Monday, July 25, 2011

Hope for the Future

Exciting New/Old Discovery

Humanity is always searching, and sometimes their finds look exciting and useful.  This article from AFP is an example of why we should all continue to hope:

Pioneers get close-up view of miracle material graphene

AFP – 19 hrs ago

Physicists who won last year's Nobel Prize for isolating graphene, the world's thinnest material, said Sunday they had devised ways of studying the novel substance at the fundamental level of the electron.

In a study published in the journal Nature Physics, Russian-born physicists Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov said they had detailed interactions between electrons on a sheet of graphene in a bid to understand why the material is so unique.

Graphene comprises just a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a honeycomb-shaped, hexagonal lattice.

The substance is chemically very simple but extremely strong, conducts electricity, dissipates heat and is transparent. There is a surge of interest in it to replace semiconductors in next-generation computers, touch screens and other electronic gadgets.

The Geim-Novoselov team built a test bed in which extremely high-quality sheets of graphene were suspended in a vacuum in order to get a clear view of how electrons interacted, free from the distortion of electron "scattering."

They found that the electrons moved at very high velocities -- previous research has monitored speeds 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) per second, some 30 times faster than in silicon -- and in a way that mimicks photons, or particles of light.

"Although the exciting physics which we have found in this particular experiment may have an immediate implementation in practical electronic devices, the further understanding of the electronic properties of this material will bring us a step closer to the development of graphene electronics," said Novoselov in a press release.

Graphene was aired as a theoretical substance in 1947. But for decades, many physicists thought it would be impossible to isolate, suggesting that such thin crystalline sheets were bound to be unstable.

The problem was resolved in 2004 in extraordinary fashion by Geim and Novoselov, who used ordinary sticky tape to pick up a flake from a piece of graphite -- the carbon form found in pencils.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Make Your Passwords Safe

Making your passwords safe (before you reach the RED ZONE) was recently reviewed in CNN Tech news:

The best password is a sentence, says expert

These days anyone could be watching you, monitoring your every move, waiting to pounce and poach passwords to access your personal data.

"There are new attacks every day, we see something like 90,000 new pieces of malicious codes coming into our labs every day -- that's one every second," said Graham Cluely, Senior Technology Consultant at the software security company, Sophos.

"The main motive to all of this is to make money," he added. "They want your email passwords so they can begin to commit identity theft and raid your bank accounts."

The most common passwords are words that you find in the dictionary like "password," "tablecloth" or even the name of a football club. Cluely dismissed these types of passwords as rubbish.

"Normally hackers use a dictionary attack," he said. "They would run your account against all the words in the dictionary until there is a match."

The best advice is to never use an ordinary word as a password. Cluely has a very simple method to ensure that passwords are more secure, easy to remember but difficult for hackers to crack. His example of a strong secure password is "F&WL2HH&E4D."

"You would be forgiven for thinking 'I'll never remember that!,'" he said, before assuring me this is the simplest way to protect your data because the best password is, in fact, a sentence -- in this case, "Fred And Wilma Like To Have Ham And Eggs For Dinner" becomes "F&WL2HH&E4D."

Cluely recommends that a different password should be used for every website that requires a login so that hackers don't get a skeleton key for all accounts, and there are websites that are like virtual vaults that can help manage multiple passwords.

"You only have to remember one password to access a list of all your different passwords," he said. There are free websites like Keepass and Lastpass for PCs and Macs, and 1password just for Macs.

Cluely also stresses the importance of updating the anti-virus software on computers because of the potential threat of hackers stealing passwords as they are being typed in.

"They have a piece of software called Spyware, a virus which is basically looking over your shoulder and watches every key stroke you make," he said.

The most recent attacks that Cluely has been dealing with have been related to Osama bin Laden.

"The whole world has been fascinated by Osama bin Laden's death -- people have been going on the net and searching for videos of his death and photographs of his death.

