Show of 11-15-2014

Tech Talk

November 15, 2014

Email and Forum Questions
  • Email from Lynn in Ohio: Dear Tech Talk. What is bandwidth? I heard people saying that they need more bandwidth to download movies faster. What does bandwidth have to do with connection speed in megabits per second (Mps)? Love the show. Lynn in Ohio
  • Tech Talk Responds: In computer networking and computer science, bandwidth, network bandwidth, data bandwidth, or digital bandwidth is a measurement of bit-rate of available or consumed data communication resources expressed in bits per second or multiples of it (bit/s, kilobit/s, Megabit/s, Gigabit/s, etc.).
  • This is in contrast to the use of the term bandwidth in the field of signal processing. In textbooks on signal processing, wireless communications, modem data transmission, digital communications, electronics, etc., bandwidth is used to refer to analog signal bandwidth measured in hertz. 
  • The connection to the computing term is that, according to Hartley’s law, the digital data rate limit (or channel capacity) of a physical communication link is proportional to its bandwidth in hertz. The law that describes the capacity of a noisy channel is the Shannon-Harley law. Both are proportional to the bandwidth.
  • The analogy that I like use is the piano keyboard. The bandwidth of the keyboard is the difference in frequency between the lowest and highest keys. The musical information content (or channel capacity) increases as the number of keys is increased. A single note would produce a fairly boring symphony.
  • Email form Raymond in Florida: Dear Doc and Jim. I keep running into a situation where I see an email on my mobile phone, and then a little while later it’s gone. Yet when I get home, it’s there in my email program (Outlook). Having email disappear does me no good when I’m out and about. How do I get those emails to stay on my phone? Thanks. Raymond in Florida
  • Tech Talk Responds: This is actually a pretty common situation. For years, most desktop email programs were configured to download email from the email service to the computer on which they were running. What that really means is that the programs are configured to use the POP3 email fetching protocol. POP3, by default, moves the email from the email server to your PC. The result is that after the email is copied to your PC, it’s removed from the mail service’s server. Now the storage is cheap and Internet connectivity is nearly guaranteed, this method is not as popular.
  • Most email programs that run on mobile devices use a different protocol, called IMAP, to access email. IMAP differs in that instead of moving mail to the device you’re using, it simply makes a copy without removing anything from the server unless you tell it to. It synchronizes in such a way that when you delete on your device, it’s deleted on the server; when you read on your device, it’s marked as read on the server; when you move things around in folders on your device, things are moved around in folders on the server.
  • IMAP is perfect for today’s world where we can assume connectivity most of the time, and it’s not at all uncommon to want to access email from different devices and in different ways at different times.
  • POP3 and IMAP are in conflict. You have your desktop email program configured to download your email to your PC using POP3. Thus when it checks for email it moves that email to your PC, removing it from the mail server. You probably also have that desktop email program configured to automatically check for email every so often – perhaps 5 minutes, perhaps 30 or more, but the key is that you don’t have to be around. As long as the mail program is running, it happily downloads your email on a regular schedule.
  • The “picture of the mail server” seen by your mobile phone changes every time your desktop email program downloads email. Mail that arrived on the server since the last time it was checked is downloaded to your PC and removed from the server.
  • You solution is configure your desktop to leave copy of messages on the server after downloaded it. Simply go to the email account properties, click on the advanced tab, and check this box.
  • Email from Jessica in Ashburn: Dear Doc and Jim. I was recently in the hospital and the use of cell phones was discouraged. Is there any evidence that cell phones can cause problems? I see many people secretly using their cell phones, even staff and doctors. What are the facts? Love the show, Jessica in Ashburn
  • Tech Talk Responds: Many hospitals restrict cell phone use by patients and visitors because of the possibility that the cell phones could affect the functioning of medical equipment. How legit is this worry? It depends on who you ask, but science hasn’t exactly shown it to be a huge danger. Research published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings found that cell phones posed little danger to the functioning of hospital medical devices in a test—they only affected function in about 1.2% of cases and had no effect on half of the machines tested. So you can probably use your cell phone in your room (or the rest room) without worrying about short-circuiting a patient’s ventilator down the hall. 
