Show of 09-29-2018

Tech Talk
September 29, 2018

Best of Tech Talk Edition

  • Segments replayed from previous shows.

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Joy in Ashburn: Dear Doc and Jim. I recently bought a new ASUS laptop with a trackpad. I hate using the trackpad and want a mouse. The laptop supports Bluetooth. Should I get a Bluetooth mouse or a RF dongle mouse? The second question should I get an optical mouse or a laser mouse? I really do not understand the difference between those two. I love listening to the podcast, since 9am is just too early to listen to the radio. Joy in Ashburn, Virginia
  • Tech Talk Responds: There are a few factors to consider when making your selection.
    • On boot up, a Bluetooth Mouse will take a few seconds longer to start up compared to an RF mouse.
    • The RF mouse requires a dedicated USB port for the USB receiver/Transmitter. If you have few USB ports, this might become an issue.
    • RF and Bluetooth mice use AA and AAA batteries. Battery duration for both mostly depends on usage and the extra functionalities of extra buttons. A Bluetooth mouse has to stay ON for longer spells to maintain a connection. Newer Bluetooth 4 standards have low emission designed for low energy and latency. This evens the playing field by providing much-needed battery efficiency.
    • Proprietary Bluetooth SIG qualification costs drive the price of Bluetooth devices upward.
    • A limitation to the RF computer mouse is that it can only connect to one device at a time. It also translates only devices with USB ports. Bluetooth, on the other hand, provides interoperability with multiple devices.
    • Both Bluetooth and RF mice operate within the 2.4 GHz spectrum. At some point, frequency congestion is bound to occur.
  • On average, it is a wash. You probably better off this a Bluetooth mouse because your laptop does not have very many USB ports.
  • An optical mouse uses red LEDs to track the movement of the mouse over a surface. A laser mouse uses an infrared laser for the same purpose. Initially the laser provided better tracking. However, with the improvement of the overall optical mouse technology, there is virtually no difference between the two methods. The net result is that it does not matter.
  • Email from Youel Sarkis: Dear Dr. Richard Shurtz. How are you doing? You guys are great and love the show as always. I have little issue concerning deleting a video from YouTube account and that is the only copy that I have. I see the video on my account but unable to play it. Can you please help? It is important. Thank You. Youel Sarkis
  • Tech Talk Responds: Your best bet may be to simply download the video from YouTube. KeepVid is a great option. It supports YouTube, DailyMotion, Megavideo, Metacafe, and Vimeo. Copy the URL of the video you want to download, go to KeepVid.com, and paste it in the bar at the top. Then click “Download” to the right of that bar. Do not click the large green “Download” button. It will load for a few seconds, then you’ll have the option to download the video in FLV (Flash), MP4, or WebM format. If you do not know which one to pick, go with MP4, as it has the greatest compatibility. Download the video to your computer. Once the download is complete, play it to make certain that it works. Then you can delete the video from YouTube.
  • Email from John in the Outer Banks: Dear Doc and Jim. I have MS Mail on a Windows 10 laptop. I cannot configure my Verizon account. Remember that Verizon bought AOL and ported all of their mail services to AOL mail. I love my Verizon email address and do not want to give it up. Please help. John in Outer Banks
  • Tech Talk Responds: Open email client. Click on Account in left hand column. In the pop up window, click on Other Account. Put in your email address, user name, and password. Note that user name is also your email address. Click create account. Once account is created, open the mail client and click accounts. You have to provide additional information because MS Mail will not automatically configure the account properly. Click on the new Verizon account. Click on Change Mailbox Setting. Click on Advance Mailbox Settings. Then enter the following data.
