Show of 04-16-2016

Tech Talk

April 16, 2016

Email and Forum Questions
  • Email from Alice Lane: Doctor Shurtz, I recently downloaded and installed TOR AND the updating bundle. It is working. But somehow I ended up getting two copies of the browser and so I put one in the trash but I can’t delete that copy because I get the error message that the browser ‘Is In Use’ even though I closed it. How do I empty the trash? Thanks, Alice Lane. A regular Tech Talk listener.
  • Tech Talk Responds: You can hit “Control Alt Delete.” Then select task manager. You can then close any open program. You should be able to delete the extra browser then. Congratulations on getting Tor up and running. Welcome the world of anonymous browsing. 
  • Email Tuc in Fairfax: Dear Doc and Jim. My friend/enemy switched the mapping for the keys on my keyboard as an April Fool’s Day joke. When I press Y, Z appears on the screen. Some keys still function properly such as B, X, G, I, D, and a few others. Also, when I press Ctrl, it functions as the Enter key. Even the function keys have been switched around!! I called a technician, but even he was unable to find the problem and told me that reinstalling the operating system was the only way to go. I really do not want to resort to calling my friend and asking him how to undo it. I am using Windows 7 Professional 64-bit and thankfully, at least, there is no problem with my mouse. Can you help me? Thanks. Tuc in Fairfax
  • Tech Talk Responds: In this case, it sounds like a different keyboard layout has been set as the default (i.e. German, since that would cause a swap between Y and Z). You can change your keyboard’s layout via the Control Panel. Go to Clock, Language, and Region. Then select Region and Language. Then select Keyboards and Language. Finally Select Change Keyboards. However, this does not explain the problem with the function keys. It is possible to arbitrarily remap keys via the registry. I you might use a third-party tool to fix this (SharpKeys, for example).
  • Email from Michael in Boston: Dear Tech Talk. I use the MS Word 2003. I created a document in it and sent. Recipient could see my email but not the document. I could clearly see it went out by check my sent box. I tried various methods to get it to him, but none worked. Finally, I converted the document to MS Word 2013 and it went through OK. I like using the MS Word version and no one else has had this problem with my documents. Why did this occur? Is Word 2003 safe to use and can it be updated or do I need to start using the new version? Michael in Boston.
  • Tech Talk Responds: The issue at the recipient’s end and not yours. Because malware can be transmitted in Word documents, some email providers and programs intentionally block certain file types like “.doc”. Though if it blocks “.doc” I’m surprised it doesn’t also block “.docx”. You could use something like Dropbox to get the file to him, or you could zip it first and try emailing the .zip file. When I have any type of version problem, I save the file as an .rtf (Rich Text File). It has most of the formatting features as Word. Sometimes, I will save the document as a .pdf (Portable Document Forma). A pdf can be read by nearly everyone.
  • Email from Sue in Atlanta: Dear Doc and Jim. I am a long distance relationship, looking for a way to watch YouTube at the same time. We talk constantly using FB audio because it’s a nice HQ voice chat platform that works on both android and iOS. We like to watch videos at the same time, which can lead to the frustration of them not being in sync with the added difficulty of a few moments lag caused by FB audio chat. Anyone have any suggestions?? Love the show. Sue in Atlanta
  • Tech Talk Responds: This is a typical problem that long distance couples encounter. Here are a few options for you to consider.
  • Email from Alice in Alexandria: I want to buy a new laptop. But I can’t decide if I need the 4 GB or 8 GB. I don’t game, don’t edit videos etc. I use it to store pics, browse the web, watch Netflix and use MS Office (Excel and PowerPoint). I currently have a 6 GB and I haven’t used all of it. The 4 GB is on sale, so the price difference between the two is big. I did notice the 8 GB has better speakers and Windows 10. You can upgrade the 4 GB to 10 for free. Can you help me figure out if I need the 8 GB? Alice in Alexandria
  • Tech Talk Responds: I suspect that the 8 GB is a new machine with upgraded specs on the motherboard. Memory is not the only difference. I assume that you your operating system will be 64-bit, so it can use the entire 8 GB and more. A 32-bit machine can only use 4 GB of RAM, so more doesn’t really buy you anything. At this point, I only buy 64-bit machines with 8 GB of RAM for Stratford. I would be my recommendation. That being said, getting last year’s model at a great price may make sense for you. Your applications are not very taxing. So it may be a good option for you. It depends on the other machine specs to really assess the value.
Profiles in IT: Geoffrey Everest Hinton
  • Geoffrey Everest Hinton is a cognitive psychologist and computer scientist, most noted for his work on artificial neural networks and deep learning.
  • Geoffrey Everest Hinton December 6, 1947 in Wimbledon, London.
