Show of 07-11-2015

Tech Talk
July 11, 2015

Email and Forum Questions
  • Email from James Bartlett: Oh, wise ones: These are, like, the two fundamental questions of life: Which is the better computer operating system for business — Windows or Macintosh? Which is the better phone for business — Blackberry, iPhone, or all the rest? Waiting for your wisdom. James Bartlett
  • Tech Talk Responds: Mac or Windows. This question depends on the software that you need. At Stratford we have both platforms for our teams. Most of our graphic designers use the Mac. As business software is becoming available for the Mac many are switching to the Mac. I am still a Windows person. Blackberry used to be the default business standard because of this security. However, it was late to the smart phone party and never recovered. So now the choice is either iPhone or Android. The question is not a hardware question, but rather an eco-system question. I love the Apple eco-system so I am an iPhone fan.
  • Email from Margaret: Dear Dr. Shurtz, I own an iMac and typically when I am notified of updates from Apple I install them. Today I got an Update alert and was directed to the iTunes store. I don’t do music or pics with any of their apps. Can I assume that update is not of value to my computer and just pass on this update? Their alert didn’t say what it was for. Thanks, Margaret
  • Tech Talk Responds: Apple does periodically update the iTunes store. If you don’t use iTunes, you don’t need the update.
  • Email from Alice in Wonderland: Dear Dr. Shurtz & Jim, I am constantly getting these Google warnings. It says that “We recently blocked a sign-in attempt to your Google Account”. It then gives the time and location of the attempted sign-in. It goes on to say, “See if anything is suspicious. If so, change your password.” What is best practice to stop having this issue? Thanks! Alice in Wonderland
  • Tech Talk Responds: Do the time stamp and log in location match your attempted logins, or are they attempts by someone else. If they are your attempts, then you must be entering the wrong password too many times. If they are not your attempts and someone else gained access, change your password immediately. Whatever you do, do not click on a link in this email and login to your account. The whole email may be a phishing attempt to get your credentials.
  • Email from Beartrap88: Dear Dr. Shurtz, Love your show and especially your creative use of the English language, such as renaming the at-sign as an “ampersand” (&) and your creative pronunciations (Steve Jobes, Paylo Alto, Mall ware., et al.).  Much better than my old math instructor from India.  Speaking of which, I trust that you have seen the Bollywood comedy hit “Three Idiots” (many times?), but if not, you’re in for an incredible treat when you do.  Hilarious and particularly instructive for the STEM professoriate — in India and everywhere else. Keep up the good work.  You are undoubtedly one of the world’s most successful educational entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial educators.  I envy your students. Beartrap88
  • Tech Talk Responds: I think this is a complement. I admit to Physicist speak. I was dead wrong calling the “at” symbol an ampersand.  I did call Steve Jobs, Jobes because was so use to the Book of Jobs in the Bible. Palo Alto and Malware are problems too. The fact is that I love to teach. Teaching is my passion, even if I have some physicist speak. Thanks for your email. I love the feedback.
  • Email from Ken Hutchison: Dr. Shurtz, You talked recently about putting a parabolic reflector behind an antenna. How can I form the foil into a true parabolic shape, and how would the reflector be attached to the antenna? Ken in Gaithersburg
  • Tech Talk Responds: You need to draw two parabolas on a piece of cardboard. Insert the antenna through the cardboard holders at the focus of the parabola. Now you can wrap tinfoil around the parabolic shaped cardboard. Here is a link to such an antenna. http://kakopa.com/wifi/index.html. You are right the antenna must be located at the focal point of the parabola.
  • Email from Arnie McKechnie: Hi Dr. Shurtz. We moved from Crownsville, Maryland to Colorado Springs, Colorado last month. Now I have to listen to Tech Talk two hours earlier on iPad or the podcast. Not a problem.  The transition has been fairly smooth except for closing  out my account with Verizon. After shipping back my modem, they still charged for another month. I am using Thunderbird for my email client. All the Verizon settings seem to be locked in. I’ve uninstalled Thunderbird & reinstalled it, but my old Verizon email account keeps showing up. Any suggestions on how to delete previous Verizon entries so I can use Thunderbird here with new email address? Have you ever heard of or featured Cyberark? Wonder if they cater to businesses only or residential clients. For your next trip to India, highly recommend reading Future Crimes by Marc Goodman. This book would also be excellent for your students studying cyber security. Thanks. – from Colorado, Arnie
  • Tech Talk Responds: You must remove the old account. Before you remove the account from Thunderbird, move any emails for that account that you want to keep into a folder under Local Folders. When you remove an account any messages associated with that account that are not moved to local folders will disappear with the account. From the menu bar select Tools-Account Settings. Select the account that you want to remove At the bottom of the account list is Account Actions-Remove Account. If there is no menu bar with Tools, press the alt key. Now you can add your new account using the same account tools. CyberArt is an enterprise class security solution for business. It has gotten great reviews, but does not cater to the individual consumer. Good book reference.
