Show of 11-22-2008

  • Email and Forum Questions
    • Email form Margaret: Dear Dr. Richard Shurtz, I own a Sony Trinitron Color TV, 13" that I watch in the basement while exercising. It is working fine and always has. How do I determine which converter box is the best one for me to buy that WILL WORK with my TV? Where do I buy it? Online?  Radio Shack? Best Buy? Other? Is it just time to purchase/upgrade the basement TV. The SONY was bought around 1996 time frame. I do not have Cable TV and only watch local channels. Thanks, Margaret from Bethesda
    • Tech Talk Answers: On February 17, 2009 all full-power broadcast television stations in the United States will stop broadcasting on analog airwaves and begin broadcasting only in digital. Digital broadcasting will allow stations to offer improved picture and sound quality and additional channels.
    • Congress created the TV Converter Box Coupon Program for households wishing to keep using their analog TV sets after February 17, 2009. The Program allows U.S. households to obtain up to two coupons, each worth $40 that can be applied toward the cost of eligible converter boxes.
    • Apply for coupon by going to https://www.dtv2009.gov/. Coupons expire in 90 days.
    • Converter boxes work with any TV. Retail prices generally range from just under $50 to $90. Converter box features: picture quality, remote features, adaptive antenna interface, programming ease, cables.
    • Go to http://www.consumerreports.org/ and look in the Electronics section. Converter boxes are first under TVs and Services.
    • Email from Andrew: Lately, I have been experiencing extreme slow down browsing the Internet. I have WinXP Home SP2 and IE7 (both up-to-date). It seems that early in the day (AM) I can browse without any problem. The PING (latency) is around +-200MS. However, later in the day, the latency increases between 1500-2500MS. I use cable for my Internet access. Approximately 2-3 weeks ago, the cable company relocated their equipment to a new "head-end". Ever since this began until now my browsing experience has been mediocre at best.
    • Tech Talk Answers: I blame the cable company. I also blame your neighbors, but they probably don’t know any better. In the morning, it might be just you and a couple of other people surfing the net and doing things. In the evening, more neighbors come home from work and start surfing, the kids are home from school and doing their homework or playing games online. Perhaps folks are downloading larger files like YouTube videos and the like.
    • I would start by recording internet speed test results periodically throughout the day for a few days. If they consistently show major differences between morning and evening, and particularly if the morning results are reasonable, then I would begin hounding the cable company.
    • I like to use Broadband Reports (http://www.broadbandreports.com/)
  • Profiles in IT: Mitchell David Kapor
    • Mitch Kapor is founder of Lotus Development Corp. and the designer of Lotus 1-2-3.
    • Mitchell David Kapor was November 1, 1950 in Brooklyn NY.
    • He received a BA from Yale College in 1971 and studied psychology, linguistics and computer science as part of an interdisciplinary major in Cybernetics.
    • During the 1970s, Kapor was employed as a disc jockey at WHCN-FM, a progressive rock station in Hartford , Connecticut .
    • It was also in this period that he became interested in Transcendental Meditation.
      • In 1975, Kapor moved to Switzerland for an Enlightenment Course, which included meditation and was intended to teach him how to levitate.
      • In 1978, he received an MS in psychology from Beacon College in Boston .
      • Kapor subsequently began a career as a mental health counselor at New England Memorial Hospital in Stoneham , Massachusetts .
      • In 1980, Kapor left his counseling career to get an MS in Management program at the MIT Sloan School of Management, but did not graduate.
    • Kapor then worked as head of development at VisiCorp, the marketers of VisiCalc. He developed VisiPlot and VisiTrend.
    • He left VisiCorp and founded Lotus Development Corp. in 1982 with Jonathan Sachs and created Lotus 1-2-3. Lotus was an integrated spreadsheet, graphing program, and database manager. The 1-2-3 in the name refers to the three ways the product could be used.
      • Lotus released Lotus 1-2-3 in January 1983.
      • In 1983, Lotus’ had revenues of $53,000,000 and issued an IPO.
