Show of 7-7-2012

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Yen Hua: Dear Dr. Shurtz, While visiting my sister Nhan in Georgia last weekend, my other sister Hac told us about your show and we downloaded the MP3 from your web site and listened to it. I was happy to learn that I could just listen to you show on the radio when I returned home to Maryland!
  • I have a question concerning on line shopping. I often surf the web looking for bargains on line, but I’ve always wondered how I can make sure the on line shopping site I’m looking at is not a fake. How can I make sure I’m not giving my credit card number to a scam artist? Your new listener. Yen Hua.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Check if the site has an actual mailing address. Perform a Google search using the name of the site to see if anyone has posted negative information on a blog. Beware of sites outside of the US, which is probably the case if you cannot find any actual physical address. Make certain they use SSL for all transactions.
  • Email from Leslie: I have an iPhone and frequently get text messages from other iPhone users with special symbols. I can figure out how they embed them into their text messages. Can you explain how they do that? Thanks, Leslie
  • Tech Talk Responds: They have installed the Emoji International Keyboard on their phone. It is free and easily installed. Here is the process.
    • Click on Settings Icon.
    • Click on General
    • Click on Keyboard after scrolling down
    • Click on International Keyboards
    • Click on Add New Keyboard
    • Click on Emoji after scrolling down.
  • Start a text message. When the keyboard opens, click on World Symbol in lower left to bring up Emoji. The are many tabs and many pages to Emoji. Enjoy
  • Email from Dustin: Greetings, I am a relatively new employee at Stratford University. Last week I listened to the show for the first time and really enjoyed the segment on Alan Turing since I am currently working on my Masters in mathematics. My question for the show is, given the recent power outage, are solar chargers these days worth the investment? Thanks, Dustin Cassell
  • Tech Talk Responds: Solar charges for cell phones make sense. I had to keep my phone charged using the car. I have solar charged flashlights in the house. You could also use it for your laptop, but the charge time will be quite long unless you buy an very expensive solar panel. I have considered a natural gas generator too. However, that investment would be between 6 and 10K for the house, probably not worth.
  • Email from LL in Bethesda:  Dear Doc, A few months back I wrote two User Guides in MS PowerPoint 2010 that take a new user through a custom built Automation Tool. Both of my User Guides have a Lot of screen shots from the tool the User Guides are explaining embedded into the PP slides. When I turned The User Guides in, Top man who oversees our work asked me to make the PP 508 compliant.
  • A fellow worker told me to run the guides through JAWS. I did, and JAWS ignored the screen shots entirely. I had to go into the PP and R click on the screen shot and select “Size and Position”. Then select “Alt Text”. A Format Picture/Alt Text box comes up where I was able to enter a written DESCRIPTION of what is shown in the screen shots. How do I ensure a PPP is 508 compliant for an eLearning application beyond what I’ve already done? LL in Bethesda
  • Tech Talk Responds: Section 508, an amendment to the United States Workforce Rehabilitation Act of 1973, is a federal law mandating that all electronic and information technology developed, procured, maintained, or used by the federal government be accessible to people with disabilities. Technology is deemed to be “accessible” if it can be used as effectively by people with disabilities as by those without. To demonstate that a product or Web service is in compliance with Section 508, the creator completes a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT), an “informational tool” that describes exactly how the product or service does or does not meet Section 508 standards. The completed VPAT gets posted on the creator’s Web site to provide government officials and consumers with access to the information.
  • I don’t know of any automatic tools for PowerPoint presentations with embedded graphics. Alternate text for graphics is important and must be entered manually. Don’t use complicated tables for the text because they must be read by audio readers and be understandable. If you port the PowerPoint to an HTML format and post it to the web, there are online compliance scanners for web content. Allow users to change font size and color contrast. I would get a screen reader (like Jaws) and see how it works on your PowerPoint.
  • Once it is on the web, you can use Cynthia Says™ Portal, which a joint Education and Outreach project of HiSoftware, ICDRI, and the Internet Society Disability and Special Needs Chapter. Web address: http://www.contentquality.com/
  • Facebook Comment from Bird Neconie: How about the DNS Changer deadline on Monday? Some users have been told that if you’re in market for a new PC, no need to try and remove it from an infected computer. Thanks, Bird.
  • Tech Talk Responds: To check your computer, simply go to http://www.dcwg.org/ and then click on the link in the table that applies to your country and language. New computers should not be infected, but you can easily check by going to this site. It is relatively easy to remove this virus from your computer.

