Show of 10-5-2013

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Dick Mondro in Florida: Dear Doc, I have been hounded by this Pop Up Ad everyday in both IE10 and Chrome using Win7.  I have Pop Up Ad Blocking in use as well as a second ad blocker and have entered the URL in the IE Options, Privacy, Sites, Block Sites. I scan every day, on startup with Norton Antivirus, Malware Bytes and Kaspersky’s TDSS Killer and Anti Root. Nothing I have tried seems to work.  Any chance you may have an answer?
  • I enjoy your shows and download them and listen on my MP3 Player.  Your topics are very helpful…keep up the great work. I also use Chrome and like it but cannot find a way to use podcasts like IE does under Feeds.  Is there a way to do this with Chrome?   Thanks. Dick Mondro, Weirsdale, Florida.
  • Tech Talk Responds: This is a problem that has been discussed on the discussion boards. Since you have been scanning system using anti-virus and spyware programs, it is probably being caused by an extension that you added to your browsers (both of them). Remove any recently added extension (one at time). Reboot your computer and check to see if the pop-up go away. You should make certain that you have configured your browsers to block popups by going to setting.
  • An excellent way to get rid of all unscrupulous sites is to load a hosts file that will not permit your computer to access those sites at all. This will also stop the annoying ads that show up on your computer. Go to http://winhelp2002.mvps.org/. He updates this host file periodically. This will also allow pages to load faster because they are not waiting for ads to load. The program will rename your old host file and put a new one in its place. This file is loaded each time your Windows computer reboots.
  • As for listening to Tech Talk in Chrome, you will have to add an RSS reader extension. This is loaded by default in IE. Click on the box in the upper right hand corner and chose extensions. Click on Get More Extensions and search for Podcast. Select a Reader. I user RSS Extension Reader by Google
  • Email from Azra in Fredericksburg: Dear Tech Talk, I recently upgraded the operating system to on my iPhone to iOS 7. Now my iMessaging is not reliable. How can I fix the problem? Sometimes the messages just sit and are never sent. Thanks, Azra in Fredericksburg. BTW, we listen to the show using the live stream over the Internet using the TuneIn Radio application.
  • Tech Talk Responds: There is a software bug in iOS 7.0.2. The discussion groups have lit up with this problem. It only affects some of the phone. For instance, mine is working perfectly. As a work around, you can turn off iMessage and use only text messaging. This means that your carriers will be charging you for texting, so be mindful of your plan. The good news is that text messaging still works under iOS 7.0.2. This should be fixed with the next operating system update. Apple is aware of the problem.
  • Email from Lois in Kansas: Dear Doc and Jim, I just got this message from Google that someone tried to use an application to sign into my Google account. The sign-in was in China, so Google thought it might not be me and blocked it. What I want to know is did this suspicious sign-in actually use my correct password? Or did they just try to sign-in with random passwords hoping to stumble across the correct one? What should I do? Thank, Lois, Erie, Kansas
  • Tech Talk Responds: Google is performing a great service by checking for legitimate login attempts. Watching out for account theft is a positive thing. Google probably wouldn’t notify you unless there was a real concern that somebody logged in with the correct password, and I’d treat it as such.
  • I would log into my Google account and change the password using at least 8 characters, upper and lower case, and at least one symbol. Then I would check the Gmail settings. Click on the gear in the upper right hand corner. Select settings. Go to Account and change password and check the password recovery options (phone number etc.). The click on the Forwarding link on the top to make certain that your emails are not being forwarded to another account.
  • Email from John in Alexandria: Dear Tech Talk, Is there a simple way to transfer pictures from my Samsung Galaxy S2 to my PC? I use Windows 7. I have Bluetooth on the phone. I don’t know how to get Bluetooth on the PC. Is there any other way? Thanks, John in Alexandria
  • Tech Talk Responds: Actually, there are several different ways. The approach that I’ve been using lately is to use Dropbox. You can transfers through the cloud using Dropbox. Install it on that phone and on your PC. When you install it on your phone, you will be given the option of having Dropbox automatically upload each of the pictures that you take as soon as you take them. Once you do so, then the pictures will, also, automatically show up on any of the other computers on which happen to be running Dropbox. This is very convenient. If you had an iPhone, you could have used the iCloud to upload your pictures to your computer.
  • The other approach is to connect your phone to the computer using a cable. This is what I did prior to the cloud. Your phone came with a USB cable. That should allow you to attach your phone to your computer. When attached, your phone should be enabled to look like a disk drive to your computer. Potentially even more than one.
  • On one of those disk drives that is your phone look for a folder called DCIM. It will be at the top of the drive; at the root of the drive. In that folder will be the pictures that you’ve taken and you can simply use Windows Explorer to then copy those picture files from your phone to your PC.
  • You may at that point want to make sure that you backup your photos. Maybe delete them from the phone to make space for more pictures and video, whatever makes sense for you.
  • Email from Ammara in Falls Church: Dear Tech Talk. I burned DBAN to a CD and then rebooted the machine with the CD inserted in the drive. Unfortunately, it just booted right back into Windows. What gives? How do I get the computer to boot up from the CD? Love the show, Ammara in Falls Church
  • Tech Talk Responds: You need to change the boot order in the BIOS. The BIOS is the program that your computer reads while it is starting. The BIOS is currently set to read the hard disk first while booting up. Since it found a bootable OS on the hard drive it looked no further. You have to configure it to check the CD/DVD first.
  • When the BIOS starts up, it typically displays some technical information on the screen. While it does so, there should be somewhere on the screen a message to the effect of “Press [key] to enter setup.” The exact wording may be different and the key listed may be just about anything; often, it’s a function key (F1 through F12) or the DEL key. To get to the BIOS, you need to press the recommended key while the computer is booting up.
  • On the page of BIOS Boot options, you’ll probably find several settings. The one we’re looking for is Boot Device Priority, but it may be called.

