Show of 6-2-2012

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Jonathan: Dear Tech Talk, my sister has a computer with Windows 98se. However, it is crashing on her. She got a new computer with Windows XP. Can she install her old hard drive with 98se onto her new PC so she can transfer her files over to her new hard drive with XP? Thanks, Jonathan
  • Tech Talk Responds: A working hard disk that was formatted for use by any prior versions of Windows can certainly be read by Windows versions that come later.
  • Take an old hard drive from an old computer and install it as the second drive in a new one. Everything that used to appear on drive “C:” on the old computer might now appear as drive “D:” on the new one. Once it’s set up, copying files from old to new is both easy and fast.
  • Once you’re done copying the files you want to keep, you can leave the old hard drive in the new machine, reformat it if you like, and have that much extra disk space to use as you like.
  • The problem is that the disk interface may not be the same for the old and new computers. In that case, you will need to use an external disk enclosure.
  • A more flexible approach is to instead take the old drive out of the old computer and install it into an external USB drive enclosure. That’s basically all that most external USB drives are: common hard drives in an enclosure that provides power and a circuit board to provide the USB-to-hard drive interface.
  • There are two things that you need to know before purchasing an external USB enclosure: drive size and disk interface. The interface will be either IDE (older machines) or SATA (new machines). IDE is Integrated Drive Electronics. SATA is Serial AT Attachment.
  • Once you’ve installed the drive in the appropriate type of enclosure, all that you need to is connect it via USB to any computer (and perhaps to power) and you’ll be able to access the data on it.
  • Email from John: Dear Tech Talk, I need help finding a job. I have sent resumes out and have not received any response. I just graduated from school and have some experience as an intern, but not much else. I love to use open source programming create websites. What do you suggest? Thanks John
  • Tech Talk Responds: Tech Talk Answers: I would recommend that you read What Color is Your Parachute? by Dick Bolles. It is based on a method developed by John Crystal who mentored Dick Bolles. John Crystal lived in McLean and I attended his workshop nearly 30 years ago.
    • Identify you natural tendencies (tropisms)
    • Decide what you want to do.
    • Survey the industry to gather information.
    • Join technical interest groups (Linux, Oracle Users, etc.)
    • Complete some projects at home so that you can talk about your experiences. No one said that experience had to be paid.
  • Some IT projects at home are a reflection of this approach.
    • Linux for OS experience
    • Apache Web Server, PHP, MySQL for web design
    • Backtrack2 for security
    • Install multiple systems using VMWare.
    • Create a small database using Oracle student software.
  • Other ideas
    • Get a mentor
    • Consider Temp to Hire positions
    • Network with your connections and their connections.
    • Read the industry rags or the latest tech books.
    • Get certified.
    • If still in school, make your class projects significant and difficult.
    • Contribute to open source code.
    • Attend conferences or workshops in your area.
  • Email from a loyal listener: Dear Tech Talk. I love the show even though I am now a computer expert. I have a problem. How can I get rid of Ask.com? It’s taken over my computer and has replaced out my two browsers: Firefox and Explorer. Now everything I do has to go through Ask.com. I’m running Windows XP. Thanks for your help. A loyal listener.
  • Tech Talk Responds: There are three possibilities.
  • Ask.com has simply made itself your browser’s homepage. Go back into your browser and set your homepage to be whatever it is you want. That is often the most common cause. You’ll visit a site, you’ll do something, that basically allows that site to make itself your homepage. Then, every time you open your browser, that’s the page that shows up first.
  • It’s possible that you’ve installed something like an Ask.com toolbar. Go into your browser and disable or remove the toolbar that seems to be associated with Ask.com. Look in Control Panel, Add/remove Programs to see if there’s anything related to Ask.com there and uninstall it. Then go into both Firefox and Explorer and look in their add-ons. Add-on pages are usually found in their Options sections. Remove any add-ons that appear to be related to Ask.com.
  • The third possibility is spyware. Because Ask.com itself is reputable, I really don’t think this is the problem. But, I think it’s worth making sure that you’re clean; that the machine itself doesn’t actually have spyware of some sort on it.

