Show of 5-11-2013

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Lynn in Ohio: Dear Doc and Jim. I have a problem with my iPhone. My family keeps sending my text messages with images. Sometimes they send as many as 20 a day. This has been going on for about a month. Now my phone is running very slow.† Texting is slow.† What could be wrong? Love the show. Thanks, Lynn in Ohio.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Lynn you may be running out memory in your iPhone. Got to Setting/General/Usage. Free storage should be on the upper right hand corner of the screen. If you have sufficient memory, it may be that the text messaging memory stack is full. You might want to save text message images (if you want to keep them) to your Camera Roll. Then you can delete the entire text message dialog. I have found that this works if I have too many text messages images in a conversation. You might also tell you family to calm down.
  • Email from Mary: Dear Dr. Shurtz, Sure hope U can help! I got fed up with always being redirected / routed to Canada when I go into my Mozilla browser and enter Amazon and Yahoo, etc. This has been going on for some time and I have no idea what causes this. The tech guys at Apple and Verizon give me conflicting stories. The Verizon guy finally said to either reset the router or they will send a new one. I opted for a new router. I hope this will help. What can be causing this redirection to the Canadian websites for Amazon and Yahoo? By the way, the last computer did the same thing. I just got my new Mac this year. Thanks, Mary, who is here all summer working and not resting on some exotic beach in paradiseÖ. :† )
  • Tech Talk Responds: A number of possibilities come to mind. Letís talk about DNS first. DNS stands for Domain Name Server. It translates a web request to a particular IP address. You want your computer set up to get both the IP address and DNS address automatically from your router. You should not manually assign them on your computer. Your router should be getting the ISPs DNS address through automatically each time it reboots. You should not be required to enter a particular DNS address in your router. I do not think that DNS configuration is the problem.
  • Whenever I travel and go to another country, I am redirected to the local Google or Amazon servers based on the IP address that I am using. This information is sometimes stored in a cookie so that I go back to the same site even I am I am back in the US. So I just clear the browser cookies and this problem goes away. This has not happened quite some time, so I doubt that it is the problem.
  • A more recent issue has been DNS hijacking. You might have a browser hijacking virus. If you allow a Trojan to be installed, the user’s DNS records can be modified, redirecting incoming internet traffic through the attacker’s servers, where it can be hijacked and injected with malicious websites and pornographic advertisements. The Trojan also installs a watchdog process that ensures the victim’s DNS records stay modified on a minute-by-minute basis.
  • I would suggest that you update your virus protecting software and scan again. SecureMac has introduced a free Trojan Detection Tool for Mac OS X. It’s available here: http://macscan.securemac.com/. The DNS Changer Removal Tool detects and removes spyware targeting Mac OS X and allows users to check to see if the Trojan has been installed on their computer; if it has, the software helps to identify and remove the offending file. After a system reboot, the users’ DNS records will be repaired. Make certain to clear the browser cookies and history so that all reference to these bad sites is gone.
  • Remember last week I talked about router vulnerabilities that made networks easily penetrated. Your 10 year old router may have been a victim of this type of attack. Getting a new one or updated the bios is a good idea. The fact that your last computer had the same problem, may be an indicator.
  • Email from Allen in Winchester: Dear Tech Talk, I would like to create a custom ring tone for my iPhone 5 using the voices of my grandchildren. How can I do this without a lot of hassle? Love the show. Allen from Winchester, Virginia.
  • Tech Talk Responds: There are many apps which allow you to create or ‘design’ ringtones (plus other alerts: text message and email tones for example) on your iPhone. However, none have access to the necessary folders on the iPhone so can’t save those tones directly and have them appear in the tones list.
  • Instead, you have to save those .m4r files to your computer and sync with iTunes to get those tones working on your iPhone. Save to your computer and then add the file to your iTunes library. Your iPhone will automatically put a file with this extension into the ringtone subdirectory when you sync. It will then be available to assign to your grandchildís contact info. Go you contacts. Open the contact for one of your grandchildren. When in edit mode, you will have a chance to change the assigned ringtone. Pick the new file from the list.
  • Email from Jim in Bowie: Dear Tech Talk. I have two PCs and a Mac at home. I am thinking on upgrading to a new version of MS Office I notice that MS now has a subscription option. Is it worth it? Love the show. Jim
  • Tech Talk Responds: I your case, it is a pretty good deal. Office 2013 is still available in the way that youíve purchased it in the past. You can spend a few hundred dollars and get a copy of Microsoft Office the way you are used to getting it and it will run on one computer.
  • On the other hand, you pay $100 per year for the Office 2013 Home subscription. Even at one year, itís cheaper than any of the packaged products you could purchase.
  • You get the complete version of MS Office. Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook are included. You can also install it on up to five computers at home! So if you have five computers, itís $20 a year per computer. These computers can be a mix of Macs and PC. Getting Office on your three machines for $100 a year is a good deal.
  • Email from Pretty Woman: Dear Doc, I have heard something about Geotagging in Photos. Some of my friends have told me to turn it off. What is it? Should I turn it off? Thanks, Pretty Woman
  • Tech Talk Responds: If you aren’t familiar with the term, geotagging refers to embedded GPS data on each image, which can then be read by various photo applications and mapping software. When you take a photo using any existing DSLR, a great deal of “metadata” is embedded onto each image; this data enables individuals to see what aperture, shutter speed, white balance setting and focal length (among other things) were used when a particular shot was composed. These pieces of information are remarkably useful when comparing shots after the fact, and geotagging adds one more vital bit of data to the mix: coordinates.
  • The easiest way to make this happen is to buy a camera with a GPS or Hybrid GPS module built-in.† Nearly all smartphones have a geotagging option. It can be easily turned off if you donít want it.
  • Once your camera is equipped to embed geotagging data, all you need is a program that’ll read that data. Apple’s iPhoto is a great example; any image that you load into iPhoto can be sorted by ‘Places.’ If you have an Internet connection, you’ll see pins populate the map in order to represent all of the locales where photos were taken. Google’s Picasa is another solid option, as is the popular Flickr.
  • What are the dangers? Any picture that you post will include the exact location where it was taken. That is dangerous in the case of military members posting pictures to social media. Their location will be compromised. Picture of children will include where they were taken. So if you donít want to share this information, either turn off geotagging or donít post the pictures to the web. I like it because it lets me keep a running log of where I have taken pictures.

