March 10, 2018
Email and Forum Questions
- Email from Mimi in Charlotte, North Carolina: Dear Doc and Jim. I am tired of buying garage door remotes for everyone in the family. Is there a way that I can simply use my cell phone to open the garage door. That would be so much simpler. Love the show. Mimi in Charlotte, North Carolina.
- Tech Talk Responds: There is a very easy solution for this. You can get a remote switch that is put in parallel with the garage door button inside your garage. This switch is connected to the Wi-Fi network and can be controlled with a smart phone.
- I like the NEXX Garage NXG-100 Nxg Remote Door Opener ($99 on Amazon). Activate your garage door opener either using the Nexx mobile app or by giving voice commands to your Alexa or Google Assistant enabled devices, or by driving near your garage door (geo-fencing). It has multi-user access, remote monitoring; remote open/close. It includes magnetic sensors so that you can tell if the garage door is open. It will notify you if you forget to close door. You can program the door to close automatically at night (if you forget).
- Email from Youel Sarkis: Dear Dr. Richard: As always I love the show. You guys do a great job and have a lot of info.I heard a lot about mining cyrpo currancy (like bitcoin) and I like to know more about it. Is it worth it? If so, what hardware do I need and what software do I need. I looked them up and they range from couple hundred to thousands of dollars of hardware. I’m not sure why? And they are using video cards to process not the processors. Thank you. Youel Sarkis
- Tech Talk Responds: Bitcoin mining is the process by which transactions are verified and added to the public ledger, known as the block chain, and also the means through which new bitcoin are released. Anyone with access to the internet and suitable hardware can participate in mining. The mining process involves compiling recent transactions into blocks and trying to solve a computationally difficult puzzle. The participant who first solves the puzzle gets to place the next block on the block chain and claim the rewards. The rewards, which incentivize mining, are both the transaction fees associated with the transactions compiled in the block as well as newly released bitcoin.
- The amount of new bitcoin released with each mined block is called the block reward. The block reward is halved every 210,000 blocks, or roughly every 4 years. The block reward started at 50 in 2009, is now 12.5 in 2018, and will continue to decrease. This diminishing block reward will result in a total release of bitcoin that approaches 21 million.
- In the earliest days of Bitcoin, mining was done with CPUs from normal desktop computers. Graphics cards, or graphics processing units (GPUs), are more effective at mining than CPUs and as Bitcoin gained popularity, GPUs became dominant. Eventually, hardware known as an ASIC, which stands for Application-Specific Integrated Circuit, was designed specifically for mining bitcoin. The first ones were released in 2013 and have been improved upon since, with more efficient designs coming to market. Mining is competitive and today can only be done profitably with the latest ASICs. When using CPUs, GPUs, or even the older ASICs, the cost of energy consumption is greater than the revenue generated.
- If you want to build your own USB bitcoin miner, using a Raspberry Pi computer, with six ASIC miners. A good ACIS miner is the GekkoScience Bitcoin Miner (Capacity: 9.5 Gh/s, Power Efficiency: 0.33 W/Gh, Price: $49.97, BTC Earned Per Month: 0.0003).
- If you want to buy a high efficiency unit already built, you can get AntMiner S9 Bitcoin Miner (Capacity: 13.5 Th/s, Power Efficiency: 0.098 W/Gh, Price: $1,987.95, BTC Earned Per Month: 0.3603)
- Software: The two most popular mining software programs are CGminer and BFGminer which are command line programs. If you prefer the ease of use that comes with a GUI, you might want to try EasyMiner which is a click and go windows/Linux/Android program.
- Mining Pools: Once you’re ready to mine bitcoins, you should join a Bitcoin mining pool. Bitcoin mining pools are groups of Bitcoin miners working together to solve a block and share in its rewards. Without a Bitcoin mining pool, you might mine bitcoins for over a year and never earn any bitcoins. For a fully decentralized pool, p2pool is highly recommended. Other pools worth checking out are BitMinter, CK Pool, Eligius, and Slush Pool.
- Storing you Bitcoins: The next step to mining bitcoins is to set up a Bitcoin wallet or use your existing Bitcoin wallet to receive the Bitcoins you mine. Copay is a great Bitcoin wallet and functions on many different operating systems. Bitcoin hardware wallets are also available. Bitcoins are sent to your Bitcoin wallet by using a unique address that only belongs to you. The most important step in setting up your Bitcoin wallet is securing it from potential threats by enabling two-factor authentication or keeping it on an offline computer that does not have access to the Internet. Wallets can be obtained by downloading a software client to your computer.
- Best Mining Locations:
- Canada is one of the best places in the world for mining, thanks to low cost electricity, cool temperatures, and high-speed internet.
- Iceland is quickly becoming a mining paradise. The country offers cool temperatures and an abundance of cheap, geothermal energy to power the rigs. Iceland also provides miners the opportunity to significantly reduce the environmental impact of their endeavors, with 100 percent renewable options
- Any place the electricity is free. There are many bitcoin miner squatters.
- A great web resource is bitcoinmining.com.
- Email from Ngoc in Ohio: Dear Tech Talk. I heard that a new Bluetooth standard has been released. What does that mean? I love to play music using my Bluetooth speakers. Do I have to upgrade any of my devices? Enjoy the show. Ngoc in Ohio.
- Tech Talk Responds: Modern smartphones and other devices, from the iPhone 8 and iPhone X to the Samsung Galaxy S8, advertise support for “Bluetooth 5.0” on their specifications list. Bluetooth 5.0 is the latest version of the Bluetooth wireless communication standard. It’s commonly used for wireless headphones and other audio hardware, as well as wireless keyboards, mice, and game controllers.
- A new version of the Bluetooth standard means various improvements.
- Bluetooth Low Energy Mode will reduce energy consumption for all peripherals. More importantly, it will now work with all headphones.
- Dual Audio Output. It allows allows you to play audio on two connected devices at the same time.You could have two pairs of wireless headphones connected to your phone, and them stream audio to both of them at once. You could also play audio on two different speakers in different rooms.
- Improved Speed and Greater Range. This is the primary advantage of the new standard. With Bluetooth 5.0, devices can use data transfer speeds of up to 2 Mbps, which is double what Bluetooth 4.2 supports. Devices can also communicate over distances of up to 800 feet (or 240 meters), which is four times the 200 feet (or 60 meters) allowed by Bluetooth 4.2. However, walls and other obstacles will weaken the signal.
- Because Bluetooth is backwards compatible, your Bluetooth 5.0 and older Bluetooth devices will work together.
Profiles in IT: Gerald Anderson Lawson
- Gerald Anderson “Jerry” Lawson was an African-American electronic engineer best known for creating the Fairchild game console and the video game cartridge.
- Lawson was born in Brooklyn, New York City on December 1, 1940.
- His mother got him into a elementary school in another part of the city, one that was predominantly white, and she stayed actively involved in his education.
- His first-grade teacher encouraged him to be like George Washington Carver. He had a picture of Carver, a black inventor who was born into slavery, next to his desk.
- He ran an amateur radio station out of his housing project after building a ham radio on his own (complete with an antenna hanging out of his window and a radio license).
- He also spent his teenage years repairing electronics all over the city.
- He attended Queens College and City College of New York, not completing a degree.
- Most impressively, he taught himself most of what he knew about engineering.
- He worked as at several firms, including Grumman Electric and Federal Aircraft, before getting a job with Kaiser Electronics and moving to Silicon Valley.
- In 1970, he joined Fairchild Semiconductor in San Francisco as an applications engineering consultant within their sales division.
- While there, he created the early arcade game Demolition Derby out of his garage. In the mid-1970s, Lawson was made Chief Hardware Engineer and director of engineering and marketing for Fairchild’s video game division.
- He led the development of the Fairchild Channel F console, released in 1976 and specifically designed to use swappable game cartridges.
