Show of 06-21-2014

Tech Talk

June 21, 2013

Email and Forum Questions
  • Email from Arnie in Davidsonville: Hi Dr. Shurtz. More info for your listeners on Tech Talk. Don’t know how big your drone is, but do you do your WiFi searching with your drone now instead of driving around in your car. Pepper spray drones put on sale.  A South African company says it has received its first order for a drone that can fire pepper-spray bullets and features “blinding lasers”. Also did you know what on June 8, 1887 Herman Hollerith applied for US patent #395,791 for the ‘Art of Applying Statistics’ – his punched card calculator? Wow! 1887? Did you know what happened on June 16, 1911? IBM founded as the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company in Endicott, New York. Arnie Davidsonville, MD
  • Tech Talk Responds: Thanks for the drone update. My drone does not have any weapons…only a camera. No pepper spray or lasers. Thanks for Herman Hollerith suggestion. We will feature him today.
  • Email from Dick Conway in Annandale: Dear Dr. Shurtz, I’m sure you must have seen this– but this is a fascinating 12 minute video on QUADRICOPTERS on TED. Dick Conaway in Annandale
  • Tech Talk Responds: This was a great TED talk about the ability of drones to perform acrobatics indoors. They these drones use a secondary computer to calculate positions and control signals. The sophistication of the algorithms is amazing. He shows a drone that can balance a stick or carry a glass water without spilling. Thanks for reminding me.
  • Email from Feroze in Fredericksburg: Dear Doc and Jim. I recently got a laptop with Windows 8. I miss the classic start menu that I used in Windows. How can I get it back? Thanks, Feroze in Fredericksburg.
  • Tech Talk Responds:  Many have your same request. You can download and install Classic Shell.  Classic Shell provides a collection of features that were available in older versions of Windows but are removed newer versions. It has a classic start menu. You can download it from either or from CNET Downloads. CNET has given it a five star rating.
  • Email from Tung in Ohio: Dear Tech Talk.  How can I email to a cell phone? I frequently need to reach a co-worker, carrot top, who only reads text messages, but I don’t always have a cell phone with me. Is there a way to send an email and have it received as a text message? Thanks. Love the show. Tung in Ohio.
  • Tech Talk Responds: You can email him and have the emails show up as text messages. Send the email to the SMS gateway provided by his cell phone company. Here are three gateways. If you need another, just search for it SMS gateway.
  • T-Mobile:
  • Verizon Wireless:
  • AT&T:
  • Email from a Regular Saturday listener: Dear Doctor S, I work at a large agency. I sit in an open bullpen area elbow to elbow with others. The seating is just like being on an airplane. There is zero privacy, zero quiet and near zero productivity. The 24 year old who sits next to me is on her cellphone for 3 hours a day. The work I am expected to do takes concentration, deep thinking and analysis. Another guy who agrees with me 100% sent me this article. Regular Sat listener :  ) Tech Talk Responds: This is not normally a tech talk issue, but I do have a suggestion. You need to get noise cancellation headset. I have been using a Bose headset when I travel on long flights overseas. It really cancels out background noise. If I play music, I can’t hear anything else. I love my QuietComfort® 15 Acoustic Noise Cancelling® headphones. They retail for $299 and are not discounted. As far as the open office is concerned, this may be a generational issue. Most of the younger generation are glued to their earphones anyway.

Profiles in IT: Herman Hollerith
  • Herman Hollerith developed a mechanical tabulator based on punched cards. He is regarded as the father of modern machine data processing.
  • Herman Hollerith was born February 29, 1860 in Buffalo, New York.
  • Herman is said to have been a bright, but had an inability to learn spelling easily. He used to avoid school when his teacher showed renewed effort to improve his spelling.
  • Herman was eventually taken away from school and he was tutored privately at home by the family’s Lutheran minister.
  • He entered the City College of New York in 1875 and graduated from the Columbia University School of Mines with an “Engineer of Mines” degree in 1879, at age 19.
  • In 1882 Hollerith joined the MIT where he taught mechanical engineering and conducted his first experiments with punched cards.
  • In 1884, Hollerith begun working for the United States Census Bureau.
