Show of 8-4-2012

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from June: Dear Tech Talk. I have a blackberry and an iPhone with Verizon. The coverage in my townhouse is not good. I have been told to get a network extender and this should solve my problem. Of course Verizon has one to sell me.What is your advice on the type I should get so I can receive and keep phone calls in my house wireless devices. Thanks, June Cunha.
  • Tech Talk Responds: I have had similar issues in my house. I first diagnose the problem by mapping the Wi-Fi signal strength in the house using my laptop and a free program called NetStumbler. Download it from www.netstumbler.com. Sometimes just adjusting your antenna location can make a difference. My next option is to get a high gain antenna for my router. Such antennas must have the right connector for your router. Since high gain antennas are directional you need to adjust their position. The simplest is simply a longer dipole antenna with 6db gain. Each 3db doubles the signals strength. A dipole has a donut shaped radiation pattern.
  • If these options don’t work, you can consider a range extender, such as Netgear Universal WiFi Range Extender. It cost around $70. Getting one which matches the brand of our router is best. The disadvantage is that this repeater will introduce latency into your network and may slow it down. Gamers may not like this. It is fine for normal web surfing. You will want to place your repeater in a location that gets a strong signal from your router. Use NetStumbler to help you.
  • Email from Linda Lane: Dr. Shurtz, many months ago through your Tech Talk Radio Show, you were kind enough to help me w/trying to set up my old Atari System. Because of your assistance I was successful in accomplishing the Atari hookup & subsequent hours of play for my grandson. I have encountered a problem with an ‘ilitili’ virus and don’t know how to get rid of it. We currently have Norton 360 and also ran Malewarebytes AntiMalware. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to have worked. Your assistance and guidance in eliminating this ‘ilitili’ virus would be greatly appreciated. I realize you have a very demanding schedule but your help would be appreciated. Thank you! Linda L Lane.
  • Tech Talk Responds: This is a difficult virus to remove and detect. .
    • Ilitili changes your browser’s default home page to a particular web site without asking for user permission.
    • It alters your web browser’s settings once it’s loaded on your computer and redirects you to its sites solely.
    • It redirects you to a predefined site whenever you enter invalid address or performs an Internet search.
    • It tracks your web browsing habits, records addresses of visited sites and sends collected data to a remote server.
    • It provides your no uninstall feature and hides in order to obstruct its removal as much as possible.
  • Removal on a windows machine requires that you delete registry entries after closing the program, called {random}.exe using the Task Manager. If your virus detection does not detect, you may have to run a rootkit detector first. Malewarebytes Anti Malware cannot detect rootkits. I will continue to look for a quick fix on Atari. There are complete removal instructions for Windows machines on the web.
  • Email from Bill Conley: Gentlemen, I recently reinstalled my Dell Latitude with MS XP Pro, storing all documents to an external hard drive. Prior to system reload had removed folder encryption from “all” folders, no more file titles in green, all black. Unfortunately I failed to notice that my Outlook pst files were still encrypted. Since they were encrypted under previous OS load, they are now inaccessible. Address Book, all email files are now out of reach. Do you have a means other than NSA of decrypting? Your assist most appreciated. Bill Conley.
  • Tech Talk Responds: If you encrypt data on your computer, you need a way to recover that data in case something happens to the encryption key. If your encryption key is lost or damaged and you don’t have a way to recover your data, the data is lost. You will also lose data if you store your encryption key on a smart card and the smart card is damaged or lost. To make sure you can always access your encrypted data, you should back up your encryption certificate and key.
  • Encryptions is managed by the Certificate Manager, which is opened by typing certmgr.msc into the search box and pressing enter.  Using this application, you can either import an encrypted file or backup your certificate. If you import encrypted files you will have to point to the appropriate EFS certificate. If you did not back up your EFS certificate, your files are lost.

