Show of 9-8-2012

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Ken Hutchyinson: Dear Doc. I tuned in today at the regular time and heard football instead of the show (the class). I listened for about half an hour and checked again every hour for the next several hours. The last time I checked was about 1:30. I went to the Facebook page during the time the show should have been on and did not see a message or post about a time change. Later I discovered that I would have heard the show if I had checked one more time.
    I don’t really want to wait until the podcast is available to hear the show (class). As you may know, I am a regular listener who doesn’t like to miss a single show. Will it be replayed? If so, when? If not, when will the podcast be available?
    Please announce future time changes on the Facebook page. Thanks. Ken Hutchinson
  • Tech Talk Responds: Thanks for the feedback. I will post changes to Tech Talk on Facebook in the future.
  • Email from Cathie Skoog: The Fine Dining Tickets are awesome. I’m a LONG TIME LISTENER to Tech Talk and never called to answer a question. I only called because “no” one responded — this is a pleasant surprise! Much more than I imagined. . .much better. . .looking forward to the experience. THANK YOU, Cathie Skoog.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Thanks for the feedback. We love to send tickets to our Tech Talk winners.
  • Email from Fair and Good: Dr. Richard Shurtz, I read this book awhile back when I was working on a custom software development project for a large government client. The client had found a COTS product that they felt met some of their needs but it needed to be enhanced. Our team of developers was tasked with enhancing the COTS appl. There were issues galore…one thing after another…and I recently learned the deliverable was never used by the agency.
  • I am wondering if you have ever read the book, The Inmates Are Running the Asylum. Are you familiar with the author. Why do IT software development projects go south? Do you agree with the premises of this book? Thanks, Fair and Good
  • Tech Talk Responds: I agree with the premises of the book. However, the author is somewhat arrogant and self-promoting the latter portions of it. There are two different approaches in software development: waterfall and agile.
  • In the waterfall method, all requirements must be gathered before any development occurs. The waterfall model is a sequential design process, often used in software development processes, in which progress is seen as flowing steadily downwards (like a waterfall) through the phases of Conception, Initiation, Analysis, Design, Construction, Testing, Production/Implementation, and Maintenance. Progress is made from the top to the bottom, similarly to a waterfall. An advantage to the waterfall model is its emphasis on building out requirements documentation. Documentation is important so that when new individuals join the development team they have documentation to utilize to familiarize themselves with the project details. A common criticism of the waterfall method is that requirements are constantly changing. Altering requirements can mean the design and/or functionality must be redone to accommodate client’s requests. Such changes require more time, and therefore, project costs increases.
  • Unlike the more traditional waterfall approach, the agile development method is based on iterative and incremental development. In software development, the agile model does not build an entire system at once, but rather develops incrementally. Less time is invested upfront for documenting requirements when development is done incrementally. Another characteristic of agile software development is that customer feedback occurs simultaneously with development, unlike the waterfall approach that performs all testing after the completion of the project. Critics claim that the agile model is too “unstructured”. Additionally, creating a quote is challenging since the scope of work is not clearly defined at the beginning of the project.
  • Email from Jim: Dear Doc. There is much talk on the web about the latest Java vulnerability.. As I use Java a lot and that this is rumored to be quite serious, I would like your opinion on the matter. The usual remedy on the web is either to uninstall/disable Java altogether! When I did this, however, I found that a lot lot of my favorite websites just did not function. In particular, my online crosswords which I really like. Thanks, Jim.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Many people confuse Java and Javascript. Java is not Javascript. In fact, other than the first four characters of their names, Javascript and Java are not related. to each other at all.
  • JavaScript is a programming language that is supported natively by most modern web browsers. That means that the browsers come with the means to understand and execute Javascript using what’s called an “interpreter.Programs or “scripts” written in Javascript are often contained directly in the HTML pages in which they are used.
  • Javascript enables richly interactive web pages, turning them from static displays of text and pictures into small applications capable of often impressive functionality. Sites like Gmail, Facebook, and others use Javascript to display, animate, and change content without requiring you to visit a new “page” for each change. Javascript has become so popular and so prevalent in web design that it’s difficult to use many sites without it.
  • Java is a programming language that’s not natively supported by browsers, but when used on websites, requires the download and installation of a “Java Virtual Machine” or JVM, now more commonly referred to as the Java Runtime Environment (JRE). Programs written in Java are typically compiled into an intermediate form that is more efficiently executed by the JRE than the original source would be. As such, Java programs are typically separate downloads referenced by, but not actually included within, web pages that happen to make use of Java applications.
  • There are many standalone applications written directly in Java that run and execute like any other program and may not be related to the web or internet at all. Fundamentally, Java is just another programming language that can be used for almost any purpose, only one of those purposes being embedded into web pages. Browsers will often ask for permission before running Java on a web page.
  • Javascript is enabled and disabled via a setting in your browser’s options. The easiest and safest way to disable Java is to simply not have it installed and uninstalling it if it is:
  • Email from John in Fairfax: Dear Tech Talk. I just came back from vacation. I had over 2400 photos on my memory card. When I went to off-load the photos to my computer, the card was reading blank. I know that I did not reformat the card. Is there any hope for me to recover the pictures that I took? Thank, John.
  • Tech Talk Responds: You have three options. First, take the memory card to a different computer and see if a different computer can actually make sense of it.
  • If so, copy that data off immediately and back it up. Second, try a data recovery utility like Recuva (http://www.piriform.com/recuva). Finally, you might want to look into locating a data recovery service. They may be able to recover data from that memory card that more traditional tools that you and I have access to would not be able to get.
  • However, 2400 pictures without a backup is not a good practice. You need to find a way to copy your pictures during your vacation to reduce the risk.

