Show of 11-16-2013

Tech Talk

November16, 2013

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Kenneth Bogle: Hello. You mentioned in a previous show the 7? Rules of Critical Thinking you teach.  How can I get this download? Respectfully, Ken
  • Tech Talk Responds: Ken, I like the model proposed by the Foundation for Critical Thinking (www.criticalthinking.org).  A graphical summary of their model is show here (http://www.criticalthinking.org/ctmodel/logic-model1.htm). This model is very useful when thinking about a problem.
  • Critical thinking includes:  purpose for the thinking, the question at hand, the required information, the conclusion or inferences, the underlying model to analyze the data, the underlying assumptions, the implications of the conclusion, the point of view.
  • These principles have been applied to business decisions in the book Decisive: How to make better choices in life and work by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. This book was required reading for my entire executive team.
  • Email from Ken Hutchison: Dr. Shurtz. After Microsoft stops furnishing updates to Windows XP, won’t programs like Norton Internet Security be able to block malicious actions from the Internet?  Ken
  • Tech Talk Responds: Ken, you are correct about that third party AV will not be available. Even more importantly, Windows XP will not be protected from future exploits that may be backward compatible to this OS. Because of the large global installed expect many attacks via the Internet. However, if you have a Windows XP system that is running legacy software and is not connected to the Internet, there is should be not problems. The one caveat, is don’t use thumb drives in this device that have not been scanned by another system.
  • Email from Mary Wilson: Doc Shurtz, I’d be grateful if you would talk about the features and cost of Amazon Workspaces, which promises to provide Windows 7 desktops on demand to almost any client platform:  Mac OS X, iOS, Android, and Windows. Thanks, Mary
  • Tech Talk Responds: Amazon’s lowest-tier desktops available for $35 per user per month. For a 1,000-user setup, Amazon claimed around 59 percent cost savings over delivering the same desktops on-premises. The desktops are provided to clients by way of a client app, available for most major platforms: Mac OS X, iOS, Android, and Windows.
  • Four different virtual machine configurations are available — from a single virtual CPU with 3.75GB of memory and 50GB of persistent storage to a dual-CPU, 7.5GB, 100GB storage model. Organizations with an existing Active Directory repository or other in-network resources can connect those up to the desktops by way of a VPN.
  • Software is included with the systems as well, although the standard bundles are nothing that can’t be obtained for free (Adobe Reader, Adobe Flash, Firefox, and 7-Zip).
  • Higher-end bundles also include Microsoft Office Professional 2013 and Trend Micro’s antivirus, and Amazon allows customization of bundles. Existing Windows software licenses can be moved into WorkSpaces, albeit for a fee.
  • Amazon’s cloud offerings have typically competed with similar services from Google, Rackspace, IBM, and so on.
  • Workspaces puts Amazon in competition with all the VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) providers out there. Citrix and VMware are two of the biggest names, but Microsoft also has some VDI presence. This is an evolving product that is not competitive with VDI vendors now, but they are should not count it out.
  • Email from Aisha in Virginia Beach: Dear Tech Talk. Someone received an email apparently from my Gmail email address, but I’ve never sent such a mail. Now, I received a letter from the attorney of this guy accusing me of harassing his client. The email in question was sent in April of last year. What can I do to help clarify this misunderstanding? Thanks, Aisha
  • Tech Talk Responds: Most of our messages are accurate, but it’s easy for someone to make email look like it came “from” someone it did not. Spammers do this all the time – as a result the From: line is actually a fairly unreliable indicator of who actually sent an email.
  • It’s more difficult to change the headers in email. These are the additional information (which you don’t normally see) that accompanies every email message. Typically, it includes the server-to-server path that the email took from when the message was sent to when it arrived in your inbox. It might even include more, such as the machine name, the real email address, or the IP address of the sender.
  • The problem is that this information – the full message header – is in the hands of the person that is accusing you. You have to get it somehow. It’s not enough for them to just forward the message; all that would do is give you the “From” line that you know can be faked.
  • They need to do the equivalent of a “View Source” or “View Headers” or “View Original” on that message, depending on their email program, to show the entire technical details of that specific email message that they claim is coming from you. That’s what you or your attorney will need to see.
  • Once again, much of that information can also be spoofed, and fake headers are possible. Ultimately, only a technical analysis of what is there will give you chance of proving or disproving anything.
  • Email from Allen in Fairfax, Virginia: Dear Tech Talk, some forums are not allowing me to register because they claim I’m a spammer. The administrator on one of them emailed me that my IP address is on a blacklist.  I’ve checked my IP address on many blacklists and I was all green and clean so what’s the matter here? Should I or could I change my IP address? Is there any way to locate that blacklist and get me taken off? Love the show, Allen
  • Tech Talk Responds: IP address blacklists are normally unreliable and a poor approach to controlling whatever it is people are trying to control. But administrators definitely use them. The first thing that I would do is ask that forum owner exactly what blacklist it is that he’s using.
  • There are probably hundreds of different blacklists, and that’s part of the problem. There’s no way to know which one he’s using or which one the checking services that you’ve been looking into are actually referencing.
  • Appeal —If you can get the source of that blacklist, then maybe you can appeal. The problem is that most blacklists are exceptionally poorly managed. In that sense, they are very easy to get on and often, they’re very difficult to get off.
  • Use different IP address — If you can’t get off the blacklist or figure out which blacklist you’re on, you’re pretty much out of luck for the direct connection. Coming at it from a different ISP – such as an internet café – would certainly do that. If you just want to change your IP address (say from home), the chances are that it’s not just a single IP address that’s blocked but an entire range. If you get a new IP address from your ISP, you may still be within that blocked range.
  • Use a proxy — An alternative might be to use a proxy service such as The Onion Router (TOR), or a VPN service like Hotspot Shield. They actually have different purposes (anonymity, in the case of TOR and security in the case of VPNs), but in both cases, you will appear as coming from a completely different IP address. It will be slower.

