Show of 01-16-2016

Tech Talk

January 16, 2016

Email and Forum Questions
  • Email from Benoit in New Jersey: Dear Tech Talk. I would like to convert into Excel a table of data that was emailed to me in a PDF format. What are the best options? Thanks Doc! Benoit, a podcast listener from New Jersey.
  • Tech Talk Responds: If you don’t mind paying a few dollars, this is a great website: The good news is that you can convert your first two tables for free. If you don’t want to anything, here is another option.
    • Open the relevant PDF file and select and copy table
    • Copy this into Word and convert to a table. Now convert this into a table by highlighting it all and selecting Table > Convert > Text to Table. 
    • Paste this into Excel
    • Manipulating the Excel table
  • Email from Mary in Bethesda: Dear Dr. Shurtz, With all the debates in the news I got to wondering which candidate is most likely to be a proponent of IT innovation and IT improvements in government? Thanks, Mary, a Bethesda regular listener
  • Tech Talk Responds: Despite the unprecedented growth of the tech sector, none of the 2016 presidential candidates has really stood out when it comes to technology and entrepreneurship policy. This is unfortunate because
    • New firms are responsible for net new job growth in the United States.
    • Each new tech job is responsible for 4.3 local non-tech jobs.
    • High-tech startups, and their attendant job creation, exist all over the country.
  • What the key issues for the tech community? 
    • Labor. Either increase the flow the qualified candidates from other countries or jumpstart the STEM education in the US. This pits tech against unions. No candidate has shown a deep understanding of this problem.
    • Cybersecurity. Keep backdoors out of the encryption, a real privacy issue. Candidates have not been clear on this issue. They don’t seem to understand the unintended consequences.
    • Data Collection. Should the Patriot act be continued?  Cruz and Paul oppose this on the GOP side. Sanders opposes this on the Democratic side.
    • Net neutrality. Don’t let the net become Balkanized by commercial interests.
    • Online piracy. Don’t let government overreach impede innovation with the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).
  • Email from Jim in Michigan: Dear Tech Talk. I recently downloaded a game and the file has an ISO extension. Windows keeps saying that it doesn’t know how to open it. Someone told me that I need to burn it to a disc. How do I do that? Thanks. Jim in Michigan.
  • Tech Talk Responds: The ISO format is a popular way to distribute large packages of files that would normally appear on a CD or DVD. The name “ISO” is taken from the ISO 9660 file system used with CD-ROM media but the term ISO image can refer to any optical disc image, even a UDF image. ISO is the International Standards Organization.
  • ISO files are typically exact copies of the data that would otherwise be placed onto a CD or DVD. There’s no compression performed, so an ISO file that contains the contents of a 640-megabyte CD would itself be 640 megabytes in size.
  • ImgBurn is free software that handles all of the features you need to burn data, ISO, and even audio disks, easily and efficiently. Download ImgBurn and install it, but be certain to certain to click the right download link (there are some misleading ads). When installing, opt out of all other installations it tries to push. Do not accept Express Installation. 
    • Run ImgBurn. Click on Write image file to disc. 
    • Click on the Select File button. This opens a file selection dialog box. 
    • Insert a blank, writable disc and click the burn button.
  • Another good option is Active@ISO Burner by Soft Technologie. This program has received good reviews.
Profiles in IT: Ian Ashley Murdock
  • Ian Ashley Murdock was best known as founder of the Debian project, a Linux distribution, and Progeny Linux Systems, a commercial Linux company.
  • Ian Ashley Murdock was born April 28, 1973 in Konstanz, West Germany.
  • When he was nine, he played with his father’s Apple II+ work computer. He spent as much time on the computer at his dad’s lab at Purdue University. He would key in simple games into the computer using code included in computer magazines.
  • The lab assistant mentored him. He was soon writing games and other simple programs, first in Applesoft BASIC and, later, in 6502 assembly language. 
  • His childhood love of computers was reawakened by a mandatory computer programming course, at Purdue while he pursued his BS. He took COBOL. He used the school’s UNIX server from home my Intel 80286-based PC and a 2400-baud.
  • Linux had been created about a year and a half before by Linus Torvalds at Helsinki University. The lure of an UNIX like system running on a PC was a draw.
  • He founded Debian Project in 1993 while a student at Purdue. Debian was one of the first Linux distributions and also one of the most successful and influential open source projects ever launched. 
  • Debian pioneered a number of ideas commonplace today, including employing an open community that encouraged anyone to contribute. He outlined his ideas in the Debian Manifesto.
  • He named Debian after his then-girlfriend Debra Lynn, and himself (Deb and Ian).
  • They married in 1996 and then were divorced in 2008, but the Debian continued.
  • In 1996, he received a BS in Computer Science from Purdue University.
  • After graduation, he was cofounder and CTO of Progeny, a Linux distribution vendor that helped organizations build highly customized, for Linux-powered products. The company ceased operations in 2007, after surviving the dot-com crash.
  • In January 2006, Murdock was appointed Chief Technology Officer of the Free Standards Group and elected chair of the Linux Standard Base workgroup. 
  • He continued as CTO of the Linux Foundation when the group was formed from the merger of the Free Standards Group and Open Source Development Labs.
  • From March 2007 to February 2010, he was Vice President of Emerging Platforms at Sun, until the company merged with Oracle, when he resigned.
  • He lead Project Indiana, an effort designed to lower barriers to adoption of the Solaris operating system that led to the OpenSolaris distribution and then to Solaris 11.
  • In 2011, Murdock was hired a VP of Platform and Developer Community at Salesforce Marketing Cloud, based in Indianapolis. November 2015 he moved to Docker, Inc. Docker was an open source project built on virtualized Linux servers.
  • Murdock died on 28 December 2015 in San Francisco on an apparent suicide. The entire open source community mourned as his loss.?
Wikipedia Turns 15. 
  • Wikipedia celebrated it 15th birthday.
  • Wikipedia has become one of those Internet services that is so central to the online world that it’s hard to imagine what life would be like without it.
  • Wikipedia has announced the creation of a new $100 million fund that is designed to ensure its longevity. But money matters are only one of the issues Wikipedia confronts.
  • The bigger issues fall into a couple of broad categories: Namely, management and culture. Of course, those two things are often intertwined, so in a sense they are like two offshoots or symptoms of the same larger problem.
  • Wikimedia Foundation, the parent entity that manages Wikipedia has a lack of strong leadership. This threatens the organization’s ability to spend money wisely or come up with a coherent long-term vision.
  • Every so often, this kind of thing bursts out into the open, as it did recently with the dismissal of Dr. James Heilman, a community-nominated Wikimedia trustee. 
  • There has been widespread criticism of that decision, and of the choice of Arnnon Geshuri—a Tesla executive and former Google staffer—as a trustee. Executive director Lila Tretikov has also come under fire for her management style.
Internet Engineering Task Force is 30.
  • The Internet Engineering Task Forces was born 16 January 1986 was born at a meeting in San Diego with an attendance on just 21 people.
  • It was humble beginnings and the organization that is more responsible than any other 
  • You can still read the minutes [] of that first meeting. As engineers they were focused on protocol development, stabilization and network performance. 
  • And all those new protocols, standards, tables, gateways, addressing, authentication and load-sharing needs and requirements at some point found their way into and out of the IETF
  • Perhaps the purest distillation of that wildly non-traditional approach was captured in a famous phrase from one of its earliest participants, David Clark: “We reject kings, presidents and voting. We believe in rough consensus and running code.”
Bitcoin Developer Mike Hearn Declares the Digital Currency a Failure
  • Mike Hearn declares Bitcoin a failed experiment.
  • Hearn has been involved in the sphere of bitcoin for more than 5 years. He has developed the software now widely used by millions of users and hundreds of developers. 
  • He explains the failure of bitcoin: “It has failed because the community has failed.”
  • Worse still, the network is on the brink of technical collapse because the blocks are too small. Transaction times are too slow. 
  • When Satoshi left, he handed over the reins of the program we now call Bitcoin Core to Gavin Andresen, an early contributor. 
  • Gavin is a solid and experienced leader who can see the big picture. His reliable technical judgement is one of the reasons Hearn had the confidence to quit Google and work on Bitcoin full time.
  • However, Satoshi never actually asked Gavin if he wanted the job, and in fact he didn’t. So Gavin granted four other developers access to the code as well. These developers were chosen quickly. One of them, Gregory Maxwell, did not believe in Satoshi’s original vision. 
  • According to Hearn, the current situation in bitcoin industry looks as follows: “The block chain is full. An entirely artificial capacity cap of one megabyte per block, put in place as a temporary kludge a long time ago, has not been removed and as a result the network’s capacity is now almost completely exhausted.”
  • Gregory Maxwell does not want to increase the size of blocks. A fork in the Bitcoin was released in August 2015. It was called BitcoinXT. This fork increased the size of the block. Those who went with XT was banned from the original Bitcoin blog site and treated as traitors. The community was divided and Bitcoin is losing valuation.
Bitcoin’s Blockchain is the Technology of Choice
  • IBM, Intel, J.P. Morgan and several other big banks are among those making a big bet on blockchain, the distributed transaction processing engine behind cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. 
  • The companies have joined forces to create the Open Ledger Project with the Linux Foundation, with the goal of re-imagining supply chains, contracts and other ways information about ownership and value are exchanged in a digital economy.
  • IBM is contributing thousands of lines of existing code based on its research into the blockchain based on a years-long research effort. 
  • Digital Asset, a company that makes software for designing blockchains, is contributing the Hyperledger name to the project, which will be used for branding the effort, as well as code and developer resources.
  • The Open Ledger Project isn’t proposing another cryptocurrency, but rather wants to use blockchain technology to create tools to allow businesses to build a distributed ledger for anything they can dream up–from exchanging automotive titles in seconds to paying retail suppliers when a sale is made.
  • Because the ledger is both connected and distributed, it is easy to track changes to the database and difficult to forge entries or delete them. Honduras uses the technology to track land titles and musicians use using it to let fans pay them directly for songs.
  • Jerry Cuomo, an IBM Fellow working with the Open Ledger Project, says he wants to help create a distributed ledger to offer businesses privacy, confidentiality and accountability. 
  • One of the options the Open Ledger Project tech provides is a way to limit the community of users who have access to the ledger. A company that chooses to implement a version of an Open Ledger blockchain can elect to use rules that determine who can generate transactions and even authenticate them. In Bitcoin for example, anyone who can do the mining work required to generate a Bitcoin generates a transaction. There’s no possibility of a closed door.
  • But to make blockchain for business, this element of limiting participation was essential.