Show of 1-12-2013

Best of Tech Talk Edition

  • Replaying segments from previous shows.

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Mary Ann: Dear Tech Talk, I keep losing my cell phone and have trouble finding it when the ringer is turned off after a meeting. Is there anything that can be done? Also, can I track my phone if it has been stolen? Thanks, Mary Ann
  • Tech Talk Responds: The good news is that you can track and find your phone use the iClould Find My Phone Feature. On the iPhone, go to Settngs and then scroll down to iCloud. Click on iCloud and turn on Find My Phone. You can then access you iPhone via the Cloud. Download the Find My Phone on another iPhone and log into your iCloud account. Or go to and log into your iCloud account. These applications will locate all devices that have the same iCloud account. You can then Play A Sound (even if the ringer is off), Lock the Phone, or Wipe the Phone. It will also show you the GPS location on a map. However, if you lock or wipe the phone, you will not be able to track it.
  • Email from Loyal Listener in Bethesda: Dear Doc, I tried to free up some space on my old PC and decided save my pictures to disk. I ended up using DVD-R discs so that I could use fewer discs due to the storage amounts. I permanently deleted all of the files off my PC because I had them on discs. I recently bought a brand new laptop and am unable to get them to work. Is there any way to retrieve these image files or I have I simply lost five years of photos? Thanks, Loyal Listener in Bethesda
  • Tech Talk Responds: That you have only one copy of the photos. If data is in only one place it’s not backed up. You weren’t backed up. In the future, make sure you have multiple copies of the data that you care about.
  • As for your specific problem now, try a different drive in a different computer. DVDs and CDs suffer from what I would call alignment problems and quality problems. In other words, different drives will have potentially a different alignment for the laser. And they will have a different quality for the laser. In addition, DVD media can be of varying levels of quality.
  • The only cheap way to recover that data yourself is to simply take that DVD to computer after computer, or rather drive after drive and see if you can find a drive that will read them. The moment you do, copy them all.
  • If it is not alignment and actually damage to the media, you can use DVD/CD data recovery software. QuickSpecs v1.1.1.1 can be downloaded from CNETs It has a free version to test if it will work. To complete the recovery, you will need to buy the full version for $39.
  • The expensive option is data recovery. Find a data recovery service and see if they will work on DVDs. This could cost hundreds of dollars.
  • Email from Rich in Richmond: Dear Tech Talk. When I exit from one of my video games, the screen looks like blended colors mostly with pink and transparent glass. I can’t read anything on the screen. I have 2 GB of RAM, an Intel Pentium dual core processor, rinning at 2.7 GHz. What is the problem and how can I solve it? Thanks, Rich
  • Tech Talk Responds: What usually happens in cases like this is that the game has set the graphics card to a different video mode and then not restored that mode when it exits. To restore the video mode, you might try right-clicking on the desktop and hitting Screen properties and then changing the resolution to something that your system supports.
  • Make certain to exit the game properly, so that it can complete housekeeping before shutting down. If it still persists, you might want to check with the game manufacturer to see if they have a specific fix for this problem.
  • Email from John in Fairfax: Dear Tech Talk. Why are there always programs that will not respond while shutting down Windows? Having to end them manually to shut down Windows is very annoying. I’m using Windows XP Pro, Service Pack 3. Love the show. Thank, John
  • Tech Talk Responds: So, when your system tries to shut down, what it’s really doing is it’s asking each individual program that’s also running on your machine, “Would you please start shutting down now?” After some amount of time, if the program is still running, you get that error message that says basically “This program isn’t responding. Do you want me to force it to shut down now?”
  • I see that message from time to time. However, do I actually have to force the program to close. Sometimes, I wait for a minute or two and the program that it’s waiting for that hasn’t closed yet does close. Either Windows is too impatient or the program is too slow. Wait another minute or two and see if things don’t resolve themselves that way.
  • If you can’t, if it really gets to the point of being excessively long, then try and identify which program it is that the operating system is waiting for. That program, then needs to be investigated as to why it’s taking so long to shut down.
  • Email from Alex: Dear Doc and Jim. I’m starting to backup files and photos with a Lexar 64 G memory stick. There are no instructions with this stick and I’m the type of person who needs step-by-step instructions. Can you help? Thanks, Alex
  • Tech Talk Responds: First, I recommend that you do not use a memory stick for backing up your data. The problem is that memory sticks use flash memory and flash memory has a limited number of times you can write to it before it actually wears out.
  • I would recommend that you backup on an external hard drive. They are not expensive and you end up with half a terabyte (or more even) for not that much money.
  • There a two ways to backup. One is to manually copy your files to the external hard drive. The other is to automatically backup the data. The recommend the automated approach. I would recommend that you use Macrium Relfect. You can configure it to do incremental backups you’re not backing up the entire thing everyday, but only those things that have changed since the previous day.
  • The other option is to use an online service for backup. I use Carbonite ( It automatically does incremental backups on my laptop, now matter where I am as long as I am connected to the Internet. It costs around $29 per year and is very simple to use.
  • Email from Mary: Dear Tech Talk. How does E-Zpass work? Do I have any privacy concerns? Also was is E-Zpass Flex for the HOT lanes that was coming soon to Northern Virginia? Thanks, Mary
  • Tech Talk Responds: E-ZPass is an electronic toll-collection system used on most tolled roads, bridges, and tunnels in the northeastern US, south to Virginia and West Virginia, and west to Illinois. Currently, there are 25 agencies spread across 14 states that make up the E-ZPass Interagency Group (IAG). All member agencies use the same technology.
  • E-ZPass tags are battery powered RFID transponders, made exclusively by Kapsch TrafficCom (formerly Mark IV Industries Corp – IVHS Division.) They communicate with reader equipment built into lane-based or open road toll collection lanes.
  • The E-ZPass transponder works by listening for a signal broadcast by the reader stationed at the toll booth. This 915 MHz signal is sent at 500 kbit/s using the IAG protocol in 256-bit packets. Transponders use active Type II read/write technology.
  • In late 2012, the I-495 HOT (high occupancy toll) lanes in Virginia will support E-Z Pass FLEX transponders. These will work like a regular transponders, but will let the driver switch between HOV and toll-paying modes. You can trade in your responder for a new flex responder without charge.
  • As for privacy, the system tracks your every move. E-Zpass data has been used in employment cases, divorce case, murder cases. You transponder is tracked and the transactions recorder. Some jurisdictions track transponders to provide real time traffic data. In the future, they could be used for speeding tickets (but not at the current time).