Profiles in IT: Fujio Masuoka

  • Fujio Masuoka is the inventor of flash memory.
  • Dr. Fujio Masuoka was born on May 8, 1943 in Takasaki, Gunma.
  • In 1966, he received his BS in Engineering from Tohoku University.
  • In 1971, he completed his PhD in Engineering from Tohoku University.
  • Four months after he joined Toshiba in 1971, Masuoka invented a type of memory known as SAMOS.
  • After five years at Toshiba, he invented another type and was moved to the semiconductor production division, where he developed a 1-megabit DRAM.
  • One of the biggest challenges facing the industry in the 1970s was to find a way to retain memory so that it did not vanish every time the power was turned off.
  • Engineers found it too cumbersome to build a nonvolatile memory for each bit of information. Masuoka’s insight was that information needed to be stored in big batches rather than in single bits.
  • Without permission from Toshiba, Masuoka began spending his nights and weekends working on this idea.
  • By 1980 he had applied for the basic patents on a type of flash memory now known as NOR-type (not/or) flash memory. It was not until four years later, after a promotion, that he was able to produce the first flash memory.
  • When Masuoka presented his flash memory at the annual International Electronics Developers Meeting in San Jose, California, in 1984, the American semiconductor industry saw it as a threat.
  • Intel immediately put more than 300 engineers to work on developing flash memory.
  • .At Toshiba, they let five engineers help him on a part-time basis.
  • Although Masuoka’s group was the first to sell flash memory, it was not long before Intel completely dominated the market.
  • In 1986 he was spending half his time in America as a witness in a patent lawsuit involving Toshiba and Texas Instruments.
  • While waiting to testify, he began to work on a new type of flash memory.
  • The idea was a NAND-type (not/and) flash memory that could be used  to replace the hard drives of computers. NAND-type flash is used in memory cards or sticks.
  • In 1987, again without permission, he made batches of his new type of flash memory.
  • For his work, he was awarded a few hundred dollars from Toshiba.
  • After this invention, Toshiba tried repeatedly to move him from his senior post to a position where he could do no further research. He was not viewed as a team player.
  • He quit in 1994 and began working on three-dimensional silicon-based semiconductor structures, designed to increase capacity by a factor 10. This time, Masuoka is applied in the U.S. for patents in his own name.
  • Toshiba says that it has carried out many reforms since Masuoka’s day. Researchers can now spend 10% of their time on their own projects. In addition, the annual ceiling on how much inventors are allowed to receive from royalties on their patents has been raised to $80,000 from $8,000.

