Show of 05-30-2015

Tech Talk

May 30, 2015

Email and Forum Questions
  • Email from David in Ohio Dear Tech Talk. Dear Tech Talk. A whole group here in Ohio listen to your show and love it. I thought I would finally ask you a question. We love to watch TV in the basement, especially Netflix. I heard you talking about dual-band routers last week. Should I use the 5.8 GHz Wi-Fi for my basement TV? I sometimes get a buffering problem when watching a show. We all love the podcast in Ohio. David
  • Tech Talk Responds: I recently purchased a dual-band router just for this purpose. I bought the TP-LINK Archer C9 AC1900 Dual Band Router for $143.90 from Amazon. It has 600 Mbps at 2.4GHz and 1300 Mbps at 5.8 GHz. It also has USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports for printers or external hard drives. It has three dual-band antennas that are used for beam forming.  I plugged this new router into the Ethernet ports of my old Verizon FIOS router.  I then connected it my Samsung Smart TV to the 5.8GHz channel. All buffering problems went away. My laptop is still on the 2.4 GHz band, but my throughput is five times faster. I am extremely happy with this device. Clearly my Verizon FIOS router needs an upgrade. I thought I would buy this dual-band router and give it a spin for Tech Talk. I plan to keep it now.
  • One issue that I encountered is that the Chromecast dongle on my second TV only supports 2.4GHz. This is clearly a deficiency that Google will have to address.
  • Email from Hac in Bowie, MD: Dear Doc and Jim. I recently upgraded to an iPhone6 and backup my iPhone5 to my computer. However, none of the party pictures or songs transferred to my new iPhone, By the way, I still have my old iPhone and the data is still available. What are my options? Love the show. Hac in Bowie
  • Tech Talk Responds: Hac, backing up you phone is not the same as syncing your music and your photos. It sounds like to need to synchronize you photos and your music with your old phone which still should be connected to you iTunes account. Then you can plug your new phone into your computer and fire up iTunes. When you synchronize all the photos will move to your new phone. I synchronize my photos to the iCloud. So when I got a new phone, everything ported over automatically except my music. In that case I had to my new phone to the computer and synchronize.
  • That reminds me what a pain in the neck, digital rights management is with the iPhone. It is very difficult to transfer your music to a new laptop. I solved this problem by ripping all my CDs (about 150) to MP3s and storing them on an external hard drive that I have connected to my network. I simply ask iTunes to search that external drive and it pulls in all the music with any DRM problems. I have moved my collect around several times without a hitch.
  • Email from Alice in Reston: Dear Doc and Jim. My computer switches to a black screen after about 5 to 15 minutes of use. Then I have to turn it off to get another 5 to 15 minutes of use. What is causing this black out? Love the show. Alice in Reston
  • Tech Talk Responds: And the most common cause of crashes is overheating. Your computer needs good ventilation to avoid overheating. Make certain that the ventilation holes aren’t blocked by dust or other debris.
  • Hardware does fail. One of the early signs of impending failure is a periodic crash such as you describe. If it is consistently happening 5 to 15 minutes after boot up, after looking at possible overheating issues, I’d begin suspect the power supply.
  • One more common “black screen” failure mode is that the computer’s display has stopped working, but the computer itself is still running properly. Play an MP3 in loop mode. If the monitor goes black, but the music continues to play, you know that the computer is still running, and that the problem is more likely either the video card, the video drivers, the monitor, or the cables connecting the monitor to the computer.
  • Finally, it could just be a screen saver. If you wiggle the mouse or hit a key on the keyboard and your screen comes back, that’s it. If you have a laptop, it’s possible that the computer has gone into Standby or Hibernate mode. If you simply push the power button and it comes back up to where you were after a few seconds, that’s probably it. 
  • Email from Ian in Greenbelt, MD: Dear Tech Talk. I keep getting programs installed on my computer that I never wanted. I can I clean up this mess. It is slowing down my computer and becoming very annoying. Listen every Saturday. Ian in Greenbelt, MD.
  • Tech Talk Responds: It’s becoming more common that installing one download may result in several other things being installed as well. This can be very annoying. 
  • If some unexpected toolbars and other applications that show up on your computer, you can simply uninstall them. Go to the Control Panel’s Programs and Features item: Look for the items by name. Look for names that include the word “toolbar.” Right-click the item you want to uninstall and click Uninstall.
  • Next run MalwareBytes. You can download and install the free version. Don’t select the free trial of their premium product. The Malwarebytes’ scan may take a while. When it’s complete, you’ll get a notification if you have malware. You can review the list if you like, but in general, the correct next step is to simply click Apply Actions to quarantine everything. You will likely need to reboot.
  • If you are still having problems, restore to a recent backup image.  If the backup image was prior to this software appeared, restoring gets rid of everything.
  • The real message is prevention. The offer is usually hidden and defaulted to Yes. Whenever you install any software – even software that  you’ve purchased as it turns out – always choose the “Custom” or “Detailed” option. Choose whatever option is not the default option.
Profiles in IT: Evan Clark Williams
  • Evan Clark Williams is an American computer programmer and Internet entrepreneur who founded several Internet companies, including Blogger and Twitter.
  • Evan Clark Williams was born March 31, 1972 in Nebraska. He grew up on a farm in Clarks, Nebraska, where he assisted with crop irrigation in summers. 
  • He attended the University of Nebraska–Lincoln for a year-and-a-half, where he joined FarmHouse Fraternity, but eventually left to pursue his career.
  • After leaving school, Williams worked at various technology jobs and start-up firms in Key West, FL, Dallas and Austin, TX.
  • In 1996 Williams moved to Sebastopol, CA to work for O’Reilly Media. 
  • He started in marketing but eventually became an independent contractor writing code, which led to freelance coding jobs for Intel and Hewlett-Packard.
  • In 1999, he and Meg Hourihan co-founded Pyra Labs (project management software). 
  • A note-taking feature spun off as Blogger, one of the first apps for creating weblogs.
  • Williams invented the term “blogger” and popularized of the term “blog”.
  • Pyra was eventually acquired by Google on February 13, 2003.
  • Williams left Google in October 2004 to co-found Odeo, a podcasting company.
  • In late 2006, Williams co-founded Obvious Corp. with Biz Stone and other former Odeo employees to acquire all previous properties from Odeo’s former backers. 
  • One of Obvious Corp.’s projects was Twitter, a social networking micro-blogger.
  • Twitter was created in March 2006 after a “daylong brainstorming session” held by Odeo board members. It launched by July 2006
  • In April 2007, Odeo was acquired by Sonic Mountain. The same month Twitter was spun out with Williams as co-founder, board member, and investor.
  • In October 2008, Williams became CEO of Twitter, displacing Jack Dorsey.
  • By February 2009, Twitter was the third most-used social network based on their count of 6 million unique monthly visitors and 55 million monthly visits.
  • On 4 October 2010, Williams stepped down as CEO position to completely focused on product strategy. As of February 2013, Twitter had 200 million registered users.
  • Its 2013 IPO produced a valuation of $31B with Williams receiving $2.56B. 
  • As of April 2015, Twitter has over 300 million users, but is still losing money
  • On September 25, 2012, Williams and Stone created a publishing platform called Medium. It was opened to the public in 2013.
  • On Medium, what you see is what you get. Photos drop in simply and text is easily managed, with lots of white space framing the work. Pages are responsive.
  • On April 5, 2013, Williams and Stone announced that they would be unwinding Obvious Corp as they focused on individual startups.
  • Williams is a pescetarian.  He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife, Sara, with whom he raises two children.
Security Questions Aren’t Really Secure
  • Google has published research showing that security questions aren’t that secure.
  • In many cases, your answers are straightforward enough that attackers stand a decent chance of getting them right in 10 guesses or less. 
  • 20% of users surveyed select pizza as their favorite. This makes for an easy guess.
  • Google doesn’t think that multiple security questions would help, since that increases the chances that you’ll forget at least one answer and lock yourself out.
  • Instead, websites are better off using SMS-based reset codes, alternate email addresses and other methods that someone can’t crack with a good guess. 
  • Thankfully, big sites like Google already do this — the big challenge is getting your favorite store or social network to follow suit.
Thieves could use Jamming Technology to Steal your Car?
  • These keys use radio waves to communicate with a receiver inside the car. The key sends a signal to the car with a unique identifier and a command to either lock or unlock the car. But the wireless communication, like any other radio usage, can be jammed.
  • A device can be used to flood the radio spectrum used by the remote keys with interference, which stops the low-power system of the remote car keys from working.
  • In December last year, a 25-year-old man was convicted of using a signal jammer to break into cars in the Greater Manchester area. Michael Fennell used a signal jammer bought $54. 
  • For those worried about jammers, the advice is make sure your car is locked before walking away. Watch for the flash of lights and sounds that indicate the car has successfully locked all doors. 
Ad Blocking Software Threatening New Media
  • Ad blocking software is on the rise.
  • The German market is by far the most affected one with ad block use approaches 40% of the internet population.  AdBlock Plus (ABP) is the most popular blocker of choice.
  • In France too, ad blocking use is on the rise: about 30% of Gallic internet users are said to have installed extensions that remove banners and other modules.
  • Millennials (born in 1980-2000) are two times more likely to use an ad blocker. 
  • On gaming sites, 80% to 90% of ads are blocked.
  • The US market seems the less affected with 15%-17% of the internet population, again on average, using an ad blocking extension. 
  • Altogether, 300 million people in the world have downloaded an ad blocking extension, and about half have actually installed it.
  • In January, the company announced a new feature that allows large scale deployment of Adblock Plus (ABP) in corporate networks. In a few clicks, a system administrator can install ABP on thousands of PCs.
  • Then, in February,  a previously unknown group of Canadian developers introduced uBlock, a new generation of ad blockers, reported to be faster, with a smaller memory footprint than Eyeo’s extension. Both are now available on every browser and OS.
  • On the legal front, the anti-ad block camp suffered a major blow in April when a court in Hamburg ruled that the ABP extension was legal.
  • Publishers fear retaliation from media buying agencies.
  • My pet peeve is the fact that slow loading ads make the entire experience not very pleasant. Advertisers must find a way to deliver ads quickly and not slow down the load time of the site.
Website of the Week: Plus Grade
  • Link: http://www.plusgrade.com/
  • The online auction system Plusgrade lets you bid against other passengers for a better seat. 
  • Around 30 international airlines, ranging from Austrian to Virgin Atlantic, have signed on with the program, developed by a Canadian travel technology company
  • It recently added four new carriers: Gulf Air, South African, Swiss, and Qantas.
  • It works like this: Passengers either get an email notification from the airline that they can bid for a better seat, or they can simply check on the airline’s website to see if their flight is eligible. 
  • They then enter a bid price, along with their credit card information, and wait to learn if the offer was successful–usually 72 hours in advance of departure.
  • To discourage users from making a ridiculously low bid, Plusgrade gives airlines the option of showing a “strength meter,” or minimum bid, to get you in the ballpark. 
  • It’s proven successful for many so far: Some passengers using Air New Zealand’s OneUp program, which allows fliers to upgrade to one class above, reported having gotten upgrades from premium economy to business class for $750 on long-distance flights.
  • That’s been the experience at LOT Polish Airlines, which began offering the auction option a year ago. LOT sets the minimum price for an upgrade from coach to premium economy at 300 PLN, or $83 at current exchange rates; the minimum for jumping from premium economy to business is 700 PLN or $193.
  • Another company, Optiontown, is also working with airlines to offer customers upgrades online. It offers premium seats for a fixed price–but there’s no guarantee you’ll get it if demand exceeds supply.
Android Versions Named aft Desserts and Sweets
  • Google is expected to announce Android M. We don’t know yet know what version number it will have. It appears that the current codename is Macadamia Nut Cookie (MNC). 
  • Google started naming its Android versions after desserts and sweets more than six years ago. Here are all the releases so far:
    • Android 1.5 Cupcake (April 2009)
    • Android 1.6 Donut (September 2009)
    • Android 2.0/2.1 Éclair (October 2009, January 2010)
    • Android 2.2 Froyo (May 2010)
    • Android 2.3 Gingerbread (December 2010)
    • Android 3.0/3.1/3.2 Honeycomb (February 2011, May 2011, July 2011)
    • Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (October 2011)
    • Android 4.1/4.2/4.3 Jelly Bean (July 2012, November 2012, July 2013)
    • Android 4.4 KitKat (October 2013)
    • Android 5.0/5.1 Lollipop (November 2014, March 2015)
Solar Sisters Power Africa
  • Solar Sister is a social business that uses an “Avon Lady”-type model to distribute solar equipment in Africa. It’s been operating for more than five years and now works with about 1,500 women entrepreneurs in three countries. 
  • The women buy solar lamps, solar phone chargers, and solar panels at cost, then mark up the items at retail, pocketing the difference. Solar Sister provides training and support, helping the saleswomen reach their goals.
  • Katherine Lucey founded the business on the premise that women are the family members most likely to use solar equipment. 
  • In Uganda, Tanzania, and Nigeria, they’re the ones who currently buy kerosene for lighting and see that their kids have enough light at night to do homework. After that, it also seemed logical that the best people to sell to women would be other women.
  • The entrepreneurs normally start by selling to their families, then branch out to others locally. Typically, the money the women make—anywhere from $10 to $200 a month—isn’t enough to live on completely, but it can be transformative.
  • They work when they want to, and at their own pace. Lucey says about half of the 1,500 entrepreneurs are active at any one time. 
  • The model works differently depending on the country. For example, in Uganda and Tanzania, the $8 to $10 solar lamps are the most popular items. 
  • In Nigeria, customers are more likely to buy the higher-output systems. Nigeria has more un-electrified people than any other African country.
  • Solar Sister plans to launch in Kenya this year, a natural progression after Uganda and Tanzania. It hopes to reach five countries by 2020 and have a total of 5,000 entrepreneurs trained.