Show of 12-6-2008

  • Email and Forum Questions
    • Email from John: I need to buy a laptop for my daughter. How should I proceed? John
    • Tech Talk Answers: You need to determine her requirements. Yours are, of course, homework and that does not require much computing capacity. Her requirements may be substantial: gaming (lots of video memory), music (good speakers), graphic design (big screen), and watching movies (wide screen), carrying to class (light weight), working outside (long battery life). I would go for a dual-core AMD processor, 2G RAM, 160GB hard drive, Wi-Fi. Integrated graphics are probably not going to meet gaming requirements. You can get a minimal configuration for less than $500. If you want extremely light weight you will either have to go for a very small screen or be prepared to pay around $1000. Asus, Acer, HP, Lenovo have good deals. Apple MacBook is on the expensive site.
  • Profiles in IT: Seymour Ivan Rubenstein
    • Seymour Ivan Rubinstein was founder of MicroPro, the company which developed WordStar, the first word processor
    • WordStar was the first successful program for the personal computer.
    • Seymour Ivan Rubinstein was born in 1934 in Brooklyn , NY
    • During his teenage years, Rubinstein was a television repairman. After his military service he became a technical writer and continued his undergraduate studies at night.
    • In 1964, he helped design and implement a classified system for identifying unknown vessels at sea by their sound fingerprint.
    • He moved to New Hampshire to be put in charge of the computer software development for a line of IBM compatible programmable CRT terminals.
    • In the mid-70s he moved to IMS Associates Inc (IMSAI) as Director of Marketing.
    • IMSAI made a computer based on the 8080 CPU and that ran Digital Research’s CP/M (Control Program for Microcomputers) operating system.
    • Seymour Rubenstein first started developing an early version of a word processor for the IMSAI 8080 computer when he was at IMSAI.
    • He left to start MicroPro International Inc. in 1978 with only $8,500 in cash.
    • Rubinstein hired John Robbins Barnaby, a programmer he met IMSAI. Barnaby had written a screen editor called NED. Rubinstein had Barnaby totally rewrite NED into a new product called WordMaster.
    • MicroPro was officially launched in September, 1978 using Barnaby’s programs, WordMaster and SuperSort.
    • Rubinstein developed the specifications for Wordstar including many innovations unavailable in commercial word processing at the time, such as page breaks, word wrap, print function, integrated help, a keyboard design specifically for touch typists, and mail merge.
    • Barnaby did all the initial coding for CP/M operating system.
    • In mid-1979 was born the WordStar word processor.
    • A year and a half later, several IMSAI employees joined Rubinstein at MicroPro.
    • The 3.0 version of WordStar for DOS was released in 1982. WordStar had been ported to MS-DOS by Jim Fox, Barnaby’s assistant.
    • Barnaby left MicroPro in shortly thereafer
    • Within three years, WordStar was the most popular word processing software.
    • From 1978 to 1984, sales jumped from $100,000 to $70 million. WordStar, CalcStar and DataStar (first office suite) were ported to CP/M86 and PC/MS-DOS.
    • In 1984 MicroPro’s sales were booming, so the company decided to go public. However, two months before the public offering, Rubinstein suffered a heart attack.
    • MicroPro eventually became WordStar International. Rubinstein ceased to have direct control over the company 1986. He had signed away voting rights in the 1984 IPO.
    • WordStar was slow to innovate and was late getting into the windows market.
    • By the late 1980s, programs like WordPerfect knocked WordStar out of the word processing market after the poor performance of WordStar 2000.
    • In 1987 Rubinstein became involved with a spreadsheet he called Surpass. This spreadsheet was later sold to Borland and renamed QuattroPro.
    • Bill Gates referred to Rubinstein as starting one of the first software companies.
  • AV-Comparatives Anti-Virus Software Evaluation
    • Web Address: http://www.av-comparatives.org/
    • AV-Comparatives, the Austrian team of experts dedicated to antivirus tests, has published their latest results
    • This test evaluated the anti-malware effectiveness against unknown threats, in a test that was designed to test the heuristic part and the generic markers of on-demand scanning engines.
    • These results were added to previous tests against known threats.
    • The top 16 antivirus software programs were tested.
