beginning: https://
    • Mike Perry, a reverse engineer from San Francisco, announced his intention to release his Gmail Account Hacking Tool to the public.
    • Before Gmail released the ability to automatically encrypt your Gmail connections, all communication after login was unencrypted. You simply had to prove that you were logged in by providing unencrypted authentication.
    • This authentication information could be intercepted easily on a public Wi-Fi.
    • All it takes to steal someone’s Gmail login account is to intercept any transaction since every one pass a cookie which contains the session information.
    • Spoof the session, and you get free reign to the account ? including the ability to change your password.
    • SSL is expensive. It takes a lot of bandwidth and time on both the receiver and transmitter sides to generate keys and encrypt data.
    • There are many sites around the internet that are still vulnerable to this exploit.
    • Go you your Gmail account and open setting.
    • Go to the last entry Browser connection and select Always use https
  • Pandora Making Last Stand
    • Pandora is one of the most popular Web radio services, with 1 million listeners daily.
    • It web address is: http://www.pandora.com/
    • Its Music Genome Project allows customers to create stations tailored to their tastes.
    • It is one of the 10 most popular applications for Apple’s iPhone.
    • Yet the company may be on the verge of collapse because of increased royalties.
    • Last year, a Federal panel ordered a doubling of the per-song performance royalty that Web radio stations pay to performers and record companies.
    • Traditional radio, by contrast, pays no such fee. Satellite radio pays a fee but at a lower rate.
    • As for Pandora, its royalty fees this year will amount to 70 percent of its projected revenue of $25 million.
    • This week, Rep. Howard L. Berman is trying to broker a last-minute deal between webcasters and SoundExchange.
    • "Most of the rate issues have not been resolved," Berman said. "If it doesn’t get much more dramatic quickly, I will extricate myself from the process."
    • Pandora’s technology allows listeners to create their own stations, through which hundreds of thousands of song are played simultaneously.
    • Soon after its launch, Pandora drew raves and listeners.
    • Traditional radio pays nothing in performance royalties.Satellite radio pays 6 or 7 percent of revenue. And then there are webcasters, which pay per song, per listener.
  • Commercial CD Turns 26 and It Still Won’t Die
    • On Aug. 17th, 1982, the Compact Disc was born.
    • It was originally designed to play 60 minutes of audio. Sony extended it to 74 minutes to accommodate Beethoven’s 9th Symphony
    • The technology invented by James Russell in the 60s (Profiles in IT, Dec 29, 2007)
    • It would be well over a decade later before affordable CD-Rs would arrive. Since then everything from music, to photos, to video, to recipes have been stored on CD.
    • Remember when AOL used to spew out those CDs to pimp their dialup service? Many used them as coasters for coffee cups.
  • Food Science: Potatoes
    • There are many different types of potatoes, and each has a best cooking method.
    • Potatoes are all about starch and water; the cooking method controls the reaction between the two.
    • As a high-starch potato is baked, the starch inside the potato absorbs water from other parts of the potato and swells, making a space between cells, creating a mealy, dry texture.
    • When a potato is deep fried, pan fried, or roasted, the starch on the surface expands, sealing the edges and the surface, creating a crisp crust and keeping the interior moist.
    • Boiling, or low starch potatoes, do not absorb as much water, so the cell structure stays intact, and the potato holds its shape.
    • Potato Types
      • Russet potatoes have a high starch content with low moisture. These potatoes bake mealy and fluffy, and are the best choice for mashed potatoes and baked potatoes.
      • Medium starch potatoes include Yukon Gold and Yellow Finn potatoes. They aren’t as fluffy as russet potatoes, but have great flavor. Yukon Gold potatoes, especially, taste buttery when cooked.
      • Potatoes with a low starch content and high moisture include red and white potatoes. These potatoes are most often boiled or roasted and used in potato salad because of their creamy texture. They hold together well after being cooked.
      • Sweet Potatoes and Yams are actually two different tubers. Yams are a member of the lily family, and sweet potatoes are members of the morning glory family. In the United States, you’re almost always buying sweet potatoes; true yams are not very available.