Email and Forum Questions Profiles in IT: Thomas Harold Flowers Tech Talk Guest: Dr. James C. Tilton NASA Goddard's Spacebook DDOS Botnet Worm May Erase Files Social Network Security: Koobface Is Back Google Confirms Chrome OS
Email from Lauren: Dear Dr. Shurtz, I have 2 TVs in my house. One is a Sony Bravia I bought in Jan. 2009. It has a VHF/UHF antenna attached and gets. 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, 5.1, 7.1, 7.2, 7.3, 9.1, 9.2, etc.–about 13-19 channels. Today, I got no signal on it for channels 26.1, 26.2, 26.3, or 26.4 though those channels had been working fine before today…Also, today, Sat, I was watching something on Channel 32.1 and at the end of the program there was this ‘statement’ that said I need to re-scan my TV if I don’t have a cable or pay for TV. I’m not following what this need to do periodic re-scanning is all about and how often I am to do this? The Bravia is new and has a built in DTV tuner. Thanks, Lauren B.
Tech Talk Answers: Prior to the switch to all digital, some stations had their digital and analog channels split (one in UHF and one in VHF). When the analog transmission was discontinued, some switched the digital signal to the same frequency as their analog signal. In that case, you will need to rescan your system to detect the new digital frequency. This only needs to be done once.
Email from Ken: Dear Dr. Shurtz, my computer with Windows XP has many files and folders that are corrupted, including C:$Event$ObjId and $Mft, which I get error messages about repeatedly. Many files that are supposedly corrupt can be seen in Windows Explorer, and most can be opened and used, but they can’t be deleted or moved. Will Spinrite repair the corrupted files, or is there another utility that will? Thank you. Ken, Gaithersburg, MD
Tech Talk Answers: I have good news. Microsoft XP has a utility to fix corrupted files. It is called System File Checker, with a file name of sfc.exe.
Place your Windows XP CD in CD/DVD drive, and verify that the computer recognizes it.
Point and click your "Start" menu, and select "Run." A box will appear that will prompt you for a command.
In the box that appears, type in: sfc /scannow The fix will now load, and will hopefully fix all of the corrupted files on your Windows XP drive.
You could also attempt a defragment of your hard drive, as fragmentations of files can sometimes reduce errors. You might also run spinrite in the event that you have physical corruptions of your hard drive.
Email from Jim: Dear Tech Talk, I have a vacation home on Lake LenLanau in Michigan. I cannot get cell phone reception in the house. However, I can get weak reception if walk behind the house toward the road. Is there anything that I can do to improved my reception. I am using AT&T.Ranges extender for cell phone???for vacation home on the lake. Thanks, Jim
Tech Talk Answers: You can buy a cell phone booster which will amplify the weak signal and retransmit it within your house.
I recommend that zBoost YX510-PCS-CEL Dual Band Kit. It will handle all service providers (both CDMA and GSM) and operates in the 800 and 1900 MHz bands.
Compatible with all networks (except Nextel)
Supports up to 20 users simultaneously with no need to connect to your phone to improve reception.
Improves standard CDMA and GSM voice signals, and also EVDO, HSDPA, UMTS, and EDGE data transfers.
Approximate coverage are is 2,500 sq ft.
External Omni-directional Antenna (5db) with 35 ft of RG-6 coaxial cable
Internal base unit antenna (2 db)
List price: $349
Profiles in IT: Thomas Harold Flowers
Thomas Harold Flowers designed Colossus, the world’s first programmable electronic computer, to help solve encrypted German messages during World War II.
Tommy Flowers was bon December 22, 1905 in London
He earned a BSEE from the University of London in 1926.
In 1926, he joined the telecommunications branch of the General Post Office (GPO).
Around 1935, he began exploring the use of electronics for telephone exchanges and was convinced by 1939 that an all-electronic system was possible.
Flowers’s first contact with the wartime codebreaking effort came when he was asked for help by Alan Turing, who was working at the government’s Bletchley Park.
