Email and Forum Questions
- Email from Lauren: Dear Dr. Shurtz, Attached is a screenshot of a particular mall in Maryland. How to report to Google that this street view is way out of date (3 years old!) Is there anything else that is available via internet or mobile app that would inform me of the current tenants in this ‘strip mall’ location in Rockville? Most appreciated. Listen Every Sat 9-10—I am hooked : ) Lauren
- Tech Talk Responds: Google has the only street view data available. They have so many unchartered streets that updated the street view may take some time. The satellite images are updated quite frequently…at least once a year. If other text data is incorrect (store name, phone number), you can submit a request to update to Google. It may take a few weeks, but they will update after checking the validity.
- Tech Talk from Al in Georgia: Dear Doc, I have an old IP phone at home. It does not have a “Keep NAT Alive” option. It seems like my router’s NAT blocks ports. Phone rings or calls but no voice either way, just air. Then I need to restart the phone to punch another hole in the NAT for a while. I was wondering if putting my phone in the routers DMZ can eliminate this problem and keep all the ports open for it forever. I know that you may have security issues but as much it is only about a phone and not my whole home network, I don’t care. Love the show, Al
- Tech Talk Responds: You have come up with a good solution. DMZ is an acronym for, “Demilitarized Zone.” So, normally what happens on a NAT router is any unrequested, or unexpected, outside connection is blocked by the router. So if a server tries to connect to a computer in your home, and there’s a NAT router in the way, it can’t get through. The DMZ is essentially an exception to that rule. What the DMZ is… is the router allows you to specify an IP address of a computer on your local network. You can assign a device a static internal IP address (like 192.168.0.128). You then configure the router to send all incoming connections to this IP address without an port filtering. Thus rather than blocking it, it sends it to the DMZ. I like this solution.
- Email from Anthony: Dear Tech Talk, I’m running Windows 7, SP1, Home Edition; Acer Aspire laptop. When I stream a video, it will start OK and then the video will freeze. I’m unable to use the mouse or the keyboard and the only way I can power down is to remove the battery and reboot. Help! Thanks Anthony in Texas.
- Tech Talk Responds: When this happens, it is a problem with the video driver. So, what I would strongly recommend you do is make sure that you have the most recent video drivers for your computer. Go to the Acer website and look for their support options. Make sure you know the model number of your laptop.. See if there are updated drivers that are available. It is possible that it’s a hardware issue, but not likely.
- Email from Alex: Dear Doc. When does my router assign my machine an IP address? Is it as soon as Win 7 gets to the login screen or is it done at power on? It’s not a static IP address; it just assigns the next available one that’s not in use. Alex
- Tech Talk Responds: It is typically assigned when your computer boots up and requests an IP address from the DHCP Server on your network. Most routers are configured to serve as DHCP servers. The IP address is leased form the DHCP server and is reassigned when either the router or the computer are re-booted.
- Email from Ron: Dear Tech Talk, I have an old IBM ThinkPad running XP. Can I install Ubuntu on my Windows XP operating system? Is there any harm to the software? Thanks, Ron
- Tech Talk Responds: I like your thinking. I did the same thing with an old laptop. Linux is a great option for old laptops. It is not a resource hog and quite run quite well on underpowered machines. As an aside, you can download the software from www.ubuntu.com. You use this file to create a bootable disk image. This is used to install Ubuntu. This installation will completely wipe out your current software. So backup if you want to try this. If you think that you might want to go back to XP your backup disk image will permit a complete restore.
- A better option might be to use VMware. You can download a trial version from www.vmware.com. After installation, you can transfer the XP to a virtual machine. Then when you install Linux, you can make it a virtual machine. You can toggle between the two OS systems. This is great experience if you want to build your career. You can learn both Linux and virtualization. You biggest problem with Ubuntu will be getting the right drivers for your computer. The software will only come with open source drivers. You may want to download drivers that are not open source from the manufacturers. Check Ubuntu support and discussion forums for this.
- Email from Mark in Richmond: Dear Tech Talk. What is Microsoft doing with Messenger? Are they going to make be use Skype? I am worried. Thanks, Mark in Richmond.
- Tech Talk Responds: Microsoft recently announced that Microsoft Messenger instant messaging would be migrated to Skype, which it purchased in 2011. Messenger is going away and Skype is replacing it.
- At the same time, Microsoft announced that you can now log in to Skype using your Microsoft Account and when you do, you’ll find all of your Messenger contacts there ready for you to chat with.
