Show of 06-18-2016

June 18, 2016

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Kirk in Fairfax: Shurtz, I’ve been listening either live or via podcast for nearly ten years and don’t recall whether you have profiled one of the original founders of Apple. Ronald Wayne was much older than Woz and Jobs and didn’t want to chance an uncertain future. So, after just a few weeks, he sold his 10% stake in Apple for only $800!  I believe he did some of the original paperwork for incorporation as well as the first Apple logo. Keep up the great work to keep us techies informed. Kirk Randall, Fairfax, VA
  • Tech Talk Responds: I have profiled him earlier. Ronald Gerald Wayne is a retired American electronics industry worker. He co-founded Apple Computer with Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, providing administrative oversight for the new venture. He soon, however, sold his share of the new company for $800 US dollars, and later accepted $1,500 to forfeit any claims against Apple. He was the only one of the three who had any assets and thought that if Apple went bankrupt, he would be the one who be sued. So he sold back his shared to Woz and Jobs. Wayne retired to a Pahrump, Nevada mobile home park, selling stamps and rare coins in Pahrump. Wayne never bought an Apple product. He claims that he does not regret his choice to sell.
  • Email from Arnie in Colorado Springs: Hi Dr. Shurtz. Have you ever heard of Is this for businesses & tech people, or for everyday people on the NET? How does one use this site? Great program/show. Arnie, Colorado Springs.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Exploit Database is an archive of exploits and vulnerable software that serves as a resource for penetration testers, vulnerability researchers, and security addicts alike. The aim of EDB is to collect exploits from submittals and mailing lists and concentrate them in one, easy-to-navigate database. It is one of three exploit and vulnerability databases used by professionals.
  • The other two are:
    • National Vulnerability Database, Version 2.2, is the U.S. government repository of standards-based vulnerability management data represented using the Security Content Automation Protocol (SCAP). These data enable automation of vulnerability management, security measurement, and compliance. Link:
    • Open Source Vulnerability Database is an independent and open source database created by and for the community—its goal is to provide accurate, detailed, current, and unbiased technical information. The database covers more than 66,700 vulnerabilities, spanning more than 27,730 products from more than 4,730 researchers, over 45 years. Link:
  • Email from Mike in Maryland: Hello “Classroom of the Airways”, Now that Mr. Big Voice is allowed to work from home, I also would like to work from home. I am over 50 years of age, and have plenty of life skills, but not much technical skills. Can you recommend some legitimate web sites or industries? Thanks for a great show. Mike from Maryland.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Mike, that is a great question. You want to check out the many freelancer websites. Many of them are devoted to coding and technical tasks, but more and more include many other kinds of tasks. Here are a few.
    • Freelancer — It is one of the biggest and the oldest player out there. After the launch in year 2003, it has now grown into world’s biggest outsourcing destination. If you are looking for a place to start, then Freelancer is the best place for you.
    • Upwork—oDesk and Elance, the world’s two biggest freelance websites merged to form in middle of 2015. Upwork provides very high quality service and the fees that they take for projects is small.
    • Fiverr – This is the world’s largest marketplace for small services. The most interesting part is you can create gigs for as low as $5. It can prove to be a money making system for you even if you don’t know the coding or design.
    • Guru — Since 2001, this platform enables freelancers to showcase their skills and services and to find appropriate jobs. Freelancers and employers both create their profiles on the site and enter into a job contract after reviewing each other’s professional reputation.
    • PeoplePerHour — This site brings together people who are either seeking or offering services relating to writing, web development, designing, social media, business development etc. You will find both online as well as on-site freelancing gigs. Jobs are either fixed price or hourly type.
    • com — If you offer services in accounting, administration, marketing, designing, programming, and writing or in any other related
    • SimplyHired — From personal care to high tech, from administrative to construction, this is the marketplace for online and offline freelance jobs. The site lists jobs from 24 different countries.
    • Craigslist — Craigslist is also a marketplace for freelancing gigs. Due to its location-specific listing feature, it is possible to find on-site freelancing jobs through Craigslist. A freelancer can use the site free of cost and browse jobs in nearby major cities.
  • Email from James Messick in North Carolina: Dear Dr. Shurtz. My girlfriend and I were playing around with emoticons on our phone when I realized that in some cases the emoticons I sent were very different from the ones which displayed in the text message she received. For example, I sent a pair of hands and she received a baby chick. In another case I sent a single emoticon that translated into three different emoticons when she received it! We both use Motorola G phones. Mine is a 3rd generation running Android 6.0 and hers is a second generation running Android 5.1. This really has us stumped! Can you help find a solution for this? Thanks, James Messick, Kernersville, NC
  • Tech Talk Responds: You have different emoticon sets installed on your phones. When you send an emoticon, the actual graphic is not sent. You send a text rendition of it. The receiving phone must render it based on the installed set of emoticons. It does the best it can. The different Android version probably have a different set of native emoticons. Go to Google play and each of you should download an emoticon app. You might use chompSMS. There are many other apps. Then you will match. BTW, on my iPhone, I simply enabled the emoji keyboard.
  • Email from Arnie in Colorado Springs: Hi Dr. Shurtz, As I mentioned to you in another email, I bought & installed “NetReset.” I suppose it recycles my modem and router as advertised although I haven’t been up a 0400 to check. Still, I’ve had to reset/reboot  my modem and router during the day several times. So the NetReset does not recycle when something makes the modem and router goes south during normal operation times. Maybe it’s Comcast/xfintiy in this area that’s fouled up. I like your new Tech Talk format, but for some reason I haven’t been able to get the June 4th and 11th programs. Wonder if it’s Comcast again. Also, how does one avoid “drive-by-downloads” from advertisers and browser searches? Seems this is another way the hackers are alive and well. Many thanks, Great program. Arnie, Colorado Springs, CO
  • Tech Talk Responds: NetReset automatically reboots your internet on a schedule, but does not detect when the Internet is down during the day. Unusual to have it go down so often each day. One reset a day normally works. As for drive by downloads, make certain to have you virus protection up-to-date. That will block malware. I also have installed an ad blocker on my browser. This protects against infected ad downloads. I have been travelling and just got back from India. All shows will be posted on Monday, including this one.


