Show of 3-15-2008

  • Email and Forum
    • Email from John: Dear Tech Talk. I plan to travel overseas. What is my best cell phone options.
    • Tech Talk Answers: It depends on what country you travel to. GSM (Global System for Mobile Phones) is the dominant world wide standard. You can take your GSM phone with you and buy a SIM card in the country. You phone must be unlocked. Make certain to get a tri-band phone (900/1800/1900 MHz) or quad-band (850/900/1800/1900). US frequencies do not match the other GSM frequency allocation exactly. Some countries support CDMA, but you will be charged roaming fees.
  • Profiles in IT: Mark Elliot Zuckerberg
    • Founder and Chairman of Facebook
    • Mark Elliot Zuckerberg was born May 14, 1984.
    • Zuckerberg was raised in Dobbs Ferry, New York. His father was a dentist.
    • He began programming computers in sixth grade.
    • He graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy in 2002 and enrolled in Harvard.
    • At Harvard, Zuckerberg continued creating his projects while at Harvard.
      • Coursematch allowed students to view lists of other students enrolled in the same classes.
      • Facemash.com was a Harvard-specific image rating site similar to Hot or Not. It used images obtained from the Harvard database which he hacked.
    • Zuckerberg launched Facebook from his Harvard dorm room on February 4, 2004.
      • Zuckerberg wrote the original code for the site in less than two weeks. More than two-thirds of the school’s students signed up in the first two weeks.
      • Zuckerberg then decided to spread Facebook to other schools and enlisted the help of roommate Dustin Moskovitz. They first spread it to Stanford, Columbia and Yale and then to other Ivy League colleges in the Boston area.
      • By the beginning of the summer, Zuckerberg and Moskovitz had released Facebook at almost 30 schools.
    • Zuckerberg moved to Palo Alto, California with Moskovitz, his girlfriend, Hilary Shinn, and some friends during the summer of 2004.
    • Over the summer, Zuckerberg met Peter Thiel who invested in the company. Theil was co-founder of PayPal and a Venture Capitalists. His initial investment was $12M.
    • Facebook got their first office in downtown Palo Alto a few months later. Today, the company has four buildings in downtown Palo Alto, forming what Zuckerberg calls an "urban campus".
    • Forbes Magazine has ranked him as the world’s youngest self-made billionaire with a net worth of $1.5 billion on paper. That is based on an overall company valuation of $5B.
    • Zuckerberg turned down an offer for $1B from Yahoo! Actually, he initially accepted and then when the deal was restructured because of Yahoo’s drop in value, he rejected it. No IPO is in site at this point.
    • Zuckerberg said, I’m here to build something for the long term. Anything else is a distraction.
    • His vision: the openness, collaboration, and sharing of information epitomized by social networking can make the world work better.
    • Facebook is different than MySpace or other social networking sites.
      • He calls it a social graph ? the web of people’s real-world relationships.
      • It encourages authenticity and identity
      • You don’t make new friends. You communicate with existing friends.
    • Newsfeed is an important part of the system, list what you friends are doing.
    • It serves as an basis for the development of new applications (16,000 so far)
    • Zuckerberg opened the door to third-party developers, presenting Facebook as a platform for building businesses on. Over 3,000 new apps so far.
  • March 14 Was Pi Day 2008
    • Pi = 3.1415926535
    • Pi Day is celebrated by math enthusiasts around the world on March 14th (3/14)
    • Pi Day is observed on March 14 (3/14 in American date format), due to Pi being equal to roughly 3.14.
    • Sometimes it is celebrated on March 14 at 1:59 p.m. (commonly known as Pi Minute).
    • If Pi is truncated to seven decimal places, it becomes 3.1415926, making March 14 at 1:59:26 p.m., Pi Second
    • Pi, a Greek letter, is the symbol for the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter.
    • With the use of computers, Pi has been calculated to over 1 trillion digits past the decimal.
