Show of 06-28-2014

Tech Talk

June 28, 2014
Email and Forum Questions
  • Email from Bethesda Listener: Dear Doc Shurtz, Hope you can shed some insight on this please.  I was sent this by a colleague and can’t open it. My attachment has been replaced by this message: “Access to attachments has been blocked. Blocked attachments: BNS 144 Package Products on Sunday_ Same Day_ NSA Only.xml.” What do I need to read it/use it? Bethesda Listener and Fan!
  • Tech Talk Responds:
  • Email from John in Woodbridge: Dear Tech Talk, I have a database application that I share between multiple computers. We keep the database itself on a USB thumb drive and simply move that drive to the other computers as needed. The database is never copied off the thumbdrive, we just update it in place. Seems very simple. A friend of mine just told me that I was asking for trouble. He said something about thumbdrives “wearing out”, and that sooner or later, probably sooner, the data on my thumbdrive would become corrupt. Is that true? Do these USB drives actually wear out? Love the show. Thanks, John in Woodbridge
  • Tech Talk Responds: Backup the contents of that thumb drive immediately. It is called flash memory. Once the memory has been “flashed”, power can be completely removed, and the memory will retain whatever was written to it. The problem is that memory can be flashed in this manner only so many times. Manufacturers rate their drives at between 10,000 and 100,000 flashes.  When that limit is approached, some portion of the memory may not properly remember what was written to it, resulting in corruption.
  • Some flash memory chips, perhaps even most, now also include circuitry to avoid “bad bits”. Some have “wear leveling.” This spreads the use of flash memory across the entire device, even if you’re only writing to the same spot in the same file every single time.
  • You’re using USB thumbdrive in perhaps the worst possible way.  Database applications write to the disk frequently, as they update tables, fields, indexes. Never run disk-intensive applications directly against files stored on the thumb drive.
  • Knowing that inexpensive flash memory-based devices will wear out eventually, there’s one other thing you need to make sure to do, and that’s to back up. If you keep your only copy of important data on a flash drive you are asking for trouble.
  • By the way, Solid State Drives are indeed based on flash memory.  SSDs use a more expensive flash technology. The same problem applies: an SSD will wear out – it just takes a lot longer to do so.
  • Email from Kim in Florida: Dear Tech Talk. I have heard people talking about a mash up. What does that mean? Is it hard to make a mash up? Love the show, Kim in Florida
  • Tech Talk Responds: A mashup, in web development, is a web page, or web application, that uses content from more than one source to create a single new service displayed in a single graphical interface. For example, you could combine the addresses and photographs of your library branches with a Google map to create a map mashup. The term implies easy, fast integration, frequently using open application programming interfaces (open API) and data sources to produce enriched results that were not necessarily the original reason for producing the raw source data.
  • The term mashup originally comes from British – West Indies slang meaning to be intoxicated, or as a description for something or someone not functioning as intended.
  • It can refer to music, where people seamlessly combine audio from one song with the vocal track from another—thereby mashing them together to create something new.
  • The main characteristics of a mashup are combination, visualization, and aggregation.
  • In the past years, more and more Web applications have published APIs that enable software developers to easily integrate data and functions instead of building them by themselves.
  • Mashups can be considered to have an active role in the evolution of social software and Web 2.0.
  • In particular, you can access Google Maps API to display data. This API is free until you have more than 50,000 hits. Then you need a license for commercial use.
  • Google Maps Mashup Tutorials
Profiles in IT: Jen-Hsun Huang
  • Jen-Hsun Huang is a co-founder and CEO the graphics-processor company Nvidia.
  • Jen-Hsum Huang was born February 17, 1963 in Taipei, Taiwan.
  • His parents sent him to attend high school in the US and live with his aunt and uncle in order to escape the violence and civil unrest in Taiwan.
  • Huang’s aunt and uncle, recent immigrants to Tacoma, Washington, who spoke little English, unwittingly sent him to a reform school instead of a prep school.
  • He attended Oneida Baptist Institute, a reform school in Kentucky. He scrubbed all the toilets in his three-story dorm every day. At least he got three meal a day.
  • He shared a room with an illiterate 17-year-old covered in tattoos and knife scars and taught him how to read.
  • It was there that he learned to pursue his passion – taking up table tennis with the help of the guy who came to fill the vending machines, rising to the rank of master.
