Show of 10-27-2012

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from John in Kansas: Dear Doc, Can I ZIP my pictures or MP3 files to save space? Thanks, John.
  • Tech Talk Responds: ZIP is a very popular compression algorithm created by Phillip Katz. It is supported by many popular programs such as WinZip, 7-Zip, and recent versions of Microsoft Windows. ZIPping a file or set of files can often reduce their size significantly at the cost of needing to be unzipped before they can be used. Unfortunately, “often” doesn’t mean “always.”
  • ZIPping photographs, music, and videos will typically not make them significantly smaller and can even make them slightly larger.
  • The concepts of compression are actually fairly simple. The idea is that information stored on disk is often stored in a way that is less than optimal for storage. It may be optimal for other purposes, but as a side effect, there may be redundant information in the data that could be represented differently.
  • A simple compression algorithm is “run length encoding.” Consider the following text: This is a row of 10 asterisks: ********** followed by text.
  • That’s 59 characters long. If we define the character “+” to not be a plus character, but rather an indicator that the next two characters are a count, and the third character the character that should be repeated that many times, we get this: This is a row of 10 asterisks: +10* followed by text.
  • We’ve shortened or “compressed” the text to only 53 characters, but it still means exactly the same thing. When decompressed, the “+” is encountered causing the “10*” that follows it to be read and replaced with 10 asterisks. The original uncompressed text is restored.
  • One of the most common ways that compressed data can end up larger than the original is if the original is itself already compressed. Pictures, music, and videos are already compressed. Pictures in popular formats such as .jpg, .png or .gif are already compressed. Music files in formats like .mp3, .ogg, .aac, and so on are already compressed. Video files in formats like .wmv, .m4v, .mov, and more are already compressed.
  • Email from Alice in Alexandria: Dear Tech Talk, so you know if it’s possible for somebody to listen to my cell phone conversations remotely? I’ve never used the phone for internet and nobody has physical access to the device but me and I do not use Bluetooth. Thanks, Alice.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Old analog phones, which  are actually no longer supported by the network, could be listened to. They were simply radios and radios can be listened to with the proper equipment.
  • These days, all of our mobile phones are digital. Even when we’re not using mobile data, the actual phone calls we make are converted to digital data.
  • Calls are encrypted. That digital data, as it turns out, is indeed encrypted. The intent is that the data cannot be eavesdropped on as it’s transmitted over the air because it is still fundamentally a radio and anybody with a radio tuned to the right frequency could technically listen into the data.
  • Now, here’s the bad news: the encryption standard for most of our digital phones these days is so old that it is designed to work with very, very weak hardware: what today we would consider to be very, very underpowered hardware.
  • What that means is that even though it’s encrypted, it’s actually not that hard to decrypt. It does take special equipment. So someone would actually have to have a specific intent to go out and start eavesdropping on cellular phones in order to be able to eavesdrop on your phone. You would need to be within radio range of your phone. Within your cell…a mile or two.
  • The chances of somebody actually going through the effort are slim. However, I certainly wouldn’t consider a digital phone call to be private from intelligence agencies worldwide. The encryption just isn’t that strong. You’d probably want to layer some other kind of encryption on top of it.
  • Email from Nan in Atlanta: Dear Doc, How do I get my Windows XP computer, IE 8 browser to remember my email password so I don’t have to type it in repeatedly? I’ve tried a few things, but none of them work. Love the show, Nan.
  • Tech Talk Responds: There are two approaches. One is to actually let IE do it for you.
  • In Tools… you may have to hold down the ALT key to have the Tools menu show up. But, in the Tools menu, Internet Options, in the Content tab, in the Auto-Complete section, click on Settings. In there, you’ll find the option that will turn on or off Internet Explorer’s ability to save passwords for you. However, this is not very secure if someone else uses your computer account.
  • What I suggest you do instead is to actually use a program like LastPass to remember your passwords for you. There are several different ways that people can with access to your computer actually extract these saved passwords from Internet Explorer. That’s not good. That’s a security risk that I don’t think I want to encourage people to take.
