Show of 12-01-2018

Tech Talk

December 1, 2018

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Susan in Alexandria: Hello Dr. Shurtz. Not a question – just thought you might be interested in this article about space elevators. It is way over my head (no pun intended).Thanks for Tech Talk Radio, Susan in Alexandria, VA
  • Tech Talk Responds: Thanks for the article. It continues to show that the technical barrier to the space elevator is the cable. They proposed a novel idea to service the cable autonomously in the event of damage. We are still waiting for carbon nanotube technology to provide the ultimate answer. Some think the space elevator will be a reality by 2050. This will dramatically reduce the cost of space travel.
  • Email from Jim in Bowie: Dear Tech Talk. Our disc drive is split into a C and a D drive which both have between 30 and 40GB on each. We only save on the D drive, but the C drive is up to about 31.9GB with 540MB left available! Apart from about 5GB of photos, I cannot understand what is taking up all the memory. What are my options? Thanks, Jim in Bowie
  • Tech Talk Responds: As we collect pictures and programs (and programs themselves collect data), more disk space is consumed unless files are deleted. With so much happening on our computers these days, it’s almost impossible to simply and quickly realize exactly what’s taking up space.
  • Fortunately, there’s a free tool that I that can give you some very helpful data, called TreeSize Free. TreeSize Free is a free tool that will show you what’s taking up all of the space on your machine. A paid version is available with additional features, but the free version will suffice. Download TreeSize Free from the JAM Software page and install it.1On completion of the installation, you’re given the option to run it or run it as Administrator. As TreeSize scans your hard drive, it updates its display in real time. The primary information here is a list of all of the top-level folders on the C: drive and the amount of disk space consumed by their contents. What’s most helpful is that it is sorted by decreasing disk space; the biggest consumers of space are at the top.
  • Once you know your disk usage, you may decide to move some of the files to your D: drive. Pictures are a good option.
  • Email from Arnie in Colorado Springs: Hi Dr. Shurtz. The app to record business cards that I have seen is locked into one’s iPhone contacts (do not know about Android). I would like to separate personal contacts from business contacts. Do you know of an app that can record business cards separately from personal contacts – run parallel to the personal side? Tech Talk never ceases to come through with interesting and useful information. Keep it up! Thanks, Arnie, Colorado Springs, CO
  • Tech Talk Responds: Contacts can be organized into groups on the iPhone or iPad to make them easier to find. However, it may not immediately be obvious that this is possible because Apple still does not allow you to create those groups on the iPhone itself. You can only view them. To create groups, you must do it in iCloud or from your computer. Here’s how to create groups using both methods:
  • To create a group in iCloud, visit icloud.com and log in with your Apple ID. Click on contacts and then find the “+” symbol at the bottom and to the left of your contact list. You will have an option of creating and labeling a new group. To add contacts to the group, click on “All Contacts” and drag/drop names on top of that group. Then launch the Contacts app on iPhone, and tap “Groups” at the top left side of the screen. You will be able to view those groups by tapping them to put a check mark next to it. Uncheck groups that you would like to hide.
  • Once the groups are created, you can add new contacts to either group. Simply select the Group you want to display, before creating the contact. It will automatically be placed in the displayed group. There is not group field within the contact itself.
  • Unfortunately, if you are using Google for syncing contacts, the iPhone won’t recognize the groups you’ve created there. You will have to sync your contacts with iCloud and create groups there in order to access them.
  • Email from Jim in Michigan: Dear Tech Talk. Why does antivirus software quarantine viruses and malware instead of completely deleting them? I think it would be better to make sure your computer is safe by completely getting rid of them. How can I manually remove quarantined items? Enjoy the podcast. Jim in Michigan
  • Tech Talk Responds: Anti-malware applications provide a quarantine option, which is often on by default for two reasons:
    • Keeping a backup of the items identified as threatening in case of a false positive. Although not very common, I have seen cases of false positives on many different legitimate application files and drivers.
    • Having the items in quarantine may allow for them to be better (further) investigated. The fact that a particular virus or malware matches a known signature does not mean that it is exactly the same, but may actually have other unique characteristics.
  • If a virus or malware has embedded itself into a file you actually want, such as a Word document or similar, then outright deletion may be the worst option from the user’s perspective. Quarantine at least gives you a chance, however risky, to get the actual file contents you need back.
  • Email from Peter in Dallas: Dear Doc and Jim. I recently heard that location data is stored in my digital pictures. I upload many pictures to the Internet. How can I get rid of this information before upload? Enjoy the show. Peter in Dallas.
  • Tech Talk Responds: How to Scrub GPS Data from Your Photos
  • GPS data is embedded in the EXIF data (Exchangeable image file format) of our photographs. So beware your location can be discovered easily. The good news is that when you upload an image to a majority of popular social media sites (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), the EXIF data (where location info can hide) is automatically deleted. But can you really trust someone else? Deleting it yourself is the safest way to go.
  • You can make sure any location services are off when you are taking pictures with your phone or camera. If this is turned off, location info is not attached to the image.
  • To delete the data on an iPhone, you can use the ViewExif app ($0.99). Once you’ve downloaded ViewExif, open Photos and select which image(s) you want to share. You should be able to see ViewExif’s snowflake-like icon. Tap on the icon and you should see the image’s metadata. Click on the share icon in the upper left and a prompt should show up, giving you the choice to save or share without metadata, or to share with the metadata.
  • For the Android phone, you can download the free Photo Exif Editor from the Google Play store. Once it’s downloaded, open and click on the ‘Photos’ icon. Browse to the image that you want to scrub. Click on the image, and then click on the ‘Remove Exif’ button in the upper right. A new screen should pop up with all of the removable metadata. To remove GPS information, check the ‘Geolocation’ box, and then hit ‘Save.’
  • Email from Tom in Kilmarnock: Dear Doc and Jim. I have heard about Wi-Fi calling and do not understand it. What is it? How can I use it? Will my iPhone support it? Enjoy the show. Tom in Kilmarnock, VA.
  • Tech Talk Responds: If you are on a carrier that supports it, Wi-Fi calling is a great feature to have. It will allow your smartphone to use the best connection in your house to make and receive calls and text messages. It also allows for higher quality audio, and it is perfect if you do not get good signal in your house. It is also very convenient when travelling outside of the country because you can make free calls back home using the hotel Wi-Fi.
  • To activate it on an iPhone. Go to Settings/Phone/Wi-Fi Calling. Turn on Wi-Fi Calling on this Phone. I also turn on Prefer Wi-Fi While Roaming. You will need to set up your emergency information for 911. Just put in your current home address. Your carrier will have to enable this feature (which is free). For instance, I logged into my Verizon account and enabled with feature. It only took a few minutes.
  • To activate on an Android phone. Pull down the notification shade and long-press the Wi-Fi icon to enter Wi-Fi settings. Scroll to the bottom and select “Wi-Fi Preferences”. Tap “Advanced”. Select Wi-Fi Calling and flip the switch to “On”. Most modern Android phones should support Wi-Fi calling, but it can be hit and miss.
  • The four major carriers support Wi-Fi calling —Sprint, T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon. The last to come onboard was Verizon. You must request to have this free service turned on.

