Show of 11-22-2014

Tech Talk

November 22, 2014

Email and Forum Questions
  • Email from Azra in Fredericksburg: Dear Doc and Jim, I recently upgraded my phone to the iPhone6Plus. After transferring my data using the iCloud, I have many duplicate contacts. Is there an easy way to get rid of these duplicates? Enjoy the show. Azra in Fredericksburg
  • Tech Talk Responds: This is a common problem. The easiest way is to limit the source of contacts. In your contact manager, you might have contacts from Yahoo, Facebook, Outlook, iCloud, and Gmail. These contacts would be duplicates. Select one to two sources to reduce duplicates. In my case, I select Outlook only. In some cases, your contacts have really been duplicated in the same database. In that case, you can use an app called Cleanup Duplicate Contacts. It has a free version, but you will need to upgrade to the pro version (for 99 cents) to automate the process. This app got great reviews, but it must be configured correctly.
  • Email from Arnie McKechnie: Hi Dr. Shurtz, A historical note. Windows 1.0 was release November 20, 1985. My how things have progressed in 29 years. Arnie, Crownsville, MD
  • Tech Talk Responds: Thanks for the ride down memory lane. I can still recall those days. I actually stuck with DOS until Windows 3.1 was released. Windows 3.1 was the first Windows OS that was ready for primetime in my opinion. MS just keep releasing these OS until they got it right. They didn’t go to a 32-bit OS until Windows 95. I love to remember the Mac versus PC wars of the time.
  • Email form Margaret: Dear Dr. Shurtz. I am interviewing next week for a business analyst position that will be focused on gathering and writing requirements for a mobile app. I’ve never focused on a mobile app before so I hope you can please offer some insight on the unique aspects of this kind of requirement writing. They know I am not a developer and I will not be doing coding. Thanks Dr. S. Margaret
  • Tech Talk Responds: After looking at the job description, the app will draw data from an application running on the cloud. You need to understand the functionality of the platform and how to communicate requirements to developers succinctly. A business analyst must be able to listen to customers and translate their requirements into a form that a developer can use. This requires good listening skills. 
  • The role of the “business analyst” is defined as an intermediary managing the interests and needs of business management project management and IT communities in mobile applications development process. You must work with a logical framework to conduct key business analysis activities throughout the various phases of the mobile applications business analysis life cycle. Business Analyst usually supports all aspects of the mobile applications projects from start to finish with a particular emphasis on requirements development and participation project quality activities. 
  • Analysts involved in mobile applications development usually collaborate with Business Users, Project Managers, Product Managers, and other Business Analysts to elicit and gather requirements. The Business Analyst may occasionally serve as the project lead on smaller, well defined projects or provide support to Systems Managers in mobile project initiation activities. Business Analyst responsibilities include communication conduit between the stakeholders and the mobile applications development team.
  • At Stratford, all of our business analysts understand the base data structures extremely well and are proficient with reporting systems. This knowledge of the baseline systems allows them to make meaningful recommendations after talking with users. Many of our software engineering graduates start out as business analysts.
  • I suggest that you take a course for business analysts. There are a number free courses on in the net. Here is a link to a site that lists many of them. 
  • Link: http://businessanalystlearnings.com/blog/2013/1/20/a-list-of-free-business-analyst-training-online. This website lists some very good free resources. I suggest you spend a day looking at these materials. I just Googled: free online business analysis courses.
  • Email from Phillip in Kansas: Dear Tech Talk, my outlook.com is putting legitimate emails into its junk mail folder. It seems very random, but some of my closest friends’ emails are going into the junk folder as well as other legitimate contacts. Can I just not use outlook.com, do I need it? How I stop the filtering of legitimate emails in to the outlook.com junk folder? Enjoy the podcast. Phillip in Kansas
  • Tech Talk Responds: You need to train the junk mail filter. It does mean you need to periodically log in to Outlook.com on the web and see what you find in the junk mail folder there. Then, for each non-spam email message you find there, right click on it and mark it as not junk. That will then also help “train” Outlook.com’s spam filter to learn that, for your account, email that looks like this should not be placed in the junk mail folder. 
  • You can also set up Safe senders. Click on the gear icon again, click on Options and in the resulting page click on Safe and blocked senders. Allowing known safe senders can be one way to bypass the junk mail filter for senders you know about beforehand. You can make two different types of entries: Individual email addresses can be placed on the list.  You could also allow an entire domain. Any email from that domain would bypass the junk mail filter.
