Show of 08-02-2014

Tech Talk

August 2, 2014

Email and Forum Questions
  • Email from LedbyBrain: Dear Dr Shurtz, In early 2013 I bought my first mac. I had been a pc user for decades.  Despite the initial learning curve I am a happy camper. I came across this article recently and wish you’d commend on it as how/why this is Apple’s evolution or is it now somehow interwoven into the computer “industry” itself? I remain glad I made this mac purchase, despite the griping in this article. Are you a mac man at home? I suspect you are a pc user at the office? 
  • On another note, Google stuff seems to be up and quitting on me. See their error message here. I wanted to see the street view of an address and instead was told my internet connection was down— Not True!!
  • I had a google voice number and got a LOT of telemarketers calling so I cancelled the number. AFTER I cancelled it, I found out I could have blocked the offending callers. I now can’t get the number back when I click on the link they offer for reinstating the number. I ALSO sent them feedback 3 times and never heard a word back.  Hope you can help please 🙂 Thanks, LedbyBrain. PS I hate it when you go on vacation despite the fact that you’ve earned it :  )
  • Tech Talk Responds: The fortune article laments that fact that Apple products are becoming more complex as they evolve and add features. It contends that Apple is losing its legendary simplicity. For example, the difficulty users have organizing and maintaining photos or audio files or syncing with the iCloud.
  • As far a Google Voice, they have to pay for these phone numbers and they recyle them when you release them. However, they do offer account recovery and if the number is still available you can claim it. Here is the account recovery link. BTW, don’t expect to get a response to your feedback. This is a free service and they can’t fully staff a support team.
  • Email from Alice: Dear Tech Talk. I have an iPhone and have run out of memory for more pictures. What are my options? Love the show. Alice in Reston.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Management of digital photos has become an ongoing task. It requires discipline and organization if you want to keep your pictures forever. First of all you must transfer your pictures to your computer and delete them from you iPhone. Connect you iPhone to the USB port of your computer. You iPhone will appear like an external hard drive or thumb drive.  Click on the iPhone and copy all the pictures to the pictures subdirectory on your computer. Make certain to create folders to organize you pictures by event. Delete all the bad pictures now so you don’t have to save them forever too. Made certain to create a second copy of the pictures. I use both a USB external hard drive and a cloud storage company (Carbonite). After verifying that the picture are on your computer and backed up, delete them from the iPhone. I use Picasa as my photo organizer and photo album. It will search your drive and organize your pics. It has many convenient features. Good luck with your photo archiving.
Profiles in IT: Anthony M Fadell
  • Anthony M. Fadell is best known as the inventor of the Apple iPod.
  • Anthony M. Fadell was born in 1969 in Detroit.
  • Born in Detroit, he moved with his family throughout the country, attended eleven schools and as an eight-year old held his first job selling eggs.
  • Fadell graduated from Grosse Pointe South High School in Grosse Pointe Farms, MI.
  • He received a BS in Computer Engineering in 1991 from the University of Michigan.
  • While still at Michigan, he founded Constructive Instruments, which marketed multimedia composition software for children.
  • In 1992, he started working for Apple spinoff General Magic, starting as a diagnostics engineer and progressing to a systems architect for the Magic Cap PDA platform.
  • During his three-and-a-half years at General Magic, Fadell lost touch with his family, screwed up his personal relationships, gained 40 pounds and then lost 50.
  • In 1995 he was hired by Philips where he was co-founder, Chief Technology Officer, and Director of Engineering in the Mobile Computing Group.
  • As a condition for joining, he demanded that his team be allowed to operate like a startup. The Mobile Computing Group got its own building, with walls painted yellow and purple. There were open cubicles, free soda and fruit.
  • He calls himself a “studied engineer” and “self-proclaimed designer”. His passion is designing portable devices. He feels limited space forces more creative solutions.