  • Hollerith determined that data punched in specified locations on a card, in the now-familiar rows and columns, could be counted or sorted mechanically.
  • He filed his first patent application. Titled “Art of Compiling Statistics”, on September 23, 1884. The patent was granted on January 8, 1889.
  • A description of this system was submitted by Hollerith to Columbia University as his doctoral thesis. He completed his Ph.D. in 1890 at Columbia University.
  • Hollerith built machines under contract for the Census Office, which used them to tabulate the 1890 census in only one year. The previous census had taken eight years.
  • To make his system work, he invented the first automatic card-feed mechanism and the first keypunch. He also invented a tabulator.
  • A plugboard control panel in his 1906 Type I Tabulator allowed it to do different jobs without being rebuilt (the first step towards programming).These inventions were among the foundations of the modern information processing industry and Hollerith’s punch cards (though later adapted to encode computer programs) continued in use for almost a century.
  • In 1896, Hollerith founded the Tabulating Machine Company. His machines were used again for the 1900 US census.
  • Hollerith’s machines were used for censuses in England, Italy, Germany, Russia, Austria, Canada, France, Norway, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Philippines.
  • He lived in Georgetown, with a home on 29th Street. His factory for manufacturing his tabulating machines was at 31st Street and the C&O Canal.
  • In 1911 four corporations, including Hollerith’s firm, merged to form the Computing Tabulating Recording Company (CTR). Under the presidency of Thomas J. Watson, it was renamed International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) in 1924.
  • Hollerith died of a heart attack in Washington DC on November 17, 1929
  • Hollerith is buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C.
HP Is Inventing a New Kind of Computer
  • At HP Labs calls it “the Machine.” It’s basically a brand-new type of computer architecture that HP’s engineers say will serve as a replacement for today’s designs, with a new operating system, a different type of memory, and superfast data transfer.
  • The company says it will bring the Machine to market within the next few years.
  • The Machine started to take shape two years ago, after Martin Fink was named director of HP Labs. Assessing the company’s projects, he says, made it clear that HP was developing the needed components to create a better computing system.
  • Fink and his colleagues decided to brief HP Chief Executive Officer Meg Whitman on the idea of assembling all this technology to form the Machine.
  • During a two-hour presentation held a year and a half ago, they laid out how the computer might work, its benefits, and the expectation that about 75 percent of HP Labs personnel would be dedicated to this one project. Whitman agreed.
  • Memory. Memory represents perhaps the biggest opportunity for change. DRAM and the Flash memory used in computers can’t keep pace. HP’s bet is the memristor, a nanoscale chip.  The memristor consists of a grid of wires with a stack of thin layers of materials such as tantalum oxide at each intersection. When a current is applied to the wires, the materials’ resistance is altered, and this state can hold after the current is removed. At that point, the device is essentially remembering 1s or 0s depending on which state it is in, multiplying its storage capacity. HP can build these chips with traditional semiconductor equipment with very high density. That would remove the need for a conventional slow disk/fast memory system.
  • Optical Links. HP’s proposed silicon photonics would also be a big deal. HP, Intel (INTC), and others have been struggling to shrink speedy fiber-optic equipment enough to replace cheap, proven copper wiring inside a computer. In theory, fiber could also replace Ethernet cables and link entire racks of servers together.
  • New Operating System. New memory and networking technology requires a new operating system. Most applications written in the past 50 years have been taught to wait for data, assuming that the memory systems feeding the main computers chips are slow. Fink has assigned one team to develop the open-source Machine OS, which will assume the availability of a high-speed, constant memory store.
  • It is great to see HP back. Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard would be proud.
FBI Using Face Recognition
  • The FBI has been building what it calls the “Next Generation Identification database,” primarily by gathering mug shots from local law enforcement agencies.
  • The software is being built by MorphoTrust, a company that helped the State Department create its own face recognition database.
  • At the moment the two can’t share data, but FBI Director James Comey wouldn’t rule out the possibility.
  • Electronic Frontier Foundation contends that many innocent people will be swept into the database, which is expected to reach 52 million images by next year.
  • The agency’s head said he wasn’t sure if the EFF’s claims were accurate, nor could he rule out that people’s drivers’ license photos might end up in the pool.