    • The test evaluated both detection and false alarm rates.
    • The results are summarized below
      • Advanced Plus: ESET NOD32.
      • Advanced: Kaspersky, Microsoft, Symantec, McAfee, GDATA.
      • Standard: TrustPort, BitDefender, AVG, Avast, Norman and VBA32.
      • No Certification: Sophos, F-Secure and e-Scan have achieved no certification.
  • G8 President Threatens to Regulate the Internet
    • Italian president and media baron Silvio Berlusconi said today that he would use his country’s presidency of the G8 group to regulate the internet.
    • Berlusconi said: The G8 has as its task the regulation of financial markets… I think the next G8 can bring to the table a proposal for a regulation of the internet.
    • Berlusconi didn’t explain what he meant by regulate the internet.
    • The only countries in the world where there are filters or restrictions against internet are countries ruled by dictators: China , Iran , Cuba , Saudi Arabia.
    • Italian bloggers are planning to protest against any move by the president to tighten control over the web by displaying anti-Berlusconi banners on their websites.
    • Berlusconi has often been accused of using his power to try to silence dissent. He lost a long-running libel battle against The Economist earlier this year after it said he was not "fit to run Italy" and was this week suing critic Andrew Stille for defamation.
    • The UK has introduced new laws and revived arcane ones to clamp down on extremist websites and pornography. Australia is implementing filters.
  • Fujitsu’s Laptop For Life Program
    • Fujitsu’s Laptop4Life program gives you a new laptop every 3 years
    • As part of Fujitsu’s Laptop4Life scheme, customers will receive a new laptop every three years until they die. Image credit: Fujitsu.
    • Buy any LifeBook laptop from Fujitsu Siemens, and the company will provide you with a new laptop every three years until you die.
    • The only requirements are that you need to buy a three-year extended warranty, you can only upgrade using Fujitsu parts, and you must turn in your laptop in good condition with the original receipt after three years.
    • As part of the scheme, Fujitsu will give LifeBook customers a new laptop of the same value as the one they originally bought, plus 10% to cover inflation. Most importantly, the new laptop will be equipped with updated hardware and software.
    • To participate, customers must register their new laptop within 21 days of purchase. Then, customers are part of the program for life, but they cannot pass on the deal in a will. Fujitsu is also limiting purchases to 10 laptops per person or business.
    • Fujitsu says that it will make money by selling other goods, services, and accessories to its lifetime customers.
    • Tech Talk cannot find reference to program on the Fujitsu website.
  • Kogan Agora Pro is the Next Android Handset
    • The Kogan Agora Pro is the latest Android handset and is available for international pre-order.
    • The phone has a 2.5-inch resistive touch screen, QWERTY keyboard, 3G and GPS for $399 Australian ($255 US)
    • Kogan claims they spent a lot of time listening to direct feedback from consumers on what features they wanted most, and what price point they were looking to purchase at, then Kogan filtered it down to the Agora.
    • The phone sells without a contract or carrier obligation and also features a 624 MHz processor, 128 MB RAM, Wi-Fi, 2 MP camera and 400 minutes of speak time.
    • A version lacking the camera, wi-fi and GPS for $299 Australian ($191 US).
    • Agora will begin shipping on January 29.
  • Hackers Hijacked Large E-Bill Payment Site
    • Hackers on Tuesday hijacked the Web site CheckFree.com, one of the largest online bill payment companies, redirecting an unknown number of visitors to a Web address that tried to install malicious software on visitors’ computers.
    • The attack began in the early morning hours of December 2 and ended at 5 AM the same day when Checkfree regained control of the site.
    • Checkfree’s home page and the customer login page were redirected to a server in the Ukraine .
    • Users who visited the sites during the attack would have been redirected to a blank page that tried to install malware.
    • Trend Micro’s analysis of the malware indicates that it is a new strain of Trojan horse program designed to steal user names and passwords.
    • It appears hackers were able to hijack the company’s Web sites by stealing the user name and password needed to make account changes at the Web site of Network Solutions, CheckFree’s domain registrar.
    • Someone got access to CheckFree’s account credentials and was able to log in.
    • Many have questioned Network Solutions refusal to lock domain name information without independent confirmation.
