Email and Forum Questions
- Email from Alice in Wonderland: Dear Doc Shurtz, Your Sat. reply was most helpful and I am appreciative. I need a bit more clarity in how I’ll actually get to this kind of content. I used to live in Seattle. There was this great radio station there that ALL they covered was INNOVATION from medical, biotech, banking, bicycles, aeronautics, etc. wherever some clever soul was going something daring or creative–they found out and told a riveting story. I lived on the left coast for a decade and things are different there…hardly a word about the congress & how they live to –guess I ought to withhold this commentary….
- It is my suspicion that with the vast amount of stuff on the internet, IF I buy some Roku box or Google TV box I will find a whole new universe of knowledge expansion and mental stimulation like the above example. I’m not really into movies (escapism)–I want to learn stuff! But how will I end up finding what I want in a TV environment. Seems the first step is lining up the options and doing a comparison of costs and quality access to content. Most folks have said I don’t need a new TV and I’m Glad that is the case. Is there a search engine in the remote or box when I move to the internet TV platform? Thanks, Alice in Wonderland
- Tech Talk Responds: Alice, attaching your TV to the Internet is not magic. You can stream video sources and display like regular TV or you can access the web using an internal browser. The information that you can find using the browser is the same that you would find on any computer. You might want to get a wireless keyboard and mouse to control the TV if you want to use the browser function often. For instance, you can get Logitech Keyboard Controller for Logitech Revue and Google TV for around $60.
- Email from Hac in Bowie: Dear Doc and Jim, I live in Bowie, Maryland. When I go to a website, the content will often say things like, “Find sexy singles in Bowie.” I use spyware software religiously. So, how do they know where I live? And how do I get rid of it? These aren’t local websites that I’m visiting by the way. Love the show, Hac
- Tech Talk Responds: If you have ever registered with a website to get customized information. Most likely you gave them a zip code or city. That “customization” could include local news, weather, and yes, even advertising. If a site has that and passes it on to other sites or advertising services, then it’s trivial for those sites and services to know.
- The second way is that you ISP told them. This is the most like culprit. They can locate you ISP with the IP address that is assigns you and assume that you are near the ISP. Geo-targeting ads can use this information very easily.
- Another source of location information could be GPS-enabled devices. When the information from these devices is associated with your Google, Apple, Microsoft or Facebook account, that information can be applied or correlated with your internet access using other devices – like your desktop computer. That is shared anonymously with advertising networks, which show you ads that relate specifically to where you live.
- Email from John in Woodbridge: Dear Doc and Jim, Google recently introduced a tabbed interface to access automatically categorized email messages. It’s randomly putting mail into different “categories.” How do I turn that off? Thanks, John in Woodbridge
- Tech Talk Responds: To turn off the tabs, Click on Gmail’s gear icon in the upper right. Then click on Configure Inbox. Deselect all categories to go back to your old inbox. That put you back to the old inbox look. That is what I have done too.
- Email from Geoff: Dear Tech Talk, I just installed a new board and CPU that is 64-bit capable, but I have a 32-bit operating system. Would it be worth the time to go to 64-bit? I have 16 GB of RAM that (from what I read) is not being accessed with the 32-bit OS. Is this something to be concerned about? Thanks, Geoff
- Tech Talk Responds: A 32-bit operating system can only reference 4 GB of RAM. So three quarters of your RAM is completely ignored. If you want to make use of that entire RAM, then the only solution is to get a 64-bit version of Windows or whichever operating system you choose.
- When you’re moving from 32- to 64-bit operating systems, there’s no “upgrade” path. A complete reinstall of the operating system is required. That will be a big job and you will have to buy another OS.
- If is only worth it, if you need to address that much RAM. Are you processing large images or spreadsheets and would like them to be fully loaded into RAM for faster processing (without swapping)? Or you might be using a video game that needs RAM for images. Then it may be worth it. For most MS Office applications, it is not worth the expense to upgrade.
