Show of 8-11-2012

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from James Messick: Dear Tech-Talk-Titans, Your show continues to be interesting, informative and enjoyable. Thanks. I have a couple of questions I hope you can answer. I bought the 7″ Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 with Ice Cream Sandwich when it was released in May, 2012. I like the tablet and the 7″ form factor but am annoyed by the occasional notification of an advertisement in Androids notifications window.
  • I have been unable to ascertain if these ads are from Google or from a third-party app that I have installed. Do you know if Google has begun to place ads into the notifications on Android tablets?
  • Also, I am just dipping my toe into online learning through Coursera.org. I received a Computer Science degree 25 years ago and have been out of the field for about ten years. I want to get back into software development but need to acquire some current skills (an important lesson for any IT person). Do you think that Stratford University will offer any similar online courses in the future, and do you know of any Coursera alternatives? Best of luck with the show. James Messick, Kernersville, NC
  • Tech Talk Responds: It sounds like one of the apps you have installed causing it… uninstall some of the recent installed apps until you narrow it down to which is causing it. Or you can download Airpush Detector. It will tell you which apps are doing it. Many free apps push ads to provide a revenue stream. You might download the paid version of the app which is causing problems.
  • These only tech courses are great. I would recommend that you learn as much as you can. Join some user groups in your area and begin working on some software projects that you can talk about. Many technical people become Business Analysts, where they are the link between the IT team and the business. That may be a good avenue for you.
  • As far as honing your software skills, I would focus on Agile Software Development, using approaches like Scrum and XP accelerate project cycles. They both require developers to interact with their managers more frequently but for shorter periods. Daily contact is the norm in most agile processes. You might also specialize in Mobile applications. Many tools are available for the Apple iOS and Google Android applications. Security or cloud computing are also very prominent in software development. Select some are that interests you, join an associated interest group, and begin attending meeting. Talk about the work on your latest projects at home, rather than the fact that you have been out of the field for ten years.
  • Email from Margaret: Dear Doc Shurtz, I work remotely from my home office in Bethesda for a large Fed Agency. I have been given access to their network. The approach is to go through a Citrix access gateway. After I arrive at the Citrix access gateway (CAG) Splash screen I need to start IE in order to get to the Agency’s URL’s– to do my work. An older guy who I discussed this issue with at the Agency’s helpdesk said that the issue was that I was coming in via a wireless connection. But, he said to connect the Verizon router with a cable to my laptop and THEN, Right Click the wireless connection icon and set it to disabled. I AM able to connect the cable and laptop seems to now add that as the local area connection (on attached screenshot), but, I can’t then Right Click the wireless connection icon and set it to disabled.
  • Is this advice sound—I am still sitting here waiting for the IE icon to load the browser so something is still amiss? What else can I do to troubleshoot this? I am told by the Agency that their CAG is not new.
  • As a side aspect pertaining to wireless– I have two Internet radios in my house on separate floors so I don’t want to loose wireless for them, but, Agency IT guy I spoke to said setting the pc to wired would not impact the wireless access/settings for the radios—can U please confirm this is correct? It would be so helpful to learn what the real issue is here to get IE to load! Margaret, Weekly devotee.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Many people have complained about IE when using the Citrix Gateway. Many have solved the authentication problem by listing the Citrix site as a trusted site. You might try this. You might also try to use either Foxfire or Chrome browsers.
  • Right clicking on the Internet connection icon should bring up the wireless connection window where you can disconnect. As far as disabling wireless connection for your computer, you can turn off Wi-Fi on your laptop and then restart the machine. You can leave the Wi-Fi router on once you laptop Wi-Fi is turned off. Government agencies don’t like wireless and may detect it and block your access.
  • Email from Tung in Ohio: After visiting major online computer and electronics retailers’ websites, I find that they have tracked items I looked at, combined with my computer’s browser settings or web address and then displayed these items as pop-up ads in my other browser pages. I believe something from the computer store website has inserted spyware into my IE9 browser settings and I refuse to trust any spyware. Love the show, Tung
  • Tech Talk Responds: You are not seeing spyware. You are seeing advertising informed by a cookie that has been stored in your computer. This is very commonly done.
  • Here is what happens. You visit a site and they leave a cookie on your computer. Next, you visit another website happen to use the same advertising partner. They may elect to show you ads related to the sites you’ve been to before.
  • There’s nothing you can do about it without going and getting an ad blocking solution. In my opinion, it is totally benign. You can clear your cookie cache to start all over again.
  • Email from Sue: Dear Tech Talk, I would like to share photos from my son’s wedding what options do I have? Thank, Sue
  • Tech Talk Responds: Here a a few options to consider:
  • Flickr: The most common way to use Flickr is with a free account, though the free version of Flickr is restrictive. You can upload 300MB worth of photos each month, though only your most recent 200 photos are visible at any given moment, If you pay the $25 annual fee for a Pro account, your page includes all the photos you’ve previously uploaded, and the full sizes are available as well.
  • 500px: There are two kinds of accounts at 500px: a free version that allows you to upload up to 20 photos per week, and a subscription version for $50/year that has no photo or bandwidth limits. The overall quality of photos on 500px is so much higher than at Flickr. This is not a site for all your pics
  • SmugMug: A Basic account costs $35/year and includes unlimited photo uploads. The Power plan adds a personal domain, the ability to protect photos from being downloaded, and unlimited HD videos for $55. You can protect your photos from downloads and establish portfolios to sell them online. There’s also a $145/year Pro plan that includes a store to sell your photos and other goodies
  • Zenfolio: Zenfolio has no completely free option (aside from the 14-day free trial), but you can get the Basic plan (2GB of storage plus an additional gigabyte each year you’re with the service) for $25/year. The Unlimited plan is: $50/year. You get you unlimited storage, HD video support, and a custom domain name. The site has tools for setting up online stores for your photos. You can upload directly from Adobe Lightroom.

