Show of 4-21-2012

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Lauren: Dear Doc Shurtz, I have a Lifebook E780 Notebook made by Fujitsu. I never unplug my laptop so it will not drain the battery. However, one of the department managers borrowed my laptop to work on a complex document in Adobe Acorbat Pro 9.
  • He took my laptop to another cube and did not hook up the power cord that I had given him. I later plugged in the laptop while he was away. He then announced that the file he had been working on was corrupted. He was steamed.
  • Does my computer need some kind of scan/inspection? He said he thought the laptop went into sleep mode and that probably caused the document to get corrupted. What Can I do to reassure myself that this will not occur again when using Adobe Acrobat Pro 9? Your help is most appreciated. Best, Lauren
  • Tech Talk Responds: Did he save his document? If it was saved on the hard drive, it should not be corrupted during sleep mode. Abruptly turning off power could do that if the drive head is directly over the document in question, but unlikely. If it was in the process of saving the document, when it entered sleep mode, the document could be corrupted. Also unlikely.
  • I have seen reports with file corruption in Adobe Acrobat Pro 9. My initial thought is that the PDF files you are trying to combine are not Adobe-made. By that, I mean that if you open one of them (assuming it opens) and look at the Document Properties and checking the PDF Producer. That’s the best place to start. Acrobat Pro 9 is stricter about proper PDF architecture than previous versions of Acrobat, which may explain why you can combine the files using Acrobat 8. The files he was combining may have been the problem. In particular PDF’s created by GPL Ghostscript seem to be a problem. Just another thought.
  • By the way, keeping your laptop always plugged in guarantees that the battery will not last very long unplugged. You need to discharge a battery to keep it at full capacity.
  • Email from David in Springfield: Dear Tech Talk. What’s the difference between system restore discs and system repair discs? Thanks, David.
  • Tech Talk Responds: The terms restore and repair disc are completely ambiguous. The problem is that manufacturers don’t ship full installation CDs for Windows. What they have been doing for the past several years is send Windows pre-installed. They place a copy of the Windows installation media in a hidden partition on your disk. The repair disc (or the restore disc) that they either give you or that you make yourself typically only restores the files from that hidden partition on your hard disk back to the main partition in your hard disk. It reinstalls Windows.
  • If your hard drive fails you have a problem: no restore media. One solution is to make a full system image of your new computer and that image on another hard drive. That is what you would then restore to instead of reinstalling Windows from scratch. You’re now back where you were on the day you got your new machine. There are some good disk imaging software options from $40 to $60. Acronis True Image and Norton Ghost are a couple. Free versions on Acronis are available form Seagate and Western Digital hard drives.
  • Email from Andrew: Dear Tech Talk, I want to get an iPad3. However, I love to visit websites with Flash. Will the iPad3 support Flash? Thanks, Andrew
  • Tech Talk Responds: iPad 3 does not support Flash. Apple seems to have taken a pretty hardline stance against it. Most websites are converting to HTML5 and are eliminating Flash. We did that at Stratford University with our last website upgrade. So it is becoming less of an issue. Even YouTube works without Flash now using HTML5.
  • Apple (formerly Jobs) said that it is a security and speed issue. Flash does have vulnerabilities and it is processor intensive. They do have a point here. But I think it goes back to back blood between the two companies when Adobe refused to support the Mac many years ago.
  • Email from Tung in Ohio: Dear Doc and Jim, I just got an iPad3 and want to run Microsoft Office. I cannot find this application in the App Store. What are my options? I want to use this device for work. Love the show. Thank, Tung.
  • Tech Talk Responds: It is rumored that Microsoft is working on an MS Office version for the iPad. However, at this point it is vaporware. You best option is to use a thin client. Two companies offer thin client versions of MS Office. That means you must be connected to the Internet. You are using their servers for processing. You iPad is simply displaying the results. You files are stored on the cloud, normally.
  • I have installed two such clients on my iPad2: OnLive Desktop and CloudOn.
  • CloudOn has been out for awhile and is fully integrated with DropBox, which I use on a regular basis. CloudOn is currently free, but expect a monthly charges soon. They are paying licensing fees to MS. OnLive Desktop just came out last month. It is not integrated with DropBox and is more difficult to use unless you opt for their storage (2 GB free, more is $4.99 per month). My Recommendation: CloudOn.
  • Email form Alice: Dear Doc, I have assumed for years that a reformat of a hard drive will wipe it clean. I’ve done this to web viruses; recently one that put itself into the drive system folder that couldn’t be removed by Norton or manually. So my question is does reformatting the drive clean it? Thanks, Alice.
  • Tech Talk Responds: A reformat of the drive deletes all the files; which means that any file that existed on the machine is no longer referenced and all of the data will (presumably) be overwritten by whatever you subsequently write on the disk.
  • Reformatting may be recoverable. The problem is that formatting a hard drive may not actually erase the contents of the sectors. It’s very much like deleting a file.
  • It would be possible, in many cases, to “unformat” using some utilities that can do that; or to actually use forensic tools like Recuva that will allow you to go in and undelete files. In other words, the free space that you’ve just created could potentially be analyzed and the files that used to be there recovered.
  • Now, if you’re looking at this as a way to save yourself from a virus, formatting is fine. It certainly does this “delete function” that you want. I know of no malware that comes back from deleted files, YET.
  • If you’re really concerned about making absolutely sure that not only are the files deleted, but that they are also not recoverable, then I would look into a tool such as DBan. Darik’s Boot and Nuke (“DBAN”) is a self-contained boot disk that securely wipes the hard disks of most computers. That will not just delete the files, but overwrites all the free space so that the files can’t ever be recovered. Free download from: www.dban.org.
  • Email from John: Why are some files locked? How can I scan and delete them? Thanks, John.
  • Tech Talk Responds: When one application has a file open, depending on how that application has opened the file, it can actually cause the file to be locked. It can be locked in several different ways, but the most basic way is that the file cannot be deleted until that program actually lets go of it. You need to close the program has it locked. There are tools to locate this program by looking at processes. However, you can simply roboot your machine to release any of these processes. If the file is being controlled by the OS, you can use a took like Unlock IT to identify and close the process.


