September 12, 2015
Email and Forum Questions
- Email from Arnie McKechnie: Dear Doc and Jim. On September 9, 1947, the first computer bug was found. It was a moth lodged in a relay of a Harvard Mark II computer at Harvard University. So there is a real reason for using “bug” in computer-ease. Arnie
- Tech Talk Responds: Thanks for the reminder, Arnie. In 1947, Grace Murray Hopper was working on the Harvard University Mark II Aiken Relay Calculator. On the 9th of September, 1947, when the machine was experiencing problems, an investigation showed that there was a moth trapped between the points of Relay #70, in Panel F. The operators removed the moth and affixed it to the log. The entry reads: “First actual case of bug being found.” The word went out that they had “debugged” the machine and the term “debugging a computer program” was born.
- In 1990, the log, with the moth still taped by the entry, was in the Naval Surface Warfare Center Computer Museum at Dahlgren, Virginia. They had tried to donate it to the Smithsonian, but that the Smithsonian wouldn’t accept it. Later that year, the
- Curator of the History of American Technology Museum, agreed to accept it. It took years to be actually exhibited due to space and money constraints.
- Email from Len in Springfield: Dear Doctor Shurtz. Is it better to spend more money on additional ram or on a Solid Stated Drive to speed up an old laptop bought in 2011? In the past it has always been said the best money is spend on more memory. I know that a SSD is faster in transferring data that a regular hard drive, but it would seem to me that you still need lots of memory to facilitate the movement of the data to the drive. The laptop in question is a HP Pavilion Laptop with an Intel® Core™ i3 -370M Processor, 4GB Memory, 500GB Hard Drive (7200 RPM), Windows 64-bit OS. Long time listener. Len is Springfield.
- Tech Talk Responds: The good news is that you have a 64-bit machine. 32-bits can only address 4GB of RAM; 64-bits can address much more. At a minimum, I would upgrade your RAM from 4GB to 8GB. This will reduce an disk swapping delays while you are running a program. If you are satisfied with that speed, you set.
- If you want your computer to load programs fasters, boot faster, save data faster, then you might want to upgrade to a SSD. With sequential writes reads and writes, the SSD was more than twice as fast. When it comes to random reads and writes all over the disk, the SSD is more than 400 times as fast. Your computer becomes much, much faster to boot. Your desktop will load much more quickly after you log in too. Launching a program, opening a file, and saving something to disk will all happen much, much faster.
- The good news is that Windows 7 supports SSD. I checked HP support and it looks like your BIOS will support an SSD. Double check this because I did not have your exact model number. You can get a Samsung 850 EVO Internal SSD 500 GB SSD for $164. A 1TB EVO is $333. Prices have really dropped on SSD. Good luck.
- Email from Margaret in Oakton: Dear Tech Talk. I am getting low memory messages in my iPhone. I have many pictures. I transferred my pictures to my laptop and deleted most of my photos. But I am still getting the low memory message. What is wrong with my phone? Love the show. Margaret in Oakton.
- Tech Talk Responds: When you delete photos or videos on your phone, they are transferred to the deleted folder and kept for 30 days. They still consumed memory while in that folder. If you are certain that your photos are safely transferred to you empty the deleted items folder to free up the memory. Open the Photos app and select albums from the bottom menu. Open the Recently Deleted folder and click on Select on the top. Then choose Delete All from the options.
- A better way going forward would be to store you high resolution photos on iCloud and only keep low resolution copies on your iPhone for viewing. To do this, go to Setting/Photos & Camera. Turn on iCloud Photo Library. Select Optimize iPhone Storage. Warning: you may have to pay for additional iCloud space. You only get 5GB free.
- Email from Joe in Herndon: Dear Doc and Jim. A friend of mine recently passed away and his Facebook account is still active. It there a way to change his status or have the account removed? I feel like I should be able to do something. Enjoy the show. Joe in Herndon.
- Tech Talk Responds: Memorialized accounts are a place for friends and family to gather and share memories after a person has passed away. Memorializing an account also helps keep it secure by preventing anyone from logging into it. If Facebook is made aware that a person has passed away, it’s Facebook’s policy to memorialize the account. Please keep in mind that they will not provide login information for someone else’s account. To report a profile to be memorialized, fill out a Facebook form that includes a link to a published obituary. (https://www.facebook.com/help/contact/1605213279719667). Note that only verified immediate family members may request the removal of a loved one’s account from Facebook.
Profiles in IT: Margaret Heafield Hamilton
- Margaret Heafield Hamilton led the team that developed the on-board flight software for the Apollo space program and coined the term, software engineering.
