Show of 1-17-2009

  • Email and Forum Questions
    • Email from Tung: Dear Dr. Shurtz, Thank you for answering my question last week about posting my e-mail address.

    • I have another question for you. How can I make sure my credit card information is not stolen when I shop on-line? My boyfriend downloads the MP3 of your show every weekend since we can’t listen to your radio broadcast up here in Ohio. Once and awhile we travel to Maryland to visit family, and we were wondering if we could meet you when we do. You’re so smart, and Jim Russ has such a sexy voice. We love Tech Talk Radio! Thanks again, Tung

    • Tech Talk Responds: Thanks for the email. When you buy anything over the Internet you should make certain that you are using Secure Socket Layer (SSL). SSL encrypts the communication between your computer and server to make it difficult easedrop. You can tell if SSL is activated by looking for a lock system in the browser tray.

    • However, this only protects you information in transit. If the vendor is careless with your data, a hacker may be able to download your information from their servers. Such security breaches happen periodically. Many people like to use a virtual credit number (or temporary number) that is issued by their credit card vendor. Such a virtual number has strict limitations (max dollar amounts, time window, allowed vendor sites, etc). All major credit card vendors and PayPal offer this service.

    • The good news is that by law you are only liable for $50 in charges in the event of credit card fraud. Identity theft is the real danger

    • On one further note, do not use a debit card online or direct withdrawal from your account. The $50 limit mandated by law does not extend to debit cards. If you have debit card, the money is gone from your account and you have no recourse.

  • Profiles in IT: Adam Osborne
    • Adam Osborne was an entrepreneur most known for the first portable computer.
    • He was also was an author who was published computer books and software.
    • Adam Osborne was born in Thailand March 6, 1939 to British parents where he spent most of his childhood in India.
    • He attended school and graduated from the University of Birmingham in 1961 and received his PHD from the University of Delaware.
    • Adam’s career started out as a chemical engineer working for Shell Oil and then left in the early 1970’s to pursue his interests in computers and technical writing.
    • Adam was a pioneer in the computer book industry. He founded Osborne Publishing in 1972, specializing in easy-to-follow computer manuals.
    • By 1977 Osborne had over 40 titles in its catalog.
    • In 1979 he sold his company to McGraw Hill for a rumored $3 million.
    • Using the proceeds from the sale, Adam launched Osborne Computers
    • In March 1980, at the West Coast Computer Faire, Osborne approached Lee Felsenstein about creating a computer bundled with business applications.
    • Felsenstein designed a portable computer that would fit under an airplane seat.
    • In 1981, Osborne introduced the first portable computer the Osborne 1.
    • The computer weighed 23.5 pounds and cost $1,795, just over half the cost of a computer from other manufacturers with comparable features.
    • The computer ran the popular CP/M operating system and featured a full keyboard and a tiny 5" built-in monochrome monitor.
    • The software bundle included: BASIC and CBASIC language, WordStar word processing, and SuperCalc spreadsheet programs.
    • The company shipped over 10,000 computers a month and was considered a huge success, earning $6 million in 1981 and by the next year into the $68 million range.
    • Osborne deserves credit for being one of the first computing pioneers to understand that there was a wide market of buyers who were not computing hobbyists:
    • Osborne Computers collapsed when Adam bragged to the media about two advanced computers the corporation was working on and destroyed demand for the Osborne 1.
    • This phenomenon became known as the Osborne effect.
    • Apple and IBM quickly filled the personal computer gat.
    • After the fall of the Osborne Computer Corporation, he wrote and published several best selling books about his experience, including Hypergrowth: The Rise and Fall of Osborne Computer Corporation.
    • In 1984 Adam founded Paperback Software International, which specialized in inexpensive computer software.
    • One of its products was VP-Planner, an inexpensive clone of Lotus 1-2-3.
    • Lotus Corporation sued Paperback for copyright infringement in 1987.
    • Lotus won the suit in 1990 and Osborne stepped down from the company.
    • Adam returned to his home in India after suffering from several massive strokes.
    • In 2003, he died in India at age 64.

  • CES2009 Update: 3D TV
    • At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, four of the top selling TV manufacturers–Samsung Electronics, Sony, LG Electronics and Panasonic–showed off their latest versions of 3D TVs.
    • Panasonic set up a mini-home theater where its 103-inch, plasma 3D screen.
    • While some manufacturers, such as Mitsubishi, Phillips, Samsung, and Sharp, have already begun selling 3D-ready TVs, the top four manufacturers plan to have new, advanced 3D TVs on sale toward the end of 2009 and into 2010.
    • But the big question is whether consumers, particularly American consumers, will be willing to upgrade to a new TV just because it has 3D. Pricing for today’s 3D ready TVs is comparable to other flat-screen HDTVs. Samsung and Mitsubishi currently sell their 3D-ready TVs for between $1,000 and $2,800, depending on functionality. These prices are in line with average prices for HDTVs that don’t offer 3D readiness.
    • Consumers will have to wear special glasses when they’re watching TV in 3D. The glasses are needed because 3D imaging requires sending a different image to each eye.

