Show of 4-9-2011

  • Email and Forum Questions
    • Email from Ron Krieger: Dear Tech Talk. First, regarding your interesting discussion about flash cookies last Saturday, I would appreciate your informed opinion about the inexpensive "Flash Cookie Cop" utility offered by PC Magazine:
    • Second, shy is it that downloaded or streamed videos (TV episodes and movies) usually strip out the closed captions or English subtitles that are typically included in the DVD or Blu-ray discs for the same shows? Is this a technical issue or just a cost-saving stratagem? Either way, it makes these downloads largely useless to hard-of-hearing friends and relatives who rely on CC or SDH. Thanks for your help and for your always-informative and enjoyable broadcasts. Ron Kreiger.
    • Tech Talk Responds: The trouble with Flash Cookie Cop is that they are charging $7.95 for it. I have since discovered that CCleaner, which is free, clears flash cookies. They are listed under the cookies section, which I previously thought were only browser cookies. The only advantage of Flash Cookie Cop it informs you each time a flash cookie is saved and gives you chance to block it. Of course, you can set your reader to block all Flash cookies using the Global Storage Settings panel that I discussed last week.
    • Email from Lauren: Dr. Richard Shurtz, I have recently moved from Outlook Express to Windows Live Mail. I have several verizon.net email addresses that are all being delivered into my WLM inbox. I am using Windows XP OS. I believe at some point during the set of WLM I was prompted to/forced to establish a hotmail acct/email address for WLM. I did. Now, what I am unclear about is, are my hotmail emails automatically being delivered into my WLM inbox? I see a ‘sign in’ option when I first open up WLM daily. Is that the ONLY way I can read my @hotmail emails or are they automatically able to be dumped into WLM with the rest of my @verizon.net emails. I have multiple email addresses and it is just not always clear to me where the hotmail emails are going. Appreciate your program and all your insights into IT. Thanks, Lauren
    • Tech Talk Responds: Windows Live Mail is the latest email client from Microsoft and is meant to replace two older programs – Outlook Express and Windows Mail Vista. Windows live mail can consolidate many email accounts into one client. It supports POP or IMAP protocol to access and download the emails. You can still go to the individual accounts and access them directly, if you wish. Multiple email accounts can be added on Windows Live Mail one by one.
    • Select Tools/Accounts/Add an e-mail account
      • The login details – username and password.
      • Incoming email server address and type
      • Outgoing email server address
      • Whether the outgoing email server requires authentication.
      • Check the Remember password box.
    • When a new email account is added on Windows Live Mail, the program creates 5 new folders – The Inbox, Drafts, Sent items, Junk e-mail and Deleted items – refer image below.
    • The last step is to modify the properties of the newly set up email account.
      • Right-click on the account in the left panel and select "Properties".
      • Under the generals tab, enter the reply email address and then shift your attention to the Advanced tab.
      • Uncheck the "Leave a copy of messages on server" unless you really want to store your emails online too.
    • If you are facing problems in sending emails from accounts added to Windows Live Mail, you simply need to change the settings for the Outgoing email server to match your ISP outgoing mails servers. Authentication may be required.
    • Email from Tung: Dear Dr. Shurtz, I have a friend in New Jersey who sends me jokes which are fun to read. I have not received any in two weeks even though she has been sending them. Why haven’t I received any? Thanks, Tung
    • Tech Talk Respond: The email is probably being marked as spam. While jokes might not sound like spam, there may be other characteristics of the email that cause it to be treated as such.
      • First, it is probably a broadcast message:
      • Second, emails about sex, politics and religion are commonly labeled as spam.
      • When a filter evaluates a message as spam, it may also place weight on words and phrases that are common to spam.
      • Or perhaps other recipients have called it spam and your email provider has taken their recommendation.
    • About the only thing that you can do is find the message in your email provider’s spam folder. If the message is there, mark it as "This is NOT spam", or whatever your provider uses for that determination. You might also have them send it to multiple email account and see which ones get through.
  • Profiles in IT: Charles Simonyi
    • Charles Simonyi is a computer software executive who, as head of Microsoft’s application software group, oversaw the creation of Microsoft Office.
    • Charles Simonyi was born September 10, 1948 in Budapest, Hungary.
    • While in high school he worked part-time as a night watchman at a computer laboratory, overseeing a large Soviet Ural II mainframe.
    • He took an interest in computing and learned to program from one of the engineers.
    • By the time he left high school, he had learned to develop compilers and sold one of these to a government department and was hired by A/S Regnecentralen in 1966.
    • In 1968 he moved to the US to attend UC Berkeley where he earned a BSEE in 1972.
    • Simonyi enrolled in the Stanford graduate program and was hired by Xerox PARC
    • He and Butler Lampson developed Bravo, the first WYSIWYG document preparation program, which became operational in 1974.
