Show of 06-09-2018

Tech Talk

June 9, 2018

Best of Tech Talk Edition

  • Segments replayed from previous shows

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 com.
  • Email from Alex in Fairfax: Dear Tech Talk. I started using Chrome browser after you discussed its new ad blocking features. Unfortunately, the browser will not play any sound, even for YouTube videos. How can I fix this problem? Alex in Fairfax
  • Tech Talk Responds: Open the Chrome browser, and open settings by clicking on the three vertical dots in the upper right corner. Scroll to the bottom and click Advanced. Scroll again to the bottom section called Clean Up and Restore. Click Reset and then click Clean Up Computer. That should fix any problem.
  • BTW, I have switched from IE to Chrome. The new ad blocker has made surfing the web so pleasant. No delays in opening obtrusive ad. No blaring sounds. I may be sacrificing some privacy, but it seems to be worth it.
  • Email from Jim in Bowie, MD: Dear Doc and Jim. I have an iPhone 7S and inadvertently deleted all my notes and then saved them. These notes go back all the way to 2001 and I need them back. What are my options? Enjoy the show live here in Bowie, Jim.
  • Tech Talk Responds: When restoring your iPhone from your iPhone’s backup, it is all or none. There is no option to select a portion of the backup only. When restoring, your iPhone is completely erased followed by the firmware being re-installed. After the firmware is re-installed, the options are restoring from your iPhone’s backup (which is the default selection) and is all or none, or as a new iPhone or not from your iPhone’s backup. Either way must be followed by a sync to re-transfer selected iTunes content and any photos on your computer selected to be transferred to your iPhone.
  • The best way to restore only one file, is to use third party software. There are couple of options: PhoneRescue for iOS ($49) and the other is AnyTrans for iOS ($39). You will be restoring a file by the name of notes.sqlite or NoteStore.sqlite. Good luck with the restore. Either software package will restore from either an iTunes or iCloud backup.
  • Email from Doug in Baton Rouge: Dear Dr. Shurtz (Hey Jim). Thanks so much for the past help on my computer related inquires. Your analysis and answers have been a wonderful help in solving many of my confusions and problem solving dilemmas. My new question: Can you send text messages from a computer to a cell phone? And if so, can the computer receive a reply from that person’s cell phone as well? Where on the internet can an up-to-date Mail/Web-to-SMS Gateway listing be found for each cell carrier company? You have the best broadcasting computer show out there! Thanks, Doug in Baton Rouge, LA
  • Tech Talk Responds: Text messages can be sent from a personal computer to mobile devices via an SMS gateway or Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) gateway, using most popular email client programs, such as Outlook, Thunderbird, and so on. The messages must be sent in ASCII “text-only” mode. If they are sent in HTML mode, or using non-ASCII characters, they will most likely appear as nonsense on the recipient’s mobile telephone. The MMS gateway must be used if you want to send multi-media content (like a picture or a sound file).
  • Before the message can be sent, one must determine the domain of the mobile carrier’s SMS or MMS gateway. The normal format for the address is phone number@SMSGateway. A good up-to-date list of the gateways for US carriers can be found on Wikipedia (SMS gateway). You can just search for it on Google. A list of these gateways is below.
    • Mobile carrier, SMS gateway domain, MMS gateway domain
    • Alltel, alltelwireless.com, mms.alltelwireless.com
    • AT&T, att.net, mms.att.net
    • Boost Mobile, myboostmobile.com, myboostmobile.com
    • Cricket Wireless, mycricket.com, mms.cricketwireless.net
    • MetroPCS, com, mymetropcs.com
    • Project Fi, fi.google.com, msg.fi.google.com
    • Republic Wireless, republicwireless.com, Not available
    • Straight Talk, com, mypixmessages.com
    • Sprint, sprintpcs.com, pm.sprint.com
    • T-Mobile, net, tmomail.net
    • S. Cellular, email.uscc.net, mms.uscc.net
    • Verizon Wireless, com, vzwpix.com
    • Virgin Mobile, com, vmpix.com
  • For example, the email address for the number: (703) 111-2222, send to the AT &T MMS gateway would be: 7031112222@mms.att.net.
  • When you send an email to a gateway, their response will be delivered to your inbox. Don’t bother with a subject line because text messages don’t have subject lines, only message content. If you use the SMS gateway, keep the message to less than 140 characters and be mindful of large disclaimer paragraphs at the end of your email.
  • Dear Doc and Jim. I have been hearing about how Facebook is selling my data and my privacy cannot be assured. How can I best protect myself from Facebook abuses or do I just need to leave Facebook altogether? Love the show. Donna in Kansas
  • Tech Talk Responds: You should be concerned. Facebook is monetizing you data at the expense of your privacy. You can help protect yourself by following a few guidelines.
  • Beware of those fun “quizzes” and apps.
    • One of the way researchers were able to gather information on Facebook users was through “personality quizzes.” Some of those quizzes allowed Cambridge University’s Psychometrics Centre to gather private information from Facebook profiles, including from friends and activities. Remember: Nothing is free. If you’re inputting data about yourself, especially in a random third-party app, you’re giving it away.
  • Change your privacy settings.
    • You can manage privacy settings by tapping the drop-down arrow on the top-right of Facebook, choosing “Settings” and then selecting “Privacy.”Here, you can control who sees your posts, your phone number, your friend requests and more. Consider changing these settings so that only you can see this data. Remember: If a friend takes a quiz like the one mentioned above, they could be giving up their friends list, which includes you.
  • Beware who your friends are
    • If your friends aren’t using strict privacy settings, then photos and other posts you’re tagged in could still be shared or viewed by others. Facebook explicitly says this: “Remember, your friends control who can see their friendships on their own Timelines. Consider asking your friends to increase their security settings, too, and only befriending people you know and trust.
  • Consider avoiding third-party apps altogether.
    • You might be tempted to install games and other apps that are available through Facebook, but doing so allows those apps to tap into your personal data, including your name, profile picture, gender, networks, username, friends list and other public information. You can manage what an app has access to by going to Settings and selecting “Apps” on the left side of the screen.
  • Turn on extra security settings
    • You increase Facebook security even more by getting alerts when Facebook sees a login from a device or browser you do not typically use. You should also turn on two-factor authentication so that a code sent to your phone is required each time you log in. To access these extra settings, go to Facebook’s Settings page, select “Security and Login” from the left side and scroll down to the “Setting Up Extra Security” section.
  • Consider leaving Facebook
    • The best way to protect your private data is to leave Facebook altogether. Facebook allows to deactivate your account, but they still keep the old data. Data on the web is immortal, so beware what you post.

