Show of 3-7-2009

  • Email and Forum Questions
    • Email from Phuong: Dear Dr. Shurtz. I heard somewhere that I can file my Federal Income taxes on-line for free. Is this true? What is the procedure for doing this? Can I also pay my state income taxes on-line for free? Phuong, Bowie, MD
    • Tech Talk Answers: You have three ways to file you Federal Taxes online without charge.
    • You can buy tax preparation software that includes online filing as part of the package. Two top rated packages are Intuit Turbo Tax or TaxAct Ultimate.
    • You can use the Federal FreeFile System who vendors have agreed to file your taxes online without charge. This program is limited to an adjusted gross income of $56,000 or less. Approved vendors have online tax filing systems.
    • You can file out the forms directly online (without assistance) and file directly with IRS. There is not adjusted gross income income limit in this case.
    • As far as state taxes, Maryland iFile will permit you to fill out tax forms online and submit them electronically without charge. You will need to have a copy of your Federal taxes to complete the forms. Virginia and DC also have a free iFile program.
  • Email form Michelle: Dear Tech Talk. How can I be sure that a file is permanently deleted? Thanks Michelle.
    • Tech Talk Answers: Michelle, you need to understand the deleting process. When you delete a file, it goes to the Trash Bin. It stays there until you empty the trash. If you don’t empty the trash, the file can easily be recovered. If you empty the trash, it can still be recovered with an undelete utility. You need to use a file erase utility to completely get rid of the file. Many free versions are available for download. Defraging may help it the process overwrites the old file.
  • Profiles in IT: Claude Elwood Shannon
    • Claude Elwood Shannon is known as the father of information theory.
    • He is credited with founding digital computer and digital circuit design theory, as well as, information theory. His groundbreaking theories were the foundation of what would be become the information age.
    • Claude Elwood Shannon was born April 30, 1916 in Petoskey, Michigan
    • His father was a probate judge and his mother high school principal.
    • The first sixteen years of Shannon’s life were spent in Gaylord, Michigan, where he attended public school, graduating from Gaylord High School in 1932.
    • In 1932 he entered the University of Michigan, where he took a course that introduced him to the works of George Boole.
    • He began graduate study at MIT where he worked on Vannevar Bush’s differential analyzer, an analog computer.
    • While studying the complicated circuits of the differential analyzer, Shannon saw that Boole’s concepts could be used to great utility.
    • In 1938 he published a paper titled, A Symbolic Analysis of Relay and Switching Circuits, which as based on his masters thesis.
    • In this work, Shannon proved that Boolean algebra and binary arithmetic could be used to simplify the arrangement of the electromechanical relays then used in telephone routing switches, then turned the concept upside down and also proved that it should be possible to use arrangements of relays to solve Boolean algebra problems.
    • Exploiting this property of electrical switches to do logic is the basic concept that underlies all electronic digital computers. Shannon’s work became the foundation of practical digital circuit design.
    • He received his PhD from MIT in 1940 and joined the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, where he interacted with John von Neumann.
    • He joined Bell Labs to work on fire-control systems and cryptography during WWII.
    • In 1948 Shannon published A Mathematical Theory of Communication. This work focuses on the problem of how best to encode the information a sender wants to transmit.
    • Shannon developed information entropy as a measure for the uncertainty in a message while essentially inventing the field of information theory.
    • In 1949 he published, Communication Theory of Secrecy Systems, a paper which led to the development of a mathematical theory of cryptography.
    • He is also credited with the introduction of Sampling Theory, which is concerned with representing a continuous-time signal from a (uniform) discrete set of samples.
    • He returned to MIT to hold an endowed chair in 1956.
    • Shannon was interested in juggling, unicycling, and chess.
    • He invented many things including a juggling machine, rocket-powered Frisbees, motorized Pogo sticks and a device that could solve the Rubik’s Cube puzzle.
    • Shannon suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease and died in February 4, 2001.
  • Traditional Web Design is Dying
    • The real problem for Dreamweaver (and other HTML code generators) is that the nature of the web is changing dramatically.
    • Dynamically-generated web applications, from Amazon right down to the humble blog, all offer much more ? in-built commenting, voting, RSS feeds, etc – than the best sites built on static HTML can ever hope to provide.
    • Ultimately a web site is all about content – posting it and making it findable ? and Dreamweaver and the other static HTML editors have proven fundamentally flawed when it comes to these two core tasks.
    • The bottom line is that the old model of the central webmaster hand-coding every page of every website and manually adding the navigation necessary to help users find it isn’t scalable or viable.
    • The only feasible course for the future is for content to be posted by the content contributor, whether that’s the site owner or site visitors, and for the best possible navigation to be constructed around that content on the fly.
    • In other words Web 2.0 isn’t an empty slogan, it marks a fundamental break with the past and Dreamweaver lies on the wrong side of it.
    • The good news is that this is actually a huge opportunity for the web designer who can adapt.
    • Just as Dreamweaver eased the transition for print-only designers to the new markup-based world of HTML; content management systems such as Joomla and Drupal can ease the transition for static Web 1.0 designers to the new Web 2.0 world of script-based PHP.
    • If you are a Dreamweaver user don’t bother upgrading to the latest version.
    • Dreamweaver is dying. Long live Drupal.