  • Email from Charadd: The Emblem in an email address is called the “commercial at” sign. Charadd.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Charadd, thanks for the feedback. Yet another Tech Talk mistake. Several have noted this error.
  • Email from Wayne in Silver Springs: Dr. Shurtz, A friend of mine, who is Chinese and lives in Laurel, Md., tells me there are at least two much cheaper alternative services to Verizon and Comcast offering Internet, Phone, and TV which have become popular in the Chinese and Korean communities. 
  • One is iTalkBB, which she has, and can use to make toll free unlimited calls to Taiwan and China. I Googled it and found it’s website, but couldn’t understand how the whole thing works or the pricing. 
  • Dr Shurtz, are you aware of these two, or any other services, for getting the least expensive Internet, phone and TV services here in the U.S.?  If so, what’s the best deal? I’m only interested in hooking my computer up to the Internet and making unlimited local and long distance domestic phone calls, not any International calls or TV , although other friends of mine are. Help! Wayne in Silver Spring.
  • Tech Talk Responds: iTalkBB is an IP phone server. They provide local phone numbers for China and Taiwan so that family members can call the US toll free. This is not an Internet service. I use Ooma for my IP phone at home. I bought the unit for around $200 and pay $4.60 a month for unlimited calling in the US. I call internationally at low rates with a prepaid account. I ported my land line number to Ooma, so no one can tell that I switch to an IP phone system. On my iPhone, I use Viber and Skype for IP calls.
Profiles in IT: Matti Makkonen
  • Matti Makkonen is a Finnish mobile phone pioneer and “Father of Text Messaging.”
  • Matti Makkonen was born April 16, 1952 in Suomussalmi, Finland.
  • He received a BS (1975) and MS (1976) in Electronics from Oulu University.
  • He started his career in 1976 in the radio department of Finnish PTT, later Sonera.
  • He worked on the international project, NMT (Nordic Mobile Telephone).
  • In 1984, he was appointed as VP and was involved in the development of the GSM.
  • GSM was first a Nordic idea, then a European effort and finally a global standard.
  • In 1984, over a pizza at a telecoms conference, Matti proposed a mobile phone messaging service. This was to become the SMS (short message service) standard.
  • In 1989, he was appointed president of the mobile communication unit, which had been renamed Telecom Finland.
  • On December 2, 1992, the first text message using Matti’s idea was sent from a PC to a mobile device using Vodafone’s UK network. It said, “Merry Christmas.” 
  • The real launch of the service was when Nokia introduced the first phone that enabled easy writing of messages in 1994 using the Nokia 2010 mobile phone.
  • Matti dislikes the distinction of being “father of SMS, “because other did much of work to develop the technology.
  • He did not consider SMS as personal achievement but rather the result of a joint effort to collect ideas and write the specifications of the services based on them.
  • In 1995, he was appointed VP of the Mobile Communications Group.
  • In 2000, Makkonen joined Nokia as Head of Networks Professional Services, leading network planning, implementation, operating, optimization,  and system integration.
  • The same year, he was briefly the President and board member of the Mobile Internet operator unit of the company, which at that point had been renamed TeliaSonera.
  • In February 2003, he was appointed CEO of Finnet Group Ltd., consisting of the joint efforts of the local Telco’s, like Finland’s fastest growing mobile operator, DNA.
  • In 2006, he served on the Board and consultant for Tieto-X and the PR agency Evia.
  • In 2008, Makkonen was awarded The Economist Innovation Award in the computing and telecommunications category for his work on text messaging (SMS).
  • In 2010, he was appointed CEO of Anvia, a telco in Western Finland that expanded into IT services, security solutions and TV broadcasting. He retired in 2013.
  • He did not patent the idea and never received any money for the invention. He does not believe it was a patentable innovation and is glad that it became part of GSM.
  • As you might expect, he does not like text speak, sexting, or text spam. He preferred a touch screen, rather than a keyboard, for texting.
  • On June 26, 2015, died at age 63 from complications caused by an illness. The “grand old man of mobile phone technology” is gone.
Ethernet Adapter for Chromecast
  • Chromecast is an affordable way to stream content from mobile devices to a TV.
  • But is only operates using 2.4 Wi-Fi and sometimes those channels are taken.
  • Google is now out to fix this problem with a $15 Ethernet adapter.
  • Chromecast connects to crowded 2.4 Ghz Wireless N networks. That means your chances of finding a completely clear wireless channel are slim in a apartment building.
