Show of 1-26-2013

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Jake: Dear Tech Talk. When I visit a web site, are they able to identify my IP address? If so, how can I block them from being able to identify me? Thanks, Jake.
  • Tech Talk Responds:  They can’t identify you personally unless you provide them with additional information. However, they can identify your IP address. It depends on what you mean by the phrase “identify me.”
  • An IP address, short for Internet Protocol Address, is a number used to identify a device connected to a TCP/IP. In IPv4, this is a 32-bit number. In IPv6, it is a 128-bit number. If you’re connected through a router, that’s the IP address that’s been assigned to your router.
  • If you’re connecting through a corporate network, a proxy, or some other more complex private networking scheme, then that’s the IP address assigned to the equipment that connects that network or proxy to the internet.
  • With some investigation, your ISP could identify that IP address that was assigned to you at a particular time. This has been used to locate illegal downloaders.
  • The site may also a cookie to identify you when you return or navigate the site. A cookie could be used to track you surfing habits for advertising networks. I just clear my cookies cache to eliminate this problem.
  • If you are really concerned, you can use a proxy server, to hide you actual IP address. This is used frequently in countries with restrictive Internet policies.
  • Email from Ngoc in Ohio: Dear Doc, I’m running a Motorola router, 60 Mb Internet with Time Warner. I have streaming from Netflix. I’ve got a wireless laptop, a Dell tower, a wireless printer and Internet phone. Do I have too much bandwidth for these devices? Could I lower the speed of my internet service say from 60 to 30 Mb to save money? Thanks, Ngoc
  • Tech Talk Responds: You have got a lot of bandwidth. That is a big pipe. I have FIOS and only had 10Mb download and 3Mb upload this morning. This is adequate for me, but I don’t do streaming. BTW, I check my connection speed by using the speed tests on Broad Band Reports (http://www.broadbandreports.com/).
  • I would be thrilled to have your bandwidth, but 60 could be overkill. Most streaming, from sources like Netflix, are going to work just fine with even significantly less bandwidth than that. You could get by n 10 Mb, unless you want HD video.
  • HD video streaming could require up to 30 Mb. Much more than that would be wasted. So I would reduce you bandwidth from 60 to 30 and you should see not effect on our applications.
  • Email from Mary Lou in Alexandria: Dear Talk, I’m trying to put together a collection of my MS Word documents into a single file. The only thing I can think of would be to put the first document on a disc and then copy and paste each story on to that document. Is there an easier way? Thanks, Mary Lou
  • Tech Talk Responds: There is not easy way. It requires that you cut and paste each article into a single document. Open up the first document in Word. Go to the bottom of that document. Open up the second document in Word. Select all with Ctrl-A.
  • Copy it with Ctrl-C. Go back to the bottom of the first document and paste in the contents of the second with Ctrl-V. Repeat that process for each of the documents.
  • Once you finish pasting the documents into Word, then you would do a File > Save As to save it to a new file name. Then you are done.
  • Email from Alex: Dear Doc and Jim, Can I move my hard drive from computer using an Intel CPU to one using an AMD CPU? They have the same hard drive connections. I am upgrading my hardware at home. Thanks, Alex.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Yes, you can. There is no issue from an hardware perspective. The CPU and hard drive communication through a communications standard that is the same on both machines.
  • However, your operating system may not boot properly because it does not have all of the drivers for the underlying motherboard. AMD and Intel motherboards differ.
  • Windows may discover the new hardware and automatically install the required drivers. This does happen occasionally.
  • In all likelihood, you will probably need to install that hard drive on that other machine with a different processor, and then install Windows from scratch. Install your applications from scratch and restore your data to that hard drive.
  • Email from a Loyal Listener in Bethesda: Dear Doc, I have lost the driver for my camera. When I connect the camera to the PC, there’s no further window that should normally pop up. I get a yellow triangle in the device manager and the icon suggesting troubleshooting. When I try to do the same, I’m told the driver is missing. Can you help? Thanks, Loyal Listener.
  • Tech Talk Responds: You need to download the driver from the manufacture’s website. In your case, go to the Canon. Go to their support site and locate the drivers for your specific camera model that will install on your specific version of Windows.
  • If you have a piece of hardware (like a camera, or a video camera, or a scanner, or a printer) that you’re connecting to your computer – and the computer complains about the driver being out of date (or not available, or whatnot) then step number one is to go to the web site of that hardware manufacturer and see if they can provide you with the driver you need.
  • Email from Jim in Bowie: Dear Doc, I was wondering if others can see what I’m downloading, say in a coffee shop or some other public place, like the administrator there? Can the ISP tell? Or can they just tell that something is being downloaded. Thanks, Jim.
  • Your ISP can see everything you do. If you’re not taking additional steps to encrypt, or hide what you are doing! Your ISP can see that you are downloading: say, a specific file from a specific location.
  • The administrator of an open Wi-Fi hotspot, that person can in fact monitor all unencrypted traffic. But they probably don’t.  A Starbucks manager has too many other things to worry about.
  • The only way to truly protect yourself from that level of intrusion is to use something like a VPN, a “Virtual Private Network” from a VPN service. It provides an encrypted pipe to the VPN provider. The only IP address available to the download site is the VPN providers IP address.
  • When you’re using a VPN, they may not see what it is you’re downloading – but they can still see that you’re downloading a lot. They can probably figure out which computer connected to their hotspot is the guilty party. So it is still possible for them to identify you as being a bandwidth hog.
  • The real worry now this that ISPs are enforcing illegal download rules. This could mean that you local coffee house could lose it Internet connection, if too many patrons are downloading illegal content. Many fear that this is end the free Wi-Fi hotspot.
  • Your real worry is someone at the hotspot sniffing your connection for user names and password.  Always use https for email logins. In in my case, I never do banking at a public hotspot.
  • Email from Bridget: Dear Tech Talk. I have heard that Java is no longer secure. Should I disable it? What do you recommend? Thanks, Bridget
  • Tech Talk Responds: This is a great question and very timely. Less than one week after Oracle released Java 7 update 11 to patch or mitigate two zero-day vulnerabilities in Java that were being actively exploited by attackers, veteran Java bug hunter Adam Gowdiak of Security Explorations in Poland discovered two new vulnerabilities in Java standard edition.
  • As a result, any attacker who used the vulnerabilities would be able to craft malware that tapped the Java runtime environment, thus fully compromising a vulnerable system.
  • Gowdiak numbered the security vulnerabilities 51 and 52, because that’s the number of Java 7 bugs Security Explorations has reported to Oracle since April 2, 2012.
  • News of two new vulnerabilities being discovered comes on the heels of news that another Java vulnerability, unpatched by Oracle, was being offered for sale on an exclusive cybercrime forum. Reported asking price is $5KUS.
  • If you have Java, make certain to get the last update Java 7, Update 11. Then remove the Java plug-in for all of your browsers, except one. Use that one browser to go to trusted sites that require Java for functionality. 