  • In a survey in 2004, 64% of doctors confessed to leaving their phones switched on in high-risk areas, such as operating theatres or high dependency units. Many hospitals are now relaxing the rules when it comes to wards and corridors, but it’s taking some time. In the Canadian province of Quebec, the first hospital lifted restrictions in 2012. It is my understanding that Fairfax Hospital now allows cell phone usage in the room.
  • Current phones cause even less interference and modern medical equipment is better-shielded. However, most hospitals still restrict usage in critical or intensive card wards, stating that they could interfere with dialysis machines, defibrillators, ventilators and monitors.
  • Email from Alex in Reston: Dear Doc and Jim. I like to port files between home and work using my USB drive. My employer recently blocked all USB ports. This is really a problem for me. Why would they do this and what are my options? Enjoy the show every Saturday. Alex in Reston
  • Tech Talk Responds: USB are a popular attack vector for malware and spyware. Hence many firms are blocking access to these ports. There is a recently discovered security flaw in the USB firmware. 
  • Once reprogrammed, claim the researchers, there are a number of ways in which the once harmless USB drive can act maliciously:
    • A device can emulate a keyboard and issue commands on behalf of the logged-in user, for example to exfiltrate files or install malware. Such malware, in turn, can infect the controller chips of other USB devices connected to the computer.
    • The device can also spoof a network card and change the computer’s DNS setting to redirect traffic.
    • A modified thumb drive or external hard disk can – when it detects that the computer is starting up – boot a small virus, which infects the computer’s operating system prior to boot.
  • To prove the concept, security researchers Karsten Nohl and Jakob Lell have created some code that they have dubbed “BadUSB”, which they claim can turn a benign device “evil”.
  • BadUSB tricks the targeted computer into believing that it is not a USB flash drive, but a USB keyboard instead. When you plug in the USB stick, it rapidly sends a string of characters which look to the computer just as though they have been typed at the keyboard by the user.
  • And if those commands, say, opened a browser window which surfed to a webpage containing a zero-day exploit you might find that your computer has been badly compromised within a blink of the eye. Alternatively, the keyboard commands sent by the malicious firmware could attempt to execute dangerous code on the USB stick’s flash drive itself.
  • What makes BadUSB different is that they appear to have shown how the firmware of a regular USB stick can be subverted in this fashion, making a breach much less likely to be spotted.
  • The USB restriction is reasonable. You options for file sharing could involve the cloud. I like to Dropbox. I have synchronized by Dropbox account with my cell phone, my home computer, and my work computer. Whenever I want to transport a file, I simply move it to the shared Dropbox folder and it shows up on all devices. You could also use Google Drive, MS Sky Drive, or iCloud services. There are many options.
Profiles in IT: Jordan K. Hubbard
  • Jordan K. Hubbard the long-time open source developer and evangelist. He is co-founder of the FreeBSD project.
  • Jordan Hubbard was born on April 8 1963 in Honolulu, Hawaii.
  • Jordan Hubbard graduated from Drew College Preparatory in San Francisco in 1982.
  • During his time in high school, he was a self-employed programmer.
  • In 1982, he was hired by Pacific Software, programming computer memory.
  • In 1984, he toyed with college. That year, he was hired as Principal Programmer for UC Berkeley. However, he never graduated from college.
  • In 1988, he was hired as a Senior Engineer by Periphere Computer Systeme
  • In 1992, he was hired as a Principal Engineer by Lotus Development. He responsible for sustaining engineering on Lotus 1-2-3 and UNIX ports for Lotus Word and Notes.
  • The FreeBSD Project had its genesis in 1993, as an outgrowth of the Unofficial 386BSDPatchkit created by Jordan Hubbard, Nate Williams, and Rod Grimes.
  • 386BSD was Bill Jolitz’s operating system. It was a port of BSD Unix to a 386 machine and was the first open source operating system for a 386 machine.
  • Jordan contributed the initial FreeBSD Ports collection, package management system and sysinstall.
  • Bill Jolitz withdrew support because he could not delegate. The three continued the project under the name “FreeBSD” coined by David Greenman. 
  • FreeBSD was embraced and supported by Walnut Creek CDROM. The first CD-ROM distribution was FreeBSD 1.0, released in December of 1993.
  • It was based on the 4.3BSD-Lite (“Net/2”) tape from UC Berkeley, with many components also provided by 386BSD and the Free Software Foundation. 