  • When asked specifically about license photos he said, “I think there is some circumstances in which when states send us records… pictures of people who are getting special driving licenses to transport children or explosive materials.”
  • Face recognition software is getting better and better. Wait until we have surveillance cameras everywhere. Big brother will be tracking.
Surprise David Burd Visit
  • Pilotless planes and driverless autos.
  • Drone stunts and regulations.
  • 3D Printers (plastic, metal).
How Steve Jobs Helped Create The WWW
  • In March, 1989, Tim Berners-Lee conceived the World Wide Web while working as a software engineer at CERN.
  • He was trying to solve a problem that many others had tried and failed to solve.
  • Scientists would come to the CERN research center from all over the world, bringing their own computers that used all sorts of operating systems and software. One scientist couldn’t find or access another’s research.
  • But then Berners-Lee noticed: All these systems looked different but in fact you’re reading stuff on a screen and sometimes clicking on bits. So you could imagine a thin layer which would map all these existing systems into one virtual system. Wouldn’t that be cool?
  • He sent the idea to his boss, Mike Sendall, and got Sendall’s now famous response: ‘Vague, but exciting.’  He agreed to let Berners-Lee work on it in his spare time. But he did let Berners-Lee buy a special computer for the project.
  • They bought the NeXT computer. NeXT was a machine made by Steve Jobs when he was kicked out of Apple. When you opened it, you got a pre-recorded message from Steve that said, ‘Welcome to the NeXT. This is not about personal computing. It’s about ‘inter-personal’ computing.’
  • That idea— “inter-personal computing”— and Job’s voice saying it, really stuck with Tim Berners-Lee.
  • The NeXT computer did not sell well. At one point Jobs gave up on it and focused NeXT on software. Apple bought NeXT in 1996, encouraged Jobs to come back as CEO, and the NeXT software lives on today as the Mac OS X operating system.
  • But in 1989, Steve Jobs sold one NeXT machine to one young computer programmer and that combination changed the world.
World Cup Goal-Line Technology
  • For the first time, the World Cup by introducing goal line detection technology.
  • The FIFA laws of the game state that a goal occurs “when the whole of the ball passes over the goal line, between the goalposts and under the crossbar.” This may sound simple enough, but it can sometimes be very hard to tell.
  • What’s tricky about these sorts of goals is timing and vantage point. The ball may only be in the goal for a fraction of a second and so it can be difficult for a human eye to tell what really happened. It is also plausible that what looks like a goal from the perspectives of the referee and linesman does not reflect the actual position of the ball.
  • FIFA accepted bids from four goal-line technology companies before awarding a probationary contract to German company GoalControl last year.
  • The GoalControl system—which costs around $250,000 to install per stadium—uses 14 high-speed cameras to track the ball’s position both on the field and in the air.
  • If the ball passes the goal line, a buzzing smartwatch alerts the referee within a single second.
  • The key to GoalControl is that it can discreetly offer goal confirmation without disrupting the flow of the game.
  • During Sunday’s game between Honduras and France, it took just one minute for the TV audience to see that it was in fact a goal.
eBay Valet iPhone App Released
  • eBay Valet, which promises to let eBay do the selling for you.
  • That is, it takes every step of the selling process — from determining an item’s value to listing it online to shipping it when sold – and handles it for you.
  • eBay Valet is designed to make online selling easier and more approachable, not only for first-time buyers, but for anyone who doesn’t have time to handle a listing for themselves.
  • The app was designed and developed by the IIC (Israel Innovation Center), a unit within the Innovation and New Ventures organization based in Tel-Aviv, which is chartered with rapid prototyping for eBay Inc.
  • eBay Valet is a “pilot” program, and it doesn’t have specific metrics in mind that it will have to hit to move forward.
  • For consumers, the process of using eBay Valet is easy. To get started, you just take a picture of the item in question, then enter (or speak) your item’s description. Within 30 minutes, your “valet” will respond with a valuation range, and you’ll be asked if you still want to sell it. If you have a box handy, eBay will send you a shipping label. If not, the company can send you a free, prepaid box instead.
  • You can then log into to watch the sale, which takes place under the valet’s account. After the item sells — typically via a seven-day listing — you keep 70 percent of the profits, which are deposited to your PayPal account.