- Margaret Heafield Hamilton was born August 17, 1936 in Paoli, Indiana.
- She graduated from Hancock High School in 1954.
- She received a BA in mathematics from Earlham College in 1958.
- She then taught high school math and French until her husband graduated.
- She then moved to Boston, MA, to study in abstract mathematics at Brandeis U.
- In 1960 she took an interim position at MIT to develop software for predicting weather on the LGP-30 and the PDP-1 computers in the meteorology department.
- From 1961 to 1963, she worked at Lincoln Labs, where wrote software to search for “unfriendly” aircraft. She also wrote software for the AF Cambridge Research Labs.
- Hamilton then joined the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory at MIT. She eventually became the director and supervisor of software programming for Apollo and Skylab.
- Hamilton’s team was responsible for the Apollo on-board guidance software to navigate and land on the Moon, and its multiple variations, including Skylab.
- She developed the building blocks for modern “software engineering,” a term Hamilton coined to bring statue to this developing field.
- She developed the foundations for her Universal Systems Language and Development Before the Fact (DBTF) formal systems theory to create ultra-reliable software. She simulated every conceivable situation at the systems level to identify potential problems before releasing the code.
- Her team created the concept of priority displays, where the software in an emergency could interrupt the astronauts. The asynchronous executive allowed the computer to drop low-priority tasks when overloaded.
- Hamilton’s team’s work prevented an abort of Apollo 11 landing on the moon. Three minutes before the Lunar lander reached the Moon’s surface, the computer was overloaded with incoming data. Due to its robust architecture, the computer was able to only process higher priority jobs (important for landing).
- In 1976, she co-founded Higher Order Software and served as CEO.
- In 1986, she founded Hamilton Technologies, Inc., Cambridge, MA, which developed the Universal Systems Language for systems and software design.
- Universal Systems Language (USL) is a computer system language based on a preventive instead of a curative paradigm. USL was created for designing systems with significantly increased reliability, higher productivity, and lower risk.
- Hamilton has published over 130 papers, proceedings, and reports concerned with the 60 projects and six major programs in which she has been involved.
- In 1986, she received Augusta Ada Lovelace Award from the Association for Women in Computing. In 2003, she received the NASA Exceptional Space Act Award.
Apple Updates Product Line Incrementally
- Apple unveiled an array of major improvements to its iPhones, iPads and Apple TV on September 9, 2015.
- The updated Apple TV includes some hardware improvements, such as a remote control that allows users to easily navigate through entertainment options simply by speaking to Siri, Apple’s voice assistant.
- The device’s more significant feature is its ability to function as a game console.
- Apple said several major gaming software companies are making versions of popular titles for Apple TV. Siri is integrated into Apple TV for easing searching through the Apple catalog of products (but not other catalogs like Netflix).
- The new device will also come with its own app store, allowing third-party developers to shape how consumers get entertainment and videos on their televisions.
- The new Apple TV, which starts at $149, goes on sale in October. Apple said it would continue to sell its older model for $69.
- Apple also introduced a new tablet, iPad Pro, which has a display area roughly twice that of the iPad Air and is aimed at business clients. Apple also released a new stylus called the Apple Pencil and a keyboard. The prices for these products are $799 for the iPad Pro, $99 for the Pencil and $169 for the Smart Keyboard.
- The new iPhone 6S and the 6S Plus, have 12-megapixel cameras, 4K video, sharper screens and a feature called 3D Touch, which brings up different menus depending on how hard a user presses the screen. The new iPhones includes a faster process, faster Wi-Fi and a new rose color. The smartphones will be available for pre-order on September 12, 2015. The news iPhones will use iOS9.
- Apple watch software was updated and a few new models released. Not much here.
802.11 Met for the First Time 25 years ago.
- It was retail remodeling that spurred NCR, a cash-register company, to find out how it could use newly opened frequencies to link registers and mainframes without wires. Its customers wanted to stop drilling new holes in their marble floors for cabling every time they changed a store layout.
- In 1985, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission voted to leave large blocks of spectrum unlicensed and let vendors build any kind of network they wanted as long as they didn’t keep anyone else from using the frequencies.
- NCR jumped at the chance to develop a wireless LAN. NCR decided from the beginning that its WLAN technology should become an industry standard.
- The group that would develop that standard, called IEEE 802.11 first met September 10, 1990, 25 years ago.
- NCR was drawn to open standards by years of frustration with IBM’s control of computing through its mainframes. Like other vendors at the time, NCR constantly had to adapt its products to work with whatever IBM built.
