Show of 08-05-2017

Tech Talk

August 5, 2017

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Tracy in San Francisco: Dear Doc and Jim. I am a cord cutting contrarian. I love to watch movies on Netflix and Amazon Prime. However, I miss NFL football and the season is about to start. What are my best options? Love the show. Tracy in San Francisco
  • Tech Talk Responds: To get the widest possible selection, you want the following channels accessible for streaming: ABC, NBC, FOX, CBS, ESPN, NFL Network. While ABC, NBC, and FOX are all available on at least some streaming services, CBS is not, forcing customers to pay for its stand-alone CBS All Access service or sign up with a partner like Hulu.
  • Sling TV: The basic Sling “Blue” tier for $25 a month includes FOX, NBC, ESPN, and NFL Network. To get ABC, you will have to add the $5 “Broadcast Extra” fee (only available in some cities). CBS All Access for $5.99 per month (only available in some cities). Total cost: $36 per month. Both services offer online viewing and apps for iOS, Android, and all major streaming devices.
  • The Hulu with Live TV service for $40 a includes ABC, CBS (no All Access required), FOX, and NBC—all four broadcast NFL partners with no add-ons. It also has ESPN, but omits NFL Network. You will miss seven games on the 2017 regular schedule. As a bonus, it also includes all of Hulu’s standard streaming content. Hulu has apps for all major platforms. The service is still in beta, but is available for consumers to sign up for a free trial starting today.
  • Email from Wendy in Falls Church: Dear Tech Talk. My anti-virus software has expired and I have to pay to extend the service on my Windows laptop. Do I really need it? I am a very careful and use common sense when I browse the Internet. Love the podcast. Wendy in Falls Church
  • Tech Talk Responds: In a time where zero-day vulnerabilities are found and sold to organized crime with alarming frequency, even the most careful of users are vulnerable. Running antivirus is still very important, but these days the really active threats are from spyware, adware, crapware, and the worst of all: ransomware.
  • Many people think that you can only get malware by downloading suspicious files, running unpatched software, visiting sketchy websites, and doing other irresponsible things like having the Java plug-in enabled in your web browser. While this is certainly the most common way to pick up malware, it is not the only way malware can spread.
  • If a website uses a security flaw in your browser or a plug-in like Flash to compromise your computer, it will often attempt to install malware—keyloggers, Trojans, rootkits, and all sorts of other bad things.
  • If a zero-day in a piece of software you use does give malware an opportunity to get into your system, an antivirus is your last layer of defense. It may not protect you against the zero-day flaw, but it will likely catch and quarantine that malware before it can do any damage.
  • The antivirus we recommend on Window is Microsoft’s built-in Windows Defender. It is far lighter on resources and free We also recommend installing Malwarebytes with Windows Defender for extra protection when browsing. It is lightweight and hassle-free just like Defender is. There is a free version of Marwarebytes, but we recommend the paid version for extra protection. If you really do not want to spend any money, use Windows Defender and the free version of Marwarebytes.
  • Be careful about the files you download and run, keep your software updated, uninstall vulnerable software like Java, and more, but don’t drop your antivirus defenses completely just because you’re being careful.
  • Email from Chau in Indiana: Dear Doc and Jim. I would like to share some large files with people I collaborate with. They are too large to email. It is such a hassle getting them the files. How do you share files with a group of people easily, even if they are very large. Great podcast. Chau in Indiana
  • Tech Talk Responds: Dropbox is a utility that allows you to instantly share files between machines and with other contacts on the Internet. Up to 2GB is free. I have been using Dropbox for a quite some time now. Dropbox solves the problem of sharing files and photos with friends or business associates without using email.
    • Synchronizing between two machines: You must create an account on Dropbox, and install the Dropbox software on two machines: A and B. On each, you must point the Dropbox software at a folder to keep synchronized between the two machines. Files I place in my Dropbox folder on machine A shortly appear in machine B’s Dropbox folder. File transfer speed depends on file size and Internet connection bandwidth.
    • Off-site Backup: Dropbox also makes the files you place in that folder accessible via your account on the Dropbox web site. It is a great way to back up important documents off-site. Make your Dropbox folder your “working” folder. Every time you save, or exit the editor, the files are updated on your hard disk. Each time they are updated on disk, they are uploaded to the web.
    • Private Collaboration: You can share folders within your Dropbox with other Dropbox users. Place a file in a shared folder, and only those users you give access to will have access to those files in their Dropbox account.
    • Public Collaboration: Have a file you want to share with individuals without a Dropbox account. with the world? Drop it into Dropbox, right click on it, and choose “Copy Public Link”. The result? A public link: a link that you can give to anyone, whether they have a Dropbox account or not.
    • Mobile devices: On mobile devices, Dropbox will offer to automatically capture and upload any picture you take. That photo I shared above? I took the original with my phone. A minute or so after taking it, the photo appeared on my machine, automatically.
    • Cost: Dropbox is free for up to 2 gigabytes of storage.
  • Email from Andy in Kansas: Dear Tech Talk. I get many phone calls coming into our landline that I do not recognize. What is the best way to do a reverse lookup to see who is calling and who should be blocked? Thanks Andy in Kansas
  • Google (or Bing) is the first place you should turn when you see you’ve been called from an unfamiliar phone number. Just plug that number into Google or your search engine of choice. You can type the number with or without dashes.
    • If the number is associated with a legitimate business, you should see that businesses’s website appear in the first few results. If the number appears on that business’s website, you know it’s real.
    • If the number is a home landline phone number someone has registered through the traditional phone book system, you might see that person’s name in the search results, too.
    • If the phone number is used by a scammer, however, you’ll likely see links to websites like whocalled.us, 800notes.com, and whocallsme.com. These websites allow users to comment, and people often leave comments about their experiences.
  • Facebook is actually an excellent way to perform a reverse lookup of phone numbers. You don’t even need to be Facebook friends with the person whose phone number this is. Facebook has a setting that allows people to be looked up by their phone number, and it’s enabled by default. Even if people hide their phone numbers on their profiles, they often allow people to find them using their phone number. Just type the phone number into the Facebook search box.
  • Websites like whitepages.com can provide some additional information about a phone number. They will be able to associate a phone number with a person’s name and address if that information is available in the phone book.
  • I used the Blacklist feature of Ooma and get very few spam calls.

