Show of 5-26-2012

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from John: Dear Tech Talk, I burned DBAN to a CD and then rebooted the machine with the CD inserted in the drive. DBAN is Dan’s Boot and Nuke program for cleaning my hard drive. However,  my computer just booted on the hard drive and not on the CD. How do I get the computer to boot up from the CD? Thank, John
  • Tech Talk Responds: Your computer’s BIOS needs to be instructed to check for a bootable CD or DVD. You need to change the settings in your BIOS. During the bootup phase and before Windows begins loading, you should see a message on the screen that tells you to press a Function Key to enter setup. When you press the function key, you will enter the BIOS Setup program. Select the menu item Boot/Book Device Priority. Select CD ROM as the fist device and the Hard drive as the second device. Exit the Setup Utility and your computer will reboot with the new boot device order.
  • Email from Alice: Dear Doc. Is there any way to burn/copy the 16.1GB hard disk image to several blank DVDs for archival purposes? Thanks, Alice.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Use your backup program. The good news is that many backup programs support exactly what you need: writing the backup image to one or more CDs or DVDs. So one solution is very simple: use your backup program to make an image backup of the system and select CD/DVD as the output for that backup and the utility will take care of the rest.
  • However, I question you general approach. Why not use an external hard drive for the backup. They are cheap and easy to store. In the old days, I backed up to CDs or DVDs. Now I only backup to external hard drive or to the cloud.
  • Email from Anthony: Hi, I just discovered your show while surfing. I found this site which is trying to make the web more accessible for the disabled, wonder if you could do a feature on it. (http://www.fixtheweb.net).
  • What happens is that the disabled who are having trouble accessing web sites due to poor web design submit them to the site, and volunteers go out and let the web designers know what they can do to make their sites more accessible. They are looking for volunteers to do just this. I hope you can help promote the site and let your listeners know about it. Thanks. Anthony from Canada
  • Tech Talk Responds: Thanks for the email Anthony. I have checked out www.fixtheweb.net  and have found it to be a great idea. Fix the Web is led by Citizens Online and funded by Nominet Trust.
  • This website makes it easy for people facing accessibility issues (such as many disabled and older people) to report problems with websites. Volunteers do the work of contacting the website owners. In doing this work, volunteers will understand more about e-accessibility for themselves, as well as giving crucial information to website owners. The initiative now has over 746 volunteers and has notified 1502 websites, 105 of which have been fixed.
  • Standards for web accessibility are being developed by W3C, as part of the Web Accessibility Initiative (http://www.w3.org/WAI/). They also have a link for contacting website owners who content is not accessible.
  • Email from Lola: Dear Dr Richard Shurtz, I am going to have to replace my old analog Sony voice recorder. Most of the devices to day are digital. What do you recommend? Hopefully you can direct me to one that is user friendly though not expensive. Thanks! Lola in Bethesda
  • Since you want a device that is easy to use, I would suggest a budget recorder. Reviewers say that the Olympus VN-6200PC delivers good sound quality and only costs $60. Its 1 GB of built-in memory can hold up to 444 hours at the recorder’s lowest-quality setting. It stored files in WMA format rather than MP3. Reviewers using the Olympus VN-6200PC for basic voice recording functions are overwhelmingly satisfied. If you have a bit more to spend, the Olympus WS-500M costs $100 and has 2 GB memory for up to 545 hours of recording time and some additional features, such as a built-in MP3 player.
  • Email from Peter: Dear Doc. When I type in some URLs, such as google.com or yahoo.com, instead of getting the real website, I appear to be redirected to some other site ending in .ru. But the site I typed in still stays displayed in the address line. Is this a virus or someone trying to take over my computer? How do I clean this up? Thank, Peter.
  • Tech Talk Responds: This is a fairly classic case of a browser hijacking. This can use several techniques.
  • DNS hijacking. In the case of a DNS hijack, a different IP address is returned – the IP address of a malicious server. In some cases, the malicious server can be set up to look like the site that you think you’re accessing in order to fool you into divulging personal information, like login credentials or worse.
  • Browser hijacking. Some malware, rather than playing with your DNS, takes a more direct route and infects your browser or a component of the browser directly. Apparently, the recent “Flashback” malware that infected so many Macs worked this way, leveraging vulnerability in the Java browser component used by many websites and web-based services. Once infected, simple page loads weren’t impacted, but clicking on certain searchresults would take you not to the result you clicked on, but rather to something else, as set up by the malware authors.
  • To fix the problem, run an up-to-date anti-malware scan. For a problem like this one, I’d install and run Microsoft Security Essentials, keeping that as your ongoing anti-virus and anti-spyware solution.

