Show of 11-17-2012

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Jim in Michigan: Dear Tech Talk.  My son only responds to text messages. He does not like to answer the phone. I have an old cell phone that cannot send text messages. Is there a way to send text messages from my computer? Thanks. Love the show. Jim in Michigan.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Jim, you can send text message from your computer to any cell phone. All you to know is the cell phone gateway and the phone number. Each carrier has a different gateway. The gateway takes for email and converts it to a text message, truncating the text message at 140 characters. The subject line is just part of the text message and is really not needed. Here are a few of the gateways for the major careers in the US
  • Email from Ted in Kansas: I am planning to do a clean install of my Windows operating system and will have to reinstall my applications. My problem is that I don’t have all of the serial numbers of my current software. How find and save them? I listen to the podcast each week. Thanks, Ted in Kansas
  • Tech Talk Responds: The good news is that all of the serial numbers are contained in your registry. Abelsoft has a program called MyKeyFinder that will collect your keys. You can print or save them to a file. This program is very easy to use and the output is displayed in an easy to read format. The program is free, but a shareware fee of 10 Euros is suggested. Here is the link: http://www.abelssoft.net/apps/mykeyfinder.
  • Email from Bernie in Manassas: Dear Tech Talk, I just bought a camera that allows me to take photographs in JPG or JPG plus RAW or just RAW! If I take a picture in RAW, the resulting picture is about 24 MB. When I save as JPG it is 8 MB. As a TIF, it is 45 MB. What format should I use? What does it have to do with resolution? Thanks, Bernie in Manassas
  • Tech Talk Responds: Pixels and resolution are independent of file formats. Pixels, resolution, height by width, color depth; that actually applies to pretty much all of the pictures. You can then store that information in different file formats.
  • RAW image file format. Each camera has its own raw output, the way that it natively stores the data. RAW is not a standardized format. You need to have special software to view or manipulate RAW data. This is the most accurate representation of the image data before any manipulation. I have a scuba diver friend to saves all of his images in RAW images and then performs color correction after the dive. He feels this is the best way to get quality underwater photos. But RAW is useless for sharing photos. For that you need a standardize file format.
  • JPEG image file format. The most common file format that you’ll find on the internet for photographs is JPEG (or JPG). JPEG is a standard. JPEG is that it is by definition a “lossy” file format. When you convert your original image (the .raw format) into a JPEG, some information will be lost.
  • This is why many photographers save all of their pictures as RAW so that they have everything possible, should I then want to go in and manipulate the image some more. JPEG loses something.
  • Many pros like to use Photoshop. They edit my images, crop them, adjust colors, then the result of that work in JPEG format. You will need the Adobe Camera plug-in to even read a RAW image.
  • TIF is not a good format for photos. It is not compressed and is usually larger than the original file. PNG is a lossless compression format that is becoming more popular. But JPG is still the best for sharing, since everyone has a viewer.
  • So if you are serious photographer, save in RAW and then covert to JPG for sharing. If you just want to share some snaps, save only in JPG. Then you will not have to do any further conversions.
  • Email from Alex: Dear Doc and Jim. Is there a better way to become a Linux expert other than getting a book? Thanks, Jim.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Getting a book is probably one of the worst ways. The best way is to get Linux; install it; start playing with it. That’s exactly what I do for any software. Whenever I encounter something interesting, or something new that I want to learn, I get it, I play with it, I figure it out. I do things with it and I just sort of learn by doing.
  • A book can be a good way to get an overview of things; but by far, by far, the best way to learn is to get your hands on it, start playing with it, and start doing. You’ll find yourself learning at an incredible pace.
  • The great news is that you can download Linux for free and start playing. You might want to download VMware so that you can run Linux as a virtual machine. You will also learn virtualization as a bonus.
  • Email from Leslie in Oakton: Dear Tech Talk. We just shifted our time by one hour because of Daylight Saving Time. I have two atomic clocks in the how that are supposed to automatically change time when we make this shift. One did and the other did not. What can I do to make them both work the same way? Love the show. Thanks, Leslie in Oakton
  • Tech Talk Responds: First of all Leslie, you do not have atomic clocks. Your clocks are connected to the Atomic Time Standard maintained by NIST. In the United States, the signals originate from NIST Radio Station WWVB, which is located near Fort Collins, Colorado. WWVB broadcasts on a frequency of 60 kHz. Your radio controlled clock actually has a miniature radio receiver inside, which is permanently tuned to receive the 60 kHz signal. Typically, you can only receive this signal at night when the signal bounces off of the ionosphere. If one of my clocks does not change time as expected, I place it in a window facing West. The next morning it is always set properly.
  • Email from Bernie in Waldorf, MD: Dear Doc. Why isn’t the time on my computer the same as that on my self-synchronizing watch? I thought all the clocks were synchronized to the same standard. Thanks, Bernie in Waldorf, MD.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Your watch is connected to the radio station in Fort Collins, Colorado. Let’s make certain that your computer is updating over the Internet to a tie standard, Right-click on the Clock. Click on Adjust time/date. There, in the resulting dialog box, there’s a tab for automatically updating the time. Make sure that’s configured; that it’s working; there’s no error message there. Pick a time service that works for you. You can test it and run it right there and make sure that it’s running properly. In most cases, that is on by default so your computer should in fact be setting the time correctly.
  • By default Windows is set for http://time.microsoft.com. If you wish, you can synchronize with the NIST time standard directly. A link to all of the time servers is: http://tf.nist.gov/tf-cgi/servers.cgi.

Profiles in IT: Steven Jay Sinofsky

  • Steven Jay Sinofsky was the President of the Windows Division at Microsoft from July 2009 through his departure on November 12, 2012.
  • Sinofsky was born in 1965 in New York City.
  • He received a Bachelor of Arts and Sciences from Cornell University in 1987 and a Masters in Computer Science from the University of Massachusetts in 1989.
  • He also spent 3 years learning Russian while he was in college.
  • In July 1989, Sinofsky joined Microsoft as a software design engineer.
  • In 1994, when the Office Product Unit was formed, Sinofsky joined as Director of Program Management and led shared technologies in Office 95 and Office 97.
  • He oversaw the development of Microsoft Office 2003, Microsoft Office XP, and Microsoft Office 2000.
  • He oversaw the development of the Microsoft Office system of programs, servers and services.
  • He spent about four years as a software design engineer and project lead in the Development Tools group, working on the Foundation Classes C++ library.
  • Sinofsky has blogged about what it’s like to be an MS employee at Steven Sinofsky’s Microsoft TechTalk. He was tasked to recruit and retain MS employees
  • Steven Sinofsky became the president of the Windows division in July 2009.
  • His first projects included Windows Live Wave 3 and Internet Explorer 8.
  • Sinofsky and Jon DeVaan also headed the development Windows 7.
  • Sinofsky’s philosophy on Windows 7 was to not make any promises about the product or even discuss anything about the product until it felt like a quality product.
  • Under Sinofsky’s leadership, the Windows Division successfully shipped the successor to Windows Vista, Windows 7
  • The success of Windows 7 contributed to record-breaking revenue earnings for Microsoft in 2010.
  • Sinofsky’s leadership style influenced many other Microsoft divisions to follow his principles and practices on product development.
  • Sinofsky worked on Windows 8 and regularly blogged about the feature set and the process of developing the new OS in his blog, Building Windows 8.
  • Sinofsky left Microsoft on November 12, 2012. His departure is seen externally as the result of a power struggle or friction between himself and CEO Steve Ballmer.
  • His book BookOne Strategy: Organization, Planning, and Decision Making, published in 2009, discusses Sinofsky’s struggle with refocusing the Windows Division after the Vista debacle.
  • Many viewed him as a successor to Steve Balmer. His personality was very abrasive and was not viewed as team player by Balmer.
  • In 2012, his total compensation was $8.6M (2.2M cash, 6.4M long term)

David Burd: Surprise Visit

  • Windows 8 reviews and comments
  • Mini-iPad vs. IPad vs. Kindle
  • iPhone navigation (Mapquest vs. Apple Maps)
  • Other musings and comments

Tech World Mourns the Loss of Twinkies

  • Hostess Brands liquidates and stops producing Twinkies
  • Tech world in shock. Programming projects may be set back months
  • Real programmers do not eat quiche.
  • They eat Twinkies (because they  are in vending machines).
  • They eat Szechuan food (because they deliver at  4am).
  • Real programmers also love JOLT Cola, rather than Coke or Mountain Dew.
  • A balanced programming diet is in jeopardy.

Paula Broadwell’s Internet Trail

  • Details continue to slowly emerge about how an FBI investigation into a case of cyber harassment in Tampa, Florida led to the resignation of CIA chief, David Petraeus.
  • The gist of the story is that Jill Kelley, a social planner in Tampa started getting approximately 10 menacing emails from an anonymous harasser.
  • She had a friend in the FBI’s Tampa field office. Though there was “no explicit threat of violence” in the emails, the FBI decided to investigate their provenance.
  • The New York Times and the WSJ describe the digital forensic work that led the FBI to finger Paula Broadwell, Petraeus’s biographer, as the person behind the anonymous emails.
  • The WSJ reported that the FBI “used metadata footprints left by the emails to determine what locations they were sent from. They matched the places, including hotels, where Ms. Broadwell was during the times the emails were sent.”
  • While Broadwell went to the trouble of creating a throwaway email address to do her harassing, she apparently didn’t mask her IP address when sending them.
  • Linking the IP addresses back to Broadwell’s hotel stays was perhaps something she didn’t anticipate. In her emails to David Petraeus, she was far more careful. Instead of sending messages to one another and creating an email trail, they had a shared throwaway account and would pass messages along to one another using the draft function.
  • The WSJ reports that the FBI got a warrant in order to access Broadwell’s email account and discovered the emails that she and Petraeus had exchanged.

Dumb Idea of the Week: Pee Controlled Games

  • A London startup has secured $700,000 in seed funding to launch pee-controlled videogames in public restrooms, including those in airports and hotels.
  • Captive Media launched in the UK in 2011 and has already installed washroom units in venues across eight European countries, with the games featured in the bathrooms of Ogilvy One’s London office and the Tabouche bar in Cambridge.
  • The system consists of a high definition screen that features advertiswments when not in use, and switches to gaming mode when a user steps up to the plate.
  • But the system is not touchscreen , it’s pee-powered. Infrared beams passing over the urinal pick up the flow direction and feed this data into an algorithm so the user can navigate their stream left or right to control a simple game, such as a snowboarding run or a pub quiz style Q&A.
  • The system — which aims to plug the 55-second marketing gap when men are staring at a blank wall while peeing — can be installed anywhere since the urinal does not need to be structurally adapted.
  • Apparently those already installed have been so successful, Captive Media has had to set up an online Score Centre so returning users can compete against ultimate peeing champions taking the leaderboard.
  • Our one gripe? Is there a reason Captive Media thinks women wouldn’t appreciate a similar tool for passing the time in the loo.
  • Yes, the company would need to overcome a few more logistics relating to the aim of the infrared beams, but surely a system of toilet bowl sensors could remedy that problem?

How the Cloud Helped Obama Win

  • Jeff Barr, a web services evangelist at Amazon.com has written an interesting blog post on how Amazon’s cloud helped Barack Obama win the election.
  • In the post Barr says “imagine setting up the technology infrastructure needed to power a dynamic, billion-dollar organization under strict time limits using volunteer labor, with traffic peaking for just one day, and then shutting everything down shortly thereafter.
  • The words “mission critical” definitely apply here.
  • He outlines how “the campaign used Amazon Web Services (AWS to avoid an IT investment that would have run into the tens of millions of dollars. Along the way they built and ran more than 200 applications on AWS, scaled to support millions of users.
  • One of these apps, the campaign call tool, supported 7,000 concurrent users and placed over two million calls on the last four days of the campaign.
  • The post further outlines the technology and architectures used within the campaign:
  • A database running on Amazon Relational Database Services (RDS) , served as the primary registry of voter file information. This database integrated data from a number of sources including www.barackobama.com and donor information from the finance team) in order to give the campaign managers a dynamic, fully-integrated view of what was going on.
  • Alongside this database, an analytics system running on EC2 Cluster Compute instances.
  • Another database cluster ran Leveldb on a trio of High-Memory Quadruple Extra Large instances.
  • This array of databases allowed campaign workers to target and segment prospective voters, shift marketing resources based on near real-time feedback on the effectiveness of certain ads, drive a donation system that collected over one billion dollars (the 30th largest ecommerce site in the world).
  • The applications run by the Obama campaign are comparable in scope and complexity to those seen in the largest enterprises and data-rich startups.