- If it were my machine, I’d switch to 64-bit just because I want all of that RAM to be used. I also want the speed that comes with that because I do a lot with Windows. I my case, I bought a 64-bit machine with 64-bit Windows installed
- Email from Benoit in New Jersey: Dear Tech Talk, what is chkdsk and when should I use it for fix my hard drive? Love the show, Benoit
- Tech Talk Responds: he Windows system utility CHKDSK is a powerful and useful tool in diagnosing and repairing certain types of disk problems. I’ll review several ways to run it, and try and describe what it does.
- Tech Talk Responds: CHKDSK has been around since before the days of Windows.
- CHKDSK is an important tool for disk maintenance and recovery (in some cases) from a variety of disk-related issues. You can access it in Windows by clicking on my computer and then right clicking on the disk you want to check. Select the Tool tab and press the Error Checking button. You can access from the command line by typing chkdsk or chkdsk/r, if you want to fix the errors.
- Normally, CHKDSK simply checks that the information stored on the disk is correct. There’s a fair amount of overhead information that tells Windows where files are located and how they’re actually stored and distributed around the disk media. CHKDSK uses it’s knowledge of what this information is supposed to look like to ensure that’s it’s correct and try to fix it when it’s not.
- Scanning for bad sectors is another thing entirely. When this option is selected, CHKDSK actually reads the entire disk, not just the overhead information. As a result, a bad sector scan takes significantly longer than a simple CHKDSK.
- As CHKDSK reads, it notices if those reads actually succeed. When they do not, it marks the area that failed as “bad” so that they system won’t attempt to write more information into those areas with problems. This bad sector scan takes a long time.
- A scan for bad sectors only needs to be done once you’ve actually encountered a bad sector – usually in the form of a bad read, write, or explicit CRC error. CHKDSK will do what it can, but most importantly, it will remove the bad area from use.
- While we talk about CHKDSK “repairing” a hard disk, it is not a data recovery tool. It’s job is not to recover lost or damaged files, but to ensure that the information currently on the disk is in a consistent and safe state. When it comes time to search for files accidentally lost or deleted, then you need to use tools like Recuva and similar.
- Email form Jim in Michigan: Dear Tech Talk, I’m online sometimes late night into the morning. Being an IT student, I’ve read about hackers using the night to scan for active IP addresses and hack it using back doors for fun. Can you recommend any free software that can help prevent back door attacks and work alongside my anti-virus and my Windows firewall? Also, should I change from Windows firewall? Thanks, Jim in Michigan.
- Tech Talk Responds: Use firewall and anti-malware tools. In your case, your firewall and your anti-malware tools are the free software that you want. Windows firewall is a good solution and I often recommend it when people are traveling so they don’t need to carry additional hardware with them.
- Get a NAT router. NAT stands for Network Address Translation. This is a technique that lets multiple machines on one side of your router share a single internet connection and internet IP address. Connect to that instead of connecting directly to the internet to put another level of a hardware firewall between you and the various forms of attack. I use both the NAT firewall and the Windows firewall.
- The most important way to keep from being hacked is your own behavior and common sense. Most malware and hacks these days aren’t the kind of things that can be blocked by firewalls. In fact, they’re invited by you onto your machine.
Profiles in IT: Evi Nemeth
- Evi Nemeth was an engineer known for her expertise in computer system administration and networks, best known as the Godmother of Unix administrators.
- Evi Nemeth born June 7, 1940.
- Evi Nemeth grew up in Vermont, got her bachelor’s degree in mathematics at Penn State University in 1961 and her PhD in mathematics at the University of Waterloo in Canada in 1971.
- Nemeth worked in Boulder during the summers, starting in 1976.
- Nemeth was an associate professor at Colorado University from 1980 to 2001, where she taught networks, data structures, UNIX tools and system administration.
- What she was really known for at the university was developing undergrads. And that made a huge difference in the computer science program at CU.
- Her math skills were proven when she found problems with the “Diffie–Hellman problem” used for cryptography. She has an Erd?s number of 2.
