Show of 12-21-2013

Tech Talk

December 21, 2013

Email and Forum Questions

·        Email from Lois in Kansas: Many computers are now built without DVD drives. This can cause big problems when you need to restore your computer. What can I do if my laptop will not boot from the DVD drive and I need to restore my machine? Love the show, Lois

·        Tech Talk Responds: This is gradually becoming more of an issue as optical drives are becoming optional on many smaller computers. There are a few solutions or approaches to think about taking.

·        First, if you have a CD or DVD drive and the system just doesn’t appear to even be trying to boot from it, you’ll need to look into changing your boot order. That’s a setting in your computer’s BIOS. The BIOS should let you change the order in which that check happens.

·        If there is a physical problem with your CD or DVD drive, then the thing to do is to get it fixed or replaced. On desktop machines, these drives really aren’t that hard to replace and they’re also pretty inexpensive. Another thing to keep in mind is that CD and DVD drives are great dust-catchers. If you haven’t used yours for awhile, try blowing it out with a little can of compressed air. That might actually help clear things up.

·        If you don’t have a CD or DVD drive, or it’s just not going to get fixed, then yous can use an external USB DVD drive. They are not expensive (less than $100). If your computer will allow you to boot from USB, then it’s very possible that your computer can boot from a CD or DVD inserted into an external DVD USB drive. Make certain to set your computer’s BIOS to look for USB drives first.

·        Booting from a USB RAM stick is certainly one option, but only if whatever it is you’retrying to use is actually provided on a USB RAM stick.

·        Email from Heather in Alexandria: Dear Tech Talk. How do I use my television screen with my laptop? I have a great flat screen and would love to use it share pictures with my family. Thanks, Heather.

·        Tech Talk Responds: It is common to use an external screen, or even a projector with a laptop. More than likely you can set up your TV using the same connectors.

·        Most modern flat screen TVs typically have two types of input: HDMI, which handles both video and sound, and DVI, which is video only. On some sets, you might find a VGA connector; an older analog type of input that is actually very much computer related. If your TV has none of these, then it’s simply unlikely that it could be used as a computer monitor at all.

·        In order for this to work, your laptop needs to have some kind of a video output. Older ones will have a VGA connector. More current ones will have either a DVI or an HDMI. If you have an HDMI port on your laptop, you will want to connect to the HDMI port on the TV. VGA and DVI connections don’t include audio. So if you use one of those, you’ll need an additional cable for sound.

·        Windows 7 and Windows 8 support the Windows + P key: hold down the Windows key and hit the letter “P”. That enters what’s called “Presentation mode”. This allows you to choose how multiple screens should be used. Older laptops and older versions of Windows will often use Function keys on the laptop keyboard to enable.

·        Email from John in Woodbridge: Dear Tech Talk.  I just updated my browser to Internet Explorer 11. Now when I log into my MS Web Portal for Outlook,  I can only access the text client and not the full HTML client. It is very frustrating. What can I do? Should I go back to the previous IE? Thank, John

·        Tech Talk Responds: John, the web portal is not fully compatible with IE 11, so it reverts to the text client. You can fix this by going to Tools in your browser on the top menu. Then select Compatibility View settings. Add the domain name for your email system. In my case, that would be Close your browser and open it again. You should be good to go.

·        Email from Fair and Good: Dr. Shurtz,  I am applying for jobs as a BUSINESS Analyst.Today I was asked, when I come to the F2F interview, can I bring my last 2 pay stubs. I’m over 55 and have never gotten that question. I have worked my entire life since age 16. What is that about anyway!?!? They already don’t trust me that I DID earn the last salary I said I did when they asked me what my last salary was and I told them?!?!  Is this an appropriate thing to be showing to a prospective employer?  The firm is owned and run by a couple from India— I don’t know if that is relevant. I am a regular MD listener.  Thanks! Fair and Good.

·        Tech Talk Responds: That is the new standard with the younger generation. Previously, we would give permission to validate the salary level through the last employer.This is just quicker. Don’t take it personally. It nothing to do with their ethnic origin. It is most probably related to their size. They don’t have an HRdepartment to check.

·        Email from Michael in Herndon: Dear Doc and Jim.What identifying signatures are given off by my laptop when I’m connected to a wireless network? Would I guess that a traffic sniffer would show the make and model of my computer? Or does it go deeper than that? Thank, Michael

·        Tech Talk Responds: Let’s start with a secure connection to a wireless hotspot that requires a WPA or WPA2 encryption key. Don’t use WEP if you can avoid it because it is easily hacked.

·        All of the data that gets transmitted between your laptop and the hotspot is encrypted, so sniffing, seeing, or understanding anything interesting in it is not visible.The MAC address is actually visible. That’s a hardware serial number that’s used by your wireless network card. It’s actually how the wireless access point says that “this packet” is destined for “that machine.” You might be able to determine the manufacturer and the model number of the wireless card from the MAC address.

·        Knowing that,someone sniffing can figure a few things out. They might realize that that card only works in these PCs, or that the wireless interface is actually in a mobile phone, or those kinds of things. Certainly nothing that is specific to your particular computer. That’s why a secure wireless connection is so important…because it’s secure.

·        What about that open WiFi hotspot where there is no WPA or WPA2 key? Any information that you cause to be transmitted over an open network can be seen. On an open WiFi connection, things like the machine name might be visible. If you have file sharing turned on in Windows, then the names of the shares that you make available could be visible. Again, if you don’t have the firewall turned on and no security on those shares, then it’s possible that the very contents of those shares could be visible.

·        That reminds of using a network once at a large hotel. All the laptops could be seen on the network. Some of them had file sharing turned on and I could actually access their hard drive (if I so chose). So be careful and always use a firewall and only share files with passwords enabled.

·        Email from Rich in Glen Allen: Dear Tech Talk. I have a Wowwee Rovio webcam robot. I just got a new 64-bit Windows 7 laptop. Now I cannot access my Rovio because the device driver will not install. What can I do? I love that robot. Thanks Rick in Glen Allen

·        Tech Talk Respond: The Wowwee Rovio device drivers only support 32-bit operating systems and they have note released a 64-bit version. You are going to have to install the Windows XP Mode, which is a 32-bit OS.

·        Windows XP Mode works in two ways—both as a virtual operating system and as a way to open programs within Windows 7. It runs in a separate window on the Windows 7 desktop, much like a program, except it’s a fully-functional, fully-licensed version of Windows XP. In Windows XP Mode, you can access your physical computer’s CD/DVD drive, install programs, save files, and perform other tasks as if you were using a computer running Windows XP.

·        Make sure you’rerunning Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise, or Ultimate. To find out which edition of Windows 7 you’re running, click the Start button Picture of the Start button, right-click Computer, and then click Properties.

·        To use Windows XP Mode, you need to download and install Windows XP Mode, and Windows Virtual PC, the program that runs virtual operating systems on your computer. When you install a program in Windows XP Mode, the program becomes available for use in both Windows XP Mode and Windows 7.

·        Go to the Windows XP Mode page in Download Center. Select a version of Windows XP Mode to install and click Install. Go to the Windows Virtual PC page in Download Center.Select a version of Windows Virtual PC to install and click Install.

·        The x64 version works with 64-bit versions of Windows 7. Click yes to install Update for Windows. After installation is complete, click Restart Now to restart your computer. To set up Windows XP Mode, click the Start button Picture of the Start button, click All Programs, click Windows Virtual PC, and then click Windows XP Mode. After setup is complete, Windows XP Mode opens in a separate window. Antivirus software isn’t included with Windows XP Mode. Even if your computer running Windows 7 already has antivirus software, you should also install antivirus software in Windows XP Mode to help defend your computer against viruses.

·        You now have a 32-bit OS for your Wowwee Rovio robot. Good luck.

Profiles in IT: RalphH. Baer

·        Ralph H. Baer is a video game pioneer, also known as "The Father of Video Games"

·        Ralph H. Baer was born on March 8, 1922 to Jewish parents in Pirmasens, Germany.