Profiles in IT: Scott Forstall

  • Scott Forstall is the senior vice president of iOS Software at Apple.
  • Scott Forstall  was born in 1969 and grew up in Kitsap County, Washington.
  • Forstall’s older brother has been a software design engineer at MS for 20 years.
  • In junior high Scott qualified for a gifted science and math class that gave him regular time in a classroom outfitted with Apple IIe’s, where he learned programming.
  • Forstall immersed himself in competitions of all kind: chess club, National History Day quizzes, and a contest called “The Knowledge Bowl.”
  • He graduated as co-valedictorian with a perfect 4.0 grade point average. His future wife was the other co-valedictorian.
  • In his senior year, Forstall played the lead in a high school production of the Stephen Sondheim musical Sweeney Todd.
  • Forstall went on to Stanford University, where he received an BS in symbolic systems in 1991 and then an MS in computer science in 1992.
  • During his time at Stanford, Forstall was a member of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity.
  • After finishing at Stanford, he joined Jobs’s NeXT Computer, where he worked on the company’s operating system.
  • When Apple acquired NeXT in 1996 and Jobs returned to become interim CEO, Forstall was put to work designing user interfaces for a reinvigorated Macintosh line.
  • In 2000, Forstall was a leading designer of the Mac’s new user interface, Aqua, which included water-themed visual cues such as translucent icons and reflections.
  • He also managed the group that created the Leopard version of the Mac OS.
  • In 2004, Jobs asked him to form a team to develop software for the iPhone. This secret project was dubbed Project Purple. Jobs gave Forstall full control, but he could not hire anyone from outside the company.
  • The team took one of Apple’s Cupertino buildings and locked it down. Extra security points were added, including more badge scanners, cameras, and signage on doors and other entry-ways in that building based on the novel “Fight Club.”
  • Around 2005, Jobs faced a crucial decision. Should he shrink the Mac or enlarge the iPod? Jobs pitted iPod’s Tony Fadell against Mac OS’s Scott Forstall.
  • Forstall’s team got their system to work and Jobs went with that software approach.
  • Forstall is a mini-Steve. He’s a hard-driving manager who obsesses over every detail.
  • He’s drives Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMG, in silver, the same car Jobs drove.
  • His signature on-stage costume is black shoes, jeans, and a black zippered sweater.
  • He favors Reyn Spooner Hawaiian shirts for normal days at the office.
  • In June 2009, during one of Jobs’s medical absences, he handled a large portion of the keynote at Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference.
  • He has sold about 237,000 shares worth $42.5 million over the past decade, according to regulatory filings.
  • At 42 he’s the youngest senior executive at Apple. He may also be the best remaining proxy for the voice of Steve Jobs.
  • His name is on about 50 patents that cover everything from how icons are laid out on the iPhone screen to the method of turning off a device with a finger swipe.
  • Some refer to Scott as Apple’s chief a–hole. It is meant as a compliment. You could say the same thing about Steve Jobs.

Apple vs Samsung in Court

  • Apple contended that Samsung’s Galaxy Tab copied Apple’s iPhone and violated its patents.
  • Apple made further contended that Samsung was growing sales by taking advantage of Apples strong advertising campaign.
  • Scott Forstall, Apple’s senior vice president of iOS took the stand Friday afternoon, delving into the development of the iPad in 2003 and the 2004 conversations that generated the iPhone.
  • Forstall said he asked the Smartphone development team to come up with the double-tap feature introduced to iPhones in 2007.
  • A Samsung attorney presented an email chain between Tony Fadell, who developed of the iPod, Steve Jobs, Jony Ive, Jon Rubinstein and Forstall in which Fadwell describes his impression of the SGH-E910.
  • Jobs forwarded the messages on to Ive, writing “This may be our answer – we could put the number pad around our clickwheel.”
  • The attorney would go on to show several more emails and a Apple breakdown of a Samsung Smartphone, implicating the Apple team explored Samsung designs as it developed its products.
  • Forstall ended his time on the stand by saying he never instructed anyone to copy Samsung’s designs because the company wanted to create something that no one had ever built.
  • Justin Denison, a chief strategy officer for Samsung mobile, said Samsung wanted to beat Apple by the end of 2011 though his company didn’t copy their competitor.
  • One interesting revelation from today’s testimony is that Jobs was apparently open to a 7-inch tablet, known by most as the iPad Mini.
  • The trial resumes Monday.