  • CES 2009 Update: In-car Computing
    • Ford will release a fully functional, dashboard computer — complete with keyboard — geared to contractors and other business folks who want to access the Web, review documents and log inventory while on the go.
    • Hyundai’s latest vehicles can be outfitted with a system that detects when a car is drifting across lanes, then sounds a buzzer or vibrates the wheel to alert the driver.
    • Some Hyundai vehicles also contain ultrasonic sensors that help drivers to park by measuring the distance between a car and other objects. Lexus has similar product
    • BMW 6-series sedans include a thermal-imaging camera with a new pedestrian-detection feature. When the camera detects a heat source in the shape of a human being, the on-board computer alerts the driver by highlighting the pedestrian.
    • AT&T’s CruiseCast service brings 22 satellite TV channels to your vehicle with the help of a small rooftop antenna, augmented by video-buffering technology that supposedly maintains the signal underneath overpasses and trees.
    • General Motors’ OnStar service, which can remotely unlock car doors, reduce gas flow to a stolen vehicle or dial 911 if a car is involved in a crash, now has almost 6 million subscribers. Toyota and Ford have similar programs.
    • Half of the new vehicles sold in the United States are now compatible with MP3 players and 80 percent can connect with wireless Bluetooth headsets.
    • As consumers are growing accustomed to having mobile Internet through their smart phones, more car buyers are seeking connectivity in their vehicles.
    • Automaker is learning to think more like an electronics company.

  • CES2009 Update: Other Trends
    • JVC 32 inch LCD TV
      • Televisions are always one of the main attractions at CES. In past years, manufacturers battled it out to produce the biggest screens – this year they are competing for the thinnest. This JVC 11 lbs and is a only 0.27 in thick.
    • Palm Pre
      • Palm launched their new "Pre" smart phone that goes head to head with the Iphone and Blackberry. The product features a touchscreen which measures 3.1 inches and also has a slide out keyboard for typing. Like the Iphone, the Pre can be turned sideways and automatically switches to widescreen mode. Features include GPS, Bluetooth, and a 3 megapixel camera. The major innovation in the Palm Pre is their all-new webOS platform, with graphic and gesture-based interactions. Additionally the device’s charger uses wireless power.
    • LG GD910 – Wrist phone
      • LG has introduced their first wrist phone. It features a small LCD touch screen that enables high speed video conferencing, mp3 playing and much more.
    • Sony Vaio P Series
      • With their P-series lifestyle PCs, Sony is adding a new entry into the netbook market. These new compact computers are ultra small, with a very wide format display and small keyboard. When closed it looks like a small purse and when opened it has a crisp screen and metallic keyboard with a trackball.
    • PowerMat
      • Powermat charges your phone, mp3 player and other gadgets wirelessly. The system works with a non-conductive Powermat which syncs with receivers attached to your devices. Powermat eventually hopes that manufacturers will integrate wireless charging receivers into devices making syncing even easier.

  • 3.5 Million PCs Infected with Windows Worm
    • A worm that spreads through low security networks, memory sticks, and PCs without the latest security updates is posing a growing threat to users.
    • The malicious program, known as Conficker, Downadup, or Kido was first discovered in October 2008.
    • Although Microsoft released a patch, it has gone on to infect 3.5 million machines.
    • Users should have up-to-date AV software and install Microsoft’s MS08-067 patch.
    • According to Microsoft, the worm works by searching for a Windows executable file called "services.exe" and then becomes part of that code.
    • It then copies itself into the Windows system folder as a random file of a type known as a "dll". It gives itself a 5-8 character name, such as piftoc.dll, and then modifies the Registry to run the infected dll file as a service.
    • Once the worm is up and running, it creates an HTTP server, resets a machine’s System Restore point (making it far harder to recover the infected system) and then downloads files from the hacker’s web site.
    • A new variant released two weeks ago is causing most of the problems.
    • It’s using multiple mechanisms to replicate, including USB sticks, so if someone got an infection from one company and then takes his USB stick to another, it could infect that network too.
    • If people do patch their software, they should have little to worry about.

  • 256GB SSD on Laptops
    • Dell laptops can be configured with 256GB SSDs from Samsung.
    • Previously the largest SSD available from Dell was 64GB.
    • The Samsung SSD is now available as an option on Dell’s XPS M1330 and M1730 laptop lines.
    • Apple announced a 256GB SSD option on its MacBook Pro on January 6.
    • Upgrading from the base XPS configuration with the 256GB SSD will add $400.
    • Solid-state drives are generally faster at getting data than hard-disk drives.
    • SSDs still command a premium price but that premium is shrinking.
    • SanDisk said last week that it will begin offering a 240GB SSD for $499.

