Show of 11-3-2012

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Arnie: Hi Dr. Shurtz, Last Saturday you mentioned the use of LASTPASS as a way of keeping passwords straight and you recommended it – good CNET recommendations etc. In a previous program you said that you didn’t like to have passwords in the cloud and recommended KEEPASS which keeps password on your computer. (I have Keepass and admit it isn’t the easiest to use, but then again I’m not a geek). So why the change in your saying it’s okay for passwords to be in the cloud? I suspect due to exotic encryption, but still, the cloud is still not as good as on your computer is it? Love Tech Talk. Arnie McKechnie, Davidsonville, MD
  • Tech Talk Responds: I like LastPass because of its robust security features and ease of use. After creating a LastPass account and master password, which is used to access your password list, LastPass will ask to import your passwords into its cloud-based, AES-256-encrypted servers. This key aspect of LastPass, the cloud-based storage, is then followed by an option to remove all your locally stored passwords. This prevents them from being compromised after you’ve begun using LastPass, although it also means that you will be tied to LastPass from that point. You can always export your passwords later.  You can access your password vault from any computer using one password.
  • The paid version uses multifactor authentication. This heightened level of security requires you to use a YubiKey or USB key in conjunction with your LastPass master password to gain access to your vault.
  • This program is the perfect combination of convenience and security.
  • Email from Hac in Bowie: Dear Dr. Shurtz, Ever since I returned from a trip to Vietnam, the Calendar app on my iPhone has been messed up. It seems like my iPhone is still on Vietnam time. When I select “Today” at the bottom of the app interface, it comes up with a time and date 11 hours in advance of my local time – which is the time in Vietnam!! Also, when I enter in an appointment, the time gets shifted 11 hours in advance after I enter it. For example, if I enter in an appointment at 3pm on a Tuesday, after I press “Done” the appointment shows up at 2am on Wednesday on my calendar! Help! Hac in Bowie
  • Tech Talk Responds: Great question. Click on Settings and then click on General. Scroll down to and click on Date & Time. Turn set automatically to on. It should immediate be reset to the New York Time Zone.
  • Email from Jim: Dear Tech Talk, I have an HP Mini and the hard drive seems to be full. However, I have not loaded many programs or picture files on this computer. What is using all of the space? Love the show. Thanks, Jim
  • Tech Talk Responds; You can use the Disk Cleanup tool provided by Windows. Search for this tool using the search feature above the Start button. It will give several options for disk cleanup. You can remove downloaded program files, temporary Internet files, recycle bin files, service pack backup files, temporary files. It would try these first. If you still need more space, look on the More Options in Disk Cleanup for two more possibilities: Removing Programs not Used, and Removing all but the most Recent restore points. If you are not have any software problem, I would remove all but the most recent Restore Points. These Restore point take a lot of disk storage and may be the source of your problem. Finally, after removing all files, I typically run defrag to eliminate all fragmented for quick retrieval.
  • Email from Paula in Wisconsin: Dear Tech Talk, I purchased a desktop, HP Pavilion with Win 7. I’ve added myself as the new administrator, but in every instance where my name appears, it’s linked with his. Additionally, in certain tasks, I can’t complete it without his authorization. What can I do to get control of my new computer? Thanks, Paula.
  • Tech Talk Responds: You best option is to reformat and reinstall Windows from scratch on that machine. It really is the only safe way to take over a machine that formally belonged to someone else. There is no way for example to rename the administrator account. You can create new accounts if you need to and give them new names.  You can even make new accounts and make them the administrator on that machine – but that doesn’t change the previously existing accounts and some of the kinds of issues that you’re seeing. That is why I strongly recommend that you reformat and reinstall Windows from scratch.
  • If you don’t want to take that advice, you can download a utility that will let you reset the administrative password and take over the machine.
  • First, download and burn to CD the Offline NT Password and Registry Editor. This is actually a highly customized version of Linux, that’s designed to do exactly what the name implies: allow you to examine and edit the password information and registry of a Windows machine.
  • This is a utility to reset the password of any user that has a valid local account on your Windows system. Supports all Windows from NT3.5 to Win7, also 64 bit and also the Server versions (like 2003 and 2008). You do not need to know the old password to set a new one.
  • Then you will boot this machine from that CD. You will need to pick the location of the registry: partition and subdirectory. Anyone with physical access to your computer can do this in less than 10 minutes.
  • Email from Mary Ann: Dear Doc I’ve got an HP computer, a couple of months old that came with Microsoft Office starter 2010 pre-installed. I tried to access the program and it won’t come up. It tells me to go to Control Panel and repair, but I’ve had no success there. I’ve gone to the Microsoft site; still no luck. I tried again to open file, right-click, repair – nothing. I can’t afford to purchase Office. What in your opinion is the best free alternative for simple Word and Excel usage? Thanks, Mary Ann
  • Tech Talk Responds: The Microsoft Office Starter is just a trial and it has probably expired. So you will have to either buy MS Office to find a free alternative. Open Office and Libre are two good alternatives. I would uninstall the MS Office Starter.
  • Open Office is currently owned by Oracle because they bought Sun. It’s the first the most widely used free office alternatives and it’s been around for quite a while. The open source community recently split from Open Office to form a new branch called Libre Office. This group did not like Oracle’s aggressive corporate tactics.  It’s essentially the same thing, and it has the same roots as Open Office.
  • You might also consider Academic Software if you are a college student or work at a college. You get a full version at the upgrade price. It is a very good deal. Just search for Academic software on the web. I like to use JourneyEd.
  • Email from Craig in Oakton: Dear Tech Talk, I receive about 300 emails daily.  How can I block them? I use Yahoo as my mail provider and am on Windows 7. Thanks, Craig.
  • Tech Talk Responds: You can’t stop Spam. Anyone can send you email, period. That is not bad because anyone who knows you and your email address can communicate with you via email.
  • Blocking doesn’t work because spammer change email addresses and they hijack addresses of unsuspecting people. Spammers fake the email address. They can fake spam to look like it comes from your friends and acquaintances.
  • Filters can help quite a bit. Gmail has a fantastic spam filter. It is crowd sources and very accurate. Since you are using Yahoo, you can set their filter. 
  • Yahoo!’s spam filter is pretty good. Let’s make sure it’s turned on. Log in to your Yahoo! email account on the web, and click on the Options link near your name in the upper left of the page, and then the Mail Options item in the resulting menu. On the Mail Options page, click on General in the left-hand column.
  • In the section labeled “Spam Protection” make sure that Automatically move spam to Spam folder is checked. Click Save.
  • The default filter in place at Yahoo! But you can, and should, make it better. When you see spam in your inbox, click the checkmark next to its line in the list of email, and then click the “Spam” button. It then takes this information and uses it to refine its spam filter.
  • You might also be careful not to post your email address in an forum that could be picked up by a spider. You can change it so it can be read by a person, but does not work as an email. For instance; john AT Gmail DOC com.

