Show of 11-1-2008

  • Email and Forum Questions
    • Email from Jason: Dear Tech Talk, I just found your show on WFED and am enjoying it. Is there a way to listen to some of the previous shows, particularly the Profiles in IT. Thanks. Jason
    • Tech Talk Answers: Just go to http://www.techtalkonline.com. All of the shows are archived. You can also subscribe to the podcast and get all the shows for the past year downloaded directly to your computer, if you wish.
    • Email from Robert: Dear Dr. Shurtz, I need to take a trip to Europe and want to use my cell phone what do you recommend? Robert
    • Tech Talk Answers: Robert, Europe use the GSM Cell Phone standard. In the US, we have both GSM and CDMA. CDMA was developed in the US by Qualcomm and is the dominant standard. GSM is the dominant standard in Europe and worldwide. You will need a tri-band or quad-band GSM phone. You can get a SIMM card in the country you are travelling to for low cost calls. Or you can just pay roaming charges and use your US SIMM car.
  • Profiles in IT: Elon Musk
    • Elon Musk is the principle co-founder of PayPal, the online payment system now owned by eBay.
    • Elon Musk was born June 28, 1971 in South Africa.
    • His father inspired his love of technology and Musk bought his first computer at age 10 and taught himself how to program.
    • By the age of 12 he sold his first commercial software, a space game called Blaster.
    • After graduating from Pretoria Boys High School he left home in 1988 at the age of 17, without his parents’ support.
    • He first enrolled in Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.
    • He received a scholarship to the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
    • He earned bachelors degrees from Wharton in economics (1994) and physics (1995).
    • In 1995, Musk went on to a graduate program in high energy physics at Stanford, in which he stayed exactly two days before dropping out to start Zip2.
    • In 1999, Compaq’s AltaVista division acquired Zip2 for US$307 million in cash and US$34 million in stock options.
    • In March 1999, Musk co-founded X.com, an online financial services and email payments company.
    • One year later, X.com acquired Confinity, which had been founded in December 1998 by Max Levchin, Peter Thiel, and Luke Nosek, initially as a Palm Pilot payments and cryptography company.
    • The combined entity focused on email payments through the PayPal domain.
    • The initial key personnel were from Stanford (Stanford Review alums) and University of Illinois where Mosaic had been developed.
    • In February 2001, X.com changed its legal name to PayPal.
    • In October 2002, PayPal was acquired by eBay for US$1.5 billion in stock.
    • The book the PayPal Wars describes the competition and conflict between the principles of X.com and Confinity. It is a story driven by the flow of VC money.
    • Before its sale, Musk, the company’s largest shareholder, owned 11.7% of PayPal’s shares.
    • In June 2002, Musk founded his third company, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), of which he is currently the CEO and CTO.
    • SpaceX develops and manufactures space launch vehicles, with an emphasis on low cost and high reliability.
    • The company’s first two launch vehicles are the Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 rockets.
    • In addition to his business activities in entrepreneurial space, Musk is the principal owner and CEO of Tesla Motors, which builds a high-end luxury electric vehicle.
    • He is also the primary investor and Chairman of the Board of SolarCity, a photovoltaic products and services startup company.
    • Musk lives in Bel-Air, California, with his wife, the author Justine Musk, their five sons and three dogs.
  • Technology and Politics
    • The torch has been passed.
    • Social networking and Web 2.0 has dominated this year’s Presidential election.
    • Old school candidates (Hillary Clinton, John McCain) could not survive.
    • It is a new way of doing business.
    • Very natural to young, yet hard to accept by the old.
  • Impact of Technology on Politics
    • Observations of Jascha Franklin-Hodge, CTO and co-founder of Blue State Digital.
    • Blue State Digital was formed out of Jascha’s experience helping Howard Dean’s run for the White House in 2004.
    • It is the technology and strategic services company powering the Barack Obama campaign
    • Regardless of whether Obama or McCain wins in November, every 2012 political campaign, will be as sophisticated as Obama is today.
      • The standard has been set.
      • Even the laggards will be onboard with the latest technology by 2012.
    • Online U.S. political communities will move into a governing role.
      • Any campaign with that much momentum won’t be able to stop community participation at the White House door or the Capitol steps.
      • Online communities will follow politicians into their governing roles.
      • This summer when MyBarackObama experienced the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) revolt within his own community this became clear.
      • Powerful communities may come to dominate the agenda of incumbent politicians providing feedback, direction and policy input.
    • Microcampaigns and Swarm Politics will dominate campaign organization
      • Rather than one centrally governed behemoth, MyBO is enabling a thousand small campaigns to flourish.
