Show of 8-8-2009

  • Email and Forum Questions
    • Email from Ron: Dear Dr. Shurtz, I greatly enjoy your weekly radio show on WFED. As a one-time tenured academic (economics and finance, not CS) who finally fled in despair to the private sector, I found this tale of woe to be sadly familiar and thought it might interest you if you haven’t run across it already: Why I am Not a Professor OR The Decline and Fall of the British University
    • Link to article: http://www.lambdassociates.org/blog/decline.htm
    • I suspect that Stratford has avoided this type of dilemma precisely because it operates in a competitive marketplace and has a bottom line. Cheers, Ron
    • Tech Talk Answers: You are right about the broad trends in education. Students who are focused on competencies in the job market are motivated to take the more difficult courses. We have avoided this trap somewhat because we are placement driven.
    • Email from Jim: I have purchased and am trying to install the zBoost YX510-PCS-CEL Dual Band Kit that you recommended. The signal is spotting and I am having trouble locating the antenna for reliable reception. Jim
    • Tech Talk Answers: Make certain that your external antenna is vertical. Keep it away from any metal. Go as high as you can. A rooftop location may be essential. If none of these options work, then you will need a high gain antenna to pull in a distant tower. They make such an antenna. The model number is YX 029 and the cost is $159 street ($217 list).
    • Email from Hac: I recently purchased an HP laptop loaded with Vista Home Premium. Since I’m more comfortable with Windows XP I did a clean install with windows XP, but now the sound system in the laptop does not work. It says no audio device, but it use to work with Vista. What should I do? Hac
    • Tech Talk Answers: Your XP disk does not have the latest device drivers for you HP computer. It makes sense because it predates your current hardware. Drivers are pieces of software between the operating system and the hardware. They allow the same OS to function on different hardware. Drivers come from two places: your Windows installation, and your hardware manufacturer. In your case, having an HP laptop, I would visit the HP support site. They should have drivers that you can download and install. You’ll need to know your laptop’s model number some of the options chosen when it was purchased.
  • Profiles in IT: Rob Malda
    • Rob Malda is founder of the Slashdot (News for Nerds). He is also known as Commander Taco (CmdrTaco).
    • Rob Malda was born May 10, 1976 in Holland, Michigan.
    • In middle school he discovered computers, and soon after, modems. He spent all of his free time working in the basement.
    • His mother’s favorite punishment was to disconnect his keyboard and lock it in her trunk.
    • He just added a keyboard error code check to my autoexec.bat file which launched a BBS so he could log onto his computer from his friends house.
    • He attended Holland Christian High School.
    • In high school, he earned a small amount of income as a shareware programmer, programming in Turbo Pascal.
    • His first real job was at Donnelly working as a PC tech while still in high school.
    •  He attended Hope College and majored in Computer Science. Programming was a snap. Computer theory was a bore.
    • He started experimenting with Linux. Hope’s CS dept. operated with Solaris boxes. Linux allowed him to do his homework from my dorm room.
    • He became fascinated with the Internet now that he had high speed access.
    • He learned HTML did freelance consulting and finally landed a job with The Image Group. He designed websites for small business.
    • He then learned how to create database driven web applications and picked up graphic design and page layout skills.
    • While still in college, he and Jeff Bates created a website named Slashdot.
    • After running the site for two years "on a shoestring", they sold to Andover.net, which was acquired by VA Linux Systems, then SourceForge, Inc.
    • He works fulltime on Slashdot and manages the development of the software that powers Slashdot, the open source application we call Slash.
    • This software also powers several other sites including Linux.com.
    • He also develops the mass moderation tools that make Slashdot’s large scale discussions possible.
    • Malda now runs the site out of the SourceForge, Inc. office in Dexter, MI.
    • Rob’s genius has been to invent the ways of making it possible to combine a strong editorial content with a powerful community voice.
    •  It looks simple, but after years of success, Slashdot is still without a serious rival.
    • Rob Malda also writes a monthly column for Computer Power User.
    • On Valentine’s Day of 2002, Malda proposed to Kathleen Fent using the front page of Slashdot and she accepted.
    • They were married on December 8, 2002 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
    • His moniker originates in the Dave Barry book Claw Your Way to the Top: How to Become the Head of a Major Corporation in Roughly a Week ‘
    • Commander Taco’ is the final entry in a list of bad restaurants for business lunches.
    • His hobbies are many, but they primarily revolve around computers, guitars, comics, movies, music, cartooning, design and anime.
    • Home Page: http://cmdrtaco.net/
  • Google Voice Update
    • Web Address: http://www.google.com/googlevoice/
    • Sign up for a beta account.
    • I took me a few days to get it.
    • Select a phone number from GoogleVoice
    • With Google Voice, you get all your calls through a single number.
    • Just add your other numbers to Google Voice and then make your own rules for how your phones ring.
    • You can access and make calls from the phone and the Web, block annoying callers at will, and record custom greetings for different callers or groups of callers.