  • Email from Tung in Ohio: Dear Tech Talk, I have a new Mac computer. It uses a Bluetooth mouse. I can’t seem to connect my Bluetooth speaker at the same time. I am listening to some audio files that my sister sent me. Does Bluetooth allow two devices to be connected at the same time? Please help me. Love the show, Tung
  • Tech Talk Responds: A single Bluetooth device can communicate with up to eight different devices within about a 30-foot radius simultaneously. It randomly chooses from 1,600 different frequencies every second to minimize interference among devices. You may be having trouble connecting with your Bluetooth speaker because it is already paired and connected with another device, like your iPhone or iPad. If that is the case, turn off Bluetooth in those devices so that only the Mac is discoverable. Press the button in the speaker to make it discoverable. Then try again. It should work because the technology supports it.
Profiles in IT: Jacobus Cornelis Haartsen
  • Jacobus Cornelis Haartsen is a Dutch electrical engineer best known as the father of Bluetooth communication.
  • Jaap Haartsen was born 13 February 1963, in The Hague, Netherlands.
  • In 1986, he received an MSEE with honors from Delft University of Technology.
  • He worked briefly for Siemens in The Hague and Philips in Eindhoven.
  • In 1990, he received a PhD in EE from Delft University of Technology with honors.
  • His thesis dealt with the design of programmable filters in silicon surface acoustic wave devices.
  • In 1991, he was hired by Ericsson, working in Raleigh-Durham, NC. In 1993 he was transferred to the Ericsson Mobile Terminal Division in Lund, Sweden.
  • He was tasked with finding solutions for short-range (3m to 4m) radio connections to enrich mobile phone functionality. Cost and power were driving factors.
  • Because the frequency band was shared with many consumer devices, he initially decided to use frequency hopping. He already had a working solution in the 2.45 GHz range using frequency hopping communication.
  • Bluetooth devices change frequencies within the designated band, ‘hopping’ around on 79 frequencies 1,600 times each second.
  • While Dr. Haarsten was working initially alone, a team was quickly built. In 1995, he was joined by Sven Mattisson. The team eventually grew to 30 people.
  • The name in the initial development phases was MC (Multi-Communicator) Link. 
  • By 1997, the team had a workable solution and Ericson realized that it needed to collaborate with other firms to ensure adoption.
  • In 1998, a Special Interest Group (SIG) was formed by five founding members: Ericsson, Nokia, Intel, Toshiba and IBM. Intel was selected as the lead. 
  • Jim Kardach, representing Intel, suggested the name Bluetooth. Harold Bluetooth was a 10th century Danish king who united Denmark. The symbol is based on his initials.
  • The Bluetooth SIG has formed a patent pool for Bluetooth, defined the standard, provided licenses to manufacturers and examined devices for compliance.
  • Five patents, filed by Dr. Haartsen can be considered fundamental for the Bluetooth standard. In total, Dr. Haarsten has filed more than 200 patents. The SIG patent pool was essential for the early success of the technology.
  • In 1999, Bluetooth 1.0 was released.  In 2000, the first mobile phones with Bluetooth appeared, as did first PC cards and prototype mice, keyboards and USB dongles.
  • In 2001, the first Bluetooth-enabled printers, laptops, and car kits were introduced.
  • In 2011, the SIG had 15,000 member firms. Bluetooth V4.0 was released.
  • In 2010, he became CTO of Tonalite in the Netherlands, a company which creates wearable wireless products.
  • In 2012, he was hired by Plantronics as Senior Expert, Wireless Systems.
NSA Says China Can Shut Down Power Grid 
  • NSA Director Michael Rogers says that Chinese cyber hackers can shut down the power grid in the United States.
  • China and “one or two” other countries are capable of launching cyberattacks that terminate the ability of the power grid to function and shut down other “critical systems” nationwide.
  • The real possibility of massive and devastating power grid cyberattacks has long been discussed by both national security experts, but has not officially been confirmed by a “top cyber official” in the federal government until now. 
  • During a House Intelligence Committee hearing, NSA Director Michael Rogers said “adversaries” of the United States are currently engaging in “electronic reconnaissance” on a regular basis. 
  • Such activities are being conducted in order to ensure that China and other adversarial nations are “in a position to disrupt the industrial control systems” such as the power grid, which enable food and medication delivery and allow chemical facilities and water treatment plants to function.
  • Non-governmental cyber experts appear to agree with Michael Rogers and noted that United Sates Cyber Command has the ability to “hack into and damage” the power grid and other critical infrastructure.
  • Some of the experts feel such a capability serves as a mutual deterrence to China and other nations who would attack the U.S. power grid. 