  • Nanotechnology Update: Self-powered Devices
    • Imagine a self-powering cell phone that never needs to be charged because it converts sound waves produced by the user into the energy it needs to keep running.
    • Key to this technology are piezoelectric materials. Derived from the Greek word "piezein," which means "to press," piezoelectric are materials (usually crystals or ceramics) that generate voltage when a form of mechanical stress is applied.
    • Researchers from the University of Houston have found that a certain type of piezoelectric material can covert energy at a 100 percent increase when manufactured at a very small size ? in this case, around 21 nanometers in thickness.
    • These findings were detailed in an article published in Physical Review B, the scientific journal of the American Physical Society.
    • Battery life remains a major concern for popular mp3 players and cell phones that are required to perform an ever-expanding array of functions.
    • The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has investigated methods for soldiers in the field to generate power for their portable equipment through the energy harvested from simply walking.
    • Some night clubs in Europe feature dance floors built with piezoelectrics that absorb and convert the energy from footsteps in order to help power lights in the club
    • And it’s been reported that a Hong Kong gym is using the technology to convert energy from exercisers to help power its lights and music.
  • Leadership, the Internet and the ‘Tribes’ of the World
    • People long to be part of tribes — groups that share their ideas and passions, whatever they may be.
    • The Web’s reach and power has enabled a new type of tribal leader.
    • Thanks to the Internet, the barriers to leadership have fallen.
    • That’s the gist of Seth Godin’s book Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us.
    • In Tribes, as he has in his previous books such as Purple Cow and The Dip, he challenges the status quo.
    • He discusses a new kind of leader, who has emerged since the Internet and has enabled and mobilized countless global tribes around passions ranging from global warming to politics to great restaurants.
    • Godin defines a tribe as a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea that inspires their passion.
    • He argues that human beings have a need to belong to be part of a tribe, to contribute to (and take from) a group of like-minded people.
    • We are drawn to leaders and to their ideas, and we can’t resist the rush of belonging and the thrill of the new.
    • The Barack Obama surprise win is testimony to this new type of leadership.
  • Website of the Week: 21st Century Skills
    • Web Address: http://www.21stcenturyskills.org/
    • The organization has a mission to serve as a catalyst to position 21st century skills at the center of US K-12 education by building collaborative partnerships among education, business, community and government leaders
    • This skills set includes:
      • Information and communication skills (information and media literacy skills; communication skills)
      • Thinking and problem-solving (critical thinking and systems thinking; problem identification, formulation and solution; creativity and intellectual curiosity)
      • Interpersonal and self-direction skills (interpersonal and collaborative skills; self-direction; accountability and adaptability; social responsibility)
      • Global awareness
      • Financial, economic and business literacy, and developing entrepreneurial skills to enhance workplace productivity and career options
      • Civic literacy
  • Food Science: Art of Baking at Altitude
    • The weight of air is a phenomenon most cooks seldom contemplate.
    • But if you live in Denver , Calgary , Johannesburg , or a host of other high-altitude locales, you’ll face fallen cakes and overflowing batters if you don’t.
    • As elevation rises, air pressure falls, which means that bakers living at 3,000 feet (1,000 meters) will see different results than lowland bakers.
    • Since most recipes are designed for sea level, high-altitude success requires a few clever adjustments.
    • Low air pressure has two main effects on baked goods: They will rise more easily, and lose moisture faster; liquids evaporate more quickly since water boils at lower temperatures at high altitude.
    • As leavening occurs faster, gas bubbles tend to coalesce into large, irregular pockets in a batter or dough. The result? A coarse-textured cake. Alternatively, the pressure inside a rising batter can become so great, that cell walls stretch beyond their maximum and burst. Collapsing cell walls means the cake falls too.
    • Quicker evaporation also has several ramifications. It makes baked goods more prone to sticking. And sugar becomes more concentrated. Some cakes won’t set. Or by the time they do set, they’ve become dry and crumbly.
    • To reinforce cell walls, adjust sugar and fat (the tenderizers), eggs and sometimes flour (the strengtheners). And reducing leavening agents relieves the pressure within the cells. Try one or two adjustments at a time and note the results. Where a range is given, use the smaller adjustment first. As altitude goes up, more adjustment may be necessary.