Show of 12-20-2014

Tech Talk

December 20, 2014

Email and Forum Questions
  • Email from Margaret in Bethesda: Dear Dr Shurtz, Hope you can clear up some issues. Maybe some of these are related. I have set up 13 different email accounts w/ Apple Mail. Sometimes all of them are working fine. Then some of them simply go offline and I’ve never understood why. The apple support guy said that the apple mail client was not meant for having so many different accounts in it. Is this why accounts go offline. 
  • I have a cable connected from my Actiontec Verizon router to my iMAC because it is more secure than Wi-Fi.  I also have 1 apple TV in basement and two internet radios. On a recent Sat night, I saw that 13 Wi-Fi access points showed up on my iMac. Should I be turning off the WiFi on my iMAC since I do have it cabled. There is never a time when the iMAC is being used and the other devices (apple TV or squeezebox radios) are in use simultaneously. I have a FiOS plan which slows down at times because I don’t want to pay Verizon more.  I am waiting for GOOGLE to fiber in my area. Is that going to happen soon? Thanks, Margaret in Bethesda.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Thirteen accounts is a lot, particularly if your update frequency is high. It may be that some are not updating and that is why they look offline. You can force an update for all accounts or for just one account using the menu. That could be your problem. As for your Wi-Fi, simply hardwiring your computer to the router and not using Wi-Fi does not make you any more secure. Someone could still hack your Wi-Fi account. Once in your network, they could target your computer. This is true whether you are using Wi-Fi or not. Having many other Wi-Fi networks in your community is not a particular risk. If you don’t like to see them, you could turn off Wi-Fi on your computer, but you security would be not better. As for Google Fiber, the Washington DC area is not even listed as future site and they have listed around 9 future cities. It is going to a while.
  • Email from Arnie: Hi Dr. Shurtz, You mentioned on the Tech Talk that you would be going to Hanoi in February. If you haven’t read it to date, I recommend the following book for your trip across the pond — Technocreep, The Surrender of Privacy and the Capitalization of Intimacy by Thomas P. Keenan. Not new to you, but our privacy is pretty much history. 
  • A few Tech Talk programs ago, you discussed that Mozilla didn’t have a sandbox to provide security as well as Explorer, Google, et al. What do you think of Sandboxie? It generally gets good reviews. Some of these reviews say it is a simple program for novices and others say it is for more experienced computer types. Good idea? Too cumbersome? Is it okay for novices, or just experts? Comments? Suggestions you may have?
  • Thanks. Tech Talk is a great, informative and educational program. Really like Tech Talk, neat program that I listen to via iTunes now .I hope you don’t plan on retiring anytime soon. Best, Arnie, Crownsville, MD
  • Tech Talk Responds: Privacy is difficult to maintain. Data from multiple sources can be linked and correlated. It gives advertisers detailed knowledge of your preference and behavior. It you want to remain private, stay away from the Internet. 
  • Sandboxie is a good program. You can download it at I just use a browser with a Sandbox, but if you love FoxFire, it is a very good option. Lifehacker loves it and I respect their recommendations.
  • Email from Mary: Dear Dr. Shurtz, Issues have arisen when I went to get this new router to work. I plugged in the unit, waited for it to boot up. When the lights stopped blinking; the connection was a solid red. I tried to use my Ooma IP Phone and browse the Internet. Nothing worked. Ooma support said that my firewall was not properly configured. How can I do that? What is the problem?  I don’t know how best to proceed in getting this to work.  I’d be grateful for your thoughts please!  Thanks Much, Mary
  • Tech Talk Responds: I don’t think that the new router has been registered with your ISP. You might have to call and give them the physical address. They should have already registered it, but apparently not. If it auto-registered when you turned it on, you would not be able to go back to your old router, because it would have been auto de-registered. Call Verizon support to resolve this problem.
  • Email from Alice in Wonderland: Dear Dr. Shurtz, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you & Jim. Both of you make my Sat mornings educational and entertaining! I am reading requirement documents about a large quasi federal transportation organization and doc is talking about: channel agnostic Web Services. I’m not sure I understand fully what that means. Can you please explain? Generally, can you offer a good resource for understand the structure for what makes for a good Web Services application/system?  Thanks, Alice
  • Tech Talk Responds: Channel agnostic customer service has been pioneered by the retail market. What’s powerful to me about this term is that it really puts the customer first.  It says as a brand we don’t care which channel you gather your research in, which channel you buy from and which channel you return in, we’re there to make it happen for you.  If we are out of stock in our store, we will jump on our point of sale system, find it at another store (or on the web) and ship it your home if you like.  “Integration” is nice–as if we just want to prove to the customer that we actually talk to each other, but ultimately it’s passive.
  • If a company really embraced the notion of being “channel agnostic, it would affect advertising, marketing, social media, return policy, sales training for associates, and customer service center. The customer would get the same answer from anywhere. 
Profiles in IT: Randolph Frederick Pausch
  • Randy Pausch was creator of the Alice programming environment, professor at Carnegie Mellon University, who delivered his last lecture on Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams, after discovering he had terminal cancer at 47.
  • Randy Pausch was born October 23, 1960 in Baltimore, MD.
  • In 1979, Randy graduated from Oakland Mills High School in Columbia, MD
  • In 1983, he received BS in Computer Science from Brown University. 
  • In 1988, he received his PhD in computer science from Carnegie Mellon University.
  • While completing his doctoral studies, Pausch was briefly employed at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center and Adobe Systems.
  • Pausch was an assistant and associate professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Virginia from 1988 until 1997. 
  • While there, he completed sabbaticals at Walt Disney and Electronic Arts (EA). 
  • In 1997, Pausch became Associate Professor of Computer Science, Human-Computer Interaction, and Design at Carnegie Mellon University. 
  • In 1998, he was a co-founder of CMU’s Entertainment Technology Center (ETC).
  • He started the Building Virtual Worlds course at CMU, which he taught for 10 years. 
  • He consulted with Google on user interface design and also consulted with PARC, Imagineering, and Media Metrix.
  • Pausch is also the founder of the Alice software project. 
  • He received the National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator Award and was a Lilly Foundation Teaching Fellow.
  • Pausch was the author or co-author of five books and over 70 articles.
  • In 2006, Pausch was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. After all treatments had failed to halt the cancer, in 2007 he was given 3 to six months to live.
  • He soon moved his family to Chesapeake, VA, to be close to his wife’s family. 
  • Pausch died from pancreatic cancer in Chesapeake, VA on July 25, 2008.
  • He is survived by his wife, Jai, and their three children, Dylan, Logan, and Chloe.
  • Pausch delivered his “Last Lecture”, titled “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams”, at CMU on September 18, 2007. During the lecture Pausch offered inspirational life lessons, and did push-ups on stage. 
  • His “Last Lecture” video attracted wide attention from the international media.
  • His The Last Lecture book, co-authored by Pausch and Jeffrey Zaslow became a New York Times best-seller. 
  • Randy will be remembered as a computer science educator who really cared for his students and humanity. He was an exceptional educator.
  • In May 2008, Pausch was listed by Time as one of the World’s Top-100 Most Influential People.
  • Link to the Last Lecture:
Mindful Leadership the New Trend in Silicon Valley
  • Mindfulness is being present in the moment.
  • Mindfulness allows one to feel their emotions ebb and flow and to sense the emotions of others.
  • This leads to emotional intelligence, including humility and empathy.
  • These traits are prerequisites to Level 5 Leadership, a defined by Jim Collins in Good to Great.
  • This movement has been embraced by Google, Facebook, Zappos, LinkedIn, and many other high growth tech firms.
  • It is the subject of the annual Silicon Valley Wisdom 2.0 conference. It has become the new norm in the tech community because it works.
  • Stratford offers a Mindful Leadership course, based on Search Inside Yourself, a course and book by Chade Meng-Tan.
  • This course has had a dramatic impact of both student and staff, in both their personal and professional lives.
  • It represents a new direction for Stratford as we show students how to achieve happiness and contentment as they advance in their careers.
Man fined for Crashing Drone
  • A man in Melbourne, Australia has been fined AU$850 after crashing a recreational drone over a police operation and coming close to injuring one of the police officers on the ground.
  • During a nine-hour police siege in south-west Melbourne the man was flying a “recreational drone” above police before it crashed into power lines and fell to the ground, “narrowly” missing one of the police officers involved in the stand-off below, according to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.
  • The fine was issued by CASA which regulates the use of drones (referred to as Remotely Piloted Aircraft or RPAs by the authority). In this incident, the man was fined for bringing the RPA within 30 meters of people, a violation of regulations surrounding drone use.
  • According to CASA Director of Aviation Safety, Terry Farquharson, the rules are in place to prevent accidents and injuries when members of the public use drones. 
  • The drone crash follows a similar incident in April this year when a triathlete was injured during a race in Western Australia after a drone filming the event malfunctioned and crashed into her head. 
First Tool 3D Printed in Space
  • The 3D printer aboard the International Space Station has moved up from printing faceplates to printing up the first tool manufactured in orbit. 
  • Astronaut and ISS commander Barry Wilmore needed a socket wrench. 
  • Rather than wait for the next resupply mission, NASA simply emailed Wilmore the instructions, which were then fed into the ISS’ 3D printer, manufactured by Made in Space. 
  • Made in Space wrote up the instructions for the socket wrench after hearing that Wilmore requested one. Made in Space says this marks the end of the first set of 3D printing experiments on the ISS. Expect astronauts to ratchet up to more complex printing.