Profiles in IT: William Cleland Lowe

  • William C. Lowe, the IBM executive who led the team that developed the IBM PC.
  • William Cleland Lowe was born January 15, 1941 in Easton, Illinois.
  • Lowe attended Lafayette on a basketball scholarship, but up the athletic scholarship to devote more time to his studies.
  • In 1962, Lowe received a BS in physics from Lafayette College in Pennsylvania.
  • After graduation, he joined IBM as a product test engineer.
  • IBM became interested in the personal computer market in the late 1970s, well after brands such as Apple, Commodore, and Atari had established a beachhead.
  • Lowe believed that IBM should develop a PC that could be mass marketed, to expand the company’s reach beyond businesses and into people’s homes.
  • Lowe was the director of IBM’s Boca Raton Labs in 1980 when Atari proposed to make microcomputers which IBM would sell.
  • Lowe took the Atari proposal — along with an alternative suggestion to acquire Atari outright — to an IBM management committee, which reportedly pronounced his suggestion “the dumbest thing we’ve ever heard of.”
  • He convinced his bosses that he could assemble a team to build a PC. IBM CEO Frank Cary then tasked him with bringing an IBM product to market.
  • Under the codename Project Chess, Lowe recruited The Dirty Dozen, 12 engineers who would design and build a prototype personal computer dubbed Acorn within one month. The team was led by Don Estridge.
  • Lowe’s unit was able to develop the IBM PC quickly by adopting open architecture.
  • In 1981, the company began selling its IBM 5150 personal computer at a retail price of $1,565, not including a monitor. It was bundled with a handful of applications.
  • The 5150 PC was powered by a 4.77MHz Intel 8088 microprocessor and came with 16 kilobytes of RAM, expandable to 256K.
  • It used an operating system called MS-DOS 1.0, made by a little-known company from Washington State named Microsoft. It ran on an Intel 8088 microprocessor.
  • On January 3, 1983, Time magazine declared the IBM PC, the Machine of the Year.
  • The commitment to open architecture and off-the-shelf parts had another consequence. Compaq and Dell began building “IBM compatible” machines.
  • He was criticized as IBM tried to fend off scores of competitors and develop new hardware and software, like the Micro Channel Bus and OS/2.
  • He went on to serve as an IBM VP and president of its entry systems division, which oversaw the development and manufacturing of IBM’s PCs and other businesses.
  • In 1988 Lowe left IBM for Xerox and in 1991 became Gulfstream Aerospace CEO.
  • Despite his accomplishments, he did not learn how to use a PC until he left IBM and was working at Xerox.
  • He died of a heart attack October 19, 2013.

3D Models of Smithsonian Artifacts

  • With the Smithsonian X 3D Explorer, anyone with an Internet connection can examine, manipulate, and even print exact 3D models of a few of the Smithsonian’s most precious items.
  • 3D scanning has made the Cosmic Buddha’s faded markings sharp again.3D scanning has made the Cosmic Buddha’s faded markings sharp again.
  • Autodesk uses 3D lidar in order to create hyper-accurate models of artifacts. The technology works by running a laser scan over the object and capturing even the most minute details, resulting in replicas that are even more accurate than the original. Mathews said this was the case with the Cosmic Buddha, which dates to 300 AD.
  • Autodesk revealed the Smithsonian X 3D Explorer to the public at the Smithsonian Castle. The tool has been released with models of about 20 artifacts, all hand picked as the best of the best by curators at the Smithsonian’s 19 museums.
  • The Smithsonian hopes to work with Autodesk to model “many more” of its 137 million artifacts, a collection so large that the museum has yet to photographically archive each.
  • What’s more, each 3D model will be open source, so students and researchers with 3D printers are welcome to print their own copies for further study.
  • Imagine a classroom of kids learning about Native American tribes. The teacher could 3D print copies of the Smithsonian collection’s pottery to show kids how each society crafted differently.
  • Curators selected hot spots on each item for users to click and see what really makes each artifact special.
  • When you’re at the museum, you’re standing right in front of an object, but you can only see one side of. You can’t go around to the back of the Wright Brothers’ airplane and see the inverted bicycle chain on the back that revolutionized the way we think about flight. Now that it’s scanned and in 3D, you can see everything.
  • You must use Chrome or Firefox. MS Explorer will soon be compatible. The browser must support OpenGL.
  • Web address: http://3d.si.edu/

MapQuest’s New App Tries to Remain Relevant

  • MapQuest rebuilt its app from scratch—a nine month endeavor—and the new version launched this week.
  • MapQuest’s new user interface is optimized for ease of use, customization, and safety of use for drivers.
  • You can see what’s around you. Use the “layers” option to search by a variety of different categories (including coffee, bars, gas, parking, and banks) and the app will display local options. You can even create custom categories.
  • You will get traffic updates if you’re driving. The app shows you if you’re approaching light or heavy traffic, and will give you the option to re-route (and tell you how much time you’d save if you do).
  • The app works more like a standard GPS system. It will display or “speak” the next two directional moves, so you always feel prepared for what’s ahead. Plus, you can favorite your home or work addresses to save time.
  • The only major flaw in MapQuest’s new app? Although it has the standard walking or driving options, it hasn’t rolled out a public transportation route-finder.
  • It displays ads. You have to get a paid version to get rid of them.
  • I still prefer Google Maps, but I will try it some more to see if the traffic feature makes the difference.

Waze Navigation Revisited

  • Waze is a fun, community based mapping, traffic & navigation application.
  • It has 50 million users and was recently purchased by Google for over $1B.
  • It is available on iPhone and Android devices. Full integration into Google Plus is underway.
  • By simply driving around with Waze open, you’re already contributing tons of real-time traffic & road info to your local driving community.
  • You can also actively report accidents, hazards, police and other events you see on the road, and get road alerts on your route too.
  • Find the cheapest gas station along your route with community-shared fuel prices.
  • Waze makes it simple to meet up and coordinate with friends on the road.
  • Waze features include
    • Live routing based on community generated, traffic and road info
    • Community contributed road alerts including accidents, hazards, police traps, road closures and more
    • Automatic re-routing as conditions on the road change
    • Complete voice guided navigation
    • Learns your frequent destinations, commuting hours and preferred routes
    • Finds the cheapest gas station along your route
    • One tap navigation to Facebook events
    • See Facebook friends driving to the same place
    • Notify someone you’re on your way by sending a live ETA and a link showing you as you drive
    • Earn points and move up the ranks in your community as you contribute road info
  • Warning: Continued use of GPS running in the background can dramatically decrease battery life. Waze will automatically shut down if you run it in the background and haven’t driven for a while.
  • As a side note, my phone was hot while Waze was running. Keep your phone plugged in if using Waze for a long trip.

Google: Project Loon Update

  • Balloons will stay aloft for 100 days and circumnavigate the Earth three times before being replaced.
  • Google’s floating network in sky — Project Loon — won’t just be mobile, following the stratospheric wind currents; it will be the very definition of a evolving network with new transmitters launched into the sky every 100 days.
  • While in the air these balloons will be on their own 12 miles above the Earth, floating over oceans and even war zones.
  • The constant replacement cycle will ensure that Google has the most up-to-date technology in the air, but it will also help prevent Loon from losing its balloons to leaks.
  • “The most important part about keeping balloons in the air for a long time is making sure that they are leak-proof.
  • The surface area of the balloon is really vast, about 500 square meters, and it provides a lot of opportunities for little pinholes and leaks.
  • The balloons will be subjected to big changes in temperature as the sun rises and sets, causing its internal pressure to change dramatically.
  • Loon will be “steering” the balloons in the stratospheric winds by pumping air in and out of them creating additional stresses.
  • For Loon’s initial tests in New Zealand, Google used a polyethylene film in its balloons made by South Dakota plastics company Raven Industries, but Google now appears to be testing all manner of materials, subjecting them to durability, temperature and leak tests.