  • Michael Rogers added, “We need to define what would be offensive, what’s an act of war.” President Barack Obama wants to create a “set of international principles” governing cyber operations, citing banning cyberattacks on hospitals as an example.
How to Hack Into a City’s Power Grid
  • Employees are the weakest link when securing industrial control systems that run power plants, municipal water supplies, electric grids and other pieces of critical infrastructure, according to Andrew Whitaker, director of the Cyber Attack Penetration Division at the Reston, VA.
  • “The objective is simple — to gain access,” Whitaker told the audience of information-technology professionals. “We target SCADA engineers. You know how to get into industrial control systems.”
  • SCADA, or supervisory control and data acquisition systems, are the largest form of computerized industrial control systems, and use both hardware and software to monitor and control large industrial processes. 
  • “So how do we gain access?” Whitaker asked. “We often just ask for an engineer’s username and password.” 
  • Whitaker said his team crafts simple phishing attacks, usually consisting of a brief email message that looks like it comes from a staffer in the company’s IT department. “We’re made some recent changes to our Web-based Outlook access,” reads the message. “When you get a free minute, please try logging in using your network credentials and let me know if you have any problems.” 
  • A link to the Outlook login page is included — but that link really goes to a fake Outlook page on a site controlled by Whitaker’s company. “In our experience,” Whitaker said, “18 percent of employees will give up their passwords when asked.”
  • The real danger to the company, he explained, and to the public at large, is that it’s almost always possible for an outside adversary to gain access to a SCADA system that controls an electrical utility, a railway or any other kind of critical infrastructure. 
  • “Most SCADA protocols are still transmitting in clear,” or using unencrypted internal processes, Whitaker said. “That’s a problem because a network attack upon an industrial control system can have a physical effect on the safety of others.”
  • But there’s almost no amount of security software a company can buy, he said, that will protect it from human error and frailty. To that end, companies need to make sure their employees are informed and educated to resist social engineering attacks.
Carriers Are Tracking You with a Super Cookie
  • Researchers found that Verizon adds a 50-character Unique Identifier Header (UIDH) to your Web traffic when you visit any website. 
  • The idea is that Verizon’s advertisers can watch for your UIDH and record when you visit sites where they serve ads. But given the way it works, any website that looks can record your UIDH, and there’s no way to opt out. 
  • AT&T, Sprint and some Canadian carriers have similar systems. AT&T is testing their program.
  • Verizon has said it will continue using “super cookies,” but its customers will be able to opt out. Unfortunately, it will not remove the code from devices when users opt out.
  • A spokesperson for AT&T said it could still use the data collected from devices, but in the future, customers will be able to opt out of being tracked. More importantly, the tracking code will be removed from your phone when you do opt out.
  • The best way around this is to use the Internet on Wi-Fi, not cellular.
Food Science: Gravy without Lumps
  • Grains have both starch and protein. Starch provides food when the seed begins to grow. If you remove the protein from corn flour, for instance, you get corn starch. Most sauces and gravies are thickened with some kind of starch. The most common are flour and cornstarch, though potato starch, arrowroot and tapioca flour also work well. When starch is in liquid it gels around 130-160 F. The transition is dramatic. The key is to manage this gelling process to keep from getting lumps.
  • If you attempt to thicken a pan sauce or gravy by simply stirring flour into the simmering liquid, you will inevitably end up with lumps. This is because the starch around each lump of flour expands rapidly when it comes into contact with hot liquid, forming a sort of waterproof gel that prevents the granules from separating properly. The same is true for any other starch.
  • To prevent this, you need to separate the granules before adding them to the sauce so that they can slowly disperse and expand to create the desired thickening effect.
  • You can accomplish this in several ways. The first is to use what’s called a roux. Made from a mixture of fat — either pan drippings or butter — and flour, a roux is slowly cooked on its own before it is added to the sauce. The fat helps the starch to expand and separate, and it lubricates it so it can be smoothly incorporated into the liquid. A roux should be cooked, then cooled slightly, then whisked into the sauce when you’re ready to thicken it. The precooking also eliminates the unpleasant raw-flour taste that sometimes occurs if a sauce isn’t simmered long enough.
  • Another method is to use kneaded butter. This is essentially the same as a roux, only the flour is worked into the butter by hand or with a fork, then formed into small balls and added, uncooked, to a sauce.
  • If you want a medium-thick sauce or gravy, you should add about 2 tablespoons of flour per cup of liquid. If you’re using cornstarch, use 2 to 2 ˝ teaspoons per cup.