Put a Drone in Your Christmas Stocking
  • Hubsan X4 Quadcopter, $80
    • For beginners who don’t want to spend too much money. There’s even a basic camera on-board so you can record your flights, and show off your skills to family members whenever they make the mistake of asking about your drone. You’ll need a microSD card for this, which isn’t included, as you would expect. 
    • You should expect around 10 minutes of flying time. The X4 won’t hover on its own like the Parrot and DJI, so be prepared to work at keeping it in the air.
  • Parrot AR Drone 2.0, $500
    • The AR Drone is a bit less aimed at video – although it does have a camera – and a bit more aimed at fun. It’s a fast, maneuverable drone which is controlled through an Android phone or iPhone. There are two ways to fly the drone, you can either use on-screen controls, or rely on moving your phone around and using its gyroscope to control the drone. 
    • Video from the camera on-board is reasonable enough, it’s 720p and handy for showing what you can do, but it’s not really designed for serious recording. It’s also fixed, so you don’t really get a lot of control over what it points at, and the lack of stabilization can be a problem. 
  • DJI Phantom 2 Vision, $1125
    • The DJI Phantom is  a very sophisticated drone that is also very well designed from a safety perspective. It has GPS built-in, so it should be near impossible to lose the drone. When it detects that the controller signal is lost, it will automatically return to the launch location. It also monitors its own battery life, and will come home when it realizes power is getting low. 
    • The problem with the DJI is really just that controlling it involves a big remote control that needs two hands to operate. You also get a clip, into which you put your mobile phone. When you do this, you can see footage from the on-board camera while controlling the drone itself from the traditional controller. 
    • This model has a built-in 1080p video camera, and it has a built in microSD slot which it uses to record video and stills. Control of recording and the camera position is handled by the app, although the camera compensates for the motion of the drone moving forwards and backwards.
Robots for Christmas
  • iRobot Create 2 Programmable Robot. 
    • Based on the Roomba 600 Series vacuum cleaner, iRobot’s Create 2 is a DIY platform for young programmers. Create 2 doesn’t bust dust like a Roomba, but it does come with the same kind of sensors and behaviors. Users can program the Create 2 with new behaviors, sounds, and movements. Thanks to drill holes and mount brackets on the robot’s shell, they can even introduce new hardware. Want to create a camera bot? Use Raspberry Pi and a camera, and you’re ready to spy. Or add two speakers and a Bluetooth module to create a roving party machine. Price: $199.99
  • Parrot Minidrones Jumping Sumo
    • A Popular Mechanics Editors’ Choice Awards winner, the Jumping Sumo from Parrot Minidrones is a camera-equipped programmable two-wheeled toy roadster that zips along at 4.5 mph. As the name suggests, it can also jump—more than two-and-half feet, in fact. Turn the Jumping Sumo around and its powerful kicker can be used to clear small objects out of the way. 
    • Users can pilot Jumping Sumo from any smartphone or tablet. The FreeFlight 3 app allows for normal driving, throwing in predefined stunts, or building a road map with scheduled stunts and turns. The camera has a 640 x 480 resolution, and there’s a USB port, so you can record all your daredevil driving and then transfer the videos. Jumping Sumo lasts 20 minutes on a charge before it must be plugged in for an hour and a half.  Price: $159.99
  • WowWee MiP
    • MiP is an eight-inch-tall humanoid robot with LED eyes that balances Segway-like on two wheels and makes sounds that indicate whether it is “happy” or “sad.” MiP can be controlled by hand motions thanks to IR sensors in the bot, or by a mobile app, which allows for better control and additional capabilities. Besides its remote control feature, MiP has six programmed modes: Tricks, Roam, Track, Dance, Cage, and Stack. Roam, for example, allows the toy to navigate a room by itself and avoid detected obstacles. MiP is powered by four AAA batteries. Price: $99.99.
  • Modular Robotics Exofabulatronixx 5200
    • Exofabulatronixx 5200 as the -deluxe line that comes with 52 MOSS blocks with magnetic connection points and 140 carbon steel balls that act as connectors for joints and hinges. This is enough to create multiple robots in varying shapes and sizes. To give your creation life, there are assorted sensors and motors, a rechargeable LiPo battery, and a “Double Brain block,” which allows you to connect the robot to a mobile device via Bluetooth and access free apps for ever more robotic fun. Price: $479.95.
  • Orbotix Ollie
    • Ollie is a remote-controlled tube with removable rubber treads. Ollie can move up to 14 MPH. Ollie, which connects to a controller app via Bluetooth, has a 30 meter range and can run for one hour before it must be recharged with a USB. Ollie can spin, flip, and drive at night, lighting the way with its built in LEDs. Price: $99