Show of 1-2-2010

  • Email and Forum Questions
    • Email from AJ: Dr. Richard Shurtz, Jim Russ. Hello and Happy New Year. I want you to know you have listeners in Taiwan. It ‘s good to have great news on your show ! Keep going. AJ I Taiwan.
    • Email for Fay: Hi, I listened to your program through OH Zone web station in Taiwan. It’s nice to learn some tips about tech problems in English. I can also improve my English ability too. Thanks for offering the program. We don’t have such program offered by school here. Merry Christmas to all of you. Fay
    • Email from Mike: Great show today. Drive safe & have a great weekend. Mike
    • Email from Mitch: Dear Dr. Shurtz, I just wanted to drop a quick note wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year. Thank you again for a great Tech Talk year. It’s been many years yet every week I still anticipate your wonderful show and appreciate your vigilance and energy. It’s sooooo much better than reading my journals! The podcasts are a great catch-up too. Warm regards, Mitch Axelrod
    • Email from Martha: Dear Tech Talk. Is it safe for me to let my browser store my passwords? Thanks, Martha.
  • Profiles in IT: Michael Stern Hart
    • Michael Stern Hart is credited with making the first e-book and is best known as the founder of Project Gutenberg which makes books freely available via the Internet.
    • Michael Stern Hart was born March 9, 1943 in Tacoma, Washington.
    • Michael Hart’s father was an accountant and his mother, a former cryptanalyst during World War II, was a business manager at a retail store.
    • In 1958 his family relocated to Urbana, Illinois, and his father and mother became college professors in Shakespearean studies and mathematics education, respectively.
    • When Hart completed a four-year "individual plan of study" program in two years from the University of Illinois, obtaining a degree in Human-Machine Interfaces.
    • He attended but did not complete graduate school.
    • Hart was given was given an operator’s account with $100,000,000 of computer time in it by the operators of the Xerox Sigma V mainframe at the Materials Research Lab at the University of Illinois on July 4, 1971.
    • It turned out that two of a four operator crew happened to be the best friend of Michael’s and the best friend of his brother.
    • This particular computer was one of the 15 nodes on the computer network that would become the Internet.
    • Casting around for a worthwhile cause with which to use the computer time he had been given, and conscious that the computer was connected to the Internet, he decided to type the US Declaration of Independence into the computer, using a copy which he had just been given at his local grocery store to mark Independence Day.
    • This was the beginning of Project Gutenberg. He named the project after Johannes Gutenberg, the fifteenth century German printer who introduced movable type.
    • The mission of Project Gutenberg is simple: To encourage the creation and distribution of eBooks.
    • Hart was soon typing in entire books, including the Bible, all of Shakespeare, and Alice in Wonderland. Most of the early postings were typed in personally by Hart.
    • Hart had become the first "information provider" twenty years before Tim Berners-Lee invented the Web, and at a time when there were just 100 people on the network.
    • As of 1987 he had typed in a total of 313 books in this fashion. Through the University of Illinois PC User Group, Hart was able to recruit volunteers and set up an infrastructure of mirror sites and mailing lists for the project. The project was able to grow much more rapidly.
    • Hart was honored as one of the "Wired 25" in the November 1998 by Wired Mag.
    • By 2006, Project Gutenberg offered over 17,000 e-texts, all of which can be freely downloaded in a wide variety of formats
    • As of December 2007, Project Gutenberg claimed over 25,000 items in its collection, with an average of over fifty new e-books being added each week.
    • Hart set a new mission for Project Gutenberg: to make 10 million eBooks available.
    • Hart believes that in the future a powerful new breed of replicators — which will include 3D printers and nano-assembly tools — will be able to produce and copy physical objects as easily and cheaply.
    • Project Gutenberg website: www.gutenberg.org
  • Biggest Blunder Rundown: Yahoo’s Settlement with Google
    • It all begins with Overture.
    • Overture Inc. was a paid search company that pioneered the paid bid-for-placement technology.
    • In July 2001, the US patent office issued Overture a patent for the technology.
    • Patent 6,269,361; also known as the 361 patent, essentially covered all AdWords like business models.
    • Google needed access to the 361 patent in order to use AdWords, but it never managed to negotiate a licensing agreement with Overture.
    • Consequently, in April 2002 Overture sued Google over patent infringement.
    • In July 2003 Yahoo acquired Overture in a mostly stock deal valued at $1.63 billion.
    • Overture did not have anything valuable apart from the 361 patent.