  • During the 1990s, Fadell started his own company called Fuse. His vision was to become the Dell of the Consumer Electronics.
  • One of the devices he had in mind was a small hard disk-based music player.
  • Fuse failed to find a second round of funding and Fadell started exploring options.
  • He first approached RealNetworks in 2000 but left after only six weeks.
  • The second company he approached was Apple, where Jobs was very receptive.
  • He started doing work for Apple from February 2001 as a contractor.
  • In April 2001 he was hired by Apple to assemble and run its iPod & Special Projects group, where he oversaw the design and production of the iPod and iSight devices.
  • Tony Fadell partnered with a company called PortalPlayer who had been working on their own MP3 player to design the software for the new Apple player.
  • Within eight months, Tony Fadell’s team and PortalPlayer completed a prototype iPod and Apple polished the user interface adding the famous scroll wheel.
  • On October 23, 2001 Apple Computers announced the iPod, created under project codename Dulcimer. The iPod was formally released November 10, 2001.
  • Fadell was already kept out of the picture – even though he had developed the device from the very beginning, as head of a team of 35 designers and engineers.
  • Jobs was always the face of the iPod. Jobs was afraid that the competition could steal his best engineers. That’s why no one could interview Fadell
  • He was promoted to vice president of iPod engineering in 2004.
  • On March 31, 2006, he was promoted to Senior Vice President of the iPod Division.
  • As of April 2007, the iPod had sold over 100 million units worldwide. This unit, in combination with iTunes, restored Apple.On November 4, 2008,Fadell stepped down as Senior Vice President but would remain as an adviser to CEO Steve Jobs.
Hackers Infect Hand scanner With Malware
  • China-based organizations are using sophisticated malware installed on handheld scanners to target shipping and logistics organizations from all over the world. 
  • The attack, dubbed “Zombie Zero,” has been analyzed by cybersecurity solutions provider TrapX. 
  • According to TrapX, the attack begins at a Chinese company that provides hardware and software for handheld scanners used by shipping and logistics firms worldwide to inventory the items they’re handling. 
  • The Chinese manufacturer installs the malware on the Windows XP operating systems embedded in the devices. Additionally, the threat is also distributed via the company’s support website, the security firm noted in its report (PDF). 
  • The scanners transmit the data they collect (origin, destination, value, contents, etc.) via the customer’s wireless network. Once the customer starts using the device, the malware immediately sends this information back to a command and control (C&C) server located in China. 
  • Interestingly, the C&C is located at the Lanxiang Vocational School, an educational institution said to be involved in the Operation Aurora attacks against Google, and which is physically located only one block away from the scanner manufacturer, TrapX said. 
  • The malware used by the Zombie Zero attackers is highly sophisticated and polymorphic, the researchers said. In one attack they observed, 16 of the 48 scanners used by the victim were infected, and the malware managed to penetrate the targeted organization’s defenses and gain access to servers on the corporate network. 
  • The companies that use the scanners install security certificates for network authentication, but the certificates are compromised because the malware is already present on the device. 
  • Experts determined that the threat group targets servers storing corporate financial data, customer data and other sensitive information. A second payload downloaded by the malware then establishes a sophisticated C&C on the company’s finance servers, enabling the attackers to infiltrate the information they’re after. 
  • While this operation appears to be focusing on the shipping and logistics industry, TrapX says the malware has also been delivered to organizations in the manufacturing sector. Organizations can take care to use reliable equipment from well known providers in an attempt to shrink their potential exposure.
Anonymous OS Tails Has Zero-Day Vulnerabilities
  • Researchers have warned of critical unpatched flaws in the privacy-focused operating system Tails, which was made famous by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
  • The zero-day flaws were uncovered by Exodus Intelligence, which finds vulnerabilities and lets customers know before informing the wider community. 
  • That means customers could use the vulnerability however they see fit, possibly for de-anonymizing anyone a government considers a target. 
