Show of 7-3-2010

  • Email and Forum Questions
    • Email from Bill: Dr Shurtz, You mis-spoke when you said Robert Li founded Baidu. Baidu was established in 2000 by co-founders, Robin Li and Eric Xu. I love your show! — Bill Meenahan, Bowie MD
    • Tech Talk Responds: Thanks Bill. You are right. It is Robin Li on my notes. I must have made misspoken. Robin was the technical force behind the company.
    • Email from Ken: I am appalled and horrified at what you said about giving the President the ability to shut down the Internet in an emergency. By the way you were talking, you sound like a right-wing, Somebody has to have the power to make the decision to take instant action to stop the attack as fast as possible. How could the attack be stopped quickly if the President did not have that power?
    • Mr. Burd is entertaining, but I want to hear the information that you have for the audience.  Please put into this week’s outline on the Web site all of the information that you intended to cover today, not just what you were able to cover in the interrupted hour. 
    • I still say that "Jobs" is not pronounced "Jobes." Ken Hutchison, Gaithersburg
    • Tech Talk Responds: Wow. I am glad you are still listening. My comments on the Internet kill switch were technical not political. I have since read the bill in more detail and it is more of a government mandate for ISP content filtering coordinated on a national level.
    • "Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) has introduced his own cybersecurity legislation with Sen. Orrin Hatch, and he had some harsh words for a competing bill sponsored by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security. Bond said that bill, which has been criticized for allegedly giving the president a ‘kill switch’ over the Internet, weighs down the private sector with mandates and puts too much on the plate of the already overburdened Department of Homeland Security. Sen. Bond’s bill would create a new position in the Pentagon, reporting directly to the president, in charge of coordinating all civilian cybersecurity. Any private-sector involvement would be voluntary and free from legal challenge, rather than mandated."
    • As for David Burd, we asked him to drop by because I was planning on discussing my new iPad and knew that David would be opinionated. And I still think it is Jobes.
    • Email from Listener in Bethesda: Dear Dr. Richard Shurtz. I have been a subscriber to Verizon FiOS for many years. I was one of the first person on my block to subscribe when it became available. But their customer service is not adequate. Verizon had a server outage on Monday June 28 and I was without service. I was on the phone for over an hour trying to figure it out…way too long.
    • What I would like to suggest is that you have someone from Verizon come onto the program and explain their FiOS service and esp. how to best interface with their Customer Service. Thanks Ms Bartiromo in Bethesda MD
    • Tech Talk Answers: You did the right thing. I don’t know a better avenue.
  • Profiles in IT: Philip Rosedale
    • Philip Rosedale is best known as the creator of the virtual world Second Life. Within Second Life, his avatar is known as Philip Linden.
    • Philip Rosedale was born September 29, 1968 in San Diego
    • His mom was an English teacher and his dad was a navy carrier pilot.
    • Rosedale was a left-handed, creative kid who wanted to know how things worked.
    • He’d take on electronics projects, like building a music synthesizer.
    • In middle school, his parents bought him an Apple IIe, and he was euphoric.
    • He made trees growing on screen and realized he could could simulate nature.
    • He started his own company selling database systems to small businesses at 17, used the proceeds to fund his college education and ultimately earned a bachelor of science degree in physics from the University of California at San Diego.
    • In 1995 he moved to San Francisco and started an innovative Internet video conferencing product (called "FreeVue"), which was later acquired by RealNetworks.
    • In 1996, he was promoted to VP and Chief Technology Officer for RealNetworks.
    • Around the same time, Neal Stephenson’s science-fiction classic Snow Crash was published. It described two worlds: the real world and a global online Metaverse.
    • Rosedale’s wife bought him the book, and he was inspired.
    • He thought the Metaverse was going to happen but not until technology advanced.
    • In 1999. Nvidia released its GeForce2 card, representing a significant advance.
    • That same year Rosedale attended Burning Man, which he thought was the template for an online world — a place where people could be whatever they wanted to be.
    • In 1999, Rosedale left RealNetworks and with money from selling FreeVue and some from Mitch Kapor (founder of Lotus), Rosedale started Linden Lab, named for the street where the company first had its offices in Hayes Valley.