Profiles in IT: Andreas Maria Maximilian von Bechtolsheim

  • Andy Bechtolsheim co-founded Sun Microsystems in 1982 and was its chief hardware designer. He later became an angel investor, most notably in Google.
  • Bechtolsheim was born September 30, 1955 near Ammersee, Bavaria.
  • In 1963 his family moved to Rome, and then in 1968 to Nonnenhorn, Germany.
  • When he was only 16, he designed an industrial controller based on the Intel 8008 for a nearby company. Royalties from the product supported much of his education.
  • In 1975, he received a BS engineering from the Technical University of Munich.
  • After graduation, he received a Fulbright Scholarship and moved to Carnegie Mellon University in the US, where he received his MS in computer engineering in 1976.
  • In 1977, he moved to Silicon Valley to work for Intel. He took a summer job at Stanford University and became a Ph.D. student in electrical engineering.
  • At Stanford, Bechtolsheim designed a powerful workstation with built-in networking called the SUN workstation (named for the Stanford University Network).
  • It was inspired by the Xerox Alto computer developed at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, where Bechtolsheim was a no fee consultant.
  • Bechtolsheim could not interest any companies in manufacturing the workstations.
  • Bechtolsheim left Stanford to found the company, Sun Microsystems, as employee number one. Bill Joy, who helped develop the BSD Unix, was employee number 4.
  • The first product, the Sun-1, included the Stanford CPU board design with improved memory expansion, a sheet-metal case, and an experimental Ethernet interface.
  • Sun Microsystems had its IPO in 1986 and reached $1 billion in sales by 1988.
  • Bechtolsheim developed UniSun, a small, inexpensive desktop computer for the educational market. The result was the SPARCstation 1, another SUN product line.
  • In 1995, he left Sun to found Granite Systems, focusing on high-speed network switches. In 1996, Cisco acquired the firm for $220M. Bechtolsheim owned 60%.
  • He became VP and GM of Cisco’s Gigabit Systems Business Unit.
  • In 2001, he founded Kealia with David Cheriton, a partner in Granite Systems, to work on advanced server technologies using the AMD Opteron processor.
  • In February 2004, Sun Microsystems announced it was acquiring Kealia. Bechtolsheim returned to Sun again as senior VP and Chief Architect. Kealia hardware technology was used in the Sun Fire X4500 storage product.
  • Along with Cheriton, in 2005 Bechtolsheim launched another high-speed networking company, Arastra. Arastra later changed its name to Arista Networks.
  • Bechtolsheim left Sun Microsystems to become the Chairman and Chief Development Officer of Arista in October, 2008.
  • Bechtolsheim and Cheriton were two of the first investors in Google, investing US$100,000 each in September 1998 (worth over $1 billion in 2017).
  • As of August 2017, his net worth is $5.1 billion.