  • LastPass, on the other hand (unless you are actually logged into LastPass), your passwords are encrypted and encrypted well. They’re kept secure so that nobody can access them.
  • The side effect or a benefit of using LastPass is that if you want to, you can have your passwords for just about anything you login to on the web saved. Not just your email password. And you can access your LastPass information: On the web; Or on any other computer you might want to use; Or on most mobile or hand-held devices.
  • So, LastPass is my current recommendation for doing things like remembering passwords, filling in forms, and the like with secure information that you can be assured remains secure.
  • Web address: http://www lastpass.com. Free version, plus a premium option for $12 per year.
  • Email from John in Fairfax: Dear Doc, I just purchased a new computer with a 1TB (terabyte) hard drive. Windows is telling me it has 976,760,000KB of disk space. I don’t get it. Shouldn’t it be 1,000,000,000KB? Is there anything I can do to recover the other space? If I go to Windows Explorer and click on the hard drive symbol, it will show me the space on the hard drive. It said the total available space is 931 GB! What happened to the other 69 gigabytes? Love the show, John in Fairfax
  • Tech Talk Responds: The fundamental problem stems from the fact that computers think in powers of two (1, 2, 4, 8, 16 and so on) while people think in terms of powers of 10 (1, 10, 100, 1000 and so on).
  • So to a computer, a kilobyte is 1024 bytes (two to the 10th power). A megabyte is 1,048,576 (1024 times 1024, or two to the 20th). And a gigabyte is 1,073,741,824 (1024 times 1024 times 1024, or two to the 30th). A terabyte would be 1,099,511,627,776 bytes (two to the 40th).
  • Thinking like a human. We think of a kilobyte as “around” 1,000 bytes. Close. Close enough for most conversations. But when we think of a megabyte as “around” 1,000,000 bytes, and a gigabyte as “around” 1,000,000,000 bytes, or a terabyte as “around” 1,000,000,000,000 bytes, we’re getting less and less accurate at each step along the way. To a computer, 1,000,000,000,000 bytes is really … 931 gigabytes.
  • Email from Ngoc in Ohio: Dear Tech Talk, My Epson Workhorse 630 prints so small that no one can read it. How do I change the size of the fonts? My computer is an HP model W1730N. Love the podcast, Ngoc.
  • Tech Talk Responds: The real issue here actually has very little to do with the printer. Remember that what the printer does is only what Windows and the applications that are printing tell it to do.
  • So, if it’s printing too small, it’s because the application is telling it to print at that size. So, it follows then that what you need to do is take a look at whatever application you are using to print and tell it to print larger.
  • Sometimes, that means printing in a different font if you’re using, like, a word processor. Sometimes, it means using a zoom kind of process – that’s usually available in File > Page Setup in many applications.
  • There are ways to have things automatically fit to the width of the page in things like spreadsheet programs. What are the settings in the application that you’re printing from?
  • Email from Jim in Loudon: Dear Doc, I just got a new laptop with Windows 7. I want to transfer the files from my old laptop which is Windows Vista. What do you recommend? Thanks, Jim.
  • Tech Talk Responds: The good news is that Windows 7 has an easy transfer process. You can transfer over the network or with a direct connection. Easy transfer provide a program to install on your old computer using a thumb drive. It provides a passcode. As soon as you enter the passcode in your new computer, the data begins transferring.
  • You can transfer most files and program settings. Specifically:
    • Files and folders. Everything within the Documents, Music, Pictures, and Shared Documents folders. Using advanced options, you can select additional files and folders to transfer from other locations.
    • E mail settings, contacts, and messages.
    • Program settings. Settings that keep your programs configured as you had them on your old computer. Windows Easy Transfer doesn’t transfer the programs themselves. Some programs might not work in this version of Windows, including security programs, antivirus programs, firewall programs (your new computer should already have a firewall running to help ensure safety during the transfer), and programs with software drivers.
    • User accounts and settings. Desktop backgrounds, network connections, screen savers, Start menu options, taskbar options, folders, specific files, network printers and drives, and accessibility options.
    • Internet settings and favorites. Internet connection settings, favorites, and cookies.
    • Pictures and video. Pictures—which includes any visual format (for example, .jpg, .bmp, and .gif files)—and personal videos.
    • Music. Electronic music files, playlists, and album art.
  • I just it East Transfer last week over my Wi-Fi network. The transfer took almost 30 hours for 32GB of data. It took so long that it delayed my show prep last week.

