Show of 4-28-2012

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Tom: Dear Dr. Shurtz, I have a speech synthesizer that is a serial port device. I saw an HP EliteBook 8560P laptop with Windows 7 that is a 64 bit machine and has a serial port. Is there a reason why my synthesizer wouldn’t work on this laptop? I guess I’m mainly wondering about a 64 bit computer and how it might utilize the serial port, perhaps differently than previous 32 and 16 bit computers. A USB to serial converter is not an option for reasons too involved to explain here.
  • I’ve asked this question on a couple technical e-mail lists and did some searching on the Internet without any definitive response. Long time listener from Harrisburg Pennsylvania on 820 AM. Tom
  • Tech Talk Responds: You are going to need a device driver that supports a 64-bit OS. I would check with the software manufacturer to see if such a driver is available. We have the same problem with VPNs when some of our staff switched to 64-bit machines.
  • However, if you are running 64-bit Windows 7, you can run a XP virtual machine. Windows XP, it will run in 32-bit mode. This will allow you to run your legacy software. This option was created to allow backward to compatibility particularly for gamers.
  • Email form Robert Taylor: Doc, I still enjoy listening to your show all the way down here in Amarillo, Texas! In your last show you talked about making a disk image of the hard drive of a PC to restore your computer like factory new. Recently my sonís computer bit the dust. When rebooting the computer the screen showed ďinvalid partition tableĒ. After several hours of messing with it I decided to use the system restore disk which set the computer back like it was when I first bought the PC. Then I had to spend a few hours reloading all of the programs which is kind of a hassle.
  • Is there a way to make an image of the disk so that it will allow all of the installed programs and files to still be there and work just like it did before it messed up? It is quite a job to reinstall everything on a computer especially all the stuff kids puts on them now days.
  • A couple of shows ago someone said they hoped you did not retire anytime soon. Iím with them! Even though I just pasted my 32nd year working for the Amarillo Police Department, I plan on working a few more years and need your advice and knowledge from time to time. Keep up the good work!† Chief Robert Taylor
  • PS. Who is that Robert Tyler guy anyway?
  • Tech Talk Responds: You need to do the disk image after all the software is installed. Then when you restore the image, it will include everything. You can periodically update this image as you install more software.
  • I like Acronis True Image or simply True Image (http://www.acronis.com/). It is a brand name for several backup and disk imaging software for Microsoft. As a disk imaging software, True Image can restore the previously captured image to another disk, replicating the structure and contents to the new disk, also allowing disk cloning and partition resizing, even if the new disk is of different capacity. The backups are in a proprietary and non-documented file format which uses a .tib filename extension.
  • True Image may install Acronis Startup Recovery Manager (ASRM), a computer program that helps restore backups at boot time. True Image can create a copy of Acronis Rescue Media, a bootable disk that contains a copy of True Image and can restore backups to a computer when the content of the entire computer is lost.
  • Email from Ken: Dr. Richard Shurtz I am amazed of just how much information you pack into your summary each week on the Email and Forum Questions web page. Do you have some type of program that takes what you say on the show and converts your words to text in a nice outline format? I can’t believe you do all this manually. Anyway it certainly is a great way to catch what the show was about without listening to it! Ken_In MD.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Thanks for the feedback. No automation here. Just very fast scribes.
  • Email from Beverly: Doc, I am having problems opening files created on a Mac on my PC. What is the problem? The file is unreadable. Thanks, Beverly
  • Tech Talk Responds: This gets at the difference between MS Windows and Macintosh OS. Microsoft uses the file extension for program association (i.e. what program can open the file). Apple does not used extensions for this purpose. It stores program association as metadata in the file name. Mac users sometimes add file extensions so that Windows users can open the file. In this case, the file extension selected by the Mac user was not correct and the Windows program that opened the file could not read it.

