Show of 04-21-2018

Tech Talk
April 21, 2018

Best of Tech Talk Edition

  • Segments replayed from previous shows

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Feroze in Fredericksburg: Dear Tech Talk. I have tried to take sunset photos and have not really be satisfied with the results. Do you have an suggestions for a good sunset photos? Love the show. Feroze in Fredericksburg
  • Everyone, at some point, tries to take a photo of a spectacular sunset. Sunset photos are all about light and color. Light levels change rapidly at sunset, so there are no one-size-fits-all settings. The light drops as the sun does, but it also falls when the sun’s obscured by clouds or anything else
  • If you’ve got a tripod, I’d recommend using one for sunset photos. There are two reasons: first, you can keep a tight aperture and low ISO even as your shutter speed gets slower, and second, you can shoot HDR (high dynamic range) images.
  • When I’m doing sunset shots, you shoot a few different exposures, one darker than what it should be and one brighter than what it should be. This means I’ll have details from everything in the scene. In post-production, you can combine them into one image using HDR.
  • If you are simply using an iPhone, you can take HDR photos directly. Make certain to brace the camera, if you don’t have a tripod.
  • In a sunset photo, the sun should never be the main subject. Use the light it creates to show off another subject. Start by finding something interesting to photograph. Cool landscapes, landmarks, models, your dogs, or anything else are better than a boring shot of the sky from an industrial park.
  • One more thing. Try taking multiple exposures. A slightly underexposed sunset photo often looks better than a correctly exposed one. The colors will seem deeper and richer.
  • Email from Macy in San Francisco: Dear Doc and Jim. A neighbor has named his unprotected wireless network after my own. I immediately changed my network’s SSID and increased the security level to WPA. However, as the neighbor’s network has a strong signal and is unprotected, my laptop insisted on logging on to it until I realized what was going on and deleted it from the preferred nets list. However, I would feel safer if I could simply block the network altogether. Is that possible? By the way, could this be what I think it is? The neighbor setting up an unprotected network with the same name as mine in the hope that my computer would connect to his net if mine happened to be down? Macy from San Francisco
  • Tech Talk Responds: On the surface, it certainly seems like your neighbor is up to something. If you use his access point, he may be able to sniff you passwords if you are not using https.
    • Rename your wireless access point. You will have to log into your router to do this.
    • Make sure your wireless access point has WPA2 enabled, with a good password. Once again, exactly how you set this will vary based on your specific device.
    • Make sure you connect only to your preferred connections. It sounds like you may already have done this. Click on the wireless network icon in your taskbar, and then on Network settings. In the resulting Settings app, click on Manage known networks. This is a list of wireless access points you’ve connected to in the past, which will be remembered and connected to automatically in the future. Scan through this list, click on any you don’t want to connect to automatically, and click on Forget to remove them from the list.
  • There is one additional change that, while not adding a lot of real security, would at least confirm your neighbor’s bad intentions, if compromised. Configure your access point to stop broadcasting the SSID (aka network name), and then change the SSID.
  • The downside here is that Windows won’t automatically detect your network; you’ll have to configure it manually; fortunately, you should only need to do this once.
  • This prevents your neighbor from seeing your new network name – at least from seeing it easily. If your neighbor is technically savvy enough to sniff your wireless packets, the SSID can still be viewed. But if another open access point appears with your new, “hidden” network name, you’ll know your neighbor is up to no good.
  • Email from Sophia in Fairfax: Dear Tech Talk. I would like my kids to learn programming. They are all in elementary school now. Unfortunately, I don’t know enough to help them. What resources are available for parents in this area. Love the show. Sophia in Fairfax.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Introducing computer programming to your kids can be a challenge, especially if you aren’t familiar with code. Here are a few good resources for you to use.
    • Programming Tutorials from Made With Code by GoogleGoogle’s Made With Code project has a mission of encouraging girls to pursue careers in computer science.
    • Resources for Parents From MIT Media Lab’s Scratch Team.Scratch is one of the most popular coding tools for kids, and it’s designed to help students with little to no coding experience. The software lets students create animations and stories with building blocks that mimic the structure of computer code. Luckily, the team behind the software has made it easy for beginners.
    • Tynker’s Hour of Code Free Activities. Tynker is a fun, intuitive suite of games that make it easy for kids to learn basic “computational thinking and programming skills.”
    • Lessons and Tutorials From Code.org.org was launched in 2013 to advocate for wider access to computer science learning in schools and for underrepresented students of color.
    • Computing Lessons on Khan Academy. Khan Academy’s self-paced courses introduce a number of fascinating coding concepts to kids. From learning the basics of computer programming and animation, to more complex computer science subjects, these lessons are the perfect jumping off point for curious students.
  • Email from Wendy in Fairfax: Dear Tech Talk I am considering taking an online class and am wondering whether distance education as effective as traditional classroom delivery? Enjoy the show. Richelle in Falls Church
  • Tech Talk Responds: Yes, it is if the student is mature and disciplined. The real value of online delivery is not the presentation of lecture material remotely, but rather the ability to allow the students to interact with the teacher and the other students. Threaded discussions allow the students to reason online. If the teacher can engage the students through thoughtful discussion and questions, the critical thinking within the classroom is better than in a tradition classroom because it is written.
  • For this reason, the best delivery method is blended. The students have a classroom session with interaction, questions, and some lecture. Then they complete a challenge question online to demonstrate critical thinking in written form. This form of delivery can be effective for most students. Email from Nhan in Atlanta: I recently go an iPhone and love the way that is store photos to the Cloud. However, I have a problem, my data usage is now too high, expecially when I travel on vacation. What are my options? Enjoy the show. Nhan in Atlanta.
  • Tech Talk Responds: iCloud Photo Library is one of those features that just works: take a photo or video on your iPhone, and in a few moments it’s available on all your Apple devices. It’s not, however, great if you have a low data cap.
  • In iOS 10 and earlier, iCloud Photo Library would only upload over Wi-Fi. But in iOS 11, Apple enabled uploading over cellular data. This is great if you have a high data cap, but not so good if your cap is low and you shoot a lot of high-res photos and slow motion video. To turn off cellular uploads, Open Settings and select Photos > Mobile Data. Toggle off mobile data and your photos will only upload over Wi-Fi.
  • Email form Helen in Rockville: Dear Doc and Jim. I have head that two-factor authentication is very secure. I an thinking of using for a few of my accounts. However, I am worried about being locked out of the account if I lose my cell phone or am on travel. What do you recommend? Enjoy the podcast. Helen in Rockville.
  • Tech Talk Responds: First , print out the “backup codes” for all your accounts and store them somewhere safe. These codes will allow you to regain access to your account if you ever lose your two-factor authentication method in the future. Keep them in a secure location.
  • For a Google account, these backup codes only work once each, ensuring that anyone who intercepts the code can’t log into your account with it afterwards. If you run out of codes, be sure to generate some more. You can print backup codes for your Google account from the two-step verification settings page.
  • Be sure to check the phone number you have linked to your accounts. If an account does not have your current number on file, you cannot use that phone number to regain access. If you get a new phone number, be sure to update it with the services you use so you won’t get locked out of your accounts.
  • Ensure any email addresses you have on file with your accounts are current. If the service is linked to your main email account, this will be simple. But, if the service is your main email account, you might want to set up a separate backup email address for it. You should log into any email addresses regularly, as companies like Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo reserve the right to delete “inactive” email accounts that aren’t logged into on a regular basis. You would not want to find that your email address was incorrect or no longer exists if you need it to recover your account.