      • MyBO puts the tools into the hands of anyone that wants to get active; from having your own blog, downloading voter lists to make calls with ?Neighbor to Neighbor? or having your own fundraising dashboard to mark your progress.
      • This kind of swarm politics has generated enormous amounts of energy (and money) from ordinary citizens.
      • Obama is helping them run thousands and thousands of little local campaigns that roll up to a central set of issues or candidate or goal.
    • Technology (infrastructure and know-how) will become a necessary core competence in all U.S. political campaigns.
      • Campaigns traditionally mirror movie productions brought together for a short burst of activity and then disappearing once the final scene is shot.
      • This results in an enormous loss of knowledge and skills that need to be relearned once the next campaign begins.
      • Campaigns that maintain or are able to tap into a continuity of software, infrastructure and human capital will have serious advantage.
      • Blue State Digital was conceived to fill that gap on the Democratic side of the aisle
    • Open Data and transparent government.
      • Open data in government to allow citizens to hack and remix at will.
      • When lobbyist data, earmark data etc. is available in standard formats it will be a great leap forward for more transparency in government.
      • Politicians will have their shifting position reveals on YouTube videos.
      • Better information in the hands of the citizens should lead to better governance.
  • E-Voting Screen Calibration Problems Found In Early Voting in WV
    • The GAO had warned that there would be some pretty massive e-voting problems this year, as election officials were not properly trained on the already problematic machines.
    • In West Virginia, the "early voting" procedures have resulted in numerous complaints that the e-voting machines selected the wrong candidate.
    • The scenario is depressingly similar to the one that The Simpsons predicted, where the voter selects one name, and the other one shows up as highlighted.
    • Poll workers told them to just keep clicking until the right one was chosen, and noted that the machines have "just been doing that."
    • Officials claimed that these "were isolated cases and that poll workers fixed the problems so the correct vote was cast."
    • "There are no problems with the machines as recalibrated. Touch-screen voting in West Virginia is accurate and secure."
    • Vote flipping due to calibration problems was also found in Texas and Tennessee.
    • The machines are supplied by ES&S whose machines.
  • Princeton Report: Voting Machines Vulnerable to Hacking
    • http://citp.princeton.edu/voting/advantage/advantage-insecurities-redacted.pdf
    • This week a report has been released by Princeton University and other groups that sharply criticizes the e-voting machines used in New Jersey and elsewhere as unreliable and potentially prone to hacking.
    • The 158-page report, which was ordered by a New Jersey judge as part of an ongoing four-year legal fight over the machines, says the e-voting machines can be "easily hacked" in about seven minutes by anyone with basic computer knowledge.
    • Such hacking activity could enable fraudulent firmware to steal votes from one candidate and give them to another, the report said.
    • The controversy involves the Sequoia AVC Advantage 9.00H direct-recording electronic (DRE) touch-screen voting machines made by Oakland, Calif.-based Sequoia Voting Systems.
    • The AVC machines can be hacked by installing fraudulent software contained in a replacement chip that can be installed on the main circuit board, according to the report. Such a part replacement is very difficult to detect, it noted.
    • Andrew Appel, a Princeton University computer science professor who is one of the authors of the report, said that such security vulnerabilities cause doubts about the accuracy and reliability of the machines.
    • The plaintiffs, a group of public interest organizations, argue in their lawsuit against the state of New Jersey that the machines should be discarded because they can’t meet state election law requirements for security and accuracy. State officials who back the machines argue that the machines are adequate for the job.
    • The lawsuit is expected to go to trial in January, but in the meantime, the court allowed the Princeton report to be released to the public.
    • The report gives details on how the machines could be manipulated by someone who wanted to change the results of the election, and it strongly criticizes the designs and security of the devices.
    • Conclusions of Report
      • AVD Advantage 9 is easily ?hacked? by installation of fraudulent firmware by just replacing one ROM chip.
      • AVC Advantage Results Cartridges can be easily manipulated to change votes, after the polls are closed but before results are cumulated together
      • Audio cassette in Audio Kit for disabled voters can introduce vote stealing virus.
      • Software has not been independently verified. Version control in not adequate.
      • There is no way to safely count votes with computer tally alone.
      • Some type of voter verified paper ballot is required for audit purposes.
      • Optical Scanning is deemed to be the best option for electronic vote counting.
  • Product of the Week: Spykee, the Spy Robot
    • Spykee is the latest toy robot to hit the market, with some innovative features
    • Spy robot. Spykee can be controlled within your home network using a WiFi connection. Just install some software on your PC or Mac and you can remotely send commands to Spykee. The video and sound from Spykee’s webcam are transmitted to your computer.
    • Telepresence. Because Spykee has a WiFi connection it can easily connect to the Internet. This opens up many new possibilities for the robot, such as remotely controlling your robot from any place in the world via Internet.
