Show of 7-6-2013

Best of Tech Talk Edition

  • Replaying segments from previous shows.

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 didn’t 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 don’t 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 document’s 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 don’t 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 don’t 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: Ron Avitzur

  • Creator of the Macintosh Graphing Calculator which has been shipped with Macs since 1994. Development was completed as a bootleg Apple project.
  • Ron Avitzur was born 1966 in California. His father was on he faculty at Leigh High University so he had access to computers as a child.
  • Started programming in the 70s when programs were stored on punch cards.
  • He started Stanford University in 1984 when the Macintosh was just released.
  • He used a Mac in college. He taught many of his peers to use the Mac for papers.
  • He was a Physics major, but did pages of math using paper and pencil.
  • He took some time off from school to write a math program that would be as convenient use as a word processor for his Physics problems.
  • He developed a program called Milo around 1987. It was advertised as a math processor for students doing problem sets with wysiwyg equations. It had a computation engine for symbolic computation.
  • Milo was not a commercial success, but it was the beginning of a long saga.
  • He was hired by Frame technology to embed Milo software into their word processor.
  • He worked on a mathematical typesetting system for FrameMaker 2.0. It is still shipping today as FrameMath.
  • He then developed, on his own, as character recognition software for equations.
  • He wanted a hardware platform to demonstrate this product and that is how he ended up at Apple. He demonstrated Pen Computing, but it still needed much work.
  • After a year working on a secret hardware project at Apple, the project was canceled.
  • He decided to stay to work on the project without pay.
  • The PowerPC group was nearby. Their platform would be an ideal for his program.
  • Two engineers decided to port his software to the PowerPC.
  • They successfully ported it. All 50,000 lines of code. They cross compiles from an IBM-RS6000 workstation. No software tools were available for the PowerPC.
  • They found one of the rare PowerPC prototypes and ran the program the next day.
  • The engineers were impressed. They gave it high praise, “This doesn’t suck.”
  • They had an impressive native PowerPC app. This was August 1993. But no project.
  • He asked his friend Greg Robins to help him perfect the Graphing Calculator
  • Greg’s project was finished. He kept his badge and so did Ron.
  • Greg said he reported to Ron. Ron said he reported to Greg. With no managers in the loop they were very productive. They coded 12 hours a day with no meeting.
  • They were under the radar. No one was responsible. They used vacant offices.
  • Ron hired a graphic design project and he paid her from his personal account.
  • Two guys from PowerPC project QA were bored. They started reporting on the bugs.
  • It was time to tell the managers to see the product.
  • They had loved it. Managers. They assigned people to the project. They assigned the same QA guys to the project. QA is official. It was translated into 15 languages.
  • They finished in January 1994. The Graphing Calculator has been part of the Macintosh ever since.
  • He licensed the software to Apple, so they could ship it.
  • You can buy the latest version of his software from www.pacifict.com

Website of the Week: CIO.gov

  • The official website for the U.S. CIO
  • The U.S. CIO position was established within the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to provide leadership and oversight for IT spending throughout the Federal Government.
  • In addition, each Federal agency has its own CIO, as established by the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996.
  • Vivek Kundra was named U.S. CIO by President Obama on March 5, 2009.
  • Kundra plays a key role in ensuring that the Federal Government is operating, in President Obama’s words, “in the most secure, open, and efficient way possible.” Kundra works closely with the chief technology and performance officers.
  • Kundra directs IT policy, strategic planning of Federal IT investments, and oversight of Federal technology spending. He establishes and oversees enterprise architecture to ensure system interoperability and information-sharing, and maintains information security and privacy across the Federal Government.
  • Kundra’s priorities include openness and transparency, lowering costs, cybersecurity, participatory democracy, and innovation.
  • The website outlines priorities, reforms, innovations. It includes progress in the IT reform project. It is an excellent way to understand where the Federal government is moving with respect to IT.
  • Web address: www.cio.gov

The Love Machine

  • What is it?
    • Crowd–sourced review and bonus system
    • Eliminate 90% of management time spent on reviewing performance
    • Greatly increase morale
    • Evaluate employees more accurately
    • Know much more about what your company is actually doing
  • How It Works?
    • All employees, using email or a webpage, can send short messages recognizing anyone else for any reason
    • Everyone can see the contents of all the messages, as well as various statistical summaries
    • Performance review consists of selecting those messages from others that you feel best represent you
    • Employees are empowered to give away a bonus pool to each other, using an audited but anonymous process
  • Why it works?
    • The basic unit of review (‘love’) can be collected in less than 10 seconds and is fun to do
    • The collective opinion of everyone is the highest quality review of a person
    • The absence of positive feedback is a more effective critique of performance than any constructive/negative feedback people will ever be willing to give.
    • Empowering employees to evaluate and bonus each other creates a culture of trust with far greater benefits than risks
  • Interesting employment policy too
    • We are also a different kind of company.
    • Instead of interviewing to work here, you just get to work.
    • If you’d like to join our team, first sign up at the worklist, where you can see and bid on the jobs we need done, then enter our live workroom and talk to other team members!
    • Our first products are also now available for beta users. We’d be happy to come and help you improve your own company’s culture and productivity.