- She bought a house in Sunshine Canyon in 1983 after getting on full time with Colorado University in 1980.
- Nemeth actually purchased an old water pump house and transported it up the canyon. She relied on a wood-burning stove for heat and used composting toilets.
- Her house burnt down in 2013 in a forest fire. She lost almost everything, She had plans to rebuild and had just bought a historic cabin on Main Street in Gold Hill.
- In 1989 she wrote the Unix System Administration Handbook, which she revised in 1995 and 2000.
- She also published the Linux Administration Handbook in 2002 (revised in 2006).
- In 2010 authored the combined UNIX and Linux System Administration Handbook.
- All are best-sellers and explain the basics of network topology and administration simply and without recourse to hype.
- Nemeth saw the need to simplify the arcane language of the IT industry, a language that sometimes did more harm than good.
- In addition to teaching at several universities throughout her career, she spent eight years working with the Cooperative Association for Internet Data Analysis at the University of California, San Diego.
- She also organized the Internet Engineering Curriculum (IEC), a repository of IT training tools for the academic world, and worked with Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak to set up academic scholarships in the industry.
- Evi Nemeth retired from teaching and bought a sailboat in 2002.
- Nemeth was a keen and experienced sailor who devoted much of her time to on the water since her retirement, and was well-respected in the cruising community.
- Nemeth was sailing off the western coast of New Zealand in a 21-meter vintage wooden schooner with its owner.
- The boat disappeared and Evi Nemeth is presumed to have died June or July 2013.
- The New Zealand authorities have formally called off the search for the cruiser.
- The boat was last heard from on June 4, when Nemeth requested meteorological information about rough weather they were encountering.
- The Erd?s number describes the “collaborative distance” between a person and mathematician Paul Erd?s, as measured by authorship of mathematical papers.
- Paul Erd?s was an influential mathematician, who spent a large portion of his later life living out of a suitcase and writing papers with those of his colleagues willing to give him room and board.
- He published more papers during his life (at least 1,525) than any other mathematician in history.
- The idea of the Erd?s number was created by the mathematician’s friends as a humorous tribute to his enormous output as one of the most prolific modern writers of mathematical papers.
- The Erd?s number has become well known in scientific circles as a tongue-in-cheek measurement of mathematical prominence.
- To be assigned an Erd?s number, an author must co-write a research paper with an author with a finite Erd?s number. Paul Erd?s has an Erd?s number of zero. Anybody else’s Erd?s number is k + 1 where k is the lowest Erd?s number of any coauthor.
3D Print Non-Duplicatable Keys
- Three MIT students have figured out a way to make keys using a 3D printing workaround.
- All you need is a flatbed scanner, an original Primus lock key made by Schlage and some code the students revealed at last weekends DevCon hacking conference.
- David Lawrence, Eric Van Albert and Robert Johnson demonstrated the fact that reliance on older tech like these so-called high security keys might be in need of an update.
- They actually submitted their designs to 3D printing services including Shapeways and i.Materiealise, and were mailed fully working copies made of different materials including titanium.
- With sharing sites like The Pirate Bay now supporting 3D models, you can easily imagine a scenario where someone uploads a key of their neighbor’s front door.
Encrypted Email in Germany
- Two of the biggest ISPs in Germany, Deutsche Telekom AG (which owns T-Mobile) and United Internet AG, are going to start automatically encrypting their customers’ emails.
- The encryption level is going to be low at first, possibly due to the speed of the rollout, and will only be secure between the T-Online email service and United Internet’s email systems.
- That covers some two-thirds of email addresses in Germany, the companies claim.
- According to the report, the move is in direct response to the discomfort of German netizens caused by the NSA’s Internet surveillance.
- The news comes just after the EFF examined the NSA’s explanation of how it “targets” people for surveillance, and more or less admitted that if you’re one of the roughly 6.8 billion on the planet who’s not American, you’re fair game–Americans are more or less safe.
- U.S. encrypted email providers Lavabit and Silent Circle shut down today, seemingly to avoid government demands to supply info on their users.