Profiles in IT: Jack Tramiel

  • Jack Tramiel was an American businessman, best known for founding Commodore International, the manufacturer of Commodore and Amiga home computers.
  • Jack Tramiel December 13, 1928 in ?ód?, Poland,into a Jewish family.
  • After the German invasion of Poland in 1939 his family was transported by German occupiers to the Jewish ghetto in ?ód?, where he worked in a garment factory.
  • When the ghettos were liquidated his family was sent to the Auschwitz.
  • Tramiel was rescued from the labor camp in April 1945 by the 84th Infantry Division.
  • In November 1947, Tramiel emigrated to the United States. He soon joined the U.S. Army, where he learned how to repair office equipment, including typewriters.
  • In 1953, while working as a taxi driver, Tramiel bought a shop in the Bronx to repair office machinery. He named it Commodore Portable Typewriter.
  • In 1955, Tramiel signed a deal with a Czech company to assemble and sell typewriters in North America. Tramiel set up an assembly shop in Toronto.
  • Tramiel wanted a military-style name for his company, but names like Admiral and General were already taken, so he settled on the Commodore name.
  • In 1962, Commodore went public. But the arrival of Japanese typewriters in the U.S. market made the selling of Czechoslovakian typewriters unprofitable.
  • The company sold 17% of its stock to businessman Irving Gould, taking in $400K.
  • It used the money to re-launch the company in the adding machine business, which was profitable for a time before the Japanese entered that field as well.
  • In Japan, Tramiel saw the first digital calculators, dropping mechanical machines.
  • Commodore released its first digital calculators, using an LED display from Bowmar and an integrated circuit from TI. Shortly thereafter, TI cut Commodore out.
  • Gould once again rescued the company, injecting another $3 million, which allowed Commodore to purchase MOS Technology, Inc. an IC design and manufacturer.
  • When their lead designer, Chuck Peddle, told Tramiel that calculators were a dead end and computers were the future, Tramiel told him to build one to prove the point.
  • Peddle built the Commodore PET, based on MOS Technology 6502 processor.
  • It was first shown publicly at the Chicago Consumer Electronics Show in 1977.
  • The PET would go on to be a success — especially in the education field.
  • As prices dropped and the market matured, the monochrome (green text on black screen) PET was at a disadvantage. PET lost market share to Apple II and Atari 800.
  • Commodore responded with the VIC-20, and then the Commodore 64.
  • The Commodore VIC-20 was the first microcomputer to sell one million units. The Commodore 64 sold several million units.
  • In January 1984, Tramiel resigned from Commodore, because of disagreement “on the basic principles—how to run the company”.
  • After a short break, he formed a new company named Tramel Technology, Ltd., in order to design and sell a next-generation home computer.
  • In July 1984, Tramel Technology bought the Consumer Division of Atari Inc.
  • Tramel Technology Ltd. was renamed Atari Corporation.
  • In 1996, Tramiel sold Atari to Jugi Tandon Storage and joinedthe JTS Board.
  • Tramiel was a co-founder of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum (opened 1993).
  • Tramiel died on April 8, 2012, of heart failure at the age of 83.

iMac Flashback Trojan Update

  • Security firm Dr. Web released new statistics Friday showing that the process of eliminating Flashback from Macs is proceeding far slower than expected:
  • On Friday the security firm, which first spotted the Mac botnet earlier this month, released new data showing that 610,000 active infected machines were counted Wednesday and 566,000 were counted Thursday.
  • That’s a slim decrease from the peak of 650,000 to 700,000 machines infected with the malware when Apple released its cleanup tool for the trojan late last week.
  • Earlier in the week, Symantec reported that only 140,000 machines remained infected, but admitted Friday that an error in its measurement caused it to underestimate the remaining infections.
  • Symantec now agrees with Dr. Web’s much more pessimistic numbers. Tech Talk reported the flawed Symantec estimates last week.

