Show of 9-1-2012

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Mary Ann: Dear Tech Talk, I keep losing my cell phone and have trouble finding it when the ringer is turned off after a meeting. Is there anything that can be done? Also, can I track my phone if it has been stolen? Thanks, Mary Ann
  • Tech Talk Responds: The good news is that you can track and find your phone use the iClould Find My Phone Feature. On the iPhone, go to Settngs and then scroll down to iCloud. Click on iCloud and turn on Find My Phone. You can then access you iPhone via the Cloud. Download the Find My Phone on another iPhone and log into your iCloud account. Or go to www.icloud.com and log into your iCloud account. These applications will locate all devices that have the same iCloud account. You can then Play A Sound (even if the ringer is off), Lock the Phone, or Wipe the Phone. It will also show you the GPS location on a map. However, if you lock or wipe the phone, you will not be able to track it.
  • Email from Loyal Listener in Bethesda: Dear Doc, I tried to free up some space on my old PC and decided save my pictures to disk. I ended up using DVD-R discs so that I could use fewer discs due to the storage amounts. I permanently deleted all of the files off my PC because I had them on discs. I recently bought a brand new laptop and am unable to get them to work. Is there any way to retrieve these image files or I have I simply lost five years of photos? Thanks, Loyal Listener in Bethesda
  • Tech Talk Responds: That you have only one copy of the photos. If data is in only one place it’s not backed up. You weren’t backed up. In the future, make sure you have multiple copies of the data that you care about.
  • As for your specific problem now, try a different drive in a different computer. DVDs and CDs suffer from what I would call alignment problems and quality problems. In other words, different drives will have potentially a different alignment for the laser. And they will have a different quality for the laser. In addition, DVD media can be of varying levels of quality.
  • The only cheap way to recover that data yourself is to simply take that DVD to computer after computer, or rather drive after drive and see if you can find a drive that will read them. The moment you do, copy them all.
  • If it is not alignment and actually damage to the media, you can use DVD/CD data recovery software. QuickSpecs v1.1.1.1 can be downloaded from CNETs download.com. It has a free version to test if it will work. To complete the recovery, you will need to buy the full version for $39.
  • The expensive option is data recovery. Find a data recovery service and see if they will work on DVDs. This could cost hundreds of dollars.
  • Email from Rich in Richmond: Dear Tech Talk. When I exit from one of my video games, the screen looks like blended colors mostly with pink and transparent glass. I can’t read anything on the screen. I have 2 GB of RAM, an Intel Pentium dual core processor, rinning at 2.7 GHz. What is the problem and how can I solve it? Thanks, Rich
  • Tech Talk Responds: What usually happens in cases like this is that the game has set the graphics card to a different video mode and then not restored that mode when it exits. To restore the video mode, you might try right-clicking on the desktop and hitting Screen properties and then changing the resolution to something that your system supports.
  • Make certain to exit the game properly, so that it can complete housekeeping before shutting down. If it still persists, you might want to check with the game manufacturer to see if they have a specific fix for this problem.
  • Email from John in Fairfax: Dear Tech Talk. Why are there always programs that will not respond while shutting down Windows? Having to end them manually to shut down Windows is very annoying. I’m using Windows XP Pro, Service Pack 3. Love the show. Thank, John
  • Tech Talk Responds: So, when your system tries to shut down, what it’s really doing is it’s asking each individual program that’s also running on your machine, “Would you please start shutting down now?” After some amount of time, if the program is still running, you get that error message that says basically “This program isn’t responding. Do you want me to force it to shut down now?”
  • I see that message from time to time. However, do I actually have to force the program to close. Sometimes, I wait for a minute or two and the program that it’s waiting for that hasn’t closed yet does close. Either Windows is too impatient or the program is too slow. Wait another minute or two and see if things don’t resolve themselves that way.
  • If you can’t, if it really gets to the point of being excessively long, then try and identify which program it is that the operating system is waiting for. That program, then needs to be investigated as to why it’s taking so long to shut down.
  • Email from Alex: Dear Doc and Jim. I’m starting to backup files and photos with a Lexar 64 G memory stick. There are no instructions with this stick and I’m the type of person who needs step-by-step instructions. Can you help? Thanks, Alex
  • Tech Talk Responds: First, I recommend that you do not use a memory stick for backing up your data. The problem is that memory sticks use flash memory and flash memory has a limited number of times you can write to it before it actually wears out.
  • I would recommend that you backup on an external hard drive. They are not expensive and you end up with half a terabyte (or more even) for not that much money.
  • There a two ways to backup. One is to manually copy your files to the external hard drive. The other is to automatically backup the data. The recommend the automated approach. I would recommend that you use Macrium Relfect. You can configure it to do incremental backups you’re not backing up the entire thing everyday, but only those things that have changed since the previous day.
  • The other option is to use an online service for backup. I use Carbonite (www.carbonite.com). It automatically does incremental backups on my laptop, now matter where I am as long as I am connected to the Internet. It costs around $29 per year and is very simple to use.
  • Email from Mary: Dear Tech Talk. How does E-Zpass work? Do I have any privacy concerns? Also was is E-Zpass Flex for the HOT lanes that was coming soon to Northern Virginia? Thanks, Mary
  • Tech Talk Responds: E-ZPass is an electronic toll-collection system used on most tolled roads, bridges, and tunnels in the northeastern US, south to Virginia and West Virginia, and west to Illinois. Currently, there are 25 agencies spread across 14 states that make up the E-ZPass Interagency Group (IAG). All member agencies use the same technology.
  • E-ZPass tags are battery powered RFID transponders, made exclusively by Kapsch TrafficCom (formerly Mark IV Industries Corp – IVHS Division.) They communicate with reader equipment built into lane-based or open road toll collection lanes.
  • The E-ZPass transponder works by listening for a signal broadcast by the reader stationed at the toll booth. This 915 MHz signal is sent at 500 kbit/s using the IAG protocol in 256-bit packets. Transponders use active Type II read/write technology.
  • In late 2012, the I-495 HOT (high occupancy toll) lanes in Virginia will support E-Z Pass FLEX transponders. These will work like a regular transponders, but will let the driver switch between HOV and toll-paying modes. You can trade in your responder for a new flex responder without charge.
  • As for privacy, the system tracks your every move. E-Zpass data has been used in employment cases, divorce case, murder cases. You transponder is tracked and the transactions recorder. Some jurisdictions track transponders to provide real time traffic data. In the future, they could be used for speeding tickets (but not at the current time).

