Show of 11-29-2014

Tech Talk

November 29, 2014
Email and Forum Questions
  • Email from Lauren in Bethesda: Dear Dr. Shurtz. Hope you had a nice Thanksgiving. I have Office 2011 for the mac. †Today I needed to edit a WORD doc I have, created on a pc in 2012, that was created at a prior job and someone put a doc restriction lock on it requiring a password. †I donít know the password. Do U have any thoughts on what I need to do with my iMac to use restricted permissions? Others have posted this problem on the web but I didnít find a viable solution. Thanks. Lauren in Bethesda
  • Tech Talk Responds: This is a difficult problem, particularly since you have Office 2011. Since Office 2007, the encryption has been significantly improved. Word stored the document in an encrypted state, so simply opening in another application will not work. Some services send a portion of the document to a central server and they look for the encryption key, using the assumption that word documents have simple and predictable word structure. Others use brute force to find the password. If the processing is done on your computer, it can take up to 10 days of computing time depending on the length of the password. All solutions will cost money.†
    • Rixler Software (www.rixler.com). They have a Word password recovery program that costs around $30. It only runs on a Windows machine.†
    • Elcomsoft Proactive Software (http://elcomsoft.com/). There recovery program is $37 for the home edition and $74 for the standard edition.
    • Password Find Service (http://www.password-find.com/) There service is completely online, using faster processors for the search. License to remove password is $20; license to find password is $40. Simply upload the file.
  • Email from Carl Tyler: Dear Dr. Shurtz: I recently read an article on the Forbes website entitled: “The Largest Cyber Attack In History Has Been Hitting Hong Kong Sites”. In this article, which I provide a link below, it states someone or some country has been using a distributed denial of service or DDos attack to bring certain sites in Hong Kong down and doing it on an unprecedented scale of 500 gigabits per second. The article goes on to state that “Attacks like these could ultimately threaten the Internetís ability to act as an meritocratic landscape” due to the stress on the DNS system. †Could you explain how a DDos attack works and how they are putting all this stress on the DNS system? Long time podcast listener, Carl Tyler
  • Tech Talk Responds: This attack was generated an unprecedented traffic level of 500GB/second. The most probable source of this attack is the Chinese government. They have been getting sophisticated with these attacks recently, sometimes hacking the Amazon cloud and using those servers as the source of the attack, making blocking the servers all the more difficult. They have also started overwhelming the DNS servers with address resolution requests for the site in question, forcing the DNS providers not to answer those requests, effectively shutting down the site.
  • Email from Alex in Reston: Dear Doc and Jim: What is the difference between Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. They both use the same frequency. Why donít they interfere with each other? Love the show, Alex.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Bluetooth is designed to be a low data rate, short range communication protocol. Bluetooth is designed for printers, keyboard, mice, etc. Wi-Fi is designed to be high data rate, long range communication protocol. Wi-Fi is designed for Internet access.
  • Bluetooth 4.0 channel plan consists of 37 data communication channels and 3 advertising channels used for device discovery. All channels are non-overlapping. Advertising channels are allocated in different parts of the spectrum to provide immunity against interference from 802.11/Wi-Fi. Frequency hopping can occur up to 1,600 times per second. The power is very low to limit the range to 30 feet and to conserve power. The Bluetooth standard has been adjusted to minimize interference between Wi-Fi and Bluetooth transmitters.
  • Wi-Fi consists of 11 overlapping channels. Only three of these channels are overlapping (1, 6 and 11). These channels have 12 times more bandwidth than Bluetooth and hence a higher data. No frequency hopping is used. The frequency is set by the user to reduce inference from neighboring Wi-Fi routers. The power is much higher than Bluetooth to permit longer range.
Profiles in IT: Sebastian Thrun
  • Sebastian Thrun is an educator and robotics developer. He is best known for co-founding Udacity online learning and leading the Google self-driving car initiative.
  • Sebastian Thrun was born May 14, 1967 in Solingen, West Germany.
  • He completed his Vordiplom (intermediate examination) in computer science, economics, and medicine at the University of Hildesheim in 1988.†
  • At the University of Bonn, he completed a Diplom (first degree) in 1993 and a PhD (summa cum laude) in 1995 in computer science and statistics. His dissertation was titled: Explanation-Based Neural Network Learning: A Lifelong Learning Approach.
  • In 1994, he co-founded the University of Bonn’s Rhino, which developed the world’s first robotic tourguide in the Deutsches Museum Bonn.