Profiles in IT: Eben Christoper Upton

  • Eben Christoper Upton is founder and trustee of the Raspberry Pi Foundation and creator of the low cost, credit card size, hacking computer designed to inspire the next generation of programmers.
  • He was born in 1978 in Leeds, England.
  • Upton received a BA in Physics and Engineering in 1999 from Univ.of Cambridge.
  • He completed Cambridge Diploma in Computer Science in 2001.
  • Upton received his PhD from in the University of Cambridge Computer Lab. in 2006.
  • He served as Director of Undergraduate Studies in Computer Science at St John’s College, Cambridge, while completing his PhD.
  • We handling undergraduate CS admissions, he came up with idea for a cheap, hobbyist computer.
  • The applicants were working on computers, but not with them. They had changed from active hackers, in his day, to passive consumers.
  • In the 1980s, he and his friends had learned basic computer science on a BBC Micro, available in most English schools. He felt the world needed a low cost equivalent.
  • Upton went ahead and built a prototype of a next-generation hobbyist machine, calling it Raspberry Pi, based on the tech tradition of naming computers after fruit.
  • But he didn’t see a way to produce Raspberry Pi, so he mothballed the project.
  • After finishing his PhD, Upton went to work at the Cambridge, U.K., office of Broadcom, a networking company based in Southern California.
  • As Technical Director and ASIC architect, Upton was instrumental in the creation of Broadcom’s first microprocessor intended for multimedia applications (BCM2835).
  • Released in 2011, the BCM2835 was a single chip that could fit in a phone that was powerful enough to include a CPU and graphics processor.
  • Upton realized that this processor could be used to jump start Raspberry Pi.
  • He and half a dozen volunteers worked on the new version on evenings and weekends. But the BCM2835 wasn’t easy to deal with: it was jammed with tiny components, including five power supplies.
  • To keep Raspberry Pi cheap, the team wanted to build it on a ­single circuit board
  • It appeared they would need to build a board with more than eight stacked layers of circuitry. The team eventually managed to shave the board design down to six layers.
  • The first prototypes were ready in December 2011, selling for around $25.
  • Raspberry Pi includes with five ports: HDMI, to hook the computer up to a television; USB, to hook it to multiple devices; Ethernet, for data; and analog TV and analog stereo. It boots from an SD card using the Fedora version of Linux.
  • When connected to a television and keyboard, it is capable of many desktop PC functions and also plays high-definition video.
  • Almost the instant the Raspberry Pi went on sale, orders crashed the website of its two vendors. The entire initial stock of 10,000 computers in minutes.
  • Upton is making more of the devices through a nonprofit Raspberry Pi Foundation.
  • He intends to sell two million devices a year in order to reach a critical mass.
  • Raspberry Pi Model B, with Ethernet and 512MB RAM, sells for $35.
  • Website: http://www.raspberrypi.org