Profiles in IT: Roy L. Clay, Sr.

  • Roy L. Clay Sr. designed and built the first Hewlett-Packard computer and is affectionately known as the Godfather of Black Silicon Valley.
  • When Roy Clay Sr. started programming computers in the Bay Area in 1958, Bill Gates was 3 years old and universities didn’t have computer science programs.
  • Clay was born in 1930 and grew up in Kinloch, Mo., a segregated town of 5,000, in a home without indoor plumbing.
  • He lived in a home with no indoor plumbing, a neighborhood with no streetlights, in an area with a tradition of police picking up black boys like Clay.
  • To earn money, he cleaned a local pool hall. He got good at shooting pool.
  • In elementary school, he displayed an early proficiency and love for mathematics.
  • In 1947, he was admitted to St. Louis University, one of the first blacks to attend.
  • When Clay graduated with a degree in mathematics in 1951, he applied for a job at McDonnell Aircraft and was invited to an interview.
  • But once he got there and the interviewers saw he was black, He was they had not jobs for “professional Negros.”
  • He worked as a teacher, until McDonnell eventually did hire him in 1956, where he and everyone else learned computer programming.
  • He moved to the Bay Area in 1958, working for Lawrence Radiation Laboratory as lead programmer for the fastest computer then built, writing programs to simulate radiation and explosive activities of atomic bombs.
  • In 1962, Control Data hired him as manager of COBOL and Fortran programming.
  • In 1965 applied for a position at Hewlett-Packard Company when they advertised a start-up computer division. He was offered the job as Director.
  • Mr. Clay led the team that engineered HP’s entrance into the computer market with the development of the 2116A computer in 1966.
  • Not only was Mr. Clay the Director for the first HP Research and Development Computer Group, he also developed the software for the 2116A computer.
  • Clay expanded HP affirmative action programs, hiring black engineers and recruiting from Morehouse College. He was known as the “godfather of black Silicon Valley.”
  • There were still restaurants where Clay could not dine and places where he could not live. He lived in the only San Jose apartment building that accepted blacks.
  • In the early 1970’s, at the outset of Silicon Valley as we know it today, the premier venture capital firm of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers selected Mr. Clay as the computer consultant for prospective investments in start up companies such as Tandem Computers, Compaq and Intel Corporation.
  • He served as Palo Alto’s first black City Councilman in 1973 and later as vice-mayor.
  • Galvanized by a Nixon-era policy proposal of “benign neglect,” he helped organize networking events for black technology workers.
  • And he started ROD-L Electronics, which set the standard for dielectric testers.
  • Tries to hire minority youth with potential, even if they don’t have right degree.
  • Clay said he looks for characteristics that will ensure success in programming.
  • He looked at the correlation between math and skill games like chess and bridge.
  • When when hired people at HP, he asked if they had hobbies. If  they said they liked chess, he hired them.

