Show of 6-22-2013

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Steve: Dear Dr. Shurtz, Your insight into the Wal-Mart’s cell program helped my friend who was in market just for that. You provide such practical advice! Many listeners like me would benefit from your advice on selecting the cable/phone/internet bundle in Montgomery County; FOIS, Comcast, DISH or Direct TV? Important since the rates vary widely.  One of your many loyal listeners. Steve, Potomac, MD
  • Tech Talk Responds: FIOS uses fiber optic, Comcast uses coaxial cable, both Direct TV and DISH use a satellite connection. There are three issues: phone, Internet, and programming. If you want fast Internet, do not use satellite. The fastest connection FIOS for Internet connection. I have FIOS with a voice over IP phone connection (OOMA). The phone connection costs less than $20/year. Content is a different questions.
  • Satellite content tends to be cheaper than either FIOS or Comcast and could be a better buy, if that is all you want. Dish Network will provide the equipment free while DirecTV will charge for the upgrade. Both Dish Network and DirecTV will charge extra for HD programming. They both have free DVR/TiVo. Dish Network has a larger dish size than DirecTV, which makes it more reliable for receiving signals during bad weather. On the down side, bigger takes up more room and it may not look as good. It seems that DirecTV is better for sports, particularly those interested in NFL Sunday Ticket. Otherwise, Dish Network seems to be better value with cheaper packages, better dish reception and more channels to choose from.
  • Email from Mary: Dear Doc Shurtz, Can you recommend a software application (Ideally free version) that is reliable to combine a partitioned disc. I own a Dell Inspiron running XP and I’m running out of space on the C: drive. I have space on D: drive I’d like to move over to C: drive. I tried to use AOMEI software but it did something to my registry and I had a pc meltdown that I never want to have to spend hours recovering from like I did last week! I own a copy of MS Office Home and Student edition 2010. I’m planning on buying a new WIN machine and guess I’ll have WIN 8 OS. Will this version of MS Office work on the new pc? Also, I own a iMAC and there is a video on the web that tells about how to use uTorrent to get a free version of MS Office for an iMAC. Can you speak a little about uTorrent and what it is? If I’ve asked too many questions, please pick the first two to answer. Thanks, Mary.  Hooked on listening to Tech Talk.
  • Tech Talk Responds: First of all, a partition cannot span two disks. You can change partition size, but the entire partition must remain on the same disk. So AOMIE cannot solve your problem. I would leave the operating system on the C: drive and then transfer my documents to the D: drive. I would set up the default directory saving document files to be the D: drive so that whenever a document was saved it would automatically be saved to the D: drive. I would move all pictures, movies, and audio files to the D: drive. These tend to be space hogs.
  • If you want to find would what is using all the space on your hard drive, use TreeSize. The free version gives you a quick, directory-oriented view of your hard drive arranged by the folders that take up the most space. Behind the folder names are progress bars that display their relative size to one another, so you can quickly pinpoint the ones that take up the most space. You can also expand any folder in the directory
  • By the way, AOMEI Partition Assistant Standard Edition is rated with 5 stars by the CNET editors. It is an excellent partition manager, both the free and paid versions.
  • As for uTorrent download of an MS Office copy. They are talking about an illegal copy. I would not recommend it. If you don’t want to spend the money, I would get Open Office for the Mac or purchase another academic version of the software for your Mac. Academic versions are very reasonable priced.
  • Email from Walkiria: Dear Tech Talk, Is there a way that I can listen to my teachers’ Voice Overs on my iPhone and iPad?  Thank you, Walkiria.
  • Tech Talk Responds: I assume that you teacher was using voiceovers for a PowerPoint presentation. Unfortunately, the best option for looking at PowerPoint on the iPhone or iPad is Keynote. This program does not support Voice Overs at the current time. Perhaps they will in the future. If you are really determined, you could save the PowerPoint presentation as an iMovie and the play it in your iPad. This would be a huge file and a lot a work.
  • Email from Heikki: Dear Tech Talk. I have a Cisco 1000 router and it keeps switching on my laptop to guest setting from secure setting. I can access the Internet on both, except my printer is only on the secure setting. Why does it switch? Doesn’t seem to switch on my IPad or Iphone.  Appreciate any thoughts on the matter. Heikki Joonsar