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.

Beware: Selfies Make Your Nose Look Bigger

  • The short distance from the camera combines with the wide-angle lens make the nose look larger in selfies, according to the journal JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery.
  • Distorted self-portraits are leading more people to request nose jobs for better selfies.
  • In 2017, 55 percent of facial plastic surgeons reported seeing patients who want to look better in selfies. That marked an increase of 13 percent from the prior year.
  • The JAMA study breaks down selfie face with help from Stanford University’s Department of Computer Science. To quantify just how much selfies increase nose size, research fellow Ohad Fried came up with a mathematical model.
  • The model revealed that a standard selfie, taken about 12 inches (30 centimeters) from the face makes the nose look about 30 percent wider and the nasal tip appear 7 percent wider than if the photo had been snapped at the more portrait distance of 5 feet.
  • Therein lies the problem.

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

People Are Holding on their Old Phones

  • A common comment among phone owners is to point to their handset and state: “I’ll probably wait till it breaks.”
  • Phone replacement has slumped since 2013, when consumers bought a new one every 20 months.
  • These days, especially with the iPhone, there is not a lot of difference between the phones coming out.
  • Price was also a “big thing” when considering upgrades, with the next iPhone expected to cost over $1,000.
  • The US, China, Japan and the UK – four of the world’s largest markets – have all seen slowdowns or flat growth in the past year.

How to Extend the Life of your Smartphone

  • There are two main areas to concentrate on when keeping your phone fast and performing as if it’s still new: data storage and battery capacity.
  • When your data storage is close to full, your phone will slow down, while an older battery will lose its charge faster and annoy you with the amount of recharges you’ll be doing.
  • It’s those two issues that usually drive a person to buy a new phone, but Wien says keeping those two things in check is simple.
  • To free up space on your phone so that it stays fast, store large files like photos and videos on either a removable memory card for Android phones or back up older files on an external hard drive and remove them from your phone.
  • There is another trick for clearing up excess cached files on Apple products. Try renting a movie or TV show that is larger than the space available on your phone or iPad. When the device realizes there isn’t enough room, it will reject the download and automatically clear cached data in the apps and free up space.
  • Paring down your apps to just those you use frequently will also keep data storage down and speeds up.
  • For the battery issue, you will have to replace it when it starts to lose the ability to keep a charge. Every battery has a maximum amount of charge/deplete cycles it can go through before its drain time accelerates.
  • Apple says the iPhone battery loses about 20 percent of its original capacity after 500 charge cycles, but a good rule of thumb is to replace a smartphone battery every two years, four or five years for a tablet.
  • A new battery costs between $20 and $40 and you can find repair guides for how to do the replacing yourself over at iFixit.com. Many Android phones have a removable back cover where the battery can easily be swapped out.
  • Apple battery replacement is around $79, but this year you can get a replacement for $29 because of slowgate.
  • Using these tips, your smartphone should serve you well for years longer than you thought.