Profiles in IT: Paul Baran

  • Baran (1926–2011) was a Polish American engineer who was a pioneer in the development of computer networks, including packet switching techniques.
  • Paul Baran was born in Grodno, Poland on April 29, 1926.
  • His family moved to the United States on May 11, 1928,  settling in Boston and later in Philadelphia, where his father, Morris “Moshe” Baran, opened a grocery store.
  • He graduated from Drexel University in 1949 with a degree in electrical engineering.
  • He then joined the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Company, where he did technical work on UNIVAC models, the first brand of commercial computers in the USA.
  • In 1955 he moved to Los Angeles, and worked for Hughes Aircraft on radar systems.
  • He obtained his Master’s degree in engineering from UCLA in 1959 and was hired by the RAND Corporation.
  • Baran took on the task of designing a “survivable” communications system.
  • Baran decided to automate previous work with emergency communication over AM radio networks with survivable distributed relay node architecture.
  • Baran and his team developed a simulation suite to test basic connectivity of an array of nodes with varying degrees of linking.
  • The simulation showed that networks had a significant increase in resilience against even as much as 50% node loss.  His work was published a RAND report in 1960.
  • Baran and his team needed to show proof of concept. They designed first store and-forward data layer switching protocols, a link-state/distance vector routing protocol, and an unproved connection-oriented transport protocol. All were published in 1964.
  • Unlike the telephone company’s equipment, his design didn’t require expensive “gold plated” components to be reliable. AT&T engineers scoffed at the idea.
  • Leonard Kleinrock developed a theoretical basis for the operation of packet networks in his Ph.D. thesis in 1961.
  • Baran used the term “message blocks” for his design. Donald Davies at the National Physical Laboratory in the UK coined the term “packet switching” in 1965.
  • In 1969, when ARPA started developing the an inter-networked set of terminals to share data, they used Baran’s work on distributed communications.
  • He went on to found a number of other companies in the 1980’s and early 1990’s that applied packet switching technology to voice, TV, and mesh networks.
  • In addition to his innovation in networking products, he is also credited with inventing the first metal detector, a doorway gun detector.
  • Baran died in Palo Alto, California at the age of 84 on March 26, 2011, due to complications from lung cancer.
  • At his funeral many of his colleagues noted that Baran believed that innovation was a “team process” and he didn’t seek credit for himself.

