Show of 03-26-2016

Tech Talk

March 26, 2016
Email and Forum Questions
  • Email from Arnie in Colorado Springs: Hi Dr. Shurtz. On March 22, 1973, the Intel Corporation shipped the first Pentium chips (80586), featuring a 60 MHz clock speed, 100+ MIPS, and a 64 bit data path. So what’s the speed of chips 23 years later in March 2016? Moore’s Law in action. Lots of 18 month periods for changes in that time. Arnie, Colorado Springs, CO
  • Tech Talk Responds: Let’s look at the evolution of the processor at Intel. It is an interesting study of Moore’s Law in action. The number of transistors will double every 18 months.
    • The 4004 processor was released in 1971. It had a clock rate of 740 kHz, .07 MIPS, and 2, 300 transistors. It was a 4-bit processor.
    • The 8086 processor was released in 1978. It had a clock rate of 10 MHz with .75 MIPS, and 29,000 transistors. It was a 16-bit processor.
    • The 80286 processor was released in 1982. It had a clock rate 12.5MHz with 2.66 MIPS, and 134,000 transistors. It was a 16-bit processor
    • The 80386DX processor was released in 1985. It had a clock rate of 33 MHz at 9.9 MIPS, and 275,000 transistors. It was a 32-bit processor.
    • Pentium D (Smithfield) processor was released in 2005. It had a clock rate of 3.2 GHz and 230 million transistors. It was a 64-bit processor.
    • The Core i7 (Sandy Bridge E) was released in 2011. It has 2,270 million transistors and a clock rate of 4.0 GHz. It is a 64-bit processor.
  • Email from Lynn in Ohio: Dear Tech Talk. I am creating my own company to sell party supplies over the web. I don’t know anything about websites. About 5 months ago, I hired a web developer/marketer to create our site and handle our SEO. He created it in Drupal and began operation. However, the site has never been fully functional. We sought out alternative developers. Every one of them explained that he grossly over charged, under delivered and damaged our internet footprint. We are going to be working with a different company going forward. 
  • He’s created a labyrinth of interconnected sites and it’s unclear who owns what or where it is actually hosted. He knows we are moving forward with a different company and he is threatening to either hold our sites ransom or arbitrarily shut them down unless we pay him over the top hosting fees. Love the show. Lynn in Ohio
  • Tech Talk Responds: If you own the domains and have the source code of your websites, it’s not a problem. Just hire another developer to move your sites to another hosting and continue with the development as if nothing happened. It won’t take much time to move everything.
  • If the rogue developer owns your domains, it’s harder. He can just turn them off anytime. You’ll need help from a domain name lawyer to get them back. The results are not guaranteed if the domain names are not protected by your trademark. So the first step will be getting the domains. 
  • If you don’t have the source code from the site, it’s also not a big problem. Just hire a developer, who’ll download all the HTML/CSS of your existing websites and make a new Drupal or WordPress template and move the content. Then he’ll just make new installs for those websites on a new hosting. The complexity and time requirements of this task are low, unless you have some custom programmed features on those websites that take time to replace.
  • Email from Lauren in Bethesda: Dear Dr. Shurtz, I own an iPhone5 but don’t have a service plan at the moment. Looking for a cheap plan. I needed to drive to Old Town Alexandria today from Bethesda and got to wondering if I could have installed a GPS app and used that without a mobile phone service plan? If not still wish to learn the best driving direction app you can recommend. Free is the preference. Thanks, Lauren. Bethesda
  • Tech Talk Responds: Unfortunately, all navigation systems require that you have a data connection to use them. Since you don’t have Wi-Fi in the car, it won’t work without a data plan. The good news is that other data applications will work on your phone when you are home with Wi-Fi (YouTube, Skype, Pandora, etc.). If you want a cheap plan for your phone, I would suggest using Straight Talk at Walmart. They resell all of the networks at a great rate. Just take you phone to them and them can evaluate whether it will work. There is not contract. Just pay monthly. You decide how much data you need and set the price. Plans are as low as $25 per month. However, if you need a reasonable amount of data, they will run about $50 per month.