    • Drupal can be downloaded from http://drupal.org/
    • Joomla can be downloaded from http://www.joomla.org/
  • DTV coupon program back on track
    • The millions of consumers waiting for coupons for digital converter box coupons will finally receive them within the next two and a half weeks, thanks to emergency funding provided in the stimulus package.
    • The NTIA is ratcheting up its outreach to consumers most likely to be unprepared for the transition.
    • The transition has been painful because the NTIA put millions of consumers on a waiting list for the $40 coupons it is distributing for digital converter boxes after it spent the $1.3 billion initially provided for the coupon program.
    • The stimulus package allocated an additional $650 million for the program.
    • The coupons will now only take an average of nine days to reach consumers, rather than 21 days.
    • The agency is also changing its rules so it will be able to send replacement coupons to people with expired coupons.
    • There are about 16 million people with expired coupons, but the agency expects only about half of those people to request new ones.
  • Website of the Week: Google Website Optimizer
    • Google’s free website testing and optimization tool that allows users to increase the value of their existing websites and traffic without spending a cent.
    • Using Website Optimizer to test and optimize site content and design, users can quickly assess the impact of website alternations and updates on effectiveness.
    • If you are moving to a new website design, the optimizer can be a cost effective way to tweak it.
  • Vivek Kundra selected OMB e-gov chief
    • The Obama administration will select Vivek Kundra, the District of Columbia’s chief technology officer for the top information technology post in the federal government.
    • Kundra has deployed advanced applications to improve the performance of public services during his nearly two years as CTO for the District.
    • Kundra will serve as administrator for e-government and information technology in the Office of Management and Budget and will be the de-facto government CIO.
    • Prior to joining D.C. government, Kundra served as assistant secretary of commerce and technology for the Commonwealth of Virginia.
    • He also served as director of infrastructure technology for Arlington County, VA.
    • Kundra also worked as vice president of marketing for Evincible Software, which provided electronic signatures and identity management for financial services companies and the Defense Department.
    • In addition, he served on the adjunct faculty at the University of Maryland, where he received a bachelor degree in psychology and a master’s in information technology.
    • Kundra may take on immediately is cloud computing, a process that stores all applications on remote servers instead of on laptop and desktop computers.
    • Kundra also is a strong proponent of giving the public access to government data.
  • Illinois restores Pluto’s planetary status
    • The State of Illinois has decided it’s unhappy with Pluto’s 2006 expulsion from the league of planets and has decreed that as it "passes overhead through Illinois’ night skies, that it be reestablished with full planetary status".
    • Clyde Tombaugh, discoverer of the planet Pluto, was born on a farm near the Illinois community of Streator".
    • Dr. Tombaugh is the only Illinoisan and only American to ever discover a planet.
    • The Illinois state senates has declared that March 13, 2009 Pluto Day.
  • NASA’s Kepler Telescope Launched Successfully
    • At 10:49 p.m. EST yesterday, NASA’s "Kepler" telescope was successfully launched.
    • The telescope will search the nearby region of our galaxy looking for Earth-size planets, which orbit stars at distances where temperatures permit liquid water to endure on their surface.
    • Of the nearly 300 planets which are currently known to orbit other stars almost all are much larger in size than Earth and none are believed to be habitable.
    • Kepler’s objective is to statistically estimate the total number of Earth-size planets orbiting sun-like stars within their habitable zones and by doing so bring scientists closer to answering the ultimate question: Is there life in outer space?
    • According to NASA, the spacecraft will survey more than 100,000 stars in the Cygnus-Lyra region of the Milky Way galaxy over a period of three years.
    • The Kepler telescope will focus on observing drops in a star’s brightness – an event which may signal that an orbiting planet is passing in front of it.
    • According to NASA, the measurement instruments aboard the spacecraft are so precise they can detect changes in brightness of 20 parts per million in stars that are thousands of light years away.
    • For each detected planet, Kepler will supply astronomers with enough data to calculate its size, mass, orbital period, distance from star and surface temperature; by analyzing this information.
  • Eye-socket camera films from inside the head
    • Having lost his eye in a childhood accident, Rob Spense, a 36-year-old filmmaker, has decided to do something that’ll put filming and seeing into one eye.
    • His work is called the Eyeborg project involves a team of eye doctors, inventors, and engineering specialists.
    • The team is building a prosthetic eye that can capture and transmit video.
    • The team is using the world’s smallest CMOS camera for the project. This device is about 1.5 millimeters squared.
    • The eye camera captures and sends video signal wirelessly using an RF transmitter as small as the tip of a pencil.
    • The data will be sent to a recorder placed in a backpack. The eye-socket camera is powered by a lithium polymer battery that fits inside the prosthesis.
    • Rob and the team are currently working on a documentary about the Eyeborg Project and the experience of living with a bionic eye.
  • Massive Twitter account hijacking spree
    • Twitter account hijacking was going strong yesterday.
    • Hundreds of Twitter accounts were compromised.
    • Tweets are being posted encouraging users to make the acquaintance with a 23 year old female with a webcam.
    • The tweet in question reads ?hey! 23/Female. Come chat with me on my webcam thingy here www.{BLOCKED}.com.?
    • The linked porn webcam portal contains JavaScript that loads up porn related advertisements on the browsing computer.
    • Details of the attack are still unknown.