Show of 09-05-2015

Tech Talk

September 5, 2015

Email and Forum Questions
  • Email from Christie in Atlanta: Dear Doc and Jim. A friend of mine has a computer infected by ransomware. He can’t read his data. It has been encrypted and he has to pay to get to get it restored. How can I decrypt files encrypted by ransomware? Enjoy the podcast from Atlanta. Christie.
  • Tech Talk Responds: The news is not good. It’s nearly impossible to decrypt files encrypted by ransomware
  • This is a type of malware most often referred to as “ransomware“. Hackers encrypt your files and then hold them hostage for ransom. The technology they use is good. It’s called “public key encryption“, and it really is one of the cornerstones of internet security. A file encrypted using public key cryptography is essentially uncrackable, unless you have the matching private key. It’s essentially impossible to decrypt files encrypted by ransomware without their private key.
  • Prevention before the fact is the only guaranteed peace of mind.
    • Avoid malware, phishing schemes, and all the other ways that hackers get ransomware on to your machine.
    • Have appropriate security software installed, running, and up to date.
    • Back up regularly.
  • The most reliable solution to recovering files encrypted by ransomware is to restore them from a backup taken before the ransomware took hold. 
  • If you don’t have a complete image backup of your machine, but do have your data backed, recovery is possible. Take an image backup of the infected machine to preserve a copy of the machine in its current state, in case it becomes necessary and possible to recover something from it in the future. Wipe the hard drive and do a clean install and then restore your data.
  • Should you pay? If you do, there is no guarantee that they’ll follow through. Their criminals. If the data is valuable and you have no backup, you may have to.
  • Email from Ngoc in Ohio: Dear Tech Talk. I am thinking of changing jobs and wondered about using LinkedIn as a way to search for jobs and connect with potential employers. What is your experience at Stratford with LinkedIn? Is is worth it or will I just get inundated with lots of spam. Love the show her Ohio. Ngoc.
  • Tech Talk Responds: LinkedIn in an excellent idea. I would first make certain that you have a well written profile, one that highlights your skill set. You might upload some of the projects that you are able to share. I would then start connecting with people you know. I would join some of the groups in LinkedIn that relate to your field. You should ask the connections who know you well to write a recommendation for your profile. These recommendations carry a lot of weight because they are linked with the profile of the person who wrote them. This may take some time. Then  I would use the LinkedIn search tools to locate jobs. I may also look on the forums because jobs are frequently posted there. This is a great way to connect with a future employer. We recommend it to all of our students.
  • Email from June in Burke: Dear Tech Talk. I would like to play music from my MP3 file collection in the car. I have both a Bluetooth audio system so I can connect my phone, but I don’t have much memory left on my iPhone. I only have 16G. What would you suggest?
  • Tech Talk Responds: You can connect to your car audio system in two ways: Bluetooth and USB. I would copy all your MP3s to a thumb drive and plug that into the USB port of your car. You can then set you audio system to have a USB input and you are all set. I had a similar problem and I simply subscribed to Pandora so I stream all of my music to the car audio system using Bluetooth. I pay $7 per month to have ad free listening.
  • Email from Ian in Greenbelt: Dear Doc and Jim. I am having a problem with the photos on my iPhone. I am using iCloud on my laptop, my Apple TV, and my iPhone. All my cell phone pictures automatically sync with my other devices and they even show up on the screen saver on my Apple TV. I am having trouble deleting some of these pictures. How can delete picture easily and quickly. Love the show. Ian in Greenbelt
  • Tech Talk Responds: You can delete any photo on your iPhone by open the photo and deleting it. Then you must open the Photos app and open the Recently Deleted Album and delete from that folder to permanently delete it. We will take a while for these changes to propagate to all of your devices. If you want to delete from your Apple TV. Open the iCloud app and open the picture you want to delete. Hold the select button down until the Delete window comes up. Select delete. You can also log onto your iCloud account using a web browser and delete a photo, as well as, the recently deleted instance. If you want your iCloud account secure, I would enable two factor authentications. Too many people have had their accounts hacked.
  • Email from Betty in Oakton: Dear Doc and Jim. I switched from Microsoft Office to OpenOffice a few years ago. Apart from the cost, I was frustrated in getting macros to do what I wanted. When I found out about the LibreOffice development, I decided to ignore it. Now I am told that LibreOffice is better. I have invested a lot of time in becoming familiar with OpenOffice Basic. Should I switch to Libre or is it time to go back to Microsoft? I like Windows 10 and have a Windows phone. IWhat do you recommend? Love the show. Betty in Oakton
  • Tech Talk Responds: LibreOffice is a forked version of OpenOffice. The two suites are still very close, and LibreOffice includes OpenOffice Basic. However, I expect them to diverge, because Apache OpenOffice will not be able to keep up with the speed of LibreOffice’s development. 
  • OpenOffice was born when Sun Microsystems bought Star Office, and made it open source. Much of the programming was done by Sun staff, and open source contributors were obliged to give Sun rights to use their code in its commercial version of Star Office. Dissatisfaction with Sun eventually prompted most of the open-source developers – along with backers such as Novell, Red Hat, and Canonical – to defect, and they forked the code to create LibreOffice.
  • Sun Microsystems was taken over by Oracle. After LibreOffice came out, Oracle released one version of Oracle Open Office before dropping the project. It gave the code and trademarks to the Apache Software Foundation, under Apache’s liberal open source license.
  • Because of licensing differencs, LibreOffice can take code from Apache OpenOffice, but Apache OpenOffice can’t take code from LibreOffice.
  • Whether you should go back to Microsoft Office is another matter. It offers many advantages in being both more powerful and easier to use. It also has more applications (there are no open-source equivalents to OneNote and Outlook, for example), and is compatible with the vast majority of the world’s documents. But if you have found that OpenOffice meets your needs, these must not be very important to you.
Profiles in IT: Fujio Masuoka
  • Dr. Fujio Masuoka is known as the inventor of non-volatile flash memory.
  • Dr. Fujio Masuoka was born May 8, 1943 in Japan.
  • He received his doctorate from Tohoku University in 1971 and joined Toshiba.
  • Within four months invented a new type of non-volatile memory, called SAMOS, which used avalanche to charge the floating gate.
  • After five years at Toshiba, he invented another type and was moved to the semiconductor production division, where he developed a 1-megabit DRAM.
  • But he continued to think about non-volatile memory. Masuoka’s insight was that information needed to be stored in big batches rather than in single bits. 
  • Without permission, Masuoka began spending his nights and weekends working on this idea. 
  • By 1980 he had applied for the basic patents for NOR-type (not/or) flash memory.
  • He could not make until 1984, when his seniority allowed him to order runs at the factory.
  • In 1984, he presented his flash memory results at the annual International Electronics Developers Meeting in San Jose. Intel assigned 300 engineers full time to flash memory.
  • While Toshiba only assigned five engineers help him on a part-time basis.  Although Masuoka’s group was the first to sell flash memory, Intel completely dominated the market. 
  • Masuoka’s continued his day job improving DRAM with a team of 60 engineers.
  • While waiting to testify on a patent case with TI, he worked on a new type of flash memory. 
  • The idea was a NAND-type (not/and) flash memory that could be used to replace the hard drives of computers. It sacrifices speed for compactness and a low price. 
  • In 1987, again without permission, he was able to devote resources to the project to ensure that Toshiba gained an insurmountable lead in both patents and production technology.
  • His 4 megabit NAND-type flash memory was unveiled at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference in 1989.
  • For his work, Masuoka says, he was awarded a few hundred dollars from Toshiba.Shortly after the first of the new memories went on the market in 1990, Toshiba began pressuring him to move aside because he was not a team player.
  • In 1994, he became a professor at Tohoku University. He began working three-dimensional silicon-based semiconductors that will increase the capacity by a factor of ten.
  • Masuoka is applying in the U.S. for patents in his own name and seeking VC support.
  • In 2005, he became the CTO of Unisantis Electronics seeking to develop a three-dimensional transistor.
  • Masuoka received the 1997 IEEE Morris N. Liebmann Memorial Award of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers.
  • Toshiba announced in December that it was withdrawing from the DRAM business and devoting more resources to flash memory. 
  • With 189 patents to his name and 50 others pending, he says that his biggest invention has yet to be unveiled. 
Project Loon Update
  • Project Loon is getting ready to launch 1,000 balloons. 
  • Google’s chief goal for Loon remains to provide access to much more underserved areas of the world such as Africa, where only 10% of people have Internet access, and Brazil, where kids often climb high in trees with cell phones to get a better signal. 
  • Overall, most 4 billion people worldwide have no Internet access and most of them don’t even have the capability to get it because there’s absolutely no coverage.
  • Loon can help solve that problem because a balloon 60,000 up in the stratosphere can provide Internet coverage to 5,000 square kilometers, the size of Rhode Island, far more cost-effectively than cell towers on the ground.
  • The newest record was a balloon that lasted 187 days in the air, circumnavigating the globe nine times, passing over more than a dozen countries on four continents.
  • Google must build massive global infrastructure to track, redirect and eventually retrieve the floating hotspots. 
  • The payload has evolved into a modular aluminum rig wrapped in a metal-Mylar blanket that insulates it from temperature changes and high-intensity ultraviolet rays. 
  • It’s suspended below two solar panels that collect all the energy used to power its onboard systems. The entire payload below the balloon looks very much like a miniature satellite, but takes a fraction of the time and money to produce.
  • Loons only move up and down, surfing through different altitudes to find wind currents that will carry them where they want to go. Each Loon is actually two balloons, one inside the other. The outer balloon is filled with helium that lifts it to its float altitude, while the inner balloon takes on air to descend or vents it to rise, like a boat using water as ballast.
  • Last year, Project Loon switched its payloads from Wi-Fi to LTE — “floating cell towers in the sky,” This led to big improvements in speed and reliability. 
  • For connectivity the balloons link up with base stations and pass signal between themselves like relay runners exchanging a baton. 
  • The move to LTE has also given a big boost to the business model, because it’s now a turnkey solution for wireless network operators.
  • The technology is working. Google is getting close to the point where we can bring the Internet to people around the world.
  • Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry announced a partnership with Google to become the first country (25,332 sq mi to offer universal internet access via the high altitude balloons.
  • Deployment of the balloons is set to begin in mid-2015 with the launches expected to be completed by March, 2016.
Prank of the Week: Reprogramming Keyboard Shortcuts
  • A teenager added a keyboard shortcut to his parent’s iPhones.
  • He went to Setting/General/Keyboard/Shortcuts
  • He entered a shortcut for “no” calling it “Hell Yes”
  • He sent a group email to both parents asking them if he could have a party for his class at the house this weekend.
  • He mom answered quickly. With a text, Hell Yes.
  • Then she sent another text. This not what I meant, I said Hell Yes.
  • Then his father responded. I think your mother means Hell Yes.
  • Neither parent could figure out what happened. He reprogramed their keyboard shortcuts that night and still did not get the party.
Machine or Picasso? 
  • A new paper published in the journal Arxiv by researchers from the University of Tubingen in Germany entitled, A Neural Algorithm of Artistic Style, explained the technique.
  • The pictures it produces are inspired by Picasso or Van Gogh. 
  • The demo illuminates what could be possible by employing Deep Neural Network vision models — essentially a combination of object and face recognition.
  • No application has been released yet, but expect one soon.

