Show of 12-1-2012

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Ms. Claus: Dear Dr.  Shurtz I’m getting ready to buy a new notebook/laptop since I don’t want to continue with Win XP OS I now have.
  • Is there a GOOD FREE Best antivirus software that you can recommend?  I have been using ESET Node32, but, it is not free and IF there is a Good Free one now, I’d love to hear your recommendation. I‘ve been advised from the power pc users I know that Newegg is a good online place to buy the pc. Once I have it here, are you aware of the Best Practice Steps and in what order one sets up a new PC?  I assume someone has put this into a top 10 list and I just want to ensure I establish good PC organization and protection at the start to minimize issues as time goes on. IF the PC hardware firm has to send the new PC with WIN8, do you have anything good / bad to say about moving from Win7 (what I have on my work PC and am very familiar with) to Win8? Love the show and Happy Holidays!!! Mrs. S. Claus (Mary)
  • Tech Talk Responds: Anti-Virus Free from AVG is the best free antivirus software available. AVG Anti-Virus Free is a full-fledged antivirus and antispyware tool, includes an email scanner, link scanner, scheduled scanning options, automatic updates, and more. The huge number of premium features, frequency of updating, and install-it-and-forget-it aspect of AVG’s Anti-Virus Free really do make it the best of the best free antivirus programs available today. I still used Nod32 on my machine.
  • As for purchasing a computer, NewEgg does have a very good reputation as an online retailer. There prices are good, but not necessarily the lowest. You can’t really go wrong here. You best deals are going to be gotten by getting last year’s model. You will want to pay attention to the features that are important to you: weight, screen size, battery life, etc. I would suggest trying some out before you buy. Vendors are unloading their Windows 7 inventory and that is probably where the best deals will be found. Windows 8 is a good OS with extensive testing. You should have no trouble with it, but the interface will take some getting used to.
  • Email from James Messick: Dear Tech Talk! I was fortunate enough to score a Black Friday deal on a new HDTV (Vizio E601i-A3). The television has built in apps to play Pandora and other streaming audio. Is there a way to dim the screen while playing audio? This is more of an aesthetics issue than a concern over “burn-in.” As a “cord cutter” I’m using a $30 amplified antenna and receive all the major networks, PBS and other channels for free. Thanks. James Messick, Kernersville NC
  • Tech Talk Responds: That is the problem with TVs that include all of the sound components. The TV is always on even through you are just listening to music. I don’t know any way to turn off the image when listening to Pandora. I checked for your model and cannot find a solution. This is a feature that should be added to future sets.
  • Email from Mary: Dear Dr. Shurtz: I have Verizon Fios. I have read that Verizon configures my router with WEP security and that it can be easily hacked. They recommend reconfiguring my router to WPA2 encryption. My router has a sticker with the Mac ID and WEP key. Can these be used for the router password? Seems this protection stuff keeps growing in scope… and Verizon has no customer service worth a dang. Thanks! Mary
  • Tech Talk Responds: You will need to have the password for the router to change the encryption method. You get to the login screen go to 192.168.1.1. You will need a User Name and Password. If you did not get that from your Verizon installer you will need to call Verizon support. They should have it if you have not changed your password. Once logged into your router, you can go to the wireless tab and set the encryption type. WPA2 is much harder to crack than WEP because the key rotates frequently enough to make it difficult to compute the key before it changes.
  • Email from Lauren: Dear Dr. Shurtz. I am a member of a PC Users group listserv. Some in the group have complained about slow Internet response and claim that the DNS server provided by the ISP is timing out. They speculate that is a way to throttle traffic on the Internet. The have suggested using an additional DNS. Some are using Google’s open DNS (8.8.8.8), in addition to their list of DNS servers. I almost always feel that there is more I ought to be doing to have a more stable/secure internet ‘experience’ but don’t possess the knowledgebase to put this kind of stuff in place. With your insights perhaps I can improve performance/security.  Thanks Much. Faithful listener and love this show!!/ Lauren
  • Tech Talk Responds: I doubt they are using DNS delays to throttle traffic. They can log into your router and throttle your maximum transfer rate directly. Most ISPs limit their customers in this way. As for using an Open DNS, it is a pretty good idea. You will need to configure you TCP/IP connection to achieve this. You can right click on the wireless network connection. This will open the Wireless Network Connection Status. Click on Wireless Properties. This will open Wireless Network Connection Properties. Highlight Internet Protocol Version 4. Click on properties. Click on Use the Following DNS Server Addresses. Put in the IP address provided by the ISP first and the Google Open DNS second (8.8.8.8).
  • Email from Jerry: Dear Dr. Shurtz and Jim Russ. You have mentioned VMware numerous times recently — advising the installation of Linux side-by-side with Windows after first virtualizing with VMware. You also highlighted the founders of VMware recently. Eager to try your suggestion, I went to the VMware site. There are a lot of products, some a bit expensive for casual experimentation. Could you say a few words about your VMware product recommendation or other non-VMware-brand virtual machine software? Love the show — I have been listening since 2002, formerly over the air in Germantown, now in Baltimore and exclusively through podcasts. Thanks, Jerry
  • Tech Talk Responds: Thanks for listening Jerry. You can download a free trial version of VMware Workstation. The trail is 30 days. That is enough tie for you test it out. But you will have to pay if you want to use longer. The price is $249. You can get an academic version for $149 but the license is good for only a year. They have changed their pricing policy recently.
  • VMware Server is a free Virtualization software from VMware. Although its support has ended but it can still be downloaded and used for free. VMware Server supports almost all the Operating Systems as guests or hosts but 64-bit guest OS cannot be installed on a 32-bit host. VMware Server has support for USB devices and also supports bridged, NAT and host only network interfaces.
  • VMware Server comes with administrative tools package which can be installed from the File menu. The administrative tools make it easier to communicate between the host and the guest Operating System without locking the mouse and enabling of cut, copy, paste and drag and drop operations across host and guest OS.
  • VMware Player is software that enables users to easily create and run virtual machines on a Windows or Linux PC. VMware Player can create virtual machines in addition to running virtual machines created by VMware Workstation, VMware Fusion, VMware Fusion Professional, and VMware vSphere. VMware Player is free for personal non-commercial use.

Profiles in IT: Ben Silbermann

  • Ben Silbermann is an American Internet entrepreneur who co-founded and is CEO of Pinterest
  • Silbermann was born in 1982 and raised in Des Moines, Iowa. His parents were both ophthalmologists with a family practice.
  • Silbermann was accepted into Yale and spent the next two years taking science classes and prepping for the medical-school entrance exams.
  • He changed his mind and decided that a career in business was the thing. He spent his last year of college applying for consulting jobs.
  • He graduated from Yale in 2003 with a political science major.
  • After graduation, he landed a job at the DC-based Corporate Executive Board.
  • He tried to be a good consultant, but his interests drifted again. It was the mid-2000s.
  • Silbermann and his girlfriend quit their jobs and moved west. At the end of 2006, he landed a job doing customer support for Google’s advertising division.
  • He spent two years at Google before striking out on his own in 2008.
  • Silbermann’s first product, which he launched with a college friend, Paul Sciarra, was a shopping app called Tote. They raised a small amount of seed funding.
  • Tote failed to take off, but it did reveal something interesting: Rather than buy things, people used Silbermann’s app to email themselves pictures of products to view later.
  • This struck a chord with Silbermann. His boyhood hobby was collecting bugs.
  • In the fall of 2009, Silbermann met Evan Sharp, a student at Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture. They started talking about digital collecting.
  • This triggered a new idea that evolved in Pinterest. The trio began work immediately.
  • Sharp coded much of the site sitting in a Whole Foods on the Upper West Side of Manhattan while Silbermann and Sciarra, worked from an apartment in Palo Alto.
  • Sharp developed and coded 50 working versions of the site, experimenting with various column widths, layouts, and ways of presenting the pictures.
  • When the site launched in March 2010, Sharp dropped out of architecture school He took a job at Facebook and moved to Palo Alto. Silbermann raised VC funding.
  • In order to scale, Silbermann locked down the programmers for the Summer of Apps 2012. The full focus was on the iPhone, iPad, and Android apps.
  • In January 2012, Pinterest surpassed 10 million monthly unique visitors in the United States; by April, that figure had nearly doubled.
  • Nearly 80% of Pinterest’s users are women, most between the ages of 25 and 54.
  • Pinterest is currently generating no revenue whatsoever. But monetization should be easier than in the case of Facebook. Pins are used to search for purchasing ideas.
  • Silbermann hired Tim Kendall, an engineer and Stanford MBA. Kendall is credited with creating Facebook’s monetization strategy in 2006
  • To date, Pinterest has raised $138 million from an A-list roster of investors.

Bug That Helped Enable Skype Account Takeovers

  • Microsoft scrambled two weeks ago to fix a security vulnerability that allowed anyone to hijack another user’s Skype account with a dead-simple trick. But if it had listened to one helpful user who reported a bug in its registration system months ago, it might have avoided the whole fiasco.
  • Microsoft-owned Skype disabled all password resets for users Wednesday as it works on a fix for a technique that appeared on several Russian Web websites showing how anyone can take over another user’s Skype account in a few easy steps, just by knowing the email address linked with that account.
  • By registering a new Skype account to the target’s email address as and then manipulating the application’s password reset function, anyone can change the password for the target account rather than the new one they’ve just registered.
  • That account takeover technique exploits two oversights in Skype’s account management system. First, Skype allows anyone to register an account with someone else’s email address by failing to send a message to verify that the registrant has access to that address. And second, it assumes that any two accounts with the same email address are linked and have the same privileges to change the account’s password.
  • This flaw had been reported by a user months ago. Prior to Skype’s emergency move to block password resets Wednesday, there were signs that Skype’s security flaws were being used to steal users’ accounts.
  • Skype has now fixed the issue, according to a spokesperson: ”We suspended the password reset feature temporarily this morning as a precaution and have made updates to the password reset process today so that it is now working properly.”

War Over Internet Economics

  • The Internet has thrived without international oversight. Now a UN agency could try to assert more control.
  • Hamadoun Touré is secretary-general of the ITU, a United Nations agency that on Monday will begin to weigh whether to regulate the Internet.
  • A United Nations agency opens debate on Monday over whether it should begin to regulate the Internet.
  •  European telecommunications providers and African and Arab countries want big content providers to pay to send data across their networks.
  • The concept—known as “sender pays”—would radically alter today’s Internet economics. Some countries say their networks are groaning under video and other content provided in large part by U.S. companies such as Facebook, Netflix, and Google.
  • At a conference that begins Monday in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 193 member countries will decide whether the International Telecommunications Union, a United Nations agency, should somehow start regulating the Internet through updates to its International Telecommunication Regulations.
  •  The ITU sets worldwide standards and does things like coordinate use of radio spectrum and long-distance telephone calls. But it hasn’t updated its regulations since 1988 and doesn’t cover the Internet.
  • That’s how things should stay, argues the U.S. government—a position shared by Vinton Cerf, an original inventor of Internet protocols who now works for Google as its chief Internet evangelist.
  • Cerf asserts that some countries promoting “sender pays” ideas are simply trying to replace the usurious fees they once gained from state monopoly telecom companies. “What they neglect to observe is that in the Internet model, everybody pays to get on the Internet—[people at the] source and destination. The system is symmetric,” he says. “The whole system has evolved to be practical, and it works very well.”
  • As proposed by the European telecom companies, a company such as Netflix would pay telecom providers to make sure its bits got delivered fast enough.
  • Some of the proposals from Russia and China would allow greater national control. And a group of 17 Arab countries want the Internet to carry “identity information” about the senders of data.