Hacker who Found WannaCry Kill Switch Arrested

  • Marcus Hutchins, the British malware researcher who found the WannaCry ransomware kill switch, was arrested August 2, 2017, in Las Vegas.
  • Hutchins, aka MalwareTechBlog on Twitter, was arrested after attending the DEF CON hacking conference.
  • Hutchins is accused of crafting, sharing, and masterminding the Kronos bank-account-raiding Trojan between July 2014 and July 2015.
  • The heavily redacted court document alleges Hutchins is the creator of Kronos, and updated the code in February 2015 with a co-conspirator, who made a helpful video on how to use the malware.
  • The partner is also accused of advertising Kronos on hacker forums, selling at least one copy for around $2,000, and offering to sell another to a third party for $3,000.
  • The US government also claims that on June 11, 2015, Hutchins himself intentionally sold attack code in America.
  • Kronos was an evolution of the infamous Zeus malware, which silently infected PCs and pillaged victims’ online bank accounts around the world. Crooks would buy copies of Kronos, spread it across the internet via spam or booby-trapped downloads, and then pocket the cash siphoned from infected victims. It was reportedly selling for $7,000 apiece and advertised itself as being able to:
    • Rip people’s online banking credentials from Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome on Windows machines.
    • Fend off rival Trojans and avoid detection using a 32- or 64-bit rootkit.
    • Bypass antivirus and unspecified sandboxing.
    • Establish encrypted command and control communications.
  • For a $1,000 deposit, criminals could try a version of it out before buying, and its operators offered a host of add-on modules and support services.
  • Hutchins has pleaded not guilty. The case against him is viewed as weak.

Bitcoin Cash Launched (Bitcoin Community Divided)

  • On August 2, 2017, a new version of Bitcoin has been mined for the first time.
  • Bitcoin Cash is the result of months of debate and development over how the currency would continue to evolve.
  • Bitcoin Cash was developed as a measure to increase the capacity of Bitcoin’s underlying technology, the Blockchain – a digital ledger that records every single transaction.
  • Because the old Blockchain could only have one megabyte (MB) of data added to it every 10 minutes, transactions have come to be processed at slower rates.
  • Bitcoin Cash blocks can be as large as 8MB, which its proponents hope will help to solve this problem.
  • No major issues have so far been detected following the split although a few exchanges and wallets have had minor technical issues with supporting Bitcoin Cash initially.
  • Thanks to its larger block size, Bitcoin Cash requires more computer storage space from parties wishing to take part in the process of mining.
  • Mining involves computers being tasked with solving difficult mathematical problems in order to authorize transactions on the Blockchain.
  • Miners receive new bitcoins as a reward for this work – making it lucrative – and it has also been something open to individuals in the past, because the cost of small scale mining equipment has been relatively low.
  • The crypto-currency was trading comfortably above $400 about 12 hours after it was created, but dropped below $300 two days later.
  • August 8th is the date to watch. That is the date that those where were granted an initial cache of Bitcoin Cash can trade it. We know on that date whether Bitcoin Cash

Product of the Week: Tesla’s new Solar Roof

  • Tesla Solar Roof just announced pricing for its photovoltaic tiles, and they come in at just $21.85 per square foot. That is nearly 20 percent cheaper than a normal roof once you factor in the energy savings and tax credits.
  • Tesla’s sought-after Solar Roof tiles are made of glass layered over a photovoltaic substrate, and they serve as a replacement for traditional roofing materials.
  • This ensures they look like the “real thing” from the ground – even though they accomplish much more than a standard roof.
  • The Tesla Solar Roof is advertised as stronger than a traditional roof.
  • Tesla has two styles available for pre-order: a textured black glass tile and a smooth grey tile. The Tuscan and slate tiles will be available for installation in early 2018.
  • Installing a Solar Roof takes between five and seven days.
  • Consumers who purchase the Solar Roof will also receive the Powerwall 2.0, which is a battery storage device with a built-in inverter. It connects to your home’s electrical system, enabling a house to go 100 percent off-the-grid.
  • Though it costs an extra $6,500, the long-term savings are estimated to add up to thousands of dollars.

Surprise of the Week: Millennials Amazed by Free Antenna TV

  • The antenna is mounting a quiet comeback, propelled by a generation that never knew life before cable television.
  • They primarily watch Netflix , Hulu and HBO via the internet.
  • Millennials do not know about TV antennas.
  • Carlos Villalobos, 21, who was selling tube-shaped digital antennas at a swap meet in San Diego recently, says customers often ask if his $20 to $25 products are legal.
  • They think grabbing a signal over-the-air is some kind of illegal hacking.

