Show of 7-20-2013

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from John in Oakton: Dear Tech. Is there a simple way to set up conference calls using my iPhone. It would be so convenient to simply be able to do this anytime, anywhere. Love the show. Thanks, John in Oakton
  • Tech Talk Responds: You are in luck. The iPhone lets you merge up to five calls at a time to turn them into a conference call. Making a conference call on your iPhone may be easier than getting those same five people in a room at the same time.
  • Start by making a call and then placing the caller on hold. Tap Add Call to make another call and then Merge Calls to bring everybody together. Repeat this exercise to add the other calls.
  • Here are some other facts.
  • iPhone is actually a two-line phone, and one of the available lines can be involved in a conference call.
  • If you want to drop a call from a conference, tap Conference and then tap the red circle with the little picture of the phone in it that appears next to the call. Tap End Call to drop that caller.
  • You can speak privately (one-on-one) with one of the callers in a conference. Tap Conference, and then tap Private next to the caller you want to talk privately with.
  • Tap Merge Calls to bring the caller back into the Conference so everyone can hear him or her.
  • You can add a new incoming caller to an existing conference call by tapping Hold Call + Answer followed by Merge Calls.
  • Actually, I use a free conference calling app. I can set up a conference in advance and it calls all participants are the assigned time and send them an email reminder. It is very easy to many the call using an interface that allow you see each participants photo. The free application is called UberConference. I love it. It was app on the year in 2012.
  • Email from Loyal Listener in Bethesda: Dear Doc and Jim.  I want to give away my old computer to a friend. How do I remove only my personal information from the system before giving it away? Loyal Listener in Bethesda
  • Tech Talk Responds: Unfortunately, there is no practical way to determine what is and what personal information isn’t. Securing a computer to give away is an all-or-nothing proposition.
  • When you’ve been using a computer for a certain amount of time, information that you might consider to be personal is distributed in multiple places: in the registry, in data files, in the programs that are installed, and even those programs themselves may save data in completely unknown and non-standard locations.
  • There is simply no way to know; there’s no way to scour the machine, identifying what is and is not personal information or what should and should not be erased. The only safe thing to do is to erase the entire machine. Use a tool like Dban (Darik’s Boot and Nuke) to first completely erase the entire hard disk. Then, install Windows from scratch. You’ll also install the applications that you want to make available to this friend from scratch.
  • Now, if you don’t have the installation media, that’s unfortunate. The solution is to grab a free operating system like one of the Linux distributions and make that available. Or perhaps purchase a copy of Windows to give with the machine so that you do have installation media.
  • Comment by Ken Hutchinson on Facebook: If the show is live today, you may be preparing for it now. I don’t know if you have heard yet that Amar Bose died. He wasn’t in IT, but he was important in consumer technology.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Thanks Ken. We will feature Bose today in Profiles in IT. By the way, Bose was also suggested by Ammara on Facebook.
  • Comment from James Messick on Facebook: Is there an easy way to search the show archives? I was trying to find references to cell phone amplifiers and couldn’t find a search feature on your website. The search box on the main page seems restricted to the academic portion of the site. I tried using Google to search site:stratford.edu but the results were not satisfactory. Thanks!
  • Tech Talk Responds: Thanks for the request. I had our programming team add a search box to the Tech Talk Home Page. This will search the archives. It works pretty well. I am not satisfied with the results yet, but it’s a start.

Profiles in IT: Amar Gopal Bose

  • Amar Gopal Bose was founder and chairman of Bose Corporation, a company known for innovative audio products. Bose’s research in psychoacoustics, or sound perception, revolutionized the speaker industry.
  • Bose was born November 2, 1929 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His father was an Indian freedom revolutionary fled Calcutta in the 1920s.
  • During the World War II years, he hired school friends as co-workers in a small home business repairing model trains and home radios to supplement his family’s income.
  • After graduating from Abington Senior High School in Abington, Pennsylvania, Bose enrolled at MIT, graduating with a BSEE in 1951.
  • Bose spent a year in Eindhoven, Netherlands, in the research labs at NV Philips Electronics; and a year as a Fulbright research student in New Delhi, India.
  • He completed his PhD in Electrical Engineering from MIT in 1956, writing a thesis on non-linear systems.
  • Following graduation, Bose became an Assistant Professor at MIT.
  • Bose bought a high-end stereo speaker system in 1956 and he was disappointed with their ability to reproduce the realism of a live performance.
  • His research on acoustics led him to invent a stereo loudspeaker that would reproduce, in a domestic setting, the dominantly reflected sound field that characterizes the listening space of the audience in a concert hall.
  • His focus on psychoacoustics became a hallmark of his company’s audio products.
  • For initial capital to fund his company in 1964, Bose turned to angel investors, including his MIT thesis advisor and professor, Dr. Y. W. Lee.
  • Bose was awarded significant patents in two fields that continue to be important to the Bose Corporation.
  • These patents were in the area of loud speaker design and non-linear, two-state modulated, Class-D, power processing.
  • The company Bose founded now employs more than 9,000 people worldwide and produces products for home, car, and professional audio.
  • Bose never took his company public because he wanted to pursue risky long-term research. Bose has been called the Apple for acoustic devices.
  • In addition to running his company, Bose remained a professor at MIT until 2001.
  • In 2007 he was listed in Forbes 400 as the 271st richest man in the world, with a net worth of $1.8 billion.
  • In 2009, he was no longer on the billionaire list, and returned to the list in 2011, with a net worth of $1.0 billion.
  • In 2011, Bose donated a majority of the company’s non-voting shares to MIT on the condition that the shares never be sold.
  • Bose died on July 12, 2013 at the age of 83 in Wayland, Massachusetts.