Former Secret Service agent admits $820K Silk Road theft

  • A former Secret Service agent admitted Monday to stealing US$820,000 worth of bitcoins from Silk Road vendors during the investigation of the online contraband market.
  • Shaun W. Bridges, 32, of Laurel, Maryland, pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to money laundering and obstruction of justice. 
  • He is scheduled for sentencing on Dec. 7, according to prosecutors.
  • Bridges was one of two federal investigators charged with crimes committed during the probe of the Silk Road, which was shut down in October 2013.
  • The revelation of corrupt federal agents added a surprising twist to the Silk Road story and forms part of the basis for the appeal of Ross Ulbricht.
  • Ulbricht was sentenced to two concurrent life sentences and 40 years.
  • Bridges, a six-year special agent in the Baltimore Field Office, admitting using a Silk Road administrator account to move 20,000 bitcoins into his own account around January 2013.
  • The bitcoins later increased in value that year, and Bridges cashed out, moving $820,000 into his own personal investment accounts in the U.S., prosecutors alleged.
  • The other corrupt investigator, former DEA agent Carl Mark Force IV, pleaded guilty in July to money laundering, obstruction of justice and extortion under color of official right.
  • Force, 46, of Baltimore, allegedly froze an account of a Silk Road user and transferred the $297,000 into his own personal account. He could face up to 20 years in prison on each of the charges when he is sentenced on Oct. 19
Motorized Paper Airplanes
  • Tailor Toys PowerUp 3.0 is a smart-phone controlled propeller that attaches to a paper airplane. 
  • The drone retails for about $50, and can fly up to 180 feet in distance with a total unencumbered flight time of around 10 minutes.
  • Website:
  • Three models are available.
    • PowerUp 2.0 – Free Flight is $16.99
    • PowerUp 3.0 – SmartPhone is $49.99 (shown in picture)
    • PowerUp 3.0 – Dog Fight is $99.99 (includes two units)
  • PowerUp Boat Conversion Kit is $8.99
Drone at US Open Crashed, Owner Arrested
  • A teacher in New York has been arrested for flying and crashing a drone into empty seats during a tennis match at the US Open, police say.
  • Daniel Verley, 26, has been charged with reckless endangerment and operating a drone in a public park outside of a prescribed area.
  • The incident took place at the Louis Armstrong Stadium.
  • One of the players in action at the time, 26th-seed Flavia Pennetta, described hearing the drone fly by, not knowing what it was and fearing the worst. 
  • She said they were never told by the umpire or US Open officials that the object was a drone. The drone broke into pieces as it landed.
  • Ms Pennetta later went on to win against Romanian Monica Niculescu, 27, taking her into the third round of this year’s tournament.