Show of 3-3-2012

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from James Messick: Dear Dr. Shurtz, Microsoft used to offer a free service to keep designated files and folders in sync on various computers. It synced from computer to computer without storing the data in “the cloud”, thus requiring at least 2 of the synced computers to be powered on at the same time. The service was smart enough to transfer files directly over the local network when synced computers were both present on the same network. Unfortunately Microsoft shut this service down. I would like a simple solution to do the syncing directly over the local network. Do you know of such a solution? Also, I now have a Microsoft SkyDrive account which gives 25 Gb of free online storage, but it is somewhat of a different animal. This is handy but lacks the convenience of something like DropBox, where a folder is automatically synced to both the cloud and other PC’s. Do you know of a way to simplify storage to Microsoft SkyDrive? Thanks, James Messick, Kernersville, NC
  • Tech Talk Responds: Microsoft SyncToy 2.1 is a free application that synchronizes files and folders between locations. Typical uses include sharing files, such as photos, with other computers and creating backup copies of files and folders. It was released in 2009 and is still available it uses the Microsoft Sync Framework 2.0. It is not supported by Tech Support and is available free for download.
  • Email from Ken: Dear Dr. Shurtz, Today’s repeat show included the topic of numerical weather forecasting and included mention of a website that sounded like NOGAS. I wanted to see the website, so I searched the Tech Talk shows on stratford.edu. I eventually found the discussion on the page for February 13, 2010, but I did not find a weather site with a name like the one you said. I searched for weather websites with Google and in the Open Directory but did not find it. I quit after searching for about an hour. Obviously that spelling is wrong, so what is the correct spelling? In the future, would you please spell names, terms, etc. whose spelling is not obvious? By simply spelling the names you could save a lot of searching by anybody who wants to look up what you are talking about, especially during the show. Almost every week I spend at least half the show searching for somebody or something whose name you did not spell. Thank you. Ken H.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Navy Operational Global Atmospheric Prediction System (NOGAPS). NRL link to NOGAPS: http://www.nrlmry.navy.mil/metoc/nogaps/
  • Email from a Bethesda listener: Dr Shurtz, I am taking a CBT course for work. It took a great deal of steps to get this to work properly. It all boiled down to a JAVA issue. I don’t really understand JAVA and wish you’d devote a segment of program going over what this appl actually does as it appears to be kind of powerful and important. Thanks Much. PS Is Sun Microsystems OpenOffice ever going to usurp MS Office?  Bethesda listener.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Java was developed by Sun Microsystems. The Java programming language and environment is designed to solve a number of problems in modern programming practice. It is designed to be an improved version of C++. Simplified, automatic garbage collection, small foot print for embedded applications, object oriented, network savvy with built in library, robust with early error checking, secure with embedded encryption, architecture neutral, portable. Multi-threaded, and interpreted.
  • The Java language provides a powerful addition to the tools that programmers have at their disposal. Java makes programming easier because it is object-oriented and has automatic garbage collection. In addition, because compiled Java code is architecture-neutral, Java applications are ideal for a diverse environment like the Internet. For more information, visit http://java.sun.com/.
  • As for Open Office. I don’t think that it will ever surpass MS Office because a lack of support. However, it is a great alternative those on a budget. Website: http://openoffice.org.
  • Email from Greg Johnson: Dear Dr. Shurtz. When you first read a question, it sounds like something one of my grandmother’s less computer literate friends would ask. By the time you’re done answering, I’m like, whoa, I didn’t know anything about the topic!
