Show of 03-29-2014

Tech Talk

March 29, 2014

Email and Forum Questions

  • Regular Listener in Bethesda: Dr. Richard Shurtz. I have attached an email from the Bank of America asking me to verify my account online. I never did what this email asked because I assume it is spam. Am I correct? Thanks! Bethesda Regular Listener
  • Tech Talk Responds: You are correct. This is a Phishing letter. It tricks you to logging into a fake bank website and entering your user name and password. They can then use this information to hijack your account. Good thinking.
  • Email from Arnie: Hi Dr. Shurtz. I have attached an article that discusses Snoopy drone, which can steal data from unsuspecting smartphone users and was revealed at the Black Hat security conference in Singapore. Looks like drones are getting downright nosy and stealing data. Arnie in Davidsonville, MD
  • Tech Talk Responds: They even use a DJI Phantom Quadcopter for their demo. The techniques are not new. They have been around for years. Only the use of the drone is new.
  • Email from Benoit: Dear Doc. Our family needs your help to settle long discussions on which browser is ‘best of all worlds’. More specifically, my son-in-law, Chris, recently switched to the Firefox browser, wanting to get himself out of an all Google environment (and generally decrease how much info Google has access to).  However, he just stumbled on this article about Foxfire vulnerabilities. It describes results at t Pwn2Own 2014, an annual computer hackfest in Vancouver. Mozilla’s Firefox was proven yet again that it’s the least secure major web browser. While all four major web browsers — Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari — were successfully exploited, Firefox was by far the least secure browser, suffering four zero-day vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities, if they were in the wild, would allow a hacker to do just about anything with your computer if you visited a specially crafted website. It sounds like Firefox is actually quite vulnerable. What do you recommend as a standard browser? Thanks, Benoit
  • Tech Talk Responds: Firefox’s weaker security is generally attributed to its lack of a sandbox — a shell or firewall around a piece of software that keeps it segregated from the rest of the operating system. Firefox was conceived in an era when security on the web was still a new topic. Chrome, which was developed a few years later, was intentionally designed from the outset to be very fast and secure. Likewise, Microsoft went through a complete overhaul between IE8 an IE9, adding a sandbox and other modern features. Mozilla would like to add sandboxing to Firefox, but it is hard to add sandboxing to a program that wasn’t originally designed for it.
  • I would recommend Chrome. If you want to protect your privacy, don’t log into Chrome with your Gmail information. Google only tracks you when you log into their service.
  • Email from Alice in Wonderland: Dear Dr. Shurtz, Thanks for giving the IT community a reason to rise and shine on Sat AM! I have wanted to learn how to send an anonymous email and did in the past have a Hushmail acct that I set up after downloading and installing TOR first and then going to Hushmail and establishing the acct. But, I didn’t use that email acct much and the account died.  So, when I went to set up a new Hushmail email they are now charging like $49.00 for an account.  Are you aware of an anonymous email acct I can establish that is free? Thanks, Alive and well in Wonderland. Alice
  • Tech Talk Responds: You are on the right track using TOR. Tor, short for “The Onion Router,” is a free system of software and servers around the world that enables anonymous Internet traffic via a decentralized, encrypted peer-to-peer relay process, in which each user is also a relay point.
  • You can set up another free account with Hushmail.  You get 25 MB storage, no third-party advertising. You’re welcome to evaluate Hushmail for as long as you need to, but you must sign in at least once every three weeks. If you don’t want to sign in every three weeks, then you need to pay. There are other options.
  • AnonEmail is a great service that hides a message’s source by relaying the message several times before it reaches its destination. Some users have reported that the service does not appear to log IP addresses. AnonEmail will work without Tor, as will many other “anonymizing” email services, but when anonymity is the most important factor, it’s best to use TOR. AnonEmail’s drawback is its lack of support for attachments.  Another option is 10 Minute Mail. From the moment you point your browser at the page, you will have 10 minutes to use your disposable account. This is good for sending emails, not receiving them.
  • Email from Dick Mondro: Dear Doc. Here is a new use for your drone. This guy flew his drone into an erupting volcano and got great pictures. Love the show, Dick Mondro
  • Tech Talk Responds: That was a great video. I am not ready to fly drone that close to a volcano, but maybe I will try next time I am in Hawaii. Here is a link to the video: http://digg.com/video/watch-this-drone-fly-into-a-volcano.
  • Email from Sam in Vienna: Dear Tech Talk. I have a friend in Australia who does not receive my emails nor can I get his. Neither one of us has the other marked as spam so what’s going on? Sam in Vienna
  • Tech Talk Responds: It’s more than likely the email service used by your friend in Australia has blocked or blacklisted your email service.  Not your specific email address, but a specific email server associated with your email provider. That happens for a variety of reasons, the most common being that one of your email providers is sending out too much spam.
  • Open up a free email account at a different provider, like Gmail. If it works, use that email. You can have it forward incoming mail to your usual email account. You will have to log into Gmail to send a response.
  • Email from Alex in Ashburn: Dear Tech Talk. I have a file that contains some information. I want to open it, but I apparently don’t have the right program installed on my computer. The file type is .iso. How can I open it? Alex in Ashburn
  • Tech Talk Responds: An ISO file is just a disk image. The name ISO is taken from the ISO 9660 file system used with CD-ROM media, You can create a disk using an ISO program or read the file like a disk. The easiest way to think of an ISO file is more like a .zip or .cab archive file, only without the compression. An ISO file contains the image of a disk.
  • Using a CD or DVD burning program (like ImgBurn), you can then write that ISO image to an actual disc. You can’t just copy the file to the media and expect it to work. If you burn the ISO to the disc and still see the .iso file when you look at the disc. By the way, most Linux distributions are available in ISO format. You can then simply create a Linux install disk using this program.
  • There are several utilities out there that will treat an ISO file as if it were a disk drive, although often only for reading. One product is Daemon Tools. Using this utility, you can “mount” the ISO file and it appears as an additional disk drive on your machine – for example drive M:.