Profiles in IT: Phillip Walter Katz

  • Phillip Walter Katz was a computer programmer best known as the co-creator of the ZIP file format for data compression, and the author of PKZIP, a program for creating zip files which ran under DOS.
  • Phillip Katz was born November 3, 1962, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
  • Phil Katz enjoyed riding dirt bikes in his Glendale neighborhood.
  • A 1980 graduate of Nicolet High School, Katz was a geek and an outcast.
  • Katz gravitated to analytical pursuits. He spent weekends playing chess and evenings writing code for programmable calculators with his father.
  • His earliest program was a game that dealt with landing on the moon. He got good at optimizing programs, with the least amount of instructions and running times.
  • In 1980, Katz entered the CS program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
  • Walter and Hildegard Katz bought Phil his first computer, an original IBM PC.
  • Katz started writing programs, spending most of his free time on BBSs.
  • BBSs became Katz’s social circle, where he shared his passion for computers.
  • But in the spring of 1981, his father died, driving him further into solitude.
  • Katz graduated with a CS in 1984 and was hired as a programmer for Allen-Bradley Co. He wrote code to run programmable logic controllers.
  • Katz left Allen-Bradley in 1986 to work for Graysoft, a software company.
  • He worked on an alternative to Thom Henderson’s ARC, named PKARC. ARC was written in C. PKARC, written partially in assembly language, was much faster.
  • Katz to release his compression program, PKARC, as shareware.
  • Katz founded PKWARE, Inc. in 1986, in his home in Glendale, WI. Katz left Graysoft in 1987. Steve Burg, a Graysoft programmer joined in 1988.
  • He got help from his mother, Hildegard. He gave her a 25% stake in the company.
  • He created PKZip to avoid any licensing issues with the creators of Arc.
  • System Enhancement sued PKWare in 1988 for copyright and trademark infringement. In 1989, as his legal costs mounted, Katz agreed to settle.
  • Publicity about the lawsuit on BBSs nationwide accelerated the death of .arc.
  • Katz devoted nearly all his time to programming.  Hildegard ran the business.
  • Hildegard heard her son was going to strip bars and drinking heavily. They squabbled when Katz took  money out of PKWare for fund his lifestyle
  • Katz grew bitter over’s interference in his affairs and he fired her, buying her out.
  • He hired a management team and continued his reclusive ways. Despite the turmoil, PKWare’s business remained strong through the 1990s.
  • Katz was adamantly opposed to Microsoft Windows in the early 90s. PKWARE missed the opportunity to be the first to bring PKZIP to the platform.
  • Between 1994 and September 1999, Katz was arrested five times for driving after suspension of his license. Courts issued six warrants including two for bail jumping.
  • Katz started showing up at work a lot less often. He lived in a state of paranoia.
  • Katz kept on the move. Katz hopscotched along a strip of airport hotels.
  • Police raided his home and found a filthy mess. He felt really violated.
  • He completely stopped going to PKWare. He mother sent him for rehabilitation.
  • On April 14, 2000, at the age of 37, Katz was found dead in a hotel room with an empty bottle of peppermint schnapps in his hand.

Top Technology Job Trends

  • Indeed’s top job trends site has some interesting statistics. The site features an itemized list of the fastest growing keywords found within job postings across millions of jobs from thousands of job sites. It provides a particularly good insight into some of higher growth areas of the technology job market. Tracking started back in 2006.
    • jQuery (an Open Source JavaScript Library) is the clear winner with a growth of more than 800,000%
    • Next is PaaS (also known as Platform as a Service) with a 500,000% rise
    • Third is Hadoop (an Open Source Big Data platform) at more than 400,000% increase.
  • From an absolute percentage point of view, unsurprisingly Social Media is the clear winner with more than 1.5% of all job postings containing the term. More surprising is the second spot going again to jQuery with close to 1% of all searches.
  • Big Data has been rising steadily with a recent surge in Cloud computing. Big Data is still mentioned about 50% more than Cloud. On the social network side, Twitter is the clear winner, with a spike for Facebook near its IPO date.
  • The site also notes that Information Technology job postings have decreased -7% since June 2011. Yet clicks on Information Technology jobs have increased 11% since June 2011. This may show that the amount of job searches is increasing faster than the volume of job postings.
  • Another Interesting stat are the most populous metro areas ranked by job postings per capita for second quarter of 2012. Here is the data for the top five metropolitan areas, showing job postings per 1000 people.
    • San Jose, CA 161
    • Washington, DC 118
    • Raleigh, NC  112
    • Hartford, CT  102
    • Boston, MA  91

Worst password of 2012?

  • Retaining the number one spot as the least secure password for yet another year, people that continue to use the phrase “password” as their personal password remain at the highest risk when it comes to hacking.
  • Detailed in SplashData’s annual report, the three phrases ”password,” “123456,” and “12345678,” have continued to dominate the top three spots on the list.
  •  Rounding out the top ten worst passwords of 2012, phrases include “abc123,” “qwerty,” “monkey,” “letmein,” “dragon,” “111111,” and “baseball.”
  • SplashData chooses the rankings of these common security phrases based off what hackers are posting to the Internet. For instance, nearly half a million usernames and passwords for Yahoo users were posted on the Internet during July 2012.
  • New entries to the 2012 list include “jesus,” “ninja,” and “password1.” Phrases that have fallen off the list from last year include “superman,” “passw0rd,” and “bailey.” The entire 2012 list of the 25 worst passwords looks like:
    • password
    • 123456
    • 12345678
    • abc123
    • qwerty
    • monkey
    • letmein
    • dragon
    • 111111
    • baseball
    • iloveyou
    • trustno1
    • 1234567
    • sunshine
    • master
    • 123123
    • welcome
    • shadow
    • ashley
    • football
    • jesus
    • michael
    • ninja
    • mustang
    • password1
  • In order to create a safer password, use security phrases with at least eight characters while utilizing a variety of characters within the phrase. This could include using a common phrase that’s broken up by underscores between words or substituting symbols for letters within a word. For instance, the phrase “p@$$w0r6? is more secure than typing out the word using all letters.
  •  Using multiple passwords across different types of sites.