  • Geoffrey Hinton was in high school when a friend convinced him that the brain worked like a hologram.
  • While still in high school, back in 1960s Britain, Hinton was fascinated by the idea. Rather than keeping them in a single location, it spreads them across neurons.
  • In 1970, he received a BA in Psychology from Kings College, Cambridge.
  • While studying at Cambridge, Hinton was inspired by the realization that scientists didn’t really understand the brain. They couldn’t explain how neurons learned.
  • In 1977, he received a PhD in Artificial Intelligence from University of Edinburgh. 
  • He did postdoctoral work at Sussex University and the University of California San Diego and spent five years as a faculty member at Carnegie-Mellon University.
  • In the early ’80s, when Hinton and his colleagues started working artificial neural networks. He was one of the researchers who introduced the back-propagation algorithm and the first to use backpropagation for learning word patterns. 
  • But computers weren’t powerful enough and his success was limited. The AI community turned its back on them, working to find shortcuts to brain-like behavior. 
  • He spent three years from 1998 until 2001 setting up the Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit at University College London and then returned to Toronto.
  • He became a fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research and moved to the Department of Computer Science at the University of Toronto. 
  • With a small amount of funding from the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, Hinton founded the Neural Computation and Adaptive Perception (NCAP) program.
  • It was comprised on an invite-only group of computer scientists, biologists, electrical engineers, neuroscientists, physicists, and psychologists. Hinton aimed to create a team dedicated to creating computing systems that mimic organic intelligence.
  • As they came together for regular workshops, their research accelerated. They built more powerful deep learning algorithms that operated on much larger datasets. Hinton was their leader. Listening to and encouraging them. 
  • Fortunately, computation power had caught up with neural networks, which are distributed and easily scalable to thousands of machines in the cloud.
  • Speech recognition and artificial vision systems adopted by Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, and other giants of the web came sooner because of the NCAP and Hinton.
  • In 2011, an NCAP researcher and Stanford processor named Andrew Ng founded a deep learning project at Google. In 2013, Hinton joined Google half-time.
  • Hinton is the great-great-grandson both of logician George Boole, whose work eventually became one of the foundations of modern computer science
  • Website: www.cs.toronto.edu/~hinton/
US advises deleting QuickTime from Windows computers
  • A cyber security team at the US Department of Homeland Security is advising people to remove QuickTime media software from Windows computers to avoid being hacked. 
  • The US Computer Security Readiness Team (CERT) on Thursday issued an alert after Trend Micro put out word that Apple will no longer be updating defenses in QuickTime and that two vulnerabilities in the program could be exploited by hackers.
  • “Exploitation of QuickTime for Windows vulnerabilities could allow remote attackers to take control of affected systems,” CERT said in the alert.
  • “The only mitigation available is to uninstall QuickTime for Windows.”
  • The advisory did not apply to QuickTime running on Apple computers.
  • Apple’s QuickTime is one of several programs allowing computer users to view videos and other media files.
  • Cyber security firm Trend Micro said in an online post that it was not aware of any attacks that have taken advantage of the QuickTime weaknesses, but the best defense was to follows Apple’s own advice and uninstall the programs from Windows-powered machines.
  • Apple did not reply to an AFP request for comment. 
Error of the Week: Operator Deletes His Entire Company
  • A man appears to have deleted his entire company with one mistaken piece of code.
  • By accidentally telling his computer to delete everything in his servers, hosting provider Marco Marsala has removed all trace of his company and the websites that he maintains.
  • Mr. Marsala wrote on a forum for server experts called Server Fault that he was now stuck after having accidentally run destructive code on his own computers. 
  • But far from advising them how to fix it, most experts informed him that he had just accidentally deleted the data of his company and its clients, and in so doing had probably destroyed his entire company with just one line of code.
  • The problem command was “rm -rf”: a basic piece of code that will delete everything it is told to. The “rm” tells the computer to remove; the r deletes everything within a given directory; and the f stands for “force”, telling the computer to ignore the usual warnings that come when deleting files.
  • The code deleted everything on the computer, including Mr. Masarla’s customers’ websites.
  • Mr. Masarla runs a web hosting company, which maintains servers and internet connections on which the files for websites are stored.
  • Normally, that code would wipe out all of the specific parts of the computer that it was pointed at. But because of an error in the way it was written, the code didn’t actually specify anywhere – and so removed everything on the computer.
  • Mr. Marsala confirmed that the code had even deleted all of the backups that he had taken in case of catastrophe. 
  • Because the drives that were backing up the computers were mounted to it, the computer managed to wipe all of those, too.
  • Most users agreed that it was unlikely that Mr Marsala would be able to recover any of the data. And as a result his company was almost certainly not going to recover, either.