Turing wanted Flowers to build a decoder for the relay-based Bombe machine, which Turing had developed to help decrypt the Germans’ Enigma codes.
Turing then introduced him to Max Newman who was leading the effort to break a teletype-based cipher, called "Geheimschreiber" (secret writer), which was much more complex coding system than Enigma.
In Feb.1943, Flowers proposed an electronic system using over 1800 valves (tubes).
The Bletchley Park management was not convinced that such a machine would be stable. They merely encouraged Flowers to proceed on his own. He did so, providing much of the funds for the project himself.
Over a period of nine months, working with several senior engineering aides and a few dozen technicians, Mr. Flowers developed the first large electronic-valve computer, overcoming the skepticism of Bletchley Park officials.
It was immediately dubbed ‘Colossus’ by the staff for its immense proportions.
Colossus measured 16 feet by 7 feet, weighed one ton and was put together partly with standard telephone-exchange parts,
It operated 5 times faster and was more flexible than the previous system, which used electro-mechanical switches.
Flowers finally gained full backing for his project from the Director of Dollis Hill.
Anticipating the need for additional computers, a Mark 2 redesign utilizing 2400 valves was begun before the first computer was finished.
The first Mark 2 Colossus was put into service at Bletchley Park on 1 June 1944, and immediately produced vital information for the imminent D-Day landings planned for 6 June. When Colossus confirmed that Hitler thought the Normandy invasion was a diversion, Eisenhower ordered the invasion the next day.
Ten Colossi were completed and used during World War II in British decoding efforts, and an eleventh was ready for commissioning at the end of the war.
After the war Flowers was granted 1,000 pounds by the government, payment which did not cover Flowers’ personal investment in the equipment.
His work in computing was not fully acknowledged until the 1970s because the project was restricted by the Official Secrets Act.
He remained at the Post Office Research Station where he was Head of the Switching Division. He and his group pioneered work on all-electronic telephone exchanges.
In 1964 he became Head of the Advanced Development Group at Standard Telephones and Cables Ltd., retiring in 1969.
Flowers died in 1998 aged 92.
Government honours veterans of Bletchley Park at last
Surviving veterans of the code-breaking facility to receive badge of honor
The surviving workers from the Bletchley Park cryptography unit are to be honored, nearly 70 years after the unit was formed.
The Bletchley Park code breakers, known as Station X during the Second World War, were never officially recognized for their invaluable work in deciphering German, Italian and Japanese military codes ? work this is thought to have shortened the war by more than two years and saved millions of lives.
All staff were banned under the Official Secrets Act from even discussing the location of their military service until the 1970s and the site itself was nearly dismantled in the interests of secrecy.
Now military and civilian workers will receive a special commemorative badge from the government in recognition of their vital war work.
Heroes of Bletchley included Tommy Flowers, who built one of the world’s first programmable computers, Colossus, largely using his own funds, and Dr Alan Turing, who designed the bombe cryptanalysis machines.
Flowers received an MBE and an award of £1,000 for his work while Turing was arrested for homosexuality in 1952 and committed suicide shortly afterwards, having received no official recognition for his work in his lifetime.
We owe a debt of gratitude to all who served at Bletchley Park and its outstations.
Tech Talk Guest: Dr. James C. Tilton
In honor of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center’s 50th anniversary, the Innovative Partnerships Program (IPP) Office hosted an evening event that commemorated Goddard research that has developed into spin-off technologies. The key technologies highlighted by decade.
The highlighted technology for the 2000s decade was based on the research of Dr. James C. Tilton from NASA Goddard. It is based on hierarchical segmentation software which he developed which is now being applied to a digital medical imaging system developed by Bartron Medical Imaging.
Dr. Tilton will discuss his research and the Partnership program.
Linda Cureton says when it comes to innovation, sometimes you just have to do it.
The chief information officer at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center says waiting for guidance, policy or standards can take years, and you end up with a lot of talk and not much action.
NASA’s Spacebook officially went online June 8. It was the brainchild of Linda Cureton, Chief Information Officer for NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.
Cureton says in the first week about 100 people signed up, and groups started to form.
Users can upload their picture, resume, projects, certifications and information about what you are working on. They can create groups or affinities. The main purpose is to enable people to do better from a work-oriented perspective."
Spacebook is open to anyone in NASA and may become an enterprise wide tool.
Cureton received concurrence from the IT governance board to move out with Spacebook after many of these concerns regarding privacy and security were mitigated.
DDOS Botnet Worm May Erase Files
The denial-of-service attacks against Web sites in the U.S. and South Korea that started last weekend may have stopped for now, but code on the infected bots was set to wipe data yesterday.
There were no immediate reports of any of the compromised PCs in the botnet having files deleted, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t happening or won’t in the future.
There are only about 50,000 infected PCs around the world being used in the attacks, which is relatively small compared to the millions that were infected with Conficker, according to Symantec’s Security Technology Response team.
The attacks started over the July 4 weekend launching distributed DOS attacks on dozens of government and commercial sites in the U.S. and South Korea.
The attacks, which resurged during the week at least twice, affected sites including the White House, the Federal Trade Commission, the Secret Service, and The Washington Post.
One of the files dropped on infected PCs is programmed to wipe out files on the PC, including a master boot record, which will render the system inoperable when the PC is rebooted.
The MyDoom worm is being used to spread infections between computers via e-mail.
A dropper program called W32.Dozer that contains the other components is sent by W32.Mytob!gen to e-mail addresses it gathers from the compromised computer.
If a user executes the attachment, W32.Dozer drops Trojan.Dozer and W32.Mydoom.A@mm on the system.
The Dozer Trojan serves as a backdoor and connects to IPs through certain ports, allowing it to update itself and to receive instructions on sites to attack.
Social Network Security: Koobface Is Back
Koobface, the social networking worm that seeks to turn networkers’ machines into zombies has generated more than 500 variants in the past month, according to security company Kaspersky Labs.
The worm, which got its start on FaceBook and MySpace, now includes Twitter users among its targets.
The evolution of social network worm Koobface (rearrange the letters and you get FaceBook)is rapidly evolving.
Over the past month, Kasperky reports detection of 575 new variants of the social net worm in June, jumping the number of Koobface variations to close to 1,000.
Having gotten its start in 2008 on FaceBook and MySpace, Koobface now includes Twitter users among its targets, attempting to tempt users to click on links (in apparently legitimate invite mail) and download a worm which harvests friend and follower lists, sending out more apparently legit messages to all it finds.
Kaspersky recommends that social network users:
Use either Internet Explorer 8 running in protected mode
Firefox with NoScript installed.
Keep your antivirus software updated to prevent new versions of malware from attacking your computer.
Google Confirms Chrome OS
Google confirmed late Tuesday night that it plans to develop a lightweight operating system based on Linux and Web standards for personal computers
Chrome OS is one of the most ambitious projects Google has ever undertaken.
Sources familiar with the Chrome OS project say Google engineers have only been working on the project in earnest since the beginning of the year.
Chrome OS is the byproduct of Google thinking it can do better than Windows, Mac OS X, the various flavors of Linux, and even its own Android operating system.
Chrome OS will run on top of a Linux kernel, although Google has said that it will have an entirely new interface and will run all web applications rather than native Linux apps.
First, it wants to make it easier for regular people to use a computer by making an operating system that is fast, secure, and lightweight enough to run on portable devices.
Secondly, Google believes that through the use of Web standards like HTML 5 will provide a development platform for the future.
Google has an entire suite of Web applications and services that already form much of what you want a computer to do: send e-mail, compose documents, edit photos, and, of course, browse the Web.
Why does Google think it needs two operating systems (Android and Chrome)?
Android was designed from the beginning to work across a variety of devices from phones to set-top boxes to netbooks.
Google Chrome OS is being created for people who spend most of their time on the web and is being designed to power computers ranging from small netbooks to full-size desktop systems.
Google said it plans to release the code for Chrome OS later this year, with devices based on the OS arriving in the second half of 2010.