Social Media and the Olympics

  • The London 2012 Olympics have been hailed as the first social media Games.
  • People can communicate with their favorite athletes and receive real-time updates.
  • Social media creates an Olympic-centric online culture, where people form communities around specific events and athletes. Especially girls connecting with Ryan Lochte.
  • Yet, it’s not all sunshine and Olympic medalists’ flower bouquets when it comes to Twitter has emerged as the the most popular social network for talking about the Olympics.
  • The site has generated numerous social media spectacles, including but not limited to the expulsion of two athletes, some tweets from an irate soccer goalie, and the suspension of a journalist’s account.
    • It’s also become a forum in which people show their discontent with NBC.
    • Greek triple jumper Voula Papahristou was banned from competing in the Olympics after posting a racist tweet on July 22.
    • The Swiss Olympic soccer team expelled Michel Morganella after he sent out a racist tweet hours after Switzerland’s loss to South Korea.
    • Hope Solo, the goalkeeper of the U.S. Women’s Olympic Soccer Team, took to Twitter to unleash anger caused by Brandi Chastain.
    • Ryan Lochte Twitter followers grew by 500,000 to nearly 700,000, mostly female.
    • Dr. Ruth has been sending racy tweets throughout the games, tweets that I will not read here.

High Tech Olympic Start Gun

  • Every one hundredth of a second counts in the Olympic Games, especially when it comes to track and field events.
  • Due to lag in sound-traveling time, runners in the farthest lane have a disadvantage because they are last to hear the start signal.
  • In the past, the “gun” gives runners in the closer lanes a distinct advantage in the race.
  • This year, however, the Olympics committee is using an electronic gun that makes no noise at all.
  • Instead, it’s wired to speakers directly behind each runner, ensuring all runners hear the starting gun at the same time.

Political Website of the Week: OpenSecrets.org

  • Web address: www.OpenSecrets.org.
  • The Center for Responsive Politics tracks money in U.S. politics.
  • Nonpartisan, independent and nonprofit, the organization aims to create a more educated voter.
  • Track money flow by candidate, cause, donor, PAC, or zip code.
  • Put in your own zip code and see who your neighbors are supporting.
  • Results are based on the campaign disclosures that must be filed by all candidates.

Google Gives Politicians Targeting Tool

  • Political candidates are embracing online advertising this election season more than ever before.
  • Many campaigns have chosen to advertise through Google AdWords, which has offered localized targeting by ZIP code for months.
  • While ZIP code targeting is all well and good for national political campaigns that want to blast messages across entire states, it leaves local politicians in the lurch.
  • Congressional districts change with each census every 10 years and thus often don’t align precisely to ZIP codes.
  • That’s a problem that Google may have just solved — the company now offers political campaigns the ability to target search, display, mobile and video advertisements by congressional district.
  • All you’d have to do is tell Google’s AdWords salespeople that you’re running in that district, and they would handle the rest. You wouldn’t waste any money selling ads in towns or cities where you’re not campaigning.
  • Data for the new district-based targeting is being provided to Google by geography data firm Azavea.
  • Google’s district-based advertising is the latest of Google’s attempts to win the attention and business of the political world.
  • The company recently released “Four Screens to Victory,” a digital strategy guide for political candidates interested in using Google products.
  • The National Republican Congressional Committee, for example, is spending $50,000 on ads being broadcast in specific districts in key battleground states.
  • Google’s method may not be perfect: It’s still using IP-based location tracking, which isn’t always accurate.

