Show of 4-20-2013

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Jim: Doc, In light of the events in Boston this past week, I have a few questions as to how technology social media play a role in police work. There are cameras EVERYWHERE these days. What’s involved in wiring a metropolitan area with a camera surveillance network and how costly is it? How can images of potential suspects captured by these cameras be used by federal, state and local authorities to find these people?
  • How can authorities track cell phone calls to 911 centers if the number placing the call isn’t captured? How do you feel about the role that social media played as the gun battle and eventual killing and capture of the two Boston Marathon Bombers played out? What do you think of the ready availability of the recordings of 911 calls and fireground/crime scene radio traffic to the media for broadcast?† Thanks! Signed -Ever curious on the other side of the control board.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Some of the best images came from surveillance cameras operated by stores in the area. These had been set up as part of the stores normal security infrastructure and stored the images to a hard drive for later retrieval. Many of these were high resolution images. The cities surveillance cams were lower resolution and did not have complete coverage of the area. These images were supplemented with photos sent in the public both video and digital pictures. †They could have sped up the process, if they had set up a portal for the uploading of digital media. They may also have been able to use crowd sourced analysis of all of the digital to identify possible suspects.
  • It is fairly easy to set up a surveillance cam that record to a hard drive. Many systems are available for a few hundred dollars that include all of the required software. All that is needed is a computer attached to the network. Storage can either be remote or local depending on the configuration.
  • I didnít hear whether any face recognition software was being used in the search. I suspect that it was manual. They looked at the bomb drop point, located the suspects and then tried to find the best image of their faces that they could.
  • Real-time tracking this event was possible by using police communication channels, police twitter feeds. Social media had the latest news faster than the traditional news media.
  • Email from Lauren: Dr. Shurtz, I have used WORD 2007 for many years and believe I am an above average user. I am a tech writer. Today I did several screenshots and pasted them into a document. I’ve done this a lot, but, for some reason, word has inserted a BLANK PAGE after my page of three screenshots and I can’t remove the blank page! I’ve tried all the typical methods and spent an hour today trying to remove this page! If you have ideas, I’d be most grateful for your help. Best,† Lauren, Loyal MD listener
  • Tech Talk Responds: Without more specifics, I will have to make a couple of guesses. You have this same problem, when you create a table that ends at the bottom margin, Word automatically inserts a new blank page. If you turn on the Show/Hide button, it reveals a paragraph mark after the table. If you donít need the extra page, your first instinct may be to delete the paragraph mark, but Word prevents you from doing so because the mark is part of the documentís table format. Your next step may be to reformat the page so the paragraph mark fits on the page, but there is a third solution. Follow these steps to eliminate the extra page. First, select the paragraph mark on the second page. Second, click in the Font size box in the Formatting toolbar. Third, replace the font size with 1. This will eliminate the extra page. You might have a screen shot, that ends at the end of the page, forcing a new page in the same way.
  • As second option, is that the extra page is actually part of the graphic created by the screen shot capture software. If this is the case, Word cannot eliminate the extra page. You have to do that in the screen shot capture program.
  • Email from Ralph: Dear Doc and Jim, What do you think of the CloudOn’s Office app? I listen to the podcast every week. Love the show. Ralph in Reston
  • Tech Talk Responds: CloudOn is available for both the iPad and Android tablets. It provides a fully-functioning version of Microsoft Office and saves your documents to Google Drive, Dropbox, and Box. You can create, edit, and share Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files wherever you may be.
  • It uses virtualization technology. You essentially remote into CloudOn’s servers that are running Microsoft Office for direct access to Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. All of the features available in a desktop version of Microsoft Office are also available to you here, including creating charts, tracking changes, and inserting comments. You can display PowerPoint slides in full presentation mode, making this an especially useful app for salespeople.
  • CloudOn also gives you Adobe Reader support for PDF files, as well as a file viewer for other file types. With the Google Drive, Dropbox, and Box integration, your Office files don’t take up space on your tablet and are accessible from any device. And the app is free. It’s a great alternative to having to set up Microsoft Office on a computer that you have to remote desktop into.
  • Currently, CloudOn is completely free.† In the future, the service may have a tiered pricing structure where parts of the application are free while other aspects of the application may have a charge. This program is a great option, especially while it is free.
  • Email from Ngoc in Ohio: Dear Tech Talk. What’s your opinion about backing up to the Cloud such as with Carbonite? Wouldn’t that be the simpler than backing up to an external hard drive? Also since I have backup discs of my operating system and factory settings, is it necessary to also backup my OS? Love the show. Ngoc in Ohio.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Cloud-based backup is fine, but be certain that you understand what is being backed up. Cloud-based backup will back up your data files only. In fact it will back up only the data files that it finds in or under “My Documents.” For most, that is adequate. †It’s not backing up your entire computer.
  • It’s going to use your internet connection. It will depend on how much data it has to upload. Depending on how much data it needs to upload to perform a backup, that first backup can take a really long time.
  • To backup you entire computer, use disk image software. A typical program cost around $50 to $60. Four of the top ones are: Acronis True Image, Paragon Backup & Recovery, Norton Ghost, Macrium Reflect. If you have an image, it is quite easy to recovery from a hard drive failure. A reasonable compromise would be to do an image backup to an external drive once a month and do your Carbonite daily.
  • Email from Hac in Bowie: Dear Tech Talk, I get lots of text messages from my family in Ohio. Some of these text messages are private and I donít want them to show up on the screen of my cell phone, especially when I am at work. Right now, everything show up, even when my iPhone is locked. What can I do? I am afraid to put my cell phone down on my desk. Love the show. Thanks, Hac in Bowie.
  • Tech Talk Responds: This is a common problem. You might ask you family to tone down the text messages. Or you could change the Notification Setting in your iPhone. Go to Settings. Click on Notifications. Turn off Show Preview. Now you will be notified of a message, but the first line will not be displayed. If you donít even want the notification to show, select None under Alert Style. You can also turn of View in Lock Screen. These setting are available for all programs. In particular, I have turned off all notification for Facebook, Skype, Viber. I have left the Badges turned on, so I can see an indicator of the number of unread messages.
  • Email from Phillip in Manassas: Dear Tech Talk. I just found out that my computer has a virus. I work in the public school system and am constantly using flash drives that contain student work. Could a flash drive have created this virus? Thanks, Phillip in Manassas.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Flash drives can transfer viruses. Viruses can be written such that they will use flash drives to transfer themselves to other computers. It’s actually a very common mechanism for some forms of malware to infect other machines. It’s important to realize that and to understand that when you transfer a flash drive from one machine to another, you may very well be carrying malware with you.
  • First, check out your anti-malware software. Make sure that any machine that you plug your flash drive into has: Up-to-date anti-malware software and access to the software’s latest database of known threats.
  • Second, turn off Autoplay or Autorun. Autoplay or autorun is that thing that automatically detects that you’ve inserted a flash drive or a CD or a DVD and automatically runs a program to do something with the device you’ve just installed. Malware writers have been able to take advantage of that. They set the flash drives up so that when they are inserted, auto run kicks in and automatically runs the malicious software that’s on the flash drive. And that malicious software then obviously infects the machine.
  • Without autoplay, you will have to manually start playing your CDs or manually start playing your DVDs. But you don’t have to worry about flash drives automatically infecting you.

