Show of 05-07-2016

Tech Talk

May 7, 2016

Email and Forum Questions
  • Email from Mary in Bethesda: Dear Dr. Shurtz. Here is a sample of the 1,000+ spam emails I get a day into my professional email (personal) inbox on my iMac. This is maddening and such a waste of time daily deleting this spam. I hope you can recommend something I can do about this. I have 15 different email accts that feed into my MAIL application on the iMac. When I attempt to delete the spam, Apple MAIL app then asks if I want to delete ALL the spam in totality from the 15 accts, which I can’t do because I have to check each individual email acct first. Apple said that Gmail is suffering from a spam attack. Can you describe what a Spam Attack is and how I can set my Gmail acct settings to minimize the 700-2000 spam emails I get daily. Thanks. Mary Bethesda. I listen every Sat trying to learn all I can about IT.
  • Tech Talk Responds: I would simply not transfer the Gmail spam to Apple Mail. Gmail spam is deleted in 30 days automatically and this spam filter is very good. Go to Apple Mail. Then select Preferences ? Accounts ? Mailbox behaviors and then disable the store junk messages on server. Do this first for the Gmail account. This should fix your problem. Gmail does have lots of spam and I have never found an actual message in the Gmail spam folder. There is nothing you can do with Gmail setting to get rid of the Spam attack. Google has handled by putting the spam into the spam folder using crowdsources data.
  • Email from James Messick: I keep getting a failure when I try to download this file on my Pod Catcher. Best.
  • Talk Responds: James we are in the process of porting the Tech Talk radio site to a new and faster server. It should be up and running this week. In the meantime, you can listen to the show form the Federal News Radio site. The link to this site is: http://custom.federalnewsradio.com/tech-talk-radio.
  • Email from Mary Kay in Fairfax: Dear Doc and Jim. I would like to use the iPhone test mode on my iPhone to check the signal strength with my home, especially he basement. What are my options? Love the show Mary Kay in Fairfax.
  • Tech Talk Responds: The iPhone has a hidden “field test” mode that shows all kinds of technical details about signal strength, cell towers, and more. Poor signal strength could be your carrier’s fault, or it could be because of signal-blocking materials in your home’s walls. Even in urban areas dense with cell towers, signal strength can vary widely depending on the phone’s carrier and current location.
  • In any of these situations, knowing your phone’s precise signal strength rather than just a vague range of 1-5 bars can really help you diagnose the problem, and figure out the best way to fix it. And that’s where your iPhone’s field test mode comes in.
  • You can access the field test mode on any iPhone. All you have to do is fire up your phone app, dial the following code: *3001#12345#*
  • Your iPhone will enter a field test mode that offers up several menus of technical measurements. Most of these are only useful if you’re developing phones or testing cell towers.
  • To view your signal strength in iOS 9, you’ll use a little trick to replace your bars on your main screen with the signal strength measurement. Hold down the Power button until the “Slide to Power Off” message appears, but don’t power off. Let go of the Power button and then press and hold your Home button until your home screen reappears. You should now see the signal strength displayed where your bars used to be. This change will last until you restart your phone (or until you repeat the process above). You can also tap the signal strength number to switch between signal strength and bars.
  • Email from Charu in India: Dear Doc and Jim. A few weeks ago, I installed Ad Block on Internet Explorer and now some sites are blocking me. How can I disable it for a  particular site? This is getting frustrating. Love the show. Charu in India
  • Tech Talk Responds: Although preventing ads from showing up in Internet Explorer streamlines your Web browsing experience, ad blockers can occasionally cause websites to perform poorly by inadvertently blocking essential content. Open Internet Explorer. Click the “Simple Adblock” logo located on the status bar at the bottom of Internet Explorer to display the Simple Adblock menu. Click “Disable Simple Adblock” to disable all advertisement blocking. To disable ad blocking only on certain websites, navigate to the site on which you want to disable ad blocking. Click the “Simple Adblock” logo on the status bar, highlight “Disable Simple Adblock On the Current Site. If the status bar is not visible, right click on the top menu bar and check Status Bar.
Profiles in IT: Robert J. Pera
  • Robert J. Pera is the founder of Ubiquiti Networks, Inc. a communications technology company based in Silicon Valley.
  • Robert J. Pera was born on March 10, 1978 in Redwood City, California.
  • He loved video games and would seek out Japanese versions because they came out a year earlier than in the US. His favorite: The 1996 Nintendo release Super Mario 64.
  • While attending high school, he established a computer services company that provided networking and database services to local businesses.
  • Pera played on his high school’s basketball team until a heart infection, which has long since resolved, kept him home for a year.
  • After high school, Pera attended the UC San Diego, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a BS in Electrical Engineering and a BA in Japanese Language. 
  • During his junior year, he went to Tokyo and noticed that mobile phones were way ahead of the U.S. market. He decided he wanted to work in cellular network.
  • He stayed on at the University of California, San Diego and completed his masters in EE with an emphasis on Digital Communications and Circuit Design.
  • After graduation, Pera, who admired Steve Jobs, secured a job at Apple Inc., where he tested the company’s Wi-Fi devices to ensure compliance with FCC standards.
  • Pera noticed that Apple’s Wi-Fi devices power levels were far below FCC limits.
  • Boosting their power, he reasoned, could increase their transmission range to over dozens of miles, which could facilitate Internet access in remote areas.
  • When his bosses at Apple Inc. ignored his idea, Pera decided to build his own low-cost, high performance Wi-Fi module.
  • For the next year, Pera spent his nights and weekends testing prototypes. 
  • By early 2005, he felt the prototype was ready to be marketed. He left Apple.
  • Pera founded Ubiquiti Networks in March 2005 using only $30,000 of personal savings and credit card debt.
  • Ubiquiti’s early products utilized existing Wi-Fi technology to wirelessly deliver the Internet to underserved areas (e.g., rural areas and emerging markets) lacking the infrastructure to access the Internet through phone lines or cable lines.
  • The company has since successfully branched out into other product lines such as wireless access points, security cameras and traditional networking equipment.
  • On October, 2011, Ubiquiti had an IPO at 7.04 million shares at $15 per share.
  • On October 25, 2012, Pera bought a 25% stake in the Memphis Grizzlies basketball team. He led a group of 20 partners that bought the team for $377M. 
  • Pera invested in the Grizzlies Foundation to increase the number of high school graduates prepared for success in college and the workforce.
  • Pera’s personal interests include pickup basketball and cross-fit training.
  • As of May 7, 3016, his net worth is $2.4 billion.
Lessons from a Lost Computer
  • My laptop is missing this week. I have looked everywhere and can’t locate it after an offsite. I am now resigned to buy a replacement and move on. Here are a few lessons.
  • It Can Happen to Anyone: Be Prepared
  • Importance of Cloud Backup: Carbonite
  • Importance of Disk Encryption: Windows 10 (synced with Microsoft account)
  • Importance of IMAP Email: Exchange, Gmail, etc.
  • Painful, But Recoverable: No data loss or security breach
Data Storytelling: The Essential Data Science Skill Everyone Needs
  • During a 2009 interview, Google’s Chief Economist Dr. Hal R.Varian stated, “The ability to take data—to be able to understand it, to process it, to extract value from it, to visualize it, to communicate it—that’s going to be a hugely important skill in the next decades.” 
  • As data becomes increasingly ubiquitous, companies are desperately searching for talent with these data skills
  • The need for more data storytellers is only going to increase in the future. With the shift towards more self-service capabilities in analytics and business intelligence, the pool of people generating insights will expand beyond just analysts and data scientists. 
  • This new breed of data tools will make it easier for people across business functions to access and explore the data on their own. As a result, we’re going to see an unprecedented number of insights being generated within companies than ever before. 
  • However, unless we can improve the communication of these insights we will also see a poorer insight-to-value conversion rate. If an insight isn’t understood and isn’t compelling, no one will act on it and no change will occur.
  • It’s important to understand how these different elements combine and work together in data storytelling. When narrative is coupled with data, it helps to explain to your audience what’s happening in the data and why a particular insight is important. When visuals are applied to data, they can enlighten the audience to insights that they wouldn’t see without charts or graphs. Finally, when narrative and visuals are merged together, they can engage or even entertain an audience. 
  • When you combine the right visuals and narrative with the right data, you have a data story that can influence and drive change.
  • When you package up your insights as a data story, you build a bridge for your data to the influential, emotional side of the brain. 
New Android malware disguises itself as a Chrome update 
  • ThreatLabZ has discovered malware that hides in the form of an Android Google Chrome update.
  • The domains used by the infostealer look like file names for Google updates, but each URL is only active for a little while before being replaced
  • The malware may arrive from compromised or malicious websites using scareware tactics or social engineering. An easy way to avoid that trouble is to stay away from questionable websites in the first place, and think twice about clicking Ok.
  • One common theme we have seen in recent malicious android application packages involves scareware tactics where the user will see a popup indicating that their device is infected with a virus and asks them to update to clean up infection.
  • After downloading, the fake update called Update_chrome.apk” prompts unsuspecting Android users to grant it admin access. 
  • If they agree, the malware seeks out and nullifies any already installed security or antivirus apps like Avast, ESET, Dr. Web, and Kaspersky to prevent them from functioning as they should.
  • Once the security software is crippled, the fake Chrome goes about tracking all texts and calls, sending the info to a command-and-control server. The malware can even hang up on unknown callers. If the Google Play Store is installed, it will show a fake credit card payment page that looks eerily close to the real one. If the user falls for that, the malware will send the CC info to a Russian telephone number.
  • Since the user can’t revoke its admin access, once the user gives the fake chrome infostealer admin access, the only recourse is to factory reset the device.
Government Open Data Allows Third Party Analysis
  • Open data advocates say vast social good can be achieved by opening government data up to the public for analysis. 
  • In Winnipeg, a map created using open census information sheds light on the distribution of income, ethnicity and language across the city. 
  • In Montreal, an app that draws on municipal data helps citizens avoid snow plows when parking their cars during winter. 
  • In Waterloo, Ontario, students used city data to create an app that maps every single tree the city owns.
  • Open data can encompass a diverse range of information, including geographical maps and meteorological data, traffic data, real estate listings, building permits, health data, lists of government lobbyists, business licenses and survey responses.
  • Social scientists, activists, non-profits, computer programmers, educators and businesses can all analyze that data for their own ends — if it’s made available to them.
  • This is data that’s ultimately been paid for by taxpayers, one way or another. The government is a custodian, but not the owner.
  • The GPS function on smartphones relies on open government data, as does popular satellite mapping software like Google Maps.
  • Open data can change the relationship between citizens and governments for the better. It appeals to both policymakers and computer programmers.
  • More than 55 Canadian cities now have open data strategies, and they’re working together to exchange knowledge, case studies and digital tools.
  • The goal of open data is ultimately “to create a more inclusive society, a more transparent society, a more accountable society.”
Device of the Week: Reset Plug
  • The ResetPlug aims to continuously monitor your home Internet connection and automatically cycle the power on your router if there’s a problem.
  • Whenever I have a connectivity problem, 98% of the time turning the thing off and on fixes the problem. I usually just unplug my router to reboot it.
  • This is clearly a frustrating and unnecessary problem in need of an easy fix. 
  • The ResetPlug is a smart power outlet for your Wi-Fi router that has exactly one job: Monitor your home’s Internet connection and cycle the power if there’s a problem. 
  • The best part is it works automatically — no alerts, no app to log into and launch, and no need to get off the couch.
  • The ResetPlug monitors your home Internet connection and cycles the power if there’s a problem.  
  • You set the device up through a web app, and you can manually set the time it will wait before performing a reset in the event of an outage. 
  • It uses 802.11n tech and monitors the 2.4GHz Wi-Fi band.
  • The bad news is the ResetPlug costs $59.99 — pretty steep as smart plugs go. 
Idea of the Week: Self-driving Golf Carts on Campuses
  • Self-driving electric golf carts are ferrying students on university campuses
  • Auro, a three-year-old startup, is starting to deploy autonomous vehicles at US universities to dominate the market for automated shuttles. 
  • Auro’s electric self-driving golf-carts have already roamed the campuses of Santa Clara University and California State University Sacramento during pilot projects.
  • The company claims it will now roll out an autonomous shuttle service for “a major American university” in 2016.
  • While Google, Tesla, Uber, and others are building self-driving vehicles for America’s roads and highways, Auro’s CEO is intent on commercializing the technology as soon as possible. 
  • Google, which has been testing its self-driving vehicles at its Mountain View headquarters for at least a year, has not yet made a major move to sell its technology.
  • University and corporate campuses offer an ideal proving ground for fully automated vehicle fleets since they lack heavy government regulation, high-speed roads, or geographic variation. 
  • Auro’s carts seat about five people and travel up to 10 miles per hour. Radar, laser scanners, cameras, and sensors create a three-dimensional map of the surroundings, enabling the vehicles to avoid obstacles and pedestrians.
  • Auro’s vehicles can follow a predefined route or respond to on-demand requests. The company has said it will charge about $5,000 per month for the shuttles to at universities. Amusement parks, resorts, and industrial sites are likely to follow.
Sad Day for Boaty McBoatface
  • The UK’s 200 Million Euro polar research ship won’t be called Boaty McBoatface. 
  • Instead, the new ship will be called RRS (Royal Research Ship) Sir David Attenborough. 
  • The Natural Environment Research Council had originally planned to name the new ship via an online poll. 
  • RRS Sir David Attenborough did pick up a few votes, though in terms of popularity nothing came close to Boaty McBoatface.
  • While the polar ship itself will not be named Boaty McBoatface, one of its remotely operated sub-sea vehicles will be named Boaty in recognition of the vote. 
Dumb Name of the Week: Fog Computing
  • By now, you’ve probably heard of cloud computing.
  • That’s where companies rent shared software, computers, and storage instead of buying and installing it all themselves. They pay for their usage via subscriptions, accessing it over the internet.
  • Cloud computing is popular now, on track to be a $10 billion business for Amazon in 2016; Microsoft hopes it will become a $20 billion business by 2018.
  • So what comes after the cloud? If you ask Cisco, it’s something called “fog computing.” 
  • Cisco was joined by other industry leaders including Intel, Microsoft, ARM, Dell, and Microsoft to back a new “fog computing” consortium, the OpenFog initiative. 
  • In cloud computing, everyone shares the same massive data centers. You run an app on your phone in your home town, but the back-end computers may be in Virginia, or California, or Ireland, etc.
  • But with fog computing, computers and storage are scattered all over, perhaps placed closer to the app’s users. The network is smart enough to know where the data is stored.
  • Cisco is championing this idea. It means selling a lot more high-end, very profitable network equipment to connect a lot more computers and data centers.
  • Cisco has been largely left out of the cloud computing revolution. As its customers move to the cloud, they need to buy less networking equipment. Meanwhile, some of the biggest cloud operators, like Facebook and Microsoft, have invented their own, new low-cost network equipment.
  • The name “fog” is new, but the general concept isn’t. It used to be called “distributed computing.” 
  • The computing industry goes between centralized and distributed computing models: centralized (mainframes) turned into distributed (PCs and local computer servers, known as “client/server”), and have now become centralized again (cloud computing). So, next up would be distributed.
  • Decentralized allows you to run apps closer to the people using the apps so the apps perform better.
  • This could become very important as billions of devices join the internet as part of the “Internet of Things.”