Show of 11-9-13

Tech Talk

November 9, 2013

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from James Messick: Dear Tech Talk. You should feature James Lows in Profiles in IT. William C. Lowe, who supervised the creation of IBM’s first personal computer, a technological touchstone that he insisted — and proved — could be conceived, engineered and manufactured in a single year by a company not known for speeding products. He was a physicist. James Messick.
  • Tech Talk Responds: This is a great suggestion. We will feature him next week. I love suggestion for Profiles in IT because it always difficult to find new people to feature.
  • Email from Kristi: Dear Tech Talk. I let my son play with my iPhone. He deleted the Message icon. I don’t know how to get it back. Please help. Love the show. Kristi in Fairfax.
  • Tech Talk Responds: In cannot undelete the Message icon once it is deleted. The program is still installed, the icon is just gone. To restore the icon, you can to reset the home screen, Go to settings/General/Reset.  Click Reset Home Screen Layout. This will restore the Message icon. I will also change the position of the default icons to their original location. Installed apps will be unchanged.
  • Email from a Devoted Listen in Bethesda: Dear Dr. Shurtz. I need to identify a software app that build a ‘custom dictionary’ of disallowed terms. Once this list of custom disallowed words is built I need to compare it to a PDF document and have all the disallowed terms highlighted. I have painfully learned this can’t be done in MS WORD because our custom disallowed words can’t be words in the WORD provided dictionary. My workplace can’t afford the Cadillac app though please do name the BEST Tool and then a few cheaper alternates. Thanks!  Bethesda devoted listener
  • Tech Talk Responds: The best options I could find is a shareware program called Batch Word Highlighter 3.0. It is $49.95 and can be downloaded from the web at this location: http://batch-word-highlighter.smartcode.com/info.html. Beware I have not tested this software, but it looks cheap enough to give it a try.
  • Email from Lauren in Bethesda: Dear Dr. Shurtz, my tech guy, I am hoping you might pull a rabbit out of your hat and solve my current iMac and HP printer handshake dilemma. I have a HP Office Jet all-in-one G85 printer that works fine and I would like to continue using it. I own an iMac since Jan 2013 and have a working HP Office Jet all-in-one (that works now on a pc -Dell Inspiron- that I now hardly use and is over 6 years old.. HP’s drivers for my G85 printer (model C6735 or C6737) stop around MAC OS X 10.4 (2005). I called AppleCare and they there said I should download the basic printer driver for a MAC HP posted and we did. I installed this HP printer driver ‘basic printer driver’ on the iMac. Though printer seems to be understood to be online and ready on my iMac, I can’t get it to print a single page.  Do you know of a workaround?
  • In the event I’m forced to get a printer upgrade. Can you offer some guidance on a newer printer that is like an HP all-in-one that allows printing/faxing/scanning and copying that works on an iMAC? I’ve been told that I ought to not get another HP printer by a friend who is another smart tech guy :). Thanks!    Lauren Bethesda
  • Tech Talk Responds: You are right there are not HP drivers available for anything beyond OS X 10.4. Some have gotten it to work on 10.5 according to the forums, but none have gotten it to work on anything more recent. Many of the first generation USB printers seemed to have problems with their USB ports not being quite up to specs.  That seems to be the case with the HP G85. Combine that with lack of support for the scanner and it just isn’t worth it.
  • As for a new printer, I can’t tell your requirements well enough, Do you need a scanner, fax, printer…or just a printer. What is your print volume? In the long run ink cartridges are your largest expense.
  • Email from Arnie McKechnie: Hi Dr. Shurtz, You’ve mentioned on Tech Talk you use iCloud with your Apple iPhone and iPad. There are several MyCloud systems that act like iCloud, but the Cloud remains at home and not on a Cloud  server.
  •  There are:  Western Digital’s My Cloud, Seagate’s Central, NetGear’s Centria WNDR4720,  Lacle’s Cloudbox, Iomega’s Home Media Networked Hard Drive, Cloud Edition. What do you think of these Cloud systems? Seems there is more security of having something at home than on a Cloud server somewhere. Wonder if they work with Apple devices? Thanks, Arnie McKechnie, Davidsonville, MD
  • Tech Talk Responds: If you choose to manage your own cloud storage, there are now many options for Network Addressed Storage. The paid services are encrypted and quite secure, but you do have a monthly fee in some cases. If you manage you own storage, security and reliability are now your responsibility. Make certain to get a RAID device with redundancy. At a minimum that would mean two mirrored drives, so if one fails you can simply replace it without any data loss. If someone steals the drive, your data is gone. So secure your NAS device out of sight in the event of a break-in. If you need uptime guarantees, you will need a backup power supply. This is probably not needed in your case. Ease of use depends on the software suite provided for backup, picture sharing etc.
  • Email from John in Woodbridge: Dear Tech Talk. I have to email some very large attachments. They keep getting rejected by the recipients’ mail service. What are my options? Thanks John in Woodbridge:
  •  Tech Talk Responds: I have two standard methods to transfer large files. My first option is to use Gmail. Gmail can accept large attachments. I think their limit is around 20MB. I know that a Tech Talk file is around 14MB and I always send it using Gmail. If the attachment is much bigger, you can upload the file to a storage area and send the link to the stored file. By uploading and sending a link, you’re giving your recipient a choice to download or not.
  • There are many possibilities for an upload site. I like to use Dropbox. After you install Dropbox, simply copy the file that you want to share into a folder within your Dropbox folder. Then right-click that file and click the Dropbox share link item: Dropbox places a link in your clipboard. As part of Dropbox’s operation, the file was uploaded to the Dropbox servers. This link is valid anywhere that Dropbox can be reached on the internet.  If you update or alter the file in your Dropbox folder, the server copy will be updated as well, and the link will point to your updated copy.
  • Just remember to give the upload process enough time to actually upload the file from your machine before sharing the link with someone. Depending on the speed of your internet connection and the size of the file, this could take some time.
  • Other cloud storage services like Microsoft’s SkyDrive, Google Drive, and Box. If you’re primarily sharing pictures,  use a free photo sharing site like Google’s Picasa, Yahoo’s Flickr, or any of a number of other alternatives. •If you’re primarily sharing videos, use YouTube.