Device of the Week: Raspberry Pi

  • The Raspberry Pi device is a credit–card sized computer board that plugs into a TV and a keyboard. It’s a miniature ARM–based PC which can be used for many of the things that a desktop PC does, like spreadsheets, word–processing and games. It also plays High–Definition video.
  • Price: $35.00, with some delivery delay because of demand.
  • Accessories include
    • Case — $6.40
    • SD Flash Memory (4G) — $7.50
    • Power Supply — $8.00
    • USB Hub — $6.00
    • Keyboard — $23.00
    • Display — TV
  • Starter kits available for around $100, which include everything you need to start hacking or creating your own robot brain.
  • Website: www.raspberrypi.org. This site lists the two vendors that are currently offering the device and its accessories.
  • The MagPi is a community magazine produced by Raspberry Pi owners, and is now available in print as well as as a free download.
  • Members of the  forum have been working on a Raspberry Pi wiki at eLinux. Web address: http://elinux.org/RaspberryPiBoard.
  • Georgia outs Russia-based hacker With Webcam Photos
  • The nation of Georgia, fed up with persistent cyber-spying attacks, published photos of a Russia-based hacker who it alleged stole confidential information from Georgian government ministries, parliament and banks.
  • The photos of the hacker were taken after investigators with the Georgian government’s Computer Emergency Response Team (Cert.gov.ge) managed to bait him into downloading what he thought was a file containing sensitive information. In fact, it contained its own secret spying program.
  • The hacker had been tricked and hacked, with his mugshot taken from his own webcam.
  • Georgia began investigating the cyber spying linked to the hacker in March 2011 after a file on a computer belonging to a government official was flagged as “suspicious” by a Russian antivirus program called Dr. Web.
  • The investigation uncovered a sophisticated operation that planted malicious software on numerous Georgian news websites, but only on pages with specific articles that would interest the kinds of people that the hacker wanted to target.
  • The news stories selected to attract victims had headlines such as “NATO delegation visit in Georgia” and “US-Georgian agreements and meetings.”
  • The agency quickly discovered that 300 to 400 computers located in key government agencies were infected and transmitting sensitive documents to drop servers controlled by the hacker. The compromised computers formed a botnet nicknamed “Georbot.”
  • The malicious software was programmed to search for specific keywords — such as USA, Russia, NATO and CIA — in Microsoft Word documents and PDFs, and was eventually modified to record audio and take screenshots.
  • Georgia blocked connections to the drop servers receiving the documents. The infected computers were then cleansed of the malware. But despite knowing his operation had been discovered, the hacker didn’t stop. In fact, he stepped up his game.
  • They allowed the hacker to infect one of their computers on purpose. On that computer, they placed a ZIP archive entitled “Georgian-Nato Agreement.” He took the bait, which caused the investigators’ own spying program to be installed.
  • From there, his webcam was turned on, which resulted in fairly clear photos of his face. But after five to 10 minutes, the connection was cut off, presumably because the hacker knew he had been hacked. But in those few minutes, his computer — like the ones he targeted in the Georgian government — was mined for documents.
  • One Microsoft Word document, written in Russian, contained instructions from the hacker’s handler over which targets to infect and how. Other circumstantial evidence pointing to Russian involvement included the registration of a website that was used to send malicious emails. It was registered to an address next to the country’s Federal Security Service, formerly known as the KGB, the report said.
  • Because of the strained relations between Russia and Georgia, it’s unlikely the hacker — whose name was not revealed — would ever be prosecuted if he lives in Russia$1.

