Show of 4-24-2010

  • Email and Forum Questions
    • Email from a Loyal Listener: Dear Dr. Richard Shurtz, I live in MD and have FiOS. On Wednesday, April 21st, Verizon had some kind of major email outage. After several calls, I finally got through to their support line. I wasa told that I would receive a phone call letting me know the outage was resolved and I would be given a credit for the time I was without email. I did not get a call and have never been given a credit. I find their business practices a big disappointment. Do you have any thoughts on this? Thanks, A Loyal Listener
    • Tech Talk Responds: Unfortunately, you have very few options. You have FIOS, cable, and satellite as your only three options. In my judgment, FIOS is your best option, even with their arrogance.
    • Email from Kirk: Dear Dr. Shurtz, I was listening to your answer in last week’s podcast about converting a Word document to PDF. Microsoft has an Office 2007 add-in that allows any document to be saved as a PDF. After this is installed you will have a new menu under Save As, which includes the PDF option. You can even select the file by optimizing for a particular use. I’ve been using this for two years and it works great. This option is only available on the 2007 Office Suite, not earlier versions. Kirk Randall, Long time listener both on Federal News Radio and podcasts.
    • Tech Talk Responds: Thanks for the suggestions. This is a great option if you have Office 2007.
    • Email from Lauren: Dear Dr. Richard Shurtz, I periodically get emails from Craigslist responding to a post I placed. Now and again, maybe 1-2 times a month, I’ll receive an email that has a strange series of 4 small blue vertical lines ’embedded’ into the body of the message a bit to the right of center. Each of the 4 lines is a bit smaller than a letter/character size and they are close together.
    • My first reaction is to think someone is trying to invade my computer or is sending me a virus/Trojan, etc. This is not an attachment, but, in the actual body of the email message. Do you have an idea of what this is and should I be deleting these messages upon receipt? I never reply back to these respondents. Thanks, Lauren
    • Tech Talk Responds: Make certain your virus protection is updated. It should scan any attachments. As a rule, I don’t open any email or attachments that I don’t trust. I am not familiar with an embedded Trojan with a graphic marker.
    • Email from TIA: Dear Dr. Shurtz, Are there any plans for you to participate on the Tech Talk Radio forum in the future?  I’ve checked in the past few weeks and noticed that even Mr. Big Voice is not logged on. Thanks, TIA
    • Tech Talk Responds: We will remember to log on in the future.
  • Profiles in IT: Sabeer Bhartia
    • Sabeer Bhartia is an Indian-American entrepreneur who co-founded Hotmail. His negotiating skills are legendary.
    • Sabeer Bhatia was born Dec 30, 1968 in Chandigarh, India to a Hindu Punjabi family.
    • His father was as an officer in the Indian Army who later joined the Indian Ministry of Defense and his mother was a senior official at the Central Bank of India.
    • Bhatia was schooled at the St. Joseph’s Boys’ High School in Bangalore.
    • In 1985, he enrolled in the Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS) in Pilani.
    • He won a rare transfer scholarship to Caltech after two years at BITS.
    • After graduating from Caltech in 1989, Sabeer went to Stanford to pursue an MSEE.
    • At Stanford, he was inspired by entrepreneurial fever after talking with alumni like Steve Jobs and Scott McNealy.
    • Instead of pursuing a PhD, he decided to join Apple after completing his masters.
    • After a brief stint at Apple, Sabeer joined a startup company called Firepower Systems Inc, where he spent two years.
    • In 1994, Sabeer started working on new ideas for the Internet and he teamed up with Jack Smith, a colleague from Apple Computer, Inc.
    • The two came up with the concept of a web-based database entitled Javasoft.
    • They subsequently realized the potential of a web-based e-mail system and thus decided to create one called HoTMaiL (the uppercase letters spelling out HTML.
    • The e-mail service was provided for free and advertising-generated revenue.
    • They shopped for a VC. They would only discuss Javasoft at first. Only if the VC rejected Javasoft for the right reason and seemed sincere, would they reveal Hotmail.
    • Draper Fisher Ventures invested $300,000 for a 15% stake in the project.
    • Draper had originally demanded a 30% stake, Bhatia turned them down and left the table. Draper called the next day and accepted 15%.
    • The service was launched on July 4, 1996 (without additional inventors) and in less than six months, the website attracted over 1 million subscribers.
    • As the interest in the web-based email provider increased, Microsoft eventually took notice and on December 30, 1997 (Bhatia’s 29th birthday), Hotmail was sold to Microsoft for a reported sum of $400 million.
    • Bhatia had demanded $500 million (down from $1B) from MS. He turned down $350 million. His partners thought he was misguided. In the end, MS came up with $400M
    • After selling Hotmail, Bhatia worked at Microsoft for about a year and in April 1999, he left the company to start another website, Arzoo Inc, which was shut down when the dot-com bubble burst. In 2010, he re-launched Arzoo as a travel portal.