    • With Google Voice, you’ll get all your voicemails in one place, saved for as long as you want.
    • If you don’t answer a call to your Google number, your callers will be sent to your Google voicemail.
    • iPhone app controversy update
    • Google says it is readying a replacement for the Google Voice app that will offer exactly the same features as the rejected app–except that it will take the form of a specialized, iPhone-shaped Web page. For all intents and purposes, it will behave exactly the same as the app would have; you can even install it as an icon on your Home screen.
  • US file-sharer gets $700,000 fine
    • A US student has been ordered to pay $675,000 to four record labels for breaking copyright laws after sharing music online.
    • The Boston University student, Joel Tenenbaum, had admitted in court that he had downloaded and distributed 30 songs at issue in the case.
    • It is the second such case to go to trial in the US.
    • On Friday, the jury ordered Mr Tenebaum to pay $22,500 for each infringement. The maximum that he could have been fined was $4.5m.
    • Mr Tenenbaum used a computer at his parents’ home and at his college to download and distribute digital files.
    • Prosecutors working on behalf of the record labels focused on 30 shared songs.
    • Under US law, the recording companies are entitled to $750 to $30,000 per infringement.
    • On the stand, Mr Tenenbaum admitted that he had downloaded more than 800 songs since 1999 and that he had lied in pre-trial proceedings when he suggested that other family members of friends may have been responsible for downloading songs to his computer.
    • He said he had used Napster and then Kazaa to download the files.
  • Book of the Week: What Would Google Do?
    • Recommended by Mike in an email three weeks ago
    • What Would Google Do? by Jeff Jarvis
    • This book is a follow-on to the ClueTrain Manifesto, which declared: A powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter—and getting smarter faster than most companies
    • Key points in the book explain how business must reinvent themselves to survive in the Internet age. They must:
      • Establish new relationships with customers based on mutual trust
      • Develop a new distributed architecture and become a platform to enable their customers
      • Expect to be public, using customers as advocates, to generate Googlejuice
      • Provide elegant organization of information for their constituents
      • Target many small groups and not try to reach the masses
      • Realizes that inventory is a drag, middlemen are doomed, and free is the new norm
      • Decide what business they are really in as they provide value to their customers
      • Feel free to make mistakes, correct them quickly, engage their customers in conversation
      • Respond quickly because mobs form in a flash
      • Simply the platform and then get out of the way
    • More on Jeff Jarvis’s blog: http://www.buzzmachine.com/
  • Attacks on lone blogger reverberate across Web
    • The outage that knocked Twitter offline for hours was traced to an attack on a lone blogger in the former Soviet republic of Georgia.
    • The attacks Thursday also slowed down Facebook and caused problems for the online diary site LiveJournal.
    • Twitter crashed because of a denial-of-service attack, in which hackers command scores of computers toward a single site at the same time to prevent legitimate traffic from getting through.
    • The attack was targeted at a blogger who goes by Cyxymu. This is the Cyrillic spelling of Sukhumi, a city in the breakaway territory of Abkhazia in Georgia.
    • Just who was behind these attacks is not yet clear, but the dispute was probably related to the ongoing political conflict between Russia and Georgia.
    • The attack came in two waves
    • The first was a spam campaign consisting of e-mails with links back to posts by Cyxymu. This drove some traffic to the blogger’s postings on various social-networking sites, possibly to disparage him as the source of the spam.
    • The second and more destructive phase consisted of the denial-of-service attack, which attacked the sites’ servers by sending it lots of junk requests — presumably to prevent people from reading his viewpoints.
    • On Friday, the surge of traffic to Twitter was about as it was Thursday — as much as 20 percent above normal traffic levels. But Twitter was better able to filter out the fake traffic.
    • Twitter was more vulnerable than Facebook and other sites because the company’s servers are hosted by a single service provider.
  • Dumb Patent of the Week: Microsoft patents XML Word Documents
    • The US patent office has granted a Microsoft patent application, 7,571,169, which … is directed at providing a word-processing document in a native XML file format that may be understood by an application that understands XML, or to enable another application or service to create a rich document in XML so that the word-processing application can open it as if it was one of its own documents.
    • The patent, filed in December 2004 and granted on August 4 2009, specifies that this is done using an XML Schema Document (XSD), which contains more information about the document’s formatting, and also covers systems that can open the document without using the original word processing software.
    • Both XML and XML Schema are long-established open standards, designed to do exactly this, among many other functions.
    • The patent also specifies that the document can contain formatting information such as line, paragraph and page breaks, font styles and sizes, and other standard components of text documents.
    • Within the patent, Microsoft has included a list of over a hundred references to books, articles, patents and other software that bear on XML usage in word processing.
    • On the face of it, the patent would appear to cover all usage of XML and XSDs in word processing document, which would effectively leave all other modern word processors – and other software that used their documents – liable to licensing by the company.