Phillips LED Lights Are Remotely Controlled

  • Philips will begin selling its Hue LED light bulbs exclusively in Apple stores.
  • Hue light bulbs are fully customizable, and offer up a choice of 16 million colors by combining three LEDs — one green, one red, and one blue — inside each bulb.
  • They’re being marketed as energy-efficient alternatives to regular light bulbs, with brightness on par with a traditional 50W bulb with a maximum power draw of just 8.5W.
  • But energy efficiency is just one plus of the Hue system; the main selling-point is the extreme level of customization available.
  • Buyers will be able to fine-tune their lighting through an iOS app or on their computer via Philips’ website. An Android version of the companion app will be launching in December.
  • The system is sold as a $199 starter pack comprising 3 LED bulbs and a bridge that connects to your router.
  • Once you’re all set up, you’ll be able to set the color of each bulb individually, or choose from one of four templates that Philips has chosen.
  • Additional Hue bulbs can purchased for $59, and Philips says one bridge can support 50 bulbs.
  • The Hue system went on sale on October 30th in the US for $199.
  • Philips’ new bulbs adhere to the ZigBee LightLink wireless standard.
  • The ZibBee Alliance has established global wireless standards for a wide range of home devices. They have been in existence since 2002. Phillips was a charter
  • Zigbee website: http://www.zigbee.org/

Republicans Use More Social Media

  • In 2008, Democrats ruled social media. This year the parties have reached parity, as the Republicans have taken to embraced social media.
  • Millions of Republicans have taken to social networks to wage debates about topics such as healthcare reform—driven partly by the emergence of the ultra-conservative Tea Party.
  • In 2008, the Democratic party was so far ahead of the Republican party in terms of their social savvy that they completely owned the conversation about the elections on social media.
  • In 2012, the Republican party made some adjustments and investments in social media in order to try and level the playing field, though the Democratic party still holds an edge after being first-to-market.
  • By the time election day came along in November 2008, Obama had nearly 2.5 million supporters on Facebook, five times more than McCain.
  • The Democratic candidate was present on Flickr, and he had his own YouTube channel, unlike McCain.
  • On Twitter, he had 118,000 followers compared to 4,900 for his rival.
  • On the actual election day, McCain did not post a single tweet—which in the Twitter-hungry world of today would be unheard of.
  • Four years on, the Democrats may still dominate the digital landscape but they are no longer alone.
  • Republican challenger Mitt Romney is present on all platforms and has a large number of followers.
  • They took Obama’s recipe to organize themselves, using the Internet to mobilize on the ground.
  • The site FreedomWorks—a non-profit organization involved in the Tea Party movement—has a “freedom connector” app that allows Conservative activists to connect with like-minded people state by state, county by county, via Facebook.
  • Driven partly by the Tea Party’s social media drive, “the Republicans bridged a bit of the gap during the 2010 mid-term elections, benefiting for instance from the arrival of retirees on social networks,
  • Nevertheless, @BarackObama still has a lot more Twitter followers than Romney (21.6 million against 1.65 million). Out of these, only 55 percent live in the United States against 89 percent for @MittRomney.
  • Romney’s followers are also deemed more involved than Obama’s.
  • Romney gets more retweets per tweet than Obama does.
  • During the last week of October, for instance, each @MittRomney tweet was retweeted 1,333 times on average, against 918 times for Obama, according to 140Elect statistics.
  • As for the candidates’ running mates—whose popularity online is more linked to domestic issues—the Republican Paul Ryan is almost twice as followed as Vice President Joe Biden.