- At the time, most game systems had the game stored on ROM soldered onto the game hardware. Lawson and his team figured out how to move the ROM to a cartridge.
- This would allow users to buy into a library of games, and provided a new revenue stream for the console manufacturers through sales of these games.
- The Channel F was not a commercially successful product, but the cartridge approach was picked up by others, including Atari for Atari 2600 released in 1977.
- While he was with Fairchild, Lawson and Ron Jones were the sole black members of the Homebrew Computer Club. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were also members.
- Lawson interviewed Wozniak for a position at Fairchild, but did not hire him.
- In 1980, Lawson left Fairchild and founded Videosoft, a video game development company which made software for the Atari 2600 in the early 1980s.
- Videosoft closed about five years later, and Lawson started consulting. At one point, he worked with Stevie Wonder to produce a “Wonder Clock.”
- Lawson later worked with the Stanford mentor program and worked on a book.
- In March 2011, Lawson was honored as an industry pioneer for his work on the game cartridge concept by the International Game Developers Association (IGDA).
- Around 2003, he died of complications from diabetes.
March 14th is Pi Day
- Pi Day is celebrated on March 14th (3/14) around the world.
- The earliest known official or large-scale celebration of Pi Day was organized by Larry Shaw in 1988 at the San Francisco Exploratorium, where Shaw worked as a physicist, with staff and public marching around one of its circular spaces, then consuming fruit pies. The Exploratorium continues to hold Pi Day celebrations.
- On March 12, 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a non-binding resolution (111 H. Res. 224), recognizing March 14, 2009 as National Pi Day.
- In the year 2015, Pi Day had special significance on 3/14/15 (mm/dd/yy date format) at 9:26:53 AM, with the date and time representing the first 10 digits of π. That Pi second occurred during Tech Talk.
- NASA’s Pi Day Challenge: All 20 illustrated math challenges from the “Pi in the Sky” series can be found in one, handy slideshow for students.
- Link: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/edu/events/2018/3/9/celebrate-pi-day-with-nasa/
- The page includes may curriculum suggestions for K-12 educators.
Pi Songs Can be So Much Fun
- Mathematical Pi Song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hJJJmQojcLM.
- The Pi Song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AtgfsRH3H3U
- My favorite Pi Song: Ode To Pi. It is Sung to the tune of “O Tannenbaum”.
- O, number Pi, O number Pi
- Your digits are unending.
- O number Pi, O number Pi
- No pattern are you sending.
- You’re three point one four one five nine,
- And even more if we had time.
- O number Pi, O number Pi
- Your ratio’s mind-bending.
History of Pi
- Pi (Greek letter “π”) is the symbol used i mathematics to represent a constant — the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter — which is approximately 3.14159.
- Pi is an irrational number. It cannot be expressed as a fraction. Its decimal representation does not have any repeating patterns.
- While only a handful of digits are needed for typical calculations, Pi’s infinite nature makes it a fun challenge to memorize, and to computationally calculate more and more digits.
- The mathematician Archimedes used polygons with many sides to approximate circles and determined that Pi was approximately 22/7.
- The symbol (Greek letter “π”) was first used in 1706 by William Jones. A ‘p’ was chosen for ‘perimeter’ of circles, and the use of π became popular after it was adopted by the Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler in 1737.
- In recent years, Pi has been calculated to over one trillion digits past its decimal.
Japanese Man Memorises Pi to 111,700 digits
- People have enjoyed memorising the digits in pi since at least the beginning of the 19th century.
- Back then only a few hundred digits were known, so it was barely more of a challenge than memorising a long poem.
- But since then computers have calculated more digits of pi than could ever even be recited in a lifetime, let alone memorised, and now pi memorisation is only for the
- The world champion is Akira Haraguchi, who in 2006 recited 100,000 digits of pi from memory at a public event near Tokyo. It took him 16hrs 30mins.