  • You should also ensure any personal information you have provided to websites you use two-factor authentication with is correct. For example, you may be asked to confirm the answers to any security questions you previously set up, recite the birthday as it appears on your account, or confirm any other personal information the service has on file. If you gave the service wrong information because you just didn’t want to share your real personal details at the time, you may want to go back and correct it.
  • Email from Alice in Reston: Dear Doc and Jim. My computer switches to a black screen after about 5 to 15 minutes of use. Then I have to turn it off to get another 5 to 15 minutes of use. What is causing this black out? Love the show. Alice in Reston
  • Tech Talk Responds: And the most common cause of crashes is overheating. Your computer needs good ventilation to avoid overheating. Make certain that the ventilation holes aren’t blocked by dust or other debris.
  • Hardware does fail. One of the early signs of impending failure is a periodic crash such as you describe. If it is consistently happening 5 to 15 minutes after boot up, after looking at possible overheating issues, I’d begin suspect the power supply.
  • One more common “black screen” failure mode is that the computer’s display has stopped working, but the computer itself is still running properly. Play an MP3 in loop mode. If the monitor goes black, but the music continues to play, you know that the computer is still running, and that the problem is more likely either the video card, the video drivers, the monitor, or the cables connecting the monitor to the computer.
  • Finally, it could just be a screen saver. If you wiggle the mouse or hit a key on the keyboard and your screen comes back, that’s it. If you have a laptop, it’s possible that the computer has gone into Standby or Hibernate mode. If you simply push the power button and it comes back up to where you were after a few seconds, that’s probably it.
  • Email from Ian in Greenbelt, MD: Dear Tech Talk. I keep getting programs installed on my computer that I never wanted. I can I clean up this mess. It is slowing down my computer and becoming very annoying. Listen every Saturday. Ian in Greenbelt, MD.
  • Tech Talk Responds: It’s becoming more common that installing one download may result in several other things being installed as well. This can be very annoying.
  • If some unexpected toolbars and other applications that show up on your computer, you can simply uninstall them. Go to the Control Panel’s Programs and Features item: Look for the items by name. Look for names that include the word “toolbar.” Right-click the item you want to uninstall and click Uninstall.
  • Next run MalwareBytes. You can download and install the free version. Do not select the free trial of their premium product. The Malwarebytes’ scan may take a while. When it’s complete, you’ll get a notification if you have malware. You can review the list if you like, but in general, the correct next step is to simply click Apply Actions to quarantine everything. You will likely need to reboot.
  • If you are still having problems, restore to a recent backup image. If the backup image was prior to this software appeared, restoring gets rid of everything.
  • The real message is prevention. The offer is usually hidden and defaulted to Yes. Whenever you install any software – even software that you’ve purchased as it turns out – always choose the “Custom” or “Detailed” option. Choose whatever option is not the default option.
  • Email from Dave in Colorado: Dear Tech Talk. I am backing up my computer as you recommended. How can I test whether the backup is actually any good? I would rather test now than later. Love the show. Dave in Boulder, CO.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Testing your backups is an easy step to overlook, but an important step to take.
  • If you are only backing up specific files and subdirectories, you can pick an important file on your hard disk and rename it. Now go restore the original from your backup, and make sure it’s the same. Assuming its successful, repeat this for several different files in different locations on your hard disk, to ensure that the files you expect to be backed up actually have been, and can be recovered if needed.
  • If you have created a disk image, create and boot from the “emergency disk” or “rescue media”, to make sure that it works and can “see” the back up you’ve created, as well as the hard disk onto which that backup might be restored. Follow the sequence to actually perform an image restore, stopping at the very last step. Do not actually perform the restore because that will overwrite your hard drive. You could try the restore to an extra internal hard drive, if that is an option.

Profiles in IT: Demis Hassabis

  • Demis Hassabis is best known as co-found of Deepmind Technologies, an artificial intelligence startup purchased by Google.
  • Hassibis was born July 27, 1976 in London a Greek Cypriot father and a Chinese Singaporean mother.
  • A child prodigy in chess, Hassabis reached master level at the age of 13.
  • Hassabis was educated at Queen Elizabeth’s School in Barnet and Christ’s College in Finchley. He completed his A-level exams two years early.
  • Hassabis began his computer games career at Bullfrog Productions, first level designing on Syndicate and then at 17 co-designing and lead programming on the classic game Theme Park.
  • Theme Park, a celebrated simulation game, sold several million copies and won a Golden Joystick Award, and inspired a whole genre of management sim games.
  • Hassabis then left Bullfrog to study at Queens’ College, Cambridge, in Computer Science, graduating in 1997.
  • After graduating from Cambridge, Hassabis worked at Lionhead Studios, as lead AI programmer on the god game Black & White.
  • In 1999, aged 23, he won the Mind Sports Olympiad, an annual international competition for games of mental skill. He won it a five times before retiring in 2003.
  • Hassabis left Lionhead in 1998 to found Elixir Studios develop games. In April 2005, the assets were sold to various publishers and the studio was closed.
  • Hassabis then returned to academia to obtain his PhD in cognitive neuroscience from University College London (UCL) in 2009. In his research, he sought to find inspiration in the human brain for new AI algorithms.
  • After a stint as MIT and Harvard, he received as a postdoc fellowship at the UCL.
  • In 2010, Hassabis co-founded DeepMind, a London-based machine learning AI startup, with Shane Legg and Mustafa Suleyman.
  • Hassabis and Suleyman had been friends since childhood, and he met Legg at University College London as a postdoc.
  • DeepMind aims to combine neuroscience and machine learning with new computing hardware to create artificial general intelligence (AGI).
  • The company focused on training learning algorithms to master games. It developed Deep Q-Network (DQN) to play Atari games using the raw pixels as inputs.
  • Google purchased DeepMind for 400 million pounds. Since the Google acquisition, the company created AlphaGo, a program that defeated world champion Lee Sedol at the complex game of Go.
  • Deepmind has made advances in deep learning and reinforcement learning, and developed deep reinforcement learning which combines these two methods.

An iPhone X now costs $1,700 in India 

  • The price hike came less than a week after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government said it was increasing import duties on mobile phones.
  • India is already one of the most expensive places in the world to buy an iPhone, and 14 of Apple’s latest models — from the iPhone 6 to the iPhone X — will now cost about 3% more.
  • The 256 GB version of the iPhone X, for example, will cost 109,000 rupees ($1,700), an increase of $50. The same version in the U.S. costs $1,149.
  • The increased tariffs are meant to encourage smartphone companies trying to cash in on India’s lucrative market to manufacture their products in the country.
  • While the change will impact other smartphone brands as well, top rivals such as Samsung (SSNLF) and Xiaomi already make most of their Indian phones locally. Apple imports an estimated 90% of its devices.
  • The Silicon Valley giant began making lower-end iPhone SE models at a plant in Bangalore last year, trying to get around manufacturing regulations that have prevented it from opening stores in India.
  • As a result, the price of an iPhone SE in India remains unchanged despite the higher import tariffs.
  • The price of an Apple Watch, however, has gone up by almost 8%, to around $520.