  • In 1994, he was hired as CTO/VP Engineering by Walnut Creek CDROM.
  • When Walnut Creek merged with BSDi, he became VP Engineering.
  • He served as Co-Founder and lead of the FreeBSD Project from 1993 until 2002.
  • In July 2001 Hubbard joined Apple Computer in the role of manager of the BSD technology group. He led the development of many BSD and UNIX technologies at the core of Mac OS X and iOS. 
  • His primary areas of focus were on modernizing the UNIX platform, improving security, increasing performance and power efficiency.
  • On July 15, 2013, he became CTO of iXsystems, whose corporate ancestors were BSDi and Walnut Creek CD-ROM. Apple was quite an education, and now, he wants to bring the “Apple approach” back to the open source game.
  • The trick with Apple is that the software it builds is so polished. Its operating systems don’t feel like “tool kits.” Hubbard believes open source OS’s should feel the same. 
Subprime lenders can disable your Car
  • Car dealers and automotive lenders are targeting those with poor credit by installing GPS-based kill switches, or starter-interrupt devices, on the cars that they sell.
  • The New York Times recently reported that about 2 million cars are now outfitted with such kill switches in the U.S., which is about one-quarter of subprime car loans.
    • Some borrowers say their cars were disabled when they were only a few days behind on their payments, leaving them stranded in dangerous neighborhoods. 
    • Others said their cars were shut down while idling at stoplights. Some described how they could not take their children to school or to doctor’s appointments. 
    • One woman in Nevada said her car was shut down while she was driving on the freeway.
Office is now free on iPad.
  • Now that Microsoft has set the editing features of Office for iPad free, what happens to those who paid money prior in order to gain document editing capabilities? 
  • You can get at least a partial refund if you fit certain criteria, which is good news.
  • When Microsoft first launched Office for iPad back in March, users could only view documents; editing was only offered for those who bought an Office 365 subscription for as much as $70 a year. 
  • Microsoft made the Office app universal so that it works on both Apple iPads and iPhones. Plus, the requirement to be an Office 365 subscriber for editing purposes was dropped.
  • You won’t get a full refund, but the unused portion of your subscription will come back to your wallet if you meet the following requirements:
    • You purchased an Office 365 Home or Office 365 Personal subscription on or after March 27, 2014 (when Office for iPad was made available) and activated before November 6, 2014 (when these changes were announced).
    • You cancel your Office 365 subscription and request your pro-rated refund by January 31, 2015.
  • Microsoft is doing the right here, on two levels. First, by making edit features in Office for iOS free, the company stands a better chance of getting more people to download and use the app. 
Best Phishing scams have a 45-percent Success Rate
  • According to a new Google study, the most successful phishing websites will capture data from 45-percent of its visitors. The least successful scams only scored information from three percent of its visitors, but when crooks are sending out phishing emails by the millions, that still adds up. 
  • The study found that the majority of the hijackers operate out of China, the Ivory Coast, Malaysia, Nigeria and South Africa, and that they work fast with 20-percent of accounts were compromised within 30 minutes of having information phished.
  • Most hijacked accounts are used to continue the cycle: sending emails to account’s contacts asking for bank transfers (under false pretenses, of course) or simply distributing links that might capture yet more accounts. 
  • The best way to protect yourself, Google says on its blog, are the old ways: enable 2-step verification on your accounts when possible and “stay vigilant” — report messages asking for personal information to and never, ever reply to them. 
  • Never using a link in the email itself to go to a logon page. Never. Never. Never.
  • If you make such a mistake, immediately change your account password.
Free apps collect your personal data
  • We all love free apps. But free apps often have a privacy cost. When you install an app, you probably never read its terms and conditions. You merely click “Agree.” 
  • In the terms and conditions, the app developer typically reveals what data you are voluntarily handing over, such as your online activities, location, contact list, text messages and more.
  • Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University recently analyzed the Google Play store’s top 100 apps operations, terms and conditions. They found these 10 requested the most access to your smartphone or tablet’s hardware:
    • Backgrounds HD Wallpaper
    • Brightest Flashlight
    • Google Maps
    • Horoscope
    • Mouse Trap
    • Pandora
    • Shazam
  • It makes sense that Google Maps needs your location and song-identifying Shazam needs access to your microphone, but why does a virtual pet, dictionary or wallpaper app need anything like that? Both iOS and Android have built-in flashlights, so you don’t even need an app.
