Show of 06-20-2015

Tech Talk

June 20, 2015

Email and Forum Questions
  • Email from Bethesda Listener: Dear Dr. Shurtz, Could you please share your opinion on this Key Point Government Solutions breach? I got a letter from the DHS today. Key Point who the government contracts out security clearance background investigations work for contractors, and evidently was given my personal data, evidently was hacked and my personal data may have been compromised. DHS has offered a free 18 month identify protection service thru AllClearID. Have U ever heard of AllClearID? What happens if they get breached? Do you know others who got this letter? Best, Bethesda Listener
  • Tech Talk Responds: KeyPoint Government Solutions, which took over the bulk of federal background checks after one of its competitors was hacked, also recently suffered a computer network breach. Office of Personnel Management will notify 48,439 federal workers that their personal information may have been exposed. he breach comes just a few months after OPM decided not to renew a background investigations contract with USIS, which suffered a breach earlier this year.
  • AllClearID has been around for about 10 years. They score low in rating related to identify protection. Two stars compared to Lifelock’s 4.5 stars. They have great rating in customer service. They were ranked #10 by BestIdTheftCompanys.com. Lifelock was ranked #1.
  • Email from Leslie in Oakton: Dear Doc and Jim. You talked about simultaneous voice and data on the iPhone6 from Verizon. How do I enable this feature? Thanks, Leslie in Oakton.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Verizon has quietly rolled out the feature called HD Calling and the iPhone 6 is one of the devices capable of using this feature. Go to Settings, Cellular. Check off Voice & Data (Data Only is probably checked). You’ll see a spinning cursor as it looks like turning it on here automatically provisions this feature in your Verizon account. Once the cursor stops, you will have  been provisioned for HD Calling. So if you’re using LTE, you now should have the same dual capabilities carriers like AT&T have had for years. The voice quality is like being in the same room. And you can browse the web at the same time.
  • Email from Adam in Michigan: Dear Tech Talk. I just go a laptop and would like backup my data. I frequently travel and would like to be able to recover all my data in the event that the device is stolen. What are my options? Love the show. Adam  in Michigan.
  • Tech Talk Responds: The top four rated backup services by PC Magazine are iDrive, CrashPlan, SOSOnlineBackup, Carbonite. They all run around $59 per year. Some are for an multiple computers and some are for just one. You also have the choice to backup specific folders to MS OneDrive, Google Drive, Box, Dropbox. These storage options are cheaper, but not as convenient to setup. I use Carbonite, along with Dropbox (for sharing files). Carbonite is$59 per year, for one computer, with unlimited space.
  • Email from Alice in Alexandria: Dear Doc and Jim. I would love to try some3D printing.  What printers do you recommend? Alice in Alexandria.
  • Tech Talk Responds:  3D printers are more affordable than ever, with many of them costing under $600. Home 3D printers mostly use a process called filament deposition manufacturing (FDM) or fused filament fabrication (FFM). 
  • A plastic filament, either ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) or PLA (polylactic acid), is melted and then deposited in layers. Some printers use a process called Stereolithography (SLA) printing, in which a laser solidifies a photosensitive resin to form each layer and produce very detailed objects.  SLA printers are much more expensive. According to Tom’s Guide, here are the best options in four lower cost categories.
  • Best Budget 3D Printer 
    • Printrbot Simple Metal
    • Layer Resolution: 100 microns 
    • Type of Printing: PLA 
    • $599 On Amazon
  • Best Intermediate 3D Printer 
    • Lulzbot Mini
    • Layer Resolution: 100 microns
    • Type of Printing: PLA, ABS, Nylon and others 
    • $1350.00 On Amazon
  • Best Enthusiast 3D Printer 
    • Ultimaker 2 3D Printer Review
    • Layer Resolution: 20-200 microns
    • Type of Printing: PLA, ABS 
    • $2499 On Dynamism
  • Best Resin Printer 
    • Formlabs Form 1+
    • Layer Resolution: 25 microns 
    • Type of Printing: Resin 
    • $3299 On Formlabs
Profiles in IT: Douglass Read Cutting
  • Douglass Read Cutting is an open-source advocate best known as the creator of Hadoop (for big data), Lucene, (a search indexer), and Nutch, (a spider or crawler). 
  • He received a BA in Linguistics from Stanford University in 1985. He was a member of the Stanford Crew team.
  • In February 1886, he was hired as a Research Assistant for The Centre for Speech Technology Research in Edinburgh, Scotland.
  • In June 1987, he became a Member of the Research Staff at Xerox PARC.
  • In July 1992, was hired as Senior Technologist, Advanced Technology Group, Apple Computer. In April 1996, he became Principal Engineer, Excite.
  • He had worked on search engine technology for PARC, Apple, and Excite.
  • In 1999, Doug Cutting originally wrote Lucene, an open source search indexer program. It was initially available for download from SourceForge. It joined the Apache Software Foundation’s Jakarta family of open-source Java products in 2001.
  • In September 2000, he was hired as Principal Engineer,  InfraSearch
  • In February 2001, he was hired as Principal Engineer,  Grand Central 
  • Cutting, with Mike Cafarella, created Nutch, an open source search spider or crawler. 
  • In June, 2003, a successful 100-million-page demonstration system was developed. 
  • To meet the multi-machine processing needs of the crawl and index tasks, the Nutch project has also implemented a Google’s MapReduce algorithm, which allows very large scale computations to be trivially parallelized across large clusters of servers and a distributed file system. This was spun out into a project called Hadoop.
  • The Apache Hadoop software library is a framework that allows for the distributed processing of large data sets across clusters of computers. The software itself is designed to detect and handle failures at the application layer.
  • In January, 2005, Nutch joined the Apache Incubator, from which it graduated to become a subproject of Lucene in June of that same year. 
  • Lucene, Nutch, and Hadoop lead to Solr, a popular enterprise search engine that competes with Google Search Appliance.
  • In April 2005, he became Director of Search, Internet Archive.
  • In January 2006, he became Technical Yahoo at Yahoo! He led the Hadoop project.
  • In July 2009, Cutting was elected to the board of directors of the Apache Software Foundation, and in September 2010, he was elected its chairman. He had served as software committer for Apache since June 2001. 
  • In September 2009, he became Chief Architect, Cloudera
  • Cloudera Inc. is an American-based software company that provides Apache Hadoop-based software, support and services, and training to business customers.
  • Cloudera’s open-source Apache Hadoop distribution, CDH (Cloudera Distribution Including Apache Hadoop), targets enterprise-class deployments of that technology.
Stupid Idea of the Week: Text Walking Lanes
  • A city in Belgium has created several “text walking lanes.”
  • The special lanes have been painted onto a number of Antwerp’s busiest shopping streets.
  • While the measure is, in reality, a marketing stunt by local mobile firm Mlab, it’s likely that many in the area wouldn’t mind keeping the markings.
  • Everyone text-walks. You probably walk through the streets while texting or sending WhatsApp messages to your friends and don’t really pay attention to your surroundings.
  • This causes collisions with poles or other pedestrians. You could, unknowingly, even be endangering your own life while you text-walk when you cross the street without looking up.
  • There have been stories in recent years of phone addicts walking off piers or into canals.
  • Its report points out that in an effort to reduce the number of accidents linked to distracted walking, states such as Utah and New Jersey have experimented with fines for wandering texters who put themselves in hazardous situations. 
Ballot Machines are Easy Hacking Targets
  • According to a new report by the Commonwealth Security and Risk Management for the Virginia Information Technologies Agency, the AVS WINVote machines Virginia has used since 2002 have such flimsy security that an amateur hacker could change votes from outside a polling location.
  • This means anyone could have broken into the machines from the parking lot using the Wi-Fi link.
  • The report was commissioned after one precinct in Virginia reported unusual activity with some of the devices used to capture votes, during last November’s elections.
  • “Security deficiencies were identified in multiple areas, including physical controls, network access, operating system controls, data protection, and the voting tally process.
  • The combination of critical vulnerabilities in these areas, along with the ability to remotely modify votes discretely, is considered to present a significant risk. 
  • This heightened level of risk has led VITA security staff to conclude that malicious third party could be able to alter votes on these devices. These machines should not remain in service.
  • Mississippi and Pennsylvania decertified the machines years ago, because they used an outdated version of Windows that had not been updated since 2004 and had default passwords that could allow for Wi-Fi access.
  • While there is no evidence that a Virginia election was compromised because of these security vulnerabilities in the WINVote machines, but there is no way to really know.
  • Similar vulnerabilities have been previously discovered in machines from Diebold, Premier Elections Solutions, Sequoia, Hart, ES&S and other.
  • The problems fall into two areas. Manufacturers are not sufficiently testing systems before selling them to municipalities, often using off-the-shelf hardware and software with minimal security; and local government certification agencies seldom have the time, resources or knowledge to properly test machines for vulnerabilities and often just accept the manufacturer’s claims for security.
  • The National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Election Assistance Commission has a program to help municipalities certify election machines, but, participation in the program is voluntary.  
The Internet of Things Needs Standards
  • “The internet of things” was first coined by a British visionary called Kevin Ashton.
  • Back in 1999, before the dotcom bubble started to burst, he first used it to describe how internet-connected devices would change our lives.
  • Ashton forecast a futuristic world of seamlessly connected devices that would save us both time and money. 
  • The idea has become main stream. Households are comfortable with brands like Nest connecting their heating systems to the internet. 
  • However, there remains an ongoing battle over common standards that would allow devices to “talk” to each other.
  • Early examples include making home security systems smarter by sending SMS alerts to homeowners when their properties were under threat
  • Without standardization, the sector could stall. The internet of things revolution is plagued by a lack of industry standards.
  • Major players in the space have built and protected their own ecosystem rather than sign up to industry-wide standards for the benefit of consumers and the industry. 
  • Late last year, Apple announced HomeKit, a centralized control system tied to the iPhone ecosystem.
  • Apple’s system will likely not interact with Google’s competing Nest ecosystem. Samsung have also joined in the race, creating further chaos for consumers.
  • IFTTT (if this then that), an independent internet-based platform was created to champion the idea of bridging the gap between connected devices and internet services. Users can create what it calls recipes. 
  • For example, in a matter of clicks you can set your Nest home thermostat to change your Hue light bulbs to red in the event of your heater malfunctioning without the need to use multiple apps on your smartphone. 
  • Thousands of pre-made recipes have been created by a growing developer community.
Optimize Your iPhone Storage
  • Find out which apps are hogging the most space. Go to Settings > General > Usage, and then click Manage Storage. You’ll then see the biggest apps and can figure out if any need deleting. Delete apps you don’t use
  • Be choosy with your music. Delete the ones you don’t listen to by swiping right to left on any song, and consider downloading Spotify or Pandora to listen to any music you want without hogging your phone’s memory.
  • Optimize your phone storage. iOS 8 gives you the ability to store lower resolution ‘optimized’ versions of photos and videos on your iPhone, while uploading the full resolution versions to your iCloud account. Simply go to Settings > Photos & camera > Optimize phone storage, and you’ll never have to panic-delete photos again.
  • Delete those old texts. Those pictures really hog your memory. In iOS 8, you can change your settings to automatically delete read texts after a month (instead of the auto setting ‘forever’).
  • Back up your photos and documents. Whether you upload your content directly onto your laptop via a USB, or use an app like Dropbox to store it online, getting your photos, videos and documents OFF your phone is the undisputed fastest way to up your storage.
  • Don’t keep both photos when using HDR. If you use HDR mode to capture better photos, be aware that it is automatically set to save both versions of the image. Go to Settings > Photos & Camera and deselect Keep Normal Photo to make sure you’re not doubling up on the same snaps.
  • Delete played podcasts. Go to Settings > Episodes to keep > All unplayed. You know it makes sense.