Show of 3-20-2010

  • Email and Forum Questions
    • Email from JP: Dear Doc & Jim, I have been listening for a few months now & I really enjoy your show. I am learning a lot, & get a kick out of Jims low tech ways of doing things (cheap is sometimes better).
    • I have an issue with my one of my home projects, my old laptop will not connect to the internet & the help support says it might be an IP address problem. My new laptop connects to DSL through Ethernet cable fine, but my old one will not (DSL activity light has no activity). I do not have the original Windows XP disks, so I downloaded Linux Ubutu OS & VMware that you recommended on previous shows. Linux Firefox browser could not connect to the internet either, what should I check or do? My next project will be to network my old laptop to an old desktop PC, but I’m not sure how easy that will be. Can you go over doing that too? Thank you very much. Thanks, JP
    • Tech Talk Answers: Make certain that Ubuntu has the drivers for the Ethernet port. When it install Ubuntu on my old laptop, the Ethernet connection worked immediately. I had to go online and search for the wireless drivers since they were proprietary and were not distributed with the Ubuntu. You may also so the Ubuntu forum and ask for advice regarding your driver. You can download the driver with another computer and install it via thumb drive.
    • As far as your distribution disk for XP. Hopefully what that manufacturer has done is copy the Windows XP CD-ROM image to your hard disk. Hard disks are so big these days that doing so takes up very little room.
    • To find out if the CD-ROM image is on your machine, search for a folder named I386. There may be several but the one we care about will contain close to 7,000 files, two of which will be winnt.exe and winnt32.exe. The I386 directory is typically one of the top-level directories on the distribution CD-ROM but most importantly it is the directory that contains the distributed copy of Windows XP. Winnt.exe and winnt32.exe are the DOS and protected mode setup programs, respectively. (You’d only need those if you were planning to re-install Windows XP from scratch – I use them here as an easy way to identify that we have the right directory.
    • You may also be able to borrow an XP from a friend. Make certain to write down your license number, if you plan to do a clean install.
    • Email from Lauren: Dear Dr. Richard Shurtz Thanks for enabling me to get smarter about technology while I exercise on Sat mornings. You are the mental exercise while I’m on the treadmill.
    • I have been a long time subscriber to Vonage ( if you can’t use their name on the air, just say a VoIP early provider). Though generally happy w/ Vonage, I don’t like picking up my phone and hearing, "Lines are temporarily busy, please try your call later." I’ve never known what the cause of this is, but, it is not the same thing as the ‘old fashioned’ busy signal I don’t think. Since their prices keep creeping up, I’ve been looking around for another solution.
    • I participate on a pc listserv and one of the early adaptors recently mentioned this: Nettalk.com. I’m very interested in what they’ve posted on their site. I value your take on all things IT, so, would you give this a thumbs UP or a thumbs DOWN. I was also considering MagicJack, but, don’t like the idea of always having to have the laptop on for the phone to work. Thanks! Lauren
    • Tech Talk Answers: In my view the three top options are: Vonage, Ooma, and Skype. Each addresses a different problem. Nettalk is $99 compared to Ooma’s $199. Both are a one time purchase and offer free calls in the US. International calls are not free with Ooma. You can also get a wi-fi Skype phone system and use Skype for all your number. Skype now offers Skype-in phone numbers with caller-id when Skyping out. If you only make domestic calls, Ooma is the most mature solution. If you have a wi-fi smartphone (iPhone, blackberry) or an iPod, just install the Skype client.
    • Email from Clay: Dear Tech Talk, If your professors are half as articulate and as knowledgeable as you guys and communicate messages so clearly, then Harvard and MIT should be worried. I really enjoy the show.
    • Question: Since you push Apple’s iTunes for show downloads, how do i access your files on iTunes without having lots of other miscreant Apple software installing on my computer? I don’t want extra stuff running so i don’t use iTunes. Thanks, Clay
    • Tech Talk Answers: If you don’t have an iTunes account, don’t bother. Just go to techtalkonline.com and click on the podcast icon. Subscribe directly from the site.
  • Profiles in IT: Garrett Camp
    • Garrett Camp is co-founder and CEO of StumbleUpon, a collaborative web discovery tool. StumbleUpon uses ratings to form collaborative opinions on website quality. When you stumble, you will only see pages that match your preferences.
    • Garrett Camp was born in 1979 in Canada.