"The bad guys, the hackers have been creating poisoned videos -- fake videos and fake pictures -- so if you go searching for that content on the internet, you might end up on a web page designed to infect your computer, steal your password and take control over your online identity."

Hackers poisoning pictures and websites relating to prominent news subjects is not a new phenomenon -- the same viruses appeared when Michael Jackson died, and during Prince William and Catherine Middleton's wedding for those who were searching for pictures of Middleton's wedding dress.

As hackers come up with new ways to infiltrate our personal data, we should try to be "cyber warriors" like Cluely -- starting by using a sentence for our passwords as a first line of defense.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Finding WiFi Worldwide

For those of you with I-phones, I-touches or I-pads there is what could be a useful free app: Wi Fi Finder.  You can download their data base of 340,000 Wi Fi locations worldwide so that you can find a hotspot when you are offline.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Minimizing Foreign Exchange Transactions

Before foreign exchange transactions enter your RED ZONE, you may want to consider this:

Exchange Rate Fees

Sample ATM fees (assessed only by the home bank):

  • ING Direct – 2% with no transaction fee.
  • Citibank – if you use your card in their network they charge you 3% and no transaction fee.  If you go outside the network you pay $1.50 per transaction.
  • Bank of America -  If you have a Bank of America checking account with a debit card you can withdraw local currency, with no added fees, from ATMs operated by Barclay’s Bank in the U.K., BNP Paribas in France, Deutsche Bank in Germany, Santander Serfin in Mexico, Scotiabank in Canada, and Westpac in Australia and New Zealand. Best of all, you are not assessed the usual one-percent exchange fee.  Be cautious, however, because they will charge you $5 per ATM withdrawal if you get cash outside the network listed above.
  • Local Credit Union – be aware that every credit union has their own fees. You may wish to contact your local credit union to see their rates.

Foreign Currency Exchange Using Credit Cards:

Credit Cards are by far the most convenient way to purchase your items overseas.  Most offer high levels of fraud security if lost or stolen.  The biggest drawback with the credit card is the exchange rate fees.  Here is a sample listing of the fees at some larger credit card companies:
  • Capital One – 0% – Capital One has very sensitive overseas fraud monitors in place.  Always call and pre-notify them of your travel plans before leaving the country.
  • American Express – 2.7% – Compared to Visa and MasterCard, American Express is accepted at fewer locations overseas.
  • Citibank (Citicard) – 3%
  • Chase – 3%
  • Bank of America 3%
For those of you lucky enough to be traveling overseas for an extended period, you may want to explore the Capital One Venture Card:

Credit Card Review

 by Card Expert Curtis Arnold
This card offers major rewards and more flexibility but without the annual fee. There is no limit to the miles you can earn and your miles won't expire. The credit card holder earns 1.25 miles per dollar spent on every purchase. This is a "No Hassle" card, which means you can use your card for airfare, cruise tickets, hotel stays or rental cars from any web site or travel agency and redeem your miles online or by phone to get reimbursed for your purchase. There are no foreign transaction fees. There is a lengthy 0% introductory rate on purchases and then variable APR thereafter. There is no balance transfer fee but a downside includes higher than average balance transfer APR. This card requires excellent credit.

See you all when I return from Italy.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Time to Use the Census Data

The Census replies you provided are summarized and will now enter the RED ZONE.  Among other uses, the data will be used to reapportion Congress.  You may see an overview of the results at:


For the states I frequent, the population changes were: GA and NC up over 18%, MI down 0.6%

For some specific information on Northeast North Carolina see:

Friday, January 21, 2011

More Ethanol in Your Gasoline

In October, the EPA approved an increase in the percentage of Ethanol allowed in gasoline from 10% to 15%.   Does this change put your car's engine in the Red Zone?  Check out this article from Bloomberg:


Thursday, December 30, 2010

Many College Football Programs Out of the RED ZONE

It appears that most college programs have avoided the RED ZONE and profited in 2010.
See the story: