Show of 11-26-2011

Best of Tech Talk Edition

  • Segments taken from previous shows.

Email and Forum

  • Email from John: Dear Dr. Shurtz. I want to get into IT and don’t know how to begin. What should I learn? How should I get a job? Do I need a degree? John
  • Tech Talk Answers: Get a good grounding in the basics (programming, infrastructure, protocols, and standards). Work on projects that you enjoy (database project, web page, firewall). You must have a passion for some aspect of technology. Join user groups and participate. Read the industry rags. A degree is essential for employment. Bachelors required, Masters desired. Certifications help, but completion of actual projects at home or at school is more impressive.
  • Email from Emily: Dear Dr. Shurtz. I loved your segment on the internet for the visually impaired. What about speach recognition to help with data entry? Are there any good options for me out there? Emily.
  • Tech Talk Answers: Dragon Dictate for Mac ($199) is a complete voice recognition solution for all types of applications
  • MacSpeech Scribe for Mac ($149) will transcribe an audio file.
  • Dragon Premium for PC ($199) includes business apps and social media.
  • Dragon Home for PC ($99) includes a reduced set of applications
  • Website: www.nuance.com

Brief history of Dragon Software

  • Dragon Systems was founded in 1982 by James and Janet Baker to commercialize speech recognition technology.
  • As graduate students at Rockefeller University in 1970, they became interested in speech recognition while observing waveforms of speech on an oscilloscope.
  • Rockefeller had neither experts in speech understanding nor suitable computing power, and so the Bakers moved to Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), a prime contractor for DARPA’s Speech Understanding Research program.
  • There they began to work on natural speech recognition capabilities. Their approach differed from that of other speech researchers.
  • The Bakers’ approach was based purely on statistical relationships, such as the probability that any two or three words would appear one after another.
  • Their approach soon began outperforming competing systems.
  • After receiving their doctorates from CMU in 1975, the Bakers joined IBM.
  • The Bakers developed a program that could recognize speech from a 1,000-word vocabulary, but it could not do so in real time.
  • They left in 1979 to join Exxon’s Verbex Voice Systems, which had built a system for collecting data over the telephone using spoken digits.
  • Less than 3 years later, however, Exxon exited the speech recognition business.
  • In 1982, the Bakers decided to start their own company, Dragon Systems.
  • Dragon received a series of DARPA contract from 1986 through 1991.
  • In July 1997, Dragon had launched Dragon NaturallySpeaking, a continuous speech & voice recognition program for general-purpose use with a vocabulary of 23,000 words for use on the PC.
  • The package won rave reviews and numerous awards.
  • IBM quickly followed suit and offered IBM ViaVoice, but Dragon prevailed in the marketplace.
  • In 2000, Lernout & Hauspie acquired Dragon Systems.
  • In 2001, Scansoft, Inc. acquired all rights to Lernout & Hauspie’s speech recognition products including Dragon Naturally Speaking.
  • In 2003, Scansoft, Inc. acquired Speechworks, and the company changed their name to Nuance in 2005.

Profiles in IT: Philip R. Zimmermann

  • He is creator of Pretty Good Privacy (PGP), the most widely used email encryption software in the world. He is also known for his work in VoIP encryption protocols.
  • Philip R. “Phil” Zimmermann Jr. was born February 12, 1954
  • He was born in Camden, New Jersey. His father was a concrete mixer truck driver.
  • He received a B.S. degree in computer science from Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton in 1978.
  • He was one of the first to make asymmetric or public key, encryption software readily available to the general public.
  • He released the source code to PGP, and shortly thereafter, it became available overseas via the Internet, though Zimmermann has said he had no part in its distribution outside the US.
  • After a report from RSA Data Security, Inc., who were in a licensing dispute with regard to use of the RSA algorithm in PGP, the Customs Service started a criminal investigation of Zimmermann, for allegedly violating the Arms Export Control Act.
  • The US Government has long regarded cryptographic software as a munition, and thus subject to arms trafficking export controls.
  • At that time, the boundary between permitted (“low strength”) cryptography and impermissible (“high strength”) cryptography placed PGP well on the too-strong-to-export side (this boundary has since been relaxed).
  • The investigation lasted three years, but was finally dropped without filing charges.
  • After the government dropped its case without indictment in early 1996, Zimmermann founded PGP Inc. and released an updated version of PGP and some additional related products.
  • That company was acquired by Network Associates (NAI) in December 1997, and Zimmermann stayed on for three years as a Senior Fellow. NAI decided to drop the product line and in 2002, PGP was acquired from NAI by a new company called PGP Corporation. Zimmermann now serves as a special advisor and consultant to that firm.
  • Zimmermann is also a fellow at the Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society. He was a principal designer of the cryptographic key agreement protocol (the “association model”) for the Wireless USB standard.
  • In the very first version of PGP, an encryption algorithm was given the humorous name BassOmatic (after a skit on Saturday Night Live) and Pretty Good Privacy itself is named after a Lake Wobegon fictional grocery store named Ralph’s Pretty Good Grocery.
  • Best source for the latest version of PGP: http://www.pgpi.org/

Geek or Nerd?

  • Are you a geek, or are you a nerd? Here’s your chance to find out.
  • There are many confused lay people out there in today’s modern world who are unhappily unaware of the difference between geeks and nerds.
  • Even more sadly, there are also many geeks and nerds who do not know of the true nature of their own stereotype.
  • Wikiepedia Definitions
  • Geek: A person who is interested in technology, especially computing and new media. Comparable with the classic definition of hacker. Formerly referred to a wild circus performer who bit off the heads of live chickens, snakes, or bats.
  • Nerd: Nerd is a term often bearing a derogatory connotation or stereotype, that refers to a person who passionately pursues intellectual activities or esoteric knowledge rather than engaging in more social activities, such as organized sports.
  • Geek is a subset of nerd.
  • All geeks are nerds
  • All nerds are not geeks

Password Management

  • A password manager is software that helps a user organize passwords and PIN codes.
  • The software typically has a local database or files that holds the encrypted password data.
  • Many password managers also work as a form filler, thus they fill the user and password data automatically into forms. Some have password generator capabilities.
  • Disadvantage is that a compromised master password would render all stored passwords unusable.
  • Advantage is that only one password needs to be remembered.
  • Selected Password Managers
  • RoboForm
    • http://www.roboform.com/
    • Password Manager, Form Filler
    • Password Generator, Fill & Save Forms
    • Roboform is the top-rated Password Manager and Web Form Filler that completely automates password entering and form filling.
    • RoboForm was named PC Magazine Editor’s Choice, and CNET Download.com’s Software of the Year.   
    • Free download (Professional version $29)
  • Password Safe

Webcomic for Geeks

  • Finally even geeks have a comic just for them.
  • Web Address:  http://xkcd.com/
  • Xkcd, a webcomic peopled with lovestruck stick figures, revels in the human side of geekdom.
  • Billed as “a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math and language,” it’s a peculiar blend of whimsy, programming language and speculation about relationships.
  • “Xkcd” isn’t an acronym, but in some ways, the comic is itself a language — a way for people who are unpracticed at talking about their emotions to articulate them.
  • Creator: Randall Munroe
  • Munroe is a CNU graduate with a degree in physics. Before starting xkcd, he worked on robots at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia. As of June 2007 he lives in Massachusetts.
  • He was going through old math/sketching graph paper notebooks and didn’t want to lose some of the work in them, so he started scanning pages. He took the funniest ones and put them up on a server he was testing out, and got a bunch of readers when BoingBoing linked to him. He started drawing seriously, gained a lot more readers, started selling t-shirts on the site, and is currently shipping t-shirts and drawing this comic full-time.