  • The ads. Can you just find some way to get a variety of real, money-grubbing ads for yourselves? Repeating the same long, poorly produced ad just drives me into the despair of wanting to unsubscribe. Can you get some new ads? Thanks, Greg Johnson
  • Tech Talk Responds: Thanks for the feedback….both the good and the bad.
  • Email from Marshal: Dr Shurtz advised last week that Ooma will begin charging tax on March 23, 2012. I have been considering getting a VOIP service for my home but, from a cursory glance of the Ooma hardware I am wondering how I could use one device to “VOIPify” all of my home phone jacks? I could plug the unit directly to my router, then plug in a cordless phone with multiple handsets. This however, would not give me VOIP access to use at the other jacks in my home for an actual corded phone and a fax machine on another floor. How could I accomplish this without buying multiple devices or paying for multiple subscriptions?
  • You mentioned on the April 17, 2010 show that faxing was “bandwidth needy” and a “good internet connection” is needed. In your opinion – How would Ooma or other VOIP solution work with my “medium” speed DSL Internet connection? Do I have to bite the bullet and upgrade to a higher speed/cost option?
  • Thank you for your research and for putting on a Great show every Saturday! A loyal listener for almost 10 years, Marshall
  • Tech Talk Responds:  A DSL link should be adequate so long as you have enough upstream bandwidth. VoIP is bi-directional. You can check your bandwidth by going to www.broadbandreports.com. Go the tools section and select speed test.
  • You can connect one voice system to OOMA. I have a wireless distribution system in my house with a Uniden DECT6. You can connect your wired system to the OOMA device by simply plugging it into the wall connection. Make certain to disconnect your home system from the outside line. If you are using fax, make certain to disable error checking with the prefix *99. I plug the fax and phone system into OOMA using a simply splitter.
  • Email from anonymous: Dr. Shurtz, I have been unemployed for a very long time, and employers are not hiring me. Are employers using the normal hiring process and just hiring people as contractors, or is there a different procedure for finding contracted jobs? Second, I have been told that my PhD is worthless because it is from 1987. Is there any employer that will consider my degree valuable? Now I am told that my education and experience are worthless. Thank, anonymous
  • Tech Talk Responds: I will talk about these job website later in the show. A degree is not what employers are looking for. It is a check box to be considered. They are looking for what you did with your degree after you got it. You need to highlight projects and accomplishments that are identifiable. I would also read the book, What Color is Your Parachute by Dick Bolles.
  • Email from Margaret: Richard Shurtz, Listen every Sat and like your program!
  • I work for a large tech company based in Japan. I got a software course approved by my boss several months back and every time I go to take it, there are tech difficulties and I never get into the course.
  • Most recently I sent the ‘final’ screenshot –showing up to where I get to and can’t get into the actual course–to the support staff for the CBT and got back his list of needed info: Java 6.0 Developer Kit, VPN, PC, LAN setting.
  • What would likely be most helpful for me is for you to please explain what all these selections/options mean. I don’t understand the ramifications from selecting one choice and not the other. Thanks, don’t recall a session on LAN settings in the past. Thanks, Margaret Bethesda MD
  • Tech Talk Responds: The two key factors are VPN and LAN setting. The VPN provides a secure link to your companies servers. You will to have the proper VPN client and password. That is the most probable area for failure. The LAN settings simply ensure that you can reach the Internet. They include automatic detection of the proxy server (or dial up configuration) which is the gateway to the Internet. If you can surf the web your LAN setting are correct.