Paralyzed artist paints with mind alone

  • A woman with Lou Gehrig’s disease paints using software that lets her control digital brushes with brainwaves.
  • Heide Pfüetzner  was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease inn 2007.
  • This year she’s exhibiting of her paintings, all created by her mind controlling a computer. This is a remarkable triumph of mind over matter.
  • The exhibit, titled “Brain on Fire,” opened Friday on Easdale, a small island off the west coast of Scotland.
  • Visitors will see vibrantly colored digital paintings created by the paralyzed artist using a computer program that lets her control digital brushes, shapes, and colors by concentrating on specific points on the screen.
  • “For the first time, this project gives me the opportunity to show the world that the ALS has not been the end of my life,” Pfüetzner.
  • The exhibit was funded using the Startnext crowdfunding site, where she exceeded her $6,500 goal for mounting an exhibit.
  • Pfüetzner, a former English teacher from Leipzig, Germany, “brain paints” using Intendix Painting software from biomedical engineering firm Gtec.
  • Settled in her wheelchair in front of two monitors, she wears an electroencephalogram (EEG) cap.
  • One screen displays the program’s matrix of tools, the other functions like a canvas, showing the picture as it evolves.
  • Images of the various tools flash at different times. As Pfüetzner focuses on the tool she wants to select, she counts the flashes, causing her brain activity to spike.
  • The computer determines which option she’s focusing on by comparing the timing of the brainwaves to the timing of the desired flashing tool.
  • Similar computer systems have helped others with disabilities, allowing a man with locked-in syndrome to tweet through eye movements, for example, and a quadriplegic woman to control a robotic arm to manipulate objects.
  •  Pfüetzner has worked closely with a brain-computer-interface team at the University of Wurzburg.
  • ALS is a debilitating progressive neurodegenerative disease characterized by widespread muscle atrophy that affects mobility, speaking, swallowing, and breathing.
  • Money raised through Pfüetzner’s Startnext campaign went toward printing and framing her work, as well as transporting her and her nursing team, as well as the medical equipment she needs, to Easdale, where the exhibit runs through July 25.

DefCon To Feds: Stay Away

  • Since its founding in 1992, the annual hacker conference DefCon has encouraged computer geeks of all sorts—federal agents included—to mix and share ideas in Las Vegas.
  •  Federal agencies have used the conference as a headhunting event as they built their own cybersecurity efforts.
  • But that may come to a screeching halt this year in the wake of disclosures about the NSA’s allegedly vast cybersurveillance programs.
  • For the first time, DefCon has asked the feds to steer clear of the conference, citing a desire for a “time out” that would give people time to cool off.
  • DefCon 21 is scheduled for August 1st–4th, 2013at the Rio Hotel in Las Vegas.

Are Security Metrics Too Complicated for Management?

  • A new report on the state of risk-based cybersecurity management helps explain why IT employees and their corporate bosses don’t see eye to eye about hacking and other computer-based threats.
  • The report, titled “Are Security Metrics Too Complicated for Management?” is the latest installment of an ongoing series by Tripwire and the Ponemon Institute.
  • The organizations surveyed 1,321 US and UK workers in IT security, IT operations, IT risk management, business operations, compliance/internal audit and enterprise risk management.
  •  According to the report, explanations about cybersecurity threats by IT workers get lost in translation in dialogue with corporate managers.
  • What’s behind the breakdown in communication?
  • A majority of IT professionals said the information is too technical to be understood by non-technical management.
  • Nearly half the respondents said they only communicate with executives when there is an actual security incident.
  • More than one-third of the respondents said it takes too much time and resources to prepare and report security metrics to senior executives, and 18% said management isn’t interested in them, anyway.