    • In November 2007, he released an online office alternative to Microsoft Office, called Live Documents. This application allows users to use their documents both offline and online, edit, collaborate and share documents in real-time with others.
    • In January, 2008, Sabeer announced the launch SabSeBolo.com, a free web-based teleconferencing system ("Sab Se Bolo" means "(Let’s) Talk To Everyone" in Hindi).
    • On 14th June 2009, Sabeer Bhatia’s Sabsebolo acquired Jaxtr, the VoIP startup.
    • Future plans of his include the development of a new city in India called Nanocity. The aim of Nanocity is to replicate the innovation found in the Silicon Valley.
  • The 99-year-old tablet user and YouTube star
    • Virginia Cambell, 99, of Lake Oswego, Oregon loves to read, but has not been able to enjoy her books due to glaucoma.
    • The iPad has changed her life. And then she heard the hype about the iPad.
    • He daughter gave her an iPad and recorded her first encounter with the iPad on video and uploaded it to YouTube.
    • Now she has turned into a YouTube star with nearly 90,000 hits and counting.
    • The daughter says that her mother is so enamored of the device that "she’s writing all of her poetry on her iPad now. Her handwriting is so scratchy. It’s so much easier because she can actually read it. Others can read it, too."
    • Mrs Campbell clearly loves her new toy so much she has penned this ditty in its honor.
      • To this technology-ninny it’s clear
      • In my compromised 100th year,
      • That to read and to write
      • Are again within sight
      • Of this Apple iPad pioneer.
  • Son’s autism leads to innovation
    • The father of a child with severe autism has developed technology to help him communicate.
    • Stephen Lodge said the idea for his Speaks4Me system came to him years ago but has been waiting for technology to catch up in order to make it a reality.
    • His eleven-year-old son, Callum, is non-verbal and uses his father’s invention to speak.
    • Speaks4Me was on show at Naidex 2010, the annual disability exhibition at the NEC.
    • Mr Lodge’s system runs on any device that can run the Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 operating system.
    • It uses the concept of dragging and dropping images from one area of the screen to another to form sentences.
    • The user then presses a speech button to "verbalise" the sentence.
    • Callum has been using Speaks4Me for some time now and he has already been able to create some very expressive sentences, according to his father.
    • Examples include, "I want a drink of juice", "I want to go outside", and "I feel tired".
    • Mr Lodge has 20 years’ experience in technology and developed Speaks4Me after deciding that other products on the market were unsatisfactory for Callum.
    • He cashed in his savings and raised money on his property to finance the venture.
    • Speaks4Me is sold on a portable, touch screen media player from the Far East.
    • But the company is finalizing a "software only" price which will mean that it can run on any Windows laptop, desktop or even an interactive plasma white board.
    • He is also hoping that it will prove useful to stroke survivors – about a third of whom lose the ability to speak, either temporarily or permanently.
    • Speaks4Me currently retails for about £2,000.
    • Mr Lodge says his future plans include being able to put his software on other portable devices such as mobile phones and gaming handsets.
  • Qakbot steals 2GB of confidential data each week
    • Symantec is reporting that the W32.Qakbot worm is collecting stolen data at an alarming rate.
    • Qakbot monitors compromised computers for sensitive information and uploads the stolen data to an FTP server.
    • The data uploaded includes:
      • Online banking information
      • Credit card information
      • Social network credentials: Facebook, Twitter, Orkut, Bebo, Adult FriendFinder, and more.
      • Internet mail credentials: Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo!, and more.
      • Internet search histories
      • Information that is stored and used by the AutoComplete feature.
    • Symantec recently gained access to and closely monitored two FTP servers related to the Qakbot botnet. These servers are easily accessed, which makes matters worse.
    • Qakbot is uploading two gigabytes of stolen confidential information to each of its FTP servers each week.
    • Every bit of information an infected user types into their browser is stolen.
    • Symantec has observed Qakbot almost equally effective at stealing information from corporate environments as from home users.
    • Qakbot initially spreads via web pages containing Javascript which attempts to exploit certain vulnerabilities.
    • Once a machine is infected with Qakbot, all Qakbot-related files are stored in the user profile data directory.
    • The first two components the threat downloads are _qbot.dll and _qbotinj.exe.
    • The downloaded file _qbot.dll is the main component of the Qakbot worm and is responsible for collecting certain information from the infected machine and uploading that stolen data to FTP servers.
    • Protect your computer. Make certain that your security updates are current, always browse with virus protection software active.
  • Lost iPhone prototype spurs police probe
    • Silicon Valley police are investigating what appears to be a lost Apple iPhone prototype purchased Gizmodo, a gadget blog, in a transaction that may have violated criminal laws.
    • Editors at Gizmodo.com said in an article posted Monday that they paid $5,000 for what they believed to be a prototype of an impending iPhone 4G.
    • The story said the phone was accidentally left at a bar in Redwood City, Calif., last month by an Apple software engineer and found by someone who contacted Gizmodo, which had previously indicated it was willing to pay significant sums for unreleased Apple products.
    • Gizmodo has since said that it has returned the device.
    • Under a California law dating back to 1872, any person who finds lost property and knows who the owner is likely to be but "appropriates such property to his own use" is guilty of theft.
  • NASA Releases Hi-Def Images of the Sun
    • Researchers at NASA have release never-before-seen high definition images (10X better than HD) of the sun from a new spacecraft
    • These images, which show our dynamic sun in a new level of detail, have been sent back to Earth by the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO).
    • The Solar Dynamics Observatory was launched on February 11 of this year on a five-year mission to study the sun.
    • It will study the sun magnetic field and the role that it plays in the Earth’s climate and space weather events.
    • The mission is being followed by almost 4,000 people on twitter.com/NASA_SDO
    • The Atmospheric Imaging Assembly is a series of four telescopes that peer deep into the sun in varying wavelengths, snapping photos of different colors.
    • "A wide range of temperatures and will answer important questions about the temperature and energy structure of the sun’s atmosphere.
    • Getting more information about solar flares will in turn help determine how they damage communication satellites and temporarily knock out power grids.
    • Website: http://sdo.gsfc.nasa.gov/
  • Bad Idea of the Week: Guide Car with Your Eyes, Not Hands
    • Scientist David Latotzky of Berlin’s Free University can turn the steering wheel of his car with his eye movements.
    • The scientists developed the software "EyeDriver" to steer their car "Spirit of Berlin" just by the movement of the eyes.
    • Raul Rojas, an artificial intelligence researcher at Berlin’s Free University, said Friday that the technology tracks a driver’s eye movement and, in turn, steers the car in whatever direction they’re looking.
    • Rojas and his team presented the technology-packed prototype under a clear blue sky at an airport in the German capital.
    • The Dodge Caravan crisscrossed the tarmac at the abandoned Tempelhof Airport, its driver using his line of sight to control the car.
    • The technology called eyeDriver lets the car drive up to 31 mph (50 kph).
    • "The next step will be to get it to drive 60 miles per hour.
    • However, it remains unclear when – or if – the technology will be commercialized as questions about safety and practicability abound:
    • What about looking at a cute girl next to the road for a few seconds? Not to mention taking phone calls or typing a text while driving.
    • The car stops at intersections and asks the driver for guidance on which road to take," the researchers say. A few seconds of attention with the driver looking in his desired direction get the car flowing again.
    • To demonstrate the car’s autonomy, Rojas at one point jumped in front of the car – which was at that moment driving at perhaps 10 miles per hour – and the Dodge was immediately stopped by the cameras that had detected the obstacle.
  • 4G Wireless Closer to Deployment
    • Verizon is gearing up to launch its next wireless network technology, called Long Term Evolution (LTE), by the end of this year.
    • While Verizon will, of course, still sell phones for this fourth generation (4G) network, it is also pushing to have it built into many other types of devices.
    • LTE will run on the spectrum formerly used to send television signals, which Verizon licensed from the U.S. government in 2008.
    • The company expects to be able to support about 100 million users by the end of the year.
    • But the saturation of the cell-phone market means that Verizon is also hoping to see the wireless technology used for many other kinds of devices.
    • They want to get to 500 to 600 percent penetration. That means five or six devices per person.
    • LTE promises better speed and lower latency than existing networks.
    • Users can expect uniform, reliable performance at five to 12 megabits per second.
    • Verizon expects data to travel round-trip in 25 to 30 milliseconds, a fifth of the latency on the current network.
    • Verizon’s 4G wireless network will be used for cars, computers, TVs, and other home appliances, as well as regular cell phones.
    • The company has tested wall sockets and power strips that include 4G wireless capabilities for a new forms of home-monitoring and energy management.
    • Not all of these devices will be under Verizon’s control.
    • When the company purchased the 700-megahertz spectrum, it had to agree to open its network to devices made by other companies.
    • Last week, the company broke ground on a new lab in Waltham, MA, where it plans to let third-party developers develop and test devices for the LTE network under simulated real-world conditions.
    • Another key difference of LTE is that it runs the Internet Protocol (IP).
    • Verizon will use VoIP to deliver voice calls. An all-IP system will also allow for the use of secure protocols. And getting rid of non-IP components should also make device compatibility easier.