Google Drops Support for XP and Vista
  • Google Chrome no longer supports some older operating systems, including Windows XP, Windows Vista, OS X 10.6, OS X 10.7, and OS X 10.8. 
  • This change, which Google announced in November 2015, comes with the stable release of Chrome 50, which started rolling out on April 13.
  • What this means for those of you running Chrome on one of the aforementioned operating systems is no further updates or security fixes. 
  • This effectively means your browsing will become more vulnerable with each passing day. However, Chrome will continue to work for you in its current state for the foreseeable future.
  • Anyone affected by this really has three choices: 
    • Carry on using Chrome and accept the increased risks a lack of support brings.
    • Switch to another Web browser, such as FireFox or Opera, both of which still support most of these aging operating systems. 
    • Upgrade from XP or Vista to Windows 7, Windows 8.1, or Windows 10 
Security Bot Finds Flaws in Ruby on Rails
  • Engineerts at MIT have designed a Ruby on Rails interpreter that can find code flaws much faster than programmers.
  • Dubbed Space, the software has been tested against 50 popular web applications written in Rails, and found 23 previously undiagnosed security flaws. 
  • None of the programs required more than 64 seconds for a debugging run.
  • Professor Daniel Jackson from MIT’s department of electrical engineering and computer science developed Space with a PhD student.
  • They rewrote the code libraries Rails uses and fed the results into a Rails interpreter, which converted the software into machine-readable code after checking it for bugs using static analysis.
  • Two other attempts at a debugger were less successful, but Space worked just fine, and the developers say it would work even better if software developers integrate it into new code libraries rather than trying to rewrite old ones.
  • The final code will be presented at the International Conference on Software Engineering in Austin, Texas, in May. ®
Obama Presses for Open Market for Cable Set-Top Boxes
  • President Obama announced his support for opening the market for cable set-top boxes,
  • He said it was an example of the kinds of actions government agencies should take in response to an executive order he signed on Friday calling for administrative action to promote competition and to protect consumers.
  • They are also the latest to place the president squarely on the side of technology companies.
  • Supporters of the set-top box proposal are companies like Google, Amazon and Apple, which are eager to establish a broader foothold in the TV market.
  • Cable industry leaders argued that he was rewarding political friends and benefactors like those at Google, and undermining the independence of the FCC.
  • The administration can comment on any proposal by the FCC, an independent agency, but it is rare for the president himself to speak out on a pending matter. 
  • The FCC proposal would allow subscribers to choose and buy the devices they use to view television programming, instead of leasing the boxes from their cable companies.
  • The push announced on Friday is in line with Mr. Obama’s promise in his State of the Union address this year to find ways to help workers, small businesses and entrepreneurs. 
Russia sends exploit kit author to the Jail.
  • The author of the “Blackhole” exploit kit has been sentenced to seven years in a Russian penal colony.
  • Dmitry Fedotov, 29, also known as Paunch, was sentenced 12 April along with six other hackers who received between five-and-a-half and eight years for fraud offense.
  • Fedotov was arrested along with a team of Blackhole developers and customers in October 2013 signaling the end of the exploit kit and a major disruption of cybercrime markets.
  • The combined damage was 25 million Rubles (US$378,365.250), however it is broadly accepted that the Blackhole exploit kit wrought millions of dollars in damage.
  • The exploit kit was at its peak the most prolific and capable exploit kit in which the authors regularly spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy zero day vulnerabilities in systems like Adobe Flash and Java.
  • Blackhole was rented out for up to US$700 a month, and charged US$10,000 a month for the more highly-capable Cool exploit kit. 
Drone Racing is coming
  • A drone race was conducted at Wembley Stadium in England.
  • Drones raced out of the players’ tunnel and did three laps of the stadium, weaving their way through a slalom course. 
  • The stadium was empty, apart from a box full of journalists protected by a net.
  • Organizers of the event included the mobile network EE, the chip maker Qualcomm and this new sport’s organizing body the European Rotor Sports Association.
  • One way to view the race was using the FPV (first person view) displays. 
  • FPV headsets are worn by the racers themselves to guide their drones around the course. 
  • Reported could also view the race on tablets, which showed the view from an EE action camera mounted on the front of each drone, all streamed live over the 4G network.
  • Perhaps in the future, crowds will sit in a stadium gazing down at their tablets or smartphones at a chosen racer’s progress and then up at the real thing whizzing past.
  • But that will need a huge amount of bandwidth and may have to wait until 5G networks come along.
  • 15-year-old Luke Bannister was racing at Wembley. In March 2016, he won the biggest contest so far, the World Drone Prix in Dubai and a prize of $250,000. He didn’t win the race at Wembley.