Profiles in IT: Charles Kuen Kao

  • Charles Kuen Kao is best known as the Father of Fiber Optic Communications.
  • Charles Kao was born November 4, 1933 in Shanghai, China.
  • Kao studied Chinese classics at home with his brother, under their tutor. He also studied English and French at an international school in Shanghai.
  • Kao’s family moved to Taiwan in 1948 then to Hong Kong.
  • He completed his secondary education at St. Joseph’s College in Hong Kong in 1952.
  • He received a BSEE in 1956 from the University of Greenwich and his PhD in EE in 1965 from the University of London.
  • While studying for his PhD, Kao worked for Standard Telephones and Cables (STC) at their research center in Harlow, UK, where he did his groundbreaking work.
  • In early 1960s at STC, along with George Hockham, Kao demonstrated that the high-loss of existing fiber optics arose from impurities rather than from scattering.
  • Kao concluded that fiber attenuation could be lower than 20 dB/km rather than the 1000 db/km that was commonly achieved at the time.
  • He further pointed out that high purity fused silica (SiO2) made it an ideal candidate.
  • He and George Hockam first published this pioneering work in 1965 and 1966.
  • When Kao first proposed glass fiber for long-distance information transfer, his ideas were widely disbelieved. Kao was an evangelist for low loss fiber optics and visited research labs and glass factories around the world to advance his belief. Bell Labs, an STC competitor, was initially skeptical.
  • In 1969, Kao with M. W. Jones measured the intrinsic loss of bulk-fused silica at 4 dB/km, which is the first evidence of ultra-transparent glass.
  • In 1970, Corning Glass Works produced the first commercially viable fiber with an attenuation less than 20 db/km. It was used with GaAs lasers operating at 0.9 micron.
  • Attenuation has since dropped to 0.2 db/km validating Kao’s original hypothesis.
  • Kao already strongly preferred single mode for long-distance optical communication, instead of using multi-mode systems. His vision is now applied almost exclusively.
  • In 1983, he predicted undersea fiber optics cable, five years ahead of their time.
  • He became known as Master of Light and Father of Fiber Optic Communications.
  • Kao joined the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 1970 to found the EE Dept.
  • In 1974, he moved to ITT Corporation, in Roanoke, VA, first as Chief Scientist and then as Director of Engineering. ITT was the parent company of STC.
  • From 1987 to 1996, he was Vice-Chancellor of Chinese University of Hong Kong.
  • Kao then worked as the CEO of Transtech and is currently CEO of ITX Services.
  • Kao was awarded the Nobel Prize of Physics for optical fibers communication 2009.
  • The couple has two children, both of whom are living and working in Silicon Valley, CA. Kao was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2009. He died in September 2018.
  • Kao’s hobby is pottery making, a traditional Chinese handwork.