Profiles in IT: Steve Coast

  • Steve Coast is the founder of OpenStreetMap, a collaborative map of the world.
  • Steve Coast was born December 20, 1980.
  • Steve grew up in Walderslade and London England.
  • Steve interned at Wolfram Research before studying computing science at University College London (UCL).
  • Coast says that his inspiration for beginning OpenStreetMap was actually a relatively simple one: He just wanted to play with some maps. The software was all freely available, but there was no data.
  • With his GPS system and a Linux laptop, he set out to create his own software that would accurately gather data and create his own map.
  • In July 2004, Coast founded OpenStreetMap, an open-source maps API that relies on the contributions of users in a Wikipedia-style format for not only roadmaps but also hiking trails, bike paths, and footpaths around the world.
  • With the software in place, Coast says more people became interested and he had a core group of contributors within two years.
  • OpenStreetMap relies on donated aerial imagery from Bing that helps mappers draw features from actual photos.
  • Some people use a camera to photograph everything they see, and then you have photos on the map. Others just use audio recorders as they drive.
  • In April 2006, the OpenStreetMap Foundation (OSMF) was established to encourage the growth, development and distribution of free geospatial data and provide geospatial data for anybody to use and share.
  • In April 2007, Automotive Navigation Data (AND) donated a complete road data set for the Netherlands and trunk road data for India and China to the project.
  • In August 2007, an independent project, OpenAerialMap, was launched, to hold a database of aerial photography.
  • In October 2007, OpenStreetMap imported the US Census TIGER road dataset.
  • In December 2007, Oxford University became the first major organization to use OpenStreetMap data on their main website.
  • ∑By August 2008, there were over 50,000 registered contributors; by the end of 2009 the figure was nearly 200,000. In Nov 2011, OpenStreetMap this grew to 500,000.
  • Ultimately both MapQuest and Microsoft supported OpenStreetMap. Google did not.
  • OpenStreetMap was used pretty extensively there for relief work and mapping where damaged buildings were, where the camp sites were, things like that.
  • But Steve Coast had to make money too. With Nick Black, he setup ZXV Ltd, a technology consultancy in 2006 to help companies develop mapping applications.
  • In 2008 this became CloudMade after investment by Sunstone Capital.
  • Steve resigned from CloudMade in October 2010, although he is still a shareholder.
  • In November 2010 Steve accepted a position as Principal Architect for Microsoft Bing Mobile.
  • Steve will lead efforts to engage with OpenStreetMap and other open source and open data projects.
  • His wife Hurricane Coast accepted a similar position with MapQuest.
  • Website: http://www.openstreetmap.org/

Astronomy Day, April 28 2012

  • April 28th is Astronomy Day, when hundreds of organizations worldwide host special family-oriented events and festivities that showcase the wonder and excitement of the night sky.
  • ∑Solar observing has become a regular fare at many Astronomy Day activities worldwide.
  • Astronomy Day is celebrated “to promote the forerunner of all scientific endeavors and to provide information, resources, and encouragement in all facets of astronomy.” But showing that astronomy is fun is really what it’s all about.
  • Doug Berger, former president of the Astronomical Association of Northern California, founded this annual event in 1973 as a high-profile way of drawing public attention to the science and the hobby.
  • The Astronomical League maintains the official Astronomy Day Web page
  • Web Address: http://www.astroleague.org/al/astroday/astroday.html
  • Celebrate with NASA Night Sky Network Astronomy Club, Nationwide
  • Web Address: http://www.nightskynetwork.org/
  • Locally the Astronomical Society of Greenbelt is sponsoring a Star Party at the Greenbelt City Observatory from 9 to 10:30 PM.

MS Patches Hotmail

  • Microsoft quietly fixed a flaw in Hotmail’s password reset system that allowed anyone to reset the password of any Hotmail account last Friday.
  • The company was notified of the flaw on April 20th and responded with a fix within hoursóbut not until after widespread attacks, with the bug apparently spreading “like wild fire” in the hacking community.
  • Hotmail’s password reset system uses a token system to ensure that only the account holder can reset their password: a link with the token is sent to an account linked to the Hotmail account, and clicking the link lets the account owner reset their password.
  • However, the validation of these tokens isn’t handled properly by Hotmail, allowing attackers to reset passwords of any account.
  • Initially hackers were offering to crack accounts for $20 a throw. However, the technique became publicly known and started to spread rapidly with Web and YouTube tutorials showing the technique popping up across the Arabic-speaking Internet.
  • Videos showing the technique (or at least, something close to it) can be found as far back as April 6th.
  • As well as targeted attacks against specific Hotmail users, there was also brute force cracking of accounts with two- and three-letter e-mail addresses.
  • Researchers at Vulnerability Lab discovered the flaw on April 6th, and they reported it to Microsoft on April 20th, with the patch following shortly after.
  • If your account has been hacked with this technique, you’ll know it instantly, as your password will no longer work. Getting it back may be more difficult, as the standard first step in any account hack is to reset all the recovery information so that the original owner can’t retrieve it.