US Army Stops Using DJI Drones

  • The US Army asked all units to discontinue the use of DJI drones due to an increased awareness of cyber vulnerabilities with DJI products.
  • The Army had already issued over 300 separate releases authorizing the use of DJI
  • Security experts have noted that using a simple Google search, the data mined by DJI from your provided flights (imagery, position and flight logs) and your audio can be accessed without your knowing consent.
  • When DJI users elect to upload data to their SkyPixel accounts through the DJI app, this data can be stored on servers in the US, Hong Kong, and China. This data can include videos, photos, and audio recorded by your phone’s microphone, and telemetry data detailing the height, distance, and position of your recent flights.
  • When you fly a new DJI drone for the first time, you have to register an account. That is in accordance with FAA regulations. But after that, you don’t need to use a mobile device to fly the drone. Most people will, since you need it for a live feed, but you can launch, fly, and initiate recordings and photos with just the remote control. You can also fly the drone with a mobile device in airplane mode, giving you a screen for the live video feed, while ensuring no data will be uploaded.
  • Users who want to fly without worrying about sharing data could also elect to use the new DJI Goggles, which can pair with the drone and offer a live video feed without connecting to a cellular network to upload any data.

Google Glass: Back from the Dead

  • Google Glass, the smart head-up display and camera that was supposed to become everyone’s next portable computer, isn’t dead.
  • The second iteration of Google Glass has been tested and deployed across many factories in the United States by companies such as Boeing, GE, and DHL.
  • It is called the Google Glass Enterprise Edition (EE).
  • The major upgrades between the original Glass and the enterprise version are a better camera (with resolution upgraded from 5 megapixels to 8), extended battery life, faster Wi-Fi and processor, and a new red light that turns on when recording video.
  • The electronics of Glass have also been made modular in the shape of a so-called Glass Pod, which can be detached and reattached to Glass-compatible frames, which can include things like safety goggles and prescription glasses.
  • The scale of the Glass EE rollout is still small with sales in the hundreds.
  • Most of the biggest customers taking on Glass only on a trial basis.
  • The feedback from workers and companies has been positive, with Glass providing assistive information on the work floor and improving productivity.
  • The failure of Google’s information-augmenting glasses as a mass market product, it seems, might spawn the success of Alphabet’s workplace-focused assistive device.

Chinese Chatbots Taken Offline for Being Unpatriotic

  • A pair of chatbots have been taken offline in China after failing to show enough patriotism.
  • The two bots were removed from the popular messaging app Tencent QQ after users shared screenshots of their conversations online.
  • One of the bots, named BabyQ, made by the Beijing-based company Turing Robot, was asked, “Do you love the Communist Party?” To which it replied simply, “No.”
  • Another bot named XiaoBing, which is developed by Microsoft, told users, “My China dream is to go to America.”
  • When the bot was then quizzed on its patriotism, it dodged the question and replied, “I’m having my period, want to take a rest.”
  • It’s not clear what prompted the bots to give these answers, but it’s likely that they learned these responses from people.
  • Whether XiaoBing will return to the Chinese web after a little re-education remains to be seen.

Apple Caved to China (Just Like the Others)

  • Apple removed some of the virtual private networks from the App Store in China, making it harder for users there to get around internet censorship.
  • Amazon has capitulated to China’s censors as well. Amazon’s China cloud service instructed local customers to stop using software to circumvent that country’s censorship apparatus.
  • Doing business in China requires playing by Chinese rules, and American tech companies have a long history of complying with Chinese censorship.
  • This isn’t even the first time Apple has complied with Chinese censors. Earlier this year, the company removed New York Times apps from its Chinese store, following a request from Chinese authorities.
  • In 2005, Yahoo provided information that helped Chinese authorities convict a journalist, Shi Tao. Shi had sent an anonymous post to a US-based website.
  • In 2006, Google agreed to censor its search results in China. Internal documents show that Cisco apparently saw China’s “Great Firewall” as a choice opportunity to sell routers at around the same time.
  • In 2014, LinkedIn launched a Chinese version of its service with the understanding that doing so would curtail freedom of expression. Users who posted politically sensitive content would get a message saying that their content would not be seen by LinkedIn members in China.

Goodbye Doctors, Hello Robots

  • The current applications for AI tech include a myriad of tools that are going to revolutionize medicine, mental health, and physical therapy.
  • The data we collect with artificial intelligence will empower people to take control of their own mental and physical health.
  • Machine-learning can and should replace traditional patient treatment methods.
  • The future of healthcare isn’t more Doctors: it’s more programmers.
  • The Stanford University AI Lab has been making the tech-site rounds with ‘Woebot‘ a new offering that uses Facebook messenger to check in with patients.
  • It asks questions and plays games until it has collected enough data to make treatment suggestions.
  • Elsewhere in the field researchers have used AI bots like Ellie to learn about PTSD by observing veterans as they responded to specific questions.
  • The data collected wasn’t then converted into a treatment program as is the intent of Woebot, but it helps advance the study of trauma-related stress and anxiety disorders.
  • And this is only the beginning. Soon we will all have an AI Doc at our fingertips, just like we have Google now to search the web.