Profiles in IT: Roy L. Clay, Sr.

  • Roy L. Clay Sr. designed and built the first Hewlett-Packard computer and is affectionately known as the Godfather of Black Silicon Valley.
  • When Roy Clay Sr. started programming computers in the Bay Area in 1958, Bill Gates was 3 years old and universities didn’t have computer science programs.
  • Clay was born in 1930 and grew up in Kinloch, Mo., a segregated town of 5,000, in a home without indoor plumbing.
  • He lived in a home with no indoor plumbing, a neighborhood with no streetlights, in an area with a tradition of police picking up black boys like Clay.
  • To earn money, he cleaned a local pool hall. He got good at shooting pool.
  • In elementary school, he displayed an early proficiency and love for mathematics.
  • In 1947, he was admitted to St. Louis University, one of the first blacks to attend.
  • When Clay graduated with a degree in mathematics in 1951, he applied for a job at McDonnell Aircraft and was invited to an interview.
  • But once he got there and the interviewers saw he was black, He was they had not jobs for “professional Negros.”
  • He worked as a teacher, until McDonnell eventually did hire him in 1956, where he and everyone else learned computer programming.
  • He moved to the Bay Area in 1958, working for Lawrence Radiation Laboratory as lead programmer for the fastest computer then built, writing programs to simulate radiation and explosive activities of atomic bombs.
  • In 1962, Control Data hired him as manager of COBOL and Fortran programming.
  • In 1965 applied for a position at Hewlett-Packard Company when they advertised a start-up computer division. He was offered the job as Director.
  • Mr. Clay led the team that engineered HP’s entrance into the computer market with the development of the 2116A computer in 1966.
  • Not only was Mr. Clay the Director for the first HP Research and Development Computer Group, he also developed the software for the 2116A computer.
  • Clay expanded HP affirmative action programs, hiring black engineers and recruiting from Morehouse College. He was known as the “godfather of black Silicon Valley.”
  • There were still restaurants where Clay could not dine and places where he could not live. He lived in the only San Jose apartment building that accepted blacks.
  • In the early 1970’s, at the outset of Silicon Valley as we know it today, the premier venture capital firm of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers selected Mr. Clay as the computer consultant for prospective investments in start up companies such as Tandem Computers, Compaq and Intel Corporation.
  • He served as Palo Alto’s first black City Councilman in 1973 and later as vice-mayor.
  • Galvanized by a Nixon-era policy proposal of “benign neglect,” he helped organize networking events for black technology workers.
  • And he started ROD-L Electronics, which set the standard for dielectric testers.
  • Tries to hire minority youth with potential, even if they don’t have right degree.
  • Clay said he looks for characteristics that will ensure success in programming.
  • He looked at the correlation between math and skill games like chess and bridge.
  • When when hired people at HP, he asked if they had hobbies. If  they said they liked chess, he hired them.