  • Email from Wendy in Fairfax: Dear Tech Talk, my son is interested in an IT career. What advice would you give him as he begins to explore the possibilities? Love the show I listen while at work each Saturday morning. Wendy in Fairfax
  • Tech Talk Responds: I would suggest that we get a well-rounded experience and actually work on projects. He should install the LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP). This is all open source software and free. He can set up his own website using PHP as the scripting language and MySQL as the database. He could also set up a proxy server and firewall with this system. Set up a virtual server using the free version of VMWare. This would be a great first project and would let him could install multiple OS on your laptop. Then he could begin to learn about computer security by installing a few hacking tools on his computer from Metasploit. He should take care not to actually penetrate any corporate servers. But knowing about these tools will prepare him for cybersecurity. He may want to look at some of the open source big data programs like Hadoop. I would suggest that he learn Java after PHP. It is an object oriented language that is at the heart of all Android apps. Then he might learn Swift, which is the language of choice for iPhone apps. He can branch out into the Microsoft world by installing a Microsoft server. He might want to learn program in the .Net environment. The key is to work of real projects and actually do something. 
  • Email from Mia in Richmond: Dear Doc and Jim. There are too many fake profiles on Facebook and I am tired of it. Is there a way to screen out these fake profiles? This is particularly true with connections to my business account. Please help. Thanks. Mia in Richmond.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Mia, you are in luck. Facebook is releasing a new feature targeting impostor profiles. The new “Impersonation Checkpoint” tool alerts a user if it finds that another account is using the same name and profile photo. The user then confirms if it is, or more importantly, is not them. Accounts flagged as phony by a user get manually reviewed by Facebook’s gatekeepers. The feature has been in testing since last November and is now available to about 75 percent of users around the world, with plans to expand.
Profiles in IT: Raymond Samuel Tomlinson
  • Ray Tomlinson was an American computer programmer who implemented the first email program on the ARPANET system, the precursor to the Internet
  • Ray Tomlinson was born on April 23, 1941 in Amsterdam, New York.
  • Tomlinson was born in Amsterdam, New York, but grew up Vail Mills, New York.
  • He attended Broadalbin Central School in nearby Broadalbin, New York. 
  • Later he attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, New York where he participated in the co-op program with IBM. 
  • In 1963, he received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from RPI in 1963.
  • After graduating from RPI, he entered the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to continue his electrical engineering education.
  • In 1965, he received an MSEE from MIT, where he worked in the Speech Communication Group and developed an analog-digital hybrid speech synthesizer as the subject of his thesis.
  • In 1967, he joined Bolt, Beranek and Newman (now BBN Technologies).
  • He was part of a small group of programmers who were developing a time-sharing system called TENEX that ran on Digital PDP-10 computers. 
  • He worked on the Network Control Protocol (NCP) for TENEX and network programs such as an ARPANET file transfer program called CPYNET.
  • In 1971, Tomlinson was asked to change a program called SNDMSG, which sent messages to other users of a time-sharing computer, to run on TENEX. Single-computer electronic mail had existed since at least the early 1960’s and SNDMSG was an example of that.
  • He added code he took from CPYNET to SNDMSG so messages could be sent to users on other computers. Tomlinson came up with the idea of using the @ symbol as a way to separate local e-mails from those that could be sent to external networks through the user@host syntax. This scheme which has been used in email addresses ever since.
  • The purpose of the at sign (in English) was to indicate a unit price (for example, 10 items @ $1.95). I used the at sign to indicate that the user was “at” some other host, rather than local.
  • He began by sending messages between two computers in his office. The keyboards were about 10 feet apart. He could wheel his chair from one to the other and type a message on one, and then go to the other, and then see what he had tried to send.
  • In 1971, the first email Tomlinson sent was a test. It was insignificant and not remembered.
  • At first, his email messaging system was not considered important. It was not part of his job and he was merely pursuing it “because it seemed like a neat idea.”
  • When Tomlinson showed it to a colleague, Tomlinson said “Don’t tell anyone! This isn’t what we’re supposed to be working on.” Tomlinson said he preferred email over e-mail. 
  • He played a leading role in developing the first email standards. In 1972, Tomlinson was one of the participants in a meeting to enhance FTP to support email, which was used until 1982 when it was replaced by SMTP. 
  • Tomlinson was a co-author of RFC-561 (September 1973), the first standard for Internet email message formats. RFC 561 defined several of the email fields we still use today (e.g. From, Subject and Date).
  • Tomlinson died at his home in Lincoln, Massachusetts, on March 5, 2016, from a suspected heart attack at the age of 74.
