Show of 10-19-2013

Best of Tech Talk Edition

Replaying segments from previous shows.

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: Admiral Grace Murray Hopper

  • “Amazing Grace” Hopper was Born December 9, 1906 to Walter and Mary Murray in New York City .
  • BA, Mathematics and Physics, Vassar College , 1928; MA, Mathematics, Yale University , 1930; Ph.D., Mathematics, Yale University , 1934
  • Admiral Grace Hopper was a computer programmer and “mother” of COBOL programming language.
  • As a child, Hopper loved gadgets. She loved to take things apart.
  • In high school, she played basketball, field hockey and water polo.
  • When working towards her Ph.D., she was one of four women in a doctoral program of ten students. She is one of few women admirals in the history of the United States Navy. First female PhD in Mathematics from Yale.
  • In 1930 at the age of 23 she married Vincent Foster Hopper. They divorced in 1945
  • She was Associate Professor at Vassar College from 1931 to 1943
  • After Pearl Harbor , Hopper decided to serve her country during World War II.
    • She was commissioned a Lieutenant (JG) and was ordered to the Bureau of Ordnance Computation Project at Harvard University inn 1944
    • She became the first programmer on the Navy’s Mark I computer.
    • Hopper loved this 8 foot high, 8 foot wide gadget filled with relays, switches and vacuum tubes.
    • She traced an error in the Mark II to a moth trapped in a relay, coining the term bug.
  • In 1946, when Hopper was released from active duty, she joined the Harvard Faculty at the Computation Laboratory where she continued her work on the Mark II and Mark III.
  • In 1949 she joined the Eckert-Machly Computer Corporation (later called Sperry Rand) where she helped design the commercial computer called the UNIVAC
    • The UNIVAC operated a thousand times faster than the Mark I.
    • Perhaps her best-known contribution to computing was the invention of the compiler (1952), the intermediate program that translates English language instructions into the language of the target computer.
    • It was used by Flow-Matic the only existing business language
    • She then participated in the work to produce specifications for a common business language which would be called Common Business Oriented Language (COBOL). The specification was published in 1959.
    • COBOL was the first language that allowed a programmer to speak to the computer with words rather than numbers.
  • She was also famous for presenting a nanosecond. She would have a piece of wire, about a foot long, and explain that it represented a nanosecond, since it was the maximum distance electricity could travel in wire in one billionth of a second.
  • Admiral Hopper was also famous for a remark she made on television in 1983. She said ” It is much easier to apologize that to get permission”.
  • She received the first computer sciences “man-of-the-year” award from the Data Processing Management Association in 1969
  • First woman of any nationality to be made a Distinguished Fellow of the British Computer Society.

Flight Controlled Move toward GPS Guidance Systems

  • The System We Have Now is Antiquated
    • Radar plane detection and tracking
    • Planes have no knowledge of other nearby aircraft
    • Currently, a plane is guided to its destination via a series of radar handoff’s.
    • With today’s radar, it can take up to 36 seconds to get an accurate read on a plane’s position ? a long time for an aircraft flying 500 mph.
    • So safety buffers err on the conservative side: The minimum distance between planes is 5 miles horizontally and about 3 miles on landing and approach.
  • NextGen is designed to change all that by providing air traffic controllers and pilots with much more accurate and detailed real-time information
    • Instead of radar, the new system relies on ADS-B, or automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast.
    • An aircraft equipped with ADS-B receives GPS signals via an on-board receiver to determine its position in the sky.
    • That information, plus data on the plane’s identity, position, speed and intended flight path, is broadcast to other aircraft and ground stations within 150 miles. For the first time, both pilots and controllers will see the same real-time displays of air traffic.
    • Planes will be able to fly closer without jeopardizing safety, so more flights can be scheduled, easing congestion.
    • This procedure is known as self-separation.
  • Several airlines aren’t waiting for government action
    • Cargo carrier UPS Airlines has already equipped nearly 300 of its planes and its main airport hub in Louisville , Ky. , with ADS-B technology.
    • By shortening flight times and using more efficient approach paths, UPS expects to save about 800,000 gallons of fuel annually.
    • Next year, Southwest will install a similar system.
    • Southwest is forecasting big fuel savings when it re-equips its fleet of 520 737s next year.

How Does GPS Work?

  • The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a world-wide radio-navigation system formed from a constellation of 24 satellites and their ground stations.
  • GPS receivers use these ?man-made stars? as reference points to calculate positions accurately to an accuracy of meters using unclassified data.
  • GPS Satellites
    • Name: NAVSTAR
    • Manufacturers: Rockwell International
    • Orbit: 12 hours, 55 degrees to the equatorial plane
    • Ground stations in: Hawaii , Ascension Islands , Diego Garcia, Kwajalein, and Colorado Springs
  • Three satellites are needed for triangulation, but the receiver must have an atomic clock
  • Four satellites provide the time information and allow for cheap receivers.

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.