Facebook Account Problems

  • Many users thought their Facebook accounts had been hacked this week.
  • Facebook accounts were doing things they didn’t ask them to do, such as automatically adding blocked users as friends.
  • Facebook said the problem was caused by user error — the contact importer has a “friend all” feature that automatically friends all of the user’s contacts with a Facebook account.
  • This incident wasn’t caused by a hack or a virus, but a bottleneck in the “friend all” feature that resulted in a thousands of users noticing their new friends at once.
  • But Facebook and its users have been hacked in the past. One hack spread through user-to-user chat. A person would click on a link and the virus would be downloaded. The virus deleted any anti-virus programs on the user’s computer and then sent itself to all of their Facebook friends just like how the user had received it.
  • Here are some tips to prevent a Facebook hack.
    • Review your security settings and consider enabling login notifications.
    • Don’t click on strange links, even if they’re from friends, and notify the person if you see something suspicious.
    • Don’t click on friend requests from unknown parties.
    • If you come across a scam, report it so that it can be taken down.
    • Don’t download any applications you aren’t certain about.
    • For using Facebook from places like hotels and airports, text “otp” to 32665 for a one-time password to your account. You must set up your cell phone number for texting. The password is good for 20 minutes.

How The Internet Changed American Politics

  • The dawn of the Internet era and introduction of technologies such as email lists and social media have had a remarkable impact on American politics.
  • The Internet Era — An early moment in any timeline about modern tech development in politics is the February 1997 creation of the GOP Internet forum FreeRepublic. To put it in perspective, 1998 was the year Google was founded. It was also the year that MoveOn was created for progressives as a political community.
  • 2000 — Following Sen. John McCain’s 2000 primary win in New Hampshire, the New York Times ran a story with this headline: His Success in New Hampshire Brings McCain an Overnight Infusion of Cybercash. The story cited figures released by the McCain campaign that suggested he raised more than $500,000 over the Internet in less than 24 hours after the polls closed. The 2000 election year saw the Bush campaign make innovative use of phone bank technology for get-out-the-vote initiatives. It also used email lists to drive voters to action.
  • The AdRelevance study reported that Republicans used online marketing tools to build a database of 700,000 names.
  • 2001 — 2001 saw the emergence of popular political websites such as the Libertarian-leaning Instapundit and liberal community website MyDD. The latter was established by Jerome Armstrong, who would go on to work on Howard Dean’s presidential campaign.
  • 2002 — 2002 saw the rise of one of the web’s most popular bloggers, Markos Moulitsas of DailyKos. Two years later, Moulitsas would be among the first bloggers given press credentials to cover the Democratic National Convention in Boston.
  • 2003 — February 2003 saw a major shift in how political campaigns are run, thanks to the rise of Howard Dean and his campaign’s use of Meetup to empower supporters to self-organize. The Dean campaign also created a YouTube-like online video site call Dean TV, experimented with SMS, used an online event tool called Get Local, and created a pre-Facebook-style site called Deanlink. Another significant technical innovation in 2003 came when Arizona became the first state to implement online voter registration.
  • 2004 — 2004 saw the launch of the successful Democratic online fundraising outfit ActBlue. The summer of 2004 was also marked by the Rock the Vote campaign that registered an estimated 1.2 million new voters. The campaign included a partnership with Motorola that launched a large-scale mobile political project which enabled people to sign up to receive information on their mobile devices.
  • That same year, the Washington Times had reported in August that Daily Kos received about 200,000 visitors a day during the Democratic National Convention.
  • And on September 9, bloggers for the right-leaning site Power Line published a post suggesting Dan Rather’s “60 Minutes II” report on George W. Bush’s National Guard service included some fraudulent memos. The post and the more than 500 other sites that linked to it are credited with exposing the report. Time Magazine named Power Line Blog of the Year.
  • 2005 — In early 2005, three former PayPal employees, Steve Chen, Chad Hurley and Jawed Karim created YouTube. The popular video sharing site has significantly changed political campaigns, by allowing citizens to post their own video from campaign events, including politicians making faux pas.
  • By May of 2005 a new site called The Huffington Post was launched by Arianna Huffington, Kenneth Lerer, and Jonah Peretti that would add a new dynamic to online political coverage.
  • Today, politicians with blogs are very common, but in 2005 Georgia Rep. Jack Kingston established the first Congressional blog with the help of rising GOP Internet guru David All.
  • In 2005, the GOP RNC launched the highly successful “eCampaign” operation.
  • 2006 — By 2006, political campaigns online were widespread. One of the first to test out the use of YouTube for their campaign was Georgia Rep. Jack Kingston. He posted a video of what his campaign called Mailtube, an attempt to reach out to constituents through the use of online video.
  • On August 15, 2006, then Sen. George Allen (R-VA) called opposition campaign volunteer S.R. Sidarth “macaca.” The YouTube video went viral and is seen as a major turning point that led to Allen’s electoral defeat.
  • 2007 — Barack Obama’s team took the social networking suite developed by the Dean campaign to a new level with Blue State Digital’s creation of My.BarackObama.com.
  • Facebook gave rise to an enormous constituency of political activity in 2008, and Twitter dipped its toes in the campaign waters. One of the biggest tech innovations of the year came on July 23, when CNN held the first YouTube Debates.
  • Ron Paul, building on Howard Dean’s pioneering fundraising efforts, created the money bomb which raised $4.3 million in 24 hours on November 5 largely through online donations. Paul did it again on Dec. 16.
  • 2008 — Supported by online campaigning, the Democrats had a good election year in 2008, taking large majorities in both houses of Congress and celebrating the election of Barack Obama. Tech innovations played a big role in the election successes of the Obama. even announced the VP pick via text message.
  • In October 2008, the Obama campaign released its free Obama08 app, which organized a person’s iPhone contacts to enable supporters to call friends located in important electoral districts among other features.
  • Facebook Connect was launched in July. Connect is a set of APIs from Facebook that enables Facebook members to log onto third-party websites. The release of the API paved the way for development of Act.ivi.st, which integrates with a campaign and sends out messages to the online communities including Facebook and Twitter.
  • 2009 – In March 2009 New York’s 20th congressional district held a special election. Democrat Scott Murphy’s successful run was supported by a new tech innovation from Google, the Google Blast Advertising Campaign, which blanketed sites running Google AdSense with Murphy ads targeted to people in his district.
  • 2010 – The Internet was used for social media, fund raising, email blasts, and grass roots organization. The medium had reached a new level of maturity and parity comments.
  • 2012 – We have seen conventions without walls, where social media and streaming video were provided an constant source of real-time data. The mood of the country was tracked via Twitter. The Internet was used reach a younger demographic. Both parties used the Internet for effective grassroots fundraising. This may in the long term reduce the power of the political “fat cats.”
  • President Obama’s Reddit AMA reaches over 5 million pageviews. He blogged during the RNC.