  • The company plans to tell the Tails team about the issues “in due time”,  but it isn’t giving any disclosure timeline away.
  • Tails, also known as The Amnesiac Incognito Live System, promises privacy by running all connectivity through Tor, the network that routes traffic through various layers of servers and encrypts data to ensure privacy. 
  • Tor protects you by bouncing your communications around a distributed network of relays run by volunteers all around the world.  Tor is free and open source for Windows, Mac, Linux/Unix, and Android.
  • The Tails OS is designed to be stored on a USB stick, so users can easily remove it from their computer and leave no trace. 
  • But the exploits that Exodus found would likely undo many of the security promises of the software, which Snowden used to handle the leaked NSA documents.
  • Download TOR or Tails from
Russia is offering reward to de-anonymize Tor
  • Two weeks ago the Russia Interior Ministry put out a call for hackers to identify people who use the anonymity tool Tor to browse the Internet. 
  • Its offering 3.9 M rubles (equivalent to roughly $111,000) to can hack Tor.
  • The Russian government has long followed Tor, a private-communications project born out of U.S. Naval Research labs that is now independently run. 
  • At one point Russia’s head of Federal Security Services toyed with the idea of banning the site altogether but later scrapped the idea. 
  • Now Russia’s Interior Ministry want to be able to identify people who use Tor.
  • Tor uses encryption to obstruct access to location and other identifiers, allowing people to surf the Internet without being tracked. Users can also view government blocked sites, publish websites, and chat anonymously. 
  • Tor is used by journalists, activists, and of course people conducting illegal activities. In Russia it’s been an especially useful tool against censorship.
  • Only a small number of people in Russia use Tor. Since May the number of Tor users has more than doubled to 200,000, according to online magazine.
  • The call to decrypt Tor follows on the heels of recent legislation in Russia that will force popular bloggers to register their sites. 
  • Bloggers will not be able to write about anything considered to be a “state-secret” or to promote illegal activities. 
  • Bloggers who use Tor are supposed to be able to maintain their anonymity.
  • The U.S. National Security Agency is also working to decrypt Tor, and so are others. 
  • The Ministry says it will reveal the winner of its de-anonymize Tor bid on August 20.
Syria’s children learn to Code with Raspberry Pi
  • The Raspberry Pi has been widely adopted among educators, who see it as a cheap and open way of getting computers into classrooms. 
  • This summer young Syrians are going to learn to code using the Raspberry Pi.
  • The Raspberry Pi, a credit-card sized computer that plugs into a TV and has the processing power of a desktop PC, is arriving in the area.
  • Created by Eben Upton and his colleagues, the idea was inspired by what they viewed as a lack of university applicants’ software skills. 
  • They prototyped the board and released it in 2011 for $35. In June 2014, they announced that they’d sold 3m units.
  • Educators see it as a cheap way of getting computers into classrooms with multimedia functionality, internet capability, and two in-built programming languages: Python and Scratch. It can also play high definition video and, with add-ons like touchscreen LCD monitors and cameras, the device can be a low-cost, publishing platform.
  • Eliane Metni, a second-year doctoral candidate at the University of London’s Institute of Education, is responsible for getting the project started.
  • Metni developed a curriculum and launched a pilot project using the Raspberry Pi for Dhour el Shweir Public Secondary School. 
  • James Cranwell-Ward,  Innovation Lead in Lebanon for UNICEF, was impressed with success of Metni’s year of pilot work. The pair connected and, six months later, they’re bringing the coding and the Pi to five locations in Lebanon.
  • Lebanon was one of the better locations in the Middle East for this initiative.  The camps have backup generators, when the power is out, and have ample televisions to use as monitors. 
  • They identified a core curriculum in Arabic developed by the Khan Academy, which they could store on it an offline server, and is distribute it for free. 
  • But in addition to the traditional learning curriculum, the kids will also use the Pi’s programming language Scratch to build program and games.