  • Innovation: IBM Filed 4186 Patents in 2008
    • IBM has broken the record for the number of US patents granted in a year with 4186 during the course of 2008.
    • This marks the 16th year that IBM has dominated the US patents process.
    • The closest competitor was Samsung with 3515 patents.
    • Microsoft managed 2030, Intel 1776, Sony 1485 and HP 1424.
    • IBM has also announced that it intends to increase is open publication rate by 50 per cent to more than 3000 per year. That is, to publish these openly instead of going through the patent process, so they will be freely available to anyone else.
    • IBM’s leadership in the strategic use of intellectual property is based on balancing proprietary and open innovation, said Dr. John E. Kelly III, IBM senior vice president and director of IBM Research.

  • Seagate Offers Fix for Barracudas Drives
    • Seagate has acknowledged the bricking issue surrounding Barracuda 7200.11 hard drives.
    • Seagate has isolated a potential firmware issue in certain products, including some Barracuda 7200.11 hard drives and related drive families based on this product platform, manufactured through December 2008.
    • In some circumstances, the data on the hard drives may become inaccessible to the user when the host system is powered on*.
    • As part of our commitment to customer satisfaction, we are offering a free firmware upgrade to those with affected products. To determine whether your product is affected, please visit the Seagate Support web site.
    • There is no data loss associated with this issue, and the data still resides on the drive.
    • But if you are unable to access your data due to this issue, Seagate will provide free data recovery services.
    • Seagate will work with you to expedite a remedy to minimize any disruption to you or your business.
    • Seagate recommends that users with 1.5TB, 750GB, 640GB, 500GB, 320GB, and 160GB Barracuda 7200.11 drives, along with some Maxtor and ES.2 models, all install the firmware update.

  • Raid: A Quick Overview
    • NAS (Network Attached Storage) devices are popular.
    • Setting up your NAS in a RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) configuration is one of the best ways to protect your data.
    • RAID 0 as well as JBOD (Just a Bunch of Disks) provides no data protection. You get the maximum disk space and speed because the data is stripes over all drives. However, if a drive fails, data is lost.
    • RAID 1 is common on lower-end NAS devices with only two drives. It’s often called disk mirroring, since it writes the same data to each drive, keeping them identical. If one fails, the other takes over. You can replace the defective drive and suffer no downtime or data loss while the new drive remirrors the old one (which can take an hour or more). It’s safe and easy to set up, especially for those new to disk arrays.
    • RAID 5 is one of the most popular levels in higher-end NAS devices. It takes three or more drives, but it not only increases performance by striping data across them, it also provides redundancy by striping parity information derived from the data being stored. If a drive fails, its content can be reconstructed using the parity information on the others.

  • Network Attached Storage (NAS) Options for Home
    • Network Attached Storage Enclosure
    • Available from Netgear, D-Link, Iomega
    • Insert up to two SATA drives1 without any tools.
      • SATA is Serial ATA with 3Gbps transfer rate.
    • Built-in UPnP AV media server enables streaming of digital content to compatible network media players.
    • Four different hard drive modes (Standard, JBOD, RAID 0, and RAID 1, RAID 5).
    • Standard mode creates two separately accessible hard drives.
      • JBOD combines both hard drives into one for maximum space efficiency.
      • RAID 0 combines all drives in a striped configuration, splitting data evenly across the hard disk drives to provide the highest performance.
      • RAID 1 causes the drives to mirror each other.
      • RAID 5 stripes data redundantly across at least three drives.
    • Gigabit Ethernet connectivity.
    • Street price for enclosure: $100 to $150
    • 1 TB Caviar Drives have a street price of $100.
    • Thus NAS with 1TB RAID1 will cost approximately $300 to $350
    • Use this with 802.11N for multimedia distribution.

  • Obama Wants Digital TV Transition Delay
    • President-elect Barack Obama tells lawmakers the lack of funding for a digital converter box subsidy program combined with inadequate support funding should prompt Congress to delay the Feb. 17 digital television transition deadline.
    • President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team told lawmakers Jan. 8 Congress should delay the Feb. 17 transition date for television stations to begin exclusively broadcasting in digital. John Podesta, co-chair of the Obama transition group, said there have been "major difficulties" in the digital TV transition planning.
    • The NTIA (National Telecommunications and Information Administration) announced earlier the week of Jan. 5 that funding for the $1.34 billion digital converter box coupon program has been exhausted.
    • The program allows for two $40 coupons per household to help outset the cost of digital converter boxes for non-digital television sets.
    • Consumers still seeking a coupon will be placed on a waiting list, as expired but unredeemed coupons become available.
    • Consumers with digital television sets or televisions connected to cable or satellite boxes will not be affected by the transition.