Show of 8-31-2013

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Alice in Wonderland: Dr. Shurtz,  I own two pcs (Windows and iMac) and an HP printer (Office jet all in one). Also have a Vonage device I plug into power strip.   I own 2 power supplies/strips that are at least 10+ yrs. old.   I’ve heard there are ones that save electricity and I want to buy a more green one.  What brands/models can you recommend for this that still, of course protects the pcs from electrical storms or the other reasons one uses a power strip?  Thanks and love listening on Sat @ 9 ET.  Alice in Wonderland
  • Tech Talk Responds: Surge protectors will not save electricity. However, over time they may be damaged and be less effective. The primary rating of surge protectors is Joules, the amount of energy they can absorb. The more plugs you have in your surge protectors the higher the Joule rating. You would typically have 200 Joules per plug minimum. So a six plug strip should be at least 1000 Joule, but can go as high as 2400 Joules. The response time is the second factor. They typically us MOV devices to dampen high speed spikes. These MOV devices can be damaged over time. The good surge protestors have a protector light to indicate that they are still OK. There are normally two other stages of slower voltage clamping circuits in these devices.
  • Email from Mary: Dear Dr. Shurtz. A few months back I started a job as a specifications writer.  Currently I am repurposing maintenance manuals into PDF documents.  The manuals were scanned into Adobe Acrobat Pro X.  One of the most time intensive things I have to do I bookmark the TOC and each section in 300 page chapters of these manuals.
  • Creating a bookmark is easy by highlighting the section heading you want bookmarked and then clicking the make a new bookmark icon.  But the standard for the dept. I work in is for all bookmarks of level 1,2, and 3 headings be in ALL CAPS and the scanned original documents use upper & lower case in all headings.  Though I’ve taken a lot of online training on AA Pro X none of it ever discussed how to make the font style default for a new bookmark be ALL CAPS. Do you have any thoughts on a workaround for this? Thanks, Mary
  • Tech Talk Responds:  You can change the appearance of a bookmark to draw attention to it. In the Bookmarks panel, select one or more bookmarks. To change the color and style of the text, choose View > Show/Hide > Toolbars Items > Properties Bar. After you have defined a bookmark’s appearance, you can reuse the appearance settings. To do this, select the bookmark and from the options menu , choose Use Current Appearance As New Default.
  • Email from Lynn in Ohio: Dear Tech Talk, I have an iPhone and don’t like to have text message notifications and pictures show up when the phone is locked. I also don’t like to have the phone beep every time a text message arrives. Is there anything I can do? I have an iPhone 4S. Love the show. We listen over the Internet each Saturday morning. Lynn in Ohio.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Lynn you can turn off all notifications, especially those pesky notifications when the phone is locked. Go to settings. Then select Notifications. Each application can be adjusted individually. You can turn off the Notification Center (that is the pull down window shade). You can adjust the Alert Style (None, Banner, Alert), turn off Badge App Icon (small red number), turn off Sounds, turn off View in Lock Screen. If you turn off all of these, no one will ever see you incoming text messages or pictures…..or even know that you got a text message.
  • Email from Jim in Bowie: Dear Doc and Jim. I would like to run Windows on my iMac. What are my options? Love the show. Jim in Bowie
  • Tech Talk Responds: Jim you have three options: Parallels, Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac $52.99 at Trinity Software, VMware Fusion priced at $49 retail ($14 street price), and VirtualBox by Oracle, which is free.
  • VMware Fusion provides an excellent way to run virtual operating systems on physical (host) machines. The latest version provides a rich, good-performing way to run a virtual instance of Windows 8 on OS X. While VMware’s interface is not the dazzling as Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac. Both both products support Retina displays. VMware Fusion is not as user-friendly as Parallels. However, its advanced settings and better performance makes it a solid desktop virtualization utility for power users and business.