NSA Tightens Security Controls

  • The National Security Agency has imposed new rules designed to sharply restrict the sharing and downloading of top-secret material from its computer networks after a review of how Edward J. Snowden, a former SAIC contractor, managed to expose several of the country’s most sensitive surveillance programs.
  • First among the new procedures is a “two-man rule” — based on the model of how nuclear weapons are handled — that requires two computer systems administrators to work simultaneously when they are inside systems that contain highly classified material.
  • The most sensitive data will be stored in a highly encrypted form, sharply limiting the number of system administrators — like Mr. Snowden — who can access data.
  • These changes were announced by General Alexander, who spoke at a security forum.
  • An NSA spokesmen blamed the leak of highly classified data partly on decisions made after the investigations into the intelligence failures surrounding the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.  General Alexander defended the information-sharing as necessary.

US To Deploy 4,000 Cyber Warriors

  • The military has begun to deploy roughly 4,000 people in the Pentagon’s first units devoted to conducting cyberoffense and -defense operations.
  • The description of the Pentagon’s new cyberteams, which will be under General Alexander’s command, was the most detailed yet of one of the military’s most closely held projects.
  • The administration recently conceded that it was developing cyberweapons. The best-known example is the covert effort called “Olympic Games,” which the Bush administration used against Iran’s nuclear program.
  • The Obama administration accelerated the program, but suffered a major setback when a computer worm, later named Stuxnet, escaped from the Natanz nuclear enrichment plant in Iran and replicated itself on the Web, where the Iranians and others could download the code that was developed by the NSA and its Israeli counterpart, Unit 8200.
  • While they may ultimately be modeled on Special Operations, which provide fighting expertise to supplement traditional forces, for now the cyberforce will be drawn from members of the armed services.

Are Knockoff IPhone Chargers Electrocuting People?

  • A Chinese woman who allegedly died after a shock received via her charging iPhone may have been using an unauthorized third-party charger.
  • Last week a 23-year-old Chinese woman was killed allegedly via an electric shock that came from her iPhone, which was plugged in and charging.
  • Apple said it would help Chinese authorities investigate the incident.
  • Ma Ailun was using an iPhone 4, and fresh information on the case suggests that her phone was most likely plugged into an unauthorized third-party charger, which may have been the source of the shock.
  • Also this week, a Chinese man reportedly went into a coma after being shocked while plugging his iPhone 4 in.
  • According to the South China Morning Post, unauthorized chargers can be made with cheap components, and are simply not designed to meet rigorous safety standards. Apple complies with international safety standards for its own phone charger designs.
  • A word to the wise: don’t buy a cheap charger for your iPhone.

Detroit Is Going Bankrupt, Tech Is Going Strong

  • Yesterday, the city of Detroit filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy, the largest city in the U.S. ever to do so. By some estimates, the city owes as much as $20 billion.
  • This is viewed as a minor distraction to the tech startup community in Detroit.
  • Stik is one of dozens of Detroit-based tech startups that have called the city’s privately-owned M@dison Building home. They moved from Silicon Valley.
  • A 50,000 square-foot building that once housed Detroit’s first major movie theater, the M@dison Building opened last January and has become an center of the city’s tech scene, hosting about 300 entrepreneurs, investors, and developers, including Twitter.
  • Several startups that began within the M@dison have grown so much they have begun to move into buildings in other parts of the city.
  • Stik, which recently moved out of the M@dison Building into an adjacent space, has since grown from 4 to 20 employees.
  •  Stik says they have little trouble finding tech talent in this city, and he doesn’t have to worry about competing with the bloated salary offers and sexiness factor of the Valley’s tech behemoths–not just Google, Facebook, and Twitter, but also the startups du jour, such as Airbnb and Square.
  • We are the Facebook or the Twitter of the area. We can get unbelievably good people who are extremely talented and think we’re the coolest job in town, as opposed to being the 550th coolest job in town back in San Francisco.”
  • Silicon Valley is a great place to be if you’re in the 1% of tech startups. But if you’re in the other 99%, you spend all your time trying to find talent, and not enough building a business.
  • The M@dison Building, one of the city’s main tech thoroughfares, houses around 35 companies–the young, college-educated professionals who choose to look for work here often have the chance to land higher-impact roles at these startups than they might find at comparable companies in larger urban tech hubs such as San Francisco, Chicago, or New York.
  • Detroit does face challenges. The most recent Census data shows Detroit has just 11,000 young professionals between 25 and 34 who hold at least a bachelor’s degree, compared to Chicago’s 250,000.
  • Michigan is one of four states that had fewer young professionals in 2011 than it did in 2006.
  • To combat these grim statistics, new organizations like the Green Garage coworking space and Crowd 313, a University of Michigan organization that connects university students with Detroit’s business and cultural scenes, are expanding on the M@dison Building’s groundwork to attract and keep more young talent in the city.