    • Yahoo and Microsoft counted for the bulk of Overture’s revenue, and were it not for the 361 patent, Microsoft would have certainly walked away.
    • The deal was very bad news for Google as Yahoo was now in a position to get just about anything they wanted from Google at the bargaining table.
    • Google and Yahoo settled the 361 patent dispute in August 2004.
    • Google disclosed the patent dispute settlement with Yahoo in a SEC filing just before its initial public offering (IPO).
    • The relevant excerpt from Google’s SEC filing states: Overture will dismiss its patent lawsuit against us and has granted us a fully-paid, perpetual license to the patent that was the subject of the lawsuit and several related patent applications held by Overture. The parties also mutually released any claims against each other concerning the warrant dispute. In connection with the settlement of these two disputes, we issued to Yahoo 2,700,000 shares of Class A common stock.
    • At the time of the patent settlement disclosure, 2.7 million shares of Google represented roughly 1 percent of the company.
    • I one agreement allowed Google to monetize it search engine and to dominate the industry.
    • Yahoo has never recovered from that disastrous mistake.
  • Iranian Protestors on Social Netwoks
    • Nearly a week after the weekend crackdown on Iranian protesters, the issue is still generating thousands of posts on Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook.
    • Hundreds of "tweets" are still being posted onto Twitter every hour.
    • Each day, thousands of people are joining a Facebook page dedicated to supporting the anti-government protesters, called "100 Million Facebook Members for Iran."
    • Most Popular Iran Hashtags on Twitter
      • #iran
      • #iranelections
      • #ashura
      • #iranprotests
      • #united4iran
  • Web 2.0 Suicide Machine
    • Web Address: http://suicidemachine.org/
    • Are you tired of your Social Network life?
    • Would you like to recover your offline back again?
    • Web 2.0 Suicide Machine lets you delete all your social-networking profiles, kill your fake virtual friends, and do away with your Web2.0 identifies.
    • This service can delete all your friends and messages, change your username, passwords and photo so that you cannot log back in to site like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and LinkedIn.
    • So far 745 people have committed digital suicide, 49,875 friends have been unfriended and 162,402 tweets have been removed since launching.
    • The site promise to do in less than an hour what it manually would take almost 10.
    • It is important to notice that after the process starts nobody can stop it!
    • As this site recommends, killing your digital me can be a tough experience. Hence, they recommend start doing some offline activities:
    • You may feel empty right after you committed suicide. This is a normal reaction which will slowly fade away within the first 24-72 hours.”
    • Update: Facebook has blocked the IP address used by the digital suicide machine. They are currently trying to find work arounds.
  • Russia Plans Asteroid-defense Space Mission to Apophis
    • Russia may deploy defensive spacecraft against the Apophis asteroid, which is almost certainly not going to hit the Earth.
    • Apophis is set to pass close by the Earth in 2029 – so close that it will be nearer than television satellites in geosynchronous orbit.
    • Collision at that stage has been ruled out, but according the latest NASA analysis.
    • There is a remote chance – 1 in 250,000 – that the 27-million-tonne rock might pass through a so-called "keyhole" during the 2029 pass which would alter its course so as to hit us on the next pass, in 2036.
    • One popular strategy for deflecting rogue asteroids is the use of nuclear weapons.
    • Other schemes involve a shove delivered by a spacecraft, probably having only a minuscule effect on a big object like Apophis but enough that it would miss tiny Earth in the vastness of space.
    • Yet other plans would see solar reflectors used to boil matter off from icy/carbonaceous asteroids.
    • Many are skeptical of Russia’s use of nuclear explosions in space. The exact approach to be taken has not been revealed.
    • Voyager makes an interstellar discovery
    • The solar system is passing through an interstellar cloud that physics says should not exist.
    • In the Dec. 24th issue of Nature, a team of scientists reveal how NASA’s Voyager spacecraft have solved the mystery.
    • "Using data from Voyager, we have discovered a strong magnetic field just outside the solar system," explains lead author Merav Opher, a NASA Heliophysics Guest Investigator from George Mason University. "This magnetic field holds the interstellar cloud together and solves the long-standing puzzle of how it can exist at all."
    • The discovery has implications for the future when the solar system will eventually bump into other, similar clouds in our arm of the Milky Way galaxy.
    • Astronomers call the cloud we’re running into now the Local Interstellar Cloud or "Local Fluff" for short.
    • It’s about 30 light years wide and contains a wispy mixture of hydrogen and helium atoms at a temperature of 6000 C.
    • About 10 million years ago, a cluster of supernovas exploded nearby, creating a giant bubble of million-degree gas. The Fluff is completely surrounded by this high-pressure supernova exhaust and should be crushed or dispersed by it.