    • Garrett received his Masters in Software Engineering at the University of Calgary.
    • His research areas included interfaces for collaborative systems, evolutionary algorithms and information retrieval.
    • In 2001, Garrett Camp and two friends began working out of their bedrooms on a tool to help people serendipitously discover interesting Web content.
    • Garrett had known Geoff Smith (now president of StumbleUpon) for a year or two. Smith suggested that they start a company.
    • Garrett has some free time. He was doing a few grad courses at the time. It was half-time Stumble and half-time graduate school for about two and a half years."
    • They formed a company before the final idea was identified.
    • The initially looked at five or six options, narrowed it to two options, and then one.
    • He co-founded StumbleUpon in November 2001 with by Geoff Smith, Michael Johnston, and Justin LaFrance.
    • StumbleUpon quickly gathered a following. When it reached have a million users, Garrett knew they had a winner and a career.
    • In 2005, Silicon Valley investor Brad O’Neill took an interest in the growing company and assisted with their move to San Francisco.
    • Two of the three co-founders decided to move to San Francisco, with Justin LaFrance still based in Canada.
    • O’Neill brought in additional investors and raised a total of $1.2 million in venture capital.
    • StumbleUpon was acquired by eBay in 2007 for $75M in cash.
    • Camp received the MIT Technology Review’s TR35 award in 2007.
    • In April 2009, Garrett Camp, Geoff Smith and the original investors bought it back.
    • StumbleUpon is now an independent, investor-backed startup once again, with offices in San Francisco and New York City.
    • StumbleUpon is now the largest personalized content discovery engine on the web, delivering 450 million recommendations per month from 35 million pages.
    • Their advertising model does not use click through ads. Rather StumbleUpon directs users whose preferences match your site to your homepage.
    • Searching vs. Stumbling — Using search engines to locate relevant content typically means hunting through pages of results. Rather than searching for quality web sites, StumbleUpon takes users directly to web sites matching their personal preferences.
    • Advice from Garrett Camp
      • Get a good demo and a reasonable interface before you ask for a lot of money. Try to bootstrap and self-fund for at least a little while. Don’t go in right away and give away 35% of your company for $100,000.
      • Working with friends and people you trust is the best situation you can be in with a new business.
    • Website: http://www.stumbleupon.com
  • New Google Employee Says He Wants To Kill The iPhone
    • Tim Bray, co-inventor of XML, has joined Google as "Developer Advocate," with a focus on Android.
    • Tim announced and explained his new role at Google on his blog and expounded on his hatred of the iPhone and all it stands for.
    • He thinks Apple’s closed system for the iPhone is terrible, and he’d going to do all he can to destroy it. Here is what he says.
      • The iPhone vision of the mobile Internet’s future omits controversy, sex, and freedom, but includes strict limits on who can know what and who can say what. It’s a sterile Disney-fied walled garden surrounded by sharp-toothed lawyers. The people who create the apps serve at the landlord’s pleasure and fear his anger.
      • I hate it.
      • The big thing about the Web isn’t the technology, it’s that it’s the first-ever platform without a vendor. From that follows almost everything that matters, and it matters a lot now, to a huge number of people. It’s the only kind of platform I want to help build.
      • Apple apparently thinks you can have the benefits of the Internet while at the same time controlling what programs can be run and what parts of the stack can be accessed and what developers can say to each other.
      • I think they’re wrong and see this job as a chance to help prove it.
  • Consensus emerges for key Web app standard
    • Browser makers have begun converging on a very important element of cloud computing.
    • That ability is called local storage, and the new mechanism is called Indexed DB.
    • Indexed DB, proposed by Oracle and initially called WebSimpleDB, is just a prototype at this stage, not something Web programmers can use yet.
    • It’s won endorsements from Microsoft, Mozilla, and Google, which control more than 90 percent of the browsers in use today.
    • Advocates have worked Indexed DB into the considerations of the W3C, the World Wide Web Consortium that standardizes HTML and other Web technologies.
    • The whole idea behind cloud computing is to put applications on the network, liberating them from being tied to a particular computer, but it turns out that the computer still matters, because the network is neither fast nor ubiquitous.
    • Local storage lets Web programmers save data onto computers where it’s convenient for processors to access.
    • That can mean, for example, that some aspects of Gmail and Google Docs can work while you’re disconnected from the network.