  • In 1995 he joined the Computer Science Department at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) as a research computer scientist.†
  • In 1998 he became an assistant professor and co-director of the Robot Learning Laboratory at CMU.†
  • As a faculty member at CMU, he co-founded the Master’s Program in Automated Learning and Discovery, which later would become a Ph.D. program in the broad area of Machine Learning and Scientific Discovery.†
  • Thrun went on to found the CMU/Pitt Nursebot project, which fielded an interactive humanoid robot in a nursing home near Pittsburgh, PA.
  • In 2001 Thrun spent a sabbatical year at Stanford and returned to CMU.
  • In 2002, Thrun helped develop mine mapping robots in a project
  • In July 2003, he accepted associate professorship at Stanford. In 2004, he was appointed as the director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab (SAIL).
  • Thrun contributed to the area of probabilistic robotics, a field that marries statistics and robotics. Probabilistic techniques have since become main stream in robotics.
  • In 2005, Thrun co-authored a textbook entitled Probabilistic Robotics.†
  • He led development of the vehicle which won the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge.†
  • His teamís vehicle won second place at the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge.
  • Thrun joined Google as part of a sabbatical, together with several Stanford students. At Google, Thrun co-developed Google Street View.
  • On April 1, 2011, Thrun relinquished tenure at Stanford to become Google Fellow and VP. He founded Google X, Googleís moonshot research lab.
  • He launched the driverless car project and was the project lead on Google Glass.
  • In January 2012, Thrun cofounded an online educational organization, Udacity.†
  • In August 2014, he relinquished his position at Google to devote more time to Udacity. He remains a Google advisor, working on a part-time basis.
  • He has received numerous awards for his work in the area of robotics. Thrun is happiest at the point where science and entrepreneurship converge.
Put Your Phone in Field Test Mode
  • There is a hidden application in your phone, called Field Test Mode.
  • You’ll need to open up your Phone app and dial the following number, *3001#12345#* , including the asterisks and hashtag, and tap “Call.”
  • First thing you will notice is that the signal strength bars have been replace by a negative number, which is the signal strength in dbs. No signal is -130 dbm and a strong signal would be -40 dbm.
  • Here, for example, my iPhone is showing my cell signal to be -59.
  • It has a lot of other information of interest to cell phone engineers: neighbor measurements, serving cell info, serving cell measurements, SIM info, etc.
  • To exit Field Test Mode, you can simply tap the home button and you’ll be brought back to your iPhone’s home screen, no harm done.
  • Now, you can always repeat this process to enter Field Test Mode and see your true cellular signal, but if you’d like the ability to always check that number without going through that hassle, you can set things up so your iPhone will display both numbers if you just tap the signal dots in the future.
  • To be able to peek at your true signal strength number you need to get back into Field Test Mode by redialing *3001#12345#* and tapping “Call.”
  • You’ll be brought to the Field Test App, but instead of using the home button to exit, hold down your iPhone’s power/sleep button until it shows the “Slide to power off” screen and then hold the down your iPhone’s home button, which will force quit Field Test App.
  • You’ll be back to your iPhone’s homescreen, but this time you should notice that your signal strength number has replaced your signal strength dots.
  • If you tap that number, you can switch between the two as you see fit.
  • To undo any changes you made, simply repeat the steps to get into Field Test Mode and tap the Home button to exit the app, and everything will revert back to normal.
Tech Invention of the Week: A spoon that steadies tremors
  • The Liftware Spoon is designed for people whose hand tremor interferes with activities of daily living†
  • Typically, these hand tremors are caused by a medical condition such as Essential Tremor or Parkinsonís Disease.†
  • Sensors in the Liftware handle detect a personís tremor, and the device responds using motors to move the spoon opposite the tremor.
  • The spoon can discern motion from hand tremor from other types of motion, allowing it to respond to just the tremor while preserving the userís intended motion.†
  • The Liftware spoons reduced shaking of the spoon bowl by an average of 76 percent.
  • In contrast to braces, which force a userís hand to be still and can cause patient discomfort, Liftware allows the patientís hand to shake while stabilizing food in the spoon.
  • The company was started by a group of scientists from NIH with the support of Rock Health. The company has just been acquired by Google X. Google will help the team to scale operations.
  • The spoons are available from the their website: http://www.liftlabsdesign.com/
  • The cost of the spoon is $295, with a 30-day money back guarantee.
Smart House Gifts
  • Philips Hue Lux Starter Kit. I love my Phillips Hue bulbs. The new Lux bulbs donít change their hue, but they provide a warm white glow with all the geofencing, remote control and manual brightness options of the rest of the series at half the price per bulb. Single bulb is $30, instead of $60.
  • Logitech Harmony Ultimate Home Remote. Speaking of Hue, they can be controlled by the Logitech Harmony Ultimate Home system, which includes a physical remote with touchscreen, as well as a hub that can connect to apps on your iOS and Android devices. Because youíre talking to the hub, and then to the lights, thereís sometimes some input lag, but itís still very convenient to use the same remote to control your home entertainment system, lighting, and Nest thermostat. Price a $350.
  • Nest Learning Thermostat. Their learning thermostat is still the best, with compatibility with a range of devices, including the Logitech Harmony remote, connected appliances and the Dropcam security solution. Price is around $200.
  • Dropcam Wi-Fi Video Monitoring Camera. They make the best connected video camera solution available, with cloud storage of recordings, remote control, geofences, scheduling and more. Price is $99 to $199.
  • Philips Hue Tap. A new light switch for its Hue products. It includes kinetic energy storage, meaning it requires no batteries and you give it all the power it needs to operate just by using it. It also comes with a mounting plate that it can easily be removed from, so that you can carry it with you and have control wherever you are in your house, without even needing your smartphone. Price is $60.
  • August Smart Lock. Smartphone-controlled locks are common enough these days, but the August Smart Lock is probably the best. It has received strong reviews, and its installation means that you can keep your existing deadbolt, plus it works even without power using both your old boring mechanical key, and with a twisting outer ring from insider your place. Price is $250 to $350.
Other Tech Gifts
  • Bluetooth Speakers
    • Bose Bluetooth SoundLink Speaker ($200)
    • JBL Jawbone Jambox Bluetooth Speaker (less than $100)
    • JAM Classic Bluetooth Wireless Speaker ($20)
  • Headsets
    • Bose Quiet Comfort Noise Cancellation Headphones ($300)
    • Beats Studio Wireless Headphones ($300 to $600)
    • Audio-Technica ATH-M30 Headset (great quality for under $60)
  • Media Streaming Options
    • Google Chromecast Streaming Media ($35, currently $23 on Amazon)
    • Apple TV (great if you have Macs, iOS, mirroring streaming, $99, remote)
    • Roku Streaming ($40 to $100, good content, no mirroring, remote, app)
    • Amazon Fire ($40, limited content, app Android support only, remote)
  • External USB Hard Drive
    • 2 TB Toshiba, Seagate, or Western Digital (around $100).
    • I have Toshiba and love it.
  • Fitness Trackers
    • Garmin Vivosmart, great reviews ($169). Marrying the activity tracking features of a fitness band and the notifications of a smartwatch, the Vivosmart is the hybrid tracker that will know more about you than you do. It tracks your steps, calories and sleep, and will vibrate to remind you to “Move!” when you’ve been sitting at your desk for too long.
    • Moov, great reviews ($79). Moov isn’t like traditional fitness trackers that merely track steps, calories and sleep. Moov’s 3D motion sensors and Siri-like voice coach can guide you through running, walking, and boxing workouts, making sure you’re moving correctly to get the most from your exercise
    • Fitbit Flex ($99). The Flex works with Android and iOS, and the Bluetooth compatibility means you don’t need to manually dock it for data transfers. But if you can spend a bit more, step up to the newer Fitbit Force, which adds a full OLED screen and doubles as a watch.
  • Laptops
    • Apple MacBook Air (13-inch). The 13-inch MacBook Air is, despite not being the newest design on the block, still one of the most universally useful laptops you can buy. Less than $1000.
    • Acer Aspire Switch 10. The Switch 10 hybrid uses a powerful magnetic catch that connects two prongs on the top of the hinge to two openings on the bottom of the tablet screen. A good pull detachable system. (Around $320)
    • Acer Chromebook 13. The simply named Acer Chromebook 13 drops the common x86 CPU for the ARM-based Nvidia K1, which allows for a smooth high-definition 13-inch screen, and the kind of 3D performance you usually only find in much more expensive products. (Around $350).
    • HP Stream. The low-end Stream is meant to operate almost as a Chromebook would, accessing remote cloud-based apps and services, but with the ability to perform normal Windows 8 functions (such as running installed software) in a pinch. At only $199, this is a budget deal for students.