Judge approves e-Book Settlement

  • A judge approved on Thursday a Justice Department settlement with three publishers accused of conspiring with Apple Inc and other publishers to push up the prices of electronic books.
  • The Justice Department had accused Apple and five publishers in April of illegally colluding on prices as part of an effort to fight internet retailer Amazon.com Inc’s dominance of e-books.
  • The proposed settlement was unpopular with bookseller Barnes & Noble Inc and the American Booksellers Association, which represents independent stores, with both arguing that it would strengthen Amazon’s dominance.
  • Many people in the book publishing and selling industry accuse Amazon of selling books below cost to drive other e-book sellers out of business, and then raising prices.
  • Apple is accused of convincing the five publishers to use the “agency model,” that allows publishers to set the price of e-books, and in turn Apple would take a 30 percent cut.
  • Under the settlement, the three settling publishers agreed not to use the agency model for two years, instead allowing retailers to pay for e-books and then charge what they like.
  • Electronic books more than doubled in popularity in 2011, with e-books sales making up 15 percent of the market last year compared to 6 percent in 2010.
  • Expect e-book prices to drop after this settlement.

FBI upgrades biometrics capacities

  • The FBI is spending $1 billion to upgrade of its biometric technology.
  • The FBI is going ahead with an advanced biometric identification service that it has been testing and will phase into operation around the nation over the next couple of years.
  • The official launch of the so-called Next Generation Identification program is part of the agency’s billion-dollar upgrade of the agency’s national fingerprint database, though some states have already participated in a pilot program by already uploading their photos.
  • Since 1993, the error rate of face recognition systems has dropped by a factor of 272. The FBI plans to integrate face recognition into its database.
  • In a 2010 presentation on facial recognition, the FBI’s Richard Vorder Bruegge talked about the agency’s desire to use facial recognition system to “identify subjects in public datasets” and “conduct automated surveillance at lookout locations.”
  • It is impossible to tell exactly how the FBI plans to acquire and use facial recognition data now and in the future. However, given the information in these new documents and the FBI’s broad goals for face recognition data, the time is right for laws that limit face recognition data collection.
  • Here’s a summary of some of the advances that the FBI is touting:
    • Interstate Photo System enhancements including the ability to accept and search for photographs of scars, marks, and tattoos.
    • Better fingerprint identification technology for faster, more accurate identification processing.
    • A new “Rap Back” service notifying authorized agencies about criminal activity reported “on individuals holding positions of trust.”
    • National palm print system that will allow the storage and search of palm print submissions from law enforcement and criminal justice agencies.
    • A more powerful system based around “multimodal biometrics” that will eventually extend to a biometric understanding of things like voice, or facial recognition.
  • Many are concerned that this information will result in further loss of privacy. Particularly as the use of public surveillance cameras broadens.

Headphones Under $50

  • Panasonic Ergofit (ear buds for around $10)
  • MEElectronics A151 (best ear buds for around $50)
  • Koss Portapro (over the ear phone, they fold up, around $40)
  • Audio Technica ATH-M30 (around $50, very comfortable)
  • Panasonic RP HTX7 (around $40, selected by CNet as best headphone under $50)

Home Theater Essentials

  • After you buy a great new flat panel TV, you may still need some components to make a great home theater. Here are five essential items after your TV
    • Game Console (Xbox or PS3)
    • Blu-Ray Player
    • Universal Remote (Harmony is the best option)
    • Speaker System
    • Media Streamer (for Netflix streaming)

Update: Logitech Harmony Link Remote

  • I love Logitech’s Harmony Link, which retails for $99.99. This was a gift from my son and now I could do without it.
  • This discreet little oval sits on your TV stand or shelf and acts as a translator, fielding Wi-Fi® commands from your favorite Apple iOS device or Android™ phone, and sending out infrared blasts to control your TV, cable box, Blu-ray player, and practically any other device you may have connected. 
  • Setting up the Harmony Link is remarkably similar to setting up any of Logitech’s Harmony remote controls. You plug the device into your computer, enter info about your components and connections, and sit back while Harmony’s web-based software loads it up with all the necessary settings.
  • With the Harmony Link, though, there are a couple of extra steps: entering your Wi-Fi network’s login password, and downloading a free app for your iOS device or Android phone.
  • One-touch on-screen activity buttons turn on your system and get all the necessary components fired up and set to the correct inputs.
  • It works with iPhone, iPod touch®, and Android. I iPad app is fantastic. You can view the entire TV schedule online.
  • I used two IR blasters that plug into the back of the unit to control the components in my cabinet. The blaster can be pointed directly at the TV (or bounced off the back wall) to control the TV.
  • Since your smartphone or iPad communicates with the Harmony Link via Wi-Fi, it gives you much greater range than an infrared remote.