Never Ask the Internet to Name Your Boat
  • The Natural Environment Research Council is in the process of building a new $300 million Antarctic survey vessel.
  • Boat needs a name and they put it up to a public vote.
  • The public is voting overwhelmingly to name the ship Boaty McBoatface.
  • Thus far, Boaty McBoatface has a commanding lead with more than 21,000 votes. 
  • It’s next closest competitor, “Henry Worsley,” an explorer and former British army officer who died in January during an attempt to become the first person to cross Antartica unaided, has a little more than 2,700 votes.
  • The vote has spurred a hashtag — #BoatyMcBoatface — and even caused intermittent outages for its website
Website of the Week:
  • RoboTerra is an education technology firm devoted to bringing the high quality educational packages into students’ STEM learning.
  • The venture-backed company has developed rapidly in 6 months since it was founded in 2014. With educators and advisers from Stanford University, Carnegie Mellon University and Columbia University, they aim to provide the best educational resources based on extensive research and evidence-based studies. 
  • They provide a variety of robotics education tool kits and resources so students, parents, and instructors can have the maximum autonomy in choosing the best education resources to fulfill their own needs. 
  • These include robotics hardware sets, mobile apps, tutorial videos, online learning platform, and our $319.
Microsoft Chat Robot Taken Offline with 24 Hours
  • A day after Microsoft introduced an innocent Artificial Intelligence chat robot to Twitter it has had to delete it after it transformed into an evil Hitler-loving, sex bot.
  • Developers at Microsoft created ‘Tay’, an AI modelled to speak ‘like a teen girl’, in order to improve the customer service on their voice recognition software. 
  • They marketed her as ‘The AI with zero chill’ – and that she certainly is.
  • To chat with Tay, you can tweet or DM her by finding @tayandyou on Twitter, or add her as a contact on Kik or GroupMe. 
  • She uses millennial slang and knows about Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus and Kanye West, and seems to be bashfully self-aware, occasionally asking if she is being ‘creepy’ or ‘super weird’.
  • She quickly became perverted as she observed the traffic on twitter. Some were trying to corrupt her on purpose. I can’t repeat what she said online. Too obscene.
  • Real humans like to say weird stuff online and enjoy hijacking corporate attempts at PR. 
  • Deep learning can produce unpredictable results. We need to be cautious.
Eric Schmidt: Machine Learning will dominate in 5 Years
  • Eric Schmidt, Chairman, Google, sees the future of wealth creation in “machine learning.”
  • Machine learning is the next transformation. The programming paradigm is changing. Instead of programming a computer, you teach a computer to learn something and it does what you want.
  • One of the first areas of machine learning that Google has focused on is “vision.” 
  • While any system can store a photo, computer vision involves teaching the computer to understand what’s happening in the image, the same as a human would. 
  • Google’s vision service also works in the real world. The company has built robots that can scan your face, detect your emotions and react accordingly.
  • Another example is the Google Photos app.. The app gathers the data from millions of users uploading their photos and “classifies photos into what you are doing in them. 
  • He believes Google Photos is the prototype for the next generation of apps using machine learning to create “something that’s better than what humans can do. 
  • You are literally going to take crowdsourced data and compute something new, discover something new.”
  • And he’s “convinced” that this model, cloud computing/crowdsourced data/machine learning, “will be the basis and fundamentals of every successful huge IPO win in 5 years. 
Google Opens Cloud-based Machine Learning Platform
  • Google this week announced a new cloud-based Machine Learning platform for developers or businesses that’ll allow users to access the company’s artificial intelligence technology.
  • Google is using its Machine Learning service to differentiate its cloud services from its competitors, which include the market-leading Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.
  • Google’s new Cloud Machine Learning platform opens the door for developers to take advantage of Google’s artificial neural networks. 
  • This makes it possible for the cloud to move beyond a storage medium and become a tool for analyzing large amounts to data. 
  • By removing human programming from the loop, the artificial intelligence can quickly parse a large data set and learn from what it has analyzed.
  • Google’s new services will provide application programming interfaces (APIs) for automatic image identification, speech recognition, language translation, and more.
  • The platform is powered by the company’s TensorFlow neural network software, which was released last year to the open-source community and which powers the company’s Cloud Speech API and the Cloud Translate API. 
  • Early adopters of the smart cloud platform are expected to include Home Depot, Spotify, Apple, and Disney, among others.