  • After the reform school mistake, he moved to Oregon and continued playing table tennis in Portland. At age 15, he placed third in junior doubles at the U.S. Open.
  • He graduated from Aloha High School, located in the western suburbs of Portland.
  • Huang received his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from Oregon State University in 1984, and his master’s degree in electrical engineering from Stanford University in 1992.
  • While at Oregon State, he met his future wife Lori, his engineering lab partner at the time. Huang has two children.
  • After college he was Director of Coreware at LSI Logic and a microprocessor designer at Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. (AMD).
  • In 1993, Huang co-founded Nvidia and is currently the CEO and President.
  • Nvidia manufactures graphics processing units (GPUs), as well as having a significant stake in manufacture of system-on-a-chip units (SOCs) for the mobile computing market.
  • Nvidia’s primary GPU product line labeled “GeForce” is in direct competition with AMD’s “Radeon” products.
  • Nvidia also joined the gaming industry with its handheld Nvidia Shield, as well as the tablet market with the Tegra Note 7.
  • He owns a portion of Nvidia’s stock worth about USD $512.4 million as of 2006.
  • He earned $24.6 million as CEO in 2007, ranking him as the 61st highest paid U.S. CEO by Forbes.
  • Huang gave his alma mater Stanford University US$30 million that built the “Jen-Hsun Huang School of Engineering Center.
  • In 1999, Jen-Hsun Huang was named Entrepreneur of the Year in High Technology by Ernst and Young LLP.   
Dropcam Sold to Nest for $555M
  • Dropcam is a five-year-old San Francisco company, founded by Greg Duffy and Amir Virani.
  • Dropcam is a simple internet camera that people can set up to watch their homes or places of business. Then they can pay for cloud storage for the videos if they want. The company says that 39% of its customers pay for its cloud.
  • But Dropcam started out as a side project to help Duffy’s dad, who was trying to find out which of the neighborhood dogs was leaving droppings in his yard.
  • Greg’s dad kept fiddling with webcams but couldn’t get them to work right and didn’t want to store the huge video files on his hard drive.
  • Duffy and his friend Virani thought they’d stumbled on the next big idea, a home surveillance camera that turned on when it detected motion and would store the videos in the cloud.
  • Mitch Kapor kicked in the seed money. Duffy and Virani, who wrote most of the original code themselves, created the product and Dropcam launched in 2009.
  • Kapor is known as the founder of Lotus Development, which made an early spreadsheet for the PC known as Lotus 1-2-3.
  • In the early days, Duffy and Virani packed and shipped every Dropcam sold themselves.
  • With Kapor on board, they raised nearly $48 million beyond the seed round.
  • Last week they sold the company to Google Nest for $555M.
  • Duffy’s dad caught the dog and, apparently, still has the video to prove it.
FAA says that drones are for hobbyist only
  • In a document released Monday seeking public opinion on its drone policy, the agency provided guidelines for what qualifies as hobby or recreation.
  • It pointed out that “delivering packages to people for a fee”–even as part of free shipping benefits, as with Amazon Prime–would be categorized as commercial use of an unmanned vehicle.
  • It also noted that taking real estate pictures to help the sales process would be a commercial use and not allowed.
  • Delivery beer to ice fisherman in Wisconsin would not be permitted either.All commercial applications require a license. To date, the FAA has only granted commercial licenses to oil companies operating drones to monitor conditions in the Arctic.
Obama gets first 3D-printed presidential portrait
  • Obama’s 3D-printed bust and mold of his face were on display June 18 at the first-ever White House Maker Faire, a celebration of students and entrepreneurs who are using technology to create new products and businesses.
  • A team of Smithsonian 3D digital-imaging specialists scanned the president earlier this year. They used the University of Southern California’s Light Stage face scanner to capture Obama’s face in high resolution, and handheld 3D scanners and SLR cameras to create a reconstruction of his bust.
  • Autodesk produced high-resolution models, which were printed using 3D Systems’ selective laser sintering printers.
  • The scans and printed models will become part of a collection at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, which showcases multiple images of each president.
  • The Smithsonian launched a 3D scanning and imaging program called Smithsonian X 3D in 2013, to make its museum collections and scientific specimens more widely available to researchers.
