Show of 05-09-2015

Tech Talk

May 9, 2015

Best of Tech Talk Edition
  • Segments replayed from previous shows
Email and Forum Questions
  • Dear Dr. Shurtz. I took your advice and downloaded MPlayer OSX to play Windows Media Video on my iMac. It works!  You are WonDerFul and I am grateful. You are a true asset. I listen weekly and value all the sharing and entertainment. Best, Ms. Desirable
  • Tech Talk Responds: Thanks for the response. You now understand the inconvenience when big corporations battle over standards.
  • Hac from Bowie Maryland: Dear Dr. Shurtz. We currently have our home phone, internet and cable TV service through the Verizon FIOS triple-play bundle. We keep hearing from family and friends that we could obtain cheaper cable TV service through a TV over internet service.  We might also consider dropping the home phone service – but our understanding is we need to have a home phone service for our connection with our home alarm monitoring service. Is there a way to substitute another phone service for the home alarm monitoring service? Back to the cable TV over internet issue: There seem to be so many options here, and it would be great if you could run through the pros and cons of the various options. Thanks.  Love your show! Hac, a loyal listener in Bowie, MD
  • Tech Talk Responds: Competition is a wonderful thing. The cable industry is becoming unbundled. The first to go was the phone. You can use a VoIP system like Ooma for your phone system. After the initial cost of around $200 for the Ooma box, I pay around $20 per year for my phone service. This could be used by the alarm system if you connect your home wiring to the Ooma system. As for replacing your cable entertainment package, you need to use a service. Netflix or Hulu for movies. Apple TV has an interesting channel mix. The main problem is that all channels are not available. Over-the-air broadcasts are not available because of arcane FCC rules that limit competition to cable providers (these may be changed soon). When these rules change, TV will be available by streaming (just like radio is now through TuneIn Radio or iHeart Radio). So for now, I use Ooma and still have the minimum cable package for conventional TV and some cable channels. Within two years, I believe that I will be dropping the entertaining package, with its ridiculous bundling.
  • Email from Alice in Wonderland: Dear Dr. Shurtz. I am using an iMac running Yosemite. I have the sound feature on for when I get new email, but, it also sounds when the mail is junk and went into the junk folder. Is there a way to change this notification Sound to only occur when the new mail is ‘regular’ mail and not junk mail? Thanks, Alice in Wonderland 
  • Tech Talk Responds: You can easily adjust your computer’s alert sounds. Open the Sound Effects pane of Sound preferences (choose Apple menu > System Preferences, click Sound, then click Sound Effects). Choose an alert sound. Click a sound in the list. You can also preview an alert sound by clicking it in the list. Adjust the alert sound. You can adjust any of the following: Output channel, volume, whether anything is heard, etc. This is an easily configured feature in the iMac.
  • Email from Tom in Crofton: Dear Doc and Jim. I am an HP Officejet 8500 Wireless. A couple of months ago, the printer stopped printing blue. I changed the ink cartridge and still have the same problem. Last week it stopped printing red. This printer costs over $600 and is too new to replace. I need help. Also, is there a way to print to my printer from my iPhone or iPad? I really enjoy listening to your podcasts. Tom in Crofton, MD.
  • Tech Talk Responds: The Officejet 8500 has four ink cartridges (Magenta, Yellow, Cyan, and Black). The ink cartridges to not include the print head. The print heads are located on the carriage and are connected via tubes to the ink cartridges. There are two print heads in the 8500 (Black/Yellow and Magenta/Cyan). They are around $65 each and are available on Amazon. To change the print heads, you will have to open the printer body and press the “*” key for ten seconds to move the print heads all the way to the left.
  • As for printing to the Officejet 8500 Wireless. This particular printer does not support AirPrint. Many of the more recent HP models do support AirPrint. You can down the iPhone app, HP ePrint, and easily print from your iPhone. Not that you can only access photos directly. Any documents will have to be saved to the cloud before printing (Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, or MS OneDrive). The app is free and easy to set up. It will print emails, but you will have to reduce the security setting on your email accounts to talk with this third party app. I chose not to do this.
  • Email from Lynn in Ohio: Dear Tech Talk. I have lots of parties in my basement and we love to play Pandora radio using my iMac with a Bluetooth speaker. Unfortunately, the Wi-Fi connection in the basement is not very good except in one corner. Is there a way to improve the Wi-Fi signal? We really enjoy listening to your show. Lynn in Cleveland, Ohio.
  • Tech Talk Responds: You can extend the range of your Wi-Fi in two ways: a high gain antenna or a range extender. You can get a 10dB antenna for your router for around $30. This will increase signal strength by a factor of 8 if it is pointed in the right direction. Make certain that it supports your router frequency (2.4 or 5.8 GHz). I have successfully used this approach when I had a Wi-Fi connection in the basement for my son. In that case I used the high gain antenna on his computer and pointed it at the router.
  • The second approach is to use a Wi-Fi extender. You can place this in the basement at a point that has the strongest signal from the router. This will give you a very strong signal. You must also match the frequency of your router (2.4 or 5.8 GHz). You can get a 2.4 GHz extender for around $60. This is probably your best option. Just Google for Wi-Fi Range Extender and get one with a good rating.