Profiles in IT: Dennis Crowley

  • Dennis Crowley is an internet entrepreneur best known for co-founding the popular social networking sites Dodgeball and Foursquare.
  • Dennis Crowley was born June 19, 1976 in Medley, Massachusetts.
  • Crowley graduated from Xaverian Brothers High School in Westwood, MA in 1994.
  • He received a BA in Public Communications from Syracuse University in 1998.
  • After graduating from Syracuse, he worked ked two jobs in New York: one was at an Internet research firm and the other was at a tech start-up.
  • After the dot-com crash, he lost both jobs in the summer of 2001.
  • Then 9/11 happened and he took a job as a snowboard instructor for the winter.
  • The winter he began applying to business schools unsuccessfully and a friend asked him to attend a weird art show at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.
  • The first project I saw was someone who was making robots who follow robots who follow robots. He loved the program and enrolled.
  • He was inspired by emerging technology and the Internet and building things that people use and get enjoyment out of.
  • He enrolled in the Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) at NYU and received a Masters degree in 2004.
  • His thesis project at ITP was called Dodgeball. It was kind of a really early version of what Foursquare is: you tell Dodgeball where you are, and we’ll tell your friends where you are.
  • Crowley co-founded Dodgeball with fellow student Alex Rainert in 2003 while attending NYU.
  • While trying to raise money to fund it, they were acquired by Google.
  • Google bought Dodgeball in 2005 and shut it down in 2009, replacing it with Google Latitude.
  • He left Google and worked for a friend’s company for eight months and then took a year off.
  • Crowley along with Naveen Selvadurai developed a second version of the original Dodgeball service called Foursquare (www.foursquare.com)  in 2009.
  • Both dodge ball and foursquare are elementary school games using a ball.
  • Foursquare is a location-based social networking website for mobile devices.
  • Users check-in at venues using a mobile website. Location is based on GPS data or network location provided by the application.
  • Each check-in awards the user points and sometimes badges, like Mayor.
  • Foursquare is principally funded by three VC firms and raised $1.35 million in its Series A and $20 million in its Series B round. On June 24, 2011 Foursquare raised $50 million on a $600 million valuation.
  • Foursquare, had over 10 million users as of June 2011 and currently as around 100 employees.
  • In 2005, he was named to the MIT Technology Review TR35 as one of the top 35 innovators in the world under the age of 35.
  • Crowley was named one of Fortune Magazine’s “40 under 40” Business’s hottest rising stars in 2010.

Idea of the Week: Speech-Jamming Gun

  • Two Japanese researchers recently introduced a prototype for a device they call a SpeechJammer that can literally “jam” someone’s voice — effectively stopping them from talking. Now they’ve released a video of the device in action.
  • The researchers released the video after their paper went viral Thursday, to the authors’ apparent surprise.
  • The design of the device is deceptively simple. It consists of a direction-sensitive microphone and a direction-sensitive speaker, a motherboard, a distance sensor and some relatively straightforward code. The concept is simple, too — it operates on the well-studied principle of delayed auditory feedback.
  • By playing someone’s voice back to them, at a slight delay (around 200 milliseconds), you can jam a person’s speech.
  • The Japanese researchers behind the SpeechJammer looked to medical devices used to help people with speech problems.
  • Delayed auditory feedback, or DAF, devices have been used to help stutterers for decades. If a stutterer hears his own voice at a slight delay, stuttering often improves.
  • But if a non-stutterer uses a DAF device designed to help stutterers, he can start stuttering — and the effect is more pronounced if the delay is longer.
  • They utilized DAF to develop a device that can jam remote physically unimpaired people’s speech whether they want it or not.
  • Being at a distance from the target means it’s possible to aim the device at people who are several feet away.
  • Bothered by what someone at a meeting is saying? Point the SpeechJammer at him.
  • The device is still a prototype.

How to Watch the Mars This Weekend

  • Venus and Jupiter lined up in the night sky last week
  • The distance between Earth and Mars is now shrinking to its smallest in more than two years.
  • On March 3 Mars will be in opposition to the sun, providing excellent opportunities for viewing the Red Planet.
  • The celestial event known as Mars opposition occurs whenever Earth passes between the sun and the Red Planet, approximately once every two years and two months.
  • This makes Mars visible opposite the sun in the Earth’s sky, which is a great time to view the Red planet because the sun’s rays illuminate the full face of Mars.
  • Mars and Earth will actually be at their closest on March 5, so you have a decent chance to catch the Red Planet anytime in the next few weeks.
  • To spot Mars with your naked eye, look for a bright orange-red dot in the eastern sky shortly after the sun sets. The planet, which can be distinguished from stars because it doesn’t twinkle, will rise to its highest position in the southern sky around midnight.
  • Those with a modest-sized telescope should have good views of Mars’ surface features, including its white polar caps.
  • Anyone without access to a telescope can catch a live feed of the opposition event from the Slooh Space Camera on March 3 starting at 8:00 p.m. PST.
  • Website: http://www.slooh.com/

Facebook Profile Used to Predict Job Performance

  • Your Facebook page provides a clue as to who you are.
  • Other things a prospective employer might be able to glean from your Facebook profile is openness to new experiences (vacation pictures from a glacier off New Zealand), emotional stability (are your friends constantly offering you words of comfort?) and agreeableness (are you constantly arguing with “friends?”).
  • In a series of two studies conducted by researchers at Northern Illinois University, the University of Evansville and Auburn University, six people with experience in human resources were asked to rate a sample of 500 people in terms of key personality traits using only the sample group’s Facebook pages as a guideline.
  • The raters were told to spend roughly five to 10 minutes with each person’s Facebook page, and work on the project for no longer than one and a half hours per day to avoid fatigue.
  • They were asked to rate members of the sample group on what is known as the “Big Five” personality traits:
    • Extroversion
    • Conscientiousness
    • Emotional stability
    • Agreeableness
    • Openness to new experiences.
  • High scores on these traits are generally accepted by human resources managers as an indication of future good job performance.
  • Members of the sample group were asked to give a self-evaluation and took an IQ test.
  • In one study, researchers followed up with the employers of people in the sample group six months after their personality traits were rated, to ask questions about job performance.
  • The researchers found that the raters were generally in agreement about the personality traits expressed in the sample group’s Facebook page, and that their ratings correlated strongly with self-rated personality traits.
  • More importantly, they also found that the Facebook ratings were a more accurate way of predicting a person’s job performance than an IQ test.
  • Employers beware: A Facebook page can provide a lot of information that it would be illegal for an employer to ask of a candidate in a phone interview.
  • A 2011 study conducted by the social media service Reppler found that 90 percent of recruiters and hiring managers look at an applicant’s Facebook page whether they should or not.

Google Rolls Out New Privacy Policy

  • Google rolled out its new privacy policy Thursday allowing the firm to track users across various services to developed targeted advertising.
  • Google contends the move simplifies and unifies its policies across its various services such as Gmail, YouTube, Android mobile systems, social networks and Internet search.
  • But critics including European privacy agencies and US consumer watchdogs argued the new policy, which offers no ability to opt out aside from refraining from signing into Google services, gives the Internet giant unprecedented ability to monitor its users.
  • Google announced in January it was revising its privacy policies and changing how it uses data from users of its services to provide more personalized search results and advertisements.
  • Digital media analyst Rebecca Lieb said the move is important for Google’s business plans.
  • Google needs a 360 degree view of the customer now more than ever.
  • Why? Because Facebook’s already got it. Or is at least a lot closer to having it than Google is if all Google’s information is separately warehoused.
  • Facebook is currently better positioned than Google to ‘know’ what videos you’re watching on YouTube, which Google owns!

Scientists a step closer to predicting tornadoes

  • For decades, meteorologists have been able to forecast the severity of hurricane seasons several months ahead of time.
  • Yet forecasting the likelihood of a bad tornado season has proved a far greater challenge.
  • Now, research from scientists at Columbia University’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society could eventually lead to the first seasonal tornado outlooks.
  • “Understanding how climate shapes tornado activity makes forecasts and projections possible, and allows us to look into the past and understand what happened.
  • In the study, Tippett and his team looked at 30 years of past climate data. They used computer models to determine that the two weather factors most tied to active tornado months and seasons were heavy rain from thunderstorms and extreme wind shear (wind blowing from different directions at different layers of the atmosphere).
  • “If, in March, we can predict average thunderstorm rainfall and wind shear for April, then we can infer April tornado activity.,” Tippett says.
  • The method worked for each month except for September and October, and it worked best in June.
  • This is the first time a forecast of up to a month in advance has been demonstrated, he says.
  • The research isn’t ready for prime time yet, however, so no official forecast will be made for the upcoming season using these methods.