      • In 1984 the company tripled in revenue to $156,000,000. The number of employees grew to over a thousand by 1985.
      • The business plan had called for $1 million in sales in the first year, and the actual results were $54 million.
      • Kapor derved as the President (later Chairman) and Chief Executive Officer of Lotus from 1982 to 1986 and as a Director until 1987.
      • Stability is not something that Kapor was known for, however, and four years after releasing Lotus 1-2-3, Mitch Kapor bailed out of Lotus.
    • In 1990, with fellow digital rights activists John Perry Barlow and John Gilmore, he co-founded the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
    • The EFF is a non-profit organization working to protect privacy, free expression, and access to public resources and information online.
    • Kapor has been the Chair of the Mozilla Foundation since its inception in 2003.
    • Kapor was the original Chair and is currently on the Board of Directors of Linden Lab, creator the popular virtual world Second Life.
  • DARPA funds IBM to build Brain-like Computers
    • IBM has announced it will lead a US government-funded collaboration to make electronic circuits that mimic brains.
    • Part of a field called "cognitive computing", the research will bring together neurobiologists, computer and materials scientists and psychologists.
    • As a first step in its research the project has been funded with $4.9M by DARPA.
    • The resulting technology could be used for large-scale data analysis, decision making or even image recognition.
    • There are currently no computers that can even remotely approach the remarkable feats the mind performs.
    • The key idea of cognitive computing is to engineer mind-like intelligent machines by reverse engineering the structure, dynamics, function and behavior of the brain..
    • IBM will join five US universities in an ambitious effort to integrate what is known from real biological systems with the results of supercomputer simulations of neurons.
      • Neuroscientists working with simple animals have learned much about the inner workings of neurons and the synapses that connect them, resulting in "wiring diagrams" for simple brains.
      • Supercomputing, in turn, can simulate brains up to the complexity of small mammals, using the knowledge from the biological research. Last year used IBM’s BlueGene supercomputer to simulate a mouse’s brain, comprising 55m neurons and some half a trillion synapses.
      • Nanotechnology has only recently reached a stage in which structures can be produced that match the density of neurons and synapses from real brains – around 10 billion in each square centimetre.
  • Two Gifts for TechExecs
    • A great tech book on the shelf is called The Numerati by Stephen Baker. The reason The Numerati is an ideal read for the techex is because every senior type and CxO is trying to figure out how they can use the Web to enhance their business.
    • The Powerstick from the ECOSOL. Cost: around $60.
      • USB powered portable charger that can charge yo mobile phone, PDA, MP3 player on the go.
      • This universal charging device USB’s into your laptop and has an external ?fuel? gauge that shows if it is empty/full status.
      • Powerstick comes with nearly a dozen other attachments that in turn, connect the Powerstick to charge your other mobile devices such as BlackBerrys, cell phones, smart phones, PDAs, iPhones, iPods, digital cameras, GPS and MP3 Players.
  • Obama FCC Selection Team Won’t Make AT&T Happy
    • The Obama camp has pegged two long-time net neutrality advocates to head up their Federal Communications Commission Review team.
      • Wharton professor Kevin Werbach, who was a former FCC staffer, and is organizer of the annual tech conference Supernova. Check his articles in CircleID (http://www.circleid.com/members/706/)
      • Susan Crawford , a professor at the University of Michigan Law School, and traditionally very pro-consumer — particularly when it comes to broadband deployment:
    • They stand in stark contrast to the current FCC, which has consistently supported the net neutrality position of the large telecoms.
    • No matter who the two help select to replace Martin, their track records would seem to indicate that AT&T and Verizon’s control is over.
  • Malicious Code Spreading Through USB Flash Drive Devices
    • US-CERT is aware of public reports of an increase in malicious code propagating via USB flash drive devices. Currently, there are two popular methods by which USB flash drives are being infected with malicious code.
    • The first of these methods is referred to as simple file copy. This means that the malicious code initially resides on an infected computer and copies itself to all the storage devices connected to the affected computer. This method requires the user to access the USB flash drive and execute the code.
    • The second method is referred to as AutoRun.inf modification. This means that the malicious code alters or creates an autorun.inf file on targeted storage devices connected to the affected computer. When an infected USB flash drive is connected to another computer, the malicious code can be automatically executed with no additional user interaction.
    • US-CERT encourages users to do the following to help mitigate the risks:
      • Install antivirus software and keep the virus signatures up to date.
      • Do not connect an unknown or untrusted USB drive to your computer.
      • Disable AutoRun or AutoPlay features for removable media.
  • Pentagon bans computer flash drives
    • The Pentagon has banned, at least temporarily, the use of external computer flash drives because of a virus threat officials detected on Defense Department networks.
    • While defense officials would not publicly confirm the ban, messages were sent to department employees informing them of the new restrictions.
    • As part of the ban, the Pentagon was collecting any of the small flash drives that were purchased or provided by the department to workers.
    • Workers are being told there is no guarantee they will ever get the devices back and it is not clear how long the ban will last.
    • Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman would provide no details on the virus Friday, but he described it as a global virus.
    • The Pentagon has acknowledged that its vast computer network is scanned or probed by outsiders millions of times each day.
      • Last year a cyber attack forced the Defense Department to take as many as 1,500 computers off line.
      • Officials said then that a penetration of the system was detected, but the attack had no adverse impact on department operation
      • Miilitary leaders have consistently warned of potential threats from a variety of sources including China and Russia.
  • Pirates Stopped with MP3 Sound Blast
    • British firm Anti-Piracy Maritime Security Solutions (APMSS) is spearheading the use of a sonic laser to beat pirates on the high seas.
    • APMSS has developed an acoustic device which blast the target with a precise beam of sound which can be turned up to excruciatingly painful level.
    • The piracy problems of shipping firms running through the Gulf of Aden and down Africa ‘s east coast have been thrown into the spotlight this week by the seizure of the Saudi Arabian super-tanker Sirius Star.
      • APMSS uses a long range acoustic device hooked up to an MP3 player.
      • About the size of a domestic satellite dish, the system blasts the target with a precise beam of sound — warning messages, noises, sirens — which can be turned up to excruciatingly painful levels should an attacker get too close.
      • It is very effective up to 1,000 meters and excruciating if you get within 100 to 200 meters if it’s at full power.
      • Permanent hearing damage is possible.
    • Hiring an APMSS team with for a three-day journey costs around $21,000.
    • The operator can point the dish towards the incoming pirate boats and give them warning tones and then messages to make their intentions clear. If they continue coming, they give them a warning in their native language.
    • An APMSS crew stopped a pirate attack on a chemical tanker in the Gulf of Aden last Thursday, just 15 miles (24 kilometres) off the Yemeni coast.
  • Retirement of the Space Shuttle to Be Decided by Next Administration
    • A decision that must be made soon whether to retire the Space Shuttle in 2010, as currently planned, or to extend its life in view of limited options for supporting the International Space Station.
    • Already, shuttle contracts are being phased out and shuttle facilities are being closed or transferred to contracts supporting new development efforts.
    • A decision in favor of extending the shuttle may offer the best course for the future of the International Space Station, since
      • The recent conflict between Russia and the Republic of Georgia has called into question the wisdom of relying on Russian space vehicles to ferry U.S. crew and cargo to and from the station.
      • Other vehicles being developed to support the station?including those from commercial suppliers as well as NASA?may not be ready when anticipated.
    • However, extending the shuttle could also have significant consequences on the future direction of human spaceflight for the United States .
    • NASA is counting on the retirement of the shuttle to free up resources to pursue a new generation of space flight vehicles that is anticipated to come online in 2015.
      • According to NASA, reversing current plans and keeping the shuttle flying past 2010 would cost $2.5 billion to $4 billion per year.
      • The new administration may well decide to extend the shuttle and defer development of new transportation vehicles in light of budgetary constraints, as the new vehicles are expected to cost more than $230 billion to develop and deploy.