    • He received his PhD in computer science from Stanford in 1977 with a dissertation on a software project management technique called "metaprogramming".
    • This approach sought to defeat Brooks’ law by requiring all programmers to communicate through the manager rather than directly.
    • In 1981, he applied directly to Bill Gates for a job at Microsoft.
    • Simonyi oversaw the development of Word and Excel.
    • Simonyi introduced the techniques of object-oriented programming that he had learned at Xerox to Microsoft.
    • He developed the Hungarian notation convention for naming variables.
    • He left in 2002 to co-found Intentional Software Inc. with Gregor Kiczales.
    • This company markets the intentional programming concepts, where a programmer first builds a toolbox specific to a given problem domain.
    • Domain experts, aided by the programmer, then describe the program’s intended behavior in a WYSIWYG-like manner.
    • An automated system uses the program description and the toolbox to generate the final program. Successive changes are only done at the WYSIWYG level.
    • In 2004, Simonyi received the Wharton Infosys Business Transformation Award for the industry-wide impact of his innovative work in information technology.
    • He dated Martha Stewart for 15 years until February 2008.
    • On November 2, 2008, Simonyi married a Swedish millionaire’s daughter, Lisa Persdotter, who was 32 years his junior. He was 60; she was 28.
    • Simonyi spends six months per year on his 233-foot super yacht named Skat.
    • In early 2006, Simonyi expressed interest in becoming a space tourist.
    • He launched on April 7, 2007 on board Soyuz TMA-10. He returned from the International Space Station aboard Soyuz TMA-9 on April 21, 2007.
    • Charles Simonyi is a licensed amateur radio operator with the call sign KE7KDP.
    • On April 11, 2007 the American Radio Relay League reported that Simonyi was making ham radio contacts from space.
    • On March 26, 2009 he returned to space returning April 8, 2009.
    • Forbes estimated net work is $1B.
  • Grand Opening: Stratford’s Richmond Campus
    • On April 6, 2011, we hosted the Grand Opening Ceremony for the Richmond campus.
    • The Keynote speaker was the Virginia Secretary of Education, Dr. Gerard Robinson.
    • The Greater Richmond Association for Commercial Real Estate awarded Stratford University and Thalheimer Real Estate, the GRACE award for the best renovation and reuse project for 2010.
    • The facility is 53,000 square feet and is located in Shortpump at the intersection of Interstate 64 and Broad Street.
    • It includes a full restaurant facility, culinary arts kitchens, health science labs, nursing labs, computer labs, circular library surrounded by glass, and a tied lecture hall that seats 80. It features several study work areas and a snack area with an outside picnic area.
    • The facility will support 2,200 students and employ 150 staff and faculty.
    • Classes began October 12, 2010. Enrollment is currently at 140 students and growing rapidly.
  • Astronomers Watch Star Torn Apart by Black Hole
    • On March 28, 2011, NASA’s Swift satellite caught a flash of high-energy X-rays pouring in from deep space.
    • Swift is designed to do this, and since its launch in 2004 has seen hundreds of such things, usually caused by stars exploding at the ends of their lives.
    • This time it saw a star getting torn apart as it fell too close to a black hole
    • The event was labeled GRB 110328A (Gamma Ray Burst 03/28/2011).
    • Normal gamma-ray bursts are when supermassive stars collapse (or ultra-dense neutron stars merge) to form a black hole.
    • Although initially cataloged as a GRB, follow-up observations indicated this was no usual event.
    • The way the light grew and faded seemed to fit better with a star getting torn apart.
    • The observations indicate the black hole in question may have as much as half a million times the mass of the Sun, meaning it’s very probably a supermassive black hole in the very center of a distant galaxy.
    • Hubble Space Telescope observations also place the event very near the center of a galaxy.
    • The center of every large galaxy (including our own Milky Way) lies a supermassive black hole, some with millions or even billions of times the Sun’s mass.
    • Some of these, like our own, are sitting there quietly. Without matter falling into them, black holes are pretty calm.
    • In the case of GRB 110328A, something else happened.
    • Black holes have incredibly strong gravity, of course, but that gravity gets weaker with distance.
    • Stars are big, a million or more kilometers across, and that means one side of the star was substantially closer to the black hole than the other, so the near side feels a stronger pull of gravity than the far side of the star. This has the effect of stretching the star in a process called tides.
    • A star is held together by its own gravity. As the star in question here inched closer to the black hole, the force stretching the star got stronger, and at some point overcame its internal gravity. The star got literally torn apart by the black hole!
    • The material swirled around the black hole, forming a small and temporary accretion disk. Observations indicate that for a short time, two beams of matter and energy called jets erupted from the black hole, and it was the flash of tremendous energy from this that triggered Swift, and a flurry of observations from other telescopes cascaded from that.