      • Incoming mail server: imap.aol.com:993
      • Outgoing mail server: smtp.verizon.net:465
      • Outgoing server requires authentication
      • Use the same user name and password for sending mail
      • Require SSL for incoming mail
      • Require SSL for outgoing email
  • Good luck with the installation. The information on the web can be somewhat sketchy.
  • Email from Kathy in Colorado: Dear Tech Talk. I am getting lots of spam. Should I respond and tell them to stop sending it? Should I report them? If so, where? Please give me some guidance. Kathy in Colorado.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Never, ever reply to spam. Period. It won’t help, and will more likely make things worse.
  • When you reply to an email, your reply is sent to the address listed in the “From:” field1 in the original email. The problem is that the “From:” line in spam is generally a lie. More commonly, it’s the email address of someone who is completely unrelated to the spam message.
  • Spammers send email to millions of addresses at a time, including many that are bogus. Sometimes spammers do pay attention to your reply, but not in the way you want. If they pay attention to it, they may use it to confirm that your email address is valid and their spam has been read by a real person. The result is that you’ll get more spam … lots more spam.
  • If it’s truly spam, then mark it as spam in your email program or email service. They will use the assorted characteristics of the message to better identify and automatically filter spam in the future. If it is something you signed up for, then unsubscribe. Mark it as spam only if the unsubscribe process doesn’t work. Don’t bother blocking the sender of spam. As we’ve seen above, the sender is rarely accurate, and changes randomly. If you don’t have the option to mark it as spam, or it doesn’t seem to help, simply delete it and move on.
  • As a last resort, you might consider moving to an email service that has a better spam filter. While not perfect, as of this update Google Mail remains the most effective, in my opinion.
  • Email from Susan in Alexandria: Hi Dr. Shurtz and Jim, One of your listeners last week noted how he can tell which shows are re-runs: “Dead giveaway is not getting or taking an answer to the pop quiz.” Well, we are tipped off at the very beginning of the show when Jim gives the rundown of what topics will be covered rather than Dr. Shurtz.  Of course, if the listener does not recognize already having heard those topics, then it’s a great chance to catch up! Susan in Alexandria
  • Tech Talk Responds: Susan, you are very astute. We love listeners like you.
  • Email from Mimi in Orlando: Dear Doc and Jim. I use MAC address filtering and don’t use WPA. I realize that means I must physically enter the MAC address of each device that wants to connect to my network, but I believe that MAC address filtering is also a viable security solution (with or without WPA or WEP). What are your thoughts? Love the show. Mimi in Orlando.
  • Tech Talk Responds: The short answer is that is not very secure. A MAC, or “Media Access Control” address, is a theoretically unique identifier assigned to every network interface card. It is the hardware network address. The Ethernet port on my desktop machine has a different MAC address than the Ethernet port on my laptop, which is different than the Ethernet port of Mary Ann’s laptop.
  • The MAC address itself is never encrypted. Even if you specify WPA2 encryption on your wireless connection, the MAC address itself is not encrypted. It can’t be, as it’s required to tell the computers involved which computer is supposed to receive the packet. Your data is encrypted, of course, but the MAC address is not.
  • So, let’s say a somewhat knowledgeable hacker is interested in accessing your WiFi hotspot, on which you have MAC address filtering turned on. He needs only needs to sniff the network and look at the MAC addresses which are allowed access to the WiFi and then configure his network interface to use one of those MAC addresses. This is called MAC address cloning. It takes minutes to do this.
  • Therefore, use WPA2 for more effective security and forget MAC address filtering.

