Jun 5, 2013

May - 29 2013 | By

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Remember, no there will NOT be a show on 6-12-13

 

Both Paul & Glenn were in the studio today.

Paul said texting (txt) comes in handy during emergencies (like the Oklahoma tornadoes) because a text message will be put in a queue and eventually sent. This is handy to know when you can't get thru on a voice line and all you want do, for instance, is acknowledge the receipt of message.

Paul briefly mentioned a type of FBI warrant called a "cell tower dump", which is the data going thru a particular cell tower or subservice that's fielding the phone calls of the suspect.
– With the warrant the FBI casts a wide net and receives data of all those that who used the particular tower, not just that of the suspect.
– It's not the phone number that's identified but the IMEI number, which is like the serial number of the phone itself.
– For more info, google the words: cell tower dump

Paul brought into the studio the webcam he's been playing with.
– Years ago, Paul was impressed with a 320 X 240 pixel camera and required proprietary software.
– Two or three years ago, webcams came out that didn't require a driver during installation: the interface would work by default with Windows XP service pack 3 and above, as well as the Mac computers.
– Glenn noted that hardware addons for the Mac used to be proprietary and fairly expensive. Things are much better now, the Mac can use a much greater variety of hardware.

Statistics tell a very specific kind of truth and can be made to tell a slanted version of the truth. Up until recently Apple has been the most valuable company (not the largest). So people ask, why does Apple have only 10% to 15% of the market?
– The PC market is divided among multiple manufactures.
– Most of the value of Apple is in things other than computers, like iPads & iPhones.

Paul talked about what "best" means when rating a product. He said it could vary from person to person. And there's a tendency to compare 'apples & oranges' like comparing an iPhone to an Android phone. "Best" often comes down to what a person likes.
– Companies look at the success of others and tweak their products to reflect what people want. So there tends to be a sort of convergence of products. This is perhaps what lead to the series of legal actions over patents between Samsung & Apple involving their mobile devices.
– Most recently, Samsung won a round against Apple denying them sale, in the USA, of iPhone models up to & including the iPhone 4 as well as some iPad models.
<Apples suit against Sumsung was mentioned on the 8-29-12 show. See those notes for a couple of articles>

Paul rhetorically asked, why lawsuits over models no longer made and he use an example from the past. Years ago there was an alternative to MSDOS called Digital Research DOS (DRDOS). After the company went under, there was a lawsuit to protect an asset that was believed to have been taken from it: drivespace, a compression program. The reason it mattered to a company that no longer makes the product is "protective damages". They claimed that one of the reasons they went out of business was due to unfair business practices.

There are companies <patent trolls> that collect patents & grievances "for those entities that are, essentially, no longer functional". For example, Rambus is a company whose sole purpose is to collect patents of technologies for memory. Rambus was once a memory technology but it lost ground to the emergence of DDR memory, so it went into the business of buying up memory patents & collecting royalties on them. Paul opined that holding a company to ransom <over a patent> is more detrimental to technological advance than lack of creativity.

Glenn asked a trivia question: what is Big Ben. But Paul jumped in too soon with the answer: it's the largest bell in St. Stephan's Tower of House of Parliament.

Glenn warned listeners that it's not ok to use any power cord that just happens to fit into their laptop computer.
– There are 3 variables to be aware of the input voltage, wattage and the plug. The plug may fit but the voltage & wattage could be wrong.
– The other thing that can vary is the polarity of the plug: either the center pin or the outer connector can be positive.
– Paul said that the industry seems to be converging on 19.2 volts as a standard.
– Too much voltage can fry your computer and too little can cause overheating and failure, according to Paul.
– And plugs that look the same can be subtly different. If the center pin is a little too fat, it can shove the center connector in the laptop into the machine resulting in a costly repair.

Paul had a audio trivia question. He played some bells chiming and asked which one is Big Ben: it was the one that sounded out the count of the hour.

Discussion turned to what is the best software for protecting your PC. Recommened in the past were AVG Free, Avast, Kaspersky, Mcafee (might have a free version), and Norton. Mcafee & Norton are "top heavy" <large in size and use a lot of the CPU's processing capacity>. But the others are catching up and are becoming cumbersome or just annoying. For example, AVG tries to get you to use the trial version, but they fail to tell you that you're committing to a 30 day trial. Of course, when the 30 days are up, they start bugging you to buy the yearly subscription.

Paul said AVG, if you let it, replaces your browsers search window (in the upper right of Firefox). AVG calls it "browser protection" but it allows them track your surfing habits. Most modern browsers (e.g. IE7 & higher, Firefox 21 & higher) have plenty of protection without it. Paul suggested that one stay away from the extra stuff that comes with anti-virus programs. Glenn noted that in AVG 2013 Free you can opt out of installing the extras but you must first check a box that says "allow me to customize". If you choose to install the extra 'protections', you may have great trouble getting rid of them.

Firefox has a feature called "search from address bar" that automatically initiates a search when you type something in the address bar that is not a URL (a web address). 3/4 of the money that comes to the Mozilla foundation (Firefox) comes from Google. If you let AVG install its own search bar, Firefox doesn't get credit for the search referral. To change things back, you have to go the somewhat hidden configuration screen, you can't get to the setting from the regular menus. To get more info, google the words: search from address bar default search engine. Look for the information that comes from support.mozilla.org. You can tell if it was AVG that initiated the search by looking at the search results screen, it will say AVG in the upper left.

Sharon called. She was concerned someone can turn on her webcam or mic and monitor her activity.
– It's theoretically possible.
– If it's an external camera or mic, unplug it.
– If the camera is built-in, like in a laptop, you can disable the drivers for the camera or just put some opaque tape over the lens.

Paul was having some trouble with dishwashers lately. It was only the third washer that was simple enough that he could fix it. It was electromechanical <gears, levers, solenoids> and didn't not use a microprocessor, unlike the first two. Ultimately, the admonition to manufacturers was "keep it simple".

Don called. He suggested Startpage, which acts as a proxy <a go-between>, for your search. It uses Google to do the search but it doesn't let Google know your IP address and keeps Google from being tracking you. Paul asked if Startpage itself tracks you and Don said they claim they don't keep logs of your access.

Don also mentioned Noscript for the Firefox browser.
– Paul said that in Firefox go to tools -> addons -> search for addons, then type in noscript. You'll be directed to the Noscript addon.
– Don said Noscript gives you fine-grain control over who can run Javascript on your machine, as well as other "possibly malicious" stuff, even Flash.
– When Paul did the search for Noscript he noticed a similar addon that he uses called Flashblock. Don said Noscript gives more control than Flashblock.

Paul said that there's "no need to add functionality to your browser now for a new law that was passed", which requires the consent of the user to be tracked. In Firefox go to tools -> options -> privacy and look for something like "tell sites I don't want to be tracked". Then it's up to the site to honor your request. Don likes Noscript better because it gives him more definitive control. He gets notification when a site wants to store a cookie or run Javascipt and he can make the decision at that moment.

Until recently, Paul was using the text (not graphical) web browser called Lynx, which was originally used on the Unix platform. It's been made to run on Windows. <The site where I got my copy is gone, try here or here> Using it will let you experience what the web was like 25 years ago. <For the adventuresome, an alternate way to experience Lynx (and other fine Unix programs) is to use a *free* Unix Shell account, like that at sdf.org or grex.org>

Paul was going to say more about his webcam but that will have to be for the next show on Jun 26.

Last updated 11:47 PM 6/8/2013