Show of 08-19-2017

Tech Talk

August 19, 2017

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Brian in Kansas: Doc and Jim. What is Safe Mode? Occasionally, when I reboot my computer, it asks me if I want to use Safe Mode. What does that mean? Should I do it? Enjoy the podcast. Brian in Kansas.
  • Tech Talk Responds: On computers infected with malware or crashing because of buggy drivers, Safe Mode may be the only way to start the computer. Safe Mode starts your PC with a minimal set of drivers and services. No third-party software or drivers get loaded, and even the built-in Windows services are limited to just what’s necessary. Safe Mode is a great way to remove problem-causing software, like malware, without that software getting in the way. It also provides an environment where you can roll back drivers and use troubleshooting tools.
  • In Safe Mode, Windows uses a very low screen resolution with generic video drivers, doesn’t initialize much hardware support, starts only the necessary services, and avoids loading third-party startup programs. Your Windows PC should automatically start up in Safe Mode if it crashes more than once while trying to start normally. However, you can also boot into Safe Mode manually.
    • Windows 7 and earlier: Press the F8 key while the computer is booting.
    • Windows 8: Hold Shift while clicking Restart on the Power menu.
    • Windows 10: Hold Shift while clicking Restart on the Start Menu.
  • After starting Windows in Safe Mode, you can perform most of the regular system maintenance and troubleshooting tasks to fix your computer:
    • Scan for Malware
    • Run System Restore.
    • Uninstall Recently Installed Software.
    • Update Hardware Drivers.
    • Email from Alice in Alexandria: Dear Tech Talk. How can I attach a file or an image to an Email in my iPhone Mail application? I use Gmail all the time on my iPhone’s Mail app, but don’t see any way to add an attachment. Enjoy the show. Alice in Alexandria
    • Tech Talk Responds: Attachments in emails in iOS have not always been easy to work with. However, since iOS9, Apple has made it easier to attach any file to an email in the Mail app.
    • Start by opening a new email by clicking on the pen and paper icon in the lower right hand corner. To insert an attachment, tap and hold your finger down in the body of the message. A popup displays with various options. Tap “Add Attachment” or “Insert Photo or Video.” If you do not see these options on the right because the screen size is too small, tap on the arrow on the right side of the popup display. In my case, I have to turn my phone to landscape mode to see it all.
    • A dialog displays allowing you to choose a file. By default, it opens to iCloud Drive. However, you can select files from other storage providers registered on your device. To attach a file from a location other than iCloud Drive, tap “Locations” in the upper-left corner of the dialog box. A list of storage providers registered on your device displays in a popup. These can be apps that have their own local storage or cloud storage apps, such as Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, and Box. Tap on the storage provider where the file you want to attach is located.
    • By the way, if you are using the Gmail application in the iPhone, the add attachment icon is a small paperclip in the upper right hand corner of the new email.
  • Email from Ngoc in Ohio: Dear Doc and Jim. I love to use Facebook, but hate the videos that automatically play with sound in my newsfeed. Is there a way to mute these videos? It is very annoying. Ngoc in Ohio
  • Tech Talk Responds: Facebook now has videos set to automatically play the audio in your news feed. Fortunately, you can turn off this “feature.” To turn off the always-on volume feature, open the Facebook mobile app and click on the menu icon in the lower right corner. Within the main menu,
  • Select “Settings,”
  • Select “Account Settings,”
  • Select “Videos and Photos”.
  • Within the Videos and Photos menu, toggle the top entry, “Videos in News Feed Start With Sound” off. Now videos in your news feed will not start with the sound blaring and if you want to hear the sound you will either need to double tap on the video to zoom to the video.
  • Email from John in Fairfax: Dear Dr. Shurtz. I am interested in technology. What developments and languages are worth pursuing now? I am still in high school and would like to learn as quickly as possible. Love the show. John in Fairfax
  • Tech Talk Responds: You need to learn the basics of coding. Once you learn one language, moving to another is quite easy. A good starting point in your coding career might start with the follow.
    • HTML and CSS — If you are interested in developing websites, you’ll inevitably be using HTML (HyperText Markup Language) and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). HTML is the standard language used to create basic web pages, and CSS is a language used to add style (layout, color, fonts, etc.) to the documents you create with HTML. Since both languages are essential for web development, HTML/CSS combo as the best place for aspiring coders to start.
    • JavaScript — While HTML and CSS are foundational building blocks for creating web pages, JavaScript is a programming language that controls a site’s interactive elements. Pop-up ads, slideshows, search field autocompletes, and other web features that change without refreshing the page are all powered by JavaScript. HTML and CSS are often recommended as a starting point before moving on to JavaScript.
    • Ruby/Ruby on Rails — Ruby is a programming language that’s easy to use but powerful enough to fuel websites like Hulu, Groupon, and GitHub. Ruby on Rails is a framework (a collection of code libraries) that allows applications written in Ruby to run on the Web. Ruby is an ideal first programming language and its open source.
  • If you want to be prepared for some long-term trends in technology: study Blockchains and Machine Learning. Some excellent courses on Coursea are nearly free. Blockchains are distributed ledgers that can track and verify anything. They eliminate the need for a central authority, like a bank. Etherium is a block chain platform with its own language. Machine learning is the new way to program using large datasets to train the program to recognize patterns. It is used for speech recognition and AI. Google has opened the TensorFlow API, its machine learning engine, to developers and students.
  • Email from Doug in Kilmarnock: Dear Doc and Jim. I’m trying to delete a document in the queue of my printer, but I can’t. It writes “deleting”, but it never finishes, I’ve tried to cancel the same from the field of my printer but it doesn’t disappear, restarting my computer, restarting the document, turning off the printer, unplugging the cables, still I can’t. What else can I do? It does not allow other documents to print! Enjoy the show. Doug in Kilmarnock, Virginia
  • Tech Talk Responds: The print queue is managed by the “Print Spooler” service. The process of adding a document to the print queue, or sending it to the printer from the print queue is referred to as “spooling.” Each printer you have available on your system has its own queue.
  • You can view the print queue for each by opening up Control Panel, and going to Printers, or Devices and Printers, and double clicking on the print icon you’ll find there. You can also cancel printing a document if it shows up in the print queue: right click on the document and click on the Cancel option.
  • Next check a few things. Is the printer out of paper? Is it showing some other kind of fault? Is the printer connected and powered on? Is there a paper jam?
  • If nothing works, you can clear the print queue manually.
    • Turn off your printer.
    • Press “ Window key ” + “ R ” to open the Run dialog. Type “ services.msc “, then click “ OK “. Double-click the “ Printer Spooler ” service, and then Click on Stop to stop the print spooler. (You can leave this dialog open.)
    • Now, use Windows Explorer to navigate to the folder C:\Windows\System32\spool\PRINTERS. Delete the contents of this folder.
    • Back at the Printer Spooler Properties dialog, click on Start.
    • Turn your printer back on and print something. It should be fixed.