Profiles in IT: Ori Allon

  • Ori Allon is a serial Internet entrepreneur, who sold Orion to Google and Julpan to Yahoo. He just launched Urban Compass May 2013.
  • Ori Allon was born in Israel around 1981.
  • In 2002, Allon moved to Melbourne, Australia, and enrolled in Monash University. After completing his BS and MS from Monash.
  • He then enrolled in the PhD program at the University Of New South Wales.
  • Allon created and patented a search algorithm that was used by his peers at UNSW instead of Google. Using the Orion Search Engine, users could pull up search result snippets related to the typed keywords as well as exact matches.
  • Orion was patented through a technology transfer company operated by UNSW.
  • Google heard about the new technology and met with Allon.† One week after Google met Ori Allon in a tiny, server-crammed office in Sydney, he flew to California.
  • Yahoo and Microsoft heard about the Google meeting and asked to meet Allon.
  • Negotiations to buy Orion ended in a bidding war won by Google in April 2006. As part of the deal, Google hired Allon. Allon completed his PhD from UNSW in 2009.
  • Allon, who has triple citizenship in Israel, Australia and the United States, rose through the ranks at Google and managed multiple teams overseas.
  • In 2009, Google announced that it incorporated the Orion Search technology.
  • But he missed coding, so he left Google in 2009 to start a new venture.
  • He set up a company called Julpan in New York and hired five former UNSW students to join him to help develop a system to capture and analyze real-time activity on the social web. Microsoft was among his backers.
  • In 2012, he sold Julpan to Twitter for a sum believed to be in excess of $40 million and then joined as director of engineering. He left Twitter the same year.
  • While Allon was financially successful from his two exits, he didn’t feel fulfilled as an entrepreneur. Twice, Allon built companies that didn’t generate revenue and sold them. So his latest venture, Urban Compass, is a much different challenge.
  • This time, Allon wants to make money right away and build a long-standing company. He’s trying to solve a big headache for New Yorkers: housing.
  • With $8 million in seed capital, Urban Compass is designed to disrupt the business of renting, buying and selling residential property. He is testing the concept in NYC.
  • Urban Compass’s co-founders and senior management team includes several Goldman Sachs alumni as well as engineers from Google and Twitter.
  • Allon’s investors are strategic NYC real-estate moguls. From his investors’ and personal connections, Allon expects he can get 20-30% of NYC real-estate market.
  • Ultimately, Allon wants to build a social local platform, like Foursquare or Nextdoor.
  • But instead of ramping up users, Allon wants to ramp up revenue first.