Space Elevator Conference

  • The Space Elevator Conference is being held in Seattle, Washington, this weekend.
  • The primary goal of this conference is to get technical people together to talk about the technical barriers to deployment. The secondary goal is to raise public awareness. The third goal is to showcase a breakthrough.
  • They are always hoping that someone will show up with a carbon nanotube ribbon that is strong enough to build a space elevator. Carbon nanotubes are the main structure they’re experimenting with to build space elevators. They are constructed of interlinking carbon atoms, rolled into a cylinder, and make incredibly lightweight, strong and flexible structures.
  • Carbon nanotubes also have very high-strength properties. Large scale carbon nanotubes might take 50 more years. Since they were invented in 1991, that would put us at 2041.
  • The biggest fear of the conference goers is that funding will be cut because of austerity measures.
  • Space elevators are important because they would drop the cost of space access by a factor of 10. The problem with taking people up is that elevators, as we conceive of them now, move pretty slowly, and getting through radiation belts in short periods of time would require higher-speed elevators.
  • Hopefully, larger space elevators would not just be faster, but the larger elevator capacity would have climbers that are shielded so humans inside are shielded, so we can start to introduce people into the elevator equation.
  • I love this kind of research. It is really science fiction personified.

Mars Rover Update

  • Mars Curiosity deployed the arm for the first time on Mars. This is critical to ensuring that they get samples into the instruments and use the arm for its scientific purposes.
  • The ChemCam unit, or Chemistry and Camera instrument, fired the laser for the first time on Mars using the beam from the science instrument to interrogate a fist-size rock called Coronation.
  • Curiosity successfully tested the steering actuators. This is the first time NASA moved the wheels on Mars.
  • Curiosity completed its first drive. Curiosity drove approximately three meters forward and performed two 60-degree rotations in a clockwise direction with imaging in between.
  • We it drove backwards, just under three meters, in order to test the wheels in the opposite direction.
  • NASA is turning on the Sample Analysis at Mars instrument for the first time to do an atmospheric experiment. This is where they let in atmosphere into the instrument and perform various experiments that determine the composition of the atmosphere. This is the first time that this is happening.
  • Within days Curiosity will start its journey to the first chosen destination on Mars, Glenelg. We hope to obtain our first drill rock sample on Mars at this location. 

The iPad Rules the Tablet Market

  • The International Data Corporation (IDC) released preliminary data yesterday from its Worldwide Quarterly Media Tablet Tracker.
  • The study shows that total worldwide tablet shipments for the second quarter of 2012 are estimated at 25 million units, which is up from 18.7 last quarter.
  • Apple shipped 17 million iPads during this last quarter, which itself is up from 11.8 million last quarter.
  • The volume also beats the previous iPad shipment high of 15.4 million from the fourth quarter of 2011.
  • Other tablet makers saw serious growth in the second quarter of 2012, as well, with Samsung grabbing second place of 2.4 million shipped units, and Amazon shipping 1.2 million units.
  • ASUS shipped 855,454 units according to the data, while ACER only shipped 385,458 tablets this past quarter, making the PC company the only one with declining numbers.
  • Apple has sold way more iPads than anyone else. The obvious connection here is that iPad is driving tablet sales for everyone. 17 million iPads vs 2.4 million Samsung tablets.
  • The nearest competitor to the Apple is Samsung.