  • VirtualBox is a powerful virtualization product for enterprise as well as home use. It is freely available as Open Source Software. It became an Oracle product after Sun was purchased by Oracle. It runs slower than either VMWare Fusion or Parallels and is more difficult to configure. However, for home use it may a good option.
  • Email from Steve in Reston: Dear Tech Talk, What tool do you recommend for cleaning up my hard drive. I am beginning to run out of space and need to delete something. Love the show. Steve in Reston
  • Tech Talk Responds: CCleaner is a popular and highly regarded tool for cleaning files, history, cookies, and much more from your computer. CCleaner started out years ago as “Crap Cleaner.” It has to shorten it name for obvious reasons.
  • CCleaner’s initial view: cleaning Windows related files. Click the Applications tab and you’ll also get a long list of other programs that CCleaner also knows about. You can scroll through and select which items you would like CCleaner to clean.
  • When first using the tool, the next step is to click Analyze, which simply examines your system for cleaning opportunities. You can see which temporary files or cache are taking up space and choose to delete them.
  • For the most part, the files that CCleaner proposes to delete are indeed safe to delete. But it’s important to realize that there may be ramifications. Some examples:
  • Deleting cookies may require that you re-login to sites that had previously remembered you.
  • Deleting history – be it in a browser or other applications – naturally means that the history feature will no longer have the entries that are deleted.
  • Deleting temporary internet files may slightly slow down your subsequent initial visits to the websites that you visit frequently.
  • It’s worth browsing the list of items that CCleaner proposes to delete and if you’re unsure, go back and uncheck the corresponding item so that it doesn’t try to delete it.
  • CCleaner’s registry cleaner. After you scan for issues, there will almost always be issues. Possible hundreds. If you do elect to “Fix selected issues…”, CCleaner will prompt you to backup the registry first, which I recommend that you do, of course.
  • CCleaner includes several other tools:
  • Uninstall: An additional interface to uninstalling software on your machine. This is potentially useful if Control Panel’s uninstall isn’t working properly for you.
  • Startup: An interface for managing programs that start automatically when you boot your computer or login, as well as Internet Explorer add-ons.
  • System Restore: An interface to manage Windows’ Restore Points.
  • Drive Wiper: A utility which can securely wipe the free space on your disk or in fact, wipe an entire hard drive.
  • CCleaner is a free download from Piriform, the makers of another tool that I often recommend:  Recuva.
  • Email from Shel in Alexandria: Dear Doc and Jim. Why do Bluetooth connections suddenly decide to disconnect themselves? I have Bluetooth earphones for my  iPad. I also have trouble with my Bluetooth mouse. What up? Love the show. Shel in Alexandria
  • Tech Talk Responds: I have an iPhone that I regularly try and pair with my car. Sometimes, the connection works great for a while. Other times, the phone forgets the car. The car says I’ve never heard of this phone before and I have to re-pair them and then download all the contacts again.
  • The protocol itself is apparently complex and not really fully thought out, especially its early versions. So what that means is if you have a device at either end of your connection that is stuck with an early version of the Bluetooth protocol, bad things can happen. My understanding is that the protocol versions have been improving but in most of these cases, there really isn’t a way necessarily to update what protocol is in the device. My smartphone will take an update from time to time but my car won’t. The Bluetooth headphones that you have probably won’t.
  • I don’t really have a solution, except to update your Bluetooth drivers and firmware if you can.  As all devices get the latest protocol versions, these problems should be less frequent.