  • The Smithsonian X 3D collection includes models of the Wright Flyer, a canard biplane that was the first successful heavier-than-air powered aircraft built by the Wright brothers in 1903; the remnants of supernova Cassiopeia A; a whale fossil; and a sixth-century Buddha statue. These objects are available online and anyone with a 3D printer can print them on a 3D printer
Denial Of Service Attacks Getting Worse
  • In a Denial of Service (DoS) attack, hackers flood a Web site or application with pointless requests that clog or overwhelm network resources and potentially shut it down.
  • Most are distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS) and originate from multiple computers, making them harder to block.
  • DDoS spikes are getting higher, peaking with a 320 Gbps attack in February. A single DDoS surge of 100 gigabits per second is enough to disrupt most corporate networks. 300 gigs could flatten one.
  • Attacks larger than 20 gigabits per second rose eightfold in 2013 compared with 2012.
  • One attack in June 2014 brought down Facebook for nearly 30 minutes.
  • As of April 2014 the Neustar Security Operations Center had already dealt with more than twice as many 100-plus Gbps attacks compared to all of last year.
  • The average DDoS attack has gone up in size but is still in the range of 1 to 5 Gbps.
  • The sources and destinations of DDoS attacks vary as widely.
  • The U.S. and China are under the heaviest attack. They are also the source of most attacks.
Over 300,000 Servers Still Heartbleed Vulnerable
  • Two months ago, a major bug in SSL encryption, known as Heartbleed, that put over a million web servers at risk.
  • Since then most major services updated their SSL software and are secure.
  • However, Security researcher Robert David Graham has found that at least 309,197 servers are still vulnerable to the exploit.
  • Immediately after the announcement, Graham found some 600,000 servers were exposed by Heartbleed.
  • One month after the bug was announced, that number dropped down to 318,239.
  • In the past month, however, only 9,042 of those servers have been patched to block Heartbleed.
  • The danger is particularly real now since the exploit has been widely publicized. The bug, which affects the OpenSSL protocol used widely online, can cause some serious damage — it can be exploited to give hackers encryption keys, passwords, and other sensitive information.
Saudi Govt Targeting Dissidents with Malware
  • Human Rights Watch on Friday demanded a clarification from Saudi Arabia over allegations from security researchers that the kingdom is infecting and monitoring dissidents’ mobile phones with surveillance malware.
  • The New York-based rights watchdog said surveillance software allegedly made by Italian firm Hacking Team mostly targeted individuals in Qatif district in Eastern Province, which has been the site of sporadic Shiite-led protests since February 2011.
  • The spyware allows a government to see a phone’s call history, text messages, contacts and emails and files from social media.
  • The spyware also allows authorities to turn on a phone’s camera or microphone to take pictures or record conversations without the owner’s knowledge.
  • The spyware is embedded in a doctored version of an existing application.
Google Is Offering Free Coding Lessons To Women And Minorities
  • Google is offering vouchers to any women and minorities interested in learning how to code.
  • Google is paying for three free months for any women and minorities interested in tech to expand their skills.
  • The offer is part of Google’s $50 million “Made With Code” initiative.
  • Google says its available vouchers for women number in the “thousands.”
  • This new initiative comes just days after Google published a diversity report that revealed only 30% of its employees are women, while African Americans and Hispanics only comprised 1 and 2% of Google’s tech employees, respectively.
  • The Labor Department says only 20% of software developers in the U.S. are women, while only 12% of computer science degrees today go to women.
Memory Lane: My First Internet Experience
  • I used Internet in a Box to connect my Window machine to the Internet
  • Internet in a Box (IBox) was one of the first commercially available Internet connection software packages available for sale to the public.
  • Spry, Inc. produced the package, as well as starting up a commercial Internet service provider (ISP) called InterServ.
  • The IBox software included the Winsock and TCP/IP stack that were needed to connect a computer running Microsoft Windows to the Internet in 1994.
  • The IBox package also included a licensed copy of the NCSA Mosaic web browser called AIR Mosaic, AIR Mail (an email client), AIR News (an NNTP news client), AIR Telnet, AIR Gopher, and an FTP Network File Manager.
  • Combined with InterServ’s dial-up access, Internet in a Box provided a complete solution for members of the general public to access the Internet, a network previously available almost exclusively to government and collegiate users, or to the public only indirectly through e-mail gateways provided by hosted systems such as BBS and CompuServe.
  • The inclusion of a web browser further gave access to the World Wide Web.
  • Ed Krol’s ‘Whole Internet User’s Guide and Catalog’ was included in the kit.