Cyber Security Bill Passes House

  • The House on Thursday approved the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, which would encourage companies and the federal government to share information collected on the Internet to help prevent electronic attacks from cyber-criminals, foreign governments and terrorists.
  • The legislation would allow the government to relay cyber threat information to a company to prevent attacks from Russia or China.
  • In the private sector, corporations could alert the government and provide data that could stop an attack intended to disrupt the country’s water supply or take down the banking system.
  • The Obama administration and several leading Senate Democrats and Republicans want a bill that would give the Homeland Security Department the primary role in overseeing domestic cyber-security and the authority to set security standards.
  • The House bill would impose no new regulations on businesses, an imperative for Republicans.
  • Senior Senate Republicans argue that Homeland Security is ill-equipped to determine how best to secure the nation’s essential infrastructure.
  • The White House, along with a coalition of liberal and conservative groups and some lawmakers, strongly opposed the measure, complaining that Americans’ privacy could be violated.
  • Countering criticism of Big Brother run amok, proponents argued that the bill does not allow the government to monitor private networks, read private emails or close a website. It urges companies that share data to remove personal information.

LinkedIn Releases iPad App Finally

  • LinkedIn has released a version of its app for the iPad, providing a streamlined, tablet-friendly user interface, and adding a new calendar-syncing feature.
  • With support for the iPad’s Retina display, the company says the app was designed as a sort of one-stop shop for interacting with other LinkedIn users, allowing you to track their employment history, what they’ve been up to, and what news they may be following.
  • The app is also able to sync with the local calendar on your mobile device, providing context from a given individual’s LinkedIn profile when you view your schedule for the week.
  • LinkedIn has released updates for both Android devices and the iPhone which include the calendar syncing feature.

Oracle and Google Rest in Copyright Trial

  • This week included testimony from Eric Schmidt, former Google CEO and Andy Rubin, creator of Android OS.
  • Duke University professor Dr. Owen Astrachan, who commented on the positive impact of Google using APIs consistent with those used by Java.
  • Astrachan testified that while there’s nothing in the Java language itself that mandates the same names be used in a new implementation, it provides a much lower barrier to entry for Java programmers that would like to begin developing for Android.
  • He even went so far as to call knowledge of Java’s core APIs an “industry expectation” for coders.
  • Astrachan also acknowledged that Android utilized an identical organizational hierarchy for its version of the 37 APIs, but felt that the implementing code used in each was “completely different.”
  • Stanford’s Dr. John Mitchell stated that Android’s version of the 37 APIs used the same input, output, and intended behavior, while also noting that the implementing code itself was organized per the API specifications.
  • Oracle is arguing that the structure, sequence, and organization (SSO) of Java APIs are copyrightable.
  • It is the hope of the tech community that APIs cannot be protected via copyright. This would be a setback for innovation and software development.

Dumb Idea of the Week: Hugvie Cushion

  • Hugvie is a vaguely human-shaped cushion from Japan with a robotic heart that pulses with emotion.
  • There’s a pocket for you to place your phone inside, and the vibrations of the robot sync to the voice of your loved ones when they call you.
  • The pulse’s speed and strength is controlled by the tone of the caller’s voice, and it’s designed to make phone conversations a more intimate and physical affair.
  • For now, the Hugvie is available for about $50 from the Vstone Robot Shop
  • http://www.vstone.co.jp/robotshop/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=3197

Google Drive vs. Dropbox vs. SkyDrive

  • Online storage options have gotten much better.
    • Google has Google Drive
    • Microsoft has SkyDrive
    • Dropbox has Dropbox.
  • Up to your ears in Google Drive news? We break down the translate the talk into how the new product compares to Dropbox and SkyDrive.
  • Itís important to remember that how youíre going to use this service to determine what is best.
  • If you want Gmail and Google Docs tie-ins, Google Drive is best.
  • If you need a public link access and a spot to share, but donít really care about content creation, then Dropbox is a good choice.
  • And if Windows Phone and Microsoft Office compatibility is a must for you, they choose SkyDrive.
  • Google Drive and SkyDrive are the cheapest. For 100GB, Google Drive is $4.99 per month, Dropbox is $19.99 per month, and SkyDrive is $50/year.