  • The newer 5.8 Ghz Wi-Fi standard could help the problem as those networks are less populated than old-school 2.4 Ghz ones, but the Chromecast can’t connect to them.
  • Ethernet connectivity assures your device always has a direct line to your router or modem. The adapter runs both power and data to the Chromecast via USB once plugged in to an AC outlet and an Ethernet device.
  • Hopefully next Chromecast will support 5.8 Ghz networks
Aereo Update
  • I got a letter from Aereo this week. 
  • They have apparently licensed their technology to TiVo.
  • The TiVo Roamio™ OTA is an HD antenna DVR and streaming player.
  • Former Aereo can buy one for $49.99 and $14.99/mo. with a 1-year commitment.
  • Getting over-the-air HD TV onto my network would solve a big problem for me. 
  • With Netflix, I would be able to drop my expensive entertainment package from Verizon.
Hacking the Hacking Team
  • The Hacking Team seemed untouchable. 
  • The company contracted out surveillance software to law enforcement agencies around the world. 
  • They only sold to police and governments, even if the governments were some of the most corrupt and repressive in the world. 
  • When researchers caught them spying on journalists in Ethiopia, the fallout was minimal at best. There was every indication they could keep this going forever.
  • On July 5, 2015, attackers compromised Hacking Team’s internal system and released 400 gigabytes of data in an open torrent, containing everything from email archives to one unlucky soul’s email encryption key. 
  • The fallout has been immediate; resulting in a full shutdown of the company’s services until the damage can be contained, shutting down programs everywhere from Russian intelligence to the South Korean army. 
  • The biggest problem is a technical one: surveillance implants only work if people can’t find them. But the dumped data includes detailed source code for Hacking Team’s products, which will make them much easier to find in the future. 
  • Researchers can use that source code to build anti-virus signatures, or flag traffic coming from Hacking Team servers. Hacking Team held legitimate developer credentials for iOS and other ecosystems, which can also be used for monitoring.
  • One anonymous researcher even uploaded the code to a public GitHub page where like-minded coders could piece through it together. 
  • The open code also means software companies can start patching the holes that let Hacking Team break through in the first place. 
  • Companies like Hacking Team typically exploit undisclosed vulnerabilities in software — also known as “zero-days,” so named because software companies have had zero days’ notice to fix the flaws — to ensure that an implant can be reliably installed without the user catching on. 
  • The political fallout could be even harder to overcome. Thanks to the leak, there’s a full list of clients, with the FBI, DEA, and Australian police alongside heavily sanctioned countries like Bahrain, Ethiopia, and Sudan. 
Idea of the Week: Using Bitcoin Technology to Track Artwork
  • Verisart Plans To Use The Blockchain To Verify The Authenticity Of Artworks
  • Verifying the authenticity of a fine art work has become  as important as the art itself.
  • Verisart, a brand new startup out of L.A., is poised to launch using decentralized technologies to help artists and collectors with new ways to certify, document, verify and enliven their works. 
  • It wants to use the block chain to build a worldwide ledger of art and collectibles, coupled with museum standard meta data, to provide immediate value for artists, collectors, appraisers and insurers.
  • Israel-based fund Rhodium has provided seed financing terms, but terms have not been undisclosed as yet.
  • It’s also managed to sign up legendary bitcoin figure Peter Todd as a Board Advisor. 
  • Todd is both a core developer for Bitcoin and an extremely vocal and well-known figure in the blockchain/Bitcoin community. 
  • By using the Blockchain, Verisart provides digital provenance to physical works that can be verified online and in real-time. This could benefit artists, collectors and dealers alike.
  • The blockchain allows potential buyers to verify the chain of title in a work without relying on any single node of verification.”
  • Verisart’s mobile app will launch in the next few months and will first be made available to artists, with the API for online sellers available shortly after. 
  • Norton says Verisart will always be free for artists and is designed to help them manage their works and collector databases long term. 
Latest Siri prank Calls Emergency Services
  • The prank claims that “something funny” will happen if you say “112” to your iPhone. 
  • North American users probably don’t know that 112 is the European equivalent to the 911 emergency number, and Siri will respond to the request by placing a call to your local 911 switchboard.
  • Unlike the last 911 prank, which had “victims” asking the virtual helper about the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Siri gives you five seconds to cancel before it actually puts the call through, but apparently some people still don’t realize that. 
  • Winnebago County, Wisconsin’s emergency services claims that it has received 219 calls in the past week from people who have just hung up. 
  • These 911 calls look like a safety feature for Siri to let international travelers report trouble and receive aid without knowing the local code. 
  • Hopefully, people stop this soon.
  • Ask Siri to divide zero by zero.  That is a great answer.