  • Tech Talk Responds: When you configure your Cisco 1000 router, it will automatically set up a virtual guest network, which is not connected to your main network. The guest network will only have access to the Internet and not your printer or any other computers on your network. On your laptop, go to the network settings when it attaches to the Guest network, and forget that network. Then log onto the primary network, and configure your laptop to automatically connect to it. The Cisco 1000 has an idle time setting, which disconnects from the computer if idle. The default idle time is 5 minutes. This is why your laptop is being disconnected and then it just grabs the first network if finds that I been allowed previously.
  • If you wish, Cisco 1000 allows you to turn off the guest option. Log onto the router itself. You can reach it by going to 192.168.1.1. (Default user name is blank; default password is admin.).
  • Email from Jim: Doc: I finally broke down and bought a refurbished iPad mini from Apple. I was a bit surprised to find that it would take about a week for delivery. Once I tracked the package via the FedEx website, I realized why. My iPad began its journey in Shenzhen, China.
  • What’s the deal? Does Apple have a central facility for rehabbing products there?  I’m also in the market for some decent (and inexpensive) general purpose speakers to use with the iPad. I was looking at the Phillips Soundshooter Wireless Bluetooth Speakers or the JBL  Micro-wireless speakers. Do you have any recommendations? Thanks! The guy on the other side of the console
  • Tech Talk Responds: Both the Phillips Soundshooter and the JBL Micro-wireless are good options for a sub-$50 Bluetooth speaker. Neither has good base. They are good enough for the price and size. The Phillips Soundshooter does not have a volume control. You have to use the iPad to control volume. Soundshooter battery life is 5 hours according to manufacturer.  The Soundshooter is shaped like a grenade. The JBL Micro-wireless Speaker has an analog volume control and a rated battery life of 8 hours. The Micro-wireless is shaped like a hockey puck. . Its form factor makes it
  • Email from Geekchick: Dear Dr. Shurtz. A computer buddy of mine was trying to (on a phone call) talk me through the ability to get VMWare to work with my iMAC and Dell– but it failed to ultimately come together and we gave up on this.
  • But, ever since then somewhere along the lines of some steps he was having me take –the Dell is now left with the following: Whenever I reboot the Dell laptop, it starts up on the wrong acct/drive. I’m not sure I am describing this right. What I know is when I click logoff–to get myself to the RIGHT DEFAULT START up screen that I want to be on, i get taken to the screen that shows ,
  • TO BEGIN, Click your user name.  I choose My First Name My Last Name as this is the Main Account where I want the pc to start up and default to.
  • QUESTION: How can I tell the Dell to always start with this My First Name My Last Name Admin account and not with the teal screen that I believe is my D: drive? Also, in the control panel when I review the list of programs and I’m wishing to delete dead wood, I’m seeing this: Three programs for my HP Office Jet Printer. I still use the printer on the Dell.  But there are three HP programs listed and it doesn’t make sense that I have three:
    • hp officejet g series size 55.64MB
    • hp officejet g series 150.00MB
    •  hp office jet g series – 4 100.00MB
  • Can’t I please be deleting two of the above programs and still have the hp printer work? I also wish I understood why i have all of these .NET files ( shown on attached screenshot)  as I don’t use .NET in any conscious way on the Dell. Can I delete any of these .NET files or have they integrated into the working in the registry level of the PC in a way that might effect the working of another program if I was to delete them?  I believe I asked this before to some computer guy friend and I don’t recall what he said but seems he was not recommending I remove them but I need the space on the Dell as I can’t now run a DEFRAG on system tools b/c  I have 13% free disk space and it tells me that is too small to run Defrag now. Thanks! This show is great and I listen weekly and always learn stuff that is good to know!!! Margaret
  • Tech Talk Responds: HP programs listed in the control are not print drivers. The full installation includes HP Photosmart and Officejet Software Suite (enhanced imaging features and product functionality) and Driver. If you only want the print driver (without the Photosmart Software Suite), it is available as a separate download named “HP Deskjet Basic Driver”. These programs can be uninstalled and you will still be able to print.
  • As for the .NET program, you need them for basic windows functionality. Don’t delete them. 
  • If you want to find would what is using all the space on your hard drive, use TreeSize. I would look for the space hogs. It is probably pictures and other documents.
  • You might also go to Disk Cleanup. Go to Accessories on the Start Menu and then select System Tools. Disk Cleanup will remove unnecessary files (like cache, update file copies, etc.). You will have a choice before deleting them. If you want to manage your User Account, go to Control Panel/User Accounts. You may have extra accounts that could be deleted. Be careful not to delete an account that has data in it.

Profiles in IT: Andrew Ng

  • Andrew Ng founded the Google Brain project, develop ROS, an open-source robotics software platform, and co-founded Coursea for online courses.
  • Ng was born in the United Kingdom in 1976 and spent time in Hong Kong and Singapore.
  • He later graduated from Raffles Institution in Singapore.
  • He received a BS in Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon University in 1997.
  • He received his MS from MIT in 1998 and his PhD from University of California, Berkley, in 2002.
  • He started working at Stanford University during that year.
  • His early work includes the Stanford Autonomous Helicopter project and the STAIR (STanford Artificial Intelligence Robot) project, which resulted in ROS, a widely used open-source robotics software platform.
  • In 2007, Ng was awarded a Sloan Fellowship. For his work in Artificial Intelligence, he is also a recipient of the Computers and Thought Award.
  • In 2008, he was named to the MIT Technology Review TR35 as one of innovators in the world under the age of 35.
  • Ng started the Stanford Engineering Everywhere (SEE) program, which in 2008 placed a number of Stanford courses online, for free. Ng taught one of these courses, Machine Learning, which consisted of video lectures by Ng, along with the student materials used in the Stanford CS229 class.
  • The “applied” version of the Stanford class (CS229a) was hosted on ml-class.org and started in October 2011, with over 100,000 students registered for its first iteration; the course featured quizzes and graded programming assignments and became one of the first successful MOOCs made by Stanford professors. His work subsequently led to the founding of Coursera in 2012, which he co-founded with Daphne Koller.
  • In 2011, Ng founded the Google Brain project at Google, which developed very large scale artificial neural networks using Google’s distributed compute infrastructure.
  • Among its notable results was a neural network trained using deep learning algorithms on 16,000 CPU cores, that learned to recognize higher-level concepts, such as cats, after watching only YouTube videos, and without ever having been told what a “cat” is.
  • The project’s technology is currently also used in the Android Operating System’s speech recognition system.
  • Andrew Ng is an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science and the Department of Electrical Engineering at Stanford. He is also the Director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab.
  • Ng is also the author or co-author of over 100 published papers in machine learning, robotics and related fields.
  • Website: http://www.coursea.org.

Secret Program Gives NSA, FBI Backdoor Access to Data

  • The US National Security Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation have been harvesting data such as audio, video, photographs, emails, and documents from the internal servers of nine major technology companies, according to a leaked 41-slide security presentation obtained by The Washington Post and The Guardian.
  • According to The Washington Post, the program’s slides were provided by a “career intelligence officer” that had “firsthand experience with these systems, and horror at their capabilities,” and wished to expose the program’s “gross intrusion on privacy.”
  • The program, codenamed PRISM, is considered highly classified and has never been made public before.
  • The list of companies involved includes: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, and Apple.
  •  Dropbox, though not yet an official part of the program, is said to be joining it soon. These companies have all willingly participated in the program, says the Post.
  • According to the leaked presentation, the program has been in action since 2007, and is considered the biggest contributor to the daily briefings given to the president, providing data in 1,477 articles last year alone.
  • Allegedly, nearly one in seven intelligence reports from the NSA contains data from the PRISM program.
  • The NSA has the ability to pull any sort of data it likes from these companies, but it claims that it does not try to collect it all.
  • The PRISM program goes above and beyond the existing laws that state companies must comply with government requests for data, as it gives the NSA direct access to each company’s servers — essentially letting the NSA do as it pleases.
  • The program was initiated to overcome what the NSA saw as constraints within the existing FISA warrant program that did not allow the agency to make use of the “home-field advantage” provided by having most of the internet’s biggest companies on US soil.
  • The who’s who of Silicon Valley are involved in the NSA’s PRISM program
  • Microsoft was the first company to agree to the government’s wishes and join the PRISM program in 2007, while Apple held out for five years before agreeing.
  • Though Google and Facebook are a part of PRISM, Twitter has not yet joined.
  • Apparently, the only members of Congress that knew about PRISM’s existence were bound by oath not to speak of it publicly.
  •  In a statement provided to both The Washington Post and The Guardian, Google denied that the government had any sort of backdoor access to its systems:
  • Google cares deeply about the security of our users’ data. We disclose user data to the government in accordance with the law, and we review all such requests carefully.
  •  From time to time, people allege that we have created a government ‘backdoor’ into our systems, but Google does not have a ‘backdoor’ for the government to access private user data.
  • The training documents for the program reveal that the NSA collects a large amount of data on the American public through the PRISM program.
  • For example, if a specific target is investigated using PRISM, that target’s complete inbox and outbox are swept, in addition to anyone who is connected to it. This high level of access was initially given to the NSA by President Bush and was later renewed in 2012 by President Obama.
  • The director of National Intelligence issued a statement, aiming to clear up “inaccuracies” in reporting on the PRISM program. The DNI argues that only people outside of the United States have been targeted, and that the program “does not allow” the targeting of citizens or others within US borders.
  • The Stellar Wind program  is said to compile massive amounts of internet traffic, which can then be queried at a later time.
  • According to USSID 18, a top-secret NSA manual of definitions and legal directives, an “intercept” only occurs when the database is queried — when someone actually reads the text on a screen.