Profiles in IT: Jennifer Pahlka

  • Jennifer Pahlka is the founder and Executive Director of Code for America, a San Francisco-based non-profit organization.
  • Code for America is the tech world’s equivalent of the Peace Corps or Teach for America.
  • Jennifer Pahlka was born in Bainbridge, Maryland in 1969, and raised in Austin, New Haven, and New York City.
  • She is a graduate of the Bronx High School of Science and Yale University, and lives in Oakland, California with her daughter, and eight chickens.
  • After graduating from Yale University, she worked at two Bay Area nonprofits, including a child welfare agency, but found them too rigid and bureaucratic.
  • Pahlka spent eight years at CMP Media, leading the Game Group, the Game Developers Conference (GDC), Game Developer Magazine, and Gamasutra.com.
  • She launched the Independent Games Festival and the Game Developers Choice Awards.
  • She was also the executive director of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA), a non-profit association serving game developers around the world.
  • From 2005 to 2009, she was the co-chair and general manager of the Web 2.0 events for TechWeb, in partnership with O’Reilly Media.
  • She proposed the creation of the Web 2.0 Expo and played a key role in the Gov 2.0 Summit and the Gov 2.0 Expo.
  • She conceived the idea for a nonprofit corps of programmers in 2009 while organizing the first Gov 2.0 Summit, a conference focused on how technology can improve civic life
  • Pahlka founded Code for American in 2009. She modeled the organization after Teach for America, with the goal of uniting technologists and city employees.
  • In October, CFA selected 20 fellows, who received a modest stipend ($35,000), moved to San Francisco, and committed to a year of public service.
  • The first class spent February talking to more than 400 city officials and residents in Boston, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.
  • The participants returned to San Francisco, where they’re writing software to tackle the civic challenges they learned about during the trip.
  • One group’s first project is a program that uses GPS data to let parents and students in Boston check whether school buses are running late. Later used for tsunami sirens.
  • Another project linked citizens and the Boston Fire Department. The website allowed citizen to adopt a fire hydrant and keep it cleared of snow during the winter.
  • All the software is open-source. That means it’s free for anyone to adopt.
  • The plan is to create a library of “civic software” that municipalities can draw on.
  • Code for America also received a $1.5 million dollar grant from Google as part of its 2011 Google Gives Back program
  • For her work re-imagining government for the 21st century, Pahlka was named a 2011 HuffPost Gamechanger.
  • She also gave a keynote speech at South By Southwest Interactive in 2012.
  • In March 2012, she gave a well received TED Talk explaining Code for America.
  • Web address: http://codeforamerica.org/

Apple and Amazon Security Flaws Led to Disaster

  • Mat Honan had his digital life dissolved by hackers.
  • In the space of one hour, his entire digital life was destroyed. First his Google account was taken over, and then deleted. Next his Twitter account was compromised.
  • His AppleID account was broken into, and hackers used it to remotely erase all of the data on his iPhone, iPad, and MacBook.
  • The exploit exposed security flaws in several customer service systems at Apple and Amazon.
  • Apple tech support gave the hackers access to his iCloud account.
  • Amazon tech support gave them the ability to see a piece of information — a partial credit card number — that Apple used to release information.
  • The very four digits that Amazon considers unimportant enough to display in the clear on the web are precisely the same ones that Apple considers secure enough to perform identity verification.
  • After coming across his account, the hackers did some background research. His Twitter account linked to my personal website, where they found my Gmail address. Guessing that this was also the e-mail address I used for Twitter, the hacker went to Google’s account recovery page. He didn’t even have to actually attempt a recovery. This was just a recon mission.
  • Because he didn’t have Google’s two-factor authentication turned on, when the hackers entered my Gmail address, the hackers could view the alternate e-mail he had set up for account recovery.
  • Google partially obscures that information, starring out many characters, but there were enough characters available, m••••n@me.com. Jackpot.
  • The hackers got the billing address by doing a whois search on my personal web domain. If someone doesn’t have a domain, you can also look up his or her information on Spokeo, WhitePages, and PeopleSmart.
  • Getting a credit card number is more difficult, but it also relies on taking advantage of a company’s back-end systems. First you call Amazon and tell them you are the account holder, and want to add a credit card number to the account. All you need is the name on the account, an associated e-mail address, and the billing address.
  • Amazon then allows you to input a new credit card. Then you hang up.
  • Next you call back, and tell Amazon that you’ve lost access to your account. Upon providing a name, billing address, and the new credit card number you gave the company on the prior call, Amazon will allow you to add a new e-mail address to the account.
  • You go to the Amazon website, and send a password reset to the new e-mail account. This allows you to see all the credit cards on file for the account — not the complete numbers, just the last four digits.
  • And so, with my name, address, and the last four digits of my credit card number in hand, the hacker called AppleCare, and the hack was complete.
  • This all could have been stopped if he had used 2 way authentication of this Gmail account.