    • In addition to Kapor, the company was ultimately backed by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and eBay founder Pierre Omidyar
    • Most see Second Life as an alternate existence, built by its residents that strives to be better than the physical world. It has its own economy with Linden dollars.
    • More importantly Second Life as a better, people-centric way to navigate the Net.
    • Internet users might go to Amazon through Second Life instead of through a browser, walking into the Amazon store and interacting with shoppers and clerks.
    • It might be a leap like when the Mosaic browser first brought graphics to the Internet.
    • Former Virginia governor Mark Warner, when he thought he might be running for president, made Second Life’s first political whistle-stop as an avatar of himself.
    • IBM is using Second Life as a way to hold meetings — avatars around a conference table with people in different parts of the world. Better than teleconferencing.
    • Philip Rosedale is remaking the Internet according to his vision.
    • On March 14, 2008, Rosedale announced he will be stepping down as the CEO of Linden Lab, and assuming the role of Chairman of the Board of Directors
    • In October 2009, Rosedale announced his new project, the LoveMachine, Inc.
    • In June 2010, he announced that he is back to the office as CEO of Linden Lab.
    • Rosedale has opened up more of the source code behind Second Life, allowing users to modify and plug other sites and software into the site.
  • The Love Machine
    • Web Address: http://www.lovemachineinc.com/lovemachine.php
    • What is it?
      • Crowd–sourced review and bonus system
      • Eliminate 90% of management time spent on reviewing performance
      • Greatly increase morale
      • Evaluate employees more accurately
      • Know much more about what your company is actually doing
    • How It Works
      • All employees, using email or a webpage, can send short messages recognizing anyone else for any reason
      • Everyone can see the contents of all the messages, as well as various statistical summaries
      • Performance review consists of selecting those messages from others that you feel best represent you
      • Employees are empowered to give away a bonus pool to each other, using an audited but anonymous process
    • Why it works
      • The basic unit of review (‘love’) can be collected in less than 10 seconds and is fun to do
      • The collective opinion of everyone is the highest quality review of a person
      • The absence of positive feedback is a more effective critique of performance than any constructive/negative feedback people will ever be willing to give.
      • Empowering employees to evaluate and bonus each other creates a culture of trust with far greater benefits than risks
    • Interesting employment policy too
      • We are also a different kind of company.
      • Instead of interviewing to work here, you just get to work.
      • If you’d like to join our team, first sign up at the worklist, where you can see and bid on the jobs we need done, then enter our live workroom and talk to other team members!
      • Our first products are also now available for beta users. We’d be happy to come and help you improve your own company’s culture and productivity.
  • Website of the Week: 99Designs.com
    • Web Address: http://www.99designs.com
    • Web-enabled and crowd-sourced design
    • Create a “design contest”, where designers compete to create a design you love.
    • Post your design project
    • Launch your design contest — Create a design brief which is simply a clear outline of what you need. Post this brief to 99designs and set your prize amount.
    • Collaborate with the designers — Designers then submit concepts to compete for your prize. Be sure to provide continual feedback to help the designers deliver a concept you love!
    • Choose your favorite design — At the completion of your contest, you’ll need to pick your favorite design and award the prize. You’ll then receive the final design along with copyright to the original art work.
  • Apple’s iPhone 4 denial
    • Comment Apple released a statement on Friday morning that said the only thing wrong with the iPhone 4 is the way it calculates signal-strength bars.
    • While many posters note that their iPhone 4’s reception is quite acceptable, thankyouverymuch, a good percentage say that reception quality has dropped noticeably below what they experienced with previous-generation iPhones.
    • Perhaps they didn’t read Apple’s letter, which points out that the signal-strength bar miscalculation "has been present since the original iPhone."
    • iPhone 4 owners aren’t complaining about the number and height of their signal-strength bars, they’re complaining about poor reception.
    • How does Apple explain the myriad reports — here’s a particularly straightforward one — of reception problems caused by bridging the iPhone 4’s two external antennas by touching the spot where they meet?
    • In a comprehensive and generally favorable review of the iPhone 4, Anandtech Anandtech’s concludes that the iPhone 4’s overall reception quality is superior to that of the iPhone 3GS, but that it is much more suceptible to signal attenuation when its 3G antenna’s tuning is disturbed by being touched.