First Steps of Overhaul H-1B Visa Program

  • On November 30, 2018, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Department of Homeland Security released a proposed rule that takes the first steps toward overhauling the H-1B visa.
  • The new rule would prioritize applications for workers with advanced degrees from American universities.
  • The policy would also change the application process companies go through when they want to secure H-1B visas for foreign talent.
  • Instead of completing a petition for the new employee, companies would register for free online to enter what’s been described as the “H-1B lottery.”
  • Immigration law caps the number of regular H-1B visas that can be awarded each year at 65,000. An additional 20,000 may be awarded to workers with master’s degrees and PhDs.
  • Under the new system, USCIS would review all applications, including those for workers with advanced degrees, during a registration period before the actual petitions are filed.
  • This change to the review process “would likely increase the number of beneficiaries with a master’s or higher degree from a U.S. institution of higher education to be selected for further processing under the H-1B allocations.”
  • IT staffing firms flood the H-1B lottery system with as many applications as possible, bringing in a disproportionately high number of workers and contracting their services out to other companies.
  • The changes modestly increase the chances that workers with advanced U.S. degrees will land an H-1B and lower barriers for companies seeking the visas.
  • DHS included a provision in the proposed rule change to try to prevent staffing firms from inundating USCIS with registration attempts.
  • DHS plans to publish the new rule Dec. 3, which will kick off a 30-day public comment period. It could be more than a year before the new rule takes effect.

NIST has Created a New Atomic Clock with Incredible Precision

  • Researchers at the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) have developed an atomic clock that is so precise that is can measure space-time warp.
  • The first atomic clock was created in 1955 using Cesium-133 atoms. Cesium-133 atoms absorb energy at wavelengths of 3.2 cm, which means the wave oscillates at a frequency of 9,192,631,770 cycles per second. When cesium-133 atoms are hit with microwaves at this frequency, it causes the atom’s single outermost electron to rapidly transition between energy states at the same rate. In this case, the electron transitioning between a high and low energy state over 9 billion times a second is analogous to a rapidly swinging pendulum in a conventional clock.
  • Today, four Cs atomic clocks can be found on each of the 24 GPS satellites orbiting Earth and are used to synchronize time in our cell phones and billions of other internet connected devices.
  • The new atomic clock used by NIST for this research consist of ytterbium atoms suspended in an array of laser beams.
  • Time shifts by 1.1 quintillionth of a second for every vertical centimeter that clock is lifted above the surface. The new atomic clock has measure this shift. We are now in a position to measure space-time warping directly.
  • NIST will also use the clock redefine the second with even greater accuracy.

Robots will Transform Farming

  • The British startup company, the Small Robot Company, is developing lightweight autonomous machines that can carry out precision “seeding, feeding and weeding” in the hope of transforming food production
  • The company has developed a four-wheel robot dubbed “Tom” uses GPS, artificial intelligence and smartphone technology to digitally map the field.
  • In 2019, the company will start trials for two more robots, Dick and Harry. Dick will deliver fertilizer directly to soil around roots, instead of wasteful blanket spraying, and use a laser or micro-spray chemicals to kill weeds. Harry will insert seeds into the earth at a uniform depth and spacing, eliminating the need for tractors to plow furrows.
  • The aim is to drastically cut down on fertilizer and pesticide use to lower costs and boost profits for struggling farmers.
  • Commercial sales of the full, multi-robot system is still years away, with larger-scale testing planned for 2021. They represent the next step in the evolution of automation for farms.
  • Self-driving tractors and robotic milking machines have been in use for years and, more recently, unmanned aerial drones that monitor crops have gone into service.
  • To ease financial pressure on farmers reluctant to make big one-off investments in equipment, the Small Robot Company plans to sell its services as a monthly subscription, charging $765 per hectare a year.

NASA Successfully Lands Insight on Mars

  • The $993 million InSight lander landed on a lava Marsian plain named Elysium Planitia, for a two-year mission aimed at understanding the interior of Mars.
  • The vehicle sits slightly tilted (about 4 degrees) in a shallow dust- and sand-filled impact crater known as a ‘hollow.
  • Experts are hopeful that its two main instruments—a quake sensor and self-hammering mole to measure heat below the surface—will work as planned.

Giraffe Hacks Printers Worldwide to Promote PewDiePie

  • Thousands of printers have been hacked over the weekend by TheHackerGiraffe.
  • He opened up the Twitter account to retweet images of his successful takeover of others’ printers.
  • HackerGiraffe has laid out exactly how he did it online.
  • He used a website called https://shodan.io and did a search for devices with port 9100 open. He downloaded the list.
  • He used a tool called PRET (find it on github) which allowed him to connect to these printers, print his PDF, change the display to HACKED, and then quit.
  • The success of the project appears to have caught him off guard, leading to Hacker Giraffe to insist that he did it to “raise awareness.”
  • The truth is that he did it in order to attract the attention of the YouTuber at the center of the printout: online YouTube “personality” PewDiePie.