Profiles in IT: Claude Elwood Shannon

  • Claude Elwood Shannon was a mathematician, electronic engineer, and cryptographer known as the Father of Information Theory.
  • Claude Elwood Shannon was born April 30, 1916 in Petoskey, Michigan.
  • The first 16 years of Shannon’s life were spent in Gaylord, Michigan, where he attended public school, graduating from Gaylord High School in 1932.
  • He constructed model airplanes, a radio-controlled model boat, and a wireless telegraph.
  • His childhood hero was Thomas Edison, whom he later learned was a distant cousin.
  • In 1932, he entered the University of Michigan, where he learned about George Boole.
  • He graduated in 1936 with two bachelor’s degrees, one in EE and one in mathematics.
  • He began his graduate studies in EE at MIT, where he worked on an early analog computer.
  • In his Masterís thesis, Shannon proved that Boolean algebra and binary arithmetic could be used to simplify the arrangement of the relays used for telephone call routing switches.
  • He went on to prove that it would be possible to use arrangements of relays to solve problems in Boolean algebra, a concept which underlies all electronic digital computers.
  • Shannon’s work became the foundation of practical digital circuit design when it became widely known in the electrical engineering community during and after World War II.
  • He received his PhD from MIT in 1940, after applying these concepts to theoretical genetics.
  • In 1940, Shannon became a Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.
  • Shannon joined Bell Labs to work on fire-control systems and cryptography during WWII.
  • In September 1945, he prepared a classified memorandum for Bell Labs entitled “A Mathematical Theory of Cryptography,”
  • In 1948, he published two Ėpart paper, ďA Mathematical Theory of Communication”, which formed the foundation of information theory.
  • This work focuses on the problem of how best to encode the information a sender wants to transmit. Shannon developed information entropy as a measure for the uncertainty in a message while essentially inventing the field of information theory.
  • In 1949, he published “Communication Theory of Secrecy Systems”, a declassified version of his wartime work on the mathematical theory of cryptography.
  • He is also credited with the introduction of sampling theory, which is concerned with representing a continuous-time signal from a (uniform) discrete set of samples.
  • This enabled telecommunications to move from analog to digital transmissions in the 1960s.
  • He returned to MIT to hold an endowed chair in 1956.
  • After the breakup of the Bell system, the part of Bell Labs that remained with AT&T Corporation was named Shannon Labs in his honor.
  • Outside of his academic pursuits, Shannon was interested in juggling, unicycling, and chess.
  • He is also considered the co-inventor of the first wearable computer along with Edward O. Thorp. The device was used to improve the odds when playing roulette.
  • Shannon used to go on weekends to Las Vegas with M.I.T. mathematician Ed Thorp, and made very successful forays in blackjack using game theory type methods.
  • Shannon and Thorp also applied the same theory, later known as the Kelly criterion, to the stock market with even better results. These techniques were used by Warren Buffet.