    Mars Rover Lands Successfully

  • Touchdown occurred at approximately 1:30 AM, August 6, 2012.
  • Curiosity is the most sophisticated rover ever sent to a distant world.
  • The landing, dubbed “7 minutes of terror,” went off without a hitch.
  • Curiosity will undergo a few weeks worth of testing to ensure the rover’s instruments are working before NASA decides where to drive first.
  • Curiosity’s landing area, Gale Crater, is home to Mt. Sharp, which stands taller than any mountain in the lower 48 states.
  • Scientists believe its walls were eroded over millions of years by wind or water, and could contain a preserved record of the history and evolution of Mars.
  • The alluvial fan in the Gale Crater will be a very interesting site to explore for the presence of water now or in the past. Curiosity will explore the alluvial fan and then head for the hills.
  • After landing, it successfully raised its mast packed with high-res and navigational cameras (Navcams). Once the mast was up, Curiosity began taking photos, including a self-portrait, looking down at its deck from above.
  • Another Navcam took a 360-degree shot of its surroundings in Gale Crater.
  • Besides deploying the 3.6-foot-tall camera mast, team members also activated and gathered surface radiation data from Curiosity’s Radiation Assessment Detector and concluded testing of the rover’s high-gain antenna.
  • Curiosity carries 10 instruments with a total mass 15 times as large as the science payloads found on NASA’s rovers Spirit and Opportunity.
  • Curiosity include a laser-firing instrument for checking rocks’ elemental composition from a distance; a drill and scoop located at the end of the robotic arm to gather soil and other samples of rock interiors; and laboratory instruments to analyze the samples.
  • If everything goes according to plan, the ChemCam team could fire Curiosity’s first laser pulses at a Martian rock on August 18 or 19.
  • Throughout the Curiosity rover’s mission, ChemCam has the ability to sample thousands of locations on Mars.
  • The primary mission for Curiosity is expected to last for at least one Martian year (687 Earth days). However, officials said the nuclear-powered rover could actually operate twice that long or four Earth years.

Apple vs Samsung: Not Good for Consumers

  • Rubberbanding is the way the screen on an iPad or iPhone seems to bounce when you scroll to the bottom of a file and one of the concepts that Apple has patented.
  • As consumers move en masse from older, limited-feature handsets to computer-like smartphones, the trial could have a big impact on one of the largest, fastest-growing areas of technology.
  • If Apple were to win, Samsung could be forced to scale back features in its handsets, making them less attractive to consumers.
  • A victory could also help Apple hobble another important foe: Android, the operating system that Google Inc. gives away to manufacturers and Samsung uses on key products.
  • Google’s approach threatens Apple’s pitch to consumers that its exclusive offerings are different and better.
  • Courts historically have given greater protection to engineering-based innovations that create an entirely new way of accomplishing a task.
  • Apple alleges that Samsung has infringed three such patents. One is for rubberbanding, and another relates to how users can double-tap a Web page or photo to zoom in.
  • Apple is determined to protect its design patents, relating to the look and feel of its mobile products. This is very subjective.
  • The four in the San Jose trial cover such things as the placement of the on-off button on the iPad and iPhone and the devices’ flat, edge-to-edge glass fronts. One of the patent documents consists of little more than nine drawings of a rectangular tablet, with no dimensions.
  • In a countersuit being heard in the same case, Samsung claims that Apple is infringing five patents, including two that involve basic telecommunications technology that let mobile phones talk to each other.
  • When Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007, Jobs said his company filed for 200 patents to protect the invention.
  • Apple has been aggressive in asserting those, and has won bans on sales of versions of Samsung’s Galaxy tablet in Australia and the European Union.
  • In the current trial, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh granted an injunction preventing sale of the tablet in the U.S.
  • Apple is setting a high price for its patents in court. It’s asking for $2.5 billion, or as much as $7.5 billion if jurors believe punitive damages are warranted.
  • As complicated as the case may be, Apple will try to convince jurors of one essential idea: Its Korean rival is a copycat. Samsung will contend that none of Apple’s design flourishes are totally novel, and that offering patent protection to the rectangular shape and flat front surface of its products would unfairly limit competition.
  • The case is Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., 11- cv-01846, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).