Profiles in IT: Chuck Hull

  • Chuck Hull is known as the Father of 3D Printing.
  • Chuck Hull was born on 12 May 1939.
  • Hull has a BS in engineering physics from University of Colorado and an honorary doctorate in engineering from Loughborough University (UK).
  • In 1983, Hull was developing UV-curable resins for a small business, Ultra Violet Products in California. He was creating tough coatings for tables using UV lamps.
  • When he suggested a new way to use the UV technology to for rapid prototyping, Hull was given a lab to play around in during his evenings and weekends.
  • Hull experimented for months with different photopolymers. These are typically acrylic-based materials that would be liquid until hit with UV light.
  • He got the process to work one night in 1983. He called his wife who came down to lab in her pajamas, saying, “This had better be good!”
  • The first object he made was a cup that he gave to his wife later that year.
  • Hull coined the term “stereo lithography” in his U.S. Patent 4,575,330, issued on March 11, 1986.
  • He defined stereo lithography as a method and apparatus for making solid objects by successively “printing” thin layers of the ultraviolet curable material.
  • Hull realized that his concept was not limited to liquids and therefore gave it the generic name “stereolithography” , and filed broad patent claims covering any “material capable of solidification” or “material capable of altering its physical state.”
  • He made on more than 60 U.S. patents as well as other patents around the world in the fields of ion optics and rapid prototyping.
  • In late1986, Hull co-founded 3D Systems in Valencia, California with Doug Neckers, CEO of the Spectra Group Limited.  Chuck Hull served as EVP and Chief Technology Officer of 3D Systems.
  • Since then the materials have improved. The origin polymers would shrink and were brittle. The latest polymers do not shrink (distort) and are tough.
  • The company is now a leading provider of commercial and household 3D printers and design-productivity tools for digital manufacturing.
  • 3D Systems’ most recent innovation is a $1,300 Cube printer that makes plastic 3D objects such as toys and jewelry and is marketed to consumers. The first object he made with the Cube as a cover for his iPhone.
  • He was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014 and given The Economist’s Innovation Award for his pioneering role in 3D printing technology.
  • 3D systems posted $92M million in revenue in 2011 and $350M in 2012.
  • The 2011 salary for his role as 3D Systems CTO was $307K (plus over $800K in restricted stock options).  His wife still keeps her cup for celebrations.

Fifteen most expensive domain names

  • Domain names still fetch a good price. Here are the top fifteen.
    • VacationRentals.com $35M in 2007 by HomeAway
    • PrivateJet.com $30.18M in 2012
    • Sex.com $13M in 2010
    • Hotels.com $11M in 2001
    • Fund.com $9.99M in 2008
    • Porn.com $9.5M in 2007
    • Fb.com $8.5M in 2010 by Facebook
    • Diamond.com On the market for $7.5M
    • Business.com On the market for $7.5M
    • Beer.com $7M in 2004
    • Slots.com $5.5M in 2010
    • Casino.com $5.5M in 2003
    • Toys.com $5.1M in 2009 by ToysRUS
    • Korea.com $5M in 2000
    • SEO.com $5M in 2007

Skull replaced with 3D-printed plastic copy

  • Doctors at the University Medical Center in Utrecht have saved a woman’s life – by carrying out the first skull transplant using plastic parts built in a 3D printer.
  • The unnamed 22-year-old patient was suffering from a rare condition that caused the inside of her skull to grow extra bone, which squeezed her brain.
  • The new skull was precisely created using 3D printing customized. This not only cosmetically very large benefits, but patients often have a better brain function seen compared to the old method.”
  • The surgeons worked with Australian 3D printing firm Anatomics, which used CT scans to determine the precise shape of the patient’s skull and then printed out a copy in acrylic, modified to remove the unwanted growth.
  • They took off most of her cranium, and then fitted the artificial replacement in a 23-hour operation.