BYOD Created Security Concerns

  • A growing number of companies embracing BYOD are ignoring mobile security issues.
  • The number of companies investing in mobile management and security solutions related to bring your own device (BYOD) programs is growing.
  • The result is that many companies are putting themselves and their data at risk by jumping into the BYOD without properly securing employee iPhones, iPads, and other devices.
  • According to a study by OnForce, more than half the technicians that help businesses implement BYOD have seen a 25% increase in demand associated with employee devices (either setting up individual devices or broader BYOD options).
  • Less than one-third of those technicians have seen an increase in requests for mobile device security solutions.
  • That implies that a number of businesses are moving forward with official or unofficial BYOD options without implementing mobile management or security.
  • Nearly two-thirds (58%) of technicians working in the BYOD space have seen an uptick in the number of devices used by workers as well as an increase the diversity of devices over the past year.
  • Bring your own device programs carry a number of risks for companies, many of them related to corporate data being stored on or accessed by devices with little or no data security or device management options in place.
  • Most enterprise companies and small businesses use mobile management solutions that lock down insecure device features or that create secure encrypted storage space on devices like the iPhone and iPad as well as Android devices, BlackBerries, and other mobile devices.

AT&T to Shutdown 2G Network by 2017

  • AT&T has only just begun the transition away from 2G services with its spectrum refarming in New York City.
  • It now has a target end date to mark on the calendar: January 1st, 2017.
  • As disclosed in an SEC filing, the carrier hopes that both its GSM voice and EDGE data networks will end about 4 and half years from now.
  • Only 12 percent of its regular subscribers are using 2G-only phones today.
  • The transition should be smooth and uneventful.

CNN’s Tech Trends for 2012

  • Touch computing. First Apple, now Microsoft.
  • Social gestures. Automatic sharing on the web with apps.
  • Near Field Communication (NFC) and Mobile payments. Google Wallet is gaining in popularity.  may become more widespread in 2012. Near Field Communication essentially lets you replace your credit cards with your phone: Wave an NFC-enabled phone near the credit card reader in a store.
  • Beyond the iPad. Rise of the iPad competitor from Google, Microsoft, and Amazon.
  • TV Everywhere. On any device, anywhere.
  • Voice control. Voice commands using Siri are gaining popularity.
  • Spatial gestures. Other input methods like on the Kinect.
  • Second-screen experiences. Watch TV and display related information on your iPad.
  • Flexible screens. Nokia and Samsung have both hinted they may release phones with bendable displays in 2012.
  • HTML5 It’s HTML5 lets developers create richer, more interactive applications than ever. The rise of HTML5 is bound to be accelerated by a recent revelation: Adobe is killing off Flash for mobile devices.

SLIPS Liquid Repeller Inspired by Carnivorous Plant

  • A team of Harvard researchers wanted to create the ultimate liquid- and solid-repelling surface
  • They studied the Nepenthes pitcher plant, where curious are trapped by its slippery walls.
  • The tropical plant inspired the creation of SLIPS (Self-healing, Slippery Liquid-Infused Porous Surface), a synthetic material that utilizes nano/ microstructured substrates.
  • The coating is repellent to water, motor oil, liquid asphalt, concrete, black paint, and of course, bugs.
  • The team has published a number of papers on the material, including ones that demonstrate its ice- and bacteria-repelling properties.
  • Another example of technology transfer from nature.

Justice Approved Verizon’s Bandwidth Purchase

  • Verizon Wireless is paying $3.9 billion for the spectrum, which will allow it to add capacity to its high-speed “4G LTE” wireless broadband network.
  • Regulators saw the transfer of the unused spectrum to Verizon as a positive one for consumers.
  • This deal will result in Verizon abandoning further investment in FiOS, its high speed network. This network has proven costly to Verizon and it is slowing deployment. Justice would not allow Verizon to market cable in areas where is was offering FIOS.
  • As a result, there will be no high-speed Internet competition in Baltimore, Boston, Buffalo and other upstate cities, and most of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Massachusetts and Virginia.
  • Apart from limiting the areas where Verizon Wireless stores can sell cable, the agreement between the parties and the Justice Department puts a five-year limit on the co-marketing agreement in other areas.

Device of the Week: Vinturi Wine Aerator

  • Wine which has been allowed to breathe tastes better. As wine breathes, it opens up, and releases its intended aromas and flavors.
  • Traditionally, decanters were used to aerate wine. However, decanting is time consuming, cumbersome, and inconvenient.
  • Vinturi’s design speeds up this process. Perfect aeration in the time it takes to pour a glass.
  • Simply hold Vinturi over a glass and pour wine through. Vinturi draws in and mixes the proper amount of air for the right amount of time, allowing your wine to breathe instantly.