Stolen MacBook Pro and Led to Drug Bust

  • Two guys rented a car, left their computer equipment in backpacks in the trunk, and went off to Maker Faire in Detroit.
  • Using a screwdriver, the thief unlocked the car, popped the trunk, and made off with a MacBook Pro, an iPad, and other equipment.
  • The owner of the iPad tried to use the “Find my iPad” service to no avail.
  • The owner of the MacBook Pro also had something similar: he had subscribed to an online backup service called Backblaze. Not only was everything on his computer (personal files and photos) backed up, but there was a little “Locate My Computer,”
  • The first time the button was clicked, it showed the computer’s last position before it was stolen.
  • The next day, the MacBook Pro owner was presented with a location map when clicking on Backblaze’s “Locate My Computer” button.
  • The thief was looking to sell his car and put a few photos of it on the MacBook Pro, which Backblaze then in turn backed up to the cloud.
  • The victim managed to get the perpetrator’s address and phone number by doing two things: comparing the house in the background of the photos against what Google StreetView showed, and finding a Craigslist ad for the sale of the car.
  • The police assembled a team with a search warrant. Receiving no answer, they turned on sirens and lights and announced their intention to enter. Once in, the house was swept and declared clear….except for the drugs. The house had been a drug distribution center. The iPad and other content in the bags still haven’t been found.

NIST Publishes Draft Guidelines for Server BIOS Protection

  • The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) US, has come up with a set of proposed guidelines for security of BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) – the mechanism on which most modern day computers rely on during boot up.
  • Recently quite a few malware have been known to persistently infect computer systems and cannot be removed even on OS reinstalls and NIST is proposing a set of measures through which the BIOS can be made more secure and resistant to such firmware manipulating attacks. An example of such Trojan is Mebromi.
  • NIST published the draft guidelines earlier this week and has proposed four different features through which the server BIOSes can be made more secure – authenticated update mechanism; secure local update mechanism (optional); firmware integrity protections; non-bypassability features.
  • Unauthorized modification of a BIOS firmware by malicious software constitutes a significant threat because of the BIOS’s unique and privileged position within the PC architecture,
  • Website: http://csrc.nist.gov/publications/PubsDrafts.html