Fun Things to Do with Alexa

  • There are thousands of third-party Alexa Skills that you can enable for your Amazon Echo, and that number continues to rise. Here are a few third party Alexa Skills that you should check out.
  • To install Alexa Skills, tap on the menu button in the top-left corner of the screen in the Alexa app. Select “Skills” from the list. Tap inside of the search box at the top where it says “Search All Skills” and type in the name of an Alexa Skill that you want to install. Then tap on the Search button to the right.
  • You can search through Amazon’s massive library in the Alexa app and discover Alexa Skills on your own, but here are a few fun apps to get you started.
  • You can enable a Lyft or UberThen Alexa can order your car. Make certain to set the address and car type correctly.
  • You can enable a Dominos or Pizza Hut skilland have Alexa your pizza. You will need an accounts for each store, an default address, and method of payment. You can browse menu items and order pizza right from the Echo without lifting a finger.
  • The Bartender skill has all sorts of drink recipes. All you have to do is say “Alexa, ask The Bartender to make a Grasshopper”. Alexa will tell you the ingredients. The Bartender to surprise you with a random cocktail.
  • The Big Skyskill is an advanced weather forcasting app, much better than Alexa’s default weather forcast. You can ask Big Sky just for the basic forecast, but if you want more specifics, you can say things like “Alexa, ask Big Sky what the humidity is” or “Alexa, ask Big Sky what the temperature will be at 5pm”.
  • Night Lightis an Alexa Skill that allows you to turn on the glowing blue ring on your Echo for any amount of time. Just say “Alexa, open Night Light” and the blue ring will light up. Granted, it does oscillate a little bit, but it should give you just enough light so that you don’t trip over anything. When you want to turn it off, just say “Alexa, stop” or hit the wake button on the Echo. You can also turn it on for a specific amount of time by saying “Alexa, open Night Light for two minutes”.
  • AnyPod is perhaps one of the best podcast-related Alexa Skills you can use. Once enabled, just say “Alexa, ask AnyPod to play Stratford Tech Talkor any other podcast. You can also fast-forward and rewind podcasts by specific lengths, as well as subscribe to podcasts that you like.
  • The 7-Minute Workoutskill is extremely popular, consisting of several high-intensity exercises that take just seven minutes to get through. With the 7-Minute Workout Alexa Skill, you can have your Amazon Echo lead you through the workout without having to time everything yourself. All you have to say is “Alexa, start 7-Minute Workout” and you’ll be guided through all the exercises. nice touch.
  • Translated is a great skill, if you want to know how to say a certain phrase in a specific language. Simply say “Alexa, ask Translated to say where is the restroom in Spanish. You can also tell Alexa to slow down if you need to hear the translation more carefully, or just tell her to “repeat” it and she will repeat the translation.
  • That should get your started. Enjoy Alexa skills.

Amazon to take on UPS and FedEx

  • According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, the online retailer’s new shipping service, named “Shipping with Amazon” (SWA), will roll out in Los Angeles in the coming weeks.
  • With SWA, Amazon will pick up packages from businesses and ship them to customers, relying almost entirely on Amazon’s shipping infrastructure.
  • Amazon plans to abandon UPS, FedEx in favor of its own delivery service
  • Aside from first starting in LA, SWA will first serve third-party merchants that already sell on Amazon. The company plans to send drivers to pick up shipments from these businesses and deliver the packages for them.
  • While shipping and delivery will mostly go through Amazon, anything outside of the retailer’s reach will be given to the USPS and other shipping services for the “last mile” portion of the delivery.
  • In the future, Amazon reportedly wants to open up SWA to businesses that are not affiliated with the site—meaning Amazon could ship and deliver packages from companies of all sizes.
  • Amazon also believes it can compete with UPS and FedEx by making SWA more affordable for business customers, but its pricing structure hasn’t been revealed.
  • Amazon has been slowly building out its shipping and delivery infrastructure, and it seems the company is ready to extend those services to other businesses.

Another near Asteroid Miss

  • An asteroid bigger than a city bus is zoomed by Earth Friday (February 9, 2018) at a safe but close distance, less than one-fifth as far away as the Moon.
  • Called asteroid 2018 CB, the space rock passed Earth at around 5:30 pm (2230 GMT).
  • It will remain about 39,000 miles (64,000 kilometers) from Earth, which is less than one-fifth the distance to the Moon.
  • The asteroid is estimated to be between 50 and 130 feet (15 and 40 meters) in size.
  • Although 2018 CB is quite small, it might well be larger than the asteroid that entered the atmosphere over Russia five years ago in 2013.
  • The asteroid was discovered by astronomers at the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey (CSS) near Tucson, Arizona.

Food Science: Why is Fish White? (originally aired 7/12/2008)

  • There are two types of protein myosin that be found in muscle
  • Slow fibers
    • Slow fibers burn fats to provide energy.
    • These muscles need oxygen to operate.
    • Slow fibers are suited for working continuously.
  • Fast fibers
    • Fast fibers burn glycogen and do not need oxygen.
    • Fast fibers do not need myoglobin and are always white.
    • Fast fibers can only operate in short bursts.
    • Fibers are short and fall apart when cooked.
  • Land animals need to support their own weight and hence must have slow fibers.
  • Fish swim in busts and are supported by water and can be by with fast fibers.
  • Sharks which must continuously are an exception.