Show of 7-24-2010

  • Email and Forum Questions
    • Email from Ms. Bartiromo: Dear Dr.Shurtz– on all things Tech, I would like to learn your opinion on these two firms
      • Qualcomm – Are they the strongest player that licenses technology that enables Smartphones to connect to 3G and 4G networks going forward?
      • Ultimate Software Group -Do you like their software?
    • Thanks! Ms Bartiromo in Bethesda MD
    • Tech Talk Answers: Qualcomm is the undisputed leader in CDMA. However, CDMA is losing the global battle with GSM, the European standard. The removable SIM card used in GSM is particularly attractive to developing countries. CDMA is the leader 3G and 4G protocol in the US and will continue that way for the foreseeable future. Qualcomm’s licensing model is very profitable and their patents are secure. The only question is GSM.
    • The Ultimate Software Group is still led by Scott Scherr, the founder. He has broad experience in automatic data processes and is from an entrepreneurial family. He is a good technical leader. Their software suite is a solid product for mid-sized companies. The only question in my mind is a succession plan for Scherr. He is still tightly holding the reins. I have no direct experience with USG’s software.
    • Email from Arnie: Dear Dr. Shurtz, A listener on today’s program asked you a question re better Wi-Fi reception in their house. I would like to extend that question to how does one increase cell phone reception at one’s house? I have a non-exotic Verizon cell phone and my wife and father in law have TracFones. We have to go outside to get use our phones at home – cold in winter and warm in summer, not to mention mosquitoes in the latter. Visitors with more advanced cell phones have the same problem when they visit our house. Any suggestions to increase cell phone reception at our place – other than going outside to use the cell phone?
    • If I can double up on questions: When updates become available for various programs, i.e., Adobe, Registry Mechanic, Skype, et al, how does one tell if the update: 1) completely replaces the original program; 2) just adds to the original program, and 3) if one has to delete the original program after the update is completed. Thanks, Arnie
    • Tech Talk Answers: Tech Talk Answers: You can buy a cell phone booster which will amplify the weak signal and retransmit it within your house.
    • I recommend that zBoost YX510-PCS-CEL Dual Band Kit. It will handle all service providers (both CDMA and GSM) and operates in the 800 and 1900 MHz bands.
      • Compatible with all networks (except Nextel)
      • Supports up to 20 users simultaneously with no need to connect to your phone to improve reception.
      • Improves standard CDMA and GSM voice signals, and also EVDO, HSDPA, UMTS, and EDGE data transfers.
      • Approximate coverage are is 2,500 sq ft.
      • External Omni-directional Antenna (5db) with 35 ft of RG-6 coaxial cable
      • Internal base unit antenna (2 db)
      • List price: $399 (Street price: $289)
    • As for a as the second questions, most upgrades remove the old version. You can see that being done during the installation process. However, up upgrades are actually new installs that first check for an existing registration. The upgrade declaration is merely a pricing strategy. In that case, the old version is not touched and a new one is installed. This may happen with some Adobe products (like Photoshop). However, not with the free ones like Adobe Reader. Both Registry Mechanic and Skype clean up the old files when updated.
  • Profiles in IT: Dr. James H. Clark
    • Dr. James H. Clark founded several Silicon Valley technology companies, including Silicon Graphics, Inc., Netscape Communications Corporation, myCFO and Healtheon.
    • Dr. James H. Clark was born March 23, 1944 in Plainview, Texas
    • He dropped out of high school after being suspended and spent 4 years in the Navy.
    • Clark began taking night courses at Tulane University’s University College and was able to earn enough credits to be admitted to the University of New Orleans.
    • Clark earned a Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree in physics, and then a PhD in computer science from the University of Utah in 1974.
    • Clark then worked at NYIT’s Computer Graphics Lab, served as an assistant professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz from 1974 to 1978, and then as an associate professor of EE at Stanford University from 1979 to 1982.
    • Clark’s research work concerned geometry pipelines, specialized software or hardware that accelerates the display of three dimensional images.
