Show of 11-12-2016

Tech Talk

November 12, 2016

Email and Forum Questions

  • Eyimofe Pessu from Sapele, Nigeria on Facebook: You guys are great, thank you for the work you doing.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Thanks for the email. We love the feedback. I check your Facebook page and noticed that you run an Internet Café and also provide computer training and IT support. What you doing is the best way to help your local economic development. Help your students learn programming by doing actual projects. They could also earn money by bidding on freelance jobs on sites like guru.com or www.freelance.com. IT is the great economic equalizer.
  • Email from Arnie in Colorado Springs: Shurtz, the following relates to your recent discussion of DDOS attacks. It talks about the fact that script kiddies may be behind the attack. Arnie in Colorado Springs
  • Tech Talk Responds: A massive DDoS attack against Dyn resulted in multiple high-profile websites, including Twitter, Amazon and Netflix, to be unavailable. US director of National Intelligence James Clapper said that preliminary indications suggested that “non-state actors” rather than spies had launched the assault. He suggested it was probably bored kids or crooks behind the attack. These script kiddies could use the Mirai malware code that had been released on the web. Another group used it to bring down the network in Liberia. We can expect more of the same kind of attacks.
  • Email from Lilly in Fairfax: Dear Doc and Jim. I have an atomic clock that is supposed to change automatically for daylight savings time. It was supposed to fall back by one-hour last weekend and nothing happened. I don’t know how to set the clock. What can I do? I don’t really understand the whole atomic clock idea. Would you please explain. Lilly in Fairfax
  • Tech Talk Responds: The NIST Time and Frequency Division maintains the standard for frequency and time interval for the United States, provides official time to the United States, and carries out a broad program of research and service activities in time and frequency metrology.
  • NIST-F1, the nation’s primary time and frequency standard, is a cesium fountain atomic clock developed at the NIST laboratories in Boulder, Colorado. NIST-F1 contributes to the international group of atomic clocks that define Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), the official world time. Because NIST-F1 is among the most accurate clocks in the world, it makes UTC more accurate than ever before. Thus the time standard is an atomic clock.
  • NIST radio station WWVB is located near Fort Collins, Colorado. The WWVB broadcasts are used throughout North America to synchronize consumer electronic products like wall clocks, clock radios and wristwatches. WWVB continuously broadcasts digital time codes on a 60 kHz carrier that may serve as a stable frequency reference traceable to the national standard at NIST. The time codes are synchronized with the 60 kHz carrier and are broadcast continuously in two different formats at a rate of 1 bit per second using pulse width modulation (PWM) as well as phase modulation (PM).
  • You clock has to pick up this signal to synchronize. If you are inside, the signal may be blocked. You need to place you clock near a window facing toward Fort Collins, CO. In your case, that would be West. One more thing, the broadcast bounces off the atmosphere at night producing a much stronger signal at night. So you will probably have to leave your clock near the window overnight facing West to reset the time.
  • Email from Lois in Kansas: Dear Doc and Jim. Recently a friend of our died and his family had trouble taking control on his Facebook account. I don’t want that to happen to me. How can I specify what happens to my Facebook account if something happens to me? Love the show. Lois in Kansas.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Facebook gives you two options for such an eventuality. You can either choose to delete your account when you die, or have it memorialized.
  • Memorialized Account —When you memorialize your account, you leave someone you trust in charge of making sure that your account is curated after you’re gone. Memorializing an account allows friends and family to get together and share memories of you, and has some key features. You name will have the word “Remembering” placed next to it.
  • In order to set your account so that it can be memorialized after you pass, you need to appoint a legacy contact. This would be any friend or family member who you trust to tend to your wishes. To set a legacy contact, first open the Settings and click on “Security” then “Legacy Contact”. Now, you simply need to appoint a friend to serve as your legacy contact.
  • Your legacy contact won’t gain these new powers until after your account is officially memorialized, which someone must request for you after you have died. Facebook will require your name, the date you died, and optionally, some kind of proof such as link to obituary or a copy of your death certificate.
  • Deleted Account — The simpler option is to have your account deleted upon your demise. This isn’t the same as deactivating it. When deleted, everything goes away. To do this, open the Security settings, click on “Legacy Contact” and this time click “Request account deletion”. After you have passed away, someone will need to notify Facebook, which they can do using a special request form. It’s best that you appoint someone, regardless of whether they’re your legacy contact, to take care of this matter. Be sure to communicate to them your wishes for how your Facebook account should be handled.
  • Email from Hac in Bowie: Dear Doc and Jim. I have heard you talk about controlling your TV with you cellphone. How do you do that. I would love to get rid of all of my remotes and make every smart phone in the house a TV controller. This would end many arguments about who controls the TV. Love the show. Hac in Bowie
  • Tech Talk Responds: I have a system that really works well for me. I am currently using a Logitech Harmony Link. It is a device that connects to my Wi-Fi network. I configure it for the devices that I need to control (Receiver, DVD, Cable Box, TV) using an application that I downloaded to my PC. You will need the name and model number for device. Once it is configured I simply plug it in. It has IR transmitters to connect to the devices. One IR transmitter is on a wire and communicates with the devices in the console. The other IR transmitter is on the top of the console and communicates with the TV. I simply download the Harmony Link for my iPhone or Android. I log into the device suing the app, making certain that I am on the same Wi-Fi network. It works like a charm.
  • I just checked and the Harmony Link has been discontinued. (You can still buy from Amazon for $49, at least for now). It has been replaced with Logitech Harmony Companion All in One Remote Control for Smart Home and Entertainment Devices. This is the same base unit with an actual remote. It also works with the smart phone app, as well as with Alexa. It is $122 on Amazon.

Profiles in IT: James Edward Allchin

  • James Edward Allchin is best known for building Microsoft’s server business and for his creating directory services. He is now an American blues rock guitarist and singer.
  • Jim Allchin was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1951.
  • While he was still an infant, the Allchin family moved to Keysville, Florida, where his parents worked on a farm. Allchin grew up in a tin-roof house built by his father.
  • He briefly studied Electrical engineering at the University of Florida, but temporarily dropped out to play in a number of bands.
  • He returned and graduated with BS in Computer Science in 1973.
  • After graduating, Allchin joined TI, where he helped to build a new operating system.
  • He briefly helped start a new company in Wyoming offering computer services.
  • He earned a degree of MS in Computer Science from Stanford University in 1980.
  • While pursuing his PhD in CS at Georgia Tech in the early eighties, he was the primary architect of the Clouds distributed object-oriented operating system; his thesis was entitled “An Architecture for Reliable Decentralized Systems”.
  • In 1983, Allchin was recruited to Banyan by founder Dave Mahoney, eventually being Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer.
  • During his seven years at Banyan, he created the VINES distributed operating system, including the StreetTalk directory protocol.
  • Bill Gates recruited Allchin to join Microsoft in 1990. Initially, Gates put Allchin in charge of revamping LAN Manager, using his networking expertise.
  • Allchin’s first high-profile project at Microsoft was the Cairo technology. One of the main goals for Cairo was to help users to locate files based on their content as opposed to their name. Users would also have access to network files.
  • The Cairo and Windows NT groups were combined under Allchin. Allchin was lead developer on Windows NT version 3.5 onwards.
  • In 1999, he was put him in charge of the development of both the home and business versions of Windows as head of the newly formed Platform Division.
  • Allchin was a member of the MS Senior Leadership Team, a small group responsible for developing Microsoft’s core direction along with Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates.
  • He was a key player in the MS anti-trust litigation. Many of his emails were used as evidence of Microsoft’s anti-competitive strategy.
  • Bill Gates said: He’s a brilliant technologist, visionary, and a strong leader.
  • Allchin was diagnosed with cancer in late 2002 and took a leave of absence for part of 2003. He ultimately retired after MS shipped the Vista OS.
  • Allchin now devotes his time to music and charity work. He has released three albums: Enigma (2009), Overclocked, and QED (2013). The last two have received widespread acclaim especially for Allchin’s guitar work.
  • Personal website: http://www.jimallchin.com/

Closest Supermoon since 1948!

  • The supermoon (perigee full moon) on November 14, 2016, will bring the moon closer to Earth than it has been since January 26, 1948. What’s more, the moon won’t come this close to Earth again until November 25, 2034. That makes the November 2016 full moon the closest and largest supermoon in a period of 86 years!
  • But be sure to look the night before as well – November 13. For many on Earth, the moon will be more “super” that night
  • On November 14 at 6:23 a.m. EST, 5:23 a.m., the distance between the centers of the moon and Earth will shrink to its smallest distance for the year: 221,524 miles (356,509 km).
  • As is often the case, the closest lunar perigee of the year is the one that aligns most closely with the full moon.
  • On November 14, 2016, the moon turns full, only two and one-half hours after the moon sweeps to perigee.
  • Eighteen years later – on November 25, 2034 – the full moon and perigee will occur within one-half hour of one another.
  • Bottom line: Enjoy the full supermoon on the nights of November 13 and 14, 2016, closer to Earth than it has been since January 26, 1948. The full moon won’t come this close to Earth again until November 25, 2034.

Website of the Week: Anti-Mirai Tool

  • A malware program called Mirai was quickly blamed for the massive hack in October that took down Twitter, Spotify, and scores of other websites, but a new security tool enables anybody to see if their so-called “Internet of Things” devices are vulnerable to attack.
  • Mirai has been used in distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks in the past. It works by finding insecure Internet of Things devices — which isn’t difficult, given that much of the industry doesn’t care about security — then using them as bot-nets to do its bidding. And because the malware’s source code leaked, it’s free for basically anyone to use.
  • Imperva’s research found a way to determine if devices are vulnerable to malware like Mirai. You don’t have to install anything to use it all you have to do is visit the scanner’s website and let it analyze the IP address your smart products use to access the internet.
  • After you request a scan, the website looks for devices connected to ports 22 or 23. It scanner tests if the devices are accessible with passwords from Mirai’s dictionary. Scan results are then provided.
  • Scanner’s web address: https://www.incapsula.com/mirai-scanner.html

AI System Predicts Trump Win

  • An artificial intelligence system that correctly predicted the last three U.S. presidential elections predicted that Trump would win.
  • MogIA was developed by Sanjiv Rai, founder of Indian start-up Genic.ai. It takes in 20 million data points from public platforms including Google, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in the U.S. and then analyzes the information to create predictions.
  • The AI system was created in 2004, so it has been getting smarter all the time. It had already correctly predicted the results of the Democratic and Republican Primaries.
  • Data such as engagement with tweets or Facebook Live videos have been taken into account. The result is that Trump has overtaken the engagement numbers of Barack Obama’s peak in 2008 — the year he was elected president — by 25 percent.
  • Rai said that his AI system shows that the candidate in each election who had leading engagement data ended up winning the election.
  • Using social media to predict outcomes of elections has become increasingly popular because of the amount of data available publicly. In September, Nick Beauchamp, an assistant professor of political science at Northeastern University, published a paper about his experiment applying AI to more than 100 million tweets in the 2012 election. He found that this closely mirrored the results seen in state-level polling.
  • Rai said his system would be improved by more granular data. He said that If Google was to give him access to the unique internet addresses assigned to each digital device, he could then collect data on exactly what people were thinking.
  • For example, Rai said if someone was searching for a YouTube video on how to vote, then looked for a video on how to vote for Trump, this could give the AI a good idea of the voter’s intention. He added that there would be no privacy concerns as these internet addresses would be anonymized.
  • MogIA is based on Mowgli, the child from Rudyard Kipling’s novel “The Jungle Book.” Rai said this is because his AI model learns from the environment.
  • “While most algorithms suffer from programmers/developer’s biases, MoglA aims at learning from her environment, developing her own rules at the policy layer and develop expert systems without discarding any data,” Rai said.
  • BTW, the Simpsons predicted 16 years ago that Donald Triumph would become the president. In an episode “Bart To The Future” aired on March 19, 2000, Donald Trump was depicted as the president of the United States.
  • Why polling failed (hidden supporters, skewed sampling, bias)

The Science of Sous Vide

  • Order a medium-rare steak at a high-end restaurant these days, and you may slice through the meat to find that it is a perfect rosy pink not just in the center but from edge to edge and is encased in only the slimmest crust of browned meat.
  • The secret to getting this results consistently is the surprisingly simple yet powerful technique called cooking sous vide.
  • Chefs first seal the food in special plastic bags, often in a vacuum chamber (sous vide is French for “under vacuum”) but sometimes with air or other gases.
  • They then slow-cook the bagged food at relatively low temperature, typically 122 to 149 degrees Fahrenheit, for hours or even days in a water bath or steam oven.
  • The simple act of vacuum-packing food and immersing it in hot water changes the physics of cooking more than you might think. The usual goal in cooking is to bring the food to the specific temperature at which it is perfectly “done.” For many foods, such as fish and certain vegetables, the margin of error is quite narrow.
  • In traditional cooking, the high temperature of the pan, oven or grill pushes heat into the exterior of the food so quickly that a large temperature gradient forms between the surface and the core.
  • A charbroiled steak, for example, soon becomes boiling hot just under the surface where the water in the meat is flashing to steam; that boiling zone can be a good 86 degrees F hotter than the medium-rare center, and conduction keeps transmitting the heat there even after the steak is pulled from the broiler.
  • When cooking sous vide, in contrast, chefs typically set the water bath temperature just one or two degrees higher than the core temperature they want to reach.
  • A computer-controlled heater can hold the bath within half a degree of that temperature while the food slowly equilibrates. Because the temperature can’t go very high, overcooking is not really possible, so timing is much less critical. The vacuum packing prevents air from insulating the food, improves food safety and greatly slows oxidation reactions that can lead to unwanted color changes or off-flavors.
  • Low temperatures won’t brown food, but a quick sweep with a blowtorch or a fast sear on a griddle can apply the final color and crust. The food can be done to a chef’s specifications, every time.
  • Little data exists indicating whether any of the resins or additives used in these SV plastics, or their degradation products, migrate from the plastic into the food during cooking. I checked and the manufactures are circumspect. While unconfirmed by SV packaging manufacturers, it is highly probable that SV packaging contains additives to allow it to withstand heated water and food contact, for extended time periods.