Show of 07-15-2017

Tech Talk

July 15, 2017

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Andrew in Leesburg: Dear Doc and Jim. Can I stream Netflix and YouTube to my TV from my iPad or my iPhone? I would also like to show my pictures on TV. I don’t have a Smart TV with Internet access. What are my options? Andrew in Leesburg
  • Tech Talk Responds: You will need to plug a streaming device into the HDMI port of your TV. You will need a Wi-Fi router to communicate with the TV. You can use either Chromecast ($35) or Apple TV ($149 for 32 GB, $199 for 64GB). You can stream Netflix and YouTube with either of these devices. Since you want to share pictures from your iPhone, you will probably want to use AppleTV with AirPlay.
  • Once you have plugged either of these devices into the HDMI port of the TV, you will have to link them to the Wi-Fi network using an iPhone app. Then make certain that you phone is connected to the same network.
  • Apple TV has apps that must be installed from the App store. You will need to install both the Netflix and the YouTube app. Then you can play either on using the Apple TV remote. When you want to see pictures from your iPhone, use AirPlay. You’ll need to make sure AirPlay is enabled on your Apple TV using the Settings menu. Set AirPlay to on. Now slide up on your iPhone and click on AirPlay mirroring (select Apple TV). Simply look at hour photos and they will be displayed on the screen.
  • Email from Flynn in Ohio: Dear Doc and Jim. I have been posting pictures to Facebook and a few comments are not very nice. How can I remove other peoples comments from my Facebook post. Enjoy the podcast. Flynn in Ohio
  • Tech Talk Responds: The good news is that you can delete any comment that appears on one of your posts, photos, or videos. Go to the offending comment and hover your cursor over it. Next to the comment, you’ll almost always see a little X. Click the X and then Delete to remove it from your post. For comments on your Profile Picture, instead of an X you get a downward facing arrow. Click the arrow and then Delete to remove it from your post. On mobile, the process is slightly different. Long press on the comment you want to remove and then, from the menu that pops up, tap Delete.
  • The person who made the comment will not be notified, but they may notice you deleted their comment. If they are really causing you trouble, you can always block them entirely.
  • Dear Tech Talk. I love to surf the Internet using my Windows lap. I look at sites all over the world. How is computer able to connect to these sites so easily, even though they may be located anywhere in the world? It seems almost impossible. Love the show. Willy in Fairfax
  • Tech Talk Responds: The Internet is a collection of nodes that communicate via a protocol known as TCP/IP. Each node has an address called its IP address. When you put the name of a website into your browser, that name must be first converted to an IP address (32-bits for IPv4 and 128-bits for IPv6). This conversion is done using the Domain Name System (DNS). Your computer sends the website name to the DNS and it returns the IP address of the site. Your computer then sends a message that IP address. The request is routed through the network of nodes until it arrives at the website. You can see how many nodes the request traverses by the tracert command. In the case of Windows, type “cmd” in the search bar. Click on “Command Prompt.”
  • When the command prompt window opens, type “tracert stratford.edu” When I executed this command, I found that it was 15 hops to the Stratford website. Three pings were sent to each node and the return time is shown for each, as well as, the name of the node (if provided). If a node refuses the ping, the request is timed out. In this case, total transit delay was only 33 ms. This a fun exercise to do for website anywhere in the world.
  • Email from Feroze in Fredericksburg: Dear Doc and Jim. I would like to listen to my TV using Bluetooth Headphones so that I do not disturb others in the house. What are my options. We listen to the live show here in Fredericksburg. Feroze
  • Tech Talk Responds: Adding wireless headphones to your TV is a great way to watch without disturbing everyone else in the house. Here’s how to outfit your TV with wireless Bluetooth headphones. You’ll need to hook up a Bluetooth transmitter to your HDTV, since most don’t have it built in. The transmitter you select depends on what audio outputs your HTDV supports and whether you need to hook up one or two headphones. When the transmitter is in place, you can pair any set of Bluetooth headphones with it. Expect to spend $20-50, plus the cost of the headphones themselves.
  • You want an adapter that supports “aptX low-latency”. The aptX low-latency codec is a set of, as the name implies, low-latency Bluetooth compression algorithms that significantly minimize audio delay when paired with headphones that also support aptX. A good adaptor is the Avantree Dual Link Priva III. For $45, you get a Bluetooth adapter that offers not only aptX low-latency connections, but offers it for two headphone connections at onece.
  • If you’re purchasing these headphones primarily for movie and video game use, it’s important you seek out a pair that supports the aptX low-latency codec to take advantage of your aptX transmitter. Plug in the transmitted and then pair the transmitter and headset. You all set.
  • Email from Brian in Kansas: Dear Tech Talk. What is the difference between at .docx file and a .doc file. Both are MS Word files. Enjoy the podcast. Brian in Kansas
  • Tech Talk Responds: Microsoft Word started using the DOC format and file extension over 30 years ago in the very first release of Word for MS-DOS. Word was the only program that officially supported DOC files until Microsoft opened the specification in 2006, after which it was reverse-engineered.
  • Under pressure from the rising competition of the free and open-source Open Office and its competing Open Document Format (ODF), Microsoft pushed for the adoption of an even broader open standard in the early 2000s. This culminated in the development of the DOCX file format, along with its companions like XLSX for spreadsheets and PPTX for presentations.
  • The standards were presented under the name “Office Open XML” since the formats were based on Extensible Markup Language rather than the older and less efficient binary-based format. The XML-based DOCX format became the default save file for Word in the 2007 version of the software. DOCX is now the new de facto standard.
  • The same document is only a fraction of the size in DOCX format versus the older DOC. DOCX is a better choice for just about every situation. The format creates smaller, lighter files that are easier to read and transfer.