Profiles in IT: Stacey Ferreira

  • Stacey Ferreira is best known for co-founding MySocialCloud.com, an online bookmark vault and password manager.
  • Stacey Ferreira was born September 11, 1992 in Scottdales, AZ
  • She attended Xavier College Preparatory, an all-girls Catholic high school in Phoenix, AZ, to complete her high school degree.
  • During this period she served as a Board Member for a nonprofit, Open Table, which her brother co-founded at the age of 14.
  • She also spent her high school summers getting involved in media by working at a local Phoenix educational TV station.
  • Their parents gave us one more summer to go and do whatever they wanted to.
  • They decided to start an online password manager company. The idea originally stemmed from a computer crash that left Scott without his password spreadsheet.
  • Ferreira co-founded MySocialCloud with programmer Shiv Prakash and her brother Scott Ferreira while she was still in high school in 2011.
  • Stacey is a self-taught programmer and helped build the product from the ground up.
  • MySocialCloud is a cloud-based bookmark vault and password website.
  • After graduation, they moved to Los Angeles, where they developed the company while living in a small apartment in South Central LA.
  • The pair decided to approach Sir Richard Branson when Stacey received a Tweet inviting Branson’s Twitter followers to a two-day charity banquet in Miami.
  • She and her brother flew to the event by borrowing the $4,000 charity donation they needed to attend, from their parents.
  • At the event they met Branson, were able to speak with him one-on-one, and after two months of discussing the business proposal, he agreed to fund the venture.
  • He loved their ambition and our willingness to just go and build the product.
  • The company was funded with $1 million in seed funding from Sir Richard Branson, Jerry Murdock of Insight Venture Partners, and PhotoBucket founder Alex Welch.
  • After founding MySocialCloud, Stacey proceeded to attend New York University.
  • After one year she took a leave of absence to pursue MySocialCloud full-time.
  • In July 2013, MySocialCloud was purchased by Reputation.com (terms undisclosed)
  • The founding partners will continue to work on MySocialCloud with Reputation.com
  • She’s currently working on her second startup right now, and she looks nothing like Mark Zuckerberg and 90% of the entrepreneurs currently being funded by VCs.
  • Business Insider naming her one of the Most Successful New College Dropouts.
  • She was listed with her brother as one of Fox’s “Teenager-Turned-Millionaire Success Stories”
  • She was featured on the cover of September cover of Seventeen Magazine as the winner of the “pretty amazing” competition.

What Developers can learn from healthcare.gov

  • Observations by James Turner
  • The first highly visible component of the Affordable Health Care Act launched this week, in the form of the healthcare.gov site.
  • Theoretically, it allows citizens, who live in any of the states that have chosen not to implement their own portal, to get quotes and sign up for coverage.
  • There are problems. Consumers have been unable to successfully get quoted for insurance. There are lessons to be learned from this debacle.
  • Load testing is your friend. If there’s a positive message that we can glean from the collapse of the portal, it is that there are a LOT of people interested in getting healthcare via the government. Unfortunately, that has led to what is effectively a DDoS attack. It has become abundantly clear that the site was never stress-tested under anything like the type of load it is encountering.
  • Pretty doesn’t trump functional. The site is very well designed from a graphical perspective, and is clearly using lots of Javascript and AJAX to do snazzy transitions and requests in the background. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be interacting with the intermittent failures on the backend very well. If you’re going to make requests behind the scenes, you need to be very tolerant of failures. The healthcare.gov site seems to fail silently and leave a broken user experience in its wake, with no way to continue. Nothing drives a user crazy more than having to go through the same form over and over because of failures that leave them high and dry.
  • Validation logic needs to actually work. One of the more interesting early failures of the site was that the username required numbers, but the instructions made no mention of it (and neither did the failure message).
  • UX isn’t a luxury. User Experience is a very precise art, and when you have a site with as many moving parts and multiple paths as healthcare, making sure that the user always knows where they are, and what the next step is, is key. There have been several times during the sign-up process where I was left in a deathtrap of UI I couldn’t escape from, and it was unclear what the next step was.
  • The way that the federal government bids out software is fundamentally broken. There are clearly companies in the industry who understand exactly the kind of problems that healthcare.gov needed to address. Intuit’s online TurboTax is much more complicated than the sign-up process for healthcare, and it works under heavy load. Amazon and Google both handle crushing loads gracefully as well. Why can’t the government draw on this kind of expertise when designing a site as critical to the public as healthcare.gov, rather than farming it out to the lowest bidder?