Thieves Stole $45 Million From ATMs

  • Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn revealed that an international team of thieves had stolen close to $45 million in the biggest ATM fraud case in history.
  • It was possible because the US is behind the times in terms of transactional security, relying on a 50-year-old technology.
  • Hackers first broke into the system of a company in India that handles pre-paid debit cards, kind of like gift cards. They raised or eliminated the withdrawal limit on those cards–usually just a few hundred dollars–and jotted down the identifying data for these new, illicit cards-to-be.
  • The thieves evidently had a magnetic card reader/writer, the same kind hotels use to imprint code on magnetic room keys.
  • Using any card with a magnetic strip–old credit cards, hotel keys–they imprinted this new data. Now that old credit card is activated, carrying an invented code that will tell an ATM that it can withdraw a basically unlimited amount of money.
  • The thieves shipped these new cards out all over the world. Dozens, probably hundreds, of associates, on cue, hit ATMs. All over Manhattan, and in two dozen other countries, old cards masquerading as high-level gift cards withdrew money.
  • The cash was used to buy expensive items–Rolexes, cars–for laundering purposes.
  • Those original hackers could see exactly how much each of their invented codes was withdrawing. None of the associates could skim.
  • The magnetic stripe card was invented by IBM in 1960, and went into mass production in 1970.
  • Pretty much every other developed country got rid of magnetic stripe cards years ago, and many countries are multiple generations beyond that tech.
  • In the UK and much of Europe, the “chip and PIN” card is dominant; it’s a regular plastic card, but it’s embedded with a tiny computer chip that serves as authentication in conjunction with a regular four-digit PIN. France introduced this technology 20 years ago.
  • The benefits: authentication is far more sophisticated than reading a simple magnetized strip; it incorporates actual encryption protocols like DES, the Data Encryption Standard.
  • Japan’s current standard is FeliCa, made by Sony–it’s an RFID chip, so it’s contactless, and benefits from some even more advanced security.
  • Maybe now the US banks will have an incentive to upgrade their technology.

Bitcoin Creator May be Hoarding $100M

  • Bitcoin, the four-year-old virtual currency that approximates cash on the internet, now powers an economy worth more than $1 billion.
  • It got its own ticker on CNBC and inspired a legion of startups. And yet, we still donít know where it came from.
  • Bitcoin was first introduced to the world by the pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto, a persona that communicated by email and in the official Bitcoin forum before abruptly disappearing. No one has ever met him, or at least no one who will admit to it. No one knows if Nakamoto is male or female.
  • Both The New Yorker and Fast Company tried and failed to unmask Nakamoto. But two weeks ago, programmer Sergio Demian Lerner discovered something new about Nakamoto.
  • Bitcoin is designed to mimic gold in some ways. Anyone can “mine” for new Bitcoins by running the Bitcoin client. The process is designed to get more difficult as more people start mining. At first, the client could create 50 Bitcoins in an hour running on an average laptop. It now takes a day to generate three Bitcoins using a powerful machine that does nothing else.
  • If Lernerís analysis is correct, Nakamoto is likely hoarding an fortune of almost a million Bitcoins, worth more than $100 million at todayís market price.
  • The Bitcoin protocol creates a public ledger as Bitcoins are generated and exchanged, which produces a receipt for every transaction and prevents coins from being spent twice.
  • By examining this ledger, Lerner deduced that Nakamoto has only spent around .0005 percent of his fortune, or about 500 Bitcoins, over the last four years.
  • There is some disagreement over whether Lernerís numbers are correct, but the experts said the basic gist was accurate: there is an entity that has amassed a large fortune in Bitcoin, and that entity is probably Nakamoto.
  • Bitcoin was introduced to the world in 2008 in an academic paper that was emailed to the Cryptography and Cryptography Policy Mailing List.
  • Nakamoto started emailing with individual programmers who took an interest, and then began posting on the Bitcoin forum.
  • In April of 2011, Nakamoto emailed Andresen to say that the Bitcoin Project developers “should try to de-emphasize the whole Ďmysterious founderí thing.
  • No one has heard from him since. That doesnít change the fact that people still want to know.
  • The amazing thing is that the world has now adopted Bitcoin. It is a viable currency.

Boston drops Microsoft for Gmail

  • Boston has dropped its longstanding e-mail system, Microsoft Exchange, for Google Apps, following the lead of a growing number of big cities, federal agencies, and large companies that have made the switch.
  • Mayor Menino has certainly made technology a major focus of his administration.
  • He renamed a section of South Boston the Innovation District, adopted a number of computer tools and mobile apps to improve public services, and his police officers are even tweeting crime updates.
  • The city estimated it costs about $100 a year per employee to use its current roster of ≠Microsoft products.
  • It will cost Boston around $800,000 to move over to Gmail, Google Docs for word processing, and Googleís cloud service for storing documents. But by dropping some Microsoft products, the city government will save at least $280,000 a year.
  • Microsoft has questioned whether Google is a safe enough service for storing sensitive government documents.
  • Boston officials said they vetted Google and are satisfied with the security protections that come with Google Apps for e-mail and document storage.
  • Boston is not alone in making the change. The US Department of the Interior, the state of Colorado, and Princeton University have, too.
  • The Gmail that businesses and government use doesnít look much different from what consumers use free of charge. Some key differences include much larger storage for e-mail, and business and government customers wonít see ads based on key words within e-mails. The cost for businesses and governments is roughly $50 per user per year. Google doesnít charge public schools for use of its apps.
  • The city estimated it costs about $100 a year per employee to use its current roster of ≠Microsoft products.