Profiles in IT: Vitalik Buterin

  • Vitalik Buterin is a Russian-Canadian programmer and writer primarily known as a co-founder of Ethereum and as a co-founder of Bitcoin Magazine.
  • Buterin was born January 31, 1994 in Kolomna, Moscow. In 2000, he moved to Canada with his parents who sought better employment opportunities.
  • While in grade three of elementary school in Canada, Buterin was placed into a class for gifted children and started to understand that he was drawn to math, programming, and economics.
  • He played World of Warcraft from 2007-2010, until a computer error removed the damage component from his beloved warlock’s Siphon Life spell. He decided to quit.
  • In 2012, he obtained a Bronze Medal in the International Olympiad in Informatics.
  • In 2011, Buterin learned about Bitcoin from his father at 17. Buterin met a person on a bitcoin chat forum trying to start a bitcoin blog. The owner offered five bitcoins (about $3.50) to anyone who would write an article for him. Buterin wrote for the site until it shut down.
  • In September 2011, another person reached out to Buterin about Bitcoin Magazine. He accepted a position as Bitcoin Magazine co-founder and lead writer.
  • In 2012, he enrolled at the University of Waterloo. By 2013, he was spending 30 hours per week on crypto projects.
  • In 2013, Bitcoin Magazine was purchased by BTC Media.
  • In May 2013, he traveled to California to a cryptocurrency conference led by the Winklevoss twins. The event was Buterin’s first glimpse at the Bitcoin community.
  • Buterin dropped out of the University of Waterloo and spent the rest of the year traveling around the world visiting with individuals working on bitcoin.
  • Upon returning home to Toronto, Buterin began developing Ethereum, and wrote a white paper on his findings. The name was based on an imaginary sci-fi element.
  • In June 2014, Buterin was awarded a $100,000 Peter Thiel Fellowship for his work.
  • Buterin helped launch the Ethereum Foundation to begin researching the cryptocurrency and announced the sale of Ethereum currency in a blog post.
  • A beta version of the Ethereum platform was released in mid-2015.
  • Ethereum is a “decentralised mining network and software development platform rolled into one” that facilitates the creation of new cryptocurrencies and programs that share a single blockchain (a cryptographic transaction ledger).
  • Ethereum was first described in a Buterin’s white paper, in late 2013. Buterin argued that bitcoin needed a scripting language for application development.
  • But when he failed to gain agreement within the Bitcoin community, he proposed development of a new platform with a more general scripting language.
  • Vitalik owns approximately 430,000 Ethereum. With a, price of $191.61 per Etherium (July 14, 2017), his net worth is $82.4 million.

Idea of the Century: BlockChain

  • Blockchain is a disruptive technology, and considered the biggest technological innovation since the internet itself.
  • A Blockchain is a distributed database that is used to maintain a continuously growing list of records, called blocks. Each block contains a timestamp and a link to a previous block.
  • A Blockchain is typically managed by a peer-to-peer network collectively adhering to a protocol for validating new blocks. Individuals who validate new block are paid in bitcoins for their work. Such individuals are called miners. This is the only way to accumulate bitcoins (other than buying them from miners).
  • Once recorded, the data in any given block cannot be altered retroactively without the alteration of all subsequent blocks and a collusion of the network majority.
  • A Blockchain can serve as “an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way. The ledger itself can also be programmed to trigger transactions automatically.”
  • Blockchains are secure by design and are an example of a distributed computing system with high fault tolerance. This makes Blockchain potentially suitable for the recording of events, medical records, and other records management activities, such as identity management, transaction processing, and documenting provenance.
  • The first Blockchain was conceptualized by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008 and implemented the following year as a core component of the digital currency bitcoin, where it serves as the public ledger for all transactions.
  • The invention of the Blockchain for bitcoin made it the first digital currency to solve the double spending problem, without the use of a trusted authority or central server.
  • Blockchain was the first advancement in ledgers since the Italian invention of double entry accounting in 1340.

Blockchain Evolved: Ethereum

  • Ethereum is a Blockchain based application platform, that allows the applications to run from decentralized nodes instead of a central server.
  • Anyone can set up a node, and be compensated for the computational power they provide to the Blockchain.
  • The decentralized architecture means that the applications running on the Blockchain can not be tampered with, cannot be blocked, and there is no possibility of a downtime.
  • It provides a decentralized Turing-complete virtual machine, the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM), which can execute scripts using an international network of public nodes.
  • Ethereum is maintained by a Swiss nonprofit organization known as the Ethereum Foundation. The protocols and the functionality of the platform is has a regular update schedule, called milestones.
  • Ethereum can host cryptocurrencies, auctions, secure applications, virtual organizations, and even a virtual country with a constitution enforced by the Blockchain, that cannot be violated.
  • The intended scope of applications include projects related to finance, the internet-of-things, farm-to-table produce, electricity sourcing and pricing, and sports betting.
  • Decentralized autonomous organizations may enable a wide range of possible business models that were previously impossible or too costly to run.
  • Smart contracts are high-level programming abstractions that are compiled down to EVM bytecode and deployed to the Ethereum blockchain for execution.
  • They can be written in Solidity (a language library with similarities to C and JavaScript), Serpent (similar to Python), or LLL (a low-level Lisp-like language).
  • Companies around the world have come together under the banner of the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance, and make Ethereum more robust, safe, secure and appropriate for deploying enterprise solutions.
  • Members of the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance include Microsoft, Intel, Wipro, Infosys, Toyota, Samsung, Accenture, JP Morgan and ING.
  • The system went live on 30 July 2015, with 11.9 million coins “pre-mined” for the crowd sale. This accounts for approximately 13 percent of the total circulating supply.
  • Ethereum Foundation Website: https://www.ethereum.org/

Kasperky Lab Dropped from US Government Approved List

  • The GSA dropped Kaspersky Lab-manufactured products from the GSA schedule, a list of approved vendors.
  • Removing Kaspersky Lab from the General Services Administration’s (GSA) list would likely affect only future contracts, but not current contracts.
  • The final decision to remove Kaspersky Lab from the GSA schedule marks the most significant and far-reaching response yet to concerns among U.S. officials that Russian intelligence services could try to exploit Kaspersky Lab’s anti-virus software to steal and manipulate users’ files, read private emails or attack critical infrastructure in the United States.
  • The company has repeatedly insisted it poses no threat to U.S. customers and would never allow itself to be used as a tool of the Russian government.
  • Kaspersky Lab’s CEO, Eugene Kaspersky, said that he and his company “have no ties to any government, and we have never helped nor will help any government in the world with their cyberespionage efforts.”
  • The FBI has been conducting a long-running counterintelligence probe of the company. In June, FBI agents interviewed about a dozen U.S.-based Kaspersky Lab employees at their homes.
  • The issue was first brought into public view only recently by key members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who began asking questions about Kaspersky Lab during hearings covering global threats to national security.
  • S. officials have yet to publicly present any evidence indicating concerning links between Kaspersky Lab employees and elements of the Russian government.

Computers Webcams Can Be Easily Hacked

  • Webcam hacking is a real and everyday phenomenon, according to this recent research paper released by the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology (ICIT).
  • Virtually every computer, smartphone, and internet-enabled mobile device has a camera and microphone that can be used to spy on the user.
  • Using malware such as NanoCore RAT (Remote Administration Tool) and Nuclear RAT 2.0, Cyber Criminals, Script Kiddies, and Nation State APTs can compromise devices and remotely monitor the activities of unsuspecting users.
  • Compromising webcams is pretty easy for even an unsophisticated hacker.
  • In 2014, teen model and beauty pageant winner Cassidy Wolf discovered that hackers had been watching her via a laptop camera for more than a year. The hacker was able to trace the keystrokes and learn all her passwords. He had access to her webcam 24/7. In 2014, Motherboard reported on a streaming website that allowed users to access private footage from hundreds of thousands of private webcams.
  • Manufacturers of laptops and phones have literally zero motivation to make their cameras less hackable. And until they do, you’re going to have to get real familiar with those reusable covers.