Drone Crashes in Manhattan

  • On the way down it almost hit a businessman, who removed out the video card from the wreckage and handed it over to a local television-news station.
  • In the video, the drone (a Phantom Quadcopter) lifts off from what looks like an apartment terrace and buzzes its merry way toward some nearby skyscrapers, pausing for a few panoramic surveys of the Manhattan skyline. But the operator is clearly inexperienced, crashing the vehicle against the side of a building, and the flight lasts a mere three minutes before a final collision sends it to the street.
  • Engineers blamed the Quadcopter’s poor performance on the pilot’s possible reliance on GPS mode; when flying in an area crowded with tall buildings (and they don’t get much taller or more crowded than in Manhattan) that block GPS signals, a vehicle can quickly think it’s off-target and attempt to correct, leading to crashes.
  • In theory, the FAA forbids the operation of unmanned aerial vehicles over crowded areas such as Manhattan, but that hasn’t stopped any number of hobbyists from launching drones.
  • Just across the East River, in Brooklyn, Tumblr founder David Karp keeps ordering—and crashing—drones from a Chinese manufacturer.
  • The rise of domestic drones is sparking the inevitable pushback from regulators and civil-rights groups. The ACLU, for example, is particularly concerned about drone usage by law enforcement.

Book of the Week: Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath

  • How to make better choices in life and work
  • We all make poor decisions because of four common villains
    • We have too narrow of focus.
    • We fall into confirmation bias.
    • We get caught in short-term emotion.
    • We are guilty of overconfidence.
  • The book defines a process to defeat these villains. It requires you to:
    • Widen your options.
    • Reality-test your assumptions.
    • Attain distance before deciding.
    • Prepare to be wrong.
  • The authors refer to this as the WRAP Process from the first letter of each step. This process is actually the application of critical thinking to the decision making process.
  • Excellent read. Highly recommended.

NSA using Firefox flaw to snoop on Tor users

  • An NSA presentation released by Edward Snowden contains mixed news for Tor users.
  • The anonymizing service itself appears to be secure. However, US and UK government agents are using a zero-day flaw in the Firefox browser bundled with Tor to track users.
  • There’s also a case of diminishing returns as Tor becomes more popular. With each user acting as a transport node, the sheer scale of the system means it becomes steadily more difficult for the intelligence community to run enough nodes to be useful for tracking.
  • There are also indications that the NSA had been trying to influence the design of Tor to make it more crackable. In the he case of Tor, the agency appears to have had little luck.
  • Mozilla has now fixed the Firefox flaw used by the government, but it seems likely that a fair few Tor users won’t have updated their software as often as they should and may still be vulnerable.
  • You can download TOR from https://www.torproject.org/.
  • It is designed to protect your privacy and defend against network surveillance and traffic analysis. Just be careful that your browser has been updated.

Sire Voice Revealed

  • Siri, Apple’s voice-activated virtual “assistant” was released with the iPhone 4S on October 4, 2011.
  • Behind this technology there is a real woman. While Apple has never identified her, all signs indicate that the original voice of Siri in the United States is a voiceover actor from the US. Her name is Susan Bennett and she lives in suburban Atlanta.
  • Bennett, who won’t divulge her age, fell into voice work by accident in the 1970s. Today, she can be heard worldwide. She speaks up in commercials and on countless phone systems. She spells out directions from GPS devices and addresses travelers in Delta airport terminals.
  • The story of how Bennett became this iconic voice began in 2005. ScanSoft, a software company, was looking for a voice for a new project.
  • It reached out to GM Voices, a suburban Atlanta company that had established a niche recording voices for automated voice technologies.
  • Bennett, a trusted talent who had done lots of work with GM Voices, was one of the options presented.
  • ScanSoft liked what it heard, and in June 2005 Bennett signed a contract offering her voice for recordings that would be used in a database to construct speech.
  • For four hours a day, every day, in July 2005, Bennett holed up in her home recording booth. Hour after hour, she read nonsensical phrases and sentences.
  • These snippets were then synthesized in a process called concatenation that builds words, sentences, paragraphs. And that is how voices like hers find their way into GPS and telephone systems.
  • But Bennett never knew exactly how her voice would be used. She assumed it would be employed in company phone systems, but beyond that didn’t think much about it. She was paid by the hour and moved on to the next gig.
  • The surprise came in October 2011 after Apple released its iPhone 4S, the first to feature Siri. Bennett didn’t have the phone herself, but people who knew her voice did.
  • In October 2005, a few months after Bennett made those recordings,  ScanSoft bought and took on the name of Nuance Communications. Nuance is the company widely accepted to have provided to Apple the technology behind Siri.
  • Interview with Siri to hear some of her funny responses.