    • In other words, according to Anandtech’s data, when the iPhone 4 is in an area of high signal strength, and when its antenna is not being detuned by coming in contact with what Anandtech refers to as "ugly bags of mostly water" — meaning humans — it will outperform earlier iPhones.
    • However, when signal strength is poor and the antennas are compromised, the resulting more-severe attenuation would cause the iPhone 4’s reception to dip below that of the iPhone 3GS.
    • As Anandtech puts it in a discussion of touch-induced radio-frequency attenuation:
    • If Anandtech’s testing and arguments are correct, then Apple’s "it’s the bars" argument is, not to put too fine a point on it, insulting.
    • Anandtech has made an excellent start, but the definitive analysis of the iPhone 4 is yet to be completed. We await the evenhanded analysis of seasoned experts who are well-versed in the black arts of antenna design and testing.
  • Robotic cargo spacecraft misses rendezvous with ISS
    • An unmanned Russian cargo ship missed its scheduled rendezvous with the International Space Station on Friday after a telemetry lock between the two spacecraft failed.
    • The robotic Progress 38 spacecraft sailed past the station as its crew tried in vain to regain telemetry with the it. The ship was a couple miles away from the station when it zoomed by, so it never posed a threat to the six-person crew.
    • Launched Wednesday from Kazakhstan, the spacecraft carried 2.5 tons of supplies and equipment, including propellant for the station, 110 pounds of oxygen, 220 pounds of water and 2,667 pounds of dry cargo. Nasa officials said they don’t consider the supplies to be critical to space station operations.
    • The spacecraft was scheduled to dock at 16:58 GMT Friday, but lost its navigational lock about 25 minutes before.
    • The orbit of the Progress 38 made it doubtful it would be able to retry docking with the station on Friday.
    • Goddard Introduces NASA Center For Climate Simulation
    • NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. recently introduced the NASA Center for Climate Simulation (NCCS), an integrated set of supercomputing, visualization, and data interaction technologies that will enhance agency capabilities in weather and climate prediction research.
    • "The NASA Center for Climate Simulation has been designed to meet the unique computational needs of the climate modeling community supported by NASA’s Earth Science Division," said Phil Webster, chief of Goddard’s Computational and Information Sciences and Technology Office, which manages NCCS.
    • The new center more than doubles the computing capacity available at Goddard one year ago and expands other services to support NASA’s growing climate data needs. Enhanced NCCS capabilities include:
    • The 15,000-processor "Discover" supercomputer with a peak performance of nearly 160 trillion operations per second.
    • A 17- by 6-foot multi-screen visualization wall for displaying high-definition movies of simulation results and interactive data visualizations.
    • An analysis system offering dedicated software tools for visualization, workflow management, and diagnostics.
    • A new data management system for accessing and locating data within NCCS’ multi-petabyte (peta = 1,000 trillion) archive.
    • An Earth System Grid node for distributing simulation data from NASA’s contributions to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
    • Approximately $5,449,739 was provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act toward the completion of NCCS.
    • Goddard is home to one of the largest contingents of Earth scientists in the world. Scientists in the Global Modeling and Assimilation Office (GMAO) and the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York City represent the two largest NCCS user groups. GMAO and GISS simulations investigate weather and climate phenomena at time scales ranging from days to centuries.
    • Several NCCS-hosted simulations are being displayed on the visualization wall for scientists and visitors:
    • GISS climate change projections following surface air temperature, ice cover, and other fields from 1880 to 2100.
    • GMAO’s Modern Era Retrospective-analysis for Research and Applications (MERRA) project, which recently completed a comprehensive reanalysis of the last 30 years of weather and climate.
    • Interactive three-dimensional visualizations of Cyclone Ului’s march through the South Pacific Ocean during March 2010.
    • GMAO global model simulations run at resolutions as high as 3.5 kilometers, including a simulation capturing the massive snowstorms that hit the eastern United States in February 2010.
    • NCCS is part of the NASA High-End Computing Program and serves the agency’s Science Mission Directorate. The center was previously known as the NASA Center for Computational Sciences.