  • Yahoo to replace Yang
    • The biggest search Yahoo is working on involves finding a new CEO.
    • Eighteen months after returning to the helm of the company he co-founded in 1994, Jerry Yang will step down as chief executive when a replacement is found, the company said.
    • Yang will resume his position as chief Yahoo, the role he had before taking over in 2007.
    • Yahoo has been struggling for months to improve its financial performance, but things have gone from bad to worse for the company this year, and its stock has sunk to less than $10.
    • First, the company stopped Microsoft’s unfriendly attempt to acquire Yahoo outright and later just its search business.
    • At one point, Microsoft offered to acquire the company at $33 per share.
    • After reporting a 64 percent drop in net income and warning that the advertising market is softening, Yahoo announced in October a layoff of at least 1,430 by the end of 2008. This followed a February cut of over 1,000 Yahoo employees.
    • Microsoft’s Ballmer said he might be interested in a search-only partnership, but that a buyout of the entire company is out of the question. His comments sent Yahoo shares into a free fall, plummeting 20.9 percent on Wednesday.
  • Obama’s Cell Phone Records Breached in Verizon Inside Job
    • Verizon Wireless apologized to President-elect Obama after learning that employees had been snooping into his cell phone account records.
    • The wireless provider said it would discipline the employees involved.
    • Verizon apparently realized this week that Obama’s records had been breached. The account is linked to a flip phone that does not have e-mail or advanced data capabilities, and it has been inactive for several months.
    • The incident serves as a reminder of how loosely guarded customer records are in most organizations.
    • Part of the problem is that most companies concentrate their security efforts on protecting their systems from outside attacks, rather than inside attacks.
  • Food Science: Frozen Turkey
    • Peter Snyder, Jr., Ph.D. has a new way to roast your Thanksgiving turkey: put it in the oven frozen solid.
    • Dr. Snyder is the president of the Hospitality Institute of Technology and Management in St. Paul , Minnesota .
    • A common problem on Thanksgiving is waking up on Thanksgiving morning and realizing that the turkey has not been thawed, and there is not enough time to thaw the turkey in the refrigerator or in flowing water at 70ºF, which takes hours.
    • However, there is a very simple solution ? cook the entire turkey from the frozen state.
    • The FDA Food Code allows this. The HACCP-based procedure for cooking a 12-to-13-lb. frozen turkey is shown below.
      • Start 5 to 5 1/2 hours before you want to serve the cooked turkey. Set the oven temperature at 325ºF. It is much better that the turkey be done 30 minutes before mealtime than to rush and serve an undercooked turkey.
      • Remove the wrapping from the turkey and put the turkey on a rack on a pan that has been covered with foil to make cleaning easy.
      • In the first 2 to 2 1/2 hours, the legs and thighs get up to approximately 100ºF. The breast, about 1 inch into the flesh, is still at the soft ice point, about 25ºF. At this point, begin to monitor breast temperature.
      • After about 3 1/2 hours, the legs and thighs will be around 150 to 160ºF, and the breast, about 40 to 50ºF. The bag of heart, liver, etc. and the neck can be removed.
      • At 4 1/2 to 5 hours, the turkey is nicely cooked. Check the temperature. The leg and thigh should be tender and at a temperature of 175 to 185ºF, while the breast will be moist at a temperature of 160 to 170ºF.
    • Cooking a turkey from the frozen state has benefits over cooking a thawed turkey.
      • If one thaws a turkey in a home refrigerator, there is a significant risk of raw juice with pathogens at high levels getting on refrigerator surfaces, other foods in the refrigerator, countertops, and sink, thus creating a hazard and a need for extensive cleaning and sanitizing.
      • The second benefit is that, because the breast has greater mass, it takes longer to thaw. Therefore, the thigh and leg are well cooked and tender, while the breast is not overcooked and dried out. The breast will cook to a juicy 160-to-165ºF endpoint without difficulty.