Profiles in IT: Cecil Wayne Ratliff

  • Cecil Wayne Ratliff is the creator dBase II, the first widely used database system for microcomputers.
  • Cecil Wayne Ratliff was born in 1946 in Trenton, Ohio.
  • Rafliff  became interested in programming while in college. He started using a CDC 6400 computer to help design the car. He wrote a number of small programs to help design suspensions, figure out the center of gravity.
  • Before he completed his degree, he got a job with Martin Marietta in Denver. He was a computer. He manually solved complex equations.
  • He was drafted during the heat of the Vietnam war in 1969.
  • For two years he worked on a logistics war game called LOGEX, programming in COBOL. Most of his work was related to ordering equipment and supplies.
  • After the army, he was a Martin Marietta employee and a contractor at JPL.
  • He was a member of the NASA Viking program flight team when the Viking spacecraft landed on Mars in 1976.
  • He wrote the data-management program for the Viking lander, called MFILE.
  • In 1978 he wrote a database program in assembly language at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.
  • He called it Vulcan (after Mr. Spocks home planet in the Star Trek world) and based it on Jeb Long’s JPLDIS.
  • Ratliff says he wrote the program to help win the football pool at the office.
  • He marketed it by himself from 1979 to 1980.
  • In October 1979, he went to market and put his first ad for Vulcan in BYTE magazine. He got much more response than he could handle.
  • He would get home at night and manual fill all of his orders, working past midnight.
  • It did not occur to him to hire someone to handle the order fulfillment process.
  • He eventually dropped advertising because he was exhausted.
  • In late 1980 he met George Tate, who found the product worthwhile.
  • He entered into a marketing agreement with Ashton-Tate and renamed the Vulcan product dBASE.
  • Ratliff had given up trying to sell copies of the software for $50 each.
  • Tate thought the product would sell better at $695. A deal was struck.
  • They renamed the program dBASE II because of a belief that a product called “version one” wouldn’t sell.
  • The software originally ran on a CP/M computer and then was ported to the IBM PC.
  • dBase was successful because it was both a language and a database manager.
  • In mid-1983 Ashton-Tate purchased the dBASE II technology and copyright from Ratliff, and he joined Ashton-Tate as vice president of new technology.
  • Ratliff was the project manager for dBASE III, as well as designer and lead programmer.
  • In 1988 Ratliff wrote Emerald Bay, a client/server database manager.
  • Currently retired, Ratliff spends time sailing and studying mathematics. He has worked on computer systems for use in competitive sailboat racing.

Dragon Arrives at Space Station

  • The Dragon capsule arrived at the International Space Station on Friday.
  • SpaceX is the first private company to accomplish such a feat: a commercial cargo delivery into the IIS.
  • NASA astronaut Donald Pettit used the space station’s 58-foot robot arm to snare the gleaming white Dragon after a few hours of extra checks and maneuvers.
  • NASA controllers applauded as their counterparts at SpaceX’s control center in Hawthorne, Calif.
  • It’s the first U.S. craft to visit the station since the final shuttle flight last summer.
  • Two hours after the capture, the crew attached the Dragon to the space station as the congratulations poured in.
  • The bell-shaped capsule- 19 feet tall and 12 feet across – is carrying 1,000 pounds of supplies on this unprecedented test flight. The crew starts unpacking Saturday and will have just under a week to unload the food, clothes and other contents.
  • After this test flight, SpaceX – officially known as Space Exploration Technologies Corp. – has a contract to make a dozen delivery runs.
  • It is one of several companies vying for NASA’s cargo business and a chance to launch Americans from U.S. soil.
  • SpaceX launched the capsule from Cape Canaveral on Tuesday with its Falcon 9 rocket. On Thursday, the Dragon capsule came within 1 1/2 miles of the space station in a practice fly-by. It returned to the neighborhood early Friday so Pettit, along with Dutch astronaut Andre Kuipers could capture it with the station’s robot arm.
  • Without the shuttle, NASA astronauts must go through Russia, an expensive and embarrassing situation for the U.S. after a half-century of orbital self-sufficiency.
  • Musk, who founded SpaceX a decade ago and helped create PayPal, said he can have astronauts riding his Dragon capsules to orbit in three or four years.
  • Assuming all goes well Friday, the space station’s six-man crew will release the Dragon next Thursday after filling it with science experiments and equipment.
  • Going into Tuesday’s launch of this Dragon, NASA had contributed $381 million to SpaceX in seed money. The company has invested more than $1 billion in this commercial effort over the past 10 years.

Facebook IPO Rundown

  • The Facebook IPO has raised concerns among early investors.
  • Facebook is accused of setting an opening price that was too high. Instead of spiking on the first day, shares inched up just 23 cents, to $38.23. The stock has mostly fallen since.
  • For all its flaws, the Facebook debut did fulfill the chief purpose of a stock offering— to raise money for a company to pay bills, buy rivals, invest and expand.
  • Last year, several Internet IPOs soared 50 percent or more on their first days, recalling the Main Street excitement of dot-com offerings more than a decade ago.
  • Investors hoped for the same result with Facebook. However, the Facebook shares were not priced low and the shareholders did not leave money on the table.
  • Long term prognosis for Facebook depends on whether it monetize mobile traffice.

Facebook’s New Camera App

  • Facebook has launched a photo sharing smartphone app called Camera, patterned after Instagram.
  • The software allows users to take multiple pictures and share them at once rather than having to upload them one at a time.
  • The app also features a feed of friends’ photos.
  • The launch is unexpected as the program offers users similar tools to Instagram which the social network is in the process of taking over.
  • Both apps allow users to add filters and make other tweaks to photographs.
  • Facebook has agreed to pay $1B for Instagram, but the acquisition has not been completed.
  • At present Camera only works on Apple’s smartphones and tablets.

Free Online Human Translation Service

  • Ackuna is a crowd-sourced translation project, connecting individuals around the world with human translators who can give you just the right phrasing. The free-to-use site is a side project of Translation Services USA.
  • Web address: http://ackuna.com/
  • The site was launched in late March and is the work of about five developers and graphic designers.
  • So far, about 15 languages have been translated. Smith says there’s potential to crowd-source translations for any number of languages.
  • The search giant’s translations branch, Google Translate, has 200 million users each month.
  • This may be a good option to crack the language barrier in casual communication.

Application of the Week: TiKL

  • TiKL is a push-to-talk application for the iPhone or Andoid
  • Supports group communication as well as one-to-one using whisper.
  • Does not use voice minutes or SMS messages. It requires a data only.
  • Top application in Android Communications Category.
  • Great for foreign travel. You can call another phone using data only without triggering the $2/minute voice charge.
  • Operates in the background. Open once and it stays open.
  • Your contacts must have this app installed in their phone or tablet.
  • It works across Android phones/tablets and iOS devices.
  • Application is free, but is ad supported and requires your location information.
  • Website: http://www.tikl.mobi

US Hacks al-Qaida Websites in Yemen

  • Web sites running al-Qaida propaganda in Yemen have been hacked by U.S. cyber experts.
  • The hackers from the State Department filled the sites with information about civilians killed in terror strikes.
  • Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told workers at the Special Operations Command in Tampa that when al-Qaida propaganda appeared on sites in Yemen “within 48 hours, our team plastered the same sites with altered versions .?.?. that showed the toll al-Qaida attacks have taken on the Yemeni people.”
  • Clinton said the hacking was an example of counterterrorism cooperation between the State Department, the intelligence community, and the military.
  • The hacking was done by the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications, based at the State Department, with help from both the military and the intelligence community.

Labor Efficiency: The Next Great Internet Disruption

  • The Rise of the Independent Worker.
  • Over the past couple of years, there has been a huge increase in the number of workers who operate as some sort of independent, free-agent contractor or consultant.
  • Though the numbers vary greatly, the consensus seems to be around 20 percent of the U.S. workforce, and growing (with some estimates up to 50 percent by 2020).
  • The two most important factors are:
    • Technology. Computers, phones, the cloud, and an overall connectedness have produced an environment where location is becoming less and less relevant.
    • The economy. The economic conditions have forced some into an independent role by necessity, and it has motivated a countless number of others to explore work options outside of the traditional job.
    • Changes in How Companies ‘Hire’. Labor efficiency is about having the right workers for the tasks.  Lean, flexible workforces which come and go as projects demand. Employers are parsing up tasks and having temporary, project-basis workers complete the tasks.
    • Companies have the option of hiring some of the millions of independent workers out there for substantially less than full-time workers.
  • Time for Disruption. The real change will come as more and more of the traditional job creators, small businesses all the way up to the Fortune 500s, realize the benefits of flexible workforces and more and more individuals take the plunge into independent, free-agent land — whether by necessity or choice.
  • There are many companies working to facilitate the connection between project-basis workers and companies.
    • Marketplaces like Guru, ODesk and Elance link professionals with companies
    • OnForce allows companies to retain the services of IT professionals for projects.
    •  WorkMarket is a labor resource platform.
    • Crowdspring and 99Designs are creative services marketplaces
    • ExpertBids.com is a professional services marketplace for consultants, lawyers, and accountants.
  • A marketplace where tasks are accomplished by the right people, at the right time, and at the right price (not lowest price, the right price) may seem to favor the employer.
  • But think about an independent who has very little overhead, can work from anywhere, at anytime, and for anyone and whose income potential is no longer limited by a single salary.