Show of 9-14-2013

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Wayne Boyer: Dear Tech Talk. I plan to replace my hard drive in my desktop with a SSD drive. I currently use Maccrum Reflect to image my drive and would install image to new drive. Are there any settings that need changing, BIOS and others? Is there a good procedure I should follow? Love your show and listen every week via podcast.  Wayne H Boyer Tucson AZ
  • Tech Talk Responds: No BIOS changes will be required. Solid State Drives are available with a variety of system interfaces based primarily on the performance requirements for the SDD in the system. Also, since SDDs are generally used in conjunction or interchangeable with magnetic disk drives, a common mass storage bus interface is used in most cases. This also allows the system software to manage both drive types in a similar way, making system integration nearly plug-and-play. These common interface types include SATA, Fibre Channel, SAS, and ATA/IDE. If you keep the old drive as a backup, you will need to change the boot sequence using the BIOS settings.
  • Email from Hac in Bowie: Dear Tech Talk. Can Google (or any other search engine) accumulate data on my searches or internet activity if I don’t have a Google account?. I am worried someone may be watching what I do on the Internet. Love the show, Hac in Bowie
  • Tech Talk Responds: When you access any website, the server gets a fair amount of information from your connection to that server and from your browser. This could be the IP address that you’re at, the type of browser you’re using and its settings, any cookies set by prior visits to that site, and possibly some other information. That creates what you might consider a digital fingerprint.
  • Some years ago, a search engine made search information available to researchers. The company believed they filtered and anonymized the data to remove every possible personally identifiable piece of information (like IP addresses and cookies) from the results before they gave it to the researchers.
  • Nonetheless, the researchers used the actual phrases that people were searching for to identify a few specific individuals who had performed those searches.
  • Using a browser and a search engine – even one without the concept of an “account” to associate specifically with you – you’re almost always leaving a fairly interesting trail of information that can be analyzed and cross referenced in interesting ways.
  • Email from DQ: Dear Tech Talk, I want to buy the ideal wireless mouse and keyboard combo for my laptop.  Either the mouse had all that I required in terms of functionality, but the keyboard didn’t or vice versa. I could have bought separates, but that would have meant two USB ports occupied by receivers and being a laptop, USB ports are at a premium. Is it possible to buy wireless mice and keyboards that connect to the PC without the need for a USB receiver? Love the show, DQ in Alexandria.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Check to see if your laptop natively supports Bluetooth. This is a short range wireless protocol that’s specifically designed for devices like mice, keyboards, headphones, and other things. If your laptop natively supports Bluetooth, you already have a receiver built-in. All you then need to do is get a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard that meet your needs.
  • If you have an older laptop, it may not have Bluetooth. Many manufacturers actually have their own short-range wireless protocol as well. The trick is to make sure that you’re using a keyboard and mouse that use the same protocol. Many manufacturers, like Logitech, have actually standardized so you can have a single receiver that will work with any of their devices. Since the standards vary, the devices will have to be from the same manufacturer.
  • Email from John from Reston: Dear Doc and Jim. I just got a new laptop and have trouble see the fonts. Can I make the screen the larger on my Windows 7 laptop. Thanks, John from Reston.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Changing the screen resolution is the wrong thing to do. For example, let’s say that your display is capable of handling a resolution of 1920×1200.
  • The 1280×1024 image will be stretched by the monitor to fill the 1920×1200 pixels that make up the display. Because there’s no such thing as a fractional pixel, the monitor just has to try its best – often resulting in images that are indeed “bigger,” but also significantly fuzzier.
  • It is best to continue to use the native resolution of your display.
  • In Windows 7, right-click on your desktop and click Screen Resolution. Windows 7 resolution options. Click Make text and other items larger or smaller. You have three choices (100%, 125%, and 150%) This setting will increase the size of everything, including text. I use 125% on my laptop.
  • Note that when you make this setting change, you may need to logout and then log back into Windows so that it can apply it.
  • If the options of 100%, 125%, and 150% aren’t enough, you can manually adjust the underlying setting.
  • Once again, right-click on the desktop and click Screen Resolution, and then click Make text and other items larger or smaller. Then click on Set Custom DPI Link.
  • You can select a custom percentage by using the drop-down or typing in your own percentage value.
  • Many, many people have been commenting that they use the CTRL key and + or – to make text larger or smaller, respectively, or use CTRL plus the mouse wheel. This is a very effective approach, when it works. CTRL+ and CTRL- are application specific; they are not a part of Windows. But they’ve been implemented fairly consistently across most web browsers and many email programs.

Profiles in IT: Andrew W. Houston

  • Andrew W. “Drew” Houston is best known as co-founder and CEO of Dropbox, an online backup and storage service.
  • Drew Houston was born in Acton, Massachusetts in 1983.
  • Growing up in suburban Boston he began tinkering at age 5 with an IBM PC Junior. His mother, correctly deducing that her son was becoming a code geek, made him learn French and hang out with the jocks, and refused to let him skip a grade.
  • At 14 Houston signed up to beta test an online game, and began rooting out security flaws. They soon hired him as their networking programmer, in exchange for equity.
  • He attended Acton-Boxborough Regional High School in the 1990s.
  • In 2005, Drew graduated with a degree in Computer Science from the MIT, where he was a member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity.
  • He worked at startups throughout high school and college, including Bit9, Accolade and Hubspot. Dropbox is his sixth.
  • Houston conceived of Dropbox on a bus trip from Boston to New York:
  • He had left his USB drive on his desk at home, leaving him with nothing to do.
  • He opened his text editor and started writing the first lines of code of Dropbox.
  • While still at MIT, Houston met Arash Ferdowsi, co-founder and CTO of Dropbox, through a friend at MIT and showed him an early version of Dropbox.
  • Houston founded Dropbox, Inc. in June 2007, and shortly thereafter secured seed funding from Y Combinator.
  • They eventually moved to San Francisco and received their first venture capital investment from Sequoia Capital, early investors in Google and Apple.
  • Dropbox officially launched at 2008’s TechCrunch50.
  • Due to trademark disputes, Dropbox’s official domain name was “getdropbox.com” until October 2009, when they acquired their current domain, “dropbox.com”.
  • His initial video describing Dropbox went viral while Dropbox was still in beta.
  • In December 2009, Steve Jobs met with Drew and tried to buy Dropbox saying it was just feature. Drew turned him down and Apple launched iCloud in June 2011.
  • Google Drive would launch April 2012. Dropbox had to scale or be crushed.
  • Dropbox solved the “freemium” riddle, with revenue on track to hit $240M in 2011.
  • In August 2011, he raised $250M on a $4B valuation from the five top tech VCs.
  • In May 2011, Dropbox struck deals with Softbank and Sony Ericsson to come preloaded on their mobile telephones. He had to penetrate the Android market.
  • In April 2012, Dropbox announced a new feature to automatically upload photos to  up to 3GB of free space, a move against Google Drive and MS SkyDrive.
  • As of 26 September 2012, Facebook and Dropbox integrated.  
  • On November 12, 2012, Dropbox announced it had reached 100 million users.
  • Drew’s net worth is estimated to be around $400M in August 2013.

IPhone 5S and iPhone 5C

  • Two new iPhones go on sale on Friday, September 13, 2013.
  • Apple shares fell by up to 5pc as some wondered whether the ‘cheaper’ iPhone 5C was cheap enough to capture valuable Chinese market share, while others questioned whether the flagship 5S was sufficiently novel compared to the existing iPhone 5.
  • The 5C’s new plastic body was as much a design choice from Apple’s design guru Sir Jony Ive as it was an attempt to introduce a budget model. It is only slightly cheaper than the 5S.
  • Indeed, the design is the prime new feature of the 5C, but the 5S, is where Apple is showing that it can still innovate.
  • So with the 5S Apple has upgraded its camera – an important although expected evolution – but it has also added a fingerprint scanner, meaning that users can unlock the device simply by holding their finger on the home button.
  • It includes clever features that let users still unlock the phone with their finger whatever the angle, and it also acts as authorization for purchases on Apple’s own App Store.
  • Perhaps more importantly, however, the phone comes with a much more powerful 64-bit processor. T
  • It simply means the 5S is much faster than its predecessor, and theoretically offers a level of computing power that is equivalent to a laptop or desktop computer and unavailable on any other phone.
  • Initially it will be best demonstrated in games and in the camera, which can now offer slow-motion and or up to 10-shots a second, but more uses will emerge.
  • The 5C is available in five colors, including pink and green, and the 5S is now available in gold.
  • The gold color is popular in developing markets such as China and India, the plastic colors will further extend the brand in the West.

IPhone5S Camera Features

  • The sensor in the iPhone 5S remains at 8 megapixels. The individual photo receptors that correspond to a ‘pixel’ in your image have been enlarged to 1.5 microns to present more surface area for photons to strike. The iPhone 5, like many other smartphones of its generation, featured a 1.4-micron pixel size.
  • In order to accommodate the larger pixel size, the ‘active surface area’ of the sensor has been increased 15%. More surface area but no more pixels means bigger and more light-sensitive pixels. Apple says that this adds up to a 33% increase in overall light sensitivity. The iPhone 5S features a 5-element lens which Apple describes as ‘new’ for this device.
  • The lens has an f2.2 aperture, which is a 1/4 stop improvement over the iPhone 5’s f2.4 aperture. That should result in a .5 factor gain in light gathering ability for the lens, adding to the iPhone’s low-light abilities.
  • In the iPhone 5S, we get a new capability using the embedded ISP and faster processor.
  • Dynamic Tone Mapping– In addition to white balancing and auto-exposure it also now does dynamic tone mapping. Tone mapping is a technology that allows an image to be adjusted independently in various areas for brightness, contrast and color — or ‘tone’. It’s a similar procedure to the one used to make High Dynamic Range (HDR) images.
  • Autofocus Matrix — The new iPhone 5S has autofocus matrix metering with 15 focus zones. It allows the camera to split the scene into various zones, determining what the subject of focus is and adjusting metering according to where it focuses.
  • Multi-shot Feature — The speed of the ISP in the A7 is also shown off by the new multi-shot feature, which takes several exposures and then picks the sharpest one. This happens, in typical Apple fashion, in the background without your input. Having a couple of shots to pick from can result in finding a frame where your shake stopped, giving you a sharper image.
  • True Tone Flash — The dual-LED flash in the iPhone 5S is not about providing more light, instead, it’s about providing light of a more accurate color. The flash in your pocket camera or DSLR, or in the current iPhone, is calibrated to a single color that approximates sunlight. This is fine in the sun as a fill light, but goes all wrong when you try to shoot an image with it indoors or under artificial light.
  • The True Tone flash has both an amber and a white LED to produce two tones of light that can balance the foreground ‘faces’ with the background ambient light.
  • New Stabilization Algorithm –  The stabilization system especially is interesting. Instead of just taking multiple shots and picking a sharp one, the system appears to use technology similar to the current HDR feature. It takes multiple images and then uses the best bits of each picture based on exposure and sharpness to composite together a final image.
  • Utilizing a compositing method for ‘stabilization’ allows Apple to tackle both your movement and subject movement at the same time, which is pretty clever.
  • Burst Mode — The burst mode is a pretty standard 10 frames per second, a speed that can be matched by some third-party apps on the App Store already.
  • Slow Motion Video — Slow motion video takes a lot of light. When you’re capturing 120 images per second, you need to fire your shutter off quickly to move on to the next one (1/120th of a second or faster, to be exact). So I wouldn’t expect to see this work well in anything but broad daylight.

USB Condom Protects Your Device

  • Charging your phone through an unfamiliar USB port can lead to some nasty surprises on your device, but a new attachment called the USB Condom should be able to keep it safe.
  • Made by int3.cc, the protective layer fits on top of a USB plug and cuts off access to the pins that allow it to transmit and receive data.
  • Only the pins that allow the plug to receive power are left open, so that a device can charge without any possibility of malware being passed between the device and its power source.
  • The USB Condom is meant to protect against what’s known as “juice jacking,” where a seemingly innocuous charging station is used to steal data or harm a device.
  • If you’re set up with an extra battery pack of your own, there should be nothing to worry about, but as travelers lean more on free charging kiosks, they may need to pay extra attention to exactly who set it up in the first place.