- In order to use your Microsoft Account to log in to Skype, you’ll need to download the latest version. When you install the latest Skype, Microsoft Messenger will be removed from your system. This actually makes sense because you can do everything with Skype that you would do with Messenger and more.
- As you next through the subsequent installation screens, make sure to pay close attention to all options. Microsoft would like to make Bing your search engine, for example, so be sure to uncheck those types of options unless they’re actually what you want. Skype will then ask you to login with your Microsoft Account:
- If you already have a Skype account (as I do), the next step allows you to merge the two. Click on I have a Skype account if you have one. You’ll then be asked to login to that account. After which, you’ll get this confirmation that your accounts are about to be merged: And that’s it! Skype now replaced Microsoft Messenger.
- Email from John in Fairfax: Dear Doc and Jim. I have HP laptop running Windows Vista, Home Edition. When I try to turn it on, I get a single beep and then a long beep and the machine will only turn off when I remove the battery pack. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, John
- Tech Talk Responds: This sounds like a hardware problem. Unfortunately, it’s not the case where I really think it’s something where you can be successful going in and opening up the laptop to try and sort it out.
- The beep codes are interesting. ComputerHope.com/beep.htm has a listing of common beep codes. Very often the beep codes that you have in a situation like this will actually provide a little bit of information to the technician who’s diagnosing the problem.
- The beep codes are generated during the POST (Power on Self-Test) sequence. When the computer cannot display anything on the screen, the only way to communicate is by beeping.
- My guess is that your one-short followed by one-long is HP’s BIOS trying to tell you something about what it thinks is wrong with the computer. It is apparently unable to display anything, which is why it has to resort to beep codes to try and get you the information. You might go the HP site and search for the meaning of these beep codes.
Profiles in IT: Donald Ervin Knuth
- Donald Ervin Knuth is a computer scientist and the author of the multi-volume work The Art of Computer Programming. Knuth has been called the “father” of the analysis of algorithms. Knuth is the creator of the TeX computer typesetting system.
- Knuth was born on January 10, 1938 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where his father owned a small printing business and taught bookkeeping.
- Knuth chose physics over music as his major at Case Institute of Technology.
- While studying physics at the Case, Knuth was introduced to the IBM 650.
- After reading the computer’s manual, Knuth decided to rewrite the assembly and compiler code for the machine, because he believed he could do it better.
- In 1958, Knuth constructed a program based on the value of each player that could help his school basketball team win the league. It was published by Newsweek and also covered by Walter Cronkite on the CBS Evening News.
- Knuth was one of the founding editors of the Engineering and Science Review.
- He then switched from physics to mathematics, and in 1960 he received his BS and MS degrees simultaneously. In 1963, he earned a PhD in mathematics from Caltech.
- He began working at Caltech as an Associate Professor and began work on The Art of Computer Programming. This work was originally planned to be a single book, and then planned as a six- and then seven-volume series.
- Computer science was new and many papers were simply wrong. One of his motivations for writing the Art of Computer Programming to tell the story well.
- In 1968, just before he published the first volume, Knuth accepted a job working on problems for the National Security Agency (NSA). Knuth soon left that position and joined the faculty of Stanford University. Disagreement over the war was a factor.
- After producing the third volume of his series in 1976, he took time out to work on typesetting and created the TeX and METAFONT tools.
- He retired early because he realized that he would need about 20 years of full-time work to complete The Art of Computer Programming,
- He spends two hours per day in the library, about a half hour in swimming pool, and the rest of the time at home reading and writing, He likes to play piano and organ in the music room of his house.
- As of 2012, the first three volumes and part one of volume four have been published.
- Knuth gives informal lectures a few times a year at Stanford University, which he called Computer Musings. He was also a visiting professor at the Oxford University.
- He used to pay a finder’s fee of $2.56 for any typographical errors or mistakes discovered in his books, because 256 pennies is one hexadecimal dollar.
- In 1971, Knuth was the recipient of the first ACM Grace Murray Hopper Award. He has received various other awards including the Turing Award, the National Medal of Science, the John von Neumann Medal, and the Kyoto Prize.
Device of the Week: Phillip HUE Light Bulbs
- Wi-Fi controlled LED Lights
- Each bulb equivalent to a 60 watt bulb with selectable color
- Each bulb has three LED (red, yellow, blue)
- Controlled with a central controller which can handle 50 light bulbs using the Zigbee Lightlink Standard. Controller is attached via Ethernet to the Wi-Fi router in order to communicate.