- Wi-Fi, which got its name from the industry group that certifies 802.11 products for interoperability, .
- NCR first tried to get the WLAN standardized as a wireless form of Token Bus, a local data network designed for manufacturing automation. It turned out that Token Bus couldn’t be adapted to wireless. That’s when the 802.11 Wireless LAN Working Group was born.
- The first standard, called simply 802.11, became official in June 1997. But it didn’t become a mass-market hit, partly because it only delivered 1-2Mbps (bits per second).
- The big technical breakthrough came two years later with 802.11b, an amendment to the standard that brought the speed up to 11Mbps.
- What really sparked the WLAN phenomenon was Apple’s decision to include 802.11b in its MacBooks. The rest his history.
- The current standard, 802.11ac, has a theoretical speed of about 7Gbps with the maximum number of antennas and other options
Idea of the Week: Using Cellphone Data for City Planning
- Seven scientists from MIT and Ericsson Research have authored a study, “Visualizing signatures of human activity in cities across the globe.”
- Since nearly everyone is already carrying a high-precision sensor, the dynamics of human movement can be monitored to reveal large-scale human activity otherwise hidden from view.
- City planners have questions that might be answered by going to records, but mobile phone data can follow changes dynamically.
- Their paper presents a tool for city planners, developed through a MIT SENSEable City Laboratory and Ericsson collaboration.
- This tool allows for a comparative analysis of city structure via aggregated mobile network activity data in four global cities: New York, London, Hong Kong and Los Angeles.
- The study reports on the aggregated data which was collected between April 2013 and January 2014 in the four cities, provided by mobile network operators.
- The manycities.org tool opens up a new possibility to see patterns never seen before, and with this knowledge we may be able to improve the lives in the networked society, by providing a more accurate picture of the city.”
- This kind of tool is clearly evolving into a real time analytics tool. It’s not hard to imagine how people could use it to plan events such as conferences, sporting contests, or concerts or to plan emergency city infrastructure.
Adblock Plus Available on the iPhone
- The creators of Adblock Plus, the most popular ad-blocking software on the web, have released a stand-alone mobile browser for iPhones and iPads.
- The beta version of this “Adblock Browser” has been available on Android since May, but had not been publicly launched for iOS until now.
- The browser not only blocks ads, but also protects users from malware, as well as conserving their battery life and data usage.
- The mobile browser works similarly to Adblock Plus’ web plugins, where users can block all ads or create a “whitelist” of sites to allow advertising on — presumably those who they want to support with ad revenue.
- Ad-blocking on mobile has been in the news recently, with Apple announcing that iOS 9 will allow ad-blocking for the first time ever.
- And the release of this browser also comes just as YouTube has begun to actively punish users using ad-blocking software. If YouTube detects that someone using the Google Chrome web browser is also using Adblock Plus, it removes the option to skip the pre-roll advertisements that sometimes precede videos.
- Normal viewers get the option to skip these advertisements after a few seconds, but Chrome users with Adblock Plus have to sit through the entire advertisement, which can sometimes be three minutes long.
- The number of people using ad-blocking software has increased dramatically over the last year, up 41% to 198 million monthly active users. This represents only 6% of the global web populations, but it’s expected to cost publishers more than $21.8 billion in lost ad revenue in 2015. That’s a 14% of global advertising spending.
- And by 2016, PageFair and Adobe say the cost of ad blocking will be $41.4 billion.
Automakers commit to Automatic Brakes
- Ten automakers have committed to the government and a private safety group that they will include automatic emergency braking in all new cars.
- Making the technology widely available is part of a new era in vehicle safety in which the focus is on preventing crashes rather than on protecting occupants from their effects.
- The announcement didn’t specify a timetable for implementing the change.
- The automakers are Audi, BMW, Ford, General Motors, Mazda, Mercedes Benz, Tesla, Toyota, Volkswagen and Volvo.
- The manufacturers represented 57 percent of U.S. car and light truck sales in 2014.
- The technology is already available in some vehicles, but typically as an option in higher-priced models like Cadillac, Infiniti and Lexus.
- It is also often bundled with other features like heated seats or faux leather interiors, making the overall package more expensive.
- The systems use on-vehicle sensors such as radar, cameras or lasers to detect an imminent crash, warn the driver and, if the driver does not take sufficient action, engage the brakes.
- The systems could prevent or mitigate an estimated 80 percent of the auto and commercial truck rear-end collisions that cause about 1,700 deaths and a half million injuries annually, according to a recent report by the National Transportation Safety Board.