Stratford News

  • Stratford University purchases the Park Hotel in Virginia, Ireland as a study abroad site. The hotel resides on 100 acres in Cavan County, Ireland. The main lodge was built in 1750 with a recent addition built in 1860. It has several outbuildings that will be used for student housing. Hotel website: http://www.parkhotelvirginia.com
  • Stratford University has second graduation ceremony in New Delhi, India. Nearly 200 students graduated at this event, which was attended by students, families, and government officials.
  • Stratford University and its joint venture partner in India, the K.K. Modi group, break ground on a new location in Chhattisgarh, India. The site will house campuses for both Stratford University and Modi International University. It will be structured to award dual-degrees and should open late 2013.

Good News for Those Seeking H1-B Visas

  • A bipartisan group of Senators is planning to introduce a bill that not only hikes the H-1B cap, but allows it to rise automatically with demand to a maximum of 300,000 visas annually.
  • This 20-page bill, called the Immigration Innovation Act of 2013 or the “I-Squared Act of 2013,” is being developed by Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Chris Coons (D-Del.).
  • Presently, the U.S. has an H-1B visa cap of 65,000. There are another 20,000 H-1B visas set aside for advanced degree gradates of U.S. universities, for 85,000 in total.
  • Under the new bill, the base H-1B cap would increase from 65,000 to 115,000. But the cap would be allowed to rise automatically with demand, according to a draft of the legislation.
  • The bill has not been introduced, but that may happen next week. The Hill last night was the first to report on the move.
  • Once the H-1B visa cap reaches 115,000, the automatic increases takes over. The cap may increase by 20,000 visas if the cap is reached within 45 days of the start of the annual application period, April 1. That increase will also carry over to the following fiscal year.
  • If the cap isn’t exhausted for 60 days, it would rise by 15,000 visas. If it takes most of the year to reach the cap, it will go up 5,000.  The upper most cap limit that the cap can creep up to is 300,000.
  • This bill, which also eliminates per-country caps, exempts from the H-1B cap advanced degree science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) graduates of U.S. universities.
  • This escalation formula also allows for shrinking the cap if visa demand falls, though it won’t fall below the 115,000 threshold.
  • Tech immigration legislation has been stymied for many reasons, mostly due to lawmakers who favor comprehensive immigration reform over a series of bills that take up the major issues piecemeal.
  • The H-1B cap increase provisions will be very controversial for many reasons. The visa is seen as a tool by offshore companies to replace U.S. workers. Some critics see it as instrumental in age discrimination with an impact on wages. On the other side are U.S. tech companies, such as Microsoft and Google, which argue that H-1B visa is essential to hiring workers.

