Show of 11-24-2018

Tech Talk
November 24, 2018

Best of Tech Talk Edition

  • Segments taken from previous shows.

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Mary Lane: Hello, I am a novice with cell phones. Just have a pay-as-you-go plan and an old flip phone. My parents (in their 80s) recently bought a 2018 Accord EX. The car salesman recommended that they get a cell phone to link up to the car so that if they get in an accident it will automatically call 911 through Hondalink. They too just have an old flip phone under a pay as you go plan.  I told my parents I would look into this.  If the carrier has a friends and family plan, a friend and I might take the plunge and get smartphones (nothing fancy) to share in the cost of the package if that were economical.  My parents live in Fredericksburg, VA and all their driving is local. Thanking you in advance if you have any suggestions.  I enjoy your radio show (when I remember to tune in to it!). Mary Lane
  • Tech Talk Responds: Hondalink is an application that you can download and install on your smartphone. It is available for both iPhone and Android phones. The applications supports navigation, music streaming, and emergency services. It also supports CarPlay and Android Auto. The emergency service option is a monthly subscription (after a three month free trial). Most cars have a satellite link for this service (like OnStar) and don’t use a cell phone connection. They are also a subscription service. Your best bet is a prepaid plan for the phones. All carriers have them. So does Walmart with SmartTalk. This seems like a lot of work for this service, if that is the only thing that you plan to do with it.
  • Email form Tom Schum: When quantum computers start mining bitcoin, what will happen to the value of the bitcoin? Tom Schum
  • Tech Talk Responds: The bitcoin algorithm is designed to release bitcoins at a certain rate. The first minor to verify the block is paid. The number of coins released will stay the same. However, the competition for new coins will grow as miners get better software. I may become unprofitable to compete in this space. A more dire thought is that quantum computer may break the underlying security of bitcoin and the entire system would fail.
  • Email from Hac in Bowie, Maryland: Dear Doc and Jim, I have a problem with my cell phone. When someone calls me, it goes immediately to voicemail. Then when they call back a minute later, it rings properly. I have an iPhone7. Is there something wrong with my carrier, or is my phone broken? Enjoy the podcast.
  • Tech Talk Responds: I suspect that you Do Not Disturb Feature is turned on. It sends calls to voicemail immediately, but lets them through if they recall within three minutes. You can configure DND to allow contacts, everyone, or no one. You can also configure it to automatically turn on when you are in your car. Finally you can configure to automatically responds to text messages that you are driving. You can configure it, by going to Settings/Do Not Disturb. You can turn it on by swiping up on your phone and clicking on the quarter moon icon in the middle of the screen.
  • Email from John in Kansas: Dear Tech Talk. I would like to plug my laptop in while travel in my car. What are my best options. The only power in my car are cigarette lighters and USB ports. Love the show. John in Kansas
  • Tech Talk Responds: Your car’s electric system runs on DC. Your laptop charger needs AC. What do you do? Use a power inverter, which allows standard electronics and appliances to run off your car battery. Plugging an inverter into to the 12-volt cigarette lighter is enough to charge a laptop or few pieces of car stereo equipment, but anything above 200 watts or so will need to be wired either to the car battery or the fuse box.
  • Inverters output electricity at 120 volts, the same as a standard home power outlet. To determine how many watts you need, here are a few examples.
      • High-speed phone charger: ~15 watts
      • Laptop charger: 45-90 watts