Profiles in IT: Mark Buff

  • Mark Buff is the founder and President of Mohu, a Consumer Electronics Company located in the heart of Raleigh, a leader in the cord cutting revolution.
  • Mark Buff was born in 1970 in Raleigh, North Carolina.
  • Mark Buff received his BSEE (1994), MSEE (2003), PhD in Electromagnetics (2006) from North Carolina State.
  • Mark Buff started his career at a global telecom company where he developed a passion for computer engineering.
  • Mark was inspired by a course in radio frequency design to pursue his doctorate in and create his first Raleigh, North Carolina-based company, Greenwave Scientific. Greenwave Scientific was a bootstrapped entity that researched and developed covert antennas for military ground vehicles and is now parent company to Mohu, a leading HDTV antenna provider.
  • In 2004, he founded Vadum, a systems engineering and design company, to provide engineering solutions to the defense, law enforcement, and commercial communities.
  • As principal investigator, he worked with various military commands in the Counter, Neutralization and Defeat of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).
  • Mark was inspired by a course in radio frequency design to pursue his doctorate and start Greenwave Scientific develop antennas for military ground vehicles.
  • In 2007, he developed an innovative antenna technology to fit within mud flaps of US Military ground vehicles. This research focuses on detecting, neutralizing and defeating IEDs to protect the HMMWVs and MRAPs from being targeted.
  • In 2009, he founded Mohu Consumer Electronics, a subsidiary of Greenwave. His mission was to translate defense-based military technology into common sense consumer electronics products.
  • Mohu’s initial product was the paper-thin Mohu Leaf Indoor HDTV Antenna.
  • Products now include Leaf 30, Leaf 50, designer Curves, and outdoor Sky 60.
  • The company has grown organically. They seeded the launch of the Leaf on Amazon.com and quickly became to the Best Selling antenna on Amazon.
  • In 2014, he launch Mohu Channels on Kickstarter. In about 15 minutes, you can create your own channel that includes both OTA and OTT channels.
  • In May 2015, he announced a partnership with Microsoft Xbox as the preferred provider of HDTV antennas to complement OTA TV through Xbox.
  • Mohu AirWave, which provides wireless over-the-air (OTA) and over-the-top (OTT) device that integrates live, local broadcast TV with free streaming channels across popular streaming devices. Launching at Best Buy early fall 2017 for $149.99.
  • Mohu Cord cutting guide: http://untangle.tv/home. This analyzes your viewing habits and suggest which OTA and OTT channels that will need. It recommends subscriptions and devices and calculates how much you will save.
  • Website: http://www.gomohu.com/

Stitch Fix Uses AI in Fashion Retail

  • The perfect shopping method for those who hate to shop!
  • Stitch Fix, established in 2011 in San Francisco, has disrupted the fashion retail industry.
  • With input from the customer and collaboration between artificial intelligence (AI) and human stylists, the online styling subscription service eliminates the need for their customers to go out and shop for clothing or even browse online
  • The service delivers personalized recommendations on a regular schedule.
  • The customers can keep all of the products or return what they do not like or need.
  • That feedback gets input into the company’s data vaults to make the algorithms even better at determining the preferred style for each person and even identify trends.
  • In 2017, the company had $1 billion in revenue and 2.2 million active customers, but competitors such as Amazon and Trunk Club are lining up to mimic its style of retail.
  • Stitch Fix uses the insight of AI to analyze data on style trends, body measurements, customer feedback and preferences to arm the human stylists with possible recommendations. This helps the company provide its customers with personalized style recommendations that fit their lifestyle and budgets.
    • The better the Stitch Fix stylists are at providing their customers with products they will love, the better their business runs. They have fewer returns.
    • Using the data it collects, the company is designing its own styles known as Hybrid Designs. Stitch Fix is able to create new designs to share with its human designers to vet the final styles that make it into their inventory.
    • Stitch Fix not only asks customers to fill out a style profile to determine style, size and prize preferences but records every touch point (starting a new job, have a special event, going through a life transition such as divorce).
    • When a shipment is requested, an algorithm determines and assigns it to a warehouse based on the location of the client and the inventory of the warehouse and its match to a customer’s style among other considerations.
    • As clients receive and keep merchandise, they need to restock their inventory to give stylists a large enough inventory to meet demand.

Jack Dorsey, Twitter CEO, Doesn’t Have a Laptop

  • Jack Dorsey does everything from his phone. The CEO of Twitter doesn’t have a laptop.
  • He turns off notifications and works on one app at a time. He can really focus on what’s in front of him instead of everything coming at him.
  • Instead of a keyboard, Dorsey said he uses dictating and voice typing tools. His lack of a laptop appears to be more for practicality and work-life balance than security.
  • He feels that devices can consume all of your time that you can certainly go down a hole. So he has developed a lot of personal practices to limit that. He doesn’t check his phone in the morning until he is about to walk into work and when he’s working on my phone he turn off notifications so he’s not constantly reacting to what’s coming at him.
  • When he conducts meetings, phones down, laptops closed so the team can actually focus and not just spend an hour together but make that time meaningful. Meetings are short and focused. If phones and laptops are open, the team gets distracted.
  • Dorsey believes in mindfulness and awareness.

App of the Week: Skimmer Scanner

  • In less than 30 seconds, a hacker can install a $10 piece of pre-built hardware – easily purchased online – into a gas pump. This device is called a skimmer and it’s designed to get your credit card number when you use it at the pump.
  • The CEO and Founder of SparkFun, Nate Seidle, along with programmer Nick Poole, built a free, open-source Android app to detect popular skimmers.
  • The app detects a specific Bluetooth signal and, if found, it tries to establish a connection and send a command that will verify the existence of a skimmer in your general area. The app is looking for Bluetooth networks with an ID of HC-05, which turned out to be the default on devices Seidle tested; if it finds one you’ll be alerted.
  • SparkFun’s Bluetooth device-detecting app is called Skimmer Scanner and it’s a bare-bones tool that appears to work as intended. It’s free and open-source and the developer says it doesn’t keep or record any information.
  • The only tool necessary is a key to unlock the pump. The locks are basic and there are no more than a few different key designs for all gas pumps – master keys for the model.

Facebook and Microsoft’s Finish Undersea Fiber Optic Cable

  • The new fiber optic cable will provide up to 160 terabits (Tbps) of data per second.
  • Facebook, Microsoft, and the Spanish telecom company Telxius financed the cable.
  • The cable spans 4,000 miles from Virginia Beach, Virginia to Bilbao, Spain.
  • Construction began August 2016. Microsoft announced its completion September 2017, but it won’t be operational until early 2018.
  • Facebook, Microsoft, and Telxius will jointly own the cable, which weighs almost 10.25 million pounds.
  • Telxius will serve as the cable’s operator and will sell and lease its capacity to outside service providers.
  • Microsoft and Facebook will use the cable to serve their own capacity needs.
  • Most transatlantic communication cables connect to the U.S. in either New York and New Jersey, but having the Marea as its called (meaning “tide” in Spanish) connect in Virginia diversifies connectivity between the U.S. and Europe.
  • Hurricane Sandy, which hit New York and New Jersey in 2012, disconnected North America from Europe for several days.
  • As part of its ongoing efforts to drive innovation and expand capacity of its global network, Microsoft sought options for making transatlantic connections more resilient.”

How Playboy helped create the JPEG

  • A photo from an issue of a 1972 Playboy magazine that was used as a test image during the creation of widely used image processing standards like JPEG and MPEG.
  • Hefner’s magazine published an alluring photo that turned into an invaluable resource for generations of computer scientists. The subtle shot eventually became one of the most widely used test images for image processing algorithms. The model, Lena Soderberg, whose photo was used for the centerfold of Playboy’s November 1972 issue, is now widely known as the “First Lady of the Internet.”
  • This strange footnote in computer science history started back in 1973. USC Signal and Image Processing Institute (SIPI) assistant professor of electrical engineering Alexander Sawchuk was part of a group looking for a new image, preferably a human face, to scan for a colleague’s conference paper when someone came into the lab with the November 1972 Playboy.
  • The team settled on the centerfold, tearing out its top third so the paper would fit on the drum of their scanner. They were aiming to produce a 512×512 image using the scanner, which had a resolution of 100 lines per inch, so they only scanned 5.12 inches of the pic, cropping out the more risqué aspects of the nude photo at the shoulders.
  • The three sets of 512 colored lines that composed the image became the standard format for digital image processing and compression. Other researchers eventually tested their own algorithms against SIPI’s using the photo of Lena. That led to mass distribution of the image by SIPI to other groups over the years.

iPhone 8 Plus Reportedly Splits Open while Charging

  • A Taiwanese iPhone 8 Plus owner has claimed that her device split open while being charged with the supplied cable and plug adapter. Apple is examining the device.
  • A Japanese owner has posted similar photos of his device.
  • The issue emerged five days after purchasing the phone. The customer placed her phone on charge, using the supplied cable and adaptor. After three minutes, she reported seeing the front panel bulge, and eventually lift completely from the device.
  • Any device with a swollen battery should be immediately removed to a safe place, as it can indicate a lithium battery at risk of bursting into flames.
  • This should be another warning to only use approved charging devices.

Robotic Farm Completes 1st Fully Autonomous Harvest

  • At Hands Free Hectare, an experimental farm run by researchers from Harper Adams University, in the village of Edgmond in the U.K., about 5 tons of spring barley have been harvested from the world’s first robotically tended farm.
  • Everything from start to finish, including sowing, fertilizing, collecting samples and harvesting, has been done by autonomous vehicles on the farm.
  • The team behind the project thinks that robotic technology could improve yields in agriculture, which is necessary if the world’s growing population is to be fed in coming years.
  • The researchers tackled this problem by using commercially available agriculture machines and open-source software that is used to guide hobbyists’ drones.
  • The researchers purchased several small-size agricultural machines, including a tractor and a combine, a machine for harvesting grain crops. They then fitted the machines with actuators, electronics and robotic technology that would allow them to control the machines without the presence of a human operator.
  • The vehicles navigate entirely based on the GPS, and they are just essentially driving towards targets that were predetermined. At different GPS targets, there are different actions designed to be carried out.
  • To monitor the field and take samples of the plants, the researchers developed special grippers attached to drones. As the drone flies above the field, the grippers can cut off some samples and deliver them to the researchers.
  • The scientists said that the robotic technology could enable future farmers to more precisely distribute fertilizers and herbicides, but could also lead to improvements in soil quality.
  • The farmer would, for example, be able to apply fertilizer only to the plants that are doing poorly and would not waste it on those that don’t need it.
  • In the coming years, they want to focus on improving the precision of the procedures and quantify the effects of the robotic technology on the yields.

A New Law makes it Illegal to Fly Drones over Landmarks

  • The FAA announced that it has restricted drone use over several national US landmarks, including the Statue of Liberty and Mount Rushmore.
  • The FAA says the new restrictions are in place at the request of US security and law enforcement agencies.
  • Under the new restriction, drones will no longer be able to fly within 400 feet of the following sites:
    • Statue of Liberty National Monument, New York, NY
    • Boston National Historical Park (U.S.S. Constitution), Boston, MA
    • Independence National Historical Park, Philadelphia, PA
    • Folsom Dam; Folsom, CA
    • Glen Canyon Dam; Lake Powell, AZ
    • Grand Coulee Dam; Grand Coulee, WA
    • Hoover Dam; Boulder City, NV
    • Jefferson National Expansion Memorial; St. Louis, MO
    • Mount Rushmore National Memorial; Keystone, SD
    • Shasta Dam; Shasta Lake, CA
  • This expands the FAA’s current list of no-fly zones, which includes some army bases, major sports stadiums, national parks, and major airports. Last month, the Pentagon approved a measure that would let the US military shoot down drones in no-fly areas it considered a threat.
  • Exceptions to the new restriction can be made, but must be coordinated in conjunction with the FAA and the particular site in question.
  • Those who are in violation will be subject to penalties that can include fines or criminal charges, though enforcement has historically been inconsistent and disorganized.
  • The new restrictions will be effective on October 5 2016, and the FAA says it is also considering additional requests from federal agencies for future drone restrictions.