Profiles in IT: Steven Anthony Ballmer

  • Steven Anthony Ballmer is currently CEO of Microsoft. He announced that he will retire from Microsoft by August 2014.
  • Ballmer was born March 24, 1956 in Detroit. His father was a manager at Ford.
  • He grew up in the community of Farmington Hills, Michigan.
  • In 1973, he graduated from Detroit County Day School and he took college prep and engineering classes at Lawrence Technological University.
  • He scored a perfect score of 800 on the mathematical section of the SAT.
  • In 1977, he graduated from Harvard with a BS in applied math and economics.
  • At Harvard, Ballmer managed the football team, worked on The Harvard Crimson and the Harvard Advocate. He lived down the hall from fellow student Bill Gates.
  • He worked for two years as an Assistant Product Manager at Procter & Gamble.
  • In 1980, he dropped out of the Stanford Graduate School of Business to join MS.
  • Steve Ballmer joined MS on June 11, 1980 and became MS 30th employee.
  • Ballmer was offered a salary of $50K and approximately 8% equity.
  • In 2003, Ballmer sold a portion of his shareholdings, leaving him with a 4% stake.
  • In his tenure at MS, Ballmer headed several Microsoft divisions, including operations, operating systems development, and sales and support.
  • From February 1992 onwards he was Executive Vice President, Sales and Support.
  • Ballmer led Microsoft’s development of the .NET Framework.
  • Ballmer was then promoted to President of Microsoft, a title that he held from July 1998 to February 2001, making him the de factor number two in the company.
  • In January 2000, Ballmer was officially named CEO. As CEO, Ballmer handled company finances, however Gates remained chairman of the board and retained control of the “technological vision” as Chief Software Architect.
  • When Gates stepped down as Chief Software Architect in 2006, Ballmer had the autonomy needed to make major management changes at Microsoft.
  • Since Bill Gates’ retirement, Ballmer oversaw a “dramatic shift away from the company’s PC-first heritage”, replacing most major division heads.
  • Ballmer has driving MS cloud strategy, with acquisitions such as Skype.
  • Under Ballmer’s tenure as CEO, MS annual revenue surged from $25 billion to $70 billion, while its net income has increased 215 percent to $23 billion.
  • Ballmer also built several new businesses, including data centers and Xbox divisions.
  • Ballmer was criticised for failing to compete the iPod, iPhone smartphone, and iPad tablet computer, because they threatened MS cash cows (Windows, Office).
  • MS share price has been stagnant during his tenure. Many called for his ouster.
  • On August 23, 2013, Microsoft announced that Steve Ballmer would retire within the next 12 months. Stocks soared.  Ballmer has an estimated wealth of $15.2 billion.

Earth-to-Moon Laser Communication Tests

  • NASA is ready to launch a mission that will use lasers in a test of two-way communications between the Earth and the moon.
  • The Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration will be on board the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, or LADEE, which will launch Sept. 6 using Orbital Science’s Minotaur V rocket.
  • The LLCD’s main mission is to prove the validity of fundamental concepts of laser communications. It will establish the ability to encode data onto a beam of laser light.
  • Data will be transmitted between the Earth and the moon at 622 Mbps — about five times the speed of current state-art-of-the-art technology.
  • The primary ground terminal to receive and transmit LLCD signals, which is located at NASA’s White Sands Complex in New Mexico, was built at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory. There are two alternate ground sites in the event of cloud cover.
  • The LLCD will run for 30 days. The LCRD is scheduled to launch in 2017 to test laser communications in deep space.
  • NASA is turning to laser communications because the radio and microwave portions of the electromagnetic spectrum are being used close to capacity. Laser communications will let NASA work within an unregulated, less crowded part of the spectrum.
  • The LLCD is designed to send six times more data from the moon than an equivalent state-of-the-art radio system, while using a smaller transmitter with 25 percent less power consumption. The LLCD will operate in the near-infrared spectrum.

Microsoft and Google to Sue over FISA Demands

  • Microsoft says it plans to move ahead with a lawsuit filed against the U.S. government in June to affirm the right of businesses to disclose limited information about government demands for data made under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
  • In separate legal filings, Microsoft and Google challenged the gag order that typically accompanies FISA demands for customer data. The two companies asserted that they have a First Amendment right to publish the total number of FISA requests received and the total number of user accounts covered by such requests.
  • The Office of the Director of National Intelligence offered what the U.S. government presumably believes is an acceptable compromise: It agreed to release “the total number of orders issued during the prior twelve-month period” once each year, covering FISA orders and National Security Letters.
  • Technology companies like Google and Microsoft face the challenge of aquiring cloud computing customers when competitors abroad don’t have to dispense customer data to U.S. authorities on demand.
  • For U.S. companies, being forced to surrender data without being able to attest to the limited scope of such demands promotes mistrust among potential customers.
  • The Information Technology and Innovation Institute, a technology think tank, recently projected that U.S. cloud service providers, because of their inability to provide meaningful privacy protection, could lose between $22 billion and $35 billion to competitors in Europe over the next three years.