Profiles in IT: Juliana Rotich

  • Juliana Rotich is Co-Founder and Executive Director of Ushahidi, an open source software project which uses crowd-sourced geolocation, mobile phone, and web reporting data to provide crisis reporting and information.
  • “Ushahidi” is the Swahili word for “testimony.” Rotich believes in the transformational power of technology to address social problems in the world, particularly in Africa.
  • Juliana was born in Kenya in 1977, where she spent her childhood and attended primary and secondary school.
  • She received a BS in Computer Science from the University of Missouri in Kansas City, Missouri in 1998.
  • From 1999 to 2005, Juliana worked for Sprint Nextel as a Conferencing Agent and Accounts Specialist.
  • From 2005 to 2006, she worked form Intercall as an Expert Accounts Specialist. She created and managed Access Databases and streamlined an operational CRM.
  • From 2006 to 2007, Juliana was an Email/Database Specialist for the National Seminars Group. She designed and implemented SQL Server databases and developed applications using Visual Basic 6.
  • From 2007 to 2008, Juliana was a Data Analyst for Hewitt Associates.
  • TEDGlobal 2007 was a turning point in Juliana’s life. She met two of the three co-founders of Ushahidi at TEDGlobal 2007, a conference that she viewed as a seminal moment for Africa and for her.
  • She co-founded Ushahidi in January 2008 as a way to gather more and better information about the post-election violence in Kenya.
  • In the Kenyan scenario it was used to map out incidents of violence and this information has played a crucial role in the justice and reconciliation process.
  • Since then, the organization has released several tools and mobile applications. One such tool is Crowdmap, which has been deployed over 20,000 times. It uses the crowd, maps and mobiles to gather and visualize information.
  • Ushahidi  includes support for SMS gateway and Google Maps API for geocoding.
  • Ushahidi then grew to be an open source incident reporting platform that has been successfully deployed in various situations such as the Sichuan, Haiti and Chile earthquakes, the Palestine conflict crisis, heavy snow crisis in Washington.
  • It is also being used to track the recent oil spillage crisis in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • As a Program Director for Ushahidi she manages projects and aids in the development, testing and deployment of the Ushahidi platform.
  • Julian is an active and respected blogger. From 2007 to 2009, Juliana was the Environment Editor for Global Voices, a nonprofit organization that promotes citizen journalism.
  • Juliana publishes a blog called Afromusing (http://afromusing.com/)
  • Julina was selected for a TED (Technology Entertainment Design) Global Fellowship 2007 and 2009. She was designated a TED Senior Fellow in 2010.
  • She was named one of the Top 100 women by the Guardian newspaper and Social Entrepreneur of the year 2011 by The World Economic Forum.

Stuxnet Outed by Administration Official

  • Stuxnet, the world’s first publicly identified cyber weapon, was aimed at Iran’s nuclear fuel-enrichment facility as part of a joint US-Israel cyber-sabotage operation, according to anonymous administration officials.
  • The news reports could in the near term undermine ongoing nuclear talks with Iran. It could even provide Iran with internal justification for a counterstrike against the US.
  • Of particular concern is the possibility that such attacks could provide a digital copy of the cyber-weapon that rogue nations or that hacktivists could reverse-engineer to attack the power grid or other key US infrastructure.
  • In the New York Times account, the cyber-weapon was developed under a program initiated by President George W. Bush.
  • President Obama then gave the go-ahead for a cyber-weapon dubbed “the bug” to be unleashed in an attempt to derail Iran’s bid to make nuclear-weapons fuel.
  • But in summer 2010, after it became clear to the White House that “the bug” had inadvertently escaped the isolated network of Iran’s Natanz uranium-enrichment plant and spread to computers worldwide.
  • It was unclear how much the Iranians knew about the code, and there was evidence that it was still vexing the Iranians. Obama decided that the cyber-attacks should proceed despite the escape.
  • By late summer 2010, cyber-security companies and the trade press were actively analyzing and debating the purpose of the strange piece of malicious software, dubbed “Stuxnet” after a file name inside the software.
  • On Sept. 21, 2010, Ralph Langner, a German industrial-control systems cyber-security expert from Hamburg, publicly identified Stuxnet as the world’s first cyber-weapon and named its likely target as Iran’s nuclear facilities,.
  • Although Stuxnet is estimated to have eventually destroyed as many as 1,000 high-speed Iranian gas centrifuges designed to enrich uranium, its importance was far larger than that.
  • It demonstrated that a cyber-weapon could physically destroy critical infrastructure, and that process could also work in reverse.
  • “One important difference between a cyber offensive weapon and some kind of advanced bomb, for example, is that when the bomb blows up you can’t examine or reverse-engineer it.
  • Once you find the malware, on the other hand, once you find the code, you can see how it was done. So we are going to see more operations of this kind – and the US’s critical infrastructure is undoubtedly going to be targeted.
  • According to the Times, participants in the many Situation Room meetings say Obama “was acutely aware that with every attack he was pushing the United States into new territory.
  • In the end, Obama concluded the US had little choice, the presidential aides told the Times. The alternative could be a nuclear Iran. But the attacks could also provoke Iran to retaliate.
  • Another key takeaway is that cyber-war is unlikely to remain anonymous. It is a new world and cyber-security will be king.