    • In 1982, Jim Clark and Abbey Silverstone along with several Stanford graduate students formed Silicon Graphics, Inc.
    • The Silicon Graphics graphical workstations were stand-alone graphical UNIX workstations with very fast graphics rendering hardware (with the MIPS CPU).
    • Silicon Graphics became the world leader in the production of Hollywood movie visual effects and 3-D imaging. Clark left Silicon Graphics in 1994
    • In 1994, Clark and Marc Andreessen, co-creator of Mosaic, founded Netscape.
    • Netscape helped launch the Internet IPO boom during the mid to late 1990s
    • With an investment of $5 million US, Clark earned $2 billion US.
    • Just as the Internet boom was about to crash, Clark cashed out.
    • Clark’s involvement with Netscape essentially ended in November of 1998, when AOL agreed to pay roughly $4.2 billion for Netscape.
    • In 1998, Jim Clark started Healtheon, with a mission to streamline the paperwork associated with the healthcare industry.
    • Knowing that WebMD had financial backing from Microsoft, Clark decided to merge Healtheon, with the original WebMD to form the current WebMD Corporation.
    • In 1999, Clark launched myCFO to help the wealthy manage their fortunes.
    • myCFO’s operations were sold to Harris Bank in late 2002.
    • Clark was chairman and financial backer of network security startup company Neoteris, founded in 2000, which was acquired by NetScreen in 2003.
    • Clark was a director and investor in DNA Sciences, founded in 1998, which went bankrupt and was acquired by Genaissance Pharmaceuticals Inc. in 2003.
    • In 1999, Clark donated $150 million to Stanford University for the creation of an interdisciplinary biological sciences program called Bio-X.
    • In the Fall of 2005 Clark and David Filo of Yahoo! each donated $30 million to Tulane University’s School of Engineering.
    • He is also a devoted sailor and the owner of several high-tech sailboats.
    • Clark has been married four times and has two children.
  • Wal-Mart Radio Tags to Track Clothing
    • Wal-Mart Stores Inc. plans to roll out electronic ID tags to track individual pairs of jeans and underwear.
    • Starting next month, the retailer will place removable "smart tags" on individual garments that can be read by a hand-held scanner.
    • Wal-Mart workers will be able to quickly learn, for instance, which size of Wrangler jeans is missing, with the aim of ensuring shelves are optimally.
    • If successful, the radio-frequency ID tags will be rolled out on other products at Wal-Mart’s more than 3,750 U.S. stores.
    • Before now, retailers including Wal-Mart have primarily used RFID tags, which store unique numerical identification codes that can be scanned from a distance, to track pallets of merchandise traveling through their supply chains.
    • While the tags can be removed from clothing and packages, they can’t be turned off, and they are trackable.
    • Some privacy advocates hypothesize that unscrupulous marketers or criminals will be able to drive by consumers’ homes and scan their garbage to discover what they have recently bought.
    • Several states, including Washington and New York, have begun issuing enhanced driver’s licenses that contain radio- frequency tags with unique ID numbers, to make border crossings easier for frequent travelers.
    • Some privacy advocates contend that retailers could theoretically scan people with such licenses as they make purchases, combine the info with their credit card data, and then know the person’s identity the next time they stepped into the store.
    • Wal-Mart is demanding that suppliers add the tags to removable labels to minimize fears that they could be used to track people’s movements.
    • A similar pilot program at American Apparel Inc. in 2007 found that stores with the technology saw sales rise 14.3% compared to stores without the technology.
    • And while the tags wouldn’t replace bulkier shoplifting sensors, Wal-Mart expects they’ll cut down on employee theft because its easier to see if something’s missing.
  • Trapping ‘ghost’ workers with RFID
    • On construction jobs in developing countries, some contract laborers do not turn up for work, yet these ‘ghost workers’ get paid their daily wages with the connivance of the supervisors.
    • It results in loss of revenue and productivity. An India construction company plans to use Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology to catch these ‘ghosts’.