Profiles in IT: Sean O’Sullivan

  • Sean O’Sullivan is best known for co-founding MapInfo Corporation and for coining the term “Cloud Computing”.
  • Sean O’Sullivan was born in Schoharie, New York in 1964.
  • He had an early interest in computers and volunteered to do work at 8 or 10 to get access to a TRS80, prior to the advent of Apple Computers.
  • Began programming professionally at 14 working for Schoharie County and work for IBM by age 17. Received a BSEE Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1985.
  • After graduation, he co-founded MapInfo 1986 with three classmates. The four were students at Rensselaer who wanted to develop an mapping tool for the PC.
  • They got a contract to develop bus routes for a local school district and used the money to develop their first product.
  • The company originated as a Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) incubator project.
  • MapInfo appeared at number 23 in Inc. Magazine’s Inc. 500 in 1992, had an IPO in 1994, and was sold to Pitney Bowes in 2007 for $408M.
  • In 1993, O’ Sullivan founded SOSventures, a venture capital and investment management firm, headquartered in Cork, using the proceeds from the IPO.
  • In 1995, O’Sullivan founded NetCentric in 1995 and tried to get $5M from Compaq.
  • He worked with George Favaloro. During that interaction, the term “cloud computing” was cointed. Both men believe they invented the term.
  • In May 1997, NetCentric filed a trademark application for cloud computing.
  • O’Sullivan gave up using the term as he struggled to market an Internet fax service. Eventually, the company went belly up and closed its doors.
  • He then turned to charity and arts. He received an MFA in Film Production from UC.
  • His thesis was a full-length documentary about dementia. The film won the 2005 “Silver Images” award for best documentary film about elderly issues.
  • He filmed the war in Iraq as a freelancer for CNN, Reuters and Wall Street Journal.
  • In 2003, he founded JumpStart International, a humanitarian engineering organization based in Baghdad, operating in Iraq from 2003 to 2006.
  • He spent a few years running JumpStart, which for a time had a staff of over 3000, running up to 80 projects at a time in Fallujah, Najaf and the Baghdad region.
  • He has also been a primary funder of organizations such as the Khan Academy and CoderDojo, a program to encourage young children to program..
  • Most recently, he co-founded Carma, a 50-person operation in Cork, Ireland that provides real-time carpooling solutions globally.
  • Also, as Chairman of the Irish Entrepreneurship Forum and founder of Open Ireland, he is a leader helping to direct the Irish recovery in the Technology sector.
  • In hindsight, he said, maybe MapInfo should have been more aggressive with patents. They had the original idea. Now mapping programs like Google Maps are ubiquitous.

 How Technology Will Make Everyone A Great Photographer

  • At the end of May, the Chicago Sun-Times laid off all its staff photographers.
  • The paper would instead use newswires, freelancers, and reporters armed with iPhones.
  • It was not the first time traditional media turned to untrained photojournalists—consider the Instagram photos NBC published after the Boston Marathon bombing or CNN’s iReport—but it was the first time any outlet made a policy of doing so.
  • For the strategy to pay off, however, camera phone technology needs to support it in ways it currently doesn’t. Camera phones have improved dramatically in the last few years—the Nokia PureView sensor has 41 megapixels, and HTC’s newest sensor has larger pixels that grab more light—but they still suffer from one great shortfall: inadequate lenses.
  • About a year ago, engineers began to address the issue by putting cellular radios inside cameras, rather than attempting to cram cameras inside phones.
  • The 16.3-megapixel Samsung Galaxy Camera has a 4G radio and a 21-times zoom lens.
  • And the newer 20.3-megapixel Galaxy NX has an interchangeable lens mount. The Sony QX100, the newest offering in the lot, is the most extreme example.
  • The device is just a lens, sensor, and image processor, and users attach their smartphone as a viewfinder.
  • Editors will need software that selects the best images—not just the ones from the right place at the right time.
  • Connected cameras may improve the overall quality of crowd sourced images, but they will do little for the editors whose job it is to sort through them.
  • Current services provide a temporary solution.
  • With Scoopshot, a Helsinki software start-up, publishers can send photo assignments to the service’s network of 300,000-plus mobile users.
  • Stringwire, which NBC acquired in August, lets video producers request an uplink from anyone who has tweeted near an event of interest.
  • But to assure quality, editors will need software that automatically selects the best images—not just the ones taken in the right place at the right time.
  • That type of computer vision already exists on a small scale.
  • A recent update to Google+ analyzes groups of pictures for blurriness, aesthetics, landmarks, and exposure to pick out the most shareable ones.
  • The Sun-Times to benefit from that type of machine vision, the software will need to process larger image batches from multiple sources.
  •  In time, those pieces may come together, proving that the Sun-Times decision wasn’t foolish—it was just a bit before its time.

What’s a “Shark Tank” Appearance Worth?

  • Garrett Gee’s startup Scan didn’t necessarily need the $1 million he was pitching investors for on “Shark Tank.”
  • Gee had recently raised $7 million at a $21 million valuation for Scan from Google Ventures, Menlo Ventures, and Entree Capital.
  • They were open to a deal, but exposure was definitely a top priority.
  • Gee’s startup Scan makes a QR-code-scanning mobile app for individuals and a code-creating service for businesses.
  • Before the show aired, Scan’s $1.99 app was No. 5 among Utilities apps in Apple’s App Store, and No. 150 among all paid apps.
  • After the show aired, Scan shot up to No. 1 among paid apps in the Utilities category, and No. 25 among all paid apps.
  • It’s also listed first among all paid apps in the Windows Phone store.
  • That should make the startup’s investors feel better — some of them were not supportive of the appearance on the show.
  • While Gee’s appearance seems to have been a hit for awareness, at least in the short term, his pitch fell short of landing him the $1 million investment.
  • Scan’s app lets users scan bar codes and QR codes using the phone’s camera.
  • The company also recently announced a “scan to pay” function that lets scanners make a donation or purchase digital goods with a tap or two after scanning the code.

 Wolfram Alpha Launches Problem Generator

  • If you’re studying math or science, you are probably pretty familiar with Wolfram Alpha as a tool for figuring out complicated equations. That makes it a pretty good tool for cheating, but not necessarily for learning. Today, the Wolfram Alpha team is launching a new service for learners, the Wolfram Problem Generator, that turns the “computational knowledge engine” on its head.
  • The Problem Generator – which is available to all Wolfram Alpha Pro subscribers now – creates random practice questions for students, and Wolfram Alpha then helps them find the answers step-by-step.
  • Right now, the Generator covers six subjects: arithmetic, number theory, algebra, calculus, linear algebra and statistics. The difficulty of the questions can be tuned down for students in elementary school and tuned up for those in college calculus classes.
  • The material for students in elementary and secondary schools closely follows the Common Core Standards initiative.
  • Using the tools is pretty straightforward. Students (or their teachers) choose which topic they want to study and the difficulty level (beginner, intermediate or advanced) and the system will generate a problem.
  • The team notes that the tool uses Wolfram Alpha’s natural language processing capabilities to try to understand the students’ answers to “ensure that all students can learn and express themselves in their own unique way.” This may actually be the highlight of this service. Too often, after all, similar tools force a very rigid way of answering complex math questions on their students and when they make a mistake, it’s not clear if the answer is wrong or if the student just got the syntax wrong.
  • If a student can’t find the answer after three tries, Wolfram Alpha can show a step-by-step solution. The Problem Generator also allows teachers to easily create printable quizzes with multiple-choice tests.
  • Pro subscription is $4.99 per month ($2.99 per month for students)

 Helium-Filled Hard Drives Increase Capacity

  • Western Digital subsidiary HGST’s latest breakthrough in storage density has announced a major breakthrough in storage.
  • By filling the drive enclosure with helium gas, HGST claims to have reduced drag inside its typical HDD to the point where it can add more platters inside the same space.
  • Where it once could only fit five, it can now cram in seven separate disks, resulting in single-drive capacities of up to 6TB.
  • Now being tested by big storage operators. HP, Huawei, CERN, and Netflix — which recently started trialing 4K video streaming — have all been named as potential customers
  • . HGST is starting to ship out the helium-filled Ultrastar He6, claiming its best-in-class power and space efficiency plus reduced total cost of ownership.
  • And, because they’re airtight, the new disk drives are also suitable for use in immersion-cooled data centers.

Snowden Used Social Engineering

  • Former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden used login credentials and passwords provided unwittingly by colleagues at a spy base in Hawaii to access some of the classified material he leaked to the media, sources said.
  • A handful of agency employees, who gave their login details to Snowden were identified, questioned and removed from their assignments.
  • Snowden may have persuaded between 20 and 25 fellow workers at the NSA regional operations center in Hawaii to give him their logins and passwords by telling them they were needed for him to do his job as a computer systems administrator.
  • The revelation is the latest to indicate that inadequate security measures at the NSA played a significant role in the worst breach of classified data in the super-secret eavesdropping agency’s 61-year history.
  • Reuters reported last month that the NSA failed to install the most up-to-date, anti-leak software at the Hawaii site before Snowden went to work there and downloaded highly classified documents belonging to the agency and its British counterpart, Government Communication Headquarters.
  • It is not clear what rules the employees broke by giving Snowden their passwords, which allowed the contractor access to data that he was not authorized to see.
  • Snowden worked at the Hawaii site for about a month last spring, during which he got access to and downloaded tens of thousands of secret NSA documents.
  • The sources did not know if the NSA employees who were removed from their assignments were given other duties or fired.