Stupid Law of the Week: Unlocking Cellphones is Illegal

  • In October 2012, the Librarian of Congress, who determines exemptions to a strict anti-hacking law called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), decided that unlocking mobile phones would no longer be allowed.
  • But the librarian provided a 90-day window during which people could still buy a phone and unlock it. That window closes on today, January 26, 2013
  • Unlocking a phone frees it from restrictions that keep the device from working on more than one carrier’s network, allowing it run on other networks that use the same wireless standard.
  • This can be useful to international travelers who need their phones to work on different networks. Other people just like the freedom of being able to switch carriers as they please.
  • The new rule against unlocking phones won’t be a problem for everybody, though. For example, Verizon’s iPhone 5 comes out of the box already unlocked, and AT&T will unlock a phone once it is out of contract.
  • You can also pay full-price for a phone, not the discounted price that comes with a two-year service contract, to receive the device unlocked from the get-go. Apple sells an unlocked iPhone 5 starting at $649, and Google sells its Nexus 4 unlocked for $300.
  • Advocacy group the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) questions whether the DMCA has the right to determine who can unlock a phone.
  • In an email, EFF attorney Mitch Stoltz said, “Arguably, locking phone users into one carrier is not at all what the DMCA was meant to do. It’s up to the courts to decide.”
  • Note that unlocking is different from “jailbreaking,” which opens the phone up for running additional software and remains legal for smartphones.
  • The change could crimp the style of carriers like T-Mobile. T-Mobile has promoted this notion for iPhones, in particular, since the company is the only one of the big four U.S. carriers that doesn’t sell the iPhone. The carrier goes so far as to feature ads displaying an open padlock, with an iPhone replacing the body of the lock. 

Six Strikes Online Piracy Program

  • A new voluntary system aimed at rooting out online copyright piracy using a controversial “six strikes” system is set to be implemented by US Internet providers soon, with the impact unclear.
  • The program was created with the music and film industry and the largest Internet firms, with some prodding by US government.
  • The system had been set to take effect late last year but was delayed until early 2013 by the Center for Copyright Information, the entity created to manage the program.
  • Even though the program became known as “six strikes,” backers say the name is misleading and that it is not aimed at cutting off Internet access for people downloading pirated films or music.
  • Participating in the program are the five largest broadband Internet providers—Comcast, Time Warner Cable, AT&T, Cablevision and Verizon—covering some 85 percent of US residential customers.
  •  Lesser said the program should be launched “very soon” after some technical issues are worked out, but offered no date.
  • A Verizon document leaked on the TorrentFreak blog suggests that the big Internet provider would deliver warnings for the first two suspected offenses and for the third and fourth incident, redirect customers to a page where they would have to “acknowledge” the warning. For the fifth and six offenses, Verizon would “throttle” the Internet download speeds of customers to just above dial-up speeds. Customers could appeal the actions by paying $35 for a review by an arbitrator.
  • Other leaked documents showed AT&T would block users’ access to some of the most frequently-visited websites and that Time Warner Cable would temporarily interrupt the ability to browse the Internet, according to TorrentFreak.
  • Lesser said the program is not aimed at operators of public Wi-Fi networks such as cafes, though critics disagree.
  • Six strikes has received a mixed response, but even some Internet freedom activists say it is preferable to a government-mandated program like the Stop Online Piracy Act, which failed last year to win congressional approval.

The Tragedy of Aaron Swartz

  • Aaron H. Swartz was an American computer programmer, writer, political organizer and Internet activist.
  • Swartz was involved in the development of the web feed format RSS, the website framework web.py, and the social news site Reddit, in which he was an equal partner after a merger with his Infogami company.
  • Swartz also focused on sociology, civic awareness and activism.
  • In 2010 he became a research fellow at Harvard University’s Safra Center for Ethics.
  • He founded the online group Demand Progress, known for its campaign against the Stop Online Piracy Act, and later worked with the activist groups Rootstrikers and Avaaz.
  • He also was a contributing editor to The Baffler.
  • On January 6, 2011, Swartz was arrested by federal authorities in connection with systematic downloading of academic journal articles from JSTOR.
  • Swartz opposed JSTOR’s practice of compensating publishers, rather than authors, out of the fees it charges for access to articles.
  • Swartz contended that JSTOR’s fees were limiting public access to academic work that was being supported by public funding.
  • On January 11, 2013, Swartz was found dead in his Crown Heights, Brooklyn apartment where he had hanged himself.