·        When Baer was eleven, he was expelled from school in Germany because of his Jewish ancestry and had to go to an all-Jewish school.

·        Two months before the Kristallnacht attacks on Jewish stores and homes, the Baer’s fled first to Holland and then to the US.

·        In 1940, he completed the National Radio Institute correspondence course.

·        For the next three years he ran a store in New York City servicing and repairing not just radios, but PA systems and early television sets as well. He earned $12/hour.

·        In 1943 he was drafted to fight in World War II, assigned to Military intelligence.

·        He was assigned to Eisenhower’s unit in London, writing training manuals and becoming an expert in German in weapons.

·        After the war, Baer graduated with a BS degree in Television Engineering from the American Television Institute of Technology in Chicago in 1949.

·        In 1949, Baer went to work for Wappler, Inc. where he designed and built surgical cutting machines, epilators, and low frequency pulse muscle-toning equipment.

·        In 1951, Baer went to work as a senior engineer for Loral Electronics in the Bronx, New York,where he designed power line carrier signaling equipment for IBM.

·        From 1952 to 1956, he worked at Transitron, Inc., in New York City as a chief engineer and later as vice president.

·        He joined Sanders Associates in 1956, where he stayed until retiring in 1987.

·        He then worked on alpha-numeric projection displays for the better part of the 1960s,and in 1966 came up with the original concept for playing games using a home TV.

·         Baer’s was the first patent application for video games in 1968, which led to the "Brown Box" console video game system licensed to Magnavox in 1972.

·        The"Brown Box" was known as the Magnavox Odyssey. Pong was a popular game.

·        Baer is also responsible for the first-person shooter video game to feature a light gun peripheral pointing device, used for the Odyssey’s Shooting Gallery series.

·         In the mid-’70s he started R.H. Baer Consultants.  He invented and developed single-chip, micro-processor-controlled handheld games for Marvin Glass &Associates.

·        In 1978, he and partner Howard J. Morrison created Simon, an electronic game based on memory skill, named after Simon Says.

·        Baer has 150 U.S. and foreign patents — a significant amount of them resulting in toys and games that eventually went into production.

·        In 2006, Baer donated all his hardware prototypes and documents to the Smithsonian.

·        Baer is a Life Senior Member of Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

·        On February 13, 2006, Baer was given a National Medal of Technology.

·        On April 1,2010, Baer was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Gift Guide to the Home of the Future

·        Quirky-GE Egg Minder: The Smart Egg Tray — This joint project between Quirky and GE is a 14-spot tray loaded with sensors and a AA-battery-powered Wi-Fi chip. This tells you which egg is oldest and how many eggs are left. The Egg Minder ($70) displays an egg-centric dashboard via the Wink app for iOS and Android.

·        Doorbot — This Wi-Fi enabled monitor/doorbell initiates a video call from your front door to your smartphone whenever somebody rings your buzzer. Actually, it’s more like half avideo call: You can see them, but they can’t see you. That makes it useful for talking to delivery men while you’re away, answering the doorbell from your couch, or even screening your visitors. Doorbot apps are available for Android and iOS.

·        Revolv Home Automation Hub — Revolv’s hub is a multi-protocol wireless receiver with a 65-foot range that also consolidates controls into a single streamlined app. It will let you make presets that adjust several of your devices at once; one tap will adjust your lights, speakers, and thermostat. It also uses your phone’s location services to automatically perform certain actions — turn the lights on, flip on the air conditioning, or open the garage door — when you’re approaching your home. Revolv supports several devices, including Sonos speakers, Nest devices, Philips Hue bulbs, and Belkin’s WeMo products. It only works with the iPhone and iPad right now, but an Android app is coming in early- to mid-2014 — as is compatibility with more devices. $299 on Amazon.

·        Kohler Moxie Shower head and Wireless Speaker — The Moxie ($200) is a full-service shower head with a detachable 1.5-Watt Bluetooth speaker right in the middle of its spray nozzles. You need to charge its internal battery back up periodically. Kohler rates its life at seven hours per charge. The speaker unit’s magnetic mount makes it easy to pop in and out.

·        Belkin WeMo Switch and Motion — These Belkin modules ($50 to $80)automate certain parts of your home and give you app controls for"dumb" devices. The WeMo Switch is a Wi-Fi-enabled module that plugs right into a wall outlet, allowing you to turn anything plugged into it on or off using an iOS or Android device. You pair it up with the WeMo Motion sensor to take the automation one step further, such as having the lights turn on when you enter a room.

·        Nest Protect and Nest Learning Thermostat — The Nest Learning Thermostat ($250), which uses its wireless connection and sensors to automatically adjust to your schedule, offer app-based controls and analytics, and help you save money on bills. The newer Protect smoke detector ($130) replaces an ear-splitting alarm with spoken-word warnings, pings you when there’s trouble, and doubles as a motion-sensing nightlight. When used in tandem, the smoke detector augments the thermostat. If the Protect detects an increase in carbon-monoxide levels, it’ll tell the thermostat to shut off your gas heater. The Protect’s motion sensors also work together with those of the thermostat, helping it figure out an optimal heating routine.

·        iRobot Looj330 — TheLooj ($300) is a little gutter-cleaning robot. All you have to do it put it in the gutter and remote-control it from there. Weighing less than 3 pounds, the Looj runs on a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that powers its spinning polypropylene blades, bristles, and tank treads. The blades are strong enough to kick wet leaves and gutter detritus to the ground.

·        Philips Hue–You can use Philips’ Hue system ($200 for a three-bulb starter pack) as"normal" light bulbs, but you’d be missing the point. These customizable, app-controlled LED lights screw in just like a normal bulb, but plug the included wireless bridge into your router. By connecting to the bridge via a mobile app, you can dial in color schemes for each bulb, create lighting schedules, turn bulbs on or dim them from your phone, and select mood-lighting presets to help you work or relax. The Hue mobile app is available for both iOS and Android, and add-on bulbs cost $60 apiece. The bridge can support up to 50 light bulbs.

·        Dropcam Pro — The Dropcam Pro ($200) is an easy-to-install, Wi-Fi-connected, home-monitoring system. It is  a live-streaming Webcam. A built-in mic and speaker lets you talk to the people in front of the camera.The newest Dropcam shoots 1080p video at 30fps and has an ultra-wide-angle 130-degree field of view, while its night-vision mode and decent 8X digital zoom are handy for security purposes. Depending on the service plan you buy,you can save a week or a month’s worth of footage on Dropcam’s servers to review later. Without the cloud-storage plan, you can only watch a real-time stream on your mobile device.

·        Sonos Play:1and Free Bridge — Sonos’ newest, smallest, and most-affordable speaker is a great way to get acquainted with the company’s offerings. The Play:1 Wi-Fi speaker($200) sounds great, and Sonos is bundling it with with a free wireless bridge.The bridge is a $50 piece of hardware that’s the centerpiece of the whole Sonos wireless experience, and it’s especially important if you want to buy additional speakers and a subwoofer, or create a multi-room system. Setup for the Play:1 is simple, and Sonos’ mesh-network approach gives you greater range than other wireless audio setups.

Target data stolen in hack showing up on black market

·        Data from Target’s massive security breach stolen between November 27 and December 15 is showing up in huge quantities on the black market.

·        After Target conceded Thursday that its in-store point-of-sale systems were indeed hacked,compromising as many as 40 million debit and credit card accounts, fraud industry experts are seeing the information flood online card-selling markets.

·        The hack,which affected only shoppers who made purchases physically at Target stores and not online customers, was a sophisticated operation.

·        It allowed the hackers to glean customer names, credit and debit card numbers, expiration dates, and three-digit security codes from customers, data that can then be burned onto counterfeit cards and sold on the black market for $20 to $45 apiece.

·        Batches of up to 1 million cards were selling for anywhere from $20 to as high as $100 per card.