      • Game console: ~150 watts
      • Television: 80-400 watts, depending on size
      • Mini-fridge: ~40 watts
      • Microwave: 900-1500 watts
  • If you happen to overload your inverter, the internal fuse will trip and it will stop working before it damages itself. Some of the more robust models include user-serviceable fuses that you can replace.
    • Cigarette Lighter Inverter: Bestek 200-Watt Cup Portable ($30) — If all you want is a convenient way to charge up some portable electronics in a car with no factory installed outlet, this is it. This device sits snugly in your car’s cup holder, presenting two AC outlets with a maximum of 200 watts of electricity. It also has two USB charging ports with 4.5 amps each (enough for standard-speed charging) and a pass-through cigarette lighter port, so you can keep your regular charger active so you can keep using your GPS unit—or, um, light cigarettes, I guess.
    • Potek 750-Watt ($46)— This budget option is a great pick if you need some flexibility, or aren’t sure you’re ready for a permanent installation. When plugged into a cigarette lighter port, it can output 150 watts to two AC outlets with two USB charging ports as a bonus. When you’re ready for more juice, you can connect the power clips directly to your car’s battery for 750 watts, enough to power a game console and TV or high-end car audio.
    • Krieger KR1500 1500-Watt ($140)— This heavy-duty model is designed to be fixed in the car or truck interior, with an included remote power switch you can mount to the dashboard for easily enabling and disabling of the power draw. Cables are included for a direct battery installation, along with a spare user-replaceable cable fuse.
  • Email from Judy in Richmond: Dear Tech Talk. I am thinking of purchasing a Wi-Fi camera for my house. I am worried that they may not be secure and that someone could hack it and access video. Am I being too paranoid or are they secure? Love the show. Judy in Richmond
  • Tech Talk Responds: There are two main types of Wi-Fi-enabled security cameras: traditional IP (or networked) cameras, and modern “smart” cameras like Alphabet’s Nest Cam and Amazon’s Cloud Cam.
  • Most of the stories you see online about insecure cameras are about IP cameras. These are simply security cameras that connect to the network, over either Wi-Fi or a wired Ethernet connection. In practice, many people don’t set up these cameras securely. They leave them configured with the default username and password. In fact, a website has listed 73000 unsecured IP cameras in 256 countries.
  • Modern security cameras like Alphabet’s Nest Cam, Amazon’s Cloud Cam, and Netgear’s Arlo, for example, are different than IP cameras. These are designed as easy-to-use smarthome devices.
  • Instead of providing a dumb web interface pre-configured with a default username and password, cameras like these require you use an online account system. Live video feeds and recorded video clips are available through those online accounts.
  • That account can sometimes be configured with two-factor authentication for additional security, which means even an attacker that knows your account’s password wouldn’t be able to view your cameras. These types of cameras are automatically updated with the latest firmware, too. You don’t have to manually update them to fix security problems.
  • The core advice here is pretty simple. Here’s how to choose a secure security camera and keep your video feeds private:
    • Buy a “smart” security camera, not an IP security camera that requires more configuration.
    • Get a camera from a trustworthy brand you recognize, like Nest or Amazon.
    • Use a strong password when you create your online account for the camera.
    • Enable two-factor authentication. (Be sure to buy a camera with this feature for maximum security.)
  • If you do all these things, you should be completely secure. The worst case scenario would be a massive breach of Nest or Amazon’s servers, but that would be a big shocking story, and would be fixed immediately.