- IPhone app is used to control the lights. App includes color, time, and intensity.
- The starter kit includes 3 bulbs and the controller for $199. Additional bulbs are $59. Only available at the Apple store.
- I bought a set and have been playing with them this week. I love the control and the way it changes the mood in the room.
- Great in conjunction with my Logitech Harmony Link, which lets me control the TV over Wi-Fi with my iPhone.
Google Blocked in China
- Google and all of its major services were blocked in China on Friday.
- Google’s own “transparency report” — designed to detect and publicize service disruptions — shows a sharp drop in traffic from China across all of Google’s products. The company added the incident to its timeline of outages.
- The cause of the outage is unclear, but it comes just one day after the start of the Communist Party’s 18th National Congress in China. The once-every-decade meeting is held to select a new stable of leaders.
- “The fact that Google is blocked now is surely no coincidence,” the site GreatFire, which collects data related to what it calls “the great firewall of China,” posted on Friday. “The big question is whether it will be unblocked again once the congress is over.”
- Attempts in China to reach Google.com appear to be redirecting to a non-functioning IP address in Korea, according to GreatFire.
- The relationship between Google and China has never been smooth, as the search engine’s mission “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible” flies directly in the face of the country’s restrictive government.
How Statistician Creates New Election Metrics
- Sports and politics are remarkably similar. Both share a culture of data devoted to making predicting future results more accurate than ever.
- Nate Silver is the man who has led the charge in changing both baseball and political forecasting over the last decade.
- Silver is now best known for his work at FiveThirtyEight, a political blog owned by The New York Times that uses advanced statistical analysis to predict the outcome of elections.
- Silver has come under fire within the last week when his model predicted that President Barack Obama was a heavy statistical favorite to be elected in Tuesday’s election.
- His roots and methods are not based in politics. Silver was a baseball man.
- Silver first foray into the controversial world of predictive analysis came at Baseball Prospectus (BP), a publication devoted to the study of advanced baseball statistics (known as sabermetrics).
- His theory projects an individual baseball player’s career based on his similarities to other baseball players in the past. For instance, his thery will project a three-year probability of a player’s performance taking into account his age, handedness, past performance and periphery statistics (such as position and fielding metrics).
- The important thing here is the way Silver creates his models. Essentially, he is takes data sets and applies logical analytical methods that take his conclusions to deeper understanding. Like any good statistician, he is not looking for a specific outcome, but rather looking for the most finely tuned pattern recognition engine to predict future results.
- To people that understand analysis of complex data sets, Silver’s conclusions make perfect sense given the information he has. The day before the election, Silver’s model gives Obama an 86.3% chance of defeating former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.
- According to Silver’s numbers, Obama will reap 307.2 electoral college votes to Romney’s 230.8. Silver’s prediction is the result of running his analytical model on poll results from individual states, weighting individual polls in each state based on its past history.
Failure of Romney’s Orca big-data app
- Many things went wrong with Romney’s campaign for president, but one of the biggest was the failure of the campaign’s big-data app for getting out the vote, called Orca.
- Politico has an excellent summary of the problems it says that Orca had. Among them were that the Romney campaign kept it secret and didn’t beta-test it before it was rolled out on Election Day.
- That meant that the people who it was designed for — the thousands of volunteers across the country — didn’t have a chance to learn how to use it before it was launched. And Orca kept crashing throughout the day.
- The system was designed to identify likely Romney voters who had not yet voted on Election Day, and then get them to vote. But it continually crashed and people didn’t know how to use it.
- The workers on the ground didn’t know what doors to knock on or what efforts to make with which voter targets who had not yet turned out — some efforts were made but they were slow and more cumbersome.
- And the campaign officials also generally didn’t know which precincts to send auto-calls into to try to boost turnout.
- There’s an even more damning inside account by John Ekdahl at Ace of Spades, who was involved as a volunteer. He says that he had worries about the system from the beginning: He worried because the system had never been stress tested.
- It was billed as an ‘app’ when it was actually a mobile-optimized. Volunteers tried to the find the app for download.
- The end result was that 30,000+ of the most active and fired-up volunteers were wandering around confused and frustrated when they could have been doing anything else to help.
- Like driving people to the polls, phone-banking, walking door-to-door, etc. Romney lost by fairly small margins in Florida, Virginia, Ohio and Colorado. If this had worked many think could it have closed the gap?
- This is not how to deploy a big data app in politics.