  • Unlike iOS, Android doesn’t have per-app permission controls. It was a hidden feature in Android 4.4.2, but Google removed it. No one knows when or if it will be back.
  • Before you install any Android app, check the app’s page in the Google Play store. Google requires that developers reveal permissions that the app requires. 
  • If you’re wondering about other apps, visit, where researchers from Carnegie Mellon examine what permissions an app should need and what it actually requires, and then they assign it a grade.
Why We Say “O’Clock”
  • The practice of saying “o’clock” is simply a remnant of simpler times when clocks weren’t very prevalent and people told time by a variety of means, depending on where they were and what references were available.
  • Generally, of course, the Sun was used as a reference point, with solar time being slightly different than clock time. Clocks divide the time evenly, whereas, by solar time, hour lengths vary somewhat based on a variety of factors, like what season it is.
  • Thus, to distinguish the fact that one was referencing a clock’s time, rather than something like a sundial, as early as the fourteenth century one would say something like, “It is six of the clock,” which later got slurred down to “six o’clock” sometime around the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries. In those centuries, it was also somewhat common to just drop the “o'” altogether and just say something like “six clock.”
  • Using the form of “o’clock” particularly increased in popularity around the eighteenth century when it became common to do a similar slurring in the names of many things such as “Will-o’-the wisp” from “Will of the wisp” (stemming from a legend of an evil blacksmith named Will Smith, with “wisp” meaning “torch”) and “Jack-o’-lantern” from “Jack of the lantern” (which originally just meant “man of the lantern” with “Jack,” at the time, being the generic “any man” name. 
  • While today with clocks being ubiquitous and few people, if anybody, telling direct time by the Sun, it isn’t necessary in most cases to specify we are referencing time from clocks, but the practice of saying “o’clock” has stuck around anyway.
Why The Time Is Always Set To 9:41 In Apple Ads 
  • There’s a reason for everything at Apple. And that even includes the time displayed on the devices in promotional materials.
  • It even extends to print ads and television commercials. That time used to be 9:42. You could see it across various commercials, print ads, and even on Apple’s website. 
  • The explanation was simple: That’s the time in the morning that Steve Jobs announced the very first iPhone in 2007. Around 42 minutes into his keynote address, he said, “Today Apple is going to reinvent the phone.” 
  • And a picture of the iPhone, displaying the time 9:42, popped up on the screen behind him.
  • But that all changed in 2010, when the very first iPad was released. When that was revealed, it displayed a different time: 9:41.
  • If you check Apple’s site right now, the time set on the devices is always 9:41. And not just on iPhones. Macs, too. Even the iPad in the iPad Air 2 ad that ran during the keynote last month displays 9:41 as the time. 
  • According to former iOS chief Scott Forstall, “We design the keynotes so that the big reveal of the product happens around 40 minutes into the presentation, When the big image of the product appears on screen, we want the time shown to be close to the actual time on the audience’s watches. But we know we won’t hit 40 minutes exactly.”
  • They made the iPhone time be 9:42 and were pretty accurate. Very accurate, in fact. Jobs announced the phone at exactly 9:42. 
  • So for the iPad they decided to go with 9:41, for no real reason at all….and that time has stuck in all he advertising.
You can now ‘deregister’ iMessage online
  • Apple quietly released a new tool which makes it easier for iPhone owners to deregister and turn off iMessage — something you might want to do if you ever switch to Android and still want to receive text messages.
  • Over the past year, Apple has found itself in hot water for a bug which prevents some former iPhone owners from receiving text messages sent by an Apple device to their new Android device. In fact, this matter was the subject of a class action lawsuit in May.
  • Apple’s tool should make it slightly easier for new Android (or even Windows Phone) device owners to make sure the switch goes as smoothly as possible — although it would’ve been nicer if Apple just automatically detected the switch. 
  • Previously, ex-iPhone users had to call Apple Care if they encountered any issues.
  • If you’ve encountered iMessage-related issues or plan on ditching your iPhone any time soon, you should probably bookmark this link.
  • Link: