Best of Tech Talk Edition Email and Forum Questions Profiles in IT: Rob Malda Tech Zombies: Technologies that don't know they're dead Police Turn to Secret Weapon: GPS Device Food Science: What is Pickling? Food Science: Microwave Oven Food Science: Potatoes Commercial CD Turns 26 and It Still Won't Die
Email from Ellen: My husband wants to reformat his computer, because of a virus. He wants to save certain files, and wants to know the best way to save those files. Ellen.
Tech Talk Answers: If you want to be totally, absolutely sure you don’t miss something important, then you want to take a complete backup image of your computer. Use a backup program like Acronis TrueImage or an equivalent, and backup your entire machine, most likely to an external hard disk. This is good practice anyway.
If you know exactly which files you need to save, your options are actually fairly simple:
Copy the file(s) to floppy disks
Copy the file(s) to a USB flash drive
Copy the file(s) to an external hard disk
Copy (or "burn") the file(s) to a CD or DVD
Copy the file(s) to another machine on your local area network
You simply need to copy those files to some other place so that you can copy them back after your machine has been reformatted.
Email from Amy: Dear Tech Talk. How can I set up my own blog? Amy
Tech Talk Responds:
How to Set Up a Blog
Define Your Niche
Defining Your Audience
Choosing Your Subject
Once You’ve Chosen Your Subject, Evaluate the Competition
Name Your Blog
Choose a name that’s memorable, short and easy to spell
Name and URL should match
Checking Your Name’s Availability Using Whois Database
Secure Domain Name using GoDaddy or Network Solutions
Point your newly-purchased domain name to your blog.
Choose a Blog Host (Option 1)
If you are creating your first blog or don’t have a great deal of technical expertise, than a hosted blog service is the way to go.
A hosted blog service essentially "hosts" your blog at their domain. They make creating a blog easy by providing well-designed templates, a web address and rich text editors that allow you to create posts without any special technical knowledge.
With a hosted blog service, you can have a blog up and running in less than ten minutes.
Some of the most popular hosted blogging platforms include:
Four Pricing Levels from $4.95/mo – $29.95/mo. Designed for Savvy beginners.
Stand Alone Blogging Platform (Option 2)
This type of blogging platform is hosted by you on your own domain. This type of platform allows you to have full control over the design of your site and will use whatever domain name you’ve purchased.
To use this kind of blogging platform, you will need to subscribe to a hosting service and download a blogging platform WordPress.org or MovableType.org.
This route is more costly and demands a certain amount of technical literacy. You get a fully customizable site in your own name, which makes it the choice of many (but not all) professional bloggers.
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.
Tech Zombies: Technologies that don’t know they’re dead
Some technologies are like a Tyrannosaurus running down the highway.
They made sense once and now they’re hideously out of place, carried only by momentum as they stumble toward their inevitable date with the sixteen-wheeler of Progress.
Encyclopedias (replaced by Google)
On the Way Out
MP3 Players (to be replaced by multifunction phones)
DVD (to be replaced by downloaded media)
Cash (replaced by credit card, one use shown above)
Lecture Halls (replaced by online content)
Home phone with land line
Police Turn to Secret Weapon: GPS Device
Across the country, police are using GPS devices to snare thieves, drug dealers, sexual predators and killers, often without a warrant or court order.
Law enforcement officials, when they discuss the issue at all, said GPS is essentially the same as having an officer trail someone, just cheaper and more accurate.
Most of the time, judges have sided with police.
Most police departments in the Washington region resist disclosing whether they use GPS to track suspects. However, details on how police use GPS usually become public when the use of the device is challenged in court.
Arlington police said they have used GPS devices 70 times in the last three years, mostly to catch car thieves, but also in homicide, robbery and narcotics investigations.
GPS devices receive signals from a network of satellites, then use the information to calculate their precise location. By taking readings at different times, they can also calculate speed and direction.
The Defense Department operates the system, which was made available for civilian use in 1996. The technology’s price has dropped since then, with new dashboard models available for less than $200. Some cellphone models are equipped with GPS, and many companies and local governments rely on GPS to track vehicle fleets.
Two types of GPS trackers are available
Real-time tracking reports location every ten seconds.
Data is on a map via the Internet. Real-time tracking is available from $29 to $39 per month.
Real-time tracking devices cost a few hundred dollars
These devices cost between $300 and $500.
Devices record the GPS location and store it on internal memory.
Typically around 250 hours of tracking can be stored
Device is connected to USB port on your computer for display
These devices can be less around $250
Food Science: What is Pickling?
Pickling is a global culinary art.
If you were to go on an international food-tasting tour, you’d find pickled foods just about everywhere.
You might sample kosher cucumber pickles in New York City, chutneys in India, kimchi in Korea, miso pickles in Japan, salted duck eggs in China, pickled herring in Scandinavia, corned beef in Ireland, salsas in Mexico, pickled pigs feet in the southern United States, and much, much more.
What makes a pickle a pickle? On a most general level, pickles are foods soaked in solutions that help prevent spoilage.
There are two basic categories of pickles.
The first type includes pickles preserved in vinegar, a strong acid in which few bacteria can survive. Most of the bottled kosher cucumber pickles available in the supermarket are preserved in vinegar.
The other category includes pickles soaked in a salt brine to encourages fermentation – the growth of "good" bacteria that make a food less vulnerable to "bad" spoilage-causing bacteria. Common examples of fermented pickles include kimchi and many cucumber dill pickles.
For thousands of years, our ancestors have explored ways to pickle foods, following an instinct to secure surplus food supplies for long winters, famine, and other times of need.
Historians know, for instance, that over two thousand years ago, workers building the Great Wall of China ate sauerkraut, a kind of fermented cabbage.
But pickling foods does much more than simply preserve them. It can also change their taste and texture in a profusion of interesting ways. It’s no surprise that cultures across the globe enjoy such an assortment of pickled foods.
The evolution of diverse pickled foods in different cultures has contributed to unique cultural food preferences, such as spicy sour tastes in Southeast Asia and acidic flavors in Eastern Europe.
Food Science: Microwave Oven
Microwave radiation is around 2400 MHz, near the absorption peak of water
The frequency is slightly detuned from the absorption peak so the radiation penetrates to the center of the food.
The radiation heats the water molecules so the temperature never exceeds the boiling point of water.
Not good for heating meats that require browning through Maillard reaction , which occurs above 285 F.
Good for heating eggs, steaming vegetables, poaching fish, making caramel from sugar
Food Science: Potatoes
There are many different types of potatoes, and each has a best cooking method.
Potatoes are all about starch and water; the cooking method controls the reaction between the two.
As a high-starch potato is baked, the starch inside the potato absorbs water from other parts of the potato and swells, making a space between cells, creating a mealy, dry texture.
When a potato is deep fried, pan fried, or roasted, the starch on the surface expands, sealing the edges and the surface, creating a crisp crust and keeping the interior moist.
Boiling, or low starch potatoes, do not absorb as much water, so the cell structure stays intact, and the potato holds its shape.
Russet potatoes have a high starch content with low moisture. These potatoes bake mealy and fluffy, and are the best choice for mashed potatoes and baked potatoes.
Medium starch potatoes include Yukon Gold and Yellow Finn potatoes. They aren’t as fluffy as russet potatoes, but have great flavor. Yukon Gold potatoes, especially, taste buttery when cooked.
Potatoes with a low starch content and high moisture include red and white potatoes. These potatoes are most often boiled or roasted and used in potato salad because of their creamy texture. They hold together well after being cooked.
Sweet Potatoes and Yams are actually two different tubers. Yams are a member of the lily family, and sweet potatoes are members of the morning glory family. In the United States, you’re almost always buying sweet potatoes; true yams are not very available.
Commercial CD Turns 26 and It Still Won’t Die
On Aug. 17th, 1982, the Compact Disc was born.
It was originally designed to play 60 minutes of audio. Sony extended it to 74 minutes to accommodate Beethoven’s 9th Symphony
The technology invented by James Russell in the 60s (Profiles in IT, Dec 29, 2007)
It would be well over a decade later before affordable CD-Rs would arrive. Since then everything from music, to photos, to video, to recipes have been stored on CD.
Remember when AOL used to spew out those CDs to pimp their dialup service? Many used them as coasters for coffee cups.