Flame Malware Next Phase in Cyber Warfare

  • A new malware program was discovered this month.
  • Flame is 20 megabytes, the size of a video file, and 40 times bigger than the Stuxnet.
  • Flame bears many similarities to Stuxnet. Both are specimens of highly advanced programming and detailed expertise in many specialized areas.
  • Both programs are the products of large teams of experts working hundreds of hours on development and testing.
  • Only a handful of nations have the technical capacity to do this kind of work. The list would include the United States, the UK, Germany, China, Russia, Israel and Taiwan, says Scott Borg, head of U.S. Cyber Consequences Unit, a security consulting firm.
  • But Flame differs from Stuxnet in many important respects. Whereas Stuxnet was designed for a specific purpose—infiltrating and destroying the centrifuges used in Iran’s nuclear fuel enrichment facility at Natanz—Flame appears to be a general purpose tool for espionage.
  • It has a broad ability to gather data from screenshots or through Bluetooth connections with other devices. Once Flame makes it onto a computer, it begins “sniffing the network traffic, taking screenshots, recording audio conversations, intercepting the keyboard, and so on,” says a May 28 report by security firm Kaspersky.
  • It can compress and encrypt the information it captures and hold onto it until it has a reliable Internet connection to send it.
  • Flame was apparently targeted to countries in the Middle East, but showed up mainly in Iran, with infections also in Israel, the Palestinian territories, Sudan and Syria.
  • Perhaps the biggest potential problem is that the programmers who designed Flame did not try and disguise the code in a way that makes it difficult to reverse engineer.
  • The practice, known as “code obfuscation,” is common among commercial software developers as a way to keep competitors from being able to figure out how software products are designed.
  •  Flame programmers apparently didn’t take such measures, which means a knowledgeable programmer wouldn’t have too much trouble extracting the pertinent design of Flame and making use of it.
  • Stuxnet code was not protected against reverse engineering, either, but this is less of a problem because its purpose is narrow and hence the programming is less useful as a weapon than the more general-purpose Flame.

Oracle case Crippled: APIs can’t be Copyrighted

  • Google has won a major victory in its legal fight with Oracle over the use of Java in Android after the presiding judge ruled that the APIs under dispute can’t be copyrighted.
  • “So long as the specific code used to implement a method is different, anyone is free under the Copyright Act to write his or her own code to carry out exactly the same function or specification of any methods used in the Java API,” Judge Alsop wrote in a ruling released on Thursday, US time.
  • “It does not matter that the declaration or method header lines are identical. Under the rules of Java, they must be identical to declare a method specifying the same functionality — even when the implementation is different. When there is only one way to express an idea or function, then everyone is free to do so and no one can monopolize that expression.”
  • Google successfully fought off a patent infringement claim from Oracle last week, leaving the API issue the only one outstanding in its long-standing legal battle, and the ruling destroys a claim by Oracle for $6bn compensation.
  • While this ruling doesn’t apply automatically to the rest of the industry, it will set an important tone for future software litigation and development.
  • The court’s decision upholds the principle that open and interoperable computer languages form an essential basis for software development. It’s a good day for collaboration and innovation.

History of the Microwave Oven

  • The microwave oven was another accidental discovery.
  • In 1946, Dr. Percy Spencer, a self-taught engineer with the Raytheon Corporation, noticed something very unusual.
  • He was testing a new vacuum tube called a magnetron, when he discovered that the candy bar in his pocket had melted.
  • This intrigued Dr. Spencer, so he tried another experiment. This time he placed some popcorn kernels near the tube and, perhaps standing a little farther away, he watched with an inventive sparkle in his eye as the popcorn sputtered, cracked and popped all over his lab.
  • The next morning, Spencer decided to put the magnetron tube near an egg.
  • The egg began to tremor and quake. The rapid temperature rise within the egg was causing tremendous internal pressure. The egg exploded and splattered hot yolk all over his amazed face.
  • Dr. Spencer fashioned a metal box with an opening into which he fed microwave power. The energy entering the box was unable to escape, thereby creating a higher density electromagnetic field. When food was placed in the box and microwave energy fed in, the temperature of the food rose very rapidly.
  • Dr. Spencer had invented what was to revolutionize cooking, and form the basis of a multimillion dollar industry, the microwave oven.
  • By late 1946, the Raytheon Company had filed a patent proposing that microwaves be used to cook food. An oven that heated food using microwave energy was then placed in a Boston restaurant for testing.
  • At last, in 1947, the first commercial microwave oven hit the market. These primitive units where gigantic and enormously expensive, standing 5 1/2 feet tall, weighing over 750 pounds, and costing about $5000 each. The magnetron tube had to be water-cooled, so plumbing installations were also required.
  • Improvements and refinements produced a more reliable and lightweight product.
  • The development of a new air-cooled magnetron removed the need for plumbing.
  • In 1947, Raytheon demonstrated the world’s first microwave oven and called it a “Radarange,” the winning name in an employee contest.
  • Housed in refrigerator-sized cabinets, the first microwave ovens cost between $2,000 and $3,000.
  • Tappan introduced the first home model priced at $1295. In 1965 Raytheon acquired Amana Refrigeration.
  • Two years later, the first countertop, domestic oven was introduced. It was a 100-volt microwave oven, which cost just under $500 and was smaller, safer and more reliable than previous models.
  • By 1975 Sales of Microwave Ovens Exceeded that of Gas Range