Profiles in IT: Ron Avitzur

  • Creator of the Macintosh Graphing Calculator which has been shipped with Macs since 1994. Development was completed as a bootleg Apple project.
  • Ron Avitzur was born 1966 in California. His father was on he faculty at Leigh High University so he had access to computers as a child.
  • Started programming in the 70s when programs were stored on punch cards.
  • He started Stanford University in 1984 when the Macintosh was just released.
  • He used a Mac in college. He taught many of his peers to use the Mac for papers.
  • He was a Physics major, but did pages of math using paper and pencil.
  • He took some time off from school to write a math program that would be as convenient use as a word processor for his Physics problems.
  • He developed a program called Milo around 1987. It was advertised as a math processor for students doing problem sets with wysiwyg equations. It had a computation engine for symbolic computation.
  • Milo was not a commercial success, but it was the beginning of a long saga.
  • He was hired by Frame technology to embed Milo software into their word processor.
  • He worked on a mathematical typesetting system for FrameMaker 2.0. It is still shipping today as FrameMath.
  • He then developed, on his own, as character recognition software for equations.
  • He wanted a hardware platform to demonstrate this product and that is how he ended up at Apple. He demonstrated Pen Computing, but it still needed much work.
  • After a year working on a secret hardware project at Apple, the project was canceled.
  • He decided to stay to work on the project without pay.
  • The PowerPC group was nearby. Their platform would be an ideal for his program.
  • Two engineers decided to port his software to the PowerPC.
  • They successfully ported it. All 50,000 lines of code. They cross compiles from an IBM-RS6000 workstation. No software tools were available for the PowerPC.
  • They found one of the rare PowerPC prototypes and ran the program the next day.
  • The engineers were impressed. They gave it high praise, “This doesn’t suck.”
  • They had an impressive native PowerPC app. This was August 1993. But no project.
  • He asked his friend Greg Robins to help him perfect the Graphing Calculator
  • Greg’s project was finished. He kept his badge and so did Ron.
  • Greg said he reported to Ron. Ron said he reported to Greg. With no managers in the loop they were very productive. They coded 12 hours a day with no meeting.
  • They were under the radar. No one was responsible. They used vacant offices.
  • Ron hired a graphic design project and he paid her from his personal account.
  • Two guys from PowerPC project QA were bored. They started reporting on the bugs.
  • It was time to tell the managers to see the product.
  • They had loved it. Managers. They assigned people to the project. They assigned the same QA guys to the project. QA is official. It was translated into 15 languages.
  • They finished in January 1994. The Graphing Calculator has been part of the Macintosh ever since.
  • He licensed the software to Apple, so they could ship it.
  • You can buy the latest version of his software from www.pacifict.com.

Higgs Boson Detected

  • Early in the morning on July 4, physicists with the Large Hadron Collider at CERN announced they have found a new particle that behaves similarly to what is expected from the Higgs.
  • Both CMS and ATLAS, the two main LHC Higgs-hunting experiments, are reporting a boson that has Higgs-like properties at a mass of 125 gigaelectronvolts (GeV) with a 5-sigma significance, meaning they are 99.999 percent confident of its existence.
  • First hypothesized in the 1960s by Peter Higgs, the Higgs boson is the final piece of the Standard Model, the physics framework explaining the interactions of all known subatomic particles and forces.
  • The Higgs has been the subject of an extensive two-decade search, first at the European Large Electron-Positron Collider, then the Tevatron at Fermilab in Illinois, and finally at the LHC.
  • Finding the Higgs within the predicted energy range is a major vindication for the Standard Model.
  • The last of the Standard Model’s 16 particles to be found was the top quark, discovered at Fermilab’s Tevatron in 1995, while many physicists would point to the detection of the W and Z boson in 1983 as the field’s most recent monumental finding.
  • And considering that it is gives rise to the mass of all other particles, the Higgs may well be the most important new particle found for years to come.
  • The Higgs is important because it is the manifestation of the Higgs field, which is thought to permeate all of space and interact with all other subatomic particles.
  • This interaction leads to the different mass for each elementary particle. Some particles, like protons, are slowed by this field, like a tennis ball going through molasses, and are relatively heavy while others, like electrons, shoot rapidly through like BB gun pellets, making them light.
  • To search for the Higgs, the LHC has been smashing together protons at incredibly high speeds, counting out the many elementary particles created from these energetic slams.
  • Heavy particles, like the Higgs boson, almost immediately decay into simpler fragments.
  • In December, the LHC had collected enough data to ascertain that some events were pointing to the creation of Higgs particles at 125 (GeV) with a 3-sigma significance, meaning they had a 0.13 percent chance of happening by chance.
  • What they have been waiting for is the high bar of a 5-sigma result, which has only a one in 3 million chance of happening randomly.
  • Many physicists are hopeful that some properties of the boson will turn out different than predicted under the Standard Model.
  • If this is the case, it could indicate the presence of new physics such as super symmetry that would build on the Standard Model and fix certain problems with it.
  • As yet, there have been no indications for physics beyond the Standard Model and the latest Higgs results are very consistent with the theory.
  • This is problematic since some physicists had expected to see some interesting or new particles by now yet nothing has yet appeared.
  • In particular, many scientists are looking out for any particles that could correspond to the dark matter seen in galaxies throughout the universe. The ordinary protons and electrons that make up most things on Earth are outnumbered five to one by this dark matter.
  • Perhaps the LHC can uncover exactly what this matter is in 2015 and 2016, when it runs at full capacity.

Higgs Boson Trivia

  • An musician changed his name to Higgs Boson and produced a series of songs inspired by particle physics.
    • Website: www.higgsboson.com
    • Here is his song, Penumbra.
    • His songs all have an eerie, sci-fiction mood.
    • Available for purchase at 99 cents per track.
  • Music synthesized from Large Hadron Collider signals.
    • Website: http://lhcsound.hep.ucl.ac.uk/page_sounds_higgs/Higgs.html
    • HiggsJetSimple is the simplest example in the sounds library.
      • This example maps properties of the Higgs jet to properties of sound. A jet is made up of lots of cells containing energy deposits. Each cell has an energy, a distance and an angular distance (dR) associated with it. So each cell can be heard as a separate note in this example.
    • HiggsJetHarmSig2 is something a bit different.
      • The jet is taken apart and reassembled three times, corresponding to the three sounds you hear (each lasting 20 seconds). In the first case the cells’ dR values are mapped to pitch and then all the cells (notes) are played together. The second sound has pitch determined by distance and the third sound has pitch determined by energy. These are the `harmonic signatures’ of the jet.
  • Higgs Humor from a Particle Physics Joke book
    • A Higgs particle tries to enter a Catholic Church. The priest stops him and says he can’t enter because Higgs Particles are not allowed in Church.
    • The Higgs Particle says, “How can you have Mass without me.”
  • Boson de Higgs Beer was created by the Hopfenstark brewery in Montreal and has been on sale for more than a year. The brew has gotten positive reviews from beer critics.  According to critics, it is a delicious brew in which Beachwood-smoked malts and citrusy, lactic subtleties.

No Flash for Jelly Bean

  • Adobe Flash is near the end. Steve Jobs had it right all along.
  • Adobe has announced that it will not be developing a certified version of Flash for Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean)
  • Adobe says it will soon be pulling Flash Player from the Google Play Store.
  • Adobe already announced last year that it would cease development of its mobile Flash Player.
  • Beginning Aug. 15, Adobe plans to start limiting access to Flash in the Google Play Store to mobile devices that already have Flash installed.
  • The Flash plugin actually works in Android 4.1, but Adobe is not supporting it.
  • The may finally move to HTML5 instead of relying on the Adobe Flash.

Social Media and Colorado Wildfire Relief

  • Social media is ideal for spreading information quickly.
  • It is helping disaster relief organizations get up-to-the-minute information.
  • Waldo Canyon Fire Tracker
    • Two Colorado Springs residents, Scott Seibold and Robbie Trencheny crafted this Twitter application.
    • It aggregates tweets that use the hashtags #WaldoCanyonFire, #WaldoFire, #waldocanyon and #ColoradoSprings.
    • They are trying to spread the twitter updates to those who don’t have twitter.
    • It has been very useful in matching lost pets with their owners.
  • Red Cross Emergency Response Center
    • The American Red Cross launched this social media response system in March.
    • It is officially called Digital Operations Centers (or Digidoc)
    • It monitors data from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and blogs.
    • The Colorado Wildfire and Hurricane Debbie were its first test.
    • Twitter photos have been particularly useful.