    • It also lets data be cached on the computer for quick access later. The overall state of the Web application is maintained on the server, but stashing data locally can make cloud computing faster and more reliable.
    • Web browsers have been able to store data locally for years in a primitive fashion through small text files called cookies.
    • Browser makers have been casting about for a more powerful mechanism, though, resulting in a hodge-podge of possibilities.
    • Indexed DB brings the database approach to browsers, but keeps the interface at a very low level.
    • Apple declined to comment about its support for IndexedDB.
    • However, if IE, Mozilla, and Chrome support Indexed DB, and it becomes a W3C standard, it’s likely Apple won’t have much choice.
  • Looking back: View from 1995
    • Title: Hype Alert: Why cyberspace isn’t, and will never be, nirvana
    • Source: Newsweek, February 27, 1995
    • Author: Clifford Stoll
    • Here are a few quotes from this misguided article. Read and chuckle.
      • The truth is no online database will replace your daily newspaper.
      • No CD-ROM can take the place of a competent teacher and no computer network will change the way government works.
      • Anyone to post messages on UseNet. Your word gets out, leapfrogging editors. Every voice can be heard cheaply and instantly. The result? Every voice is heard. When most everyone shouts, few listen.
      • Lacking editors, reviewers or critics, the Internet has become a wasteland of unfiltered data. You don’t know what to ignore and what’s worth reading.
      • Try reading a book on disc. At best, it’s an unpleasant chore. : And you can’t tote that laptop to the beach.
      • Nicholas Negroponte, director of the MIT Media Lab, predicts that we’ll soon buy books and newspapers straight over the Intenet. Uh, sure.
      • We’re promised instant catalog shopping. Stores will become obsolete. So how come my local mall does more business in an afternoon than the entire Internet handles in a month? Even if there were a trustworthy way to send money over the Internet,the network is missing a most essential ingredient of capitalism: salespeople.
      • What’s missing from this electronic wonderland? Human contact. A network chat line is a limp substitute for meeting friends over coffee.
    • STOLL is the author of “Silicon Snake Oil–Second Thoughts on the Information Highway”
  • China warns Google to comply with censorship laws
    • China’s top internet official has warned that Google will "pay the consequences" if it continues to go against Chinese law.
    • Google announced in January that it would no longer comply with China’s internet censorship laws.
    • It warned that it may shut down google.cn because of censorship and a hacking attack on the portal.
    • Google began operations in China in 2006 to widespread criticism. While many argued Google was complicit in the censorship imposed by Chinese government, Google insisted it was nevertheless serving the public interest even though it was furnishing censored results.
    • Relations between China and Google cooled in January after what Google described as a sophisticated cyber attack in which the webmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists were targeted.
    • Google is a distant second in search engine stakes in China, holding less than a third of the market; rival Baidu has about 60%.
    • Latest news: Google set to leave China on April 10th.
  • A blind soldier can now "see" with his tongue
    • Lance Corporal Craig Lundberg, 24, from Walton, Liverpool, can read words, identify shapes and walk unaided thanks to the BrainPort device.
    • Lundberg lost his sight after being struck by a rocket propelled grenade while serving in Basra in 2007.
    • He was chosen by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to be the first person to try a pioneering device – the BrainPort, which could revolutionise treatment for the blind.
    • The BrainPort converts visual images into a series of electrical pulses which are sent to the tongue. The different strength of the tingles can be read or interpreted so the user can mentally visualise their surroundings and navigate around objects.
    • The device is a tiny video camera attached to a pair of sunglasses which are linked to a plastic "lolly pop" which the user places on their tongue to read the electrical pulses.
    • You get lines and shapes of things. It sees in black and white so you get a two-dimensional image on your tongue – it’s a bit like a pins and needles sensation.
    • One of the things it has enabled him to do is pick up objects. He can reach out and pick them up when before I would be fumbling around to feel for them.
    • Unveiling the BrainPort at the MoD headquarters in Whitehall, US Major General Gale Pollock, who worked on the scheme, said the BrainPort has 400 points sending information to the tongue connection.
    • Designers plan to expand this to 4,000 points, which would vastly upgrade the clarity of the image.
    • Users cannot speak or eat while using the BrainPort so designers are hoping to create a smaller device that could be permanently fixed behind the teeth or to the roof of the mouth, enabling more natural use.