  • Email from Craig in Oakton: Dear Doc and Jim. I burned DBAN to a CD and then rebooted my Windows 8 machine with the CD inserted in the drive. To my surprise, it just booted right back into Windows. What gives? How do I get the computer to boot up from the CD? I enjoy listening to the show each Saturday morning. Craig in Oakton
  • Tech Talk Responds: By the way DBAN is Darik’s Boot And Nuke, a free software package to wipe your hard drive, including all data. This boot problem is a common issue. Your computer’s BIOS needs to be instructed to check for a bootable CD or DVD before it tries to load whatever is on the hard drive. Right now, your computer is configured to either ignore the CD/DVD at boot time or check the hard disk first. If you have a new machine, you have UEFI instead of a BIOS. UEFI, an acronym for Unified Extensible Firmware Interface, is a new type of BIOS that includes several enhancements. One of those is something called “secure boot”.
  • Secure boot matters because there’s a glaring security hole that’s been present in almost every PC since day one, and it’s very simple, and very powerful. If you have physical access to the machine and if you can reboot that machine and if you can boot that machine from a CD/DVD or USB device then you can gain total access to that machine. 
  • Secure Boot, when enabled, prevents this from being possible. It can prevent changes in the boot order, and it can restrict booting to only “official” boot images. Windows 8 is the first version of Windows that can take advantage of UEFI and Secure Boot. That means that if your Windows 8 system has UEFI and has Secure Boot turned on, then it’s very possible that in order to boot from something other than the hard disk you’ll need to turn Secure Boot off first.  Click on the power option (either on the Start Screen or the Charms Bar) and then hold down the shift key while clicking on Restart. This will reboot into a “Choose an option” screen: Windows 8 Reboot Choose Options. It’s possible that on some machines you may be able to reboot from a device such as a CD or USB drive by clicking on Use a device at this point. I recommend you give it a try at least once. If it works, no further changes are necessary. If your machine uses UEFI and Windows 8 recognizes it, there will be an additional option on this screen: UEFI Firmware Settings. Click on that to be taken to the UEFI interface for your computer. In that interface should be the option to disable Secure Boot. 
  • Like the BIOS before it, UEFI also controls the boot order – which devices the computer will look to boot from first. Look for the settings to ensure that the USB or CD/DVD drive is earlier in the sequence than the hard disk, so that the system will boot from your recovery drive before booting from the internal hard drive.
Profiles in IT: Phillip Donald Estridge
  • Don Estridge led the development of the original IBM Personal Computer and is known as the father of the IBM PC.
  • His decisions dramatically changed the computer industry and created an entire industry of hardware manufacturers of IBM PCs.
  • Estridge was born June 23, 1937 in Jacksonville, Florida.
  • He graduated from Bishop Kenny High School in 1955 and received a BSEE from the University of Florida in 1959.
  • Mr. Estridge joined IBM in June 1959 as a junior engineer and held various positions in the Federal Systems Division, including programming support for NASA/Goddard.
  • In 1969 he joined the General Systems Division and from 1975 to 1979 he was the Series/1 programming manager.
  • He took control of the small Entry Level Systems division in 1980.
  • His task was to develop the IBM PC began with the goal of developing a low-cost personal computer to compete against increasingly popular offerings from Apple Computer, Commodore International, and other perceived IBM competitors.
  • He led the “skunk works” that gave us the IBM PC, leading a team of only 14 people.
  • To create a cost-effective alternative to those products, Estridge realized that it would be necessary to rely on third-party hardware and software.
  • Previously every IBM computer was built with IBM parts. Estridge was a renegade who chose off-the-shelf components to keep down costs.
  • This was a marked departure from previous IBM strategy, which centered around in-house vertical development of complicated mainframe systems.
  • Most importantly, he made the decision to make the PC “open” – to provide sufficient information about its specifications to let other manufacturers build on what IBM.
  • Estridge also published the specifications of the IBM PC, allowing a booming third-party aftermarket hardware business to take advantage of expansion card slots.
  • Industry Standard Architecture (ISA) was the bus standard for IBM computers.
  • While IBM was the largest software company in the world, he opted for open, “third-party” software.
  • By the time he gave up the reins of the PC Division, known then as the Entry Level Systems division, the division had 10,000 employees and revenue of $4.5 billion.
  • And, according to one biography, in 1983 he turned down a multimillion dollar offer from Apple to become its president.
  • By 1984 was IBM Vice President, Manufacturing.
  • Estridge and wife Mary Ann were killed when the plane they were traveling on crashed at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on August 2, 1985.
  • He was 48 years old. At the time of his death, the IBM PC division had nearly 10,000 employees, had sold over a million PCs, and had a revenue of $4.5 billion.
  • Estridge has been honored many times. In 1999 he was identified in CIO magazine as one of the people who “invented the enterprise”.
  • The Don Estridge High-Tech Middle School–formerly IBM Facility Building 051–in Boca Raton, Florida, is named after him.