Curiosity Rover Is Female and She’s on Twitter

  • The voice of Curiosity is the combined effort of three women, led by NASA’s social media manager Veronica McGregor.
  • They work as a “hivemind” to communicate on behalf of the rover. All three refer to Curiosity as “she.”
  • The social media team brought Curiosity to Twitter on Nov. 19, 2008, three years before her launch on Nov. 26, 2011.
  • Tweet account is @MarsCuriosity
  • NASA launched the rover’s naming contest on Twitter, as an essay contest for kids.
  • In the spring of 2009, 12-year-old Clara Ma’s suggestion, “Curiosity,” was chosen from more than 9,000 entries.
  • Tweeting in the “voice” of a robot gives personality and a sense of connection that’s made all of NASA’s recent missions engaging to a new generation of space enthusiasts.
  • It’s these first-person tweets that connect with followers, but it all began as a quick fix to stay within Twitter’s 140-character limit.
  • McGregor found she could save letters by substituting “I traveled” for phrases like “the spacecraft has traveled.”
  • In the past four years, McGregor and her team have come up with strategies to make NASA‘s machines more likeable as well.
  • Rover Curiosity has more than 137,000 followers on Twitter, a figure that is expected to grow as touchdown approaches.
  • At 2,000 pounds and the size of a Mini Cooper, Curiosity is the largest and heaviest vehicle ever sent to the red planet.
  • The $2.5-billion Curiosity will need not only a parachute, but a newly developed Sky Crane that will lower her into the planet’s Gale Crater, cut the cables and then fly off, leaving Curiosity upright on its six wheels — if all goes according to plan.
  • The unorthodox landing has been dubbed the “7 Minutes of Terror” for its duration from the top of the atmosphere to the ground. And the social media team is ready.
  • The landing is scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 5 at 10:31 p.m. PDT.

SpaceX Wins NASA Contract for Space Shuttle

  • Aerospace firm SpaceX announced Friday that it won a $440 million contract from NASA to modify its Dragon capsule for human space flight as a private-sector successor to the Space Shuttle.
  • The plan is to launch the first Dragon flight carrying American astronauts by 2015.
  • The Dragon capsule can carry seven astronauts, and it launches aboard the 227 foot-tall SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
  • These vehicles proved themselves in May in an unmanned mission in which Dragon became the first private spacecraft to dock with the International Space Station.
  • Since that mission, SpaceX has undergone tests to ensure that the vehicles are ready for manned spaceflight.
  • On July 17, Dragon passed NASA’s design review, which outlined its new launch pad emergency procedures, its life-support systems, cockpit design and propulsive landing system.
  • While the unmanned Dragon splashed down in the ocean, the piloted version will have thrusters to guide it to a landing.

Identity Theft Costly to IRS

  • Identity thieves continue to profit from U.S. government refunds by filing bogus tax returns.
  • The IRS stands to lose as much as US$21 billion over the next five years due to identity theft, according to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. (TIGTA)
  • TIGTA noted that the IRS did not agree with the $21 billion figure, but wrote that the figure does include estimated savings from new fraud control filters. Without new controls, TIGTA estimated losses of $26 billion.
  • Part of problem is that the IRS is not gathering enough data about fraud trends, such as how a return was filed, income information from W-2 forms, the amount of refunds and where those refunds were sent, TIGTA said.
  • The audit found that $8.1 million in potentially fraudulent tax refunds one of five addresses.
  • According to the postal inspector, the successful schemes involved identity thieves using the SSNs (Social Security numbers) of deceased people and individuals who receive public assistance.
  • The IRS said it detected 938,664 fake tax returns during the 2011 processing year, which would have cost $6.5 billion.
  • The IRS is contacting some taxpayers to verify their identity. That simple measure stopped the issuance of $1.3 billion in potentially fraudulent tax returns as of April 19, TIGTA said.
  • As of March, more than 164,000 tax accounts were locked, preventing $1.8 million in fraud, the audit said.