Profiles in IT: Margaret Heafield Hamilton

  • Margaret Heafield Hamilton led the team that developed the on-board flight software for the Apollo space program and coined the term, software engineering.
  • Margaret Heafield Hamilton was born August 17, 1936 in Paoli, Indiana.
  • She graduated from Hancock High School in 1954.
  • She received a BA in mathematics from Earlham College in 1958.
  • She then taught high school math and French until her husband graduated.
  • She then moved to Boston, MA, to study in abstract mathematics at Brandeis U.
  • In 1960 she took an interim position at MIT to develop software for predicting weather on the LGP-30 and the PDP-1 computers in the meteorology department.
  • From 1961 to 1963, she worked at Lincoln Labs, where wrote software to search for “unfriendly” aircraft. She also wrote software for the AF Cambridge Research Labs.
  • Hamilton then joined the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory at MIT. She eventually became the director and supervisor of software programming for Apollo and Skylab.
  • Hamilton’s team was responsible for the Apollo on-board guidance software to navigate and land on the Moon, and its multiple variations, including Skylab.
  • She developed the building blocks for modern “software engineering,” a term Hamilton coined to bring statue to this developing field.
  • She developed the foundations for her Universal Systems Language and Development Before the Fact (DBTF) formal systems theory to create ultra-reliable software. She simulated every conceivable situation at the systems level to identify potential problems before releasing the code.
  • Her team created the concept of priority displays, where the software in an emergency could interrupt the astronauts. The asynchronous executive allowed the computer to drop low-priority tasks when overloaded.
  • Hamilton’s team’s work prevented an abort of Apollo 11 landing on the moon. Three minutes before the Lunar lander reached the Moon’s surface, the computer was overloaded with incoming data. Due to its robust architecture, the computer was able to only process higher priority jobs (important for landing).
  • In 1976, she co-founded Higher Order Software and served as CEO.
  • In 1986, she founded Hamilton Technologies, Inc., Cambridge, MA, which developed the Universal Systems Language for systems and software design.
  • Universal Systems Language (USL) is a computer system language based on a preventive instead of a curative paradigm. USL was created for designing systems with significantly increased reliability, higher productivity, and lower risk.
  • Hamilton has published over 130 papers, proceedings, and reports concerned with the 60 projects and six major programs in which she has been involved.
  • In 1986, she received Augusta Ada Lovelace Award from the Association for Women in Computing. In 2003, she received the NASA Exceptional Space Act Award.

Food Science: Frozen Turkey

  • Peter Snyder, Jr., Ph.D. has a new way to roast your Thanksgiving turkey: put it in the oven frozen solid.
  • Snyder is the president of the Hospitality Institute of Technology and Management in St. Paul , Minnesota.
  • A common problem on Thanksgiving is waking up on Thanksgiving morning and realizing that the turkey has not been thawed, and there is not enough time to thaw the turkey in the refrigerator or in flowing water at 70 degrees F, which takes hours.
  • However, there is a very simple solution – cook the entire turkey from the frozen state.
  • The FDA Food Code allows this. The HACCP-based procedure for cooking a 12-to-13-lb. frozen turkey is shown below.
    • Start 5 to 5 1/2 hours before you want to serve the cooked turkey. Set the oven temperature at 325 degrees It is much better that the turkey be done 30 minutes before mealtime than to rush and serve an undercooked turkey.
    • Remove the wrapping from the turkey and put the turkey on a rack on a pan that has been covered with foil to make cleaning easy.
    • In the first 2 to 2 1/2 hours, the legs and thighs get up to approximately 100 degrees The breast, about 1 inch into the flesh, is still at the soft ice point, about 25 degrees F. At this point, begin to monitor breast temperature.
    • After about 3 1/2 hours, the legs and thighs will be around 150 to 160 degrees F, and the breast, about 40 to 50 degrees The bag of heart, liver, etc. and the neck can be removed.
    • At 4 1/2 to 5 hours, the turkey is nicely cooked. Check the temperature. The leg and thigh should be tender and at a temperature of 175 to 185 degrees F, while the breast will be moist at a temperature of 160 to 170 degrees
  • Cooking a turkey from the frozen state has benefits over cooking a thawed turkey.
    • If one thaws a turkey in a home refrigerator, there is a significant risk of raw juice with pathogens at high levels getting on refrigerator surfaces, other foods in the refrigerator, countertops, and sink, thus creating a hazard and a need for extensive cleaning and sanitizing.
  • The second benefit is that, because the breast has greater mass, it takes longer to thaw. Therefore, the thigh and leg are well cooked and tender, while the breast is not overcooked and dried out. The breast will cook to a juicy 160-to-165 degrees F endpoint without difficulty.

Cutting the Cord: My Journey

  • OTA television streaming options
    • Mohu AirWave
      • Great directory on Apple TV
      • No support for iOS, Android, or Roku
      • Does not support amplified antenna.
      • If I got better reception, this would be my choice.
    • ClearStream TV™ Over-The-Air WiFi Television Digital Tuner
      • Support any antenna, even amplified antennas.
      • Usable directory. Not as slick as Mohu’s
      • Will evaluate reception in the new couple of weeks.
    • OTT providers
      • Direct TV Now –DirecTV Now is only $10 if you already have AT&T as your cell phone provider. That’s a great deal, but only for the first year. The channel lineup is solid (click here). The HBO add-on is only $5. You won’t get a price that low anywhere else. The interface is a mess and does a bad job curating shows. You are only allowed two concurrent streams, which is comparatively low. You can pause, but you can’t fast forward after pausing; you can only press play. No DVR.
      • Sling TV —Sling TV might be your best bet if you are NOT into sports and still want cable. Sling Blue is $25/month, Sling Orange is $20/month, or you can get them together for $40/month. Supports most devices. You can change the stream’s video quality by adjusting the amount of bandwidth allowed. Sling doesn’t focus much on sports. You can’t pause live TV. This is a feature on all of the other services. It doesn’t make sense because Sling has DVR capabilities. They don’t have a traditional guide with the grid, which is fine, but scrolling through channels and lineups isn’t easy. There are no profiles. You are stuck with a DVR and settings filled with everything the rest of your household likes.
      • Hulu —Hulu uses huge fonts and focus on getting content in front of you through a curation process, rather than just showing channel names. It’s great at recommending new content to watch. You get Hulu Limited Commercials for free. So if you’re already a Hulu member, Hulu with Live TV is only $32/month. You can change your location four times each year. You get a universal experience on all the apps. It’s perfectly in sync. You can pause TV, but once you do, you can’t fast forward at all. With the DVR, you can’t fast forward commercials either. You only get two simultaneous streams. For $15, you can get unlimited streams.
      • PlayStation Vue —PlayStation Vue is the most polished live service around. All regional sports teams are available. You can stream with five devices at once with all of the packages. If you want to see your local sports teams, it’s $45/month; if you don’t care to see them, it’s $40/month. You can set up your favorite channels to show up first on the guide list. You can watch from your web browser without downloading an app. If you want to watch local sports teams, Vue is probably your best bet. They give you the Fox and Comcast regional sports channels (depending on your location. It’s compatible with almost all devices. Sony should have called it Vue instead of PlayStation Vue. You can’t use it if you leave your city without calling customer support.
      • YouTube TV — YouTube TV’s Cloud DVR is amazing. You get unlimited storage and your stuff is stored for nine months. Shows are easy to find, record and watch. YouTube TV is by far the best in terms of DVR. The interface on the phone is very easy to use. You get six accounts. Everyone in your household gets their own account for DVR. Membership is simple; it’s $35/month. That is a great price for the content and the three simultaneous streams you’re getting. You will get your local sports teams in almost any location. There is no Apple TV app, nor does it look like there are plans for Google to make one. You can watch on the iOS app and use AirPlay.
    • Recommendation — PlayStation Vue is the best bet for most people. You will get the old-fashioned guide, great channel lineup, five streams at once, great compatibility, and a solid stream. All five services have a free trial period. I would recommend that you check out these services during the trial period to see how they meet your needs.
    • Streaming devices
      • Apple TV 4 (64GB) –Great single remote interface. It will turn on the TV, but it will not turn it off. Supports both Mohu and ClearStreamTV app. The best streaming quality. Price: $199.
      • Roku Ultra –Great single remote interface. It will turn the TV on and off. Supports ClearStream TV app. Does not support Mohu yet. Streams 4K HD. Features fast quad-core processor and 802.11ac dual-band wireless. Enhanced remote (voice, remote finder, headphone jack, TV power and volume). Great streaming quality. Price: $99.
      • Chromecast Ultra –Chromecast Ultra offers one of the best values for streaming video devices for 4K TV owners. Requires that you cast from a mobile device or from a Chrome browser. Not convenient for regular TV viewing. Great streaming quality. Price: $69.
      • Amazon Fire TV –The latest Fire TV is a great media streamer, with a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, support for 4K HDR streaming, and Dolby Atmos support. It is competing with the leader of the pack, Apple TV. The integration with Amazon Echo makes it easy to control you TV with voice commands. Price: $70.