Oracle vs Google Java Showdown

  • Sun wanted to keep its Java platform open enough to achieve widespread industry adoption, but closed enough so it could retain control to avoid fragmentation.
  • Opening your code is easy, and controlling your proprietary code is easy, but Sun wanted a unique middle way.
  • So the procedures Sun wrapped around Java are pretty complex – and they have changed over the years.
  • But Sun achieved what it had pretty much wanted: extensive industry use of Java, and absence of fragmentation. That is, until Android.
  • Google admits copying Sun Java code into Android. Google maintains that the code it copied didn’t require a license.
  • Google also argues that the Android platform, in which Java language code is written against Java classes (before compiled for Google’s VM) doesn’t need a Java license.
  • Oracle’s case against Google is laid out in a 90-page slide presentation released at the start of the trial this week.
  • Sun launched Java in 1995 and Oracle bought Sun in 2009. The hostilities began that year – but from new evidence we can see they were always simmering under surface.
  • Android was founded in late 2003 and bought by Google two years later.
  • In October 2005, Android founder Andy Rubin suggested to Larry Page that Google ought to pay Sun for a Java license.
  • According to Oracle’s narrative, negotiations were dragging on into 2006, and Google should have at that point contemplated a non-Java option.
  • The “What the hell” strategy is in Google’s DNA: there are echoes of the Google Book project and Google’s acquisition of YouTube.
  • Oracle adds that during this period Google hired key Sun Java personnel, who were working under former Sun executive Eric Schmidt.
  • Tim Lindholm, a Distinguished Engineer at Sun, helped write the original Java VM, and joined Google the same year Google acquired Android.
  • Lindholm concluded that all the alternatives “suck” and “we need to negotiate a license for Java”.  Google fought a long, hard but ultimately unsuccessful battle to keep this email out of court.
  • Oracle details the code copied from Java into Google. This makes it difficult for Google to argue it was any kind of clean-room implementation of the key Java libraries (classes). Private classes were copied verbatim.
  • Android remains the only Java system that doesn’t have a Sun/Oracle Java license.
  • So… it doesn’t look great for Google.

Check for DNS Redirect: May Lose Internet

  • Hackers have taken over machine and used DNS redirect to force their machine to go through their servers.
  • He hackers were put out of commission to by the FBI and the redirected IP addresses were maintained by the government so victims could stay online.
  • Those servers are about to be shut down and victims will lose Internet access.
  • Go to the following website to check (and fix) you computer.
  • Website: http://www.dcwg.org/

African Social Networks Growing Fast

  • New and fast-growing mobile social networks could challenge Facebook in Africa.
  • When young maize crops began failing in parts of Kenya earlier this month, the bad news—as well as information about where farmers could get seeds for other crops—spread on many Internet sites, including Facebook, which has 38 million users in Africa.
  • But it was a mobile platform called iCow—which allows 11,000 farmers and other members to receive livestock-management and other agricultural information—that helped cover the crucial “last mile” to older farmers.
  • When a message from iCow passed along a tip already posted on Facebook about disease-free seeds available from the Kenya Agri Research Institution, that institution was, within two hours, besieged with hundreds of calls.
  • iCow is a comprehensive agricultural platform, developed for small scale farmers, accessible by mobile phone and web. Features include the cow gestation calendar, iCow Soko livestock market, access to agricultural extension service experts and much more.
  • iCow is available in Kenya on Safaricom, Orange and Airtel networks
  • In return for inputting a few pieces of data on their phone, Kenyan dairy farmers are given tailored, time-sensitive SMS updates on how to look after their cows during gestation, calving and throughout the rest of a cow’s life.
  • According to some recent research conducted by the iCow team, farmers have witnessed significant increases in milk yields from their cows.
  • At present iCow is being used by farmers in 37 counties throughout Kenya and expanding all the time.
  • “Facebook has got the younger farmers on it, and iCow has the older farmers on it.
  • Facebook did not start out as a mobile platform and is still playing catch-up on mobile applications—witness the fact that it felt compelled to spend $1 billion on the mobile-only Instagram photo-sharing app.
  • And recent moves in Ghana and South Africa show that Facebook will continue to get a run for its money on that continent.
  • At the end of 2011, Africa had a population of just over a billion people, and 140 million Internet users.
  • Website: http://www.icow.co.ke/