Profiles in IT: Patrick Collison

  • Patrick Collison is an Irish entrepreneur best known as co-founder and CEO of Stripe, the dominant online credit card processing engine.
  • Patrick Collison was born September 9, 1988, in Limerick, Ireland.
  • He and his brother, John, went to a school with fewer than 20 kids per grade. When bored in class, Patrick read books. Studying the last year at home, he graduated at 16.
  • Patrick was named Young Scientist of the Year for developing a programming language and artificial intelligence system.
  • Patrick enrolled at MIT in 2006 based on an SAT he took at 13. John followed him to America, attending Harvard a couple of years later.
  • In their spare time, they developed iPhone apps. One of their first hits was an $8 version of Wikipedia that people could search offline.
  • They started Auctomatic to manage EBay auctions and sold that it for $5M in 2008.
  • The brothers dropped out of college and in late 2009 started working on an idea that would become Stripe. They set up an office in Palo Alto, near PayPal.
  • The Collisons would ride bikes to the office, trying to set personal best each day.
  • Stripe was released in 2011 (Patrick as CEO and John as President) after two years of testing and forming relationships with banks, credit card companies, and regulators.
  • What once took weeks was now a cut-and-paste job (seven lines of code). Silicon Valley coders spread word of this elegant new architecture.
  • Stripe appealed to developers, helping to solidify its importance in a startup’s early days. Its technology was crafted for the Internet’s business models.
  • PayPal co-founders, Peter Thiel and Elon Musk, and Mike Moritz, one of PayPal’s first investors, were initial investors. They recognized its values.
  • By 2017, Stripe is the financial engine for more than 100,000 businesses. It stores key financial information such as credit card numbers, deals with fraud.
  • Stripe charges a 2.9 percent fee on credit card payments in exchange for its services.
  • Analysts estimate handling $50B in commerce annually with $1.5B in revenue.
  • Stripe continues to attract startups. It intends to be behind the next Uber or Airbnb.
  • In 2016, Stripe moved into offices next door to AT&T Park in San Francisco.
  • There’s an open floor plan and workers change desks every few months to meet new people. An algorithm will select a lunch buddy for you to dine with.
  • The wallpaper on Patrick’s computer displays a countdown clock for his life:
  • On weekends, John pays for a Stanford student to tutor him in law and Patrick has a physics tutor. They are both pilots and love flying.
  • The Collisons’ plan is to bundle new tools into the core product. Radar, is a fraud-­detection system that uses AI software to analyze payments and detect fraud.
  • Stripe has a $9.2 billion valuation, making Patrick and John billionaires.

Build Pinhole Projector to View the Eclipse

  • You need Eclipse Glasses to view it directly. Counterfeit models are making rounds on sites like Amazon.
  • Fortunately, there’s another option: a pinhole projector.
  • You really just need two things: something with a pinhole in it, and something to project the image on.
  • If you’re in a rush or on a budget, just take two stiff pieces of paper and poke a pinhole in one with a pin.
  • If you’re really in a pinch, you can even make a pinhole projector by just curling your fingers to only let a pinprick of light through.
  • Now that you’ve got your piece of paper with a pinhole, hold it up and let the sunlight shine through it.
  • Then, using your second piece of paper (or a wall) as a screen, you’ll be able to see an image of the partially obscured Sun, all without burning out your retinas.
  • You want to look at the projection created by the pinhole on the wall, so keep your back to the Sun, and look at the image created by the light shining through. Do not look at the Sun directly through the pinhole.
  • Pinhole projectors take advantage of a bit of optical physics known as the camera obscura effect.
  • Generally, light travels in straight lines. So when an object is illuminated, light will continue to bounce off it in a straight line. The pinhole only lets a small amount of those reflections through, allowing an image to form (inverted) on the other side of the hole. This is similar to how lenses work.
  • At the end of the day, a pinhole projector is a fun, quick project for you (or your kids)to view the eclipse.

Amazon Issuing Refunds for Fake Eclipse Glasses

  • Eclipse viewers have purchased protective glasses from retailers such as Amazon.com. However, not all of the glasses found on the site are safe to use, with some vendors selling counterfeit or unsafe versions.
  • Amazon is refunding customer purchases for protective solar eclipse glasses that it has not been able to confirm come from a reputable manufacturer.
  • Amazon appears to have been cracking down on these suspect glasses. Pages for products such as “MASCOTKING Solar Eclipse Glasses 2017 – CE and ISO Certified Safe Shades for Direct Sun Viewing — Eye Protection” and others that the company has not been able to verify as coming from a recommended manufacturer have been removed from the site.
  • Customers who purchased these glasses are getting refunds, along with a warning not to use them. The notification also says that customers don’t need to return the glasses in order to get a refund.
  • Amazon also indicated that customers who purchased glasses but did not receive a notification e-mail purchased ones that were safe to use.
  • The International Organization for Standardization has set forth guidelines for glasses, which block out all but 1/100,000th of the Sun’s light, and only a select group of manufacturers have produced glasses that are recognized and approved by NASA and the American Astronomical Society.

Apple Refuses to enable Advanced Mobile Location (AML)

  • Apple keeps ignoring requests to enable a feature called Advanced Mobile Location (AML) in iOS.
  • Enabling AML would give emergency services extremely accurate locations of emergency calls made from iPhones, dramatically decreasing response time.
  • Google has already implemented AML for all Android devices.
  • The European Emergency Number Association (EENA) is the organization behind implementing AML for emergency services.
  • The majority of emergency calls today are made from cellphones, which has made location pinging increasingly more important for emergency services.
  • With AML, smartphones running supporting operating systems will recognize when emergency calls are being made and turn on GNSS (global navigation satellite system) and Wi-Fi. The phone then automatically sends an SMS to emergency services, detailing the location of the caller.
  • AML is up to 4,000 times more accurate than the current systems — pinpointing phones down from an entire city to a room in an apartment.
  • If Apple would follow Google’s lead and activate the necessary features for AML, millions of people would be safer. However, Apple hasn’t shown any interest in doing so, according to EENA’s statement:
  • It’s been estimated that if implemented everywhere in the EU, AML could save over 7,500 lives over the next 10 years. However, that is contingent on OS makers providing the same level of cooperation as Google did.

Crowdsourced AI Medical Diagnosis App

  • The Human Diagnosis Project, Human Dx is an app that uses human crowdsourcing and AI to improve health care.
  • Human Dx advocates the use of machine learning, a popular AI technique that automatically learns from classifying patterns in data, to crowdsource and build on the best medical knowledge from thousands of physicians across 70 countries.
  • Physicians at several major medical research centers have shown interest in the app.
  • Human Dx announced a new partnership with top medical profession organizations including the American Medical Association and the Association of American Medical Colleges to promote and scale up Human Dx’s system.
  • The goal is to provide timely and affordable specialist advice to general practitioners serving millions of people worldwide, in particular so-called “safety net” hospitals and clinics throughout the U.S. that offer care regardless of a patient’s ability to pay.
  • Roughly 30 million uninsured Americans rely on safety net facilities, which generally have limited or no access to medical specialists.
  • Within five years Human Dx aims to become available to all 1,300 safety net community health centers and free clinics in the U.S. The same remote consultation services could also be made available to millions of people around the world who lack access to medical specialists.
  • When a physician needs help diagnosing or treating a patient they open the Human Dx smartphone app or visit the project’s Web page and type in their clinical question as well as their working diagnosis.
  • The physician can also upload images and test results related to the case and add details such as any medication the patient takes regularly. The physician then requests help, either from specific colleagues or the network of doctors who have joined the Human Dx community.
  • Over the next day or so Human Dx’s AI program aggregates all of the responses into a single report. It is the new digital equivalent of a “curbside consult” where a physician might ask a friend or colleague for quick input on a medical case.
  • That study used the Human Dx service as a neutral platform to compare the diagnostic accuracy of human physicians with third-party “symptom checker” Web sites and apps used by patients for self-diagnosis. In this case, the humans handily outperformed the symptom checkers’ computer algorithms.

Drone Use of the Week: Tree-planting

  • A community in Myanmar is using the drones to restore their river ecosystem
  • A group of villagers in Myanmar, along the Irrawaddy River, will soon use drones to plant a million new mangrove trees in an effort to restore the area’s natural ecosystem.
  • After several years of planting the mangroves manually, the villagers and nonprofit Worldview International Foundation are teaming up with drones and pilots from BioCarbon Engineering to seed an additional 600 acres of land.
  • The drones have two jobs in the planting.
    • They fly over the land, mapping the terrain and collecting information about its topography and soil. This data is then processed by an algorithm to determine where to plant and what species of tree would thrive.
    • Another set of drones is each given a batch of specially designed seed pods and sent out. Flying low over the ground, the planter drones follow instructions determined by the data on where to go and when to fire a seed pod into the ground. They’re accurate to within centimeters.
  • The drones are more than 10 times faster than human planters, at half the cost.

iPhone Audio Trick on the Week: Using Equalization

  • The equalization setting is iPhone’s hidden audio secret.
  • In sound recording and reproduction, equalization is the process commonly used to alter the frequency response of an audio system using filters.
  • On your iPhone the EQ setting is set to ‘off’ by default.
  • However you have the option to change it to a whole raft of different settings such as Bass Reducer, Flat, Vocal Booster or Late Night, if you want to get a little more oomph from quieter parts in music or movies.
  • To try it, got to Settings > Music > EQ > and choose the Late Night option.
  • The special EQ option actually compresses whatever audio you are listening to so that the loud stuff will be a bit quieter and the quiet stuff will be louder. The setting can be quite useful while listening to something in a loud environment or perhaps even watching a movie on iTunes late at night.
  • This is a great way to alter the way that you iPhone sounds when playing music.

50 Year Old Woman Learned to Code and Launched New Career

  • Gillian Reynolds-Titko’s was laid off after 20 years as a research physicist at DuPont.
  • She spent about a year looking at options in her existing career and came up empty.
  • So she decided to become a programmer. In May, after graduating from a intensive coding boot camp, she landed a job as an IT business analyst at JPMorgan Chase.
  • Initially, she went the self-teaching route, taking free online courses, watching videos, and reading books. But she soon realized she needed more hands-on training.
  • So she opted to enroll in a programming boot camp near her home. Through the immersive 12-week program, she learned Java, a popular programming language for building web apps.
  • She would have preferred to learn Swift, Apple’s young programming language that’s growing in popularity. But ultimately, her top goal was to learn “how to think like a programmer, how to break problems down,” she said. And she discovered it didn’t matter what language she started with to learn that.
  • She concluded that if you could think logically, you could learn to program. It was more about, do you have the grit to stick to something and figure it out?
  • The boot camp course didn’t turn Reynolds-Titko into an expert coder. But it did give her a good idea of the types of programming she could explore for further study.
  • Although the course prepared her for her new job at Chase, she doesn’t actually do much coding in her new position. Instead, she primarily oversees other programmers on the staff.
  • Her main focus is project management, translating business needs into tasks for the professional coders on staff. Reynolds-Titko does only enough coding to sketch things out for them.
  • Her new position is an entry level one. She earns 60% of her previous salary.
  • She’s in her new career doing work she likes where her years of project management are already helping her succeed.
  • And she’s still determined to write apps in Swift that eventually get used by people.
  • Her advice to others contemplating coding as a mid-life career change: You can do it, but only if you’re really interested in programming.