    • Pi is an irrational number meaning it will continue infinitely without repeating.
    • The symbol for pi was first used in 1706 by William Jones, but was popular after it was adopted by the Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler in 1737.
  • AOL buys social network Bebo for $850 million
    • In AOL has acquired social-networking site Bebo.
    • The price tag: $850 million in cash.
    • Rumors had floated over the past few months that Bebo, which has over 40 million members, was up for sale.
    • AOL has made it clear that buying Bebo is a move geared toward international growth, as the youth-oriented social network is popular in the U.K., Ireland, and New Zealand.
    • AOL reported that it has launched "17 international web sites over the last year and has plans to expand to 30 countries outside the U.S. by the end of 2008.
    • Bebo, meanwhile, plans to launch five localized versions of its service this year (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the Netherlands).
    • What drew AOL to Bebo was its substantial and fast-growing worldwide user-base, the monetization opportunities.
    • The social network’s developer platform supports both OpenSocial and Facebook applications; it also has an "Open Media" platform for audio and video content.
    • AOL will own a "social graph" of 80 million people, bigger than the 67 million that the independently-run Facebook currently counts but still significantly smaller than News Corp.’s MySpace.com.
    • At the core, the Bebo acquisition is all about the advertising.
  • Gates calls for higher H-1B limit
    • Bill Gates was in Washington this week.
    • He testified before Congress and spoke to NVTC’s Titan’s Breakfast.
    • His breakfast talk included
      • His usual pitch about more is yet to come was we go all digital
      • Referenced Software As A Service (SAAS) like Google
      • Did not talk much about security
    • Gates outlined four goals for Congress:
      • Improving educational opportunities in science and technology
      • Revamping the visa system for highly skilled workers
      • Increasing federal funding for basic scientific research
      • Providing incentives for private-sector research and development
    • More liberal policy toward skilled foreign workers in the US.
    • Otherwise, the United States may lose its competitive edge in the world.
    • Efforts to increase H-1B visas for foreign workers, many of whom earn advanced degrees in the United States, have been "held hostage in the immigration debate. We’re educating them and then we’re telling them to go home.
    • Gates, and others in high-tech industries, want Congress to raise the current cap of 65,000 H-1B visas, non-immigrant visas that allow employers to hire foreign nationals with specific skills. The program also allows an additional 20,000 visas for foreign nationals receiving master’s or doctoral degrees from U.S. universities.
    • He urged Congress to reinstitute the research-and-development tax credit that expired last year.
  • Is the Net Too Neutral?
    • At the end of February, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) held a public hearing at Harvard University, investigating claims that the cable giant Comcast had been stifling traffic sent over its network using the popular peer-to-peer file-sharing protocol BitTorrent.
    • Comcast argued that it acted only during periods of severe network congestion, slowing bandwidth-hogging traffic sent by computers that probably didn’t have anyone sitting at them, anyway.
    • Mung Chiang, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at Princeton University says that in the name of Net neutrality, network operators and content distributors maintain a mutual ignorance that makes the Internet less efficient.
      • In a peer-to-peer network, "the properties based on which peers are selected are influenced to a large degree by how the network does its traffic management," Chiang says.
      • But the peer selection process "will have impact in turn on the traffic management."
      • The result, he says, can be a feedback loop in which one counterproductive procedure spawns another.
    • Programs using BitTorrent, for instance, download files from a number of different peers at once.
      • But if a particular peer isn’t sending data quickly enough, Chiang says, the others might drop it in favor of one that’s more reliable.
      • Activity patterns among BitTorrent users can thus change very quickly. Network operators, too, try to maximize efficiency; if they notice a bandwidth bottleneck, they route around it.
      • But according to Chiang, they operate on a much different timescale.
    • A little information about the data they’re ferrying, Chiang argues, could help network operators manage congestion better.
    • He points out, for example, that the BitTorrent transfers that tend to consume the most bandwidth are video files. But not all frames of video are created equal. Some contain information that will stay fairly constant throughout a scene.