    • Digital music player. Spykee has a 2W loudspeaker. So just send MP3 music to Spykee and you can enjoy your music.
    • VOIP phone. Use the Spykee robot together with Skype, MSN or GoogleTalk to talk with your friends! Because Spykee is mobile, you can now talk with your friend from any place in your house.
    • Video surveillance. Spykee can be programmed to send you an email whenever it sees things that are suspicious. Your robot will now guard your room!
    • Infrared auto-park recharging. Mobile robots have a limited time to operate due to their batteries. Spykee is a smart robot that will automatically recharge itself when its batteries are low.
    • Spykee stands at about one foot tall.
    • Spykee is made by Meccano, and is also known as the Erector Spykee in the US
    • Website: http://www.spykeeworld.com/
  • Cell Phone Users Having Major Impact on Political Polls
    • Pollsters are now taking the cell phone effect into account when conducting surveys.
    • When measuring the presidential race, cell phone-friendly pollsters have found in several cases that the inclusion of cell phone users has swayed results in Sen. Barack Obama’s direction by as much as 2.8 points.
  • GPS Eases Parents’ Halloween Fears
    • High technology is poised to meet Halloween costumes.
    • GPS-tracking phone to go trick-or-treating.
    • Sprint and Verizon both offer services in which a child or family member can be tracked from the Internet or compatible phone.
  • Google Using Guinea Pig Brain Waves to Proves Video Ads Compelling
    • As part of its increasingly attempt to actually make some money from YouTube, Google is reading the brainwaves of human guinea pigs in an effort to judge the effectiveness of video ads.
    • Google has teamed with an outfit dubbed NeuroFocus to measure the impact of video overlay ads on brain activity, eye movement, and, um, skin response.
    • NeuroFocus bills itself as a company that applies "the latest advances in neuroscience to the world of advertising and messaging."
    • In any event, Google’s brain-scan-fueled video ad conclusions are just what you’d expect from the world’s largest ad broker. In announcing quarterly earning this summer, co-founder Sergey Brin dubbed Google’s search ads "a very important source of information."
    • On the video side, the company is having some trouble convincing old school Madison Avenue types that YouTube ads are worthwhile.
    • If you paid $1.65bn for a website no one wanted to advertise on, you’d be tossing brainwave nonsense too.
  • Five reasons why Windows Vista failed
    • IT departments are largely ignoring Vista.
    • Microsoft appears to have put Windows 7 on an accelerated schedule that could see it released in 2010.
      • Apple successfully demonized Vista
      • Windows XP is too entrenched
      • Vista is too slow
      • There wasn’t supposed to be a Vista (only an annual software subscriptions)
      • Vista broke too many programs
  • Food Science: Fudge
    • There’s a lot of physical chemistry involved in making old fashioned fudge.
    • The recipe calls for combining and boiling milk, bitter chocolate or cocoa, and sugar together until the temperature of the syrup reaches 238 degrees F , pouring the mixture into a bowl, cooling to 115 degrees F, and then beating until the surface shine disappears.
    • If you don’t follow the cautions in the recipe, you are very likely to wind up with a coarse, gritty mass instead of creamy fudge.
    • Sugar dissolves far less readily in cold liquids than in hot. Heating the sugar and milk mixture allows the milk to dissolve more and more sugar, and by the time the mixture is boiling, all the sugar is dissolved. The higher the temperature, the more concentrated the saturated solution becomes.
    • Water (and milk) boil at 212 degrees F (100 degrees C) at sea level, but the sugar changes that. In fudge, the rise in boiling temperature is an exact function of the amount of sugar in the solution. Consequently, we can use the temperature of the boiling syrup to tell when enough water has boiled away to give the syrup the right ratio of sugar to water. For fudge and similar creamy candies, the syrup should boil at a temperature 238 (26 degrees F hotter than the boiling point of plain water).
    • The syrup cools as a supersaturated solution. The solid phase — in this case, sugar — cannot start to crystallize without something to serve as a pattern, or nucleus. However, if a single sugar crystal is present, the syrup will start to crystallize.
    • This is why most fudge recipes require that the sides of the pot be washed down early in the cooking process.
    • As the cooling syrup gets more and more supersaturated, its tendency to crystallize becomes even stronger. Even a speck of dust can start the process.
    • Using more than one kind of sugar can counter this tendency. Most fudge recipes contain either corn syrup (which contains glucose instead of the sucrose of table sugar).
    • The final stage is stirring the syrup when it is lukewarm to promote crystallization all at once throughout the candy. The result is the proper creamy texture of fudge and the change in appearance from shiny (super cooled liquid) to dull (a mass of very tiny crystals).