Office for iPad

  • Better late than never. This move was possible because Ballmer is out.
  • The software is here four full years after the release of the first iPad, six months after Apple made its own productivity applications free to new iPad owner, and nearly one-and-a-half years since Microsoft released its very own tablet without a touch-optimized version of Office.
  • Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote occupy (in that order) the first four spots in the Top Chart for free applications in the iTunes Store.
  • Each of them successfully combines the designs of the main Office for Windows applications with elements that make them feel at home among other iPad applications.
  • Microsoft’s Ribbon is fully intact, for example, but this feels like a real touch-first interface, not the half-hearted stab at it we got in Office 2013.
  • All of the applications—Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and the newly updated OneNote—all look and act consistent, and as with Google’s iOS applications, signing in to one of the Office apps with your Microsoft ID and password will sign you in to all of them.
  • Each application gives you fewer features than the full desktop versions of the applications, but more features than the Web-based versions. In Word, for example, you can easily change fonts and font sizes, margins, footnotes, alignment, and create numbered lists, and it’s pretty simple to create basic tables or insert pictures from your camera roll. Track Changes is here, and it works well.
  • Each application offers you a number of templates to use when creating documents.
  • While you have to sign in with a Microsoft account to view documents (and you need an Office 365 subscription associated with that account before you can edit anything), you can save documents directly to the iPad’s local storage instead of OneDrive if you want. An Office 365 subscription is $5/month. The apps themselves are free.
  • If you would prefer to have your changes synced to Microsoft’s cloud (or if you want to share and work together with multiple people on a single document) OneDrive, OneDrive for Business, and Sharepoint URLs are all valid share targets.
  • The only major feature that users of the desktop applications will miss is the lack of printing support. These apps will print neither through Apple’s AirPrint, nor through a third-party solution like Google’s Cloud Print. If you still need to make a hard copy, syncing the document to OneDrive (or e-mailing it to yourself, that old chestnut) and then printing it from an actual desktop is your only recourse for now.
  • Microsoft spent a fair amount of time yesterday telling us that Office for iPad would preserve all the formatting from your desktop Office documents. While it seems like a no-brainer that two applications with the same name made by the same company would display the same files the same way, this hasn’t always been a given with Office

US Giving up Control of Internet

  • On March 14, 2014, US officials announced plans to relinquish federal government control over the administration of the Internet.
  • The change would end the long-running contract between the Commerce Department and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a California-based nonprofit group.
  • That contract is set to expire next year but could be extended if the transition plan is not complete.
  • The practical consequences of the decision were harder to immediately discern, especially with the details of the transition not yet clear.
  • Politically, the move could alleviate rising global concerns that the United States essentially controls the Web and takes advantage of its oversight position to help spy on the rest of the world.
  • U.S. officials set several conditions and an indeterminate timeline for the transition from federal government authority, saying a new oversight system must be developed and win the trust of crucial stakeholders around the world.
  • An international meeting to discuss the future of Internet is scheduled to start on March 23 in Singapore.
  • Business groups and some others have long complained that ICANN’s decision-making was dominated by the interests of the industry that sells domain names and whose fees provide the vast majority of ICANN’s revenue. The U.S. government contract was a modest check against such abuses.
  • U.S. officials said their decision had nothing to do with the NSA spying revelations and the worldwide controversy they sparked, saying there had been plans since ICANN’s creation in 1998 to eventually migrate it to international control.
  • ICANN’s most important function is to oversee the assigning of Internet domains — such as dot-com, dot-edu and dot-gov — and ensure that the various companies and universities involved in directing digital traffic do so safely.
  • Concern about ICANN’s stewardship has spiked in recent years amid a massive and controversial expansion that is adding hundreds of new domains, such as dot-book, dot-gay and dot-sucks, to the Internet’s infrastructure. More than 1,000 new domains are slated to be made available, pumping far more fee revenue into ICANN.
  • Major corporations have complained, however, that con artists already swarm the Internet with phony Web sites designed to look like the authentic offerings of respected brands.