Show of 12-24-2016

Tech Talk

December 24, 2016

 

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Lynn in Ohio:Dear Doc and Jim. I surf the web quite a bit and don’t like anyone to track me or what sites I am looking at, or what products I might buy. I am curious can the websites that I visit track me or even worse identify me. Love the show. Lynn in Ohio.
  • Tech Talk Responds: When you view a webpage, the web server receives the IP address of the last device in the chain of connections between your computer and that server. Most commonly, that’s the IP address assigned to your router. If your computer is connected directly to the internet, that’s its IP address. If you’re connected through a router, that’s the IP address assigned by your ISP to your router.
  • The IP address is a fundamental component of how the internet works. The server must know the IP address to which it should send its response. It’s like the return address on a postal mail envelope.
  • In most home and small businesses, the IP address is assigned by your ISP to your router’s internet connection. Law enforcement could get that information using a warrant.
  • If your internet connection is through a corporate network, proxy, or VPN, things get more complex. The IP address seen by the web server might only indicate the company providing your internet connection, proxy, or VPN service.
  • In fact, this is one of the reasons that TOR – The Onion Router – exists. It uses a multi-layered series of proxies in such a way that even with things like court orders and legal justifications, your origin IP address cannot be determined.
  • So, to answer at least part of your question: to hide your origin IP address, use something like a VPN service or TOR.
  • If you provide any information to a site, they can remember you and track you using a cookie, a small piece of data saved by your browser. When you return, the cookie provides the information that  you provided previously. There are also “supercookies” or “evercookies”, which use a variety of techniques to create a digital fingerprint of your connection. Such a fingerprint might include everything from your IP address, traditional cookies, the browser you use, and even the operating system and screen resolution reported by your browser. Advertisers love to use cookies to serve you targeted ad.
  • Therefore, in the final analysis, your anonymity cannot be guaranteed if you do any type of business on the Internet. Even TOR users, who used bitcoin, were eventually tracked down. Because of element of their digital signature ultimately was linked to them personally.
  • Email from Wendy in Fairfax:Dear Doc and Jim. I am thinking of getting a new car. I would like to get the latest audio and navigation system. I have been reading the Apple has a system that supports the iPhone. It is worth it. I am a iPhone user. I love to use Waze on my iPhone. What is your opinion of CarPlay? Love the show. Wendy in Fairfax
  • Tech Talk Responds: Apple’s CarPlay is trying to re-invent the way you use your phone in the car with “second screen” in your navigation system. Basically, CarPlay is iOS for your car. It has a simplified interface for easy use in a vehicle.
  • You can buy a car with a CarPlay-ready system already installed, or buy an aftermarket head unit. A good aftermarket unit is the Kenwood DDX9903S. Pioneer and JBL also have aftermarket CarPlay units.
  • CarPlay is basically comprised of a main screen with shortcuts to all your currently-installed applications. The sidebar on the left-hand side always houses the “home” button, as well as apps that are running in the background, like Maps.
  • The biggest thing CarPlay has going for it is Siri. If you have “Hey Siri” enabled, you no longer have to actually touch the head unit itself for most actions. CarPlay is not a standalone product. The unit will have a USB input where you’ll use your own Lightning cable to connect your phone to the head unit. It also charges your phone.
  • One disadvantage is that third-party apps are pretty limited. For example, you are essentially stuck with Apple Maps, since Google Maps on CarPlay is simply not an option. The same applies to Waze; you have to use Apple navigation and maps.
  • In addition, the cost of CarPlay-compatible head units is high, well over $1,000. So why not just buy a $7 mount for your phone and just continue using your phone.
  • CarPlay definitely has its benefits: its bigger screen and simpler interface are just a more car-friendly experience. You can call people more easily, and control your tunes without really taking your eyes off the road. Basically, it’s safer, which is nice. But at this point, it just is not worth it. Perhaps with a little more AI, my opinion will change.
  • Email from Charlie in Kansas:Dear Tech Talk. I have a large home and am having trouble getting Wi-Fi coverage over the entire house. I have fiddled with Wi-Fi extenders and they were so complicated to setup that I gave up. What are my option now? Enjoy the podcast. Charlie in Kansas
  • Tech Talk Responds: Charlie, your best bet is to get a Wi-Fi mesh system. They are easy to set up, much easier than the old Wi-Fi extenders. They typically come in sets of three. You simply place the three units around the house and they automatically configure themselves as a mesh. There are lots of people entering the market right now, so it might make sense to wait a few months. Google Wi-Fi has been announced, but not release. You can go to Google and join the waitlist. Their units will be around $129 each. Others in the market include Luma ($347 for 3), Eero ($190 for 3), Ubiquiti Amplifi HD ($299 for 3). It is all about throughput. PC magazine rating Ubiquiti the as the best available. However, Google Wi-Fi was not rated. If I were in your position, I would wait for the release of Google Wi-Fi and check the reviews. This is new category that will mature very quickly. Just Google Wi-Fi Mesh to check the progress.
  • Email from Lacy in San Francisco:Dear Doc and Jim. I have been reading about a critical security flaw in Windows that was announced by Google. Should I stop using my Windows computer until it is fixed? Or should I try something else? What are my options. Love the podcast here in SF. Lacy.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Google has revealed a critical security flaw in Windows which it says leaves users vulnerably to being hacked. Google was not happy that Microsoft was so slow in responding. The good news is that Microsoft has announced that the patch will be available November 8, 2016.
  • On October 31st, Google posted on its security blog outlining a vulnerability in the Windows kernel which would essentially allow hackers to bypass the usual security measures and potentially infect the PC with malware, spyware and more. Microsoft has not yet patched the flaw, and Google claims it is already being “actively exploited”. In fact, Microsoft has confirmed this and said in a TechNet blog that the group behind the “low-volume” attack is called STRONTIUM.
  • The issue is a ‘security hole’ in the Windows kernel, which applies to all versions of Windows. Essentially it means that hackers can gain privileges for their software so that it can break out from the usual protected area (the sandbox) of a web browser and install malicious code on your computer. However, according to Microsoft, STRONTIUM has to accomplish three things for an attack to succeed. First it must exploit Adobe Flash. Second it must “elevate privileges” to escape the browser’s sandbox (the walled-off area which it is limited to) and third, install a backdoor to gain access to the victim’s computer.
  • Google’s blog says that Adobe has already fixed the vulnerability in Flash within five days of being notified, but Microsoft will not patch Windows until November 8, 2016.
  • To protect yourself, make sure you have the latest version of Flash. You can either completely uninstall it from your computer through the Control Panel, use the Flash Updater utility on your computer to get the latest version or go to Adobe’s website to manually install the update.
  • If you’re running Windows 10, use either the latest version of Chrome or Microsoft’s Edge web browser as these already provide protection from the versions of this threat.
  • If you’re running a previous version of Windows, the only way to be truly protected is to disable all networking on that computer or leave it turned off until the patch is available next Tuesday. But MS would prefer that you just upgrade to Windows 10.

 

Profiles in IT: Jeff Bezos

  • Jeffrey Preston Bezos was born January 12, 1964 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
  • He is the founder, president, chief executive officer and chairman of the board of Amazon.com.
  • Bezos was born when his mother, Jackie Bezos, was still in her teens. Her marriage to his father lasted little more than a year.
  • She remarried when Bezos was five. Bezos’s stepfather, Miguel Bezos, was born in Cuba; he migrated to the United States alone at age 15 and worked his way through the University of Albuquerque.
  • At an early age, he displayed a striking mechanical aptitude. When a toddler, he dismantled his crib with a screwdriver.
  • Bezos showed intense and varied scientific interests at an early age. He rigged an electric alarm to keep his younger siblings out of his room and maintain his secrecy.
  • He converted his parents’ garage into a laboratory for his science projects.
  • Jeffrey spent most summers of his youth working with his grandfather on the family’s 25,000 acre Texas ranch.
  • Bezos attended River Oaks Elementary in Houston from the 4th to 6th grades.
  • The family moved to Miami, Florida, where Bezos attended Miami Palmetto Senior High School.
  • He entered Princeton University, planning to study physics, but soon returned to his love of computers and graduated with a degree in computer science and electrical engineering.
  • After graduating from Princeton, Bezos worked on Wall Street in the computer science field.
  • Then he worked on building a network for international trade for a company known as Fitel. Later on Bezos also worked in computer science for D. E. Shaw & Co..
  • Bezos founded Amazon.com in 1994 and became one of the most prominent dot-com entrepreneurs.
  • Bezos was named TIME magazine’s Person of the Year in 1999.
  • In 2006 his salary was $81,840 (unchanged since 1998), plus $1.1 million in other benefits.
  • Bezos’ wealth is primarily derived from his holding of Amazon.com stock At the end of 2006 he held just over 100 million shares of common stock, representing 26% of all Amazon.com shares.
  • At a value $81 per share, he is now worth around $8.1 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

 

Phantom 2 Vision On Air Test Flight

  • Takeoff and landing near WTOP studios
  • Some landing on street near police station
  • The drone looks into the studio windows Pic
  • Pictures and movies taken from 400 ft

 

Gifts for Techies

  • Bose QuiteComfort QC35 Wireless Headset. The gold standard in noise cancellation headsets is finally wireless (bluetooth) $349
  • Google Home. The Google Home smart speaker is the new rival to Amazon Echo. It features the AI-powered Google Assistant. For those enthusists who are on the Google eco-system.
  • Amazon Echo. Get Amazon Smart Assistant, Alexa, to play music, give news or weather. Competes with Google Home. $179
  • Google Nest. The smart thermostat for the home. Programs itself, connects to smart phone, easy to install $199.
  • Macbook Pro with Touch Bar and Touch ID. The new model is sleeker, lighter, and more powerful than the model it replaced. Available in 13 and 15 screens. From $1,799.
  • Microsoft Surface Book. With a magnesium body and detachable display. Excellent battery life. With this 2-in-1 notebook, MS has designed a winner. From $1,299.
  • Acer Chromebook 14, Aluminum, 14-inch Full HD, Intel Celeron Quad-Core N3160, 4GB LPDDR3, 32GB. $299.
  • HP Sprocket Portable Photo Printer. Designed to work with Apple iPhone and Android smartphones via a free app, the Bluetooth printer uses zero ink photo paper. $130
  • Skullcandy Ink’d Wireless Earbuds. Lightweight and comfortable, 8-hour battery life, many colors. from $47
  • Apple Watch Series 2. Much better than the original. It is fully waterproof, equipped with GPS, bright display. from $269
  • Anki Cozmo mobile robot. Powered by sophisticated AI, Cozmo is self-aware, can recognize its owner, express feelings, and loves to play games. You can add features using its developer’s platform.
  • DJI Phantom 4 Drone. This drone can capture 4K video. It also supports slow motion in full HD. It can automatically avoid obtacles and track moving objects. Maximum speed 44 mph. 28 minutes of flight time. $1,400
  • Google Pixel or Pixel XL for the Google Pi enthusiast. If you are in the Google eco-system this phone is for you. It has an earphone jack. from $650
  • Apple iPhone7 or iPhone7 Plus. If you are an Apple fan, the latest phone has powerful hardware, an exceptional cmaera and stereo speakers. And its fully waterproof. From $649
  • Roku Express. A new ultra-compact design, it turns any TV with HDMI intoT a smart TV. Supports all streaming services with multiple content channels. Great remote. $29
  • Apple TV (4th Generation). Touch and voice control, support for Siri, 4K content, connects to iPhone. All streaming services. $149.
  • Fitbit Charge 2. The new Fitbit Charge 2 is user-friendly, features continuous heart-rate tracking, GPS, OLED touchscreen, and swappable wristband. It tracks health data using smart phone. $150
  • TP-Link Smart Light Bulb. Wi-Fi enabled, it doesn’t require a smart hub. Compatible with Amazon Echo. $30.
  • Phillips Hue Smart Starter Kit. It you want colors this is the one for you. Its expensive, but fun. Three bulbs and a hub (that supports 50 bulbs). $199
  • Logitech Harmony Elite. The best universal remote control available. Has Wi-Fi connectivity. Supports 270,000 devices. Very easy to set up. I have the older model and love it. $298
  • Any flat screen TV. This is the year of the cheap flat screen TVs. The prices have really dropped. If you want to be future proofed make certain to get 4K support. Its more expensive, but worth it.
  • Code-a-pilar. It tasks your kids with discovering basic if/then combinations that are great for STEM learning. Each segment on the code-a-pillar lights up and it has a motorized head that has lights, sounds, and blinking eyes. The idea is to challenge your kids to figure out the proper segment order to get to specific targets that you lay out on the floor, and when doing it, they’ll have a blast while learning a basic foundation of coding. $36.99.
  • littleBits Electronics Arduino Coding Kit. It uses a snap module system that is easy to understand. It comes with 8 skteches for beginners, including a Mouse Control, how to buiild a basic Etch-a-Sketch, and more, and there are a thousand more instructions that can be found online in the Arduino community. The kit also works with other littleBits kits, so the more kits that they have, the more they’ll be able to build. $89.95
  • Geno 2.0 Next Generation Genographic Helix DNA Ancestry Kit from National Greographic. Track your ancestry through DNA. Both maternal and paternal for men. Only maternal for women. $149