techtiptom

Tech Tip Tom, formerly of WIBC 93.1FM and wibc.com

Month: October, 2012

My new favorite quote:

“I hate this machine I wish I could sell it
It won’t do what I want it to, only what I tell it!”

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Broadcast delay

I was recently asked to explain what Broadcast Delay is, and how it is used… Well, the definition in Wikipedia is a good start: “In radio and television, broadcast delay refers to the practice of intentionally delaying
broadcast of live material. A short delay is often used to prevent profanity, bloopers, violence, or other undesirable material from making it to air, including more mundane problems such as technical malfunctions or coughing. In this instance, it is often referred to as a seven-second delay or profanity delay.”.

Broadcasters (radio and television) have always had a sneeze or cough button that they could press to temporarily mute the microphone. But the introduction of a time delay for other reasons was back in 1952, in Allentown, Pennsylvania. At that time, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had a rules that prohibited broadcasting live telephone conversations. Broadcasters could playback a taped phone call, as long as the caller heard a beep every 15 seconds; so he or she would know they were being taped. So Frank Cordaro of WKAP in Allentown developed a tape delay system where the playback head was spaced far enough away from the record head to create a five second delay. The five seconds made it a recording that could be aired, complying with FCC rules…

Since that time, with improvements in broadcasting and computers; broadcast technicians can delay transmission of sound and video at various lengths. This allows either covering undesirable sounds and words with beeps; or jumping past the undesired moment..


Please send your ideas for future blog subjects and possible on-air shows to tech_tip_tom@comcast.net

Motorola Droid RAZR M review

I was recently asked to review the new Motorola Droid M… Probably one of the best Droids I have had the opportunity to check out!  Easy to hold and operate, the M is a solid handset.

Thin! 8.3 mm, just a tiny bit thicker than an iPhone 5 (7.6mm)…  And I really like the Kevlar design (wish my iPhone had that!)…  It just feels good in your hand…  The operating system, Android 4.1, is smooth and easy to maneuver… I was up on my WiFi in no time; and checking out the GPS…

Battery life is decent as well. I got 21 hours before needing to recharge..  The speed of the processor is comparable to my Galaxy tablet…

Calls, texts (both standard and multimedia) were fast on Verizon’s LTE network…  But I have to say that the camera quality was not even close to my iPhone or iPad…

My final thought:  If you are looking for a decent smart phone that won’t break the bank, the Droid M is for you…

 

Windows Quick Tip

Originally posted on WIBC.com on 02/16/2009:

When you copy files to a folder, you may get a confirmation dialog asking you
whether you wish to replace existing files.

You have the option to say Yes, Yes to All and No.

How about ‘No to All‘? It’s missing, right?

You can get the No to all function by a simple trick:

Hold Shift and press No. This action is equal to “No to All”. Enjoy!

Useful Windows XP Shortcuts

Originally posted on WIBC.com on 02/18/2009:

Useful Windows XP Shortcuts

START Menu
+ SYSTEM PROPERTIES
+ RUN Window
+ Locks Computer
+ + SEARCH FOR COMPUTERS
+ SEARCH
+ Minimize or Restore All Windows
+ + Undo Minimize All Windows
+ Utility Manager
+ Help & Support
+ Windows Explorer
+ Copy Highlighted Text
+ Cut Highlighted Text
+ Paste
+ Select All
+ Undo
 + Permanently Delete*warning- this bypasses Recycle Bin*
Display Shortcut Menu For Selected Item
+ + Task Manager
+ Displays Properties Of Selected Object

What is a Thumb Drive?

Originally posted on WIBC.com on 02/20/2009:

Computer users have long complained that 3-inch floppy disks are too unstable, the ZIP drive not practical and CD-Rs not portable enough for data storage. The technology geeks solved this problem in ingenious fashion: the thumb drive. IBM came out with thumb drives in 1998, as a solution for replacing the less stable floppy disks. Their use caught on quickly, and as portable data storage has become more of an issue, thumb drives or flash drives skyrocketed in popularity. They can now be seen hanging on lanyards around the necks of computer users everywhere.

A thumb drive is portable memory storage. It is re-writeable and holds its memory without a power supply, unlike RAM. Thumb drives will fit into any USB port on a computer. They will also “hot swap,” which means a user can plug the drive into a computer and will not have to restart it to access the thumb drive. The drives are small, about the size of a human thumb – hence, their name – and are very stable memory storage devices.

Now Thumb drives also pose security threats, since they are easily concealed. Users could copy proprietary information to them, or upload hacking software from them, all undetected by the system administrator.

However, system administrators can also upload anti-virus software to an infected computer from a thumb drive, for instance, without risking the system servers. Their write speeds and read speeds only really come into play when users are running large applications from them. When the user is saving text documents or photos, for instance, these speeds are not nearly as important. Most thumb drives also have millions of re-write cycles and will store data for ten years before they need replacing.

The thumb drive is available in storage sizes of up to 32 gigabytes. Most people, however, will find that sizes of 1 to 2 gigabytes will do nicely. If the person is storing mostly text, with few images, then an even smaller thumb drive may meet the need.

With a new memory called programmable metallization cell (PMC), one terabyte (1TB) USB thumbdrives are said to be available soon. The largest commercially available flash drives today are only 32GB in size – 30 times smaller and very pricey.

A thumb drive is available anywhere computer supplies are sold. They range in price from about US$15 to $200 or so for a large-capacity drive. They are stable, versatile, durable and portable data storage devices. As such they are ideal for almost any computer user who wants safe, long-term storage for a low price.

Which is your favorite music player?

Originally posted on WIBC.com on 02/24/2009:

Apple’s iPod was first released in 2001, creating the MP3 player market and dominating it ever since.

Many companies have tried to capitalize on the device, and almost all have failed. However, five years after the original was released, Microsoft decided to take on its nemesis with its own MP3 player, the Zune. Similar to the iPod in software, hardware, pricing and marketing, it provides a viable alternative to one of the most iconic products of the new millennium. Let’s take a look at the two primary and comparable 120 GB models of the iPod and Zune.

The iPod hardware seems to only get better. From its humble beginnings of 5 GB of storage to its current flash storage and touch screens, the iPod has seen much change in less than 10 years. The extended curved bevel on the edge is subtle but engaging nonetheless. The matte finish on the front is even better for those who despise nicks that were inevitable on previous iPods, though the backside of the iPod is still the pristine but scratch-prone chrome.

The Zune has faced a variety of similarities. The recently introduced Zune 120 steered away from the 80 GB model to have a glossy front, but the same matte back of the 80 GB version. In a sense, it’s the opposite of the iPod.

The massive screen on the Zune is 3.2 inches, and its orientation automatically changes to play videos. The iPod screen is 2.5 inches. More emphasis is placed on the large scroll wheel, whereas the Zune has the touchpad that acts as a button, and two play/pause and back buttons. However, the Zune’s larger screen comes at a battery price.

The iPod has a 36-hour battery life for music and six for video, compared to the Zune’s 30 hours for music and four for video. The scrolling feature of the Zune is up and down, and it has a four directional button system as well. It also feels more accurate and intuitive than the iPod wheel since there is no single click scroll option on the iPod—the iPod simply requires more finesse.

The wireless feature of the Zune is a major selling point. A caveat is that the Zune must connect through the user’s home network, and connecting through GT Wireless has resulted in many problems. The FM feature is similar to the iPhone in that a song played on the FM radio of the Zune can be queued for purchase later on.

Lastly, both come with a sync cable and headphones. With the Zune 120, consumers are upgraded to the “premium” headphones, which are much better than the standard ones. The iPod, following Apple’s mantra of simplicity, offers the same headphones for all iPods. Though they are not as good as the Zune premiums, they are much better than the Zune standards.

The software for the iPod is iTunes, and for the Zune it is currently Zune 3.0. For Mac users, iTunes is already integrated into OS X, while Zune 3.0 is downloadable from http://www.zune.net for PC users. Unlike iTunes, Zune 3.0 is only available on Windows XP and Vista, cutting off Mac users unless they have access to their own PC or emulator.

Aside from obvious differences in operating systems, iTunes is remarkably slow on PCs. Zune 3.0 does not take as long to load, and inherently plays WMV and WMA formats, which are common on PCs.

The iPod is simple and classic, and with recent updates, even better when changing songs in the middle of a current song. The Zune is also simple, but with the availability to change backgrounds and its huge screen, can be easier on the eye.

The interface on iTunes is robust, but can get very convoluted with a large library. The Zune 3.0 software is still powerful, but it is cleaner and almost out of place with the glassy, eye-candy interface of Windows Vista. Zune 3.0’s simple interface is easy to use even when not a full window, whereas iTunes can be more difficult to deal with.

One of the most important issues when purchasing music exists in the software. The Zune is more integrated into Zune Marketplace. However, iTunes has the most robust catalog of licensed music of all music libraries, as well as TV shows, movies and music videos. With recent changes, iTunes also has DRM-free music from four of the top music labels and other independent ones. Zune Marketplace is the equivalent of iTunes for the Zune, but suffers from a much smaller library and DRM issues. However, users can purchase the Zune unlimited pass, which allows listeners to purchase as much music as they wish.

For Mac users, the only good option is the iPod, as it is compatible with their OS. To a slightly lesser extent, the Zune is better for PC users.

The best way to really find out is to go out and try these products in stores and use friends’ own devices and see how they work and evaluate the pros and cons of each. Regardless, both are great options for the few that are still listening to CD walkman players.

What does HD ready mean?

Originally posted on WIBC.com on 02/26/2009:

Good question and one that many people are confused about.

The simple answer is that it can show high definition pictures but it does not contain a built-in HDTV tuner. It means that the equipment can show you High Definition pictures broadcast by the TV and satellite channels, hard drive video recorders, DVD players and games consoles.

There are advantages and disadvantages to this type of set. The main advantage is of course that it is considerably cheaper. The biggest disadvantage is that you will need a box to convert the signals.

The tuner is the way that the unit is able to receive the signals. It then converts them into a form that you can watch on your set. If you want to enjoy all the benefits of the HDTV programming with an HDTV-ready set you will need to purchase an additional box.

If you receive your HDTV from a cable provider they can provide you with one.

If the unit you are thinking of buying has a built-in HDTV tuner that is much more convenient and a tidier option than yet another set-top box. However there is a price premium and they are considerably more expensive than a standard HDTV ready set, even when you take into account the cost of the tuner box.

Some of the new HDTV’s are digital cable ready (DCR), which means they can receive digital cable channels, including HDTV if the cable provider has HDTV channels, without the need for an external cable box.

 

 

What is VOIP?

 

Originally posted on WIBC.com on 03/03/2009:

VoIP means “Voice over Internet Protocol” and it is quite simply a way of utilizing the Internet for telephone conversations. The primary motivations for doing so are cost and convenience as VoIP is significantly less expensive than typical telephone long distance packages, plus one high speed Internet connection can serve for multiple phone lines.

 

For example, I have VoIP, provided by Vonage, in my home. Some of the features I have include Voicemail, Call Waiting, Caller ID, Call Forwarding, 3-Way Calling, and Call Return (or “star 69”). These are all included in my basic monthly fee. If I had a “regular” telephone company, these features could cost up to $34.95 (Verizon) or $40.87 (AT&T); on top of the regular monthly fee. Now both of these carriers do have specials from time to time that are quite appealing;

However, my monthly fee has been the same ($24.99) since August of 2005.

This is not an advertisement for Vonage (or any other VoIP company, like MagicJack, Comcast, BrightHouse, etc), nor is it a putdown of the traditional telephone service carriers.  There are pluses and minuses to both VoIP and regular service. For example, if my high-speed internet connection goes down, I don’t have a home telephone. Or if the power goes out in my home, no phone….. Fortunately, we have cellular telephones. Should we need to make an emergency call, no problem.

Traditional phone services have generally associated a particular phone number with a fixed address. Portable VoIP service enables consumers to take their home or business phone service almost anywhere. Because certain VoIP services are portable, or can be used from virtually any Internet connection anywhere, the location of the caller may not be capable of being determined automatically.

This portability raises a number of challenges for the emergency services community. Although the FCC has taken action to make sure that emergency calls from these VoIP services will get through to the appropriate public safety authorities, there are still possible differences between VoIP E911 and traditional wireline E911 service, so there are certain things that consumers need to know.

So, when considering telephone service for your home or business; please weigh both the costs and limitations of each offering. And if I can answer any questions for you, write me at techtiptom@wibc.com

 

Tech Tip Tom

Fighting the Conficker or Downadup worm virus

Originally posted on WIBC.com on 03/31/2009:

Conficker, also known as Downup, Downadup and Kido, is a computer worm that surfaced in October 2008 and targets the Microsoft Windows operating system. The worm exploits a known vulnerability in the Windows Server service used by Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008, and Windows 7 Beta. The latest variant will begin checking for a payload to download on April 1, 2009.

When executed on a computer, Conficker disables a number of system services such as Windows Automatic Update, Windows Security Center, Windows Defender and Windows Error Reporting.

It receives further instructions by connecting to a server. The instructions it receives may include to propagate, gather personal information and to download and install additional malware onto the victim’s computer. From the sound of it, this worm is definitely deadly and can cause lots of damage to user’s computer. If you are infected we definitely recommend you to cleanup your system.

How do I do that, you say? Use these steps:

Remove Conficker using the Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool

Download Microsoft’s malicious software removal tool from here:
http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=AD724AE0-E72D-4F54-9AB3-75B8EB148356&displaylang=en

Disconnect from the internet

Install and run the program to try and remove the Conficker worm

Or use these steps:

Remove Conficker using Symantec’s Removal Tools

Download the W32.Downadup removal tool by Symantec from here: http://www.symantec.com/business/security_response/writeup.jsp?docid=2009-011316-0247-99

Disable System Restore and disconnect from the internet

Run that tool and click ‘Start’ to begin the process of scanning and removing the Conficker worm (if found).

After the tool does its job, restart your computer and run the scan again using the same tool to check if the worm has gone.

And write me at techtiptom@wibc.com with all your technical questions. If I don’t know the answer, I will find it for you!