- This feat makes him the master pi-man, even though the Guinness Book of records has not validated his record. Since then, he has memorized 111,700 digits.
- Pi memorisation is difficult. Haraguchi associates each digit with a syllable: 0, for example, can be read as o, ra, ri, ru, re, ro, wo, on or oh, and so on with the others from 1 to 9. He then makes stories from the words produced by the syllables.
- To him, reciting pi’s digits has the same meaning as chanting the Buddhist mantra and meditating. He actually trying to do more these days, making it a daily goal to recite more than 25,000 digits, which takes him about three hours.
- According to Zen Buddhism teachings, everything that exists in this world – the mountains, the rivers and all the living creatures – carries the spirit of the Buddha.
Tip of the Week: Turn of Notifications
- Cell phone addiction is a growing problem.
- It is separating us from real life interaction.
- Even when we try to refrain, notifications keep pulling us back.
- Turn off notification sounds.
- Turn off back badge notifications (like number of unread emails).
- Turn off home screen notifications.
- You will be set free
How to Turn off Facebooks Face Recognition Feature
- More and more Facebook users started seeing a notification about how the social network uses its facial recognition technology.
- When Facebook first implemented the tech in 2013, it limited its use to suggesting tags in photos.
- In December 2017, the company announced that it would expand face recognition’s scope to notify you when someone added a photo you were in, whether it was tagged or not.
- Many Facebook users will end up subjecting their photos to bulk face-recognition scanning for little personal benefit—simply making tagging slightly easier.
- If you’re not comfortable with Facebook’s new face recognition tools, you can go to Settings > Face Recognition, then select yes or no at the question Do you want Facebook to be able to recognize you in photos and videos?
- The new setting respects people’s existing choices, so if you’ve already turned off tag suggestions then your new face recognition setting will be off by default.
- If your tag suggestions setting was set to ‘friends’ then your face recognition setting will be set to on.
- But beware, , if Facebook can find opportunities to monetize the data or harness it to fuel user growth, it will take them.
Face ID Used by Airlines
- The aviation industry seems to be following Apple’s lead with face ID.
- British Airways is expanding its trial of face-recognition as a replacement for boarding passes at the gate, and says that its experience so far shows that it allows passengers to board aircraft in literally half the time.
- Similar to facial identification built into mobile phones, the biometric e-Gates use high-definition camera technology, and allow customers to pass through by recognizing their unique facial features and matching them with the passport, visa or immigration photos
- Customers in Orlando are joining those flying with British Airways from Los Angeles who have been praising the new biometric boarding process since November 2017.
- The gates in Los Angeles Airport, used by British Airways, have resulted in the airline boarding more than 400 customers in only 22 minutes, less than half the time it takes when not using this technology.
- The company is also testing face-recognition as a way for arriving passengers to skip the fingerprinting process at Immigration in Miami and New York’s JFK.
- Jet Blue and Delta are also trialling face-recognition systems, while Dubai International Airport is looking at using it to avoid the need for passengers to present travel documents at Security.
California Right to Repair Bills
- Apple’s home state of California could embrace the “Right to Repair” act if a new bill introduced by lawmaker Susan Talamantes Eggman is passed.
- California is the 18th state in the U.S. to look into the possibility of making electronic devices easier to repair.
- The Right to Repair act would compel tech companies to release repair guides and make official parts available to any customers or third-party repair shops who want them.
- “The Right to Repair Act will provide consumers with the freedom to have their electronic products and appliances fixed by a repair shop or service provider of their choice.
- Apple isn’t in favor of the Right to Repair. Records show that it has spent money lobbying against it. Under Tim Cook’s leadership, Apple’s overall lobbying efforts have doubled.
- Previously, Apple delegates have opposed the proposed Right to Repair bill in Nebraska, saying that giving users and third-party repairers access to its components and service manuals would make Nebraska would become a “Mecca for bad actors.”
- While none of these Right to Repair laws have yet passed, legislative activity surrounding them is increasing dramatically.