NSA releases outline of security programs
- NSA published a seven page document laying out in broad terms what it does, how it does it and why it thinks that’s OK.
- According to figures published by a major tech provider, the Internet carries 1,826 Petabytes of information per day.
- In its foreign intelligence mission, NSA touches about 1.6% of that. However, of the 1.6% of the data, only 0.025% is actually selected for review
- Other sections go on to detail how it believes American citizen’s information could be picked up, and what it does to identify and minimize that data.
- NSA identifies foreign entities (persons or organizations) that have information responsive to an identified foreign intelligence requirement. For instance, NSA works to identify individuals who may belong to a terrorist network.
- NSA develops the “network” with which that person or organization’s information is shared or the command and control structure through which it flows. In other words, if NSA is tracking a specific terrorist, NSA will endeavor to determine who that person is in contact with, and who he is taking direction from.
- NSA identifies how the foreign entities communicate (radio, e-mail, telephony, etc.)
- NSA then identifies the telecommunications infrastructure used to transmit those communications.
- NSA identifies vulnerabilities in the methods of communication used to transmit them.
- NSA matches its collection to those vulnerabilities, or develops new capabilities to acquire communications of interest if needed.
NSA broke privacy rules thousands of times per year
- Source: Washington Post
- The National Security Agency has broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year since Congress granted the agency broad new powers in 2008, according to an internal audit and other top-secret documents.
- Most of the infractions involve unauthorized surveillance of Americans or foreign intelligence targets in the United States, both of which are restricted by statute and executive order. They range from significant violations of law to typographical errors that resulted in unintended interception of U.S. e-mails and telephone calls.
- The documents, provided earlier this summer to The Washington Post by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, include a level of detail and analysis that is not routinely shared with Congress or the special court that oversees surveillance.
- In one of the documents, agency personnel are instructed to remove details and substitute more generic language in reports to the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
- In one instance, the NSA decided that it need not report the unintended surveillance of Americans.
- A notable example in 2008 was the interception of a “large number” of calls placed from Washington when a programming error confused the U.S. area code 202 for 20, the international dialing code for Egypt, according to a “quality assurance” review that was not distributed to the NSA’s oversight staff.
- The NSA audit obtained by The Post, dated May 2012, counted 2,776 incidents in the preceding 12 months of unauthorized collection, storage, access to or distribution of legally protected communications.
- Most were unintended. Many involved failures of due diligence or violations of standard operating procedure. The most serious incidents included a violation of a court order and unauthorized use of data about more than 3,000 Americans and green-card holders.
- But the more serious lapses include unauthorized access to intercepted communications, the distribution of protected content and the use of automated systems without built-in safeguards to prevent unlawful surveillance.
- The May 2012 audit, intended for the agency’s top leaders, counts only incidents at the NSA’s Fort Meade headquarters and other facilities in the Washington area. Three government officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss classified matters, said the number would be substantially higher if it included other NSA operating units and regional collection centers.
- In what appears to be one of the most serious violations, the NSA diverted large volumes of international data passing through fiber-optic cables in the United States into a repository where the material could be stored temporarily for processing and selection.
Google Goes Dark for 2 minutes
- The event began at approximately 4:37pm Pacific Time on August 16th and lasted between one and five minutes, according to the Google Apps Dashboard. All of the Google Apps services reported being back online by 4:48pm.
- The incident apparently blacked out every service Mountain View has to offer simultaneously, from Google Search to Gmail, YouTube, Google Drive, and beyond.
- According to web analytics firm GoSquared, worldwide internet traffic dipped by 40 per cent during the brief minutes that the Google’s services were offline.
- But exactly how an operation like Google’s can even go dark like that, all at once, is anybody’s guess.
Apple Patents Will Block Some Phones Imports
- The International Trade Commission (ITC) has ruled that Samsung has violated some of Apple’s iPhone patents and will block some Samsung phones from being imported to the U.S.
- Specifically, the ITC said Samsung violates the so-called “Steve Jobs Patent” that covers a lot of the swiping gestures used on touchscreen phones. The ITC also said Samsung violated a patent that has to do with the iPhone’s headphone jack.
- The news comes a few days after President Barack Obama vetoed an order from the ITC that blocked some older iPhone and iPad models from being imported to the U.S. because they infringed on Samsung patents. Obama has 60 days to veto this ban too.
- Apple did not comment. Samsung is not happy and claim that Apple’s patent are overly broad and an impediment to innovation.
Bitcoin Ticker Available
- Bitcoin is now officially mainstream. Bloomberg terminal users can now look up Bitcoin’s pricing history. Data comes from ubiquitous Bitcoin exchange service Mt. Gox as well as Tradehill.
- Only Bloomberg employees can access the ticker. But the feature should make its way to regular Bloomberg terminal customers under the label XBT. The ticker probably shows what a bitcoin is worth in U.S. dollars over time.
- Traders still have to use Bitcoin exchange services like Mt. Gox or Tradehill for transactions. They won’t be able to execute buy or sell orders from their Bloomberg terminals. It could be the last technical difficulty before investing some time and money in Bitcoins.
Bitcoin Will Prosper Until Government or Banks Crush It
- Every currency created since the advent of money 2,700 years ago has fit nicely into one of two classifications:
- Either it was a representative money system, deriving its worth from a link to some physical store of value like gold, silver or gemstones; or it was fiat, deriving its value from the fact that a government or central authority guaranteed it.
- It is neither fiat nor representative. It is not fiat, because its supply is actually finite and, more importantly, it lacks any central backing authority.
- Nor is it representative, because it is not linked to anything physical. Thus the Internet has spawned a phenomenon that is inexplicable via conventional economic frameworks.
- Bitcoin has potent disruptive potential to the world banking system. Bitcoin may be doomed because of its success.
- Though novel today, the anonymity of transactions that Bitcoin provides is actually a very old trait of money, one that most currencies actually enjoyed for most of their history.
- Monetary control
- For any government, ceding control of money supply is tantamount to an abdication; without control of money there is no control at all.
- For this reason, as Bitcoin continues to gain users, government indifference must gradually shift to resistance.
- Transaction Fee
- Banks make tens of billions of dollars every year from providing the very basic task service of moving money from one place to another.
- Bitcoin transfers bypass these institutions completely, so expect opposition from the banking system.
- Currency Intervention
- All major economic powers are experienced in the techniques of manipulating the value of monies whose price they care about.
- To affect a currency, one need simply to buy or sell enough of it that marginal supply or demand is affected. Price change then follows naturally.
- Thus Bitcoin’s Achilles heel is its susceptibility to manipulation by the very people who need Bitcoin to fail.
People Making Money On Bitcoin
- Bitcoin ETF: Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss announced an SEC filing for the “Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust,” an exchange-traded fund that would allow institutional investors to invest in the virtual currency without the hassle of buying it directly from a Bitcoin Exchange.
- Bitpay: Based out of Atlanta, Georgia, Bitpay processes bitcoin payments for over 7,000 merchants, helping them to set up BTC cash registers on their websites and in their real world stores — usually in the form of an app on an iPad. CEO Tony Gallippi says the company is processing $5 million in transactions per month. It keeps 1% of that as a fee. That translates to $50,000 in real world dollars for the company in a given month.
- Butterfly Labs: Bitcoin is like a digital gold in that it must be “mined” — except the drilling equipment in this case takes the form of encrypting devices. Initially “miners” jerry-rigged their own equipment, but as the mining proceeds, much like with real world resources, it grows more complicated and requires increasingly sophisticated equipment. Their “Bitforce miners” range in price from $274 to almost $23,000.
- Coinbase: A provider of digital wallets to hold digital money. It charges a 1% fee for those who want to convert dollars to bitcoin and vice versa.
- Silk Road — Silk Road allows users to buy and sell illegal goods for bitcoins and is making is money from the bitcoin black market. The site saw $22 million worth of transactions last year according to one study.