IPhone trade-in program to add consumer choice

  • There are quite a few iPhone trade-in programs and Apple has just entered the mix by offering gift cards for recycled iPhones.
  • AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon all launched early-upgrade programs this summer that rely on consumers trading in old devices.
  • Retailers including Best Buy, Radio Shack and Amazon.com also have trade-in programs, as do manufacturers including Samsung and HTC and resale sites Gazelle.com and NextWorth.com.
  • A 2-year-old 16GB iPhone 4S currently gets as much as $230 in some trade-in programs (see chart below). If prices for the forthcoming iPhone hold steady, that’s more than enough to buy the new model at carriers’ usual subsidized price of $199. An iPhone 5 with the same capacity could be worth up to $390, which puts a big dent in the usual $649 retail price for users upgrading mid contact.
  • Trade-in programs typically also pledge to wipe your device of data.

Site

16GB
iPhone 5

16GB
iPhone 4S

16GB
iPhone 4

16GB
3GS

Amazon.com*

$389.50

$230

$200

$70

Apple (Recycling program)*

$336

$221

$151

$52

Best Buy*

$315

$157.50

$105

$36.75

Gazelle

$330

$220

$135

$12

NextWorth

$340

$197

$130

$32

RadioShack

$300

$195

$135

$27.50

Verizon*

$259

$162

$83

$27

NASDAQ Blames NYSE for 3-HourOutage.

  • The company behind the NASDAQ stock exchange has said that last week’s three-hour outage was partly its own fault, but mostly the fault of exchange firm NYSE Arca.
  • The glitch forced NASDAQ to take trading offline on Thursday last week – and thousands of NASDAQ-listed stocks were frozen in place for three hours across the US.
  • The company released its preliminary findings on the issue, saying that its securities information processor system (SIP) was overwhelmed by information from NYSE Arca, an exchange run by NYSE Euronext.
  • Nasdaq OMX Group claimed that the firm sent over 20 connect and disconnect sequences to SIP along with a stream of “inaccurate symbols and generated quote rejects”. The SIP is set up to handle around 500,000 messages a second across 50 of its ports, or 10,000 per port per second.
  • But NASDAQ said the NYSE Arca information topped more than 26,000 updates per port per second as it tried to reconnect, compared to a typical 1,000 messages per port per second from the firm.
  • However, the company also admitted that the failure revealed a problem with SIP’s source code.
  • “This latent flaw prevented the system’s built-in redundancy capabilities from failing over cleanly, and delayed the return of system messages to users,” NASDAQ said.
  • “The combination of large system inputs and delayed outputs ultimately degraded the ability of the SIP system to process quotes to an extent that a shutdown of the system was in the broader public interest, to prevent information asymmetry and ensure fair conditions for all market participants.”
  • The firm said it was working on design changes to strengthen the SIP system.
  • It’s not the first time the exchange has had software issues. When Facebook finally went public in mid-2012 the NASDAQ infamously had a snafu on the first day the free content ad network’s stock was listed for trading.

Compact Cassette 50th Anniversary

  • On 30 August, 1963, the Compact Cassette tape was revealed at the Berlin Radio Show.
  • The unveiling of its new Philips Compact Cassette tape and accompanying recorder was designed to entice people to buy a fuss-free portable recording system.
  • The Compact Cassette recorder was no hi-fi and, from the start, was never meant to be.
  • Instead, the company had succeeded in putting together a format that delivered so many convenient improvements over existing systems that its success was assured.
  • What Philips had produced was an innovative approach to existing technologies rather than an out-and-out invention.
  • Indeed, the emphasis was very much on portability, and Philips had no intention of trying to match the fidelity of reel-to-reel recorders that had marker-pen-thick track widths and fast tape speeds. If you needed superlative sound quality, then those tape machines were there and would continue to be for many decades more in pro audio circles.
  • CBS and 3M proved that a quarter inch tape width running at 1.875 IPS was capable of sound reproduction that would be good enough for the consumer market.
  • With this raw tape specification already established by 3M, Philips was able to get busy with designing a product. Philips focused on portability, rather than high fidelity, as it considered how to package tape in a new format.