  • RSA Details SecurID Attack Mechanics
    • EMC’s RSA division has that it was compromised by a phishing attack — aka spoof emails — that used a zero-day Adobe Flash vulnerability.
    • But RSA still offered no details on the information the attacker stole.
    • Here’s how the attack succeeded, according to what RSA:
    • The attacker sent two small batches of emails with "2011 Recruitment Plan" as the subject line to two small groups of EMC employees with an Excel spreadsheet attached, which at least some recipients executed.
    • But the spreadsheet included an embedded Flash file that executed malicious code via a zero-day vulnerability, enabling the attacker to gain full access to the PC and install software to more easily control it remotely.
    • The attacker in this case installed a customized remote administration tool known as Poison Ivy RAT variant.
    • Rather than receiving commands from a control server, tools such as Poison Ivy pull commands from an external server.
    • This connectivity method makes them more difficult to detect, as the PC reaches out to the command and control rather than the other way around.
    • Poison Ivy has been used in numerous other attacks, including the Operation Aurora attack against Google in late 2009.
    • After penetrating EMC’s network, the attacker targeted credentials for people with access to high-value information, aggregated that information, and then exported it via FTP to an external Web site.
    • RSA’s offered no additional information on exactly what the attackers stole, saying only that "RSA made it clear that certain information was extracted."
    • Adobe has since patched the vulnerability exploited by the RSA attacker.
  • Facebook Opens Up Datacenter Design
    • Just weeks before switching on a massive, super-efficient data center in rural Oregon.
    • Facebook is giving away the designs and specifications to the whole thing online.
    • In doing so, the company is breaking a long-established unwritten rule for Web companies: don’t share the secrets of your server-stuffed data warehouses.
    • Most of those secret servers rely heavily on open source or free software, for example the Linux operating system and the Apache webserver.
    • Facebook’s move—dubbed the Open Compute Project—aims to kick-start a similar trend with hardware.
    • Mark Zuckerberg was able to start Facebook in his dorm room because PHP and Apache and other free and open-source software existed.
    • Facebook wants to encourage that for hardware and release enough information about its data center and servers that someone else could go and actually build them.
    • Typically, companies like Google or Microsoft won’t tell you anything about their designs.
    • Zuckerberg believes a more open approach could help the Web as a whole become more efficient.
    • The open hardware designs are for a new data center in Prineville, Oregon, that will be switched on later this month.
    • The 147,000-square-foot building will increase Facebook’s overall computing capacity by around half; the social network already processes some 100 million new photos every day, and its user base of over 500 million is growing fast.
  • Website of the Week: OpenCompute
    • Web Address: http://www.opencompute.org
    • Facebook’s energy consumption per unit of computing power has declined by 38%2.
    • The new data center has a PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) of 1.073, well below the EPA-defined state-of-the-art industry average of 1.51. This means 93% of the energy from the grid makes it into every Open Compute server.
    • They have removed centralized chillers, eliminated traditional inline UPS systems and removed a 480V to 208V transformation.
    • Ethernet-powered LED lighting and passive cooling infrastructure reduce energy spent on running the facility.
    • Website includes complete server specs and data center center.
    • They hope others will copy the design and improve on it, releasing their improvements like open source software.
  • Superconductivity Discovered 100 Years Ago
    • On April 8, 1911, at the Leiden Cryogenic Laboratory in the Netherlands, Heike Onnes and his collaborators immersed a mercury capillary in liquid helium and saw the mercury’s electrical resistance drop to nothing once the temperature reached about 3K or 3 degrees above absolute zero (around –270 Celsius).
    • This phenomenon of "superconductivity" was one of the first quantum phenomena to be discovered, although back then quantum theory did not exist.
    • In subsequent decades theoreticians were able to put quantum physics on a solid foundation and explain superconductivity.
    • Since then, researchers have discovered new families of materials that superconduct at higher and higher temperatures: the current record-holder works at a balmy 138 K.
    • Indeed, the promise of superconductors—power grids that waste no energy, computers that run at untold gigahertz of speed without overheating and, yes, trains that levitate over magnetic fields—has not fully materialized.
    • Still, superconductors have made it possible to build the strong magnets that power magnetic resonance imaging machines, which are the most important commercial application of the phenomenon to this day.
    • And scientists use superconductors in advanced experiments every day. For instance, particle accelerators at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva rely on superconducting coils to generate magnetic fields that steer and focus beams of protons.
    • Some of the most accurate measurements in all of science are done thanks to superconducting quantum interference devices, or SQUIDs.
    • And finally, superconducting electrical transmission lines are here. Wires based on high-temperature superconductors (with liquid nitrogen–based cryogenics, which are technically simpler and much cheaper than liquid helium–based ones) have recently become commercially available.
    • A South Korean utility plans to install them on a large scale. Some U.S. scientists now say that it may be easier to get permits for and build a national superconducting supergrid than construct a conventional high-voltage system.