    • Other frames, however, describe minor modifications that occur over time, and these can occasionally be dropped without disrupting the viewing experience.
    • Treating data packets differently–prioritizing some over others–is a violation of the most austere version of Net neutrality.
    • But the idea finds support in what may at first seem an unlikely place. Eric Klinker is chief technology officer at BitTorrent, the company founded by Bram Cohen, inventor of the BitTorrent protocol.
    • Chiang that on occasion, impeding BitTorrent video transfers can be harmless.
  • DARPA Chief Reports to Congress
  • Tony Tether reported to congress about DARPA’s latest initiatives
    • Tether said the need for DARPA’s mission ? to prevent the technological surprise of the United States and create it for its adversaries by keeping our military on the technological cutting edge ? remains the agency’s operating principal.  
    • Link to Report: http://www.darpa.mil/body/news/2008/hasc3-13-08.pdf
      • Network Centric Radio System (NCRS) program
      • DARPA’s neXt Generation (XG) Communications program
      • Wireless Network after Next (WNaN) program
      • Global Information Grid (GIG
      • Optical and Radio Frequency Combined Link Experiment (ORCLE) program
      • Data in the Optical Domain?Network (DOD-N) program
      • The Chip-Scale Atomic Clock
      • The Dynamic Quarantine of Computer-Based Worm Attacks
      • The High Productivity Computing Systems (HPCS)
      • DARPA’s ?Slow Light? program
      • The Optical Lattice Emulator (OLE) program
  • Food Science: Sugar Substitutes
    • A sugar substitute is a food additive that duplicates the effect of sugar or corn syrup in taste, but usually has less food energy. Some sugar substitutes are natural and some are synthetic. Those that are not natural are, in general, referred to as artificial sweeteners.
    • Cyclamate was discovered in 1937 at the University of Illinois by graduate student Michael Sveda. Michael Sveda was working in the lab on the synthesis of anti-fever medication. He put his cigarette down on the lab bench and when he put it back in his mouth he discovered the sweet taste of cyclamate. It’s used for cooking and baking. It’s ten times sweeter than sugar..It is the main ingredient in Sugar Twin and is recommended by Weight Watchers. Cyclamate is banned in Canada.
    • Saccharin was the first artificial sweetener and was originally synthesized in 1879 by Remsen and Fahlberg. Its sweet taste was discovered by accident. It had been created in an experiment with toluene derivatives. It is 300 to 500 times as sweet as sugar (sucrose) and is often used to improve the taste of toothpastes, dietary foods, and dietary beverages. The bitter aftertaste of saccharin is often minimized by blending it with other sweeteners. Saccharin was initially pulled from the market because of a cancer study on rats. It was eventually approved by FDA for human consumption. Sweet N Low is made from Saccharin.
    • Aspartame was discovered in 1965 by James M. Schlatter at the G.D. Searle Company. He was working on an anti-ulcer drug and spilled some aspartame on his hand by accident. When he licked his finger, he noticed that it had a sweet taste. It is an odorless, white crystalline powder that is derived from the two amino acids aspartic acid and phenylalanine. It is about 200 times as sweet as sugar and can be used as a tabletop sweetener or in frozen desserts, gelatins, beverages, and chewing gum. Though it has no bitter aftertaste as does saccharin. Its drawback is that it might not taste exactly like sugar because it reacts with other food flavors. This is used in Nutra Sweet.
    • Sucralose is a chlorinated sugar that is about 600 times as sweet as sugar. It is produced from sucrose when three chlorine atoms replace three hydroxyl groups. It is used in beverages, frozen desserts, chewing gum, baked goods, and other foods. Unlike other artificial sweeteners, it is stable when heated and can therefore be used in baked and fried goods. Sucralose is minimally absorbed by the body and most of it passes out of the body unchanged. The FDA approved sucralose in 1998. Splenda is made from Sucralose.