    • "The observed temperature and density of the local cloud do not provide enough pressure to resist the ‘crushing action’ of the hot gas around it," says Opher.
    • So how does the Fluff survive? The Voyagers have found an answer.
    • "Voyager data show that the Fluff is much more strongly magnetized than anyone had previously suspected—between 4 and 5 microgauss*," says Opher. "This magnetic field can provide the extra pressure required to resist destruction."
    • NASA’s two Voyager probes have been racing out of the solar system for more than 30 years. They are now beyond the orbit of Pluto and on the verge of entering interstellar space—but they are not there yet.
  • Expert Puts Guide to Cracking GSM Phone Encryption Online
    • Karsten Nohl, 28, said that he and others created a codebook showing how to get past the GSM encryption used to keep conversations on more than 3 billion mobile phones safe from prying ears.
    • Nohl said the purpose was to push companies to improve security. The collaborative effort put the information online through file-sharing sites.
    • GSM, the leading cell phone technology around the world, is used by several wireless carriers in the U.S., with the largest being AT&T Inc. and T-Mobile USA.
    • Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel Corp. use a different standard, CDMA.
    • Claire Cranton, a spokeswoman for the GSM Association, said that “this activity is highly illegal in the UK.
    • It has already been possible to intercept GSM calls, but the equipment is generally only available to law enforcement.
    • Regular wiretapping of cellular calls is also possible, since they travel unencrypted over standard wiring after being picked up by a cell tower. As a result, terrorists or criminals may talk in code and use prepaid phones they then discard.
    • Nohls’ effort undermines the 21-year-old algorithm used to ensure the privacy of phone calls made on GSM (global system for mobile communication) cell phone networks.
    • That algorithm, dubbed the A5/1 and made up of 64-bit binary code, was adopted in 1988. Since then 128-bit codes have been implemented to ensure caller privacy on newer, third-generation networks.
    • The GSM Association has developed the A5/3 algorithm, which it says is gradually being phased in to replace A5/1.
    • In GSM this flaw was pointed out 15 years ago and 15 years seems long enough for the cypher to be replaced with something else.
    • Nohl made the announcement Sunday at the Chaos Communication Congress in Berlin, a four-day event that ends Wednesday.
  • Impact of Mobile Phones in Developing Countries
    • Based on an article in the Economist, September 24, 2009
    • Mobile phones have transformed lives in the poor world.
      • Mobile phones compensate for inadequate infrastructure, such as bad roads and slow postal services, allowing information to move more freely, making markets more efficient and unleashing entrepreneurship.
      • An extra ten phones per 100 people in a typical developing country boosts GDP growth by 0.8 percentage points, according to the World Bank.
      • More than 4 billion handsets are now in use worldwide, 75% of them in the developing world. Four in ten people now have a mobile phone in Africa.
    • Mobile money is the next opportunity.
      • In the developing world, corner shops are where people buy vouchers to top up their calling credit.
      • Mobile-money services allow these small retailers to act rather like bank branches.
      • They can take your cash, and (by sending a special kind of text message) credit it to your mobile-money account.
      • You can then transfer money (again, via text message) to other registered users, who can withdraw it by visiting their own local corner shops
      • You can even send money to people who are not registered users; they receive a text message with a code that can be redeemed for cash.
    • The most successful example of mobile money is M-PESA, launched in 2007 by Safaricom of Kenya.
      • It now has nearly 7 million users (total population is 38 million)
      • M-PESA first became popular as a way for young, male urban migrants to send money back to their families in the countryside.
      • It is now used to pay for everything from school fees to taxis.
    • Similar schemes are popular in the Philippines and South Africa.
    • Extending mobile money to other poor countries, particularly in Africa and Asia, would have a huge impact.
    • It is a faster, cheaper and safer way to transfer money than the alternatives, such as slow, costly transfers via banks and post offices, or handing an envelope of cash to a bus driver.
    • Rather than spend a day travelling by bus to the nearest bank, recipients in rural areas can spend their time doing more productive things.
    • Mobile money also provides a stepping stone to formal financial services for the billions of people who lack access to savings accounts, credit and insurance.
    • Why is mobile money not more widespread?
      • Its progress has been impeded by banks, which fear that mobile operators will be tough competitors.
      • It is also feared by regulators, who worry about fraud and money laundering.
    • Banks should see it as a chance to exploit telecoms firms’ vast retail networks.
    • Linking banks and operators will help reassure regulators.