Tech That Helped Catch The Second Marathon Bomber

  • The second suspect in the brutal Boston Marathon bombings has been apprehended. While the police did a fantastic job, they were assisted by some pretty good technology.
  • A Smartphone
    • Immediately after the Boston Marathon bomb exploded, David Green pulled out his smartphone and snapped a shot of the aftermath, smoke and all-around chaos. Green’s picture eventually became the clearest image of 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, aka Suspect #2. In the high-resolution image, you can see Tsarnaev calmly walk away from the explosion in his unmistakable white baseball cap. On top of that, the smartphone pic captured Tsarnaev without the backpack he was spotted carrying earlier on surveillance cameras. The backpack that reportedly held the bomb.
  • Surveillance cameras
    • To start the manhunt on the suspected Boston Marathon bombers, the FBI gathered as many photos and videos of the crime scene as they could find to piece together how it happened, and to get a lead on who did it.
    • Department store Lord & Taylor’s dome surveillance camera which was directly across the street from the second explosion caught a great image of the drop. That camera captured Tsarnaev dropping his backpack down at the spot of the second explosion and walking away. Those images allowed the FBI to publish photos of the two bombing suspects, which helped in identifying who they were.
  • Explosive Ordnance Disposal
    • In the immediate aftermath of the explosion, the local bomb squad was joined by a Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit to seek out any other potential explosive packages.
    • The Telerob Explosive Ordinance Disposal features a six-axis manipulator with over nine feet of reach, a pair of cameras, and enough defusing tools to neutralize nearly any threat.
  • Forward-Looking Infrared Cameras
    • After the Watertown curfew was lifted, a still-unidentified resident stepped out of his house to enjoy his newfound freedom. It was then that he saw that his boat was smeared with blood. To confirm that this was in fact where Tsarnaev was hiding, police called in a helicopter equipped with a forward-looking infrared (FLIR) camera. FLIR cameras are equipped with special sensors that can detect infrared radiation.
  • Flashbangs
    • To disorient him before moving in for a possible confrontation or arrest, they deployed flashbangs, grenades designed to stun their intended target with a loud noise and bright light. While they don’t cause serious injury, they do blind their target for up to five seconds, and cause temporary loss of both hearing and balance.

Funding Sites Help Boston Marathon Victims

  • Crowdfunding sites set up by friends and families of the Boston bombing victims are giving the world a way to help.
  • Bucks for Bauman on GoFundMe has raised more than $192,000 in two days for Jeff Bauman, a 27-year-old marathon spectator who lost both legs to the blasts. Bauman also reportedly helped ID the suspects from his hospital bed.
  • Another GoFundMe site, the Celeste & Sydney Recovery Fund, has raised more than $396,000 of its $500,000 goal to aid Celeste Corcoran and teenage daughter Sydney. Celeste lost both legs in the bombing and Sydney suffered severe shrapnel injuries to one of her legs.
  • After newlyweds Patrick Downes and Jessica Kensky each lost a left leg below the knee in the blasts, friends of the couple started a crowdfunding campaign through Give Forward to raise money for surgeries and rehabilitation costs.It has raised more than $438,000 toward a $500,000 goal. Much of that outpouring of support can be attributed to total strangers who were touched by the newlyweds’ story and looking to help.
  • Crowdfunding has become a go-to means of helping out in a crisis, as in the case of Hurricane Sandy recovery, as well as contributing to smaller causes, like building a Tesla museum.
  • They’re offering real-world help, too, such as the fellow amputee who offered via Bucks for Bauman to provide Bauman with free medical supplies.
  • Another Give Forward campaign for longtime Massachusetts residents Ann and Eric Whalley has surpassed $83,000 on its way to the $100,000 goal. Both 65-year-olds were injured while cheering on the runners, though Eric is faced with brain trauma as well as external injuries.
  • Malware has reportedly been spotted using this week’s events as bait, and thedomains.com reports that more than 100 new (and potentially sketchy) domains related to the attacks have suddenly sprung up. Although we’ve yet to hear of any major scams related to collection efforts for the victims, crowdfunding experts recommend doing some basic research and even reaching out directly to campaign organizers before donating.