  • In 2004, IBM exited the desktop and laptop arena when it sold its personal computer division to Lenovo, a major Chinese PC manufacturer.
Good News of the Week: Solar Panels to Get Cheaper
  • Solar electricity is about to get much cheaper because a shortage of the silicon used in solar panels is almost over.
  • Solar power is more than three times the cost of electricity from conventional sources, according to figures from the industry tracking firm Solarbuzz and the United States Energy Information Administration.
  • The added silicon production capacity is now starting to begin operations.
  • While only 15,000 tons of silicon were available for use in solar cells in 2005, by 2010, this number could grow to 123,000 tons.
  • Prices for solar panels could drop by as much as 50 percent from 2006 to 2010.
  • In areas that get a lot of sun, that will translate to solar electricity which matches the average price of electricity in the US . Demand will soar.That will make solar affordable and, eventually, will vastly increase the market.
Website of the Week: Games with a Purpose
  • Web address: http://www.gwap.com/
  • Sponsored by Carnegie Mellon University
  • When you play a game at Gwap, you aren’t just having fun. You’re helping the world become a better place. By playing our games, you’re training computers to solve problems for humans all over the world.
  • ESP Game asks you and a partner to tag the same image.
  • Other games include: Tag a Tune, Verbosity, Squigl, Matchin
Good Idea of the Week: Floating Windmills
  • At great heights the wind blows much more powerfully and steadily than it does at lower altitudes.
  • Wind turbines only spin one tenth of the time at their maximum output, which makes wind not a very reliable energy source.
  • At higher altitudes, wind conditions are much better.
  • Floating windmills, which send the generated electricity to the earth by means of a cable, could harvest much more energy.
  • Canadian firm Magenn Power developed concept based on the principle of zeppelins.
  • It uses a helium filled balloon. Around the balloon is a wheel, driven by the wind.
  • Inventor Fred Ferguson also has been working on the system since the eighties ? but today it is the concept which is close to reality.
  • If all goes well, the floating wind turbine of Magenn Power will be on the market in 2008.
  • The first model will deliver 10 kilowatts of electricity, and floats at an altitude of around 330 metres ? more or less twice the height of a normal windmill.
  • Larger versions are planned, and the company also aims to develop a small system that fits in a backpack.
  • The drawback of the technology is that the balloon has to be re-filled with helium every 6 months.
  • Website: http://www.magenn.com/
Turn Any Monitor Into A Windows or Linux
  • The Intel Compute Stick, a 4-inch long dongle that turns any HDMI display into a Windows 8.1 or Linux machine.
  • Intel Compute Stick is offered for $149 with Windows 8.1, or $89 for a Linux version running Ubuntu.
  • It includes an Intel Atom quad-core CPU, Windows 8.1, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of onboard storage and a microSD slot to extend that capacity, Bluetooth 4.0, Wireless 802.11b/g/n connectivity, and a full-size USB port.
  • It can run all Windows 8.1 apps. You can browse the web and send emails via the TV in your hotel. Businesses could use it as a very inexpensive thin client.
  • Add Logitech’s K400 Wireless Keyboard and Touchpad combo for $19.99 and you have an entry-level, highly portable PC-on-a-stick for a grand total of $169.The Linux version of Intel’s Compute Stick will run Ubuntu for $89, and ship with 8GB of storage and 1GB of memory.
Boy Builds Braille printer with Lego kit
  • 13-year-old Shubham Banerjee, a California eighth-grader, has launched a company to develop low-cost machines to print Braille, the touch-based writing system for the visually impaired.
  • Last year, Shubham built a Braille printer with a Lego robotics kit as a school science fair project after learning that current printers cost at least $2,000 — too expensive for most blind readers.
  • After his Lego-based printer won numerous awards and enthusiastic support from the blind community, Shubham started Braigo Labs this past summer with an initial $35,000 investment from his dad.
  • In November, Intel Corp. invested an undisclosed amount of venture capital in Shubham’s startup, making him perhaps the youngest entrepreneur to receive such funding.
The Museum of the Future Is in NYC
  • Every visitor to the Cooper Hewitt, the Smithsonian’s recently reopened design museum, will receive a giant pen. This pen is not really a pen. 
  • Next to every object on-display at the Cooper Hewitt is a small pattern that looks like the origin point of the coordinate plane. When the pen touches it, the digital record of that object is added to the visitor’s personal museum collection. 
  • When they leave, they will have to return the pen, but information about and high-resolution photos of the object will be waiting for them. The pen bridges the digital and the physical.
  • Every object, every designer, every nation, every era, even every color has a stable URL on the Internet. Everything is designed to support the digital world and be connected to the Internet.
  • The Cooper Hewitt welcomed visitors again after a three-year-long closed-door renovation. . The Cooper Hewitt resides in Andrew Carnegie’s old Manhattan.
  • The Cooper Hewitt’s API connects to the museum’s two operational databases—its vast collections database and its complex customer and ticketing databases—and fuses them. Then it makes the collections part public and accessible. 
  • What ‘digital’ in the museum means is really that everything is available whenever you want through standardized APIs.