Profiles in IT: Thomas Preston-Werner

  • Thomas “Tom” Preston-Werner is a software developer, best known for his role in founding and leading GitHub, the Facebook for Programmers.
  • Preston-Werner was born October 28, 1979 in Dubuque, Iowa.
  • He graduated grade school at Dubuque Senior High School and attended Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California for 2 years before dropping out.
  • In 2004, Preston-Werner founded Gravatar, a service for providing globally unique avatars that follow users from site to site. The company grew to about 32,000 users in 2007, when Preston-Werner sold the company to Automattic.
  • In 2005 he moved to San Francisco to work at Powerset, a natural language search engine. Eventually Powerset was acquired by Microsoft, Preston-Werner declining a $300,000 bonus and stock options from Microsoft.
  • He was regular member of the San Francisco Ruby Meetups until the meetings became overwhelmed by venture capital investors searching for talent.
  • He then joined the smaller, more private group IcanhazRuby or ICHR
  • While with Powerset, Preston-Werner met Chris Wanstrath and PJ Hyett at a Ruby developer meet-up in San Francisco. In 2008, the three of them along with Scott Chacon founded web-based GitHub as a place to share and collaborate on code.
  • GitHub is a web-based Git repository hosting service. It offers the distributed revision control and source code management (SCM) functionality of Git.
  • Linus Torvalds, who created Linux, created the open-source Git to allow developers to submit code using a decentralized version-control system.
  • Unlike Git, which is strictly a command-line tool, GitHub provides a Web-based graphical interface and desktop as well as mobile integration.
  • It also provides access control and collaboration features such as bug tracking, feature requests, task management, and wikis for every project.
  • Github has been called the Facebook for nerds, Wikipedia for programmers, or Twitter for code, depending on whom you ask. It’s a combination of a social-networking platform for programmers and a wiki-like content platform that lets you edit files and track who makes certain changes.
  • Today, you can find projects on GitHub written in almost every programming language out there. There are also a handful of non-software items on the site, including books, that use GitHub to manage collaborative projects
  • As of April 2016, GitHub reports having more than 14 million users and more than 35 million repositories, making it the largest host of source code in the world.
  • On April 8, 2011 he started a conference called CodeConf through the influences of Github.
  • In March 2014, he resigned from GitHub amid accusations that he and wife were creating a hostile work environment at GitHub.

Memorial for Recovered Laptop

  • Laptop was lost on road and destroyed
  • Recovered when a Good Samaritan return its remains
  • Spirit will live on in the files recovered on Carbonite
  • Solid state hard drive will be transplanted to another laptop
  • Apparently the laptop was not reincarnated.
  • Remain will be sealed and buried, not cremated (due to EPA regulations)
  • Closure has finally be achieved
  • May the destroyed Sony Vaio laptop rest in peace

Amazon goes open source with Machine Learning

  • Amazon has made it machine learning engine open source to compete with Google.
  • Google’s TensorFlow, a machine learning engine, was open-sourced last year.
  • Amazon says DSSTNE (which stands for Deep Scalable Sparse Tensor Network Engine and is pronounced “Destiny”) excels in situations where there isn’t a lot of data to train the machine-learning system, whereas TensorFlow is geared for handling tons of data.
  • DSSTNE is also faster than TensorFlow, with Amazon claiming up to 2.1 times the speed in low-data situations.
  • The software comes from Amazon’s need to make recommendations in its retail platform, which required the company to develop neural network programs.
  • However, Amazon doesn’t always have a lot of data to work from when making those recommendations.
  • Amazon’s system can achieve those speeds in part due to multi-GPU capabilities. Unlike other open-source “deep learning” programs, DSSTNE can automatically distribute its workload across many GPUs without speed or accuracy tradeoffs that often come with training across multiple machines.
  • Amazon is releasing the software as an open-source project to help machine learning grow beyond speech and language recognition that many companies are focusing on, instead expanding into areas like search and recommendations.
  • DSSTNE is available now on GitHub under an Apache 2.0 open-source license.

A professor built an AI bot to make teaching easier.

  • Ashok Goel had run into a problem. As a computer science professor at Georgia Tech, he taught an online course on artificial intelligence, and its 300 students sent in thousands of questions via an online forum each semester. The sheer volume of messages overwhelmed Goel and his eight teaching assistants.
  • So he tried an experiment—quietly inserting some AI into the class itself.
  • This January, with the help of several graduate students and support from IBM’s Watson technology, Goel built an AI chatbot that could field basic questions and relieve some of the burden on the class’s human instructors.
  • Named Jill Watson, the virtual “teaching assistant” drew from previous forum data to help answer many routine, technical queries about the course, such as where people could find a certain video lesson or how they could organize meet-ups with one another.
  • The most astonishing part: Students had no idea Jill was an AI. Goel didn’t reveal that fact until the day after the class’s final exam.
  • The reaction was extremely positive. He got comments like ‘mind blown’ and ‘I want to nominate Jill for outstanding TA award.
  • There’s a lot of fretting in the world about whether robots will eventually take professors’ jobs. We’d do better to put aside those unfounded fears and ask, instead, how technology might make them much easier.
  • There are seven billion people on this earth and about half of them don’t have access to good education.
  • If we can take artificial intelligence and provide those people with minimal question-answering, who knows what a difference it could make in someone’s life?
  • Goel, who is now working to improve the chatbot and eventually launch it as a business product, says he’s been contacted by more than 50 professors around the world eager to infuse AI technology into their own courses, online or otherwise.

Scam of the Week: Two-Factor Authorization Text Message Scam

  • The most recent scam is designed to outwit two-factor authorization.
  • Two-factor authentication works by attaching a phone number to a person’s account. When they try to log-in, it will send a unique code to that phone number, and that has to be typed into the site.
  • It’s built to foil people who steal passwords and then use them to get into accounts, because it requires physical access to the phone; and that’s why people are now trying to get around it with scams.
  • One highlighted this weekend shows a message that claims to be from Google and tells people that their account may have been hacked.
  • If they want to have it shut down, it says, they need to reply to the message with the 6-digit verification code that they are about to receive.
  • It’s a sneaky way of getting people to put the authentication message that they have received from Google into a text message so that scammers can get around the security setup. But it’s a curiously convincing one.
  • The key is never to enter any important codes into a text message or any unverified sites. And sites such as Google and others that use two-factor authentication will only ever send you the messages if you ask for them; if you’re receiving them without asking, it probably means someone is trying to break into your account.



Google’s Computers are Creating Songs.

  • Google has launched a project to use artificial intelligence to create compelling art and music.
  • Google’s Project Magenta aims to push the state of the art in machine intelligence that’s used to generate music and art.
  • Google has already released a song demonstrating the technology. The song was created with a neural network — a computer system loosely modeled on the human brain — which was fed recordings of a lot of songs.
  • With exposure to many examples, the neural network soon begins to realize which note should come next in a sequence. Eventually the neural network learns enough to generate entire songs of its own.
  • The project has just begun so the only available tools now are for musicians with machine-learning expertise. Google hopes to produce — along with contributors from outside Google — more tools that will be useful to a broad group, including artists with minimal technical expertise.
  • David Cope, a retired professor at the University of California-Santa Cruz and pioneer in computer generated music, believes it’s inevitable that one day the best composers will use artificial intelligence to aid their work.
  • Amper Music is a new start-up that like Google is interested in harnessing the latest software to create music. Amper uses artificial intelligence to create original songs that match the emotions a video producer wants to convey in their work. Creating the music takes only seconds.

The NSA Wants To Spy On Thermostats, Refrigerators, and Pacemakers

  • The National Security Agency is researching ways to collect intelligence on the “Internet of Things,” up to and including biomedical devices like pacemakers.
  • Internet of Things refers to pretty much anything that is internet-connected but not a phone or computer: Thermostats, refrigerators, security cameras, devices like Amazon Echo, and more.
  • These may make your life easier (or sometimes harder), but they also open up additional avenues for hackers and agencies like the NSA to collect data.
  • Experts have raised concerns about the security vulnerabilities prevalent these devices before. Many have unencrypted signals, or broadcast their information over unsecured networks, meaning anyone can intercept that data without too much effort. The data gleaned can reveal a lot about you, your habits, your schedule, and who knows what else.
  • Smart cameras record your every move and upload that data to the cloud and anyone can intercept that footage on the way.
  • Microphones can record your conversations. A smart thermostat’s usage patterns can reveal when you’re going to be out of the house. Even something as simple as a smart egg tray can tell snoopers when you go grocery shopping.
  • And now, it looks like the NSA is planning to tap into all that to get information on potential terror threats.
  • In the future the agency may start bulk collection of data from IoT devices, much as they currently do for phone calls. It’s unclear what consequences this will have for security tomorrow, or years down the line.