Google Person Finder Used in Boston

  • Google Person Finder, a tool the company built following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, was activated for use following the deadly Boston Marathon explosions.
  • The tool was used to search for someone or share information about someone’s whereabouts.
  • The tool includes a disclaimer stating that Google doesn’t review or verify any information, and all submitted details are public to all users.
  • Google Person Finder is a project of Google Crisis Response, part of† Googleís non-profit arm, Google.org.
  • For Marathoners stranded in Boston due to flight cancellations or other complications, Boston.com set up a Google Doc where people can express need or offer their homes to guests.

Website of the Week: Digital Public Library

  • After two and a half years of development, the Digital Public Library of America finally flipped the switch on and opened its website at DP.LA.
  • Collecting items from institutions across the country, the library has already collected more than two million items in its searchable database. And that’s just the beginning.
  • In addition to regular searches of the kinds you’re probably used to, you can view DPLA results as a timeline or a map. The DPLA also has an API so developers can build their own tools for browsing the huge collection.
  • The DPLA is still very much a beta, and as it adds more partner institutions and builds out its technology the potential for the utopian project is huge.
  • Information portals like the DP.LA will be an essential public service as people increasingly consume images and text digitally and online.
  • Web address: http://dp.la

Wi-Fi Routers Easy to Hack

  • The most popular home wireless routers are easily hacked and there’s little you can do to stop it, says a new study by research firm Independent Security Evaluators.
  • The report, written by research firm Independent Security Evaluators of Baltimore, found that 13 of the most popular off-the-shelf wireless routers could be exploited by a “moderately skilled hacker with LAN or WLAN access.”
  • All 13 routers evaluated can be taken over from the local network, with four of those requiring no active management session.
  • Eleven of the 13 can be taken over from a Wide-Area Network (WAN) such as a wireless network, with two of those requiring no active management session.
  • The report notes that all 14 of the devices had critical security vulnerabilities that could be exploited by a “remote adversary” and could lead to unauthorized remote control of the router.
  • In 2011, one firmware vulnerability affecting six hardware manufacturers combined with two malicious scripts and 40 malicious DNS servers to attack 4.5 million Brazilian DSL modems, with the goal of stealing bank and credit card information.
  • “We notified all vendors about all vulnerabilities that we found,” said ISE security analyst Jake Holcomb. “We’re in the process of receiving Common Vulnerability and Exposure (CVE) numbers” for tracking information security vulnerabilities.
  • Some vendors, Holcomb said, got back to ISE quickly and had beta firmware with fixes ready to test within 72 hours. “Other vendors escalated their Tier 1 support up the chain but we never heard back from them,” he said.
  • What you can do? I would check for the availability of a firmware upgrade.† You can log onto the web portal of your router and find the link to a firmware upgrade. It is fairly easy to complete. Make certain that you donít lose power during the firmware update. It will trash you router.
  • A few other simply things to check. Make sure that you change the router’s default password credentials. We also recommend that people use WPA2″ security protocol, over WEP. It is more difficult to hack. Finally clear you browser cache and cookies after changing any router settings.

Geocaching Uses GPS to Locate Hidden Treasure

  • Geocaching is a large-scale, modern-day form of treasure hunting, offering adventures as grand or small as you want them to be.
  • Geocaching is an outdoor activity in which people use GPS devices to locate ďcaches,Ē anywhere in the world. And you never run out of caches to find.
  • The game has existed for as long as GPS devices have been on the market. Now that most smartphones have GPS capabilities, geocaching is no longer the domain of a select few tech geeks.
  • Treasure is a relative term. It might be a keychain, a coin, a matchbox car or a shiny stone ósomething just fun to find.
  • Someone hides a box with a memento in it, along with a list for visitors to sign. The coordinates of the hiding place and a clue or two are logged in an online database.
  • Each person who finds the hidden cache signs the log and is welcome to take the treasure, as long as he replaces it with another comparable item.
  • The beauty of geocaching is that you donít actually need any equipment to go huntingóthough a smartphone definitely ensures a quicker find for young bounty hunters with short attention spans. And anywhere you care to wander, you can choose a cache as a destination.
  • There are tiny treasures hidden all around us: on lampposts, in trees, under rocks. Anywhere you park your car, you can likely track one down.
  • Keep a trinket in your pocket and you can always leave a surprise for the next geocacher.
  • One primary online database, geocaching.com, covers hidden items all over the world.
  • If you do use a smartphone, or a standalone GPS device, a variety of apps can help you connect with the database from the road.
  • †The app offered directly on the geocaching website is one of the more expensive ones at $9.95. It works well, but you can play for less.
  • Two free apps for Android are offered by c:geo and geobeagle.
  • iPhone users who donít want to pay for an app can try the free Seek Cach app from iTunes.
  • If geocaching turns into an obsession (which happens easily!), there are many other apps available on both platforms, ranging in price from $1 to $15. †The best ones all access the main database.