Inventor of Cntl-Alt-Del

  • David J. Bradley (born 1949) was one of the twelve engineers who worked on the original IBM PC, developing the computer’s ROM BIOS code.
  • He is most famous for inventing the “Control-Alt-Delete” (also known as three-finger salute) key combination that was used to reboot the computer.
  • Bradley did not intend Control-Alt-Delete to be used by end users ? it was meant to be used by people writing programs or documentation, so that they could reboot their computers without powering them down.
  • Bradley chose this key combination because it is practically impossible to accidentally press this combination of keys on a standard keyboard.
  • David Bradely, the inventor of CTRL-ALT-DEL was talking about why he created it during a panel celebrating the 20th anniversary of the IBM PC which included Bill Gates.
  • Mr. Bradely said, ‘I may have invented CTRL-ALT-DEL, but Bill Gates made it famous,’ which just about brought the house down.
  • The funniest part is the expression, or lack thereof, on the face of Bill. He wasn’t too pleased, not even when Bradely said, ‘I was talking about the Windows NT login.’

Geek is Sheek

  • A Great Website: http://www.thinkgeek.com
    • Tshirts (Wi-Fi detection, T-Qualizer, GeekisSexy)
    • Remote control airplanes(all types)
    • USB Toys
  • Another site: http://www.robotstore.com
    • Kits
    • Parts
    • Plans
  • My favorite robot kit
    • LEGO MindStorms NXT $249
    • Website: http://mindstorms.lego.com/
    • NXT Intelligent Brick with 32-bit microprocessor with memory and FLASH
    • 3 Interactive Servo motors for precise control
    • Sound sensor reacts to sound commands, patterns and tones
    • Ultrasonic visual sensor responds to movement
    • Touch sensor reacts to touch and release
    • Light sensor detects different colors and light intensities
    • 519 specially selected elements for sturdy and durable building and improved functionality and movement
    • 4 input ports, 3 output ports and 7 6-wire cords
    • Matrix display
    • Real sound speaker
    • USB 2.0 and Bluetooth support
    • Easy-to-use PC and Mac compatible interface

Cooking and Simple Food Technology

  • How not to overcook the white meat and still have the dark perfect. Use a temperature gradient. Let the turkey sit out at room temperature with an ice pack on the white meat.
  • How to avoid lumpy gravy. Gravy is a mixture of fat, flour, and meat juices. Flour is composed of protein (from the wheat germ) and the starch (from the food that surrounds the wheat germ). Starch is what thickens the gravy. At 160F, the starch combines with the fat and expands rapidly to thicken the gravy.
  • My favorite food science book: On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee, Copyright (1984, 2004), ISBN 0-684-80001-2
  • Food Science: Lumpy Gravy
  • Starch-thickened sauces take advantage of gelatinization Wheat starch thickens 140 to 148 degrees F
  • Corn starch thickens at 144 to 158 degree F
  • To eliminate lumps mix flour and butter (roux) prior to putting into liquid.
  • 1-1-1 Formula: 1 cup of liquid, 1 TB flour, 1 TB butter.

Cell Phone Jammers — Illegal Yet Popular

  • The jamming technology is not new, but it´s becoming increasingly popular on buses, in restaurants, and in movie theaters.
  • The device works by sending out a powerful radio signal that overwhelms cell phones so that they cannot communicate with cell towers.
  • Upon activating a phone jammer, all idle phones will indicate “NO NETWORK.”
  • Incoming calls are blocked as if the cellular hand phone were off.
  • Can be purchased from several companies http://www.phonejammer.com/
  • Portable cell phone jammer (battery operated) – $149 and $219
  • Low, High Power Cell Phone Jammer Fixed — $195 and $295
  • Adjustable High Power Cell Phone Jammers — $395 and $415
  • Ultra High Power Cell Phone Jammers — $1449 and $3995
  • However, using the jammers is illegal in the US, since the radio frequencies used by cell phone carriers are legally protected by the government, similar to the protected frequencies used by television and radio broadcasters.
  • Cell phone companies spend tens of billions of dollars to lease the frequencies from the government, and expect protection from infringement.
  • According to a recent article in the New York Times, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) warns that people caught using cell phone jammers could be fined up to $11,000 for a first offense.
  • FCC investigators have special technology of their own that can detect the jammers.
  • The commission has already prosecuted several US companies for distributing the devices nationally.