Dots.do.not.matter@gmail.com

  • Gmail ignores periods in user names and doesn’t care about capitalization.
  • If your email address is homerjsimpson@gmail.com, all of these variations will be delivered to your Inbox:
    • homerjsimpson@gmail.com
    • hom.er.j.sim.ps.on@gmail.com
    • HOMERJSIMPSON@gmail.com
    • Homer.J.Simpson@gmail.com
  • You can create a filter to perform actions (forward, trash, apply a label, etc.) based on the “To” address. In this example, I’m applying a “might be spam” label to messages addressed to “homer.j.simpson”:
  • If you’re filling out a form for a site where you don’t trust that they won’t share your email address with trusted partners who will send you special offers and useful information, provide an email address with dots.

Stick it to neighbors with Wi-Fi name

  • People are reportedly choosing insulting Wi-Fi names in order to send neighbors a message.
  • Sometimes they are people for whom you have contempt — or even worse. However, it’s not always easy to explain to them just how much you dislike them.
  • There are protocols to go through. And then there’s the problem of having to look them in the face and say what you really think.
  • So an increasing trend seems to be to give your Wi-Fi network a name that carries a message.
  • “Shut the barking dog up, No. 7” is one example of a Wi-Fi name. As is “Stop slamming the door.”
  • Some lurch toward the mundane. For example: “Covet not thy neighbor’s Wi-Fi.”
  • I feel sure, though, that one name with which many will sympathize is “We can hear you in the bedroom.”

Big Data to Create 4.4 Million Jobs by 2015

  • Worldwide IT spending is forecast to surpass $3.7 trillion in 2013, a 3.8 percent increase from 2012 projected spending of $3.6 trillion, but it’s the outlook for big data that is creating much excitement, according to Gartner.
  • “By 2015, 4.4 million IT jobs globally will be created to support big data, generating 1.9 million IT jobs in the United States,” said Peter Sondergaard, senior vice president at Gartner and global head of Research.
  •  “In addition, every big data-related role in the U.S. will create employment for three people outside of IT, so over the next four years a total of 6 million jobs in the U.S. will be generated by the information economy.“
  •  “But there is a challenge. There is not enough talent in the industry. Data experts will be a scarce, valuable commodity. IT leaders will need immediate focus on how their organization develops and attracts the skills required. These jobs will be needed to grow the business. These jobs are the future of the new information economy.”
  • He said the IT industry is entering the Nexus of Forces, which includes a confluence and integration of cloud, social collaboration, mobile and information.
  • The Cloud —The cloud is the carrier for the three other Forces: mobile is personal cloud, social media is only possible via the cloud, and big data is the killer app for the cloud. Cloud will be the permanent fixture, the foundation. Cloud also teaches us about services and service levels, and the contrast between what the business wants for outcomes versus IT’s old methods of getting there.”
  • Mobile Devices — In 2016, more than 1.6 billion smart mobile devices will be purchased globally. Two-thirds of the mobile workforce will own a smartphone, and 40 percent of the workforce will be mobile. The challenge for IT leaders is determining what to do with this new channel to their customers and employees.
  • In less than two years, iPads will be more common in business than Blackberries. Two years from now, 20 percent of sales organizations will use tablets as the primary mobile platform for their field sales force. As a result, by 2018, 70 percent of mobile workers will use a tablet or a hybrid device that has tablet-like characteristics.
  • Social Media — In the next three years, the dominant consumer social networks will the limits of their growth. However, social computing will become even more important. Companies are establishing social media as a discipline. Social computing is moving from being just on the outside of the organization to being at the core of business operations.
  • Big Data — By tapping a continual stream of information from internal and external sources, businesses today have an endless array of new opportunities for: transforming decision-making; discovering new insights; optimizing the business; and innovating their industries.
  • Big data creates a new layer in the economy which is all about information, turning information, or data, into revenue. This will accelerate growth in the global economy and create jobs.