OED recognizes the Twitter meaning of ‘tweet’

  • The noun and verb tweet (in the social-networking sense) has just been added to the Oxford English Dictionary.
  • Oxford English Dictionary Chief Editor John Simpson said in a statement. “This breaks at least one OED rule, namely that a new word needs to be current for 10 years before consideration for inclusion. But it seems to be catching on.”
  • The change officially went into effect Thursday when the OED released its June update with 1,200 revised and added words. The expanded definitions of the Twitter co-opted words reflect a new reality in social media-inspired language.
  • “There has been, for example, a threefold increase in instances of the word tweet between 2006 and 2007 (when Twitter began), and by 2012, this had increased to 50 times,” the OED said on its blog.
  • The new OED-recognized definitions of tweet, follow, and follower are as follows:
    • Tweet (n): A posting made on the social networking service Twitter.
    • Tweet (v): To make a posting on the social networking service Twitter.
    • Follow (v): To track the activities or postings of (a person, group, etc.) by subscribing to their account on a social media website or application.
    • Follower (n): A person who follows a particular person, group, etc., on a social media Web site or application.
  • The British dictionary also added new terms such as “big data,” “flash mob,” “mouseover,” “crowdsourcing,” “redirect,” and “e-reader.”

California man uses iPhone GPS to track down thieves

  • Three men accosted Enner Mendoza, a resident of Anaheim, Calif., last year. They pressed a hard object to the back of his neck and demanded his belongings. After taking his messenger bag, which contained his tech valuables as well as his watch and wallet, the thieves got in their gold sedan and drove away, laughing.
  • He quickly returned home, called the police, and started tracking his iPhone through a GPS tracking program on his computer.
  • He gave the location to the authorities who found the  car at a liquor store in a neighboring city. The cops found the stolen goods, along with a fake handgun and the suspects, in the car.
  • This isn’t the first time GPS has saved the day, but smartphone thefts are becoming more common. The devices are valuable, and easy to grab and run off with. It happens so often in New York that the police department there as a dedicated unit just for Apple devices.
  • Officials on both coasts see it as a public safety issue and recently called on the smartphone industry to add a “kill switch” option to phones. This would make phones useless if lost or stolen, reducing their value to thieves.

Rise of the Machines: How computers took over the stock market

  • High frequency trading by computers has created wide fluctuation in market value.
  • How much of the market is made up of these computer trading engines?
  • Around 80 per cent of US stocks are traded this way, according to a 2012 analysis by Morgan Stanley, versus at least a third of UK stocks, according to a substantial 2012 report by the UK Department of Business Innovation and Skills’ Foresight committee.
  • This compares with an overall figure of 40 per cent for European markets, according to a 2010 study by Bank of England.
  • High-frequency trading (HFT) has been around since the late ’90s, when changes to trading regulations meant electronic communications networks (ECNs) could let traders reach into markets and start making bids.
  • The first US ECN was INSTINET, that was closely followed by the ISLAND ECN in the late-’90s. Others proliferated.
  • What started HFT in a serious way was when the SEC introduced Regulation ATS (Alternative Trading System) in 1998, which allowed people other than stock exchanges to conduct electronic trading, and the Regulation NMS (National Market System) in 2005, which made it possible for multiple exchanges to distribute quotes for stocks.
  • ATS made HFT possible, and NMS reduced the number of firms in the market by dramatically increasing the investment needed to compete.
  • In response to the initial ATS regulation, ISLAND began offering a service in the late ’90s whereby traders could stick their trading gear right next to the matching engine used by the NASDAQ market.
  • They could read the data and place the trade in a sub-millisecond. The ISLAND tech was fast enough to handle all the throughput, [HFT] snowballed from there.”
  • These days all major exchanges offer such services, and have seen great demand for it: the London Stock Exchange recently expanded the slots available for robo-traders keen to get a direct feed to its market data, via its Exchange Hosting service – “the ultimate in low latency connectivity”.
  • Since NMS’s introduction, the industry has been dogged by problems: the flash crash, regulation, falls in the stock market, frequent blips in share and market prices due to HFT’s capitalizing on information faster than any trading engine ever before, and so on.
  • Quoting more than ordering can sometimes give trading engines an advantage, and also provides them with the information they need to accurately make trades.