    • Provided by Mumbai-based EssenRFID, each construction worker will be given an RFID tag.
    • The tag will contain unique ID details of the worker including that of the contracting agency. Each worker’s image will then captured by a power-over-ethernet (POE) camera and stored in a database on a server.
    • At the end of each day, when the worker comes to collect his daily wages, the information on the tag will be matched with that in the database to verify if the worker attended duty. Only then will the wages be paid.
    • EssenRFID’s future projects include a "laundry clothes tracking" solution for a large laundry house in Mumbai’s suburbs involving 20,000 clothes per day.
    • In 2010, three key factors drove a significant increase in RFID usage — decreased cost of equipment and tags, increased performance to a reliable 99.9 per cent and a stable international standard around UHF passive tags.
    • Passive UHF tags from EssenRFID, for instance, cost anywhere between Rs 30 and Rs 80 per tag (around 1 to 2 dollars) but can last for up to two decades.
    • The market size of the RFID industry in India is growing at 30% per annum.
    • The biggest contributor to the growth is expected to be government entities animal tagging, transit ticketing, and people identification.
    • More than 45 colleges in Pune have introduced student identity RFID cards that allow students access to hostels and monitor their classroom attendance; and ITC uses RFID to track what goes into the manufacturing of its cigarettes.
  • Removing SCADA worm could disrupt power plants
    • Siemens has made a program available for detecting and disinfecting malware attacking its software used to control power grids, gas refineries, and factories but warned customers who use it could disrupt sensitive plant operations.
    • The company on Thursday began distributing Sysclean, a malware scanner made by Trend Micro.
    • It has been updated to remove Stuxnet, a worm that spreads by exploiting two separate vulnerabilities in Siemens’s SCADA, or supervisory control and data acquisition, software and every supported version of Microsoft Windows.
    • Stuxnet has infected the engineering environment of at least one unidentified Siemens customer, and has since been eliminated, Siemens said.
    • So far, the company said, there are no known infections of production plants.
    • The worm spreads whenever a system running Siemens’s SCADA software is attached to an infected USB stick.
    • The attacks use a recently documented vulnerability in the Windows shortcut feature to take control of customer PCs.
    • Once there, the worm takes advantage of default passwords in WinCC, the SCADA software provided by Siemens.
    • Siemens has come under criticism for not removing the vulnerability two years ago, when the default password threat first came to light.
    • Siemens has updated WinCC to fix the vulnerability. Microsoft has issued a stopgap fix but hasn’t said yet when it plans to patch the the Windows bug.
  • Website of the Week: drop.io
    • Web Address: http://www.drop.io
    • Drop.io is an excellent file-sharing service.
    • Just type in the URL you’d like to use, upload your files (up to 100MB), set a password and/or privacy setting, and choose how long the link should be live (up to a year from the last page view).
    • Sharing the files is then as easy as sending the URL around.
    • There’s no registration, no cost, and no limit to how many URLs you can use.
  • Microsoft signs deal on mobile processors
    • Microsoft has signed a deal with chip designer Arm that will give it in-depth access to processor blueprints.
    • The licensing deal means Microsoft can look at the entire instruction set that Arm chips use.
    • Arm designs the chips that power the vast majority of the world’s mobile phones as well as an increasing number of netbooks and tablet computers.
    • The only other companies publicly acknowledged by Arm to be architecture licensees are chip makers such as Qualcomm, Marvell and Infineon. Other firms tend to buy licences for access to specific Arm processors.
    • An instruction set is the long list of all the things that a particular chip can do and the way it manages memory and other sub-systems to get them done.
    • In a statement, Microsoft said of the deal: "With closer access to the Arm technology we will be able to enhance our research and development activities for Arm-based products."
    • Many Microsoft rivals, such as Apple and Amazon, already produce popular portable gadgets that use